How to be as fit as the US Air Force

Could you train to be as fit as the US Air Force? Let’s look at their workouts, selection criteria and fitness tests to see how you’d measure up.


How fit are the US Air Force?

The men and women of the United States Air Force have to be strong, fit, and physically capable. Whilst the US Air Force isn’t necessarily as physically demanding as the Army or Marines, Air Force personnel need to have seriously good cardiovascular fitness, the strength to handle weapons of various calibres, and be trained to perform under difficult conditions.


What does the US Air Force do? 

People who successfully get in to the US Air Force won’t necessarily be pilots – that’s just one of the roles in the USAF. They might also be Air Battle Managers, Airfield Operations Officers, Munitions Maintenance, or part of the Security Forces – who are responsible for missile security, air base defence, and even handling military dogs. Then there’s the special force units of the USAF, including Pararescue, who rescue military personnel and serve as medics.


What are the pre-selection fitness tests for the US Air Force? 

The first stage of getting into the USAF is the pre-selection tests. You’d need to achieve a “pass” to progress on to Airforce BMT (basic training) where of course you’ll need to do a lot more fitness training and ongoing tests. To graduate from basic training, you’d need to achieve at least “good” status. If you achieve “gold” (aka Warhawk) status, you get a few extra benefits including a certificate of recognition and a special t-shirt (imagine having that in your pile of training tees!)

1.5-mile run

– Pass -13:36 minutes

- Good – 11:57 minutes

- Great – 8:55 minutes / Gold 8:08 minutes\


Max push-ups in 1 minute

- Pass 33+
- Good 45+
- Great 62+
- Elite 75+

Max sit ups in 1 minute

– Pass 42+
- Good 50+
- Great 70+
- Elite 80+

Pull ups

- Good 5+ 
- Great 10+

What is the fitness regime at US Air Force bootcamp?

Let’s say you’ve successfully achieved that “pass” rate and entered into USAF basic training. Here’s what you can expect. 8.5 weeks of super-early wake ups, with 1 hour of physical conditioning between 5-6am. 6 days of serious fitness training, plus weapons training, weapons cleaning, and much more. Over the course of the 8.5 weeks, you’ll have to make it through the Basic Military Training obstacle course, tactical course, and tactical assault course. On graduation day, you’d do the “Airman’s Run” – a 2.5 mile run course at 8am.


How to train for US Air Force fitness tests

What do you think of those pre-selection tests for the US Air Force basic training bootcamp? Running, push-ups, sit ups, and pull ups are all basic functional fitness movements that we can all train at home or in the gym. So it shouldn’t be difficult to put yourself through the test and see how you’d get on as a USAF applicant. 

The main challenge is the 1.5-mile run. It’s not much of a distance, but the target times get pretty spicy once you get past “good”. You could train for this with 400m intervals on a running track, treadmill, or a decent stretch of pavement, and test your progress with a weekly 1.5-mile run.

Build muscular endurance for the bodyweight elements of the test by doing regular push-ups, pull ups, and sit ups. Don’t do them every day (you need to recover) but aim to do sets of 5-10 every other day, with a max effort test once a week.


How to do workouts like the US Air Force at home

The US Air Force pre-selection tests don’t need any special equipment. All you need to do is running, pull ups, press ups, and sit ups. You could do the pull ups on a wall-mounted pull up rack, or on a rig. The rest of the tests can be done with zero equipment. This is the ultimate functional fitness and bodyweight training fitness test!


Workouts similar to US Air Force fitness tests

The USAF uses running, pull ups, push-ups, and sit ups for its pre-selection fitness tests for basic military training. You can combine these four classic exercises to create lots of great workouts to do at home or ion the gym. Try these workouts inspired by the US Air Force fitness criteria:


Workout 1: Mile and bodyweight

Do 4 rounds of:

400m run

5 pull ups

10 push ups

15 sit ups


Workout 2: Top & Tail 

Run 800m

10 rounds of:

2 pull ups

5 push ups

10 sit ups

Run 800m


Workout 3: Max effort EMOM

20-minute EMOM (every minute on the minute) 

1 Max calories running (treadmill)

2 Max push ups

3 Max sit ups

4 Max pull ups

5 rest

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