Lose Weight /​ Get Fit to Serve

2012 Obesity

As the Military Gets Pickier With Recruiting, showing up to see your local recruiter out of shape, overweight, and/​or with less than average ASVAB scores will quickly crush your dreams of serving.  During the past 15 years of writing about military fitness, this is not a new problem (overweight /​ out of shape recruits), however in a period of downsizing, the military has the ability to select only those who are ready to go and fully qualified.  Here is a very common email from a young man seeking to serve his country but knows he has a journey to get there:

I want to lose weight to join the Navy however, I barely workout now, and I’m over 300 pounds. Any advice? — Rob

Rob — there are many issues that are causing young men and women from being able to serve.  In fact, recent estimates have the percentage of Americans from ages 18–24 at 75% ineligible to serve.  Overweight and out of shape is about a third of the reasons why people cannot join, but also lack of high school diploma, low ASVAB scores, criminal record, medical issues, and even out of regulation tattoos are keeping others from serving as well.

So it is tough to join and you really have to work hard now and get closer to the height weight standards prior to seeing a recruiter.  At your current weight, you may want to give yourself a year of training, getting in shape, and losing weight in order to be fully ready to serve.  Barely reaching the minimum standards and not getting into an average /​ above average condition could yield more issues for you down the road such as injury at training, failing to meet standards at training, and either getting kicked out or remaining in a limbo status while you try to recover from injury /​ build up to standards.

Specifically for you and others in the 280–300+ lbs weight zone:

1 — Focus on non-​​impact aerobics while this heavy.  Your knees, shins, feet, back, and joints will thank you for not  running at this kind of weight for any amount of distance.  It is recommended that you spend a good amount of time getting into cardio condition by swimming, biking, elliptical training, rowing, even walking vs running until you drop 40-​​50lbs.

2 — When you are not doing cardio, add resistance training to build your muscles — which will help you burn more fat over time.  DON’T JUST DIET AND DO CARDIO.  Adding weights from circuit training workouts or calisthenics like the ones you will be tested in ( pushups and situps) is an needed routine in your schedule.

3 — Eat better!  Limit breads, pastas, extra carbs (sugars).  Eat more raw fruits and vegetables for carbs and grilled or baked lean meats for protein (chicken, turkey, beef, fish) but never fried.  See Lean Down plan for options /​ ideas.  DRINK a lot of water.  Depending on your weight you can add 50–75% of a gallon a day to your drinking.  Stop drinking soda, sweet teas, juices as they are loaded with sugar.  Drop the sugar for best results!

4 — Arrange your cardio days and build up over time to 45–60 minutes a day for 5–6 days a week.  Do upperbody and core exercises Mon /​ Wed /​ Fri and Lower Body exercises Tues /​ Thurs and/​or Saturday as you progress.

A sample routine would look like this:

But there are FREE 45 Day Beginner Plans  /​ Lean Down Food Plan available as well for starters:

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Warmup 5 minute cardioUpper Body Circuit:
(Push — Pull — Abs) Combo
Repeat 4–5 times
Pushups max
plank pose 30 seconds
Bench press 10–15
Pulldowns 10–15 reps
DB rows 10/​arm
situps or crunches 10–20
rest with 3 min cardio option


Cardio of your Choice:  30–45 minutes or more

Swim, bike, walk, elliptical, row machines etc…

Cardio and Leg PT:Repeat 5 times
cardio of choice 3 minutes
squats 10–20 (without weight)
side plank 15–30 seconds /​ side

Fast /​ Slow Interval Cardio
of your Choice:  30–45 minutes or more:

Try 1 minute hard /​ 1 minute easy
for entire cardio session

Repeat Day 1 or get ideas to create
your own Circuit of Push /​ Pull /​ Abs
From ideas in links:PT Progressions
Pullup alternatives — if you cannot do

Cardio of your Choice:  30–45 minutes or more
Swim, bike, walk, elliptical, row machines etc…


Day 4 Day 5 Day 6
Quick Leg Workout:Repeat 10 times
jumping jacks 10–20
squats 10–15

Fast /​ Slow Interval:
of cardio of your choice:  tabata workout:

Repeat 3 times
5 minutes of:  20 seconds fast as possible /​ 10 seconds easy
rest with 5 minutes easy pace

Your choice to do upperbody workout OR just cardio.  Save Upper body workout
to be mixed with Day 6 Lower body workout.Cardio of your Choice:  30–45 minutes or more:
Swim, bike, walk, elliptical, row machines etc…




Full Body Workout Option:
(push, pull, leg, abs, cardio)Repeat 4–5 times
pushups 10–15
Pullups or pulldowns max or 10–15
squats 20
situps /​ crunches 20
plank pose 1 min
cardio of choice 3 minutes fast

Fast /​ Slow Interval Cardio of your Choice:  30–45 minutes or more:

Try 1 minute hard /​ 1 minute easy for entire cardio session

Once you get through the 45 day plan for beginners, this will be the next level of workouts you may want to try.  Some ideas for beginner, intermediate, advanced workouts can be found at the Military Fitness Ebooks page.

Eventually, you will have to start preparing for the Navy PFT which is pushups, situps, and 1.5 mile run.  After you have lost the first 40–50 lbs of your 300+ weight, running will be the next progression.  Check out beginner running plans for logical progression plans:  beginner running plans for timed runs /​ distance.

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Stew Smith

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at stew@stewsmith.com.

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