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Are You Fit Enough To Be A Royal Marine Commando? What Do These Men Have To Go Through?

Updated on February 12, 2013

What is a Royal Marine Commando?

Royal Marine Commando are the United Kingdom's elite commandos. The most versatile and highest trained units within the United Kingdom's army sector. There is a total of 32 weeks of training before you become one, this is longest infantry training time of any military force in the Western World. The, 'Marines,' as they are referred to, are ready for anything. They are trained in all environments including; jungle, rural, urban, arctic and sea-borne operations. The motto of the Commandos is, 'Per Mare, Per Terram.' Which effectively translates to, 'By sea, by land.'

How To Become A Royal Marine Commando!

There is much more to being a Commando, then just being extremely fit, exercising daily is a requirement for all ranks within the Commandos. Just to be accepted into the recruit training process requires a level of fitness which will be far above and beyond that of most exercises. The Recruitment process is an intense 3 day selection, where potential marines have to preform tasks and challenging to show their worth. They called this, 'The Potential Royal Marines Course,' or PRMC for short. Potential recruits need to attend and pass all the assessed criteria to be able to go on to the Royal Marine 32 Day Training Process. This PRMC is held at the Commando Training CentreRoyal Marines (CTCRM) in Lympstone, located in Devon. Here is a breakdown of the three days;

  1. Day one begins at 6am sharp. The day begins with a 3 mile out and back run. You run 1.5 miles with the squad (other potential recruits) and then you run the remaining 1.5 miles back by yourself trying to achieve the quickest time possible. The run with the squad is usually given the time limit of 12.5 minutes, however is immediately followed by the individual run back, which has a shorter time limit of only 10.5 minutes. Potential recruits are told that faster times here will help their selection process at the end of the three days. The afternoon consists of aerobic fitness training in the form of a bleep test. This is where potential marines have to run 20 metres in a shuttle, back and forth, manner. With the time given to get back to the other side decreasing with each shuttle run. Candidates need to reach at least level 13 as minimum to pass this test. Straight after the bleep test, muscular endurance is tested by using various endurance tests, such as sit-ups, press-ups and pull-ups. For these three exercises potential marines are expected to do 85 sit-ups, 60 press ups and 6 full pull ups, and that's only as a minimum! Amazing! After this test, candidates take part in a swimming test. The challenge is to swim 50 metre using breast-stroke, does not sound too hard... However they have to do so after diving from a 3 metre board, while being fully clothed.
  2. Day two will challenge physical and mental strength, individuals stamina and determination. This assessment takes place on what they refer to as, 'the bottom field.' The candidate will wear full army clothing. After vigorously warming up, the participants will take on the infamous obstacle course. Which involves climbing, running, lifting, crawling, just about everything an obstacle course should include. Immediately after this, the potential marines will being the, 'Determination Run,' this will last for 30 minutes and will test the candidate to the very limit. It will involve a great deal of mental strength to keep going, no matter how tired they are. It will consist of body weight exercises, such as star jumps, squats, bur-pees and you guessed it, more push ups... On top of this, it is performed on a waterlogged field, having to dive into wet mud on the command of, 'take cover!' It even involves carrying and dragging a partner through various elements of the course and over far distances. The purpose of this test, is to push the candidates to their physical limit to see who has the mental capability to carry on going, no matter what. Here the spirit of the individual and sheer determination are greatly assessed. Even after this, it is to the Commando training gym, where candidates will participate in a vast amount of exercises including, body weight, load carries, agility tests, relays and teamwork tests. After the two days, by this point it will be clear which individuals have the spirit and determination that the Royal Marine Commando are demanding for recruits.
  3. The last day in the programme, does not involve any actual physical testing. However it will push the candidates mentally to make sure they can cope understand pressure situations. After this, candidates will have an interview with the training staff, this will be to discuss strengths, weaknesses and aptitude needed for a life as a Royal Marine. It is only at the end of this interview that the candidate will be informed whether they have passed the selection process to be able to get onto the 32 day training regime. Which they could still fail or not make the cut during these weeks.

