My buddy Travis Stoetzel with The Forged Athlete training camp asked me to put together 10 Tips for BUD/S Navy SEAL Training on how to get ready and make it through one of the hardest SpecOps courses in the world.
It was great to see Travis at the Underground Strength Coach conference in New Jersey recently so I was stoked to get this article posted up and fired over his way.
Check out Travis at www.travisstoetzel.com. Thanks for the opportunity Travis.
The question we get asked a lot is “Coach, do you have any advice for going through BUD/S?”
Answer: You have an 80/20 chance of making it through BUD/S. 80% or more of all candidates fail. Only 20% or less make it through to graduate BUD/S.
Question: Coach, do skinny guys make it through BUD/S?
Answer: Sure; you will see all makes and models of guys make it through BUD/S—the underlying factor is how bad do they want it.
Question: What types of conditioning runs did you do in BUD/S?
Answer: We went on long runs on the beach. We would go on the hard pack sand for most of the run but often go up and through the soft pack and sometimes into the sand dunes (sand berms) up and over.
Navy SEAL training (or Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL (BUD/S) as it is known) is not for the weak in body or spirit. Here are 10 tips I learned the hard way after going through BUD/S twice (first time making it through Hell Week then failing a math test).
I got the rare change to go through BUD/S again, and graduated from class 132. BUD/S training is more demanding than anything you will experience in your lifetime.
Yes—there are a few training camps and coaches out there that assist with preparation for BUD/S. Due to their own individual situations, some candidates elect to train on their own.
Either way, there are some good (and bad) ways to prepare for Navy SEAL training. In this blog post I am going to discuss some training and nutrition guidelines that will assist in your preparation for the long journey.
Check out this article: BUD/S Warning Order
Video: BUD/S class 234 part 1
Question: I was just wondering what age would you consider to go ahead and try out for BUD/S and how would you know if you’re ready?
Answer: When you’re 17 you can try out. You know your ready when you have competitive mock PST scores.
Question: What kids of swimming do you do at BUD/S?
Question: What does BUD/S stand for in the Navy?
Answer: BUD/S stands for Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL training.
Question: Do Navy SEALs emphasize strength, mass, speed, power or lean muscle?
Answer: The instructors at BUD/S emphasize not being last and never quitting. They don’t give a #$%@ how ripped or chiseled you are – they want you to be nails tough and not quit.
TIP #1: Build Consistency now
One of the best traits you can build is to have consistency and discipline. This is a core skill you will need for BUD/S and on the Teams.
Yes; we can run hard and swim but we have to be able to do that week after week in BUD/S. We have to be consistent and persistent. A great method to easily build consistency is to read 5 to 10 minutes every day. Pick a great book that is inspiring or good knowledge and read every day.
Not occasionally or every other day. Every day. No matter how tired you are you can always read 5 minutes before bed. Get in a good habit and read and grow your mind—this will pay off at BUD/S.
I knew BUD/S was going to be really hard and not just a harder version of bootcamp—but that first day on the grinder was a surprise. Lots of guys quit that first day.
That’s where the mental side of sticking with it comes in. Your mind will quit before your body does.
But also keep in mind that no matter how much you try to understand how hard BUD/S will be, it will still be !@#$-ing harder.
Question: How do the Navy SEALs maintain consistency?
Answer: They build on discipline one day at a time.
Question: What is the best way to train for BUD/S?
Answer: There is no single best way but in general you want to shoot for longer endurance workouts. Be able to run long distance in sand and have done a 10 mile sand run before you get to BUD/S.
Have a 20 mile ruck march in hilly terrain completed before you go. Of course you need to swim and do a lot of bodyweight exercises also. If I were training now I would be doing lots of variations on the Murph workout.
TIP #2: Prepare yourself physically
Train harder and longer than you think you need for BUD/S.
I know a former Team guy who told me he had a retired Marine drill sergeant train him for the year leading up to when he left for BUD/S, and jokingly said that in some ways BUD/S was almost easier than what he went through with the prep training he got (it was still harder than he expected).
