Preparing Americans to Serve in the Military, Special Ops, Law Enforcement, & Fire Fighting

Meet Stew Testimonials  |   Videos  | Articles  | APP Workouts  |  FREE Workouts |   Contact / Newsletter

back to 

Developing Fitness Tests for Selection into Special Ops

sealpin.jpg - 3244 Bytessfjpg.jpg - 5513 Bytes1ranger.jpg - 3266 Bytes aflogo.jpg - 8052 Bytes1swcc.jpg - 3028 Bytes  

Often I receive emails from military and law enforcement personnel concerning how fair a fitness test is and does it accurately measure someone’s fitness level.  For instance, here is an email from on police officer who is seeking candidates for his department’s SWAT Team:

I am about to open up tryouts for a few SWAT Team positions and am trying to develop a fitness test that will help the Team select the best candidates to attend our training program.  Any suggestions?

There two things most military and law enforcement groups try to measure:  Basic Fitness / Health and Physical Potential to Succeed in Advanced Training.

Basic Fitness / Health - The reasoning for the basic fitness test is to ensure a certain level of health and well-being which will have an impact on job performance, decreased sick days, and a better mental attitude in a stressful environment.  Training for a cardio test of a 2 mile run or a 12 minute swim test would require people to exercise regularly and help with cutting extra fat off their bodies.  The strength, muscle endurance, and flexibility will help with injury prevention from doing odd jobs that may require lifting.  Remember, the goal is to create healthy people in the public service work force. 

Standard fitness tests used today usually are good indicators of one’s health, not necessarily an indication of satisfactory job performance.  Basically, the run, pushups, sit-ups test most groups perform will give a selection board only a minimal amount of information, but it is still a valid test to assess with current fitness standards scores.

However, Physical Potential to Succeed in Advanced Training testing can offer more insight if graded the following method:

First, these tests should be more directed toward strength, endurance, speed, and agility in a job related method if possible.  For instance, if you are a SWAT Team with many water sources in your jurisdiction or a military Special Ops selection team, here is an example test and grading method:

Swim – 300 – 500m swim with fins

Agility test – there are many examples to choose from but the Illinois Agility Test, stair climb with gear, a 120yd shuttle run, or 300m run with hurdles / obstacles would suffice

Max Pushups in 1-2 minutes or body weight bench press – max reps

Max Situps in 1- 2 minutes

Max Pullups and / or rope or caving ladder climbs

1 mile run with gear

This type of test will help assess some level of tactical athleticism and can be altered with a variety of different tests, but the interesting way to grade this type of test will help with the selection process of your Spec Ops group.

See example below:

One way to create a good fair scoring system is to create a test that has some form of cardio / upperbody / speed / agility / lowerbody set up so you would score it like this:

Cardio + Speed & agility run - add both up in seconds  (sample test)




1.5 mile run

10 minutes = 600 seconds

600 points

300m sprint with hurdles

60 seconds

  60 points   - total  = 660 pts

Example 1.5 mile run in 10 minutes = 600 seconds / points + a 300m sprint with obstacles to weave / jump thru done in 60 seconds = 60 points) - there base score is 660 points...

Strength Events



# 1 – Pushups with armor

50 reps

                                 50 points

# 2 – Long jump

80 inches

                                 80 points

#3  -  Pullups with armor (x6)

5 reps        (add bodyweight)

30 reps + 200lbs = 235 points

#4  -  Bodyweight Bench Press 

10 reps     (add bodyweight)

10 reps + 200lbs = 210 points

Total Strength Scores


                               575 points

The upperbody exercise # 1 (pullups, pushups, bench press, kettlebell swings etc) pick one - max reps in 2:00 - say you get 50 reps = 50 points

Lowerbody - sample(long jump, vertical jump, or squat test max reps in 2 minutes etc) - add distance in inches = points - say you get long jump of 80 inches = 80 points...

Upperbody exercise #2 - max reps of Pullups (x 6) with body armor:   5 reps = 30 points + bodyweight of a 200 lbs candidates = 235 points

The added in bodyweight will give extra points to a 200lb person who can get 20 pullups compared to a 150 lb person who can get 20 pullups.  It makes the playing field even on effort / exertion.  These tests test to favor the smaller candidate who can typically run faster and do more bodyweight calisthenics, but it does not penalize you for weighing less.  The goal at selection is to ave a fair playing field for each candidate.

Now the scoring method for the above example:

600 + 60 points for cardio = 660  (now subtract Strength event scores)

660 - (50 + 80 + 235 + 210 = ) = 660-575 = 85 points  (lowest score is the best score)

Then setting up scoring criteria is easy, but completely subjective by the graders to what you create for your test.  The thing this test will do is rank them numerically for the assessment team.

For instance:

less than 100 - Outstanding
101-150 - Above Average
151-200 - Average - passing
201-300 - Below average - minimum standard
greater than 301 - failing

This test is just an example to demonstrate an idea for scoring criteria.  Obstacle courses, shooting skills, and other job related events could and should be tested and graded on a different scale.

Adding in bodyweight and subtracting from cardio scores insures that testing can be scored fairly when competing for a slot in a Spec Ops unit.  Say a 200 lbs guy get 10 pullups and a 150 lb guy gets 10 pullups – the 200 lbs guy gets 260 points - the 150 guy gets 210.  Remember, I like to multiply pull-ups by SIX (x6) for the fitness test to give it as much weight as 1-2 minutes of pushups and situps.  This gives the pullup test an actual exertion assessment pound for pound.
We used to do this type of scoring trying to figure out who went to SEAL Training from the Naval Academy and found it helpful when selecting only 15 candidates for training out of 50 excellent candidates.  Of course, the interview, resume, grades, and other factors were considered, but having a numerical value next to their physical tests gave us a ranking system to use to assess physical potential to make it through the training.

Surviving BUD/S
Free SEAL Training Videos from Phil Black

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

  Back to


flag.gif - 12306 Bytessealpin.jpg - 3244 Bytessfjpg.jpg - 5513 Bytes1ranger.jpg - 3266 Bytes aflogo.jpg - 8052 Bytes1swcc.jpg - 3028 Bytes FBI

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

The Army Airborne 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


Some Titles Above available in Print Softcover Format