Do You Have To Be In Shape To Join The Coast Guard?

Do You

Have To

Be In Shape

To Join The

Coast Guard?

Physical Fitness In Coast Guard Basic Training

Physical Fitness


Coast Guard

Basic Training?

Don't Be One Of Those People

It is sometimes said that "no question is a bad question". Ninety-nine-percent of the time I agree with the sentiment. The idea behind it is to encourage people to learn by not feeling ashamed to ask questions and that's a great thing. Having said that, if you are planning on joining the Coast Guard or you've already been sworn in and you're just waiting for your ship date, then you should not be asking "do you have to be in shape to join the Coast Guard?".

The answer is a given. Not only should you be in shape to join the Coast Guard in general, but you can't expect to make it through Coast Guard Basic Training if the bare minimum PFT (physical fitness test) standards are leaving you winded. You need to do your best to show up as close to special forces material as you can.

Notice I said "as close to". I realize that it's not realistic for everyone to reach elite levels of fitness. Also, Coast Guard Boot Camp isn't Marine Recon or Army Ranger School, but the closer you get to the level of fitness required for those type of elite special forces programs, then the easier Coast Guard Basic Training will be for you.

Let's take a quick look at some of the things you'll be expected to do during your 8 week stay in Cape May to give you an idea of why couch potatoes aren't going to make it through successfully.

Coast Guard Physical Fitness Assessment

The Coast Guard Physical Fitness Assessment, which I often also call the Coast Guard Physical Fitness Test, consists of the following minimum requirements:


(in 60 seconds)

men: 29

women: 15


(in 60 seconds)

men: 38

women: 32


(minutes + seconds)

men: 12:51

women: 15:26


Jump off a 1.5 meter platform into a swimming pool and then swim 100 meters unassisted. When I was there, they were fairly liberal on stroke. In other words, whatever got the job done, excluding doggy-paddling.


Just Kidding

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Some of you might be saying to yourselves that those standards aren't very tough, and in the grand scheme of things, they aren't. However, those are just the published minimum standards. Your Company Commanders are going to be looking at your scores and hitting the bare minimums isn't going to get you a whole lot of respect points.

In addition, if you're hitting the bare minimums now, then you will almost certainly fall short of those numbers when you get there. This is due to the continuous sleep deprivation, stress, and lots of exercise in between. Not just lots of exercise, but exercise without the chance for proper recovery –– because of the excessive sleep deprivation.

The message is clear: You must show up already in shape when you get to Coast Guard Boot Camp.

Coast Guard Basic Training

Has Gotten Even More Physically Intense

Sometime between 2007 - 2009, the Coast Guard began a "besties" exchange program with the Marine Corps. In this 2008 press release from the Marine Corps website, you can see a photo of some Coast Guard Company Commanders walking around with Marine Corps Drill Instructors.

They weren't there to simply have lunch, they were there soaking up knowledge and learning from the most intense basic training program that exists amongst the regular branches. Within that press release, was this notable section (emphasis added by me):

The Coast Guard’s goal is to make their program more physically demanding for their recruits. To reach that goal, they chose to imitate the grueling training standards of the Marine Corps.

“The gold standard is here at Parris Island,” said Coast Guard Master Chief Petty Officer Charles Bowen, the master chief petty officer of the Coast Guard. “That’s why we came here. The Marines do it right.”

One of the changes being made to the Coast Guards’ training program is the replacement of more than 65 hours of classroom instruction. Those hours of instruction will now be filled with more physically demanding challenges.

As you can see, it's quite obvious that the answer to "do you have to be in shape to join the Coast Guard?" is a resounding "YES". Not just for when you're out in the fleet, but for the privilege of even making it into the fleet.

Rep It Out

Besides the physical fitness assessment, you'll be doing lots and lots of reps every single day. In fact, almost all of your days will begin with reps within minutes of being woken up. Then you'll continue to do reps as the day carries on. You may even do reps in the evening if you rack up enough performance trackers to be selected for incentive training.