Wow! Just to be selected for training already requires a lot of motivation, determination and inspiration.

Royal Marine river crossing training.
Royal Marine river crossing training. | Source

32 Weeks Of Training.

The 32 weeks of training to be a Royal Marine Commando is said to be the toughest weeks of a man's life. No fun and games to be had here. I can see why...

The 32 weeks can be broken down into three different stages;

Weeks 1-9 are considered as IMF weeks, this stands for Initial Military Fitness. With the exception of running and marching, this part of the training is gym based. Each week the recruits are given a larger work load and routine to stick to within the gym. Forcing development. A normal gym based session in this time is said to follow these lines;

  • Warm up with running, body weight exercises and jogging.
  • Exercises called, 'Liveners,' which are perfect for developing reaction speed and agility, however very tiring.
  • Introductory exercise, a new exercise which was not previously on the regime is introduced at this point.
  • Climbing to develop upper body strength and to improve the recruits confidence when dealing with heights.
  • Intense circuits, usually consisting of dips, pull ups, squats, core work and naturally... Press ups!
  • Intense run around the camp, which is timed. This time is your target for the next gym session.

As stated the intensity of the training increases each week. At the end of week 9, there are a series of gym based tests that a recruit must pass before being allowed to move onto the next phase of training.

Weeks 10-22 are referred to as BPT, which stands for Battle Physical Training. From here, nearly all training is done while carrying 22 pounds of equipment, plus 10 pound weapon. All this plus they will be fully dressed in combat gear including boots. As well as this outdoor training, which will no doubt also battle with the elements of weather (this is the United Kingdom, after all...) the recruit is then expected to be able to climb a 30 foot rope. A 200 metre fireman's carry with a time limit of 90 seconds and be able to finish the assault course in under 5 minutes. On top of this, recruits will also participate in regular speed marches, runs and load carrying. All of which obviously contributing greatly to the fitness of the recruit.

Weeks 23-32 involve much more emphasis on being able to complete a series of tests called, 'The Commando Tests.' These are performed at the end of the 32 weeks, and failure to pass them will result in going back through the training process. Wow! So picture all of the previous 23 weeks, at more of an intense pace. Each recruit has a PTI, which stands are Physical Training Instructor, who will encourage and coach the recruit to be the best they can be, and of course to pass The Commando Tests after the training is completed.

Throughout the 32 weeks, weapons training and knowledge about the Army operations and how things work, are constantly pumped into the recruits. Any mistakes made at any time, are frequently, 'rewarded,' with more press ups or other intense exercise, in an attempt to stomp the mistake out of the recruit.

Part of the 'Bottom Field' assault course.
Part of the 'Bottom Field' assault course. | Source

The Commando Tests!

So after the 32 weeks of hardship are up, it is time to see if you are good enough to make the cut to be a Royal Marine Commando. These tests are based on the selection process used during the Second World War, being almost identical to those undertaken by the Original Commandos in Achnacarry, which is near Ben Nevis in Scotland. Failure to pass any one of these tests, will result in re-training. So at this point, the pressure is really on!

