Recent statistics suggest that candidates for UK Armed Forces training are not being properly prepared or receiving effective training programmes.

A recent article about so-called Nuffield Health ‘expertise’ in preparing recruits is interesting reading:

Nearly a quarter of recruits to the Navy, Royal Marines and RAF fail new tougher fitness test


This article suggests this is not the case with many candidates requiring a second try after failing first time.

As someone who has an understanding of what it takes to get through The Royal Marines Commando Course amongst other specialist training prior to 1992, it is my belief that the tests themselves fall short of an understanding into the following factors:

1. Type of service job (physical and mental stress)

2. Physical demands of service (specific training needs)

We will look at each and why current pre-training for the armed forces is not specific or effective enough.

1. Type of Service job (physical and mental stress)

Training for the Royal Marines, Royal Navy and RAF should be very different.

Serving within a Commando Unit, serving on board ship and as part of the Royal Air Force all require very different levels of conditioning.

It is here that the current system fails; a 2.4 km treadmill run is deemed to be effective cardiovascular testing for all three services as part of Nuffield Health’s system (see above link).

Potential Royal Marines and Infantry recruits should receive a programme of progressive load carry over various weeks to prepare them for the rigors they will face in training.

In contrast, perhaps the Nuffield Health tests are specific enough for those not involved in preparation for frontline roles, as an example those preparing for Parachute Regiment, or Royal Marines Commando Course would require a much more intense form of preparation.

royal marines training_4Such progressive load carry training programmes should also focus on increasing the distance covered and time achieved.

Carried out in Military boots to pre-condition the civilian to having to run in military footwear and equipment. Again use of training specificity.

2. Physical demands of Service (specific training needs)

The potential recruit is not only preparing to attend training depots to get through training but ultimately to condition their physiological system for the rigors of active service.

Whilst all will receive further specialized training on arrival at Commando Unit (for Royal Marines), similarly for those attending Infantry training for the British Army, Royal Navy, RAF.

It is my contention that the training for potential Officers and enlisted personnel for The Royal Marines and other ‘Elite’ Units of the British Army, RAF Regiment should require more intense physical preparation prior to joining.

For example something such as an ‘Insanity’ type Circuit Training regime or other like circuit format of training. Which utilizes bodyweight as resistance along with a high reliance on Core Conditioning should be explored.

Programmes such as our own specific Circuit routines which can be customized to prepare for the legendary 32 week Royal Marines Commando Course, All Arms Commando Course.

The Royal Navy provide general information for preparation for Royal Marines.

Whilst this is a good starting point, again, in my opinion, having a real time specific training program for each individual is key to success.

Also, the tool does nothing to address individual motivation levels for training.

It is important for the Military to appreciate each individual develops their physical fitness at an individual rate, no matter what the pass rates are for any pre-selection for joining i.e. Potential Recruits Course (PRC), Potential Officers Course (POC) Royal Marines as an example.

Sample pre-entry exercise programme Strength Circuit for Royal Marines and Frontline Infantry Units of British Army:

1. Movement Push-up using kettle bells or a marked distance across the floor

Start with regular push-ups if you require an easier start point with no movement. 25 reps.

royal marines training_32. Pull-up progress to chin over the bar

This can be achieved by starting with an inverted row performed using TRX/Functional trainer or a bar set up to allow a partial pull-up with body aligned underneath the bar.

Set up so your body makes a straight line under bar in position shown, chest facing bar. Pull up so the chest touches the bar. 25-30 reps, increase to partial pull-ups using a regular straight pull-up bar.

3. Core circuit abdominal circuit performed one exercise after the other

royal marines training_4These split ab movements will develop overall core strength to perform regular military ‘sit up’ where hip flexors are in use.

The benefit of just developing the core abdominals in this way is you do not allow an overuse of hip flexor movement, and thus focus solely on the abdominal group in isolation. 25 reps each exercise

4. Low back exercise

Bridging exercise, which should be held for between 30-60 secs to start.

5. Side bridge

Again 30 secs to 1 minute in held position. Start with feet just from floor if you need an easier version initially.

Repeat all strength exercises 3-4 times in circuit, one after the other format. You should note that the exercises have a progression element to allow you to increase difficulty.

On our next article, we will look at advanced cardiovascular movements to assist your Military fitness regime to be fit to join.

Connect with Expert Simon Hayes

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