What to Know About Special Operations Fitness Tests

Those Hoping for a Career in Special Forces Must Ace These PT Tests

Male and female military duo crawling together during operations in muddy sand

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Anyone who hopes to become a special operator at U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) must excel in certain fitness tests. It's not for the weak-willed, as selection programs may require more than a year of continuing training.

In addition, each service and their special operations ground units have differing criteria. Here's what you need to know about special forces PT tests.


To enter Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS), candidates must pass a three-week test begin the Special Forces Qualification Course (Q Course):

  • 50-meter swim with full gear including boots
  • Push-ups, two minutes
  • Sit-ups, two minutes
  • Pull-ups, max
  • Two-mile run

After this test, you will immediately begin other physical events such as ruck marches, obstacle courses, a large variety of calisthenics, log PT, and running. This will continue for three weeks during SFAS and involve other tactical skills such as land navigation, problem-solving, patrolling, and teamwork.

To become an Army Ranger at a Ranger Battalion or the 75th Ranger Regiment, you must qualify to attend Ranger Assessment and Selection Program (RASP). This is an eight-week course that prepares soldiers to become operating members of the 75th Ranger Regiment.

Some of the physical requirements and tests you will be required to take within your first few days of Ranger Assessment include the following:

  • Army Physical Fitness Test (PFT) with a five-mile timed run
  • Combat water survival test
  • Darby Mile Run event
  • Five-mile runs
  • Terrain runs and obstacle courses 
  • 12-mile foot march
  • Night and day land navigation tests

It's a good idea to get used to rucking and load-bearing exercises before you arrive. The rucking, decreased calories per day, and land navigation are some of the toughest challenges students endure.


Navy Sea, Air, and Land Team's (SEAL) candidates attend Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training (BUD/S) in Coronado, Calif. To get accepted into BUD/S, you must master the Navy Physical Screening Test (PST). Officers and enlisted students attend the same course; however, the officers must also attend a pre-BUD/S selection program called SEAL Officer Assessment and Selection (SOAS).

Navy SEALs, Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC), Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD's), and divers all must master the following fitness test to get to the training:

  • 500-yard swim using the combat sidestroke or breaststroke
  • Push-ups, two minutes
  • Sit-ups, two minutes
  • Pull-ups, max reps
  • One and a half mile timed run

Air Force

Air Force Combat Rescue/Pararescue (PJ) units take the Physical Abilities and Stamina Test (PAST), which includes:

  • Two 25-meter underwater swims (pass or fail)
  • 500-meter surface swim with any stroke but backstroke
  • One and a half mile run
  • Pull-ups, max reps
  • Push-ups, two minutes
  • Sit-ups, two minutes

Once in the PJ and Combat Control Team (CC)T Candidate Course, you will be challenged physically for 10 weeks at Lackland AFB. The first phase is known as Team Training and is eight weeks long. It consists of extensive physical training with swimming, running, weight training, calisthenics, and obstacle courses. Educational training such as medical and diving terminology, CPR, weapons qualifications and dive physics are also part of the Candidate Course. After this course, the PJ and the CCT pipeline splits as one will attend the combat medic course, and the other will attend the air traffic controller course.

Air Force Special Tactics and Combat Rescue Officers within the Air Force Special Operations Command have to pass a similar PAST. However, it is longer and considered tougher and more competitive as the slots to become a Special Tactic Officer (STO) or Combat Rescue Officer (CRO) are highly competitive and few in number. Here is the advanced PAST the officers have to take:

  • Two 25-meter underwater swims (pass or fail)
  • 1,500-meter surface swim with any stroke but backstroke
  • Three-mile run 
  • Pull-ups, max reps
  • Push-ups, two minutes
  • Sit-ups, two minutes

Marine Corps

The U.S. Marine Corps is part of the Special Operations Command, and the service created the Marine Corps Forces (MarSOC) Raiders after seeing the need to create high-level special operators capable of today's sensitive special operations, counter-terrorism, and foreign internal defense missions.

Marine Raider physical requirements involving acing the USMC PFT in order to enter into the MarSoc Raider training course:

  • Crunches, two minutes
  • Pull-ups, max reps
  • Three-mile timed run
  • 300-meter swim with utility uniform (cammies) top and bottom (no boots)
  • 15 minutes total of treading (11 minutes) and floating (four minutes) while wearing and using inflated cammies

Making it to special operations training programs requires you to specifically train for a fitness test. In this case, it is the standard USMC PFT, including pull-ups, crunches and a three-mile run. Your basic program must address this basic PT test.


To be successful, you must adopt a pre-training regimen that is focused on acing the fitness test and building a foundation of fitness so your body can handle the actual training—such as boot camp, School of Infantry (SOI), Basic Recon Course (BRC), RECON, MarSOC Selection, and more.

This process can take at least a year depending on your starting fitness level, or as little as a few months depending on your athletic history. Regardless, you do not want to go to any training program without having reached near the maximum standards of the fitness requirements. Otherwise, the likelihood of injury, failure, and other delays are certain. You have to “train for the training." 

Following this entrance exam, all ranks of 0-4 and below have to excel in a three-week central assessment and screening that is overseen by Marine Special Operations School (MSOS). It is pretty standard physical and tactical testing for Special Operations Community under SOCOM operational control and heavily weighed in the student's operational skills.

Air Assets

The Special Operations Aviation Units, such as the Army Special Operations Regiment (SOAR TF160) and the Air Force Special Operations Aviation, are a major part of SOCOM and are an invaluable asset to the above Special Operations ground units.

You must excel for six weeks in the 160th SOAR(A) Green Platoon assessment training program. It is an advanced physical training program that teaches the basics of being a soldier with advanced first-aid techniques, combatives, land navigation, and weapons training. 

You have to score well on the Army PFT to attend the course, as well as be prepared for the following other challenges of the six-week screening program:

  • Four- to six-mile runs
  • Four- to 10-mile road marches with a 45-pound rucksack
  • Rope climbing and pull-ups