The Navy SEALs are one of the world’s most respected special forces. Just getting into SEAL basic training is a massive achievement, and passing is something that most people can only dream of.
So, what does it take to get Navy SEAL fit?
For starters, you need to have a high level of cardiovascular fitness, be a strong swimmer and runner, have incredible muscular endurance, and be reasonably strong, too. In addition, you need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. A lot of SEAL training is about learning how to suffer and continue your mission.
As a former British Royal Marine Commando, I have a reasonable understanding of what it takes to be special forces fit. However, when it comes to fitness and toughness, the US Navy SEALs are in a class of their own.
In this article, we share ten of the best Navy SEAL workouts.
- So, Who Are the Navy SEALS?
- Ten Navy SEAL Workouts for You to Try
- Navy SEAL Workouts – FAQs
- Closing Thoughts
SEAL stands for Sea, Air, and Land, which describes the environments in which the US Navy SEALs operate. So, yes, pretty much everywhere.
The modern Navy SEALs can trace their history back to elite units formed during the second world war, where they specialized in covert operations behind enemy lines, including sabotage and underwater demolition.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy called for more special forces units trained specifically for unconventional warfare. One year later, the Navy commissioned two SEAL teams.
All members of the Navy can apply to be a SEAL, but candidates must first complete two months of preparatory training before moving on to SEAL training proper. However, even being accepted on SEAL pre-training requires a decent level of fitness, and prospective applicants are expected to complete the following:
- Push-ups in 2 minutes: 42 minimum, 100 optimum
- Sit-ups in 2 minutes: 52 minimum, 100 optimum
- Pull-ups (no time limit): 8 minimum, 20 optimum
- 2-mile run, wearing boots and pants, in 9-11 minutes
SEAL training is called BUD/S, which is short for the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL program. BUD/S last six months and is said to be the most demanding course in US military training. During this time, prospective SEALs are trained in a host of skills, including:
- Water competency and swimming
- Underwater operations
- Military tactics
Throughout BUD/S, the candidate’s physical fitness and mental toughness are tested daily. A lot of potential SEALs wash out, and an average of only 25 percent of candidates complete BUD/S.
To qualify for BUD/S, SEAL candidates must achieve the following physical fitness standards:
- A 1000-meter swim, with fins, in 22 minutes or less
- At least 70 push-ups in two minutes
- At least 10 pull-ups in two minutes
- At least 60 sit-ups in two minutes
- A four-mile run in under 31 minutes
BUD/S also includes the infamous “Hell Week,” during which the candidates are put through five days of intense physical training and only allowed about four hours of sleep per night. This is make or break for a lot of candidates.
Following BUD/S, candidates progress to intermediate SEAL training, including more combat training, parachuting, and cold weather operations.
At the end of six months of unrelenting training and testing, successful candidates are awarded the Trident, which is the official symbol of the Navy SEALs. They’re then assigned to a platoon for several more months of advanced training before they begin active duty.
Physical fitness is an integral part of being a Navy SEAL. In fact, the success of a mission or even the life of a Navy SEAL and his team can depend on the ability to perform and continue performing at the highest level despite fatigue, sleep deprivation, hunger, or thirst.
The following workouts are either performed by prospective or current Navy SEALs or inspired by SEAL training.
So, you think you’ve got what it takes to be a Navy SEAL? Prove it by completing this workout! However, remember that this is just an entrance exam, and SEAL training is much more arduous.
- Swim 500-yards using breast and/or sidestroke in less than 12 ½ minutes
- 10-minute rest
- Perform a minimum of 50 push-ups in 2 minutes
- 2-minute rest
- Perform a minimum of 50 sit-ups in 2 minutes
- 2-minute rest
- Perform a minimum of 10 pull-ups (no time limit)
- 10-minute rest
- Run 1 ½ miles in under 10 ½ minutes
Bear in mind that the reps and times listed are MINIMUMS. To be taken seriously as a potential SEAL, you need to smash these targets. As the SEALs so often say, it pays to be a winner, and excellence is expected as standard.
2. Daily SEAL PT
Most days on BUD/S start with a group workout, but this isn’t your standard circuits or Zumba class!
Instead, it’s a workout designed to weed out the weak and thin the herd. According to successful SEAL candidates, these workouts are so grueling that they account for around 10% of training dropouts.
- A 1-hour bodyweight workout, performed on the asphalt parking lot
- A four-mile run on the beach
- Another beach run, this time working in teams and carrying a 150-pound raft
- Swimming around the island (the Navy Special Warfare Center in Coronado, CA)
3. Murph Workout
Murph is a CrossFit workout dedicated to Navy SEAL Michael Murphy, who lost his life in Afghanistan in 2005 during Operation Red Wings. His story is told in the film and book Lone Survivor.
