Are you worried if you have what it takes to succeed physically at OCS? Afraid you’ll be the Drill Instructor’s personal passion project? Do you just want to get to OCS in the best shape possible so you can get through everything without anyone knowing your name? (Cue the Swedish House Mafia music).
Well then this guide is for you!
The goal of this blog is to combine what I learned from the PT at OCS with insights from fitness industry leaders that I currently follow, and to offer my recommendations for training for OCS in hindsight. Will it be perfect for every individual? Absolutely not, but I do think it will give a solid base for most people looking to crush the physical standards.
Know Your Enemy
From what I observed, the three biggest hurdles people went through at OCS:
1. Candidates unprepared to meet running standards.
2. Candidates suffering from shin splints, thus being removed from training.
3. Candidates unable to meet push-up standards.
1 and 2 are somewhat related in my opinion but all three of these categories are correctable and the better job you do of being proactive, the more enjoyable PT will be. Understanding where you might struggle allows you to focus on those areas in your training leading up to OCS.
I won’t touch on #3 as much in this post as I think this earlier post does a pretty good job of detailing how to improve push-ups. The short of it is you just need to practice doing them.
PT at Navy OCS
Before we get to how to prepare your body physically, let me give you insight to what is expected of you.
First, and most importantly, the Navy PRT (Physical Readiness Test) is the standard you’ll be measured against for the rest of your time in the Navy. The PRT consists of:
- As many push-ups as possible in 2 minutes
- A plank for as long as you can hold (max of about 3:30)
- 1.5 mile run
PT at OCS is designed to improve PRT scores for the general population and it does a pretty good job of this. I’d say everyone across the board leaves OCS in better “PRT shape” than when they arrived. Check out this post I did for more insight on the workouts conducted at OCS (long story short it’s a lot of bodyweight and HIIT training).
The Elephant in the Room: Running
I know I listed three things above for what most people suffered from but this one overwhelmingly causes the most stress to people for some reason. I get tons of questions on the running at OCS so hopefully this helps.
My recommendation would be to go to OCS being able to run 8:00/mile pace for males and 9:00/mile pace for females. This would put you in the “Good-Low” category for running and allow you to use the plank and push-ups (what people typically find to be easier) to raise your overall score.
This is achievable for most people and would highly recommend making this your goal before your ship date. Below is a breakdown of what I would do, starting with someone who has the most work to do.
Level 1 If you’re heavy: start by eating healthier and losing fat. That’ll make everything easier. Drill Instructors will call you out for being overweight, and you may struggle more than other candidates. You’ll tire first during calisthenics, your feet and knees will hurt more from marching, and you won’t be able to keep up on runs.
Level 2 If you have a terrible aerobic base and can’t run 2 miles: start building your aerobic base through Zone 2 training. If you have neglected cardiovascular fitness your whole life—start now. Bike, run, incline walk, row, anything. Just get that Zone 2 action going.
Level 3 If you have a decent cardiovascular base and feel like running is fine but just can’t seem to find that extra gear: run shorter distances. Stop going for 45 minute runs and start training like a sprinter. Track repeats of 100, 200, and 400 meters will take you to that next level. Sprinting up hills is another great way to increase speed. You’ll be amazed at how simply doing 6 sets of 400m followed by 10 sets of 100m can improve your 1.5-mile time.
At the risk of sounding cliché, I’ll channel my inner Jocko and remind you the only way to get better at something is by doing it. If you suck at running but can do “X”, that’s great but eventually you just have to tie the laces and hit the pavement.
Longevity and Avoiding H-Company
H-Company, also known as Holding Company, is where candidates go if they have to leave their original class due to failing an event or sustaining an injury. There are horror stories of candidates getting injured and staying in H-Company for months and months and months… let’s prevent this.
What is the number one injury people get at OCS? Shin splints by far. But! This will not happen to you because you’re reading this incredible guide.
I’m not a doctor and this isn’t medical advice but I’ve never had shin splints and I’ve never felt better in all aspects of my physical training than when I follow Kneesovertoesguy’s general guidelines to training, i.e. full range of motion and training all joints—in particular the ankle. And according to him, training the tibialis is one of the best things you can do to prevent shin splints.
If you’ve never heard of him, I highly encourage you to check out his content on mobility but regardless of whether you end up looking into his stuff my biggest recommendation is to learn how to take care of your body. Stretch, roll out, etc and get yourself as robust as possible before shipping, it will definitely help with longevity at OCS.
When I can, I like to recommend tools or products that have helped me and that I currently actively use. I included these at the end because they're absolutely not required but have certainly made an impact in my training and recovery. Also, if you do purchase any of these, the small affiliate commission I make directly helps support the blog. So thank you!
Tibialis bar - I train my tibs routinely now and feel it has made a massive improvement to my overall knee pain when running.
Altra shoes are my favorite runners due to their zero drop and wide, natural footbed design. Game changer.
LMNT electrolytes I take every single day. They have the best electrolyte composition I've found yet with no extra crap.
Jocko Greens is a greens supplement I take daily and since I started I have yet to get sick. Love that.