You’re getting close to commissioning as an Army Officer and you just received your branch assignment. You want to start preparing for what’s ahead. How should you be thinking about this?
How To Prepare For BOLC:
For many in ROTC, you’ll receive your branch assignment in November, and commission in May. That means that the majority of you will not begin BOLC until June at the earliest. This gives you at least 7 months of prep time. You can feel confident that regardless of your current level of fitness, you can dramatically improve in 7 months.
Your fitness level is important for all BOLCs, but especially at IBOLC (Infantry BOLC), ABOLC (Armor BOLC), EBOLC (Engineer BOLC), and FABOLC (Field Artillery BOLC). These BOLCs have higher physical expectations because of the nature of the job.
In addition to those BOLCs, fitness should also be stressed for anyone going to another BOLC, that intends on competing for a Ranger School slot. Many BOLCs offer a select number of students the opportunity to head to Ranger School directly after BOLC graduation. Students are typically assessed on their fitness to earn their Ranger School slot. This is a great opportunity to develop as a leader and separate yourself from your peers.
For everyone else, your fitness still matters. As an officer, you should be setting an example in all facets of your job, including your fitness. You want to start your career with a good foundation, prepared to make a positive impression on those around you at BOLC.
BOLC Areas of Focus:
As you consider how to approach your physical training, it’s always smart to consider what exactly you’re trying to improve. As a very general rule of thumb across all BOLCs, you want to show up ready to:
- Pass an ACFT
- Run 5 – miles under 40:00
- Ruck 6 miles with 40 pounds, under 1:30
- Keep up with PT, regardless of what is being conducted
As previously mentioned, keep in mind that IBOLC, ABOLC, EBOLC, and FABOLC will expect you to not only meet but exceed the standards above.
Special BOLC Considerations:
Additionally, if you’re headed to IBOLC, or anywhere else and hoping to get a Ranger School slot, you need to be ready to take an RPA (Ranger Physical Assessment). This is the infamous PT test completed at Ranger School and is always used as part of an assessment for candidates. The RPA consists of strictly graded push-ups, sit-ups, 5 – mile run, and chin–ups (palms facing you). And while there has been talk of this test changing, it has yet to change. If it does change, it will likely adopt some of the components of the ACFT, which you’ll already be training for. (Our contacts are Ranger School will be updating our community through our Discord the moment any changes are made.)
There is an important consideration for the physically intensive BOLCs (mainly IBOLC and ABOLC). You will be spending a lot of time in the field during the course. Field time means a lack of traditional fitness training, poor nutrition, poor sleep, and thus a decline in your levels of fitness.
After weeks and weeks of this, your levels of fitness will decline. If you show up in poor shape to BOLC, your fitness levels will decline and become awful. If you show up in decent shape, your fitness levels will fall and become poor. Only if you show up in great shape, will you be okay if your fitness falls. The expectation of a decline in fitness indicates that you must show up at your highest level of fitness. You will not have the ability to improve your fitness levels while you’re in the course.
We recently shared a similar note about prepping for BOLC on our #BOLC Discord channel and received the following reply from an officer who recently attended IBOLC:
“I am an example of showing up thinking I was relatively fit and could fill in the gaps during IBOLC. I ended up finishing the entire course but never passed chin-ups (of all things, I know). This was with meal prepping, going to the gym, seeing a trainer on the weekends, etc. So put in the work beforehand, or lose your blue cord, like me.”
While this is just one example, don’t put yourself in this difficult position. Keep in mind that even if you can meet the course requirements for IBOLC, you’ll need to pass additional requirements to get a slot at Ranger School. Show up ready.
Pre-BOLC Plan of Action:
Getting even more specific, what should you do to start physically preparing now? Even if you believe you have a lot of time before starting, consider that fitness progress takes time. Also, the Army can always switch your start date at a moment's notice. So take action now.
We’ve assembled our best material for BOLC prep within our top-rated guides. If you’re headed to IBOLC, or:
- You want to show up if your highest level of fitness, and / or
- You intend on competing for a Ranger School / Sapper Schools slot, and/or
- You want to challenge yourself
then we recommend our IBOLC Advanced guide. It contains 12 weeks of workouts to fully prepare you for the exact challenges ahead. It also has complete information on nutrition, recovery, mental skills, and the information behind effective workouts, and overall programs. All this information, over 50+ pages, will teach you how to run effective training, and how to reach your highest potential with all the important factors outside of your actual workouts. This will make you fit and confident for day 1 at BOLC.