Get a buddy and train with him. Challenge each other with harder and harder workouts. Sign up for GORUCK events. Start with a GORUCK Light and work your way up to a GORUCK Heavy and HTL (Heavy Tough Light, all three events in a row). Then repeat that event a few months later.
Video: Class 234 part 2
Train in cold weather. Wet weather. Cold and wet weather. Hot weather. Get muddy. Find a beach and get sandy. Get tired then keep going. Make it so when you hit BUD/S you’ll be familiar with how it feels to be miserable and know when your negative thoughts come up and how to push past them.
One thing that I found out quick was that the pool evolutions were hard and you could not be afraid to get a lot of water in your mouth, nose and lungs.
Also keep in mind that training for BUD/S can take many months if not years. You can’t expect to be prepared in a few weeks or a couple of months.
Question: Do I need to stop all weight training and only use body weight training when getting ready for BUD/S?
Answer: I would emphasize bodyweight workouts and do weight training with a sand bag, sled and ruck sack.
Question: What happens if you fail out of BUD/S?
Answer: You are sent to the fleet (regular Navy on a ship).
Question: Do we have to do BUD/S log PT?
Answer: You have to do all evolutions unless you want to drop out.
TIP #3: Prepare yourself mentally
BUD/S is incredibly stressful. Ask anyone who has successfully completed the program, BUD/S in 80% mental.
The physical and mental stress of ‘Hell Week’ alone is tremendous. Constant stress, exposure to the cold, and constant physical exertion can all suppress or compromise your immune system. This is part of the training at BUD/S because life on the Teams is similar. If you ignore getting good rest, eating as well as you can and staying on top of ignoring your negative thinking, you will make BUD/S less stressful.
You will want to quit over and over again. If you let your mind control you, then you’ll quit. Your mind is what controls your body, and your body will want to quit first.
Train as hard as you can physically. As you do—listen to how your body wants to quit and for all the negative thoughts you will have. All the excuses you’ll come up with for quitting. Then find ways to get rid of those thoughts.
Check out this article: 5 Things to Never Say at BUD/S
Question: Is BUD/S as bad as everyone says?
Answer: Bro, BUD/S is like getting kicked in the nuts for 6 months straight. Books and videos don’t come close to showing how hard it is. It is epic and 80% plus fail.
Question: Do you end up making it through BUD/S with the same swim buddy?
Answer: Yes; unless for some reason your buddy quits.
Question: If you graduate BUD/S do you automatically become a SEAL?
Answer: No, you have to go to SQT training for another 6 months and keep your nose clean or you will get dropped. After SQT you will get your Trident only if you have passed all qualifications and no fights or DUI.
TIP #4: Stay on top of your nutrition
Eat well and frequently. This will be a huge help for you mentally and physically.
Supplement with vitamins. If going to BUD/S only over the counter vitamins will be allowed.
You’ll get hungry when you’re at BUD/S but you’ll also get fed regularly, even during Hell Week. If you skimp on nutrition you’re going to set yourself up for failure and injury. Training while you’re tired from hard workouts is not the same thing as training when you’re fatigued because you haven’t eaten.
Though the military tries to make food more nutritious–and tries to provide more nutritious options – it is still not the quality you may be used to.
Nutrition Tip: You want to grow lean mass and lose fat. That means quality protein, aminos, glutamine, etc, to assist recovery. After all, in BUD/S “the only easy day was yesterday.” You absolutely need to recover quickly to perform the next training day. Eating lean meats for protein is best and adding a protein supplement is a big help.
A question we get is “Do you want to be bulking up for BUD/S training?” You want to be strong, but this isn’t a time for looking like Schwarzenegger in his prime. If you look at Team guys, they’re strong, but they’re not big.
Remember—any extra muscle bulk you’re carrying is what you have to haul up a rock face or rope in addition to any equipment you’re carrying. Get strong, but not bulky.
