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How to Prepare for Bootcamp 

This week, a typical email crossed my desk and I realized that I have not devoted an article to answering this question fully.  There are several articles in the Article Archive that will help you with running speed, endurance, pushups, situps, and pullups but here is a comprehensive answer to the age-old question – “What do I need to do to prepare for Bootcamp?”  This article will be a one-stop shop for people to find links on training and techniques on many of the physical events that occur during Bootcamp.  Here is the question:

 I am currently planning on enlisting with the Army National Guard here in a matter of weeks.  I will not attend basic until next year because I am still in school (Age 17, Junior.)  Do you have any tips that I can use to increase my run endurance, time, etc.  along with upper body strength to better my PFT score?

To properly answer this broad question, the answers needs to break down your question into several different workouts as well as circuit training tips to combine the entire PFT.

Mastering the PFT is really the first step to getting prepared for Bootcamp.  For the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard, the physical fitness test will consists of

Pushups – Proper pushups are the key to more pushups.  Placement of the hands should be just greater than shoulder width directly under your shoulder when in the UP pushup position.  This will better distribute the muscular involvement between the arms (triceps), chest, and shoulders.  Wider hand placement works more chest while close placement works the triceps and shoulders more. Touch your chest to your counter’s fist, which is usually about 2 inches off the floor.  To score higher on this test, try to do your pushups non-stop without rest and always practice them fast to get used to multiple reps of pushups workouts. See the Pushup articles for more workout ideas:

Pushup Push Workout 

More Pushups 

Situps – Situps or curl-ups will be tested with someone holding your feet with your knees bent.  Sit up by flexing your stomach muscles with your hands crossed over your chest and touch your elbows to your knees.  Drop your torso to the floor by relaxing your abs and let gravity take you down.  Do not waste your energy letting yourself down slowly. 

This is an exercise you need to pace. Most people burn out in the first 30 seconds with 30 curl-ups accomplished, only able to perform another 20 or so curl-ups within the next 1:30. By setting a pace at, for instance, 20 sit-ups every 30 seconds, you can turn your score of 50-60 to 80 with very little effort.  The best way to get better at situps is to practice situps with timed sets of the above and a goal pace for 1:00 or 2:00 test periods.


1.5 or 2 mile timed run (Army) – Running is another pacing exercise that requires practice up to five or six days a week in order to become an above average runner.  To pass the PFT runs on an average score, you still need to train at least three days a week.  Some ways to train can be found in the article below:

Interval Training for Faster Run Times

 Proper Tips for running should include deep inhales and exhales (no shallow breathing), heel-toe rolling strike, and a straight arm swings.  See the Article on proper running techniques: (Above left of this page)

If you are entering the Army or Marine Corps, practicing running in boots is also a good idea about two months from Bootcamp.  Only practice about 1-2 times a week in boot prior to Bootcamp.  Wear two pair of socks to prevent blisters. One thin polyester pair against the skin and one, thick, cotton sock on the outside.

The Marine Corps adds pullups to the PFT list, but does not test in pushups and adds an extra mile to the Army’s two-mile run.  So for the Marine Corps you need to be able to master the following:

Pullups – This is the ultimate exercise to test upper body strength.  It requires grip strength from your hand and forearms and pulling power from your biceps and back muscles.  The proper pull-up requires your palms to be facing away from you and your hands just greater than shoulder width.  Pull you chin over the bar and simply drop back to the starting position with your arms straight and biceps relaxed.

More Pullups

3 mile timed run – This run is twice as long as most Bootcamp tests and requires more endurance training.  The article below will help you train for the longer timed run.  If properly prepared, you can complete this run on the same pace of the 1.5 mile timed runners of the Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.  It is not uncommon for Marines to run the 3 mile run in 18:00. 

Run Even Faster

 Depending on your service Bootcamp, the training programs have an obstacle course, rope climb, swimming, ruck marches, and use the pushup as a “punishment exercise”.   So prepare yourself properly for your service’s standards at least 4-6 months prior to departing for the military. If you show up prepared physically, you will better learn your job and that might save your life or your buddies one day.

 If you have any questions about the training programs at the Fitness eBook store please let me know at  Keep the emails coming.           

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Fitness eBook store and the
Stew Smith article archive at To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at



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