If you’re headed to one of the other BOLCs, or don’t fall into the categories listed above, you still want to show up prepared. Our BOLC Advanced guide offers the same premium content over 50+ pages to help you show up ready. (The key difference between the two guides is that IBOLC pushes you towards a higher level of fitness with more intensive workouts, and also includes more of a focus on Infantry / Ranger style demands).
You’ll benefit from having the guide in your possession sooner rather than later. Although you won’t need to start the actual workouts until you’re 12 weeks out from your start day, all the other information in the guide can help you get smart about your training now. Learning how to effectively structure a workout, how to progress week to week, and how to eat and recover to best fuel your progress will provide you immediate value. You can begin building those positive habits today. It also builds confidence to know what’s ahead.
Lastly, what to do before you’re 12 weeks away? Start training. You can view this period of several months as an opportunity to build a great foundation for those final 12 weeks. Foundation building means that you’re working out in a way that will help you show up for those final 12 weeks prepared.
The workouts you do should center around the physical areas we previously discussed. This means ACFT, 5 – mile run, and 6 – mile ruck prep, as well as a blend of other fitness areas. Practically, 5 workouts a week might look something like this:
- Monday – long run
- Tuesday – circuit + strength training
- Wednesday – ruck
- Thursday – rest
- Friday – track workout
- Saturday – rest
- Sunday – circuit + strength training
As you can see, you have two run days, which improve both your 5 – mile performance, as well as your 2 – mile ACFT performance. You have two circuit and strength days, where you can select exercises that will help with ACFT performance, including the deadlift. You also have a ruck day, which will help you improve your ruck.
You don’t need to feel restricted to only train for the events we detailed. You can work out however you like. Just be sure to not neglect the areas that will be important once BOLC starts.
If you’re doing PT with your ROTC unit, then spend some time on your own working out in the areas that you didn’t cover at PT. For example, if you only run with your ROTC unit, then that’s not something you need to add to your personal workouts. Just ensure you’re hitting all the important areas each week.
With this being the general focus of your training, you also want to consider week-to-week progress (this is how you integrate progressive overload, which is one of the most important parts of effective programming). Each week, you should make your workouts a touch harder. As an example for running, this could mean additional distance, a faster pace, some added elevation, etc. But you don’t need to increase every factor, every week. It’s a slow progression of intensity, which forces you to improve your fitness levels. This results in your first week of training being much easier than your 14th week of training.
One specific note for lifting weights - we all love to lift weights, and it can be an important part of your training. However, it should not be the only part of your training. If this is all you’re doing, you will be under-prepared in the other important areas we mentioned. With a couple of different areas of focus, this may leave you with only a couple of opportunities per week to lift. A good strategy to deal with this is by mainly utilizing compound lifts. Compounds lifts are those that target multiple muscle groups, and help you get a lot of “bang for your buck.” The common compound lifts include the deadlift, squat, shoulder press, and bench press. With your limited time, they are often better options than bicep curls, or dumbbell flys which focus largely on one muscle group.
And here, we say limited time because you only have so many opportunities to lift. You may not actually be restricted on time, but you’ll likely be restricted on motivation, and the ability to recover. It’s not sustainable to lift 7 days per week, run 5 times per week, ruck 2 times per week, and do circuits 5 times per week. With this restriction, you’ll need to determine how to best balance it all out.
Lastly, find your balance between training and enjoying the end of college. You don’t need to make this all-consuming. Busy and less-than-ideal times may be ahead at BOLC, so make sure to enjoy your current situation.
Want to learn more about the BOLC you’re headed to, or talk to someone who is there now / just went? Join our #BOLC Discord channel to stay in the loop. For those headed to IBOLC, recent complete course schedules are available.
Blue / Green Training designs comprehensive fitness guides for military athletes. Our goal is to enable success and capture potential. Our guides include carefully designed fitness programming and explanations to help our athletes understand the concepts behind it all - something we haven't seen anywhere else. We inspire confidence in our athletes by teaching them effective physical training so they can continue their progress after our programming ends. We guarantee you'll get value from our material.
Blog related to : IBOLC , BOLC , Ranger School Prep , Fort Benning , ROTC , West Point