The Navy Physical Readiness Test (PRT) is used to help recruits and sailors meet the physical fitness requirements for members of the United States Navy. All branches of military service have different physical fitness requirements; some are service-specific.
The Navy is a great example of this, requiring swimming skills as a necessary basic component of fitness due to water-based duty. Compare that to the Air Force, where no swimming is required of basic trainees.
The test and its standards can be used by new recruits and currently serving sailors to determine how close they are to meet Navy standards by age group. In general, those taking the PRT must score a minimum of “Satisfactory-Medium” in order to “pass”.
Why The Navy Physical Readiness Test?
Navy literature includes complaints that much training time is lost “because prospective Sailors arrive at boot-camp without the minimum level of strength and endurance”.
New recruits are urged by Navy recruiters to enter into a physical fitness program prior to shipping out for basic training, but these programs are voluntary. That includes those who are enrolled in a Delayed Enlistment program (DEP). DEPers, as they are often called, must ensure they are physically ready for boot camp, but they will not be forced by the Navy to participate in formal diets, exercise plans, etc.
Navy recruiting pamphlets remind recruits that all new arrivals to boot camp are required to complete an initial 1.5-mile run. Failure to pass the run means getting retested in 48 hours but in cases where a retest is also failed the recruit is discharged with an entry-level separation which is a non-punitive discharge, but final.
The standards for passing that initial 1.5 mile run?
- Male recruits: Complete the run in 16 minutes, 10 seconds or better
- Female recruits: Complete the run in 18 minutes 37 seconds or less
Keep in mind that this PRT and its standards are NOT those for the Navy Physical Readiness Test. We’ll cover those requirements below. The 1.5-mile initial run is meant to screen new recruits for further attention regarding fitness requirements but does NOT represent the entire PRT.
Full Navy PRT Requirements
The physical requirements to be considered fit for duty in the United States Navy cannot be met overnight. Being Navy-fit is a challenge and it requires newcomers to start a workout regimen that proceeds gradually and over time.
Pacing and deliberate fitness strategy is required. You won’t be able to start out at 100%, it takes time and patience to get fit.
Currently serving sailors are expected to maintain fitness standards to be fit for any type of military duty they may be called upon to perform in their career fields. New recruits are expected to train to work up to this level of fitness by meeting certain PRT standards when tested.
No physical fitness testing happens to new recruits without the following having been completed first:
- The recruit has successfully passed a Medical examination at a Military Entrance Processing Station
- The recruit has signed or agreed to a “Hold Harmless Agreement” and Release from Liability certificate which the recruiter will provide
Once these steps have been accomplished, the Navy will eventually require the sailor to complete a PRT (not just the initial run, as we’ll see below).
The Navy PRT
Navy PRT consists of the following fitness events:
- Forearm planks
- Two kilometer row
- 5 mile run
- Swimming events (500 yard and 450 meter)
To some, the “forearm plank” is a new development. The Navy’s plank is a replacement for the previously required “curl-up” or modified sit-up. According to Navy guidance, “…the forearm plank is a better test of core strength and abdominal muscular endurance,” adding that the old curl-up presented physical liabilities.
“The repeated spinal flexion movement of the curl-up is not operationally relevant, may aggravate lower back injuries and does not appropriately challenge the abdominal musculature,” according to Navy guidance issued in 2021.
Navy fitness standards are broken down by age and gender, so the requirements for a 17-24 year old male will not be the same as for a female sailor in the 50-54 year old range.
PRT scoring can be a bit confusing to the newcomer as there are points awarded (up to 100) but also varying levels of performance in a two-tier system ranging from “probationary” at the lowest level of fitness to “Outstanding/High” performance for those who perform at the maximum fitness level of their age group and gender category.
The basic categories are:
- Outstanding 90-100 overall points
- Excellent 75-85 points
- Good 60-70 points
- Satisfactory 50-55 points
- Probationary 45 points
Each scoring category has three levels: High, Medium, and Low. This means that it’s possible to earn a “High Outstanding” score (100 points), a “Medium Outstanding” score (95 points), and a “Low Outstanding” score (90 points).
Each scoring category features these high, medium, and low ranges with the sole exception of Satisfactory, which only features “High” and “Medium”. There is also the Probationary, which has no high, medium, or low category.
Navy physical fitness standards are always subject to change, and there are some factors that can affect the service’s approach to fitness testing. Sometimes those factors are related to ongoing operations, and other times they may be driven by safety and force protection concerns.
For example, in 2020 and 2021, military fitness programs were severely compromised by COVID-19 and measures to protect troops from infection during the global pandemic.
Rowing and swimming events, for example, may have been suspended or only allowed in a limited fashion. Navy guidance for this specific example includes provisions for those who were borderline or who had not met Navy fitness standards prior to COVID-19.
All circumstances are different and there may be other factors that affect DoD fitness testing policy including updated safety information.
These may or may not affect Navy PRT testing. In the case of COVID-19 measures, Navy guidance required sailors to pass push-up and “cardio modalities” testing rather than subjecting them to the full list of fitness requirements for PRT in typical testing times in years past.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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