You do not need to get huge muscles or bulk up for BUD/S. You want to have lean muscle. Most of the exercises performed in BUD/S are bodyweight exercises. Sure you will lift boats, logs, and classmates—but individual PT is bodyweight based.
So, if you are carrying around 20 useless pounds of mass it will affect performance and potentially add to your risk of injury.
Check out this article: Do You Need Strength In BUD/S?
Question: How much do the logs weigh in Navy SEAL training? You will be lifting about 30 lbs per athlete over head.
Answer: That doesn’t sound like much but 2 hours later in the burning sun your body will be smoked liked cooked bacon.
Question: How can I prepare for BUD/S log PT?
Answer: Get a sandbag with 20 to 30 lbs and press it over head. Then do sit-ups with the bag on your chest. Then do walking lunges and squats and go back to presses overhead.
Carry the bag on your shoulder for a few miles on a dirt trail or on the beach. This will help to get you ready.
TIP #5: Build Durability
You can do all the 20 minute CrossFit workouts and Tabata workouts that you want—but the bottom line is you need to be able to go long range and endurance all day. Not just a 30 minute workout and done.
You build durability by building up and doing really long trail and beach runs (or edge of a lake, stream or pond if you don’t have the ocean).
I failed out the first time through BUD/S (because of a math test), so when I trained again for the second time, I trained better because I realized I didn’t have much durability the first time. I went on really long bike rides and runs when I began training again. Some days I would bike all day for 100 to 150 miles.
Yes; that took a lot of time to train—but BUD/S was my only priority and this time I knew exactly what I needed to do and did it. This is where consistency comes in.
Question: What are products that have changed the way Navy SEALs are training?
Answer: Simple stuff like better socks and boots have made a big difference. The SEAL Team guys get all the great gear so there is constantly gear in the works to improve training.
Question: What do I need to do bodyweight workouts?
Answer: You need no gear at all. You may want to get a cheap yoga mat, but other than that no real gear needed.
Question: What types of workouts do I need to train for BUD/S?
Answer: I would be doing workouts like Murph and Benoit WOD once a week. Add in a Special Forces swim workout and ruck once a week along with a long trail or beach run.
TIP #6: Stay hydrated
Not staying on top of your water intake not only leads to dehydration, but it can lead to rhabdomyolosis—when you’re so severely dehydrated your muscle tissue starts breaking down and enters your bloodstream. It can also lead to kidney failure.
If you’re peeing brown, that’s a sign you’re severely dehydrated.
So stay on top of your water intake, don’t overdo it. You’ll have plenty of time at BUD/S for drinking water.
Question: I will never be a Navy SEAL but how do I build lean muscle to look like a Special Forces guy?
Answer: Perform bodyweight workouts and eat clean fuel (chicken and fish) and lower your carb intake. Run swim, bike. You can build lean muscle with a little bit of work. You can also drink milk and use a protein supplement.
Question: What is BUD/S Grinder PT?
Answer: That is the workout that we did every morning on the grinder (asphalt parking area). PT stands for physical training. So we did bodyweight workouts mixed with yoga then did pull ups and dips and went on a run on the beach.
Question: Coach, how many miles should I be able to run and swim before I go to BUD/S?
Answer: Run 10 miles on soft sand beach. Swim 2 miles in the ocean. But I recommend being able to go farther as those are just the minimums. If you always aim for the minimums, you run the chance of not hitting them.
TIP #7: Stay rested and allow for recovery
Even at BUD/S you’re given plenty of time for sleep and recovery. The exception is Hell Week when you get maybe 4 hours of sleep over a period of 5 days.
The rest of the time you’re allowed to get a good night’s rest and recovery time on the weekends.
This will help you avoid injuries or at least prolonging injuries. It will also help reduce stress. The more tired you are the more negative you get and the more negative you get the more negative you get the easier it is to quit.
