PFT Prep Guide

Physical Fitness Test (PFT)
Candidate Preparation Guide

For additional PFT training information, contact your assigned testing center.

Print the Physical Fitness Test (PFT) Candidate Preparation Guide PDF version.

Correctional Peace Officers (CO, YCO, YCC) must be able to respond to a variety of physically demanding activities to maintain safety and security within a correctional environment. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Physical Fitness Test (PFT) evaluates each candidate’s strength, endurance, and agility related to the essential duties and functions of Correctional Peace Officers. The PFT tests for the same abilities required of Academy cadets and in performing various physical functions once assigned to their institution or facility.

This 30-day training program was developed to help you prepare for the PFT and maintain a level of health consistent with the job duties of the position you are attempting to secure. As a Peace Officer, an above-average level of fitness is necessary for optimal job performance. The test is administered in a non-medical environment by non-medical staff. Therefore, it is in your best interest to evaluate objectively your level of physical fitness and to prepare yourself prior to participating in the Physical Fitness Test.

Exercise is vital for a healthy lifestyle. A dynamic exercise program should include endurance training, strength training, and flexibility training. Exercise, however, is not without its risks and this or any other exercise program may result in injury. Consult a physician or seek professional medical advice before beginning or changing an exercise program. Persons who undertake this training program do so at their own risk. Discontinue your workout if you believe conditions to be unsafe. If you begin to feel faint, dizzy, or experience pain, you should stop immediately and consult a medical professional.

To assess the abilities required for Correctional Peace Officer, you will be required to:

  • Run a 500-yard course (approximately) on a variety of different surfaces, including:
    • Ascending and descending one flight of stairs
    • Completing a mini obstacle course

• Carry two (2) 45-pound hand-held weights over a distance of 50 yards and set them down;

• Carry one (1) 45-pound weight over 75 yards and set it down;

• Carry one (1) 30-pound weight over a final distance of 110 yards and set it down

To be successful in the PFT, candidates must complete the combined course elements listed above in no more than 5 minutes and 5 seconds.

Candidates who have not engaged in recent physical activity or are significantly over weight may need more time to prepare for the PFT. Please consult with your physician or medical professional to determine if you are healthy enough to begin this training program and a safe level of exercise intensity.


Training Program for the Physical Fitness Test

Warm-up and Stretching Guide

You should always begin an exercise session with an appropriate amount of time allocated to warming up and stretching. A warm-up prior to training stimulates the cardiovascular system and various muscle groups, which increases performance and significantly reduces your risk of injury.

Your warm-up should increase your core and muscle temperature without causing fatigue. To warm up, walk briskly, march, jog slowly, do steps, ride a bike, etc. Begin at a slow pace and then gradually increase the intensity. As a general rule, 5 to 10 minutes is sufficient.

It is best to stretch after warming up. The goal of stretching is to develop and maintain an appropriate range of motion around specific joints. Move slowly when stretching and stretch to the point of mild tension in the muscle or tendons. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds for each muscle group. Below are some stretching recommendations:

