The members of the Navy SEALs are among the most elite sportsmen in the United States Special Forces.
They’re known for their incredible athleticism, mental willpower, and toughness.
This article covers the fitness test required to enter the BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) school and how to train like a SEAL.
To become a Navy SEAL, you need incredible cardiovascular endurance across several modalities in addition to good overall calisthenic strength.
The Official Navy Entrance Exam consists of:
- Swimming: swim 500 yards (457.2 meters) using breast and/or sidestroke in less than 12 minutes and 30 seconds. To be competitive, complete the swim in less than 8 minutes.10-minute rest.
- Push-ups: perform at least 50 push-ups in 2 minutes, or 80–100 to be competitive.2-minute rest.
- Sit-ups: perform at least 50 sit-ups in 2 minutes, or 80–100 to be competitive. 2-minute rest.
- Pull-ups: perform at least 10 pull-ups, with no time limit. Complete 15–20 to be competitive. 10-minute rest.
- Running: run 1 1/2 miles (2.4 km) in under 10 minutes and 30 seconds, or under 9–10 minutes to be competitive.
You will have to be proficient in each of these areas to pass the exam. You also need to be fit enough to perform well in each movement following only short rest periods between exercises.
The entrance exam for the Seal training includes swimming, calisthenics, and running for timed performance.
Navy SEAL training is mentally and physically taxing, requiring you to push through your barriers of what you think is painful.
Because Navy SEALs are often in the field where exercise equipment is at a minimum, most of their workouts involve movements using their own body weight.
The only exception is the rucksack they carry on their backs, which contains whichever items they need on a mission. Often, they’ll use this rucksack to train, running with it or wearing it to add resistance to push-ups and pull-ups.
In addition, most Navy SEAL workout programs include elements of traditional strength training. This is to ensure that SEALs maintain the ability to sustain the intensity of their military training and job.
Navy SEAL workouts are intense and primarily revolve around bodyweight movements and exercises using their rucksacks.
To pass the rigorous Entrance Exam and to make it through the Navy SEALs program, the Naval Special Warfare Physical Training Guide recommends that you include the following training each week for 26 weeks (1):
- 1 slow, long-distance workout for both running and swimming
- 1 continuous high intensity workout for both running and swimming
- 1 interval workout for both running and swimming
- 4–5 calisthenics routines
- 4–6 strength training sessions, divided into 2–3 sessions for both upper and lower body
- 4–5 core exercise routines
- A daily flexibility routine
- Injury prevention exercises
The weekly training schedule for a Navy SEAL includes cardiovascular training involving swimming and running, along with calisthenics, weight training, and core and flexibility routines.
Although the official Naval Special Warfare Physical Training Guide recommends a 26-week training program to prepare for the Entrance Exam, you can try the below 6-week adaption first before committing.
Slow, long-distance cardio, 40–90 minutes
This workout is performed at a low intensity.
You can use the Talk Test to make sure you’re not pushing too hard. If you’re too out of breath to comfortably talk as you run or swim, slow down. A 2018 study found this test to be an effective, cost-free way to assess cardiovascular exercise intensity (
Running and swimming, Monday and Thursday mornings:
- Week 1: on Monday, run 3 miles (4.8 km) and record your pace. On Thursday, swim 1,000 yards (0.9 km) and record your pace.
- Week 2: run 3.5 miles (5.6 km) and swim 1,200 yards (1.1 km), keeping or exceeding last week’s pace
- Week 3: run 4 miles (6.4 km) and swim 1,400 yards (1.3 km), keeping or exceeding last week’s pace
- Week 4: run 4.5 miles (7.2 km) and swim 1,600 yards (1.5 km), keeping or exceeding last week’s pace
- Week 5: run 5 miles (8 km) and swim 1,800 yards (1.6 km), keeping or exceeding last week’s pace
- Week 6: run 5.5 miles (8.9 km) and swim 2,000 yards (1.8 km), keeping or exceeding last week’s pace
Continuous high intensity cardio, 15–20 minutes
On a scale of 1–10, the intensity throughout the run or swim should be at 8–9. This means it should be challenging but not too hard.
Running and swimming, Tuesday and Friday mornings:
- Week 1: on Tuesday, swim for 15 minutes and record the distance. On Friday, run for 15 minutes and record the distance
- Week 2: run and swim for 16 minutes, trying to beat your previous distance
- Week 3: run and swim for 17 minutes, trying to beat your previous distance
- Week 4: run and swim for 18 minutes, trying to beat your previous distance
- Week 5: run and swim for 19 minutes, trying to beat your previous distance
- Week 6: run and swim for 20 minutes, trying to beat your previous distance
Interval cardio workouts alternate short intense bursts of energy with moments of recovery.