You will be tired at BUD/S—exhausted. During Hell Week you get almost no sleep. You hallucinate—everyone does (one buddy said he kept seeing a green alien standing by a stop sign in the middle of the surf and on the beach). You will want to quit. But that is the point—to learn how to keep going even though you want to.
Check out this article: 7 Recovery Tips From Hard Workouts
Question: Is the term “feeling froggy” a Navy SEAL term?
Answer: Yes; you will hear that one around BUD/S and the Teams. It also popped up in the movie Lone Survivor. It means how you feel when you’re getting ready to jump or go on a mission.
Question: Coach, what are a few things to know before BUD/S?
Answer: Know that it is always harder than you think it will be and it is not the physical muscle that will get you through —you will have to rely on your mind to not quit. Be ready for that. You can train as hard as you can and BUD/S will still be harder.
Question: Navy SEALs are out in the sun all day—how do they take care of their skin?
Answer: SEALs use sunscreen, wear a floppy hat and sunglasses for skin care.
TIP #8: Train functional strength and do less barbell work
No Team guy who has ever been through BUD/S will ever say “I wish I lifted more weights getting ready for BUD/S”. I know this is hard to read and many athletes “gulp” when they read this. But it is truth.
Yes; I know, it’s hardcore and sexy to lift weights and bulk up and strut down the beach. But the reality is that a long range endurance athlete (Special Forces Operator or candidate) needs the ability to go long and hard for an extended period of time (24 hours to 3 days or more).
GORUCK events can help you learn to do this. There’s several levels of courses. Start with Light, do a Heavy and then a Tough. Repeat. Do a GORUCK LHT (all three events in one day). This will teach you both functional fitness and and give you durability and also help you with mental toughness.
Preparing for BUD/S isn’t just about you getting stronger mentally and physically. It’s also about how you can take that mental and physical strength and apply it to supporting your Team and Boat Crew.
Question: What is the initial Navy SEAL swim workout that you had to do in BUD/S?
Answer: I think you mean the wetsuit appreciation swim where we get in the bay and swim without a wetsuit. It was cold.
Question: What is a method for cramp prevention in Navy SEAL training?
Answer: Hydrate well before events, during and after.
Question: If I fail out of BUD/S can you try again?
Answer: Probably not. I was lucky. You will be sent to the fleet Navy and will have to serve out the rest of your commitment.
Question: What is the longest distance you run at BUD/S?
Answer: The longest distance we ran at BUD/S was a 10 mile run in soft sand.
TIP #9: Train the right way
The first time I went to BUD/S (I got kicked out the week after Hell Week for failing a math test) I trained all the wrong ways. I couldn’t believe I didn’t get kicked out the first week I was so under prepared physically.
I lifted tons of weights in a bodybuilding gym doing preacher curls and Nautilus pec deck machines. When you’re a SEAL you need tons of functional fitness. The way I was training didn’t give me any of that.
I got sent back to the fleet and was given the job of painting. I was so ashamed, but I didn’t want to give up on my goal. One of the SEALs—I call him “Mr. X”—stationed on the ship saw I was determined not to and took me under his wing. He gave me tons of bodyweight workouts and I wore out three pairs of sneakers running miles and miles on the deck, beach and rucking. He also made sure I was eating right, something I never did before the Navy.
Check out this article: Top 7 Ruck Marching Tips
Yeah; your bench press may be 300 and deadlift is 400 lbs but that is worthless if you can’t run, swim, paddle a boat and ruck march all night and into the next day.
Most guys with extra muscle just can’t do that. That’s why I said above that any extra muscle bulk you’re carrying is that much more you have to carry. Train less with the barbell and more with the sand bags and a weighted ruck (military backpack), go on long runs, long Grinder PT (calisthenics) workouts and swims and you will put your time to work properly.
And get someone to train with and train you in a way you know you’ll be pushed. That way you’ll be accountable and make it so it’ll be easier to reach your goal of graduating BUD/S. Mr. X made sure I had no wiggle room in my training. Get someone like that.
