Ask Stew: Army Ranger Hopeful Is on Mission to Lose 100-Plus Pounds

Best Ranger competition is held in Fort Benning, Georgia.
The Best Ranger teams from the 82nd Airborne Division compete in the Best Ranger competition on April 15, 2021, Fort Benning, Georgia. (Spc. Jillian Hix, 49th Public Affairs Detachment/U.S. Army photo)

If you need to lose more than 100 pounds to qualify for military service, you will require significant time for both physical preparation and developing a disciplined approach to dieting.

Here is an email from a young man with a dream to serve. He has lost almost 100 pounds in hopes of making his dream to serve as an Army Ranger a reality.

Stew, I’ve always been a big guy, so my main focus for a long time has been on losing weight in order to join the Army and hopefully the Rangers. About 2 years ago, I weighed 344 pounds. Currently I weigh 260. I’m shooting for a goal weight of 220 or less. As you recommend, I’ve really been trying to focus my training on my specific weaknesses and on acing the calisthenics and running tests. I have put myself through a half-marathon training program and completed a half marathon (with some walking mixed in) this past Saturday.

I also took my first PT Test. My scores were as follows:

Pull-ups: 0

Push-ups: 29

Sit-ups: 45

2-mile run: 16:05

I know these scores have a long way to go but I’m sending this email in hopes you will recommend a specific route for the next year of training. Thank you for your time – Rich

Rich – Coming from a heavy weight- and strength-training history, my advice is to get out of the weight room and avoid lifting heavy weights for the foreseeable future. You still can lift some, but avoid super heavy weights and just focus on more auxiliary lifts and movements that produce higher reps, muscle stamina and good technique.

But yes, keep killing the cardio and calisthenics. I would choose to do more non-impact cardio (swimming and biking) instead of running until you are closer to your goal weight. Don’t increase your mileage too much.

The last thing you want is to be unable to practice running and rucking due to overuse injuries, such as tendinitis or inflammation pain that can occur in your feet, shins and knees. The fact that you can run an eight-minute mile at 260 pounds is impressive, but I would work on increasing the pace versus increasing the distance over the next several months.

Instead of running more, add more walking with a backpack. I would not go too heavy with it, as you already are rucking an extra 40 pounds at your 260-pound weight when you have a 220-pound goal. A 20- to 30-pound ruck is plenty for you, and doing a ruck (fast power walk) on leg days is a good way to top off any leg calisthenics workout (1-2 days a week for starters).

If you need a break from the impact forces of running or rucking, consider high-resistance biking or swimming with SCUBA fins for a good leg challenge.

To get to and through Ranger Assessment and Selection Program training, you eventually will need to increase the test distance to five miles and maintain your current eight-minutes-per-mile pace just to hit the minimum standard of 40 minutes.

A good goal for you would be to score in the 35-minute range on the five-mile timed run. Longer rucks also will be required, so progressively build up to 4-5 hours of long rucks that cover 12-16 miles. A good rucking pace is a 15-minute mile, but you also will want to improve on that pace as well. Otherwise, you might flirt with failure or just barely achieve the minimum standards. I would not add this kind of mileage until you have achieved your goal weight. Your knees will thank you for that.

Pull-ups also will become easier as you lose weight. Though a 220-pound pull-up is a challenge, you should be practicing them now with assisted pull-ups, negatives and jumping pull-ups (see get 1st pull-up).

You will find 220 pounds a much easier weight for both running and pull-ups. Your strength background will come in handy with load-bearing, equipment carry, rucking and the new tactical fitness tests that will be a part of your Army future.

Check out some of the Army combat fitness test and rucking-related articles below:

What Is Rucking? – Learn Your Paces

Army Combat Fitness Test

Army Ranger Fitness Test and Other Combat Fitness Tests

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. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

Want to Learn More About Military Life?

Whether you're thinking of joining the military, looking for fitness and basic training tips, or keeping up with military life and benefits, has you covered. Subscribe to to have military news, updates and resources delivered directly to your inbox.

Story Continues