The optimal ratio of work to rest is 1:2 to 1:2 1/2. This means that for every minute you run or swim, you rest for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes (
Interval training is a great way to complete an efficient workout in minimal time. A 2019 meta-analysis confirmed this, concluding that high intensity interval training effectively increases cardiovascular fitness over a matter of weeks (
Running and swimming, Wednesday and Saturday mornings:
- Week 1: on Wednesday, run 1/4 mile (400 meters) and record the pace. Rest 2 to 2 1/2 times as long as the run lasted. Repeat the run, trying to maintain the same pace, completing 4 intervals. On Saturday, swim 100 yards (91 meters) and record the pace. Rest 2 to 2 1/2 times as long as the swim lasted. Repeat the swim, trying to maintain the same pace, completing 4 intervals
- Week 2: perform 5 intervals
- Week 3: perform 6 intervals
- Week 4: perform 7 intervals
- Week 5: perform 8 intervals
- Week 6: perform 9 intervals
These workouts are meant to increase your performance in the calisthenic portion of the SEAL test.
Completed on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons:
- Week 1:
- Monday: 3 sets of push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups to failure. Rest 2–3 minutes between sets. Record the total number of reps
- Wednesday: 3–5 sets of 10–30 push-ups and sit-ups, as well as 5–10 pull-ups. Rest 1 minute between sets
- Friday: 5 sets of 5–10 push-ups wearing a weighted vest and 5 sets of 3–5 pull-ups wearing a weighted vest
- Weeks 2–6:
- Monday: try to beat the total number of reps from the previous week
- Wednesday: keep the reps the same as Monday
- Friday: increase the reps by 1–2 or add 2.5–5 pounds (1.1–2.2 kg) to the weight on the vest
These exercises support your overall strength, keep your progress balanced, and help you stay injury-free.
Completed on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons:
- Week 1:
- Monday: 3 sets of 8–12 back squats, 2 sets of 10–12 overhead presses, and 2 sets of 12–15 dumbbell rows per side
- Wednesday: 3 sets of 8–12 incline barbell presses, 2 sets of 10–12 barbell lunges, and 2 sets of 12–15 Romanian deadlifts
- Friday: 3 sets of 8–12 front squats and 2 sets of 10–15 dips
- Weeks 2–6: Each week, increase the weights by 5–10 pounds (1.1–2.2 kg) on all exercises or add 1–3 reps per set
Because of the focus on cardiovascular conditioning and bodyweight progressions, resist the temptation to add extra sets into your strength training.
Research has shown that there’s a maximum amount of volume you can recover from each week. The main focus of this program is to get good at the specific exercises in the Navy SEAL fitness test (5).
It’s important to include a variety of training methods in your programming. Focus on the key skills needed for success in Navy SEAL training and the Entrance Exam.
Whether you have access to equipment or not, and no matter how many weeks you want to dedicate to your training, try to include these core elements of Navy SEAL fitness in your routine:
- distance swimming
- distance running
- hikes or trail runs carrying a weighted backpack
The Navy Special Warfare Physical Training Guide also mentions that it’s important to spend a little time stretching every day (1).
The calisthenics and endurance exercises needed to be a Navy SEAL should form the core of your training program.
If you follow the SEAL workout plan mentioned above, you’ll quickly notice that it includes a lot of exercise per week.
It’s important to modify the program as needed. If it gets overwhelming, you can lower the number of total sets per week or replace a few of the cardio sessions with a nice walk or hike.
If at the beginning of the program the bodyweight exercises are too challenging, you can start with banded pull-ups or doing the push-ups on your knees. Just remember that if you want to take the Navy SEAL test, you’ll eventually need to perform the exercises unassisted.
The main goal of the program is to get better at these specific exercises. As such, it’s a good idea to keep track of your progress to ensure you’re moving towards your goals.
As always, make sure to fuel your workouts with quality nutritious food and sleep.
Exercising to become a Navy SEAL takes hard work and long-term dedication, but will be effective if you stick to it.
This article suggests a 6-week training program to prepare for the Entrance Exam. Alternatively, the official SEAL training guide proposes a 26-week approach.
If you’re not planning to take the Exam but simply want to get stronger and fitter, you can still incorporate some of these SEAL training aspects into your workouts without committing to the whole training program.