  • The Endurance Course - This test in located on Woodbury Common in Devon. The course consists of many different challenges such as, deep wading pools, balance beams, water filled tunnels, muddy trenches among many other things. The course itself is 2 miles, which is cross country and must be completed wearing full battle gear, weighing in at 30 pounds! Apparently this was not hard enough, as when completely this the recruit needs to run 4 miles back to camp to participate in a firing range test. If they do not pass this test, then the whole course needs to be run again! Most recruits apparently fail this test within the last mile on a road called, 'Heartbreak Lane.' (How ironic) The time limit allowed for this test is 73 minutes. Now that sounds like a challenge.
  • The 9 Mile Speed March - Here the recruit will run at an average pace of 10 minutes per mile, which does not sound too bad, however once again this will be carrying 30 pounds of equipment and while wearing boots. This 9 mile is covered as a squad, hence the 'march' part of the title. If any man drops out of the squad formation at any point, he will fail this test.
  • The Tarzan Assault Course - Sounds kind of fun, right? Wrong. This gruelling course consists of tests against strength, agility, bravery, fitness and confidence while at height. After this tough course is completed the recruit will then perform the, 'Bottom Field,' course, which they would have done during PRMC selection process. The two course cover an area of about 600 metres. Each recruit has to complete both course in a time of 13 minutes to pass this test... Oh I forgot to mention, while wearing full battle gear again!!
  • The 30 Miler - As the title suggests, it is a cross country 30 mile endurance test. This test is located in Dartmoor. Each recruit will perform this alone. While carrying full battle gear, weighing 30 pounds, as well as extra weight in the form of safety supplies for their trek across Dartmoor. The terrain is difficult to navigate, with steep hills, and grassy tussocks which do not seem to end. The recruits ability to navigate is also crucial at this point, as mistakes made while reading the map or general direction will increase the distance to their target. This is expected to be covered at a running pace, as this will compensate for the steep slopes and rough terrain which will be encountered. The total time given to complete this test is eight hours. In this time the recruit cannot afford to sleep, eating eating and drinking need to be performed on the move. Some Royal Marine Commandos even admit to urinating while still moving forward, so not to waste precious seconds.

The Commando test will clearly be a challenge for even the fittest recruit. However, what is more than this, is that these tests are all completed consecutively over four days, which comes directly after they have been in the gym working towards these tests for 10 days. During this time, it is said that hours spent sleeping, never exceed four in every 24 hours! Not the best preparation for any physical test, let alone tests of such demanding fitness. A recruit is allowed one extra attempt at a test if they fail. However, if they fail a second time then they have to retake all fours tests... This truly does separate the strong from the weak, do you not think?!

Royal Marine Commando arctic training.
Royal Marine Commando arctic training. | Source

It Does Not Stop There.

BFT (Basic Fitness Testing) will consist of;

  • Sit Ups - 50 Repetitions to be completed.
  • Over Grasp Pull Ups - 5 repetitions to be completed.
  • 1.5 Mile Squad Run - To be completed in 12 minutes or less.
  • 1.5 Mile Best Effort Run - To be completed in under 11 minutes.

CFT (Combat Fitness Testing) will consist of a 12 mile speed march. This march must be completed within 2 hours, on top of this the commando must be carrying 40 pounds of weight, plus a weapon.

The final annual test is a battle swimming test. This consists of enter the water from 5 metres, while wearing full gear. Performing breast stroke for 30 metres. Then you need to remove 10 pound of weight as well as your weapon, and wade through water for the remainder of 3 minutes.

If a commando does not pass all these tests, then they may be issued a warning for discharge, refusal of promotion, if they continue to fail the tests, then complete discharge from the Royal Marine Commandos will be issued.

Sounds like a tough lifestyle does it not?!

I personally have nothing but admiration and respect for these Commando, the level of fitness require is staggering and not only this the sheer mental stability required to cope with situation out during combat is amazing.

But what do you think? Could you become a Royal Marine Commando?

What about you?!

Do you think you could ever become a Commando?

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    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 23 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      You missed one thing. After the CFT you go over the assault course as a team and finish off with ten rounds shot on the range "AND DON'T YOU DARE MISS A SHOT!!!"

      (I was Army, we had almost the same tests!)

      Great hub


    • profile image

      Jon Ryman 2 years ago

      If the physical criteria to is not met, you do not retake the entire course, as that would only create about 10-15 marines a year, which is not good enough. Instead, you go back two weeks and join a different troop. This is terrible though, because 'The Originals' are your friends, almost brothers, and you have to separate from them. Sure, you may be stationed with them in a year or so, but that is too long.