Figure of a Standing Quadriceps Stretch exerciseSTANDING QUADRICEPS STRETCH
From a standing position, reach back to grasp your right ankle with your right hand and pull your foot toward your buttocks. Place your other hand on a wall or chair if you need balance and support. Repeat with the left leg.
Example of a Standing with Leg Up Hamstring StretchSTANDING (LEG UP) HAMSTRING STRETCH
Stand upright and raise one leg onto a sturdy object. Keep that leg straight and your toes pointing straight up. Lean forward while keeping your back straight. Repeat with the other leg.
Example of a Standing Calf StretchSTANDING CALF STRETCH
Stand about an arm’s-length from a wall. Lean forward and place both hands on the wall about shoulder width apart. Extend one foot (the side to be stretched) behind you with heel on the ground and one foot closer to the wall. Lean into the wall with your hips until you feel a stretch in the calf of the extended leg. Repeat with the other leg.
Example of a Lower Back Knee to Chest StretchLOWER BACK (KNEE TO CHEST) STRETCH
Lie on your back and bring one knee to your chest. Hold the knee with both hands and gently pull in. Alternate knees and repeat.
Example of a Trunk StretchTRUNK STRETCH
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Reach your right arm overhead and bend to the left at the waist. Repeat on opposite side.
Example of a Chest StretchCHEST STRETCH
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Clasp your hands behind your back and gently press your arms upward, keeping your arms straight.
Example of a Shoulder StretchSHOULDER STRETCH
Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Raise your right arm parallel to the ground and bring it across your chest holding it below the elbow with your other hand. Repeat with opposite arm.
Example of a Triceps StretchTRICEPS STRETCH
Raise one arm straight up, so your upper arm is near your ear. Bend at the elbow and let your hand fall to the back of your neck. With the other arm, reach behind your head and place your hand on top of the bent elbow. Gently pull down and back on the elbow. Repeat with the other arm.
Example of a Wrist Extension and Flexion StretchWRIST (EXTENSION/FLEXION) STRETCH
Extend your left arm straight out in front of you, Gently pull your fingers backwards with your right hand, fingers pointing upwards (extension), until you feel a stretch along the bottom of your arm and through your wrist. Now, with your palm downward (flexion), with the right hand, grasp the fingers of the left hand and pull back gently, stretching the wrist and forearm. Repeat with the right arm.


Endurance Training

Objective: Run a 500-yard course (approximately) on a variety of different surfaces including up and down one flight of stairs.

Endurance/Aerobic exercise is any sustained physical activity that increases your respiration (breathing) and heart rate. It strengthens your heart and lungs and trains your cardiovascular system to manage and deliver oxygen more quickly and efficiently throughout your body.

Note: This training program a run/walk-to-continuous-running program designed to build up your ability to run a mile. Each week, you will make a slight increase to your running distance and a decrease in your walking distance. By the end of four weeks, the target is to run one mile without stopping. The main objective is to build up your running distance at a pace fast enough to complete the PFT course within the required time.

  1. We recommend to perform these workouts on a high school or college track (one lap is approximately 1/4 of a mile) or a treadmill that displays distance. Each workout described below provides the track equivalent to help gauge distances.
  2. Warm up for about 5-10 minutes with light aerobic exercise before the run (refer to the “Warm-up and Stretching Guide” above).
  3. When you begin your run, do not start out racing. Instead, jog slowly and gradually build up your speed. If you feel yourself getting short of breath, slow down.
  4. After you finish your run, cool down by walking or slowly jogging for 5 to 10 minutes.

Week 1

  • Day 1: Run 1/16 (0.06) mile, walk 3/16 (0.20) mile – repeat 4 times
    (Track equivalent: Run 1/4 lap, walk 3/4 lap – repeat 4 times)
  • Day 2: Cross-Training (alternative exercises)
  • Day 3: Run 1/16 (0.06) mile, walk 3/16 (0.20) mile – repeat 4 times
    (Track equivalent: Run 1/4 lap, walk 3/4 lap – repeat 4 times)
  • Day 4: Rest
  • Day 5: Run 1/16 (0.06) mile, walk 3/16 (0.20) mile – repeat 4 times
    (Track equivalent: Run 1/4 lap, walk 3/4 lap – repeat 4 times)
  • Day 6: Cross-Training (alternative exercises)
  • Day 7: Rest

Week 2

  • Day 1: Run 1/8 (0.12) mile, walk 1/8 (0.12) mile – repeat 4 times
    (Track equivalent: Run 1/2 lap, walk 1/2 lap – repeat 4 times)
  • Day 2: Cross-Training (alternative exercises)
  • Day 3: Run 1/8 (0.12) mile, walk 1/8 (0.12) mile – repeat 4 times
    (Track equivalent: Run 1/2 lap, walk 1/2 lap – repeat 4 times)
  • Day 4: Rest
  • Day 5: Run 1/8 (0.12) mile, walk 1/8 (0.12) mile – repeat 4 times
    (Track equivalent: Run 1/2 lap, walk 1/2 lap – repeat 4 times)
  • Day 6: Cross-Training (alternative exercises)
  • Day 7: Rest

