How do you prepare yourself for Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training (BUD/S for short) and expect not only to survive the six-month ordeal, but thrive and compete to be one of the best students in the class? The answer: It depends on your athletic history. Everyone has varying backgrounds, different strengths and weaknesses, body types, and a different foundation of fitness. So no one workout is perfect for everyone.Those who have never swum competitively will have to devote large amounts of training hours to swimming. Many will do the same for running distance-timed runs. Many will have to work on their upper body strength. Truth be known— everyone has a weakness at BUD/S and it is your job in training to find it and hone it into as much of a strength as possible.
The best preparation for SEAL Training must contain a foundation of fitness and build to a high fitness level peak so you perform at your absolute greatest without overuse injury. This can be done in a relatively short period of time if you have that foundation, but it requires perfect balance between weights, high repetition calisthenics, long-distance running, swimming, rucking, rope climbs, obstacle courses, etc. Creating a high muscle endurance/strength to bodyweight ratio is vital for maneuvering through your daily obstacles at BUD/S.
No matter what your athletic history is, you need to focus on the events that will get you kicked out if you fail them: running, swimming with fins, obstacle courses, high repetition calisthenics. But you should mix in some weight training if you lack core and upper body strength to prepare for the weight of the boats and logs on your shoulders for miles.
The four exercises below are ways to simulate many of the events at SEAL training like log PT, body carries, obstacle courses and build overall core strength development needed for training as well as the career afterward.
|Exercise 1:||Exercise 2:||Exercise 3:||Exercise 4:|
|Thruster (front squat into over head press) – use lighter weight and shoot for 10-15 reps per set||Kettlebell swings – do 1-2 minutes of KB swings||8 count push-ups mixed with pull-ups: Obstacle course simulation – make pyramid workout and separate the pull-ups bar by 20 m from where you do 8 count push-ups – run back and forth increasing the reps of each by one each set until you fail at pull-ups. Then repeat in reverse order.||Farmer Walk – Carry 50-pound dumbbell for 100 yards on your side to simulate low carry of the 400-pound boat you and 6-7 others will carry for miles during 1st phase.|
To train for the weekly cardiovascular testing events of SEAL training, it is highly recommended that you get familiar with primarily four-mile timed runs and two-mile ocean swims to get a solid foundation of the endurance required for BUD/S. Mix the weight workouts two or three times into your weekly workout with two or three calisthenics-based workouts per week, totaling two to three lower body workouts and two to three upper body workouts per week. If you do not currently run that often, build up to five to seven miles of running over the next several weeks. Perhaps adding a mile per week to your runs for five or six weeks will help you depending on your current mileage per week. Here is a sample running and swimming build-up plan. Arrange to fit your personal schedule and fitness level as needed:
|Week||Monday Intervals||Tuesday||Wednesday||Thursday Intervals||Friday||Saturday Fast Runs||Sunday|
|1||1 mile||1 mile||1 mile||1 mile||1 mile||off||off|
|2||2 mile||1.5 mile||off||1.5 mile||1.5 mile||off||off|
|3||3 mile||1.5 mile||off||2 miles||2 miles||1.5 mile||off|
|4||3 miles||2 miles||off||3 miles||off||1.5 mile||off|
|5||4 miles||3 miles||off||3 miles||off||1.5 mile||off|
|6||4 miles||4 miles||off||3 miles||off||2 miles||off|
|7||5 miles||4 miles||off||4 miles||4 miles||2 miles||off|
|8||6 miles||5 miles||4 miles||off||4 miles||2 miles||off|
|9||7 miles||5 miles||4 miles||off||4 miles||2 miles||off|
Another training method to help with your speed is to mix in mile intervals with exercises that are good simulations for log PT and body carries or that mimic the obstacle course. For instance:
|Repeat 3-4 times
-Run 1 mile timed (work on 4 mile timed run pace)
-KB swings 90 seconds
30 seconds rest
–Burpee – 90 seconds or thrusters
30 seconds rest
-Pull-ups – max (mimic pulling obstacles)
Here is a sample week of workouts to prepare for toughest events in SEAL Training. You will have to get creative with simulating these obstacles, boat carries and log carries, but it can be done with a little effort.
(90 seconds each)
8 count push-ups
pull-ups(rest 30 secs each exercise)Mile Interval Runs
Run 4 miles
SWIM: 500 yards without fins timed x 3Run 3- mile cool down
O course Simulation Pull-up / 8 count / PyramidMix in low crawls, jogs, log carry, hurdles etc during the 20m run in between exercises
500-yard swim without fins timed x 3
|Mile Interval Runs-rest with lunges 10/leg, 20 squats, 20 KB swings, thrusters, in between each 1-mile timed run||Swimming Workout
Build up to 2-mile ocean swim with fins
Plus:500-yard swim without fins timed
|Distance run 5-6 miles
O course Simulation Pull-up / 8 count pyramid500-yard swim without fins timed x 3
|Day off or make up day|
One thing is for sure— no 45-minute weight room workout alone will adequately prepare you for a day of SEAL training. You must work out for several hours a day to prepare yourself for the long days and nights at BUD/S.
Another factor is mental toughness. This is absolutely the most difficult element to measure in a person. These Special Ops training programs will push you to your physical limit. The question is, will you have the mental toughness to keep moving and not quit? One thing for sure is that the better in shape you are, the easier the mental challenges become. Many say it is 10 percent physical and 90 percent mental. This does not mean BUD/S is mostly academically challenging. What it means is that you will be pushed so far physically that you have to mentally will yourself not to quit or stop moving.
Daniel T. Johnston, MD, MPH is a physician in the US Army and currently serves as the Medical Director, US Army Comprehensive Soldier Fitness. For more information visit www.csf.army.mil or Daniel’s website, www.drdanjohnston.com.
Stew Smith is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, a former Navy SEAL Lieutenant, and is certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and as military fitness trainer. Visit www.stewsmith.com.