Tactical Fitness: How a Teen Should Prepare for Army Ranger Training

A U.S. Army soldier from the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment stands in formation during an award ceremony.
A U.S. Army soldier from the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, stands in formation during an award ceremony hosted by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, Oct. 26, 2012. (Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade/U.S. Army photo)

Starting your physical preparation for military service in high school is such a good idea. Too many people put off their physical fitness until a few months before boot camp and wonder why they are not conditioned enough to handle challenging runs, rucks and high-rep PT of the Army and Marine Corps

Avoid becoming a boot-camp injury or failure statistic and start your preparation like this young man. He asks an important question that has a few layers to answer it thoroughly.

Hello, Mr. Smith,

I am an aspiring Army Ranger in my junior year of high school and I have a few questions regarding pull-ups. My physical condition at the moment is pretty good. I'm able to do 100 push-ups in two minutes, 100 sit-ups and 20 pull-ups.

But my problem is that I cannot get over the hump of breaking 20 reps. After my 16th pull-up, I start to struggle, and for my last two, the form is sloppy. I have been using the greasing-the-groove method, doing pull-ups four days a week, but does that hurt my muscles and prevent me from working to my full potential? I just feel that if I am not doing a lot of pull-ups, I may be losing my ability to do them.

There comes a point where you should say, "That is pretty good," and 20 pull-ups is getting there. I would not call calisthenics a weakness for you. You are likely just on a plateau and need to rest pull-ups every other day and change things up a bit. Add in a new style of workout -- maybe a few weighted pull-ups.

Do not get me wrong. Twenty pull-ups is a great goal, but your standard workouts (pyramids, supersets, max-rep sets) every other day will help you maintain that level. One day, you will do 25 reps without even thinking about it. By not doing them daily at such a high volume, you likely will save yourself from elbow tendinitis, grip pain and shoulder pain in the future.

Other Things to Consider

Make sure your weaknesses are minimized. I would focus more on your running and rucking, but also playing some sports. Learn how to be a team player. Pick a sport you enjoy or one that will make you a better runner, lifter or both. But the main goals while in high school are to:

  • Stay out of trouble
  • Be a good student
  • Learn to be a team player
  • Work on your weaknesses
  • Maintain your strengths

You also should focus on other events to prepare for Army and Ranger training. You will do a lot more running and rucking in the Army, and being excellent at those will carry you further than 20+ pull-ups.

If you are not a good runner, you need to become one. Here is a running and rucking progression program that will help you with what I think is the most physically challenging part of Ranger training (five-mile timed runs, long rucks and load bearing all day).

Here are some running and rucking preparation charts, depending on your current mileage per week:


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 stew@stewsmith.com.

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