Spend time in the field ruck marching and building up your durability and conditioning. I remember that the Ruck marches in the mountain training for BUD/S were hard.
I wish I had spent more time with the ruck and getting my body (shoulders and traps, legs and feet) ready for the load. I had never really used the backpack/ruck and I paid for it dearly. Now; many years later, I ruck march at least once every 2 weeks and keep my conditioning at a higher level. Rucking also helps build durability.
Question: How much ruck marching is there in BUD/S?
Answer: We did a long ruck march up a boulder choked canyon in BUD/S. It was not fun. We rucked at San Clemente island. It was a lot of work.
Question: What are some exercises used in BUD/S grinder PT?
Answer: Murph WOD is a great one. Here’s one the SEAL gave me and I did as many rounds of until I was completely tired:
50 walking lunges
30 four count flutter kicks
20 eight count bodybuilders
Question: What are some tips from Navy SEALs on how to get tough?
Answer: I would start out ruck marching a few miles a week and slowly build up. Go through the woods on trails and get wet. This is a good start.
TIP #10: Make Sure you have a strong “Why”
This should probably be #1. But I put it here because it’s what creates the foundation everything I’ve already mentioned. This is the main thing that creates your mental toughness and keeps you from quitting.
During the first day you are in the BUD/S compound you hear the saying, “Everything is mind over matter. If you don’t mind — it don’t matter”. Your “why is what will push you through moments where you can feel your body failing. There were times when I thought my shoulder was going to fall off during log PT and I wanted to stop—but my why was what kept me going.
And make sure it’s your why. If you go to BUD/S without a “why” in place—and one that’s yours and only yours—you will fail.
Your “why” is the fuel that will keep you going in those moments where you think about quitting—and those moments will come. Everyone thinks about quitting during BUD/S. But what I know personally—and from buddies who graduated—having a really strong “why” was what kept them from ringing the bell.
What I mean by make sure it’s yours is you can’t go through BUD/S for someone else’s reasons. It’s no different than any goal. If you’re trying to do it for someone else and/or because someone else wants you to do it—and you aren’t sure you really want to do whatever it is they’re suggesting—you won’t have the same kind of drive.
I tell this to all BUD/S and SOF candidates. I also tell it to people who have any goal they’re asking me for help with—running a 5K, losing weight, climbing a mountain…whatever.
If I ask you why you’re wanting to go to BUD/S or lose that weight and you tell me, “Because X person thinks I should,” I’ll tell you that’s a recipe for failure. And it’s absolutely true especially if I next ask you, “Do you want to do this?” and you shrug and say, “I don’t know.”
If you don’t know, then you will fail out. Fast. Probably first day of BUD/S. I saw guys quit within the first 10 minutes.
You need go through BUD/S for you and you only. It’s fine if you’re also doing it to honor someone–but your core why needs to be so personal it can only come from you.
Question: What kids of swimming do you do at BUD/S?
Answer: We swim the combat swimmer side stroke. Most of the swims are 2 miles or more in the bay or in the ocean. You always swim with a buddy. You are given a wetsuit after your first “wetsuit appreciation swim”.
Question: What is the worst BUD/S beat down that you encountered?
Answer: We had a beat down on the beach…it was called “circus”… pretty bad. Also Log PT in Hell Week was tough.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brad McLeod knows first hand about mental toughness. After passing Hell Week and Dive Pool Comp at BUD/S, he failed a math test and was kicked out of training. A year later, he returned, graduated, and served as an operator on the Navy SEAL Teams.
Today, he is one of the most sought after mental conditioning coaches in the world. SEALgrinderPT audios and ebooks have been downloaded in 20 different countries around the globe. Check out SEALgrinderPT Coaching to help you step up and take hold of your dreams and realize your goals.
Proceeds from this website go to help raise funds for the Navy SEAL Foundation on CrowdRise.