Written by Shannon Bass

At Team Assessment, the PT test is both a source of stress and a focus of training. Since poor performance could result in the quick end of your TA experience, it’s appropriate to do everything you can to pass. At the time of this writing the PT test standards have not been released, but we have been told they will be similar and simple, so I’m writing as if they are unchanged.

In 2020, the PT test included hand release push-ups, butterfly sit-ups, and sandbag squat cleans. There was no timed run or ruck at the beginning of the event. At the 2020 event, teams of two lined up facing a cadre, and each team member was called up to do the push-ups, then sit-ups, then cleans. Participants were told to turn around so they could not watch the person being tested. 

This blog post will talk about training for the PT test, working with your partner as you train for the test, and managing stress around the test. To watch the 2020 PT test, search Jon Cichelli in the GORUCK Tough Facebook group and find the video from Sept 17, 2020. A summary of the 2020 requirements can be found here:


For the hand release push-ups, some training points to consider:

If you are having trouble meeting the standard, do more push-ups. By this, we mean add push-ups (standard and hand release) in throughout your day. Do 10 push-ups when you open the refrigerator, or walk into the bathroom, or some other frequent activity you do through the day. Just adding this small, daily volume will be very helpful. No need to focus on speed, just add the reps.

  • Make sure your hand release is fast, and just enough to obviously clear the ground. 
  • Your body should lift off the ground as one level plank. This will require engaging your core so your hips don’t sag.
  • Your eye gaze should be slightly forward of your hands, so your neck is straight. Do not tuck your chin.
  • Check your elbow position! Elbows in a wide T position can cause shoulder injury, try to pull the elbows in slightly. 
  • Don’t let your body rock back and forth, which will cause your toes to lift off the ground. 


To meet the standard for butterfly sit-ups, this is a violent movement. Focus on pushing back off your feet, pushing your feet down against the ground, and throwing your arms over your head like a backstroke start in swimming. Keep your elbows bent and close to your head as your fingers touch the ground above your head. Then violently throw your arms forward as you round your back to get your shoulders to the 90 degree point and touch your fingers to your toes.

Be aggressive. You will bang your head a few times as you get used to the movement, so practice on appropriate surfaces at the beginning.

Eventually, make sure you are practicing on grass, wearing the clothes you plan to wear. You will likely get a few additional reps on grass versus slick surfaces like a yoga mat.

Practice on surfaces that are not level, positioning yourself so the ground is both an advantage and a disadvantage. You may not get to choose an ideal location for your test. No need to choose the more advantageous position more than once, but it will result in sliding, so experiencing it once is worthwhile.

A metronome app (like Pulse) can help with training.

*Editors note: The use of an ab mat for butterfly sit-ups can give you a form advantage and protect your lower back during this training phase. Obviously, an ab-mat will not be used in the PT Test. Train until you hit your desired number of reps, but make sure to train without it for at least a month prior to TA. 


Know the movement! 

Two options for the start. One is deadlift position, the other is a slightly wider stance with toes turned out and hands inside the knees. The shoulders are already tensed and pulled back, so there is no slack in your kinetic chain, and you can transfer 100% of the power from your legs through your back through your arms to the sandbag. You want the sandbag close to your center mass, so have it on or just in front of your feet, using either parallel or perpendicular handles.

As you come up you are driving through your legs as this first part of the movement is where you gain the most power.  Arms are straight at the beginning of the pull, with back flat and eye gaze 18-24 inches forward of your toes. Use hip thrust and high pull as the sandbag comes up.

Clean the bag by simultaneously dipping down, using your wrists to flip the bag, and scooping the bag into the front rack hold.

Catch and lower down into a full squat (thigh bone breaks below 90 degrees at the knee), then come up to the front rack position.

Either release the bag completely and let it drop to the ground, or hold the handles and follow the bag down without catching any of the weight.

Check out these videos.

Your training should include all the individual components of a squat clean: deadlifts, high pulls, sandbag cleans, and front squats. Being strong in each individual area helps make the full movement much stronger.

It is a good idea to get in some reps with a slightly heavier bag than required. This makes your event weight sandbag feel lighter! It’s also good insurance in case it’s raining, as a wet bag will weigh more. If you have access to sandbags filled with pea gravel, try some reps with those as well.

You will be using current version GORUCK sandbags at Team Assessment. If you have a different brand sandbag, or an old GORUCK sandbag with compression straps, understand you will see something different at the event which may pose additional challenges.  

How do you warm up for squat cleans? Doing some of the component movements are great warm ups, as are doing squat cleans with a lighter sandbag. Experiment and find out what works for you, and perhaps use your ruck so you can do this warm up right before your event. 

Known issues that we will discuss further are:

Challenges shorter people have with this movement, as there is not much space in the pull phase to generate momentum.

Challenges when using an 80lb sandbag that has two 40lb fillers, and there is dead space in the middle and the fillers flop to the sides.

If you need to train up to the standard weight, making a schedule to start with something you can do and slowly moving up. Doing many reps with a lighter weight is very beneficial, and helps focus on form.


Test in unfavorable and stressful conditions. It’s raining? Awesome – go out in the yard and do your PT test. Your kids are playing outside and will ask you a bunch of questions? Awesome – go out and do your PT test. You are at the gym and people will awkwardly stare at you? Awesome – knock out your PT test.

Test in all the clothes you will wear, including the PT belt. In 2020, it was not enforced that participants had to wear the black PT shorts for the test. Some wore pants, but had the shorts in their ruck in case it was an issue. Decide with your teammate what you will wear, and practice your test in those clothes.

Test the movements back to back with little rest. This is not realistic, but does mimic the stress of the actual event.

Cadre will not audibly count the reps, but will use a hand click counter. You may be able to hear the clicks, but may not. They will not give you any feedback at the time of the test, you will finish your reps and be sent back to your teammate. 

Send videos to your teammate, especially if you are not able to train together often. This allows your teammate to be a second set of eyes on your form. It also reassures your teammate that you are progressing toward the standard. If one of you is having trouble, you can have conversations about the best plan to fix things.

When shooting videos, make sure to get both front and side angles. You want to make sure you are hitting 90 degrees vertical for the butterfly sit-ups, and are below 90 degrees at the knee on the squat cleans - these are side angle views. Front angle views show straight arms on the push ups, and possible unstable knees on the squats. Shoot videos wearing shorts so you can really see how your body is moving. 

DO NOT over-test! Train the movements and trust in your training. Don’t let the numbers cause you stress by testing every day. We will talk more about this during the class.

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