Basic Training Breakdown: What to Expect When You Join the Military

John Annillo

Contributor - Fitness for Military and First Responders

Hoboken, New Jersey, United States

Military Fitness, Law Enforcement and Firefighters


Army Strong! Semper Fi! Global Force! These are the slogans of today’s military soldiers, and you can assume the physical and mental requirements to become a soldier are just as intense. The workouts in basic training for the military are not meant to find the physical specimens of the group, but rather to take people on a journey from civilian to soldier. Are you considering a military career? Here’s an idea of what’s in store for you.


basic training, preparing for basic training, bootcamp, boot camp, militaryAs you prepare for basic training an overwhelming amount of emotions will hit you. While the physical tasks are prevalent, it’s the mental growth you go through that gets you to the level of solider - finding the courage to move forward, while experiencing the fear of wondering if life will ever be the same. You will move most likely from a life of excessiveness to a life of necessities.



The journey all starts with your first checklist: one-day supply of clothing, three sets of underwear, one pair of white calf-length athletic socks (no color bands, designs, or logos), and a pair of comfortable shoes. Your luggage should be limited to one small suitcase or gym bag. Check, check, check, now kiss your family and friends behind because you are going to start a new family.


While each branch is a little different, here are some of the phases you’ll go through during this basic training transformation:


1. Orientation


You will be given a haircut and issued a uniform. You’ll start learning about the history of the branch of military you joined and their core values. You will start off where thousands of soldiers before you have started, but look around, because not everyone around you will last until the end.


2. A Daily Routine Of Discipline


Drill instructors at every moment during this time will attempt to turn the recruits into a unified platoon to enforce discipline and teamwork. Details you never paid attention to during your everyday life will be scrutinized.


basic training, preparing for basic training, bootcamp, boot camp, military3. Physical Combat


Most branches will teach you and take you through various martial arts and hand-to-hand combat techniques. In the Marines they actually have a five-colored belt system to move through: tan, grey, green, brown, and black. In order to earn the title of “United States Marine,” every recruit is required to qualify for his or her tan belt.



4. Confidence Course


This comes in many forms in the different branches of the military, but one thing is for certain: instructors will push each team of recruits to work together and overcome the obstacles before them, leaving no man behind. During your training you will be asked to act despite the fear you are feeling.


5. Hours of Physical and Mental Challenges


You will be challenged during this time with middle-of-the-night wake-up calls. You will be asked to go through challenges with little food and sleep. Sorry if your eight-hour sleep schedule and protein-to-carb ratio is disrupted. You will be asked to act as a team, to pull together or fall apart, to win as one or all will fail.


6. Physical Tests



Each branch of the military has their own set of physical fitness tests that will determine your physical aptitude. These tests are given throughout your time in basic training to ensure you are not only maintaining your physical ability but also improving.



Here is an outline of the minimum physical requirements you should expect:


Army Basic Combat Training


Duration: 10 Weeks

Physical Fitness Requirements:

  • Timed 2-mile run
  • 2 minutes of sit ups
  • 2 minutes of push ups


basic training, preparing for basic training, bootcamp, boot camp, militaryMarine Corps Recruit Training


Duration: 12 Weeks

Physical Fitness Requirement:

  • Timed 3-mile run
  • Timed flexed-arm hang (for women)
  • A pull up count (for men)
  • 2 minutes of abdominal crunches


Navy Boot Camp



Duration: 7-9 Weeks

Physical Fitness Requirements:

  • Timed 1.5-mile run or 500-yard swim
  • 2 minutes of curl-ups
  • 2 minutes of push-ups
  • Sit-and-reach flexibility test


Air Force Basic Military Training


Duration: 8.5 Weeks

Physical Fitness Requirement:

  • Timed 1.5-mile run
  • 1 minute of push ups
  • 1 minute of sit ups
  • Abdominal circumference measurement


Coast Guard Recruit Training


Duration: 8 Weeks

Physical Fitness Requirement:

  • Timed 1.5-mile run
  • 1 minute of push ups
  • 1 minute of sit ups
  • Sit-and-reach flexibility test
  • 5-minute water tread
  • 5-foot platform jump into a 100-meter swim


Each branch is equally respected in my books, because no matter how difficult one is compared to the other, you will go through a physical and mental transformation. Basic training is tough. Each day you will be pushed and tested. I’ve seen people who have gone in and come out completely different (and better) people.


The goal should be to go into basic training in top physical shape. You will literally break down physically and mentally if you do not prepare beforehand. In my next article I will show you exactly what to do to prepare for basic training. Your ability to perform at your best may be the difference between life and death.


Photo 1 by Master Sergeant Cecilio Ricardo (US Air Force Public Affairs [1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo 2 by U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rebekah Adler [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo 3 by Master Sergeant Cecilio Ricardo (US Air Force Public Affairs [1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

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