There’s no question that Navy SEALs are veritable ripsnorters.
They’ve had a reputation as free-wheeling bruisers since the 1960s, but their recent missions in the Middle East and increased media coverage have propelled them to near mythical status. (There’s even a genre of romance novels about SEALs now).
As they’ve gained popularity, journalists, screenwriters, bloggers, YouTubers, and even government officials have been quick to capitalize on the public’s interest in their exploits. For example, a quick google search for “navy seal training” comes up with the following:
“How Navy Seals Do the Impossible”
“17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL”
“Can You Complete a Navy SEALs Workout Routine?”
You’ll also find countless YouTube videos of people attempting Navy SEAL training (or at least what they think is Navy SEAL training).
And it makes you wonder . . . what is Navy SEAL training really like?
Do I have what it takes to do it?
Will it help me get in shape?
That’s what you’ll learn in this podcast.
I should say right off the bat that I’m not a Navy SEAL, and everything in this podcast is gleaned from books by and about Navy SEALs and a few conversations with SEALs and other members of the US military. So, take it with a big grain of (sea) salt.
That said, by the end you’ll have a good understanding of what Navy SEAL training is like (at least the physical components) and whether this kind of training will help you get in shape.
7:01 – What does Navy SEAL training look like?
14:28 – Should I train like a Navy SEAL?
Mentioned on The Show:
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Hello. Hello, I’m Mike Matthews and this is Muscle for Life. Thank you for joining me today to learn about Navy SEAL Training, which has become quite a popular component of the bigger Navy SEAL commercial. Ecosystem or brand, if you will, which is multifaceted and continuing to grow. You have a lot of fitness stuff like we’re gonna talk about in this podcast, but then there’s also a lot of self-development stuff, you know, inner game stuff.
A lot of it related to becoming more gritty and becoming tougher, and getting better at achieving your goals. And then you also have a lot of Navy SEAL approved business advice out there, and particularly leadership advice. And all of that is just a natural market response to all of the publicity that Navy Seals have gotten in the last couple of decades since they’ve been in the Middle East.
They’ve been around, the military force has been around since the 1960s, but they didn’t really enter the public consciousness until we embarked on the forever war on. And the publicity campaigns have worked like gangbusters. Now, for many people, a Navy SEAL is basically synonymous with a superhuman super soldier.
And if you go search Navy SEAL training, you’re gonna find. A lot of stuff with titles like how Navy Seals do the Impossible 17 Gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy seal. Can you complete a Navy Seal’s workout routine and so forth. You also can find a lot of YouTube videos of people attempting Navy SEAL training, or at least what they think is Navy SEAL training.
And so you might wonder, well, what is Navy SEAL training really like? Do you have what it takes to do it? To a good way to get in shape and to stay in shape lots. What I’m gonna talk about in this podcast now, of course, I’m not a Navy Seal and everything that I’m gonna share with you is just gleaned from books by and about Navy Seals and some conversations with seals and other members of the US military.
So, Take it with a whole lick of salt, but I think by the end you’ll have a pretty good understanding of what Navy SEAL training is actually like. You know, at least the physical components of it and whether or not that type of exercise, that type of fitness routine will help you achieve your goals. Also, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my v i p one-on-one coaching service because my team and I have helped people of all ages and all circumstances lose fat, build muscle, and get into the best shape of their life faster than they ever thought.
And we can do the same for you. We make getting fitter, leaner, and stronger. Paint by numbers simple by carefully managing every aspect of your training and your diet for you. Basically, we take out all of the guesswork, so all you have to do is follow the plan and watch your body change day after day, week after week and month after month.
What’s more, we’ve. That people are often missing just one or two crucial pieces of the puzzle. And I bet a shiny shackle, it’s the same with you. You’re probably doing a lot of things right, but dollars to donuts, there’s something you’re not doing correctly or at all that’s giving you the most grief.
Maybe it’s your calories or your macros. Maybe it’s your. Selection. Maybe it’s your food choices. Maybe you’re not progressively overloading your muscles, or maybe it’s something else, and whatever it is, here’s what’s important. Once you identify those one or two things you’re missing once you figure it out.
That’s when everything finally clicks, that’s when you start making serious progress, and that’s exactly what we do for our clients. To learn more, head over to www.buy legion.com. That’s buly legion.com/v p and schedule your free consultation call, which by the way is not a high pressure sales call. It’s really just.
Discovery call where we get to know you better and see if you’re a good fit for the service. And if you’re not for any reason, we will be able to share resources that’ll point you in the right direction. So again, if you appreciate my work and if you want to see more of it, and if you also want to finally stop spinning your wheels and make more progress in the next few months than you did in the last few years, check out my VIP coaching [email protected] legion.com.
