“Why Do You Use the Upper Body Round Robin” In Physical Prep?

We get email and tweets via social media all the time and most of them are great questions that we get about preparatory training for Special Operations Forces. And we’ll normally answer a private message with one in kind. But at times if there is a really good question, especially one that we get from more than one reader, we’ll address it in a post like today.

The question posed to us, and more than just a few times was, “Why do use the Upper Body Round Robin Test, UBRR to focus on for candidates in your Special Operations Forces (SOF), Physical Training workouts? More than one guy asked this so we’ll address it. And since the military is testing candidates on the three-event PT test, shouldn’t the training we’re putting out there, be preparing the successful candidate with passing that test rather than the UBRR?

It is a good, legitimate question and we’ll try to answer it as clearly as possible. The answer lies in a couple of parts.

#1 It is a Poor Test For “Functional” Fitness for SOF: Although the three event PT Test is what the military uses to test a candidate’s physical fitness, we think it is a poor test to gauge someone’s overall fitness. What some call “functional fitness” isn’t served by this at all. And I can give a specific example of how.

I was levied for SWC (Special Warfare Center) and reported right after coming home from a deployment to Honduras in my old unit. On that last trip there, I got dysentery from some bad food/water and got really sick. After dropping about 25-30 pounds and dealing with the “screen door trots”, I arrived at SWC probably in the worst shape of my life. The schoolhouse assigned me to Selection where as soon as I arrived, we were to take the PT Test and then go thru Selection.

Despite being weak and having no stamina, (ask anyone who’s ever had dysentery), I scored a 295 on the PT Test in the 17-21-year-old age bracket (only a 95 on the run), because that is how the cadre were tested. Regardless of age for Selection cadre, we were tested on the 17-21 bracket. It took another 3-4 weeks before I finally started to feel like myself again, and this was while having to go thru Selection. We went thru the course as it didn’t exist when the cadre there graduated from the SFQC (Special Forces Qualification Course). And we all had to go thru Selection although already tabbed before working there as it was a requirement. Although according to the Army, I was physically fit, my functional fitness for SF was crap until I got feeling better.

So yes, the standard Army PT test isn’t a good gauge for functional fitness, that is #1.

#2 The UBRR is a Much Better Fitness Indicator Overall: This is the reason we’re prepping right? To get into Special Ops? And if you want to be the best, you have to train like the best. The UBRR is a very tough test that will gauge a person’s fitness level overall and takes into consideration upper body strength as well as endurance and cardio.

The UBRR was designed by Ed Bugarin and some of the other operators from Delta Force many years ago. These Delta operators were into fitness and decided to come up with a physical fitness test for themselves that would incorporate total body fitness. That is how the UBRR was born. The test will measure, upper body strength, endurance, cardio as well as core fitness.

The UBRR test consists of nine events.

Bench Press– 80% of your body weight, 6 repetitions minimum, no time limit
Each additional repetition above the minimum is worth 3 points

Pushups– 40 push ups is the minimum, 1-minute time limit.
Each additional repetition above the minimum is worth 2 points

Sit-Ups– 40 sit-ups is the minimum, 1-minute time limit.
Each additional repetition above the minimum is worth 3 points

Pull-ups– 6 pull-ups is the minimum, no time limit.
Each additional repetition above the minimum is worth 3.5 points

Dips– 10 dips is the minimum, no time limit.
Each additional repetition above the minimum is worth 2.5 points

Rope Climb– Member must climb a 20-foot rope while wearing a 20lb vest. No time limit.

Kipp Up– 6 Kipp Ups is the minimum, no time limit.
Each additional repetition above the minimum is worth 3.5 points

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.

5 Mile Run/Ruck– 5-mile run, 40-minute time limit.
Every full 5-second increment under the maximum time is worth 2 points
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 1 minute.
There is only one common standard for all age groups.
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 1100 total points from all the events combined. For those with trouble with math in figuring out your score, there is an online UBRR calculator that will figure out your score for you.

This is a much tougher test to measure total physical fitness and is much more in tune in what will be required for SOF members. A failure of 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.

#3 If You Can Pass the UBRR, The 3-Event PT Test Will Be a Breeze: Ask any operator or former SOF and they’ll tell you the 3-Event PT test is a joke for actively gauging fitness for SOF members. But until each of the individual services change the current format for the 3-Event PT Test to that of the UBRR for their Special Operations Forces, then we’re stuck with it.

But that doesn’t mean you have to set your standards low. Set out to get 1300-1400 in the UBRR, then achieve it and you’ll smoke the 3-Event PT Test, that we can guarantee. Somebody once wrote 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. And a warrior looks at everything like a challenge.

Approach your workouts and your physical preparation like any other challenge. Better yet, approach it like you are the third monkey on Noah’s Ark and it is beginning to rain.