The Murph workout combines all the attributes needed to be a SEAL – cardiovascular fitness, strength, endurance, and mental toughness.
Complete the following as fast as possible while wearing a 20-pound weighted vest:
- Run one mile
- 100 pull-ups
- 200 push-ups
- 300 squats
- Run one mile
Needless to say, even the SEALs can’t do 100 pull-ups in one set, so break the reps down into as many mini-sets as necessary. Beginners should consider skipping the weight vest – this workout is hard enough when done with just bodyweight for resistance.
4. SEAL Push-up Pyramid and Run Workout
Pyramid workouts start easy but quickly increase in intensity until you feel like you cannot continue. Then, as you near your breaking point, they begin to get a little easier, but only so you keep on pushing longer and harder.
This workout starts with a push-up pyramid but, like so many SEAL workouts, ends with a run.
To do it, pump out one push-up, get onto your knees, and do one overhead arm reach. Then, do two push-ups, and two kneeling overhead arm reaches. Continue in this fashion as shown below:
- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 5, 3, 2, 1 – total 81 push-ups
After the push-ups, jump to your feet and head out brisk for a three-mile run. For an authentic SEAL workout, your run should be on sand. But, if you aren’t near a beach, you can run on the road, trails, or even a treadmill.
5. The Goggins 100 Burpee Challenge
David Goggins is one of the most well-known ex-SEALs. Famous for his incredible body transformation and phenomenal endurance, Goggins is the only man to have passed three special forces training courses – Navy SEALs, Army Ranger School, and Air Force Tactical Air.
Unlike many SEAL workouts, this one is relatively short, and you can do it inside. However, if done correctly, it’s still very challenging and should push you to your limit.
Simply pump out 100 burpees as fast as you can. On completion, compare your time to Goggin’s standards:
- Under 10 Minutes – solid
- Under 11 Minutes – acceptable
- Over 13 Minutes – anacceptable (do it again!)
Not sure how to do a burpee? Learn how to do burpees here.
6. 10 Miles, 100 Pounds Workout
Operating behind enemy lines without detection or support means that Navy SEALs must be self-sufficient for days at a time. Invariably this means they have to carry all their gear on their backs.
This includes weapons, ammunition, food, water, demolition equipment, communication equipment, first-aid supplies, and a host of other combat essentials.
The 10 miles, 100 pounds workout is designed to simulate those demands.
Load up a backpack with 100 pounds. Alternatively, you can use a weighted vest. Then, head out and walk ten miles. You can stop for rests, but this workout is against the clock, so try to keep moving if you can.
This is a type of loaded carry called rucking, which is a low-impact alternative to running.
Badger is another CrossFit WOD dedicated to a fallen SEAL. This one is named after Chief Petty Officer Mark “Badger” Carter, who was killed in Iraq.
Complete three rounds of the following as fast as possible:
- 30 95-pound squat cleans
- 30 pull-ups
- Run 800 meters
Check out this video to learn more about the Badger Navy Seal workout:
8. Nickels and dimes workout
Like all SEALs, David Goggins is a HUGE fan of bodyweight training. SEALs need to stay fit no matter where they are, and they cannot rely on having a gym in which to train. Using bodyweight exercises means that SEALs can maintain peak condition even on deployment.
This upper body workout is one of Goggin’s favorites, and it’s guaranteed to build upper body strength, endurance, and muscle size.
For this workout, do five pull-ups (nickels) and ten push-ups (dimes) every minute on the minute for 10, 15, or 20 minutes.
So, if you do your pull-ups and push-ups in 30 seconds, you’ve got 30 seconds to rest and get ready for the next set. This workout starts easy but soon starts to get more tiring. As your sets take longer, your rests get shorter, adding to the challenge.
9. Sprint, Carry, Drag Combat Workout
Navy SEALs need to be fit for whatever life throws at them, including when things go wrong, and teammates are injured and need to be helped to safety. This short but intense workout simulates the physical demands of combat and will test your strength, endurance, and determination.
Place two makers around 200 meters/220 yards apart. Your training partner should stand at one end of your course, and you should stand at the other.
When you are ready, complete the following as fast as you can:
- Sprint 200 meters to your partner
- Fireman carry your partner 200 meters
- Drag your partner backward 200 meters
- Sprint 200 meters
Once you are done, switch places with your partner and repeat.
10. 3 x 3 Barbell Workout
Navy SEALs need to be strong but don’t really have the time or energy to dedicate to long, bodybuilding-style workouts. Instead, they need to get in, get it done, and get out in double-quick time.