Long story short, you need to get your numbers up. An excellent way to do this is by practicing the Deck of Cards Workout. If you're not already doing it, add it to your repertoire. If you're looking for more targeted assistance, then you can read about increasing your pushups here, and increasing your pullups here.

Don't Neglect Static Holds

Improving muscular endurance with regards to performing repetitions of fundamental calisthenics exercises is somewhat intuitive for most people. It's so associated with basic training in popular culture, that even those outside of the military have some understanding that lots of pushups, squats, and other bodyweight movements are done there.

On the flip side, one thing that is unfortunately overlooked is static holds. For whatever reason, far too many recruits simply ignore them when preparing for Coast Guard Boot Camp. The irony is that getting really good at them will probably help you just as much, if not more than, doing reps.

Don't get it twisted – you need to do both.

I just happen to be of the opinion that it's a tiny bit easier to "struggle-rep" your way through a tiring reps session than it is to fake a 15 minute static hold where you're supposed to freeze your body in an uncomfortable position. Any slight movement and it's extremely obvious that you're not keeping up. Compare that to half-repping pushups, where you can sometimes get away with it if you're yelling loud enough to make it seem like you're working at full intensity.

Plus Company Commanders love to physically discipline recruits in Coast Guard Basic Training by making them do lots of different kinds of statics holds. The ones they tend to focus on target the anterior deltoids (front shoulders) and legs.

Examples include making you hold a filled water canteen directly in front of you, along with a book that's opened to a section that gives the definition of the word "discipline". You'll then have to continuously read the definition at the top of your lungs for 10 minutes. Dropping your arms to take a break is not allowed. Your shipmates will sometimes sneak in a quick drop while the Company Commanders are looking elsewhere.

Heck, you might even do that.

Even better though, would be to practice lots and lots of static holds ahead of time so that when you have to do them at Coast Guard Boot Camp, they'll be more tolerable.

Check out the video below to get some ideas from yours truly on how to prepare for this aspect of USCG Basic Training.

Not Quite The Marathon But You Still Need To Run

As the title implies, you'll also be doing your fair share of running when you are at Coast Guard Basic Training. It's honestly pretty mild. The same goes for swimming. Swimming is arguably even more mild.

For running, you'll be running together as a company pretty much all of the time so as long as you are faster and have better endurance than the bottom 50% of your company, then you'll be fine. There's no real way to shine or stand out on the company runs. Well, you can stand out in a bad way, but there's no way to excel like there is when you're taking the physical fitness assessment. The longest run you'll go on likely will not exceed 3 miles.

That's light work. However, if it's not light work for you, then keep training until it is.

Guess what though?

It's still running, so if you're not in shape, then it will feel a lot more difficult than it actually is. Yet another reason why you need to be fit to join the Coast Guard and pass USCG Basic Training.

The Best Way To Get In Shape For Coast Guard Boot Camp

The Best Way To Get In Shape For

Coast Guard Boot Camp

Getting in shape for Coast Guard Basic Training can be approached in many different ways. Luckily there are also lots of resources available for you to use on the internet to get you there. I offer a free 8 week fitness success program to all recruits who purchase a copy of the Coast Guard Boot Camp Survival Guide. It's not your only option, but it's a really good one.

Whatever fitness program you ultimately choose to follow should include a mixture of calisthenics and running as a baseline. From there, if there's some mobility work and swimming thrown in, then you'll be off to a great start. Don't forget to sprinkle some of those static holds in there for good measure and you'll be well on your way to crushing it when you arrive at Cape May.

Good luck and happy training!

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Please note that although I've done my best to provide the most accurate answer possible to this question, I cannot fully guarantee its accuracy because at any given moment, some aspect of Coast Guard Boot Camp or the Coast Guard in general could change. For this reason, please remember that the most up-to-date, accurate information will come from a Coast Guard recruiter and / or other official USCG personnel. Always listen to what they have to say over what you find on any website, including this one.

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Of A Week 08 Recruit

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