Slash B I p. Now, as you probably know, seals operate in on the sea. They operate in the air, they operate on the land, hence the acronym. And so they’re expected to be able to complete missions in many different environments, and a lot of their training actually focuses on swimming and diving skills. But they have found themselves in many different places over the years, ranging from the streets of Mogadishu in Soma.
In the case of Operation Gothic serpent to the Hindu Kush Mountains in Afghanistan with Operation Red Wings. Now, as you might expect, being prepared for very unforgiving environments of many kinds requires a rather unique blend of resilience, adaptability, and physical conditioning. And that’s also why the.
Navy Seals are considered one of the premier units in the US military. They were officially formed in 1962, shortly before the Vietnam War. But various units in the US Navy had been carrying out commando SEAL esque missions since 1942 during World War ii, and those included gorilla warfare, sabotage, espionage, reconnaissance, underwater demolition, and more.
Now, for most of these seal. History. Their training and their missions were cloak and dagger. People did not talk about them, and a central tenant of the culture was quiet. Professionalism. In fact, part of the official Navy SEAL ethos is I do not advertise the nature of my work nor seek recognition for my actions.
Hence, aside from tidbits of information that would leak out about. Training and their operations. Not much was known about what these guys did or where they did it, but that all changed with nine 11 and with our involvement in the Middle East. And since then, there have been quite a few high profile memoirs that have come out that talk about training and talk about their missions, including Chris Kyle’s American Sniper, Mark Owens.
No easy day. Marcus Lorell’s, loan survivor, Jocko Wilks. Extreme ownership. Robert O’Neills, the operator, and David Goggins can’t hurt me among many others. So what does Navy SEAL training actually look like? Well, training to become a SEAL has four phases. First you have a physical screening test, A P S T.
Then you have a Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School phase and N S W prep phase. That’s followed by buds, and that includes the notorious Hell Week that you probably have heard of or watched on a documentary. And that’s followed by the final fourth phase, which is Seal Qualification Training, S Q T.
Now, each of those phases has various sub phases, but we don’t have to get into that here in the podcast. And then after those phases are complete, the seals are assigned to a team and then they undergo another period of very intense training to prepare them for deployment And. Warfare, and that usually lasts about a year.
So all in all, it takes about two to three years of near continuous training from signing up to first Mission as a Navy seal, and only about 10 to 20% of candidates make it through that entire selection process as it’s called. And that’s an attrition rate that’s similar to other. Elite units such as the Air Force, para Rescue Jumpers, the PJs, and the Army Special Forces, the Green Berets.
So let’s talk a bit about each phase. So the first phase is the initial physical screening test. Now, before anyone is given the opportunity to even try to become a seal, they have to pass the P s T, and if they can’t pass that, their chances of making it through the actual seal. Are basically nil. Now, what is the P S T?
Well, the P S T consists of five exercises. You have swimming, pushups, curl ups, or crunches, pullups and running, all of which are completed in one workout with varying amounts of rest between each exercise. Now, if you wanna know how your P s T stacks up to the Navy’s standards, you can enter your. In a SEAL PST calculator, which you can find, just searching for it.
I have one here pulled up from seals wcc.com. They have a good little calculator and you can see how your numbers compare. Now there are also two sets of standards for the pst. One is for officers, so those would be soldiers in a position of higher leader. and then you have another set of standards for enlisted men.
There’s also a minimum standard and a competitive standard for each physical test. And a prospective seal is expected to be able to at least do the minimum standard for each test, but his chances of actually becoming a seal are much higher if he can get close to the competitive standard or reach the competitive standard.
And as you are probably wondering what some of these standards are and how you measure up against. Let’s look at a few of them. So for an enlisted soldier, the minimum standard for a 500 yard swim is 12 minutes and 30 seconds. The minimum standard for pushups is 50 in two minutes for curl ups or for crunches, it is 50 in two minutes.
For pull-ups, it is 10 with unlimited time, so you can take as much time as you need to do them, but you can’t touch the ground and you can’t let go of the bar. And then for a one and a half mile run, the minimum standard is 10 minutes and 30 seconds. Now let’s compare those to the officer competitive standards.
So the highest standards for the 500 yard swim, it’s now nine minutes for the pushups. It’s now. Five in two minutes. For the crunches, it is 85 in two minutes. For the pull-ups, it is 20. Again, unlimited time, but you have to remain hanging. You can’t let your feet touch the ground and you can’t let go of the bar.
