This article was written by Luke Ryan and originally published on Sandboxx.

Ranger School is one of the most demanding courses the U.S. Army has to offer. It’s a rite of passage for Army Rangers as they progress in their careers, and it’s a proving ground for other soldiers from other units. The school is divided up into three phases: Darby, Mountains, and Florida. They take place in Fort Benning, Dahlonega, and Florida respectively.

Earning the coveted Ranger Tab involves an intimate understanding of small unit tactics and mission planning. At its very core, it’s a leadership school. Every student is stripped of their rank and they take turns being graded in various leadership positions. However, when people think about Ranger School they typically think about its physical intensity.

Graduates will recall the dozens of pounds lost, the extreme sleep deprivation and resulting hallucinations, or the countless injuries they felt compelled to endure. Ranger School pushes you physically, there is no doubt about that. But how do you prepare for something that diminishes your body in such a unique way?

There is something to be said about simple military fitness. The standards are right in front of you, and the more you can crush those, the more successful you will be. That is not to praise the military’s fitness programs in any way; it’s just to point out that there are standards (expectations) and the first step is to meet them. There are a lot of complex fitness programs out there that are great for their stated objectives: to lose weight, to gain muscle, to run an endurance race — but their objectives aren’t Ranger School, nor do they claim to be.

If nothing else, find the latest standards for entry, and crush them. That means pushups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and a solid run. It means being able to ruck march in the allotted time. It means finding the current Army Ranger PFT (as standards shift and change over the years) and passing it. That is always the first step.

If you can pass these standards, you can probably fudge your way through Ranger School. However, in order to excel in Ranger School, you need to obliterate these standards, just as you need to obliterate every other piece you train for. Rarely, if ever, will you feel at 100 percent during the course, even on day one. The stars just don’t tend to align that way — if you can smoke the standards on the worst day you’ve had in the last two months, then you’ll probably feel pretty good all the way through Ranger School. Your goal should be to “max” the PT test (exceed the maximum score).

Forget about building muscles and sculpting a Greek God body prior to school — it won’t last anyway. When I went to school, I started at 175 lbs and finished at around 150 lbs. A friend of mine was a beefy football player at the beginning, and when he graduated he was little more than skin and bones — his mother saw him and immediately cried (though the tears quickly turned to happy ones, as he was ultimately just fine). At the end of the day, you have to be able to move long distances with heavy weight on your back, over and over and over again.