Ask Stew: The Physical Standards of Navy SEAL BUD/S Training

A Navy SEAL exits an SH-60 Seahawk helicopter and enters the water.
An East Coast-based Navy SEAL exits an SH-60 Seahawk helicopter and enters the water during “Helocast and Recovery” training on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Va., Aug. 15, 2013. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Meranda Keller/U.S. Navy photo)

There is a standard of fitness required to join the military, police and fire departments in order to attend boot camp, police or fire academies, as well as special ops selection. Too often, young pre-recruits ask what the minimum standards are to enter training.

This mentality of striving to achieve only the minimum standards in anything in life will not get you very far. Whether in academics, work quotas or physical fitness, making the goal the minimum standard to keep surviving is no way to go in these tactical professions.

Here is a question that I almost read incorrectly, because I am so used to people asking what the minimum standards are to success.

“Stew, What are the physical standards to get into the Navy SEAL program? I see all types of scores on the physical screening test (minimum, competitive, auto-qual). I have not gone to a recruiter yet and want to make sure I can meet the standards beforehand. What should I be striving for to get selected?” Jake.

Jake -- I like this question. I have to be honest, I first read this as: What are the minimum standards needed to get into SEAL training? Maybe it is just one of my pet peeves that when I see or hear that question, I am a bit scarred by the number of times I get asked it. My number one rule is: “Do not ask me about the minimum standards to score on a fitness test. I do not know them.”

To answer your question: Yes, there are minimum standards to pass the PST, but those scores will not get you accepted into BUD/S training. They only will take the top PST scores from a nationwide draft each month. By the way, good job about waiting to see the recruiter until you are ready.

Minimum standards:  Swim 500 yards -- 12:30, push-ups -- 42, sit-ups -- 50, pull-ups -- 6, 1.5-mile run -- 11:00.

I am not sure why those scores are publicized, as these only will allow you to join the delayed entry program (DEP) but not get selected to go to BUD/S. But yes, these are the minimum standards.

If you do not meet the standards of the group, you may not go to BUD/S at all and join the Navy without a special-ops contract.  That is why I tell people to go to the recruiter your first time, already knowing you can crush the PST and hit the competitive standards on the first try with the recruiter and SEAL mentor. 

In my opinion, the scores below should be posted as the minimum standards, as many SEAL candidates can do much better than these scores. These scores will get you submitted to the nationwide draft. However, if the pool is filled with scores better than these, you may not make the cut this month and will have to retake the test several more times to improve for the next month’s draft process.

Competitive standards: Swim 500 yards --10:30, push-ups -- 79, sit-ups -- 79, pull-ups -- 11, 1.5-mile run -- 10:20

Do your best. Many candidates score in the following ranges.  If you want to be one of the best in the class, shoot for the following recommended standards:

Advanced standards: Swim 500 yards -- 8:00, push-ups -- 80-100+, sit-ups -- 80-100+, pull-ups 20+, 1.5-mile run 9:00 or less.

Once you master the physical screening test (PST), you can focus on the most important phase of training -- preparing yourself to get through BUD/S. If you are stuck just trying to meet the standards each week of your pre-BUD/S journey, you are missing out on preparing for the weekly four-mile timed runs, two-mile swims with fins and working with weights to prepare for boats and logs, rucking and pool skills.

It is important to get to the training by mastering the entry-level fitness test, but it is most important to prepare yourself adequately for the actual events at SEAL training in order to get through the training. Do not get stuck in the PST training loop and not prepare yourself for the real test -- BUD/S.

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    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

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