So as you can see, those are pretty challenging benchmarks, even for someone who’s in pretty good shape. All right, so that’s it for the first phase, the basic physical fitness screening. Which brings us to the second phase, the Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School, phase N S W, prep Phase. Now, this is the first phase of quote unquote real SEAL training, and it’s designed to prepare the candidates for the more intense phases that are coming next.
Now, the training in this phase largely consists of the same stuff in the pst, just a lot more of it, more swimming, more pushups. Crunches, more pull-ups, more running, and then more running. gotta be really good at running. If you are gonna want to train like a Navy SEAL or become a Navy seal, then you make it to phase three, the basic underwater demolition seal training slash seal training buds as it’s referred to B U D slash S.
And this is considered by many to be the most difficult of all of the phases of SEAL training because it involves almost six months of nonstop physical condition. And testing. And the testing just gets harder and harder week by week. So after an initial three week orientation phase, the SEAL candidates will begin a seven week physical conditioning phase, and the first three weeks of that phase get real hard, real fast.
In fact, the fourth week. Is the most notorious one hell week Now during hell week, which lasts about five days, the seal candidates often run over 200 miles. They do thousands of pushups. They spend hours carrying logs, boats, and each other, and they do all of that while soaking wet, covered in sand being constantly yelled at and taunted and harang by their instructors with no more than four hours of.
Per night as Rick Kaiser, an ex-Navy Seal who fought in the Battle of Mogadishu explains no one is prepared for Bud. Now, as difficult and well known as Buds is, it’s worth noting that other branches of the US military do have similarly demanding physical training regimens. For instance, many soldiers have said that the Special Forces Qualification course, the Ranger School and the Air Force Para Rescue are about as.
They’re just not as well known because they’re not as well publicized as Hell Week and Buds and Navy Seals. So as far as your personal fitness goes and your personal quest to train Lakey Navy Seal goes, there’s no feasible way to replicate the physical demands of Hell Week to answer the question conclusively, could you make it through hell week without actually going into.
Buds and trying, unless you just happen to be good friends with a cadre of seals, I guess, who are willing to abuse you for a week straight to, uh, satisfy your masochistic whims. Anyway, let’s move on to the fourth. Phase once you have completed BUD S. That is seal Qualification Training S Q T. And in this phase, candidates learn more advanced martial skills like marksmanship, hand-to-hand combat, demolition, land navigation, communications, medical skills, survival skills and more.
And while this phase is still very physically demanding, it’s more focusing on building the candidate’s technical proficiencies rather than just testing. Physical metal. And then after this phase, after they pass S Q T, the candidates become newly minted seals. They receive the coveted pin, the naval special warfare insignia pin, the Trident that identifies them as real frog men.
If you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my v i p one-on-one coaching service because my team and I have helped people of all ages and circumstances lose fat, build muscle, and get into the best shape of their life faster than they ever thought possible. And we can do the same for you.
All right, so if all of that is an overview of how Seals train, should you train like them? Well, it depends on your goals. What are you going for? Why are you training? You’ve probably heard that Navy Seals are elite athletes because the media and the movies like to play this up, they’ll often portray seals as the physical equivalent of NFL linebackers who just happened to join the Navy instead of the New England Patriot.
Now if you have read some of the popular SEAL biographies or if you have talked to some former seals, you know that’s a myth. The single most important thing to understand about Navy SEAL training or the physical training of any elite military unit for that matter, is that it’s not meant to get people in shape.
The people are expected to be in great shape when they show up. It’s not meant to help with weight loss or improving muscularity. Or muscle definition or improving strength. It’s mostly about teaching people that they can withstand far more discomfort, pain, and misery than they think they can. If you are familiar with David Goggins, for example, if you read his book, can’t Hurt Me, you know, his 40% rule, right?
Which refers to Goggins opinion and well-founded opinion. I think more like an observation that when you think you can’t go on, when the pain is too great, when you think you have to quit, it’s time to give up. You’re actually only at 40% of your. Capacity for effort or for suffering, that you can do a lot more than you think.
You can endure a lot more than you think if you have to. And so then the primary goal of Navy SEAL training is to make people plumb the depth of human endurance and see how far they can go physically and psychologically. That’s why Admiral William McRaven and Ex Seal four Star Admiral and former commander of all US Special Forces said that SEAL training really doesn’t have a lot to do with how big and how strong and how fast you are.
There’s only one thing you have to do in SEAL training and that’s not quit or as some soldiers will. Joke, you just have to be too dumb to give up. So my point is, much of the physical training that seals do is more about building mental fortitude than physical fitness. Now, of course, that’s not to say that it won’t help you get fit.
