Iron Sharpens Steel – “Defining PT Standards for The New Normal”

It’s 2017. The “criminal paradigm” has shifted. Gone are the days of the back alley mugging or drunken bar brawl gotten out of hand, and in are the very real concerns of mass, directed violence. (That’s obviously not to say that the more “common” violent crimes still don’t occur.) We can look overseas and see nearly weekly examples of violent terrorist attacks, and even to our own cities for examples of riots, looting, and mob-mentality violence. Although true “readiness” is an ever evolving and shifting goal, one of the most important requirements for any mission, be it law enforcement, military, or the “citizen defender”, is physical fitness.

PT for the serious, defense-conscious individual should be focused on two things, and two things alone:

  1. Being better at killing.
  2. Being harder to kill.

Anything else is purely superficial. Looking good only counts if you want to leave behind a good-looking corpse, but I’d rather make the room temperature bodies than be one.

So with that in mind, how are physical standards measured? Well, you can run an Army PFT, Marine PFT and CFT, FBI PRT, or any number of acronym-ed agency evaluations designed to test one’s “physical and cardiovascular” readiness. But is that what the average American needs? The short answer is “no”. Although passing any standard PFT with flying colors will probably mean you’re in decent fighting shape, they’re probably more than required in some requirements and less well designed in others to evaluate “citizen fighting fitness”.

With that in mind, here are a few “minimum standards” that I think anyone with serious self-defense in mind would do well to meet. Frankly, I hate using the term “minimum standards”, but that’s for another day. Let’s break it down into two categories: cardio endurance and physical ability. Tasks will be listed in no particular order, as a passing standard should be achieved in all to determine a “satisfactory” grade.

Cardio Endurance

1 mile run in less than 10:00. It’s a jog. I don’t think the average person really needs to run that far for that fast. Putting the run in context, it would be highly unlikely that the average person would ever need to run farther than a mile any faster than a 10:00min/mile for any reason. The environment would probably be more conducive to escape within the one mile window, and a sprinting ability would be more beneficial. A mob or terrorist isn’t likely to chase an individual for very far if there are other targets of opportunity in the open.

200m shuttle in 28 seconds. 14 seconds down 100m, 14 seconds back. That’s not quick, and is a bare minimum. But covering ground quickly is important and you need to be able to get to cover as fast as you can. I’m pretty confident that when the shit hits the fan, you’ll move quicker.


Physical Ability – Test yourself with the “Big 3” of Olympic lifts and pull ups, all classic measurements of physical strength and endurance. Big combo lifts are the most relevant, as daily activity involves the use of the entire body, not isolated muscle groups. All tests should be conducted consecutively, with less than three minutes of rest between events. (Bodyweight = bodyweight on the bar and plates, not without weight)

Deadlift – Bodyweight x 5 reps

Bench Press – .75 Bodyweight x 10 reps

Squat – Bodyweight x 5 reps

Pull Ups – 3 

Pull ups should be conducted palms forward, not as chin ups. When have you ever seen the chance to do a chin up in real life? The vast majority of obstacles that you might ever need to pull yourself up and over would necessitate an overhand grip, not a bicep-centric chin up.

Remember: these are minimums. They’re not for Rangers, Marines, SWAT officers, fire fighters, or any others who’s daily vocation actually requires much higher levels of fitness. These are just suggested guidelines, based off of modern threat parameters, that the average John Q. Citizen should be able to use to plan and maintain a basic level of “citizen fighting fitness”.

Until Victory.