This workout is designed to build strength quickly and efficiently with minimal training equipment.
Firstly, load up the barbells with around 70% of your one-repetition maximum or 1RM for each of the following exercises:
After a brief warm-up, complete the following sequence. Take no rest between exercises other than where stated:
- Squat x 15
- Overheard press x 15
- Bent-over row x 15
- Rest for 2-3 minutes
- Squat x 12
- Overheard press x 12
- Bent-over row x 12
- Rest for 2-3 minutes
- Squat x 10
- Overheard press x 10
- Bent-over row x 10
Feel free to use alternate exercises but stay true to the legs/pull/pull sequence and use big, compound exercises. For example, instead of overhead presses, you could do bench presses or dips. That way, you’ll train all your major muscles in the least number of movements.
Do you have a question about Navy SEAL workouts? No problem – we’ve got the answers!
1. Will these Navy SEAL workouts build muscle?
Because of the high level of intensity, many of these ten Navy SEAL workouts could help you build muscle. However, if you are serious about bodybuilding and hypertrophy, you should follow a program designed specifically for that purpose.
While our Navy SEAL workouts will trigger muscle growth, that’s not their primary purpose, and there are better ways to build bigger muscles.
2. Will these Navy SEAL workouts help me get shredded?
Getting shredded is as much about your diet as it is your training plan. All of these workouts will burn calories and fat, and the longer and more intense the workout is, the more effective it will be.
However, to lose fat, you also need to reduce the amount of food you eat to create a calorie deficit. This will ensure that your body burns fat for fuel.
So, while these workouts will undoubtedly help you get lean, your diet is just as important, so make sure you pay attention to what and how much you eat.
Related: Body Fat US Navy Calculator
3. What should I eat before doing a Navy SEALs workout?
Navy SEALs often have to work out in less-than-ideal conditions. For example, they might be tired, dehydrated, sleep deprived, or hungry. Getting used to being uncomfortable is part of every SEALs training.
That said, if you aren’t a SEAL and want to perform at your best, you should make sure you are well-rested, well-hydrated, and well-fed before you do any of these workouts.
Pre-workout nutrition is a big topic, so we don’t have space to discuss it here. However, you can read all about it in this in-depth guide.
4. How often should I do these Navy SEAL workouts?
Navy SEALs do physical training every day with very little time off. They push themselves beyond the limits of endurance and recovery. While this is clearly an effective strategy for creating the world’s toughest, most capable special forces operatives, it’s overkill for the average civilian.
So, most people would probably do better if they alternated Navy SEAL workouts with other less intense training sessions to allow for rest, recovery, and growth to occur.
That said, some of the Navy SEAL workouts in this article are pretty short, and while they’re intense, they will be far easier to recover from. Therefore, you could create a program that alternates between long, hard workouts with shorter workouts.
Ultimately, you should listen to your body and avoid becoming a slave to your workout routine. Take time off whenever you feel you need it, especially if you are becoming overtrained.
5. Can I change the exercises or adapt the workouts?
You certainly can! Feel free to scale the workouts down if they are too demanding or change the exercises if you want to do something different. However, you should always stay true to the spirit of the workout and avoid changing it so much that it no longer resembles the original program.
For example, if a full Murph is too much for you, you could do a half-Murph, like this:
- Run half-a-mile
- 50 pull-ups
- 100 push-ups
- 150 squats
- Run half-a-mile
Or, when doing Dave Goggin’s nickels and dimes workout, if you can’t do sets of five pull-ups and ten push-ups, you could do three and six reps instead.
So, by all means, dial the workouts down a little, but don’t change them so much that they become entirely different and, therefore, less effective.
6. What does ringing the bell signify during BUD/S?
During BUD/S, the instructors rarely remove a candidate from training. Instead, candidates who are no longer able or willing to continue can remove themselves by ringing a bell. This signifies their withdrawal from training. As many as 75% of candidates will ring the bell before training is complete.
What is the key to completing BUD/S? The answer is simple – NEVER QUIT.
To be as fit as a Navy SEAL, you must train like a Navy SEAL. However, such an undertaking may be impractical for most people because SEAL training is ultra-tough, and the workouts often last many hours. BUD/S Hell Week is basically a five-day-long workout designed to break the will of even the strongest, fitness participant.
However, you can get a taste of SEAL training with the workouts in this article.
Don’t feel you have to do them all or complete them as they’re written. While some are merely tough, others are designed to challenge even the most accomplished gym rat.
And when things get tough, as they invariably will, remember one of the mottos that the SEALs use to stay motivated: The only easy day was yesterday.
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