Tactical Fitness: Improving Muscle and Cardio Endurance for PT Tests

A reservist does sit-ups to pass the Army physical fitness test.
U.S. Army Reserve 1st Lt. Caroline Shaw, an aide-de-camp for 335th Signal Command (Theater) deputy commanding general of sustainment Brig. Gen. Nikki Griffin-Olive, does sit-ups to pass the Army physical fitness test on a field near the 335th headquarters in East Point, Georgia, May 6, 2017. (Staff Sgt. Ken Scar/U.S. Army Reserve photo)

Good morning, Stew,

I am looking for some workouts to improve muscular endurance in order to improve my performance on all sections of the Army PT test. I ship to basic training in August, so I have some time to train and get ready.

I go to the gym each day at lunch but have no real workout plan. I play basketball, softball and tennis throughout the week as well. I have a very good foundation and core strength. I just need some guidance on how to get to the next level. Long-distance running is my major weakness. I'm a ball of fast-twitch muscle (5'8, 195) and have never been a strong runner. Anything you could send me would be greatly appreciated.

Great question and thanks for choosing to serve this country of ours. I used to think anything more than 100 yards was a long distance. You can get your 1.5- to two-mile timed runs to acceptable levels quickly with some combination of intervals and paced runs (not sprints) and longer distance as well

For PT muscle endurance (stamina), lay off the weights for a little while and focus specifically on push-ups, sit-ups (add in pull-ups to balance upper-body push and pull muscles) and start off with PT pyramids, supersets and max-rep sets. 

Situps: It's all about the pace. Too many people start off way too fast in a two-minute test for sit-ups. Pace yourself and shoot for 20 in the first 30 seconds. Keep that pace, and you will have 80 in two minutes. People go wrong when they get 30-40 sit-ups in the first 30 seconds and fail to match that in the next 1:30. Do not start off too fast and let gravity take you down. Exert on the up.

Running paced runs (not sprints): Learn your goal pace in the two-mile run by mastering the pace of your goal in shorter distances. So instead of sprinting a quarter-mile, run your quarter-mile intervals at 1:45, which will get you a seven-minute mile or a 14-minute, two-mile run. See more ideas on how to drop your run times.

I would do PT for the upper body every other day. Maybe mix in some squats and lunges (no weight) into the run intervals to work muscle stamina in the legs as well. With running, there are two things that get you: lungs and legs. Make sure you work them just like you do the push-ups.

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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