Of course it will if you run hundreds of miles, if you carry logs in knee deep surf, if you do pushups until you puke, you’re gonna get fitter. Is that really the optimal way for you to achieve your fitness goals? Probably not. If your goal is just to get bigger or fitter and leaner and stronger, there are more productive ways to spend your time.
That said, if you wanted to use physical hardship or really physical suffering to test your mental toughness or to develop mental toughness, then. Training like a Navy seal, if we’re talking literally would make more sense. But of course getting fit or fit her would be kind of a side effect of that, not the primary aim.
There is another aspect of Navy SEAL training, though that is a bit more appropriate for US fitness folk, and that is the fact that SEAL candidates are turned into highly. Of generalists. So seals are expected to be good at many different types of physical tasks, but they’re not expected to be the best at any individual one.
So this includes stuff like long distance swimming and running and navigating obstacle courses and hiking with heavy backpacks. Rucking, which I recorded a podcast on just a week ago actually, there’s also rope climbing and other similar. Physical activities, and that’s why Navy Seals spend a lot of their time doing cardio.
And while cardio burns a lot of calories and can certainly help you get fit, it’s fat, develop your grit, develop your mental toughness. It’s not ideal for body composition. Of course, it’s not ideal for. Building muscle. You’re not gonna build any muscle to speak of doing cardio unless you’re doing maybe a lot of cycling, in which case you could build some muscle in your legs.
But as a general rule, if your primary goal is to improve your body composition, to gain lean muscle in the right places on your body, you want to do less. Not more specifically, my general recommendation is to limit your cardio to no more than about half of the amount of time that you spend training your muscles.
So if you are lifting weights for four to five hours per week, for example, I would not recommend doing more than maybe two to two and a half. Hours of cardio per week, unless your cardio is very low impact, low intensity, unless you are doing a lot of walking. For example, you could certainly walk for five hours per week and lift weights for five hours per week without having any.
Negative downsides. But if you were doing five hours of moderate or even highly intense cardio, like biking or anything else, that is going to cut into your muscle and strength gain. And anyway, with seals training the way that they do, it’s not surprising that. The average candidate or even the average seal, is not a shredded bodybuilder with biceps splitting the seams of their shirts.
Instead, a lot of these guys look more normal than you might think or look more normally fit than you might think. Picture a guy, for example, who has gained maybe 15 to 25 pounds of muscles since starting weightlifting, and who has a body fat percentage, anywhere from maybe 10 or 11% to 15 to 17. And so that’s certainly better than average, but also represents what most guys can accomplish in about one year of doing the most important things, mostly right in the kitchen and the gym.
Understanding energy, balance, macronutrient balance, the importance of eating a lot of nutritious foods. And then in the gym, understanding the importance of mechanical tension and progressive overload and exercise selection, optimal volume and frequency. Basically, guys who have read my book Bigger, lean or Stronger and done that for a year or so, so should you train like a Navy Seal?
Well, you should. If you want to become a Navy seal, that’s obvious, but if you just want to build muscle and lose fat and get and stay healthy, I would say that no, you shouldn’t train like a Navy Seal. Instead, you should do what I just said. You should do a lot of strength training. You should control your calories.
You should control your macros. You should eat a lot of nutritious foods, and you should do a bit of cardio too. that’s gonna help you achieve your body composition goals faster, and you can get some extra health benefits from cardio, particularly for your heart that you can’t get from weightlifting. Now, if the mental side of SEAL training is just as appealing to you as the physical side, if you are.
Just as interested in improving your resilience as you are, your physique and your fitness. There are many productive ways of going about this that don’t require crushing yourself like Navy seals do or are forced to. For example, if you’ve never gotten very lean, So as a guy, if you’ve never gotten below 10% body fat or as a gal, if you’ve never gotten below, let’s say 20% body fat, do that.
It is demanding and it requires delayed gratification. And so you have to lower your time preference, which means that you have to learn to place less value on things you can get right now in. Higher value on things that you can get later that require more work and that require more patience. And what’s great is those are all qualities and skills that are very transferable.
Those are things that are gonna help you in every area of your life. So by getting really lean, you not only get to love what you see in the mirror, but you also get to love what you see in anything else. That requires self-discipline and willpower, and the subjugation of short-termism. Now, strength training is another great way to build your mental fortitude for the same reasons.
You can’t push, pull and squat heavy weights without some courage and perseverance and piss and vine. So if you are not currently determin, following a strength training routine, an effective strength training routine, maybe one of mine, bigger, leaner, stronger or thinner. Leaner, stronger, or maybe beyond.
