The FBI Physical Fitness Test
By Austin Bonds
I don’t have much knowledge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) other than what I have observed on television over the years. Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully of The X Files come to mind. They investigated instances of paranormal activity. And then there’s Burt Macklin, the alter ego of Andy Dwyer who lives and works in Pawnee, Indiana (from Parks and Recreation). Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention Jack Bauer. Though this Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) agent didn’t directly work for the Bureau, he did join agent Renee Walker in season seven of the hit show 24. Here’s a question, though: how fit were these agents? They were tough on television, but would they pass a fitness test for entry into the FBI?
The fitness of FBI agents is an apt subject for this article as I recently came across a BuzzFeed video on this very topic. Average men and women were invited to take part in the FBI physical fitness test, a test designed for people who wish to potentially start a career in the Bureau. Though other psychological tests and legal requirements are a necessary part of the entry process, good health appears to be a prerequisite for access too. That said, what does the physical fitness test look like? At first glance, it seems simple enough – but this would be an unwise assumption to make.
The FBI physical fitness test is comprised of four distinct elements: push-ups, sit-ups, and two runs of a quick nature. There is much more to this overview though as the fine print reveals the intensity and scope of the test. Sit-ups seem like a good place to begin as they are generally liked by no one. According to test protocol, applicants have to complete as many sit-ups as possible in sixty seconds. For men, 32-37 sit-ups equals zero points; 30-34 for women is a goose egg. In short, core strength constitutes success.
The next element of the physical fitness test is a 300-meter sprint. I’m intrigued by the test language that reads like this: “Trainees will start from a standing position and run 300 meters (3/4 of one lap).” The word “run” seems like a misnomer here as this test revolves around a sprint. Sprinting means all out speed. Nothing is held back. All is put forth. What of the scoring for this element? Since I alluded to the zero point scoring for sit-ups, I’ll go to the other end of the spectrum for what yields a maximum ten points. 40.9 seconds (or less) for men equals ten points, and 49.9 is the figure for women. Sixty seconds or more is unacceptable for both sexes.
Push-ups are the only un-timed element of the test. I don’t mind sit-ups, but push-ups are a challenge like no other as body weight is involved. Let’s return to what constitutes zero points. For men, this is 20-29 total push-ups; for women, 5-13 is a bust. As the total increases, so too the points. 71 or more for men garners ten points, and 45 or more for women does the same. Since the push-up portion of the test is untimed, I’m curious if applicants can pause for a few moments between a single push-up as the clock isn’t ticking down to zero. The description for the push-up portion of the test protocol suggests that this may not be allowed as it is “a continuous motion exercise.” In summary, don’t stop until your arms completely give out.
The final element of the physical fitness test is a 1.5-mile run. Men who run 13:30 or more will lose two points from their total score with a performance like this. Women drop two total points for fifteen minutes (or longer). 8:59 is wicked fast, and this total time produces ten points for men (which is a six-minute first mile followed by a 2:59 half mile). Women who run 10:34 or less are credited with ten points for their efforts in the 1.5-mile run.
These four elements make up the FBI physical fitness test. Four simple but strenuous events will gauge your physical mettle to see if you have what it takes to join the Bureau as an agent. As to total scoring, one point is required in every event, and twelve points means pass. What’s important to note, however, is that form matters too. In other words, each repetition of an exercise must be completed according to the established test protocol. Failure to do so means that the repetition is pointless and void.
As I contemplate the FBI physical fitness test, I wonder how I would perform and what my total point score might look like. How would you fare? Does it seem docile or daunting, elementary or epic, challenging or just plain chastising? I believe that as a distance runner I would do well in the 300-meter sprint and the 1.5-mile run. Sit-ups are intimidating, but I know I could snag a few points for this event. Push-ups are the dark horse, and it is the element that I fear the most. Incidentally, this FBI fitness test is a great gym alternative. Running, core stretching and strength training – courtesy of your body weight – make for an effective (and exhaustive) workout.
I’d like to assert that I have what it takes to pass the FBI fitness test, but like other runners, my arm strength is lacking. However, I have lifted weights for many years now, and I know without hesitation that I can manage the minimum number of push-ups required for men with practice (30-32). Who wants a minimum, though? I’d like to perform well like Mulder, Scully, Macklin, or Bauer. On second thought, how would they do? My money is on Bauer, though I wouldn’t look past Scully either.
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Interesting article! Thomas, I’m curious as to what type of strength work you do outside of running. You mention in this article that you’ve lifted weights for years. Can you give a brief description of what sort of non-running exercise you normally do on a given week and how often? Thanks! I’ve really enjoyed your blog and reviews over the past few years!
This was a post by Austin Bonds. I don’t really do weights, I do more bodyweight exercises. Honestly, I would love to add weights into the workouts, I find it hard to get to a gym.