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 PFT Fatigue - Strategy to Ace the PFT

 How many of you have taken a physical fitness test (PFT) and did not score as well as you have in the past during your own workouts?  Often by the end of a PFT, you will be fatigued and the last cardio test will be slower than normal workouts scores.  Here is an email I received that I think we all can relate to:

Hey Stew - I normally run a 9 minute zone 1.5 mile, but after pull-ups, pushups, and sit-ups testing portion, I can only get 10 minutes on the 1.5 mile run.  What gives? 

This is very common.  Once I realized you need to have a strategy for taking the PFT, my scores started improving.  Of course, I was doing more PFTs in order of the test I was about to take, so I am sure getting in better shape helped with my PFT stamina. 

First of all, you have to train the way you test:  If your PFT requires you to perform weights or PT exercises first, then your workouts should mimic the order of the test as best you can. 

For example, for your test, you should do your PT, weight training first, then, follow it with the running portion of your workout.   By arranging the workouts this way you will get the body used to running when the upper body is pumped up with blood.  During the test you need to understand about PFT Transition. (link that article from your server).  In a nutshell, if you can loosen up your upper body by stretching the arms, chest, shoulders, and back muscles prior to running,  that will help with your more natural running state.  Also loosen up your legs by doing a short run so you get the blood from your upper body down to your legs.  This transition takes about 4-5 minutes and usually you get about 10 minutes to prepare for the last event of the PFT.

Stay hydrated and cool:  If you can keep your heat down, your performance will improve.  Be well-hydrated days prior to the event and sip water or a sports drink during the test in order to stay cool.  The sports drink or fruit will help you keep blood sugar levels high during the test.  By doing this you will have energy to push yourself on the last event of the PFT.  In between all events, hold onto cold water bottles (even ice filled) to keep the colder blood circulating to your core.  You will be amazed at how well this works. 

nurunning.jpg - 7206 BytesLearn How to Pace Yourself:  The pacing exercises in this test are the sit-ups and the running portion.  These require a steady pace and not a fast starting pace.  Many times in sit-ups, people score 30 sit-ups in 30 seconds, but cannot get another 30 in the next 1:30 in a 2 minute test.  By simply dropping your initial pace to 20 in 30 seconds, you can easier score 80 sit-ups in 2 minutes without a single workout.  Same for the running.  You never sprint the first quarter mile of a 1.5 mile run.  Find your goal pace and stick to it by training at that pace at every distance you run.  For example, if your goal is to run a 10:30 1.5 mile run then you have to run a quarter mile in 1:45, a half mile in 3:30, and a mile in 7 minutes.  Learn the pace by practice!

PT Tips:  Exert on the UP:  When doing any of the PT exercises, you have one advantage to half the exercise - gravity.  Gravity will take you down faster with no effort, so do not waste energy by slowly lowering yourself to the bottom of the exercise.  If doing sit-ups, let gravity take your back to the floor by relaxing the abdominal muscles.  If doing pushups, relax the chest and triceps and fall to the counter.  Same goes for pull-ups, but you must semi-control your decent here as it can produce swinging which will throw you off your best scores.

So the things to remember is going into the PFT well prepared.  Make sure you are hydrated and stay hydrated, stay cool, and stretch well before running (both upper and lower body).  Do not forget to learn your pace and pace yourself during the test.

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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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Published Books / DVDs
Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness (Book / DVD)
Maximum Fitness

The Special Operations Workout

The SWAT Workout - From Recruit to SWAT Team Member
The Combat Swimmer Stroke DVD

The Pre-Habit Workout DVD
Clinic DVD for Navy SEAL PST
The FBI Special Agent Test Clinic DVD

The Complete List of Stew Smith's eBooks:

Fitness for All Levels of Fitness

The 90 Day Beginner Guide to Fitness
The Advanced Maintenance and Recovery Program

Reclaim Your Life - The Erin O'Neill Program

Veteran's Fitness - Baby Boomer and a Flat Stomach

The Busy Executive Workout Routine
The Advanced Weights / PT Workout (Fall / Winter Weight Gain Cycle)
The Perfect Pushup Workout

The TRX Workout
- Circuit Training 101 ebook

NEW Obstacle Course Race Ebook

The Special Forces Physical Fitness Workouts
 Combat Conditioning Workout

Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1  Beginner Weeks 1-9
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2 - 3 - Intermediate Weeks 1-12
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4  Grinder PT -  Four weeks before Hell Week

Navy SWCC Workout

The Army Special Forces / Ranger Workout 

The Army Air Assault School Workout

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Air Force PJ / CCT Workout

The Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer Workout

The OCS, ROTC, Service Academy, & Bootcamp Workouts

New - Army PRT and CRT
Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard OCS Workout

The USMC IST and PFT Workout
USMC OCS / TBS Workout
The Service Academy Workout (West Point, Navy, Air Force Academy)
The Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp Bootcamp Workout

The Army OCS and PFT Workout
The PFT Bible - Military / Police Standard PFT


The Law Enforcement Physical Fitness Test Workouts

The FBI Academy / PFT Prep Workout

The DEA Prep Workout

The FLETC Prep Workout - Ace the PEB

The State / Local Police Academy Workout

The Fire Fighter Workout

Seal Multi Men's Multi-Vitamin Multi-Mineral

TRX Train Like the Pros


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