Bigger. Leaner. Stronger. Start now. Start today. If you’re not sure what to do, head over to legion athletics.com. Search for strength training, and you’ll find a very in-depth article on our. That shares the basic principles of strength training and shares several popular programs. Or if you want to follow one of my programs, pick up my book.
Bigger, leaner, stronger. If you’re a guy, pick up thinner, leaner, stronger. If you are a gal, read it and get going on the program. Strength training really is the ultimate biohack. If you want one weird trick for improving just about every aspect of your body, including your body composition and your health and your longevity, strength training, is it?
It is the grand Puba of physical fitness. And it benefits your psychological and your emotional health as well. Research clearly shows that it is not inaccurate to call strength training an effective form of therapy. So if you want to get stronger and tougher physically and mentally and emotionally, then you want to be doing a lot of strength.
You can also do endurance sports. You can do stuff like cycling, running, or hiking, which are not ideal for improving your body composition. They can help minimally by just burning calories, right? But nothing holds a candle to cardio, to intense cardio. Prolonged cardio for training your mind to resist.
The allure of giving up for training your mind to say no, when every fiber of your being is screaming for you to stop and to bend the knee. And so if you want to learn to become more comfortable being uncomfortable, endurance training is the. Ticket, the easiest way to train that mental ability. Another effective way to become more mentally effective is to practice deep work, as Cal Newport puts it.
And if you haven’t read his book, deep Work, I recommend it. And if that’s not enough for you to want to read it, check out my book review episode that I did on deep Work. I probably published it some time ago, at least a year ago, so you’ll have to search the podcast, feed deep work and check it out. But anyway, the term just refers to work that requires intense focus, intense concentration that requires giving up all of the petty little distractions like social media and text messaging and video games, TV watching, web surfing, and so forth.
And although it may sound fairly simple to. Do what you’re doing when you’re doing it to focus on just one task for extended periods of time. Many people struggle more with that than any of the other stuff that we’ve talked about in this episode, any of the physical stuff. And so working on that ability can be very fruitful for them.
And even if you are pretty good at it. It also is going to pay dividends for you as well, and, uh, for me and for all of us because most of the things that we want to achieve, most of our goals do require us to be able to focus intently for extended periods of time. Most of our work goals, most of our personal goals, even our relationship goals, for example, it’s hard to have a good relationship with somebody if you can’t just be.
With them present as people like to say for long periods of time, just having your attention on them, on the experience, on the conversation that you’re having and so forth. One more little tip for becoming a little bit more Navy seal, a little bit tougher, a little bit more comfortable being uncomfortable, is to just wake up.
Early, and this is not only, uh, a small willpower challenge starting your day, winning a small willpower challenge. It’s also a great way to just spend your time more effectively because it forces you to go to bed earlier, which means that you’re probably going to spend less time in front of the TV or on social media or on the web.
And if you’re gonna be waking up early, chances are you’re gonna want to use that time productively. You’re just naturally inclined at the beginning. Day when you’re refreshed, uh, hopefully you slept well, to want to get a head start on your productive activities. Maybe that’s a workout. Maybe that’s reading.
Maybe that is breathing exercises. Or maybe you just will want to get a head start on your work to start working earlier, maybe finishing earlier, or maybe buying yourself some time in the middle of the day to do a workout. For example. Now what you are probably not gonna. When you wake up at five or 6:00 AM or maybe even earlier, is go sit on the couch and watch TV or scroll through social media or browse the internet.
And so if you currently feel like you don’t have enough time in the day to get all of the things done that you want to get done, and you are not currently waking up early, try it out. Try it out for at least a month. Commit to four weeks of waking up early, at least Monday through Friday and see how it.
And that concludes my thoughts on whether or not you should train like a Navy Seal. Thanks again for joining me today. I hope you liked this episode, and I hope you liked the next ones even more, which includes another q and a where I’m gonna be talking about foods to eat before cardio, improving your relationship with food and joint sleeves, and wrap.
All right. Well, that’s it for today’s episode. I hope you found it interesting and helpful. And if you did, and you don’t mind doing me a favor, could you please leave a quick review for the podcast on iTunes or wherever you are listening from? Because those reviews not only convince people that they should check out the show, they also increase the search visibil.
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New stuff that I have coming and last, if you didn’t like something about the show, then definitely shoot me an email at mike muscle for life.com and share your thoughts. Let me know how you think I could do this better. I read every email myself and I’m always looking for constructive feedback. All right, thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you soon.