Combat Conditioning and Fitness Testing

Combat Conditioning and Fitness Testing

There are two different types of training you must be prepared for in order to become a member of special operations of any branch of service or law enforcement as well. First, the entrance fitness test, which is typically a test of calisthenics, running and maybe swimming depending upon the branch of service. Statistics show that scoring well above the minimum standards on these type of "physical entrance exams" increases your chances of graduating from 6% up to 85%. Second, there are follow-on training cycles which were commonly referred to as Combat Conditioning Courses that are more job related tasks such as shooting, rucking, swimming with gear, obstacle courses as well as running for agility, speed, and distance.

In my opinion there are two types of combat conditioning:

1 - To prepare for the rigors of combat that simulate long hours of the missions such as the insertion / extraction methods as well as the action on the objective.

2 - To prepare for challenges of hand to hand combat that occurs in chasing, crawling, jumping, fighting, and aggressive apprehensions of "bad guys"

Both are quite useful for the modern day Soldier, Police Officer and especially the Special Operator. This article / workout focuses on the first form of Combat Conditioning.

In SEAL training as well as in the Teams, we had some great Combat Conditioning Courses. These combat conditioning courses were a bit difficult to prepare for thoroughly as many required shooting, running with gear, swimming with gear, obstacle courses, and some other job related tasking. One of my favorite events was like a "military triathlon" which required cardio-vascular endurance, strength, power, agility, precision timing, and firearms accuracy. See related article on another version of the military triathlon.

8 Count Pushup / Pullup Pyramid - O-Course Simulation

To simulate obstacle courses you have to try the 8 Count Pushup / Pullup Pyramid Run:

This one is a tough scalable workout that builds up, peaks, and cools down. Start off with 1 pullup - then run about 20m fast and do one 8 count bodybuilder pushup. Run back to pullup bar and do 2 pullups, then run back 20m to pushups are and do two 8 count pushups. Continue this until you fail at pull-ups and repeat in reverse order. If you do not fail before the 10th set, then keep on going up and see if you can get up to 20! If you can do that - you have done 210 pullups / pushups in a workout. That is pretty hardcore and obviously not for beginners, but you can go up to 6 or 7 and back down and have a great workout that simulates the pulling / rope climbs and the bending / pushing / jumping of an obstacle course. The runs in between events will help you drop time off the obstacle course if you can run fast in between obstacles / events of your timed event.

The COMBAT CONDITIONING COURSES where we ran with our gear (about 75lbs dry) for at least 5 miles, had to shoot expert on a firing range after navigating through an obstacle course, and then swim two miles towing all the gear and weapons as well. Then, we ran another 5 miles but one person in our group of five had to be carried as the "injured man drill". That is combat conditioning! Having the ability to conduct certain skills while under physical stress and exhaustion is what I call combat conditioning. This is the type of fitness and mental toughness required to be successful in most sports, martial arts, and military Special Forces. It is not needed as a daily exercise, but you can definitely add this type of "monster mash" PT once every 2 weeks to properly prepare your body for the grind of training.

This eBook fitness guide is what I consider an advanced level of fitness routine - NOT for beginners but perfect for folks who are involved with a martial arts regimen and have a basic foundation for fitness already. If you want something tougher and more branch specific - see any of my Navy SEAL Workout, USMC RECON, Air Force PJ / CCT, or Army Special Forces/Ranger Workout.

Having developed programs that assist people in martial arts, athletics, and military and law enforcement for the past 15 years, I have found that cardio-vascular endurance and muscle stamina through PT supplemented with weight training is the number one and two focus areas for success. Running, swimming, biking, cross-country skiing are great cardio vascular endurance activities and weights and high repetition calisthenics / rope climbs work well for muscle stamina. Though weight training can be used to develop muscle stamina, it is not necessary and should be used to balance out auxiliary muscles groups. So learn how to train effectively with and without heavy weights also with this program.

I often receive emails from future military members who say they are former high school athletes who want me to critique their weight lifting routine as they prepare for Boot Camp. Being a former weightlifting, football player myself, I stepped back into time some eighteen years and saw many of the same things I did to prepare for Plebe Summer at the Naval Academy. The only bad thing about the plan and the way I prepared for the military and combat is that it was the wrong way to train for the military style fitness. For more info on why you should focus on PT / Cardio prior to training see Spec Ops Prep.

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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