A few years ago, we wrote a piece about preparing our candidates for Selection and, in regards to the Physical Fitness test, training for the Upper Body Round Robin (UBRR) rather than the old, outdated 3-Event Physical Fitness test.

The Army is finally ditching the antiquated 3-Event PT Test, for the new 6-Event Combat Fitness Test. In October of 2020, the Army troops will have this as a test barometer to measure their combat fitness. While it is a definite step in the right direction, it isn’t as good of a combat fitness barometer for the UBRR, especially for Special Operations troops.

Somebody once wrote ( I believe it was Jim Morris), that the difference between a normal man and a warrior is that a normal man looks at everything as either a blessing or a curse, while the warrior looks at everything like a challenge. And as Special Operations troops, that is one of the things that attracted us to SOF in the first place

So how did the UBRR ever come to be? Several years ago, a group of Delta operators headed up by Ed Bugarin decided to test themselves physically and came up with a test that would take some of the already most fit special operators in the world and give them a challenge. They took certain things each of them did well and weaved them into a round-robin type of workout that eventually became the UBRR.

It was a perfect blend of different physical fitness indicators. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. UBTT puts all of them to the test and is a true “functional fitness” challenge for SOF. 

The textbook definition for functional fitness is exercises that train your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by simulating common movements you might do at home, at work, or in sports. While using various muscles in the upper and lower body at the same time, functional fitness exercises also emphasize core stability.

That’s exactly what the UBRR tests in Special Operations troops do: all of these movements test the operator on things that he (or she) will be required to do.

The 3-Event test didn’t do that and for that reason (finally) it has been scrapped. The newer Combat Fitness Test is much better, but for special operators, the bar is set much higher… as it should be. That’s why many of the candidates who regularly get a 300 on their PT test at their parent unit come to Selection and are completely unprepared physically for what comes their way. 

In terms of functional fitness and having core body strength, the UBRR is head and shoulders above the standard testing event and, in our opinion, the new Combat Fitness Test. 

Selection is a bear. It is designed to push the candidate to his/her physical limits. That is what the course was designed to do. And if those candidates want to be in Special Operations and be part of the best-trained units in the world, they’ll have to be ready for any and all challenges that come their way. The UBRR is a very tough test that will gauge a person’s overall fitness level. It takes into consideration upper body strength as well as endurance and cardio.

The UBRR test consists of nine events.

  • 1: Bench Press — 80% of your body weight, 6 repetitions minimum, no time limit

Each additional repetition above the minimum is worth 3 points

  • 2: Pushups — 40 push-ups is the minimum, 1-minute time limit.

Each additional repetition above the minimum is worth 2 points

  • 3 Sit-Ups — 40 sit-ups is the minimum, 1-minute time limit.

Each additional repetition above the minimum is worth 3 points

  • 4: Pull-ups — 6 pull-ups are the minimum, no time limit.

Each additional repetition above the minimum is worth 3.5 points

  • 5: Dips — 10 dips is the minimum, no time limit.

Each additional repetition above the minimum is worth 2.5 points

  • 6: Rope Climb — climb a 20-foot rope while wearing a 20lb vest.

No time limit. Pass/Fail

  • 7: Kipp Up — 6 Kipp Ups is the minimum, no time limit.

Each additional repetition above the minimum is worth 3.5 points

  • 8: Shuttle Run — 25 meters shuttle run, done 4 times, 24 second time limit.

Each full 0.1 second under the maximum is worth 2 points.

  • 9: 5 Mile Run/Ruck — 5-mile run, 40-minute time limit.

Every full 5-second increment under the maximum time is worth 2 points

or  — 5-mile ruck, 75-minute time limit. 45-lb rucksack, not counting water.

Every full-time increment of 15 seconds under the maximum is worth 2 points.


As soon as an individual finishes one exercise, he must start the next exercise in no more than one minute.

There is only one common standard for all age groups.

A failure on any part of the test is a failure overall. The fact that there is no sliding scale for age groups is interesting in the fact that, when members are in the operational units, they are all expected to be able to do the same job regardless of one’s age.

Only one attempt is allowed per participant at each station

In order to pass the UBRR, participants must achieve the following:

Pass all of the events with at least the minimum score, and receive at least 1,100 total points from all the events combined. For the mathematically challenged, there is an online UBRR calculator that will figure out your score for you.

This is a much better indicator to measure an operator’s functional fitness and a much better physical fitness test for what special operators are required to do. And isn’t this part of being in SF? Having the ability to work harder and accomplish more than the average soldier, sailor, Marine or airman?

The bottom line is that if the candidates are ready to pass the UBRR, then the first gate on Day 1, passing the 3-Event PT test or the Combat Fitness Test, will be a walk in the park. Until October the Army is stuck with the antiquated PT Test. This fall, the Army will roll out the new test in which the standards are different depending upon the soldier’s MOS and unit. 

Which brings us back to why we all chose SOF as a career field. We’re not hunting for minimums here. The goal should be to get 1,300-1,400 points in the UBRR. If that is achieved it will make the PT test a snap. And if candidates are in that kind of physical condition when they begin Selection, it increases their chances of succeeding in it. And for the troops in the operational units? This is a better overall test for SOF than the Combat Fitness Test. 

I used to get a lot of emails from aspiring SOF candidates; they would always want to know the best way to prepare for Selection. My advice was to approach it head-on and treat it like the challenge that it is. Better yet, approach Selection like you are the third monkey on Noah’s Ark and it is beginning to rain.