Week 3

  • Day 1: Run 3/16 (0.20) mile, walk 1/16 (0.06) mile – repeat 4 times
    (Track equivalent: Run 3/4 lap, walk 1/4 lap – repeat 4 times)
  • Day 2: Cross-Training (alternative exercises)
  • Day 3: Run 3/16 (0.20) mile, walk 1/16 (0.06) mile – repeat 4 times
    (Track equivalent: Run 3/4 lap, walk 1/4 lap – repeat 4 times)
  • Day 4: Rest
  • Day 5: Run 3/16 (0.20) mile, walk 1/16 (0.06) mile – repeat 4 times
    (Track equivalent: Run 3/4 lap, walk 1/4 lap – repeat 4 times)
  • Day 6: Cross-Training (alternative exercises)
  • Day 7: Rest

Week 4

  • Day 1: Run 1 mile (Track equivalent: 4 laps = 1 mile)
  • Day 2: Cross-Training (alternative exercises)
  • Day 3: Run 1 mile (Track equivalent: 4 laps = 1 mile)
  • Day 4: Rest
  • Day 5: Run 1 mile (Track equivalent: 4 laps = 1 mile)
  • Day 6: Cross-Training (alternative exercises)
  • Day 7: Rest

Cross-Training Recommendations (alternative exercises)*

  1. Walk/jog/run at intervals for a minimum of 20 minutes, alternating your pace. For every minute with a challenging pace, recover for 1 minute at a slower, easy pace. Hill running is also very effective. Run up a hill with a steepness that provides a significant challenge as tolerated, then walk down and repeat.
  2. Stairs or bleacher running. Go up and down the stairs at a fast pace for 1 minute; recover for 1 minute at a slower pace. Repeat for a minimum of 20 minutes.
  3. Join a step aerobics class progressing to a higher step height as tolerated.
  4. Ride a stationary bike with a medium resistance for a minimum of 20 minutes.
  5. Ride a stationary bike in intervals of 5 minutes with easy resistance followed by a challenging resistance for 1 minute. Repeat this interval for a minimum of 20 minutes.
  6. Ride a road or mountain bike on a level ground for 5 to 10 minutes, and then select a hill to climb that provides a very challenging effort for several minutes and then cool down for 5 to 10 minutes on a level ground.

Strength Training**

Objective: Carry various weight loads up to 45 pounds in each hand over defined distances.

Progressive strength training promotes continuous adaptation over repeated bouts of exercise to increase strength and/or endurance. Some exercises listed below require equipment typically found in a gym. If you cannot obtain a gym membership, select exercises that utilize body weight such as push-ups, sit-ups, body weight squat, and running. Resistance training consists of the number of times you perform a lift without stopping (repetitions) and how many times you repeat that lift (sets) separated by short (1-2 minute) recovery periods.

Note: It is essential that you have adequate leg, abdominal, lower back, and grip strength to be prepared for the PFT.

  1. Perform 2-3 sets of squats with resistance that fatigues your muscles between 8 to 12 repetitions.
  2. Perform 2-3 sets of leg press with resistance that fatigues your muscles between 8 to 12 repetitions.
  3. Perform 2-3 sets of abdominal crunches or sit-ups for 15 to 20 repetitions.
  4. Perform 2-3 sets of back extensions for 15 to 20 repetitions.
  5. Squeeze a hand grip exercise device near maximum effort for 15 seconds, rest for 60 seconds; repeat 6 times.
  6. Squeeze a tennis ball near maximum effort for 15 seconds, rest for 60 seconds; repeat 6 times.
  7. Hang from a chin-up bar until fatigued or as tolerated, rest for 60 seconds; repeat 6 times.
  8. Carry two 45-pound weights in each hand for at least 60 seconds or walk at least 50 yards; rest for 60 seconds and try to repeat 3 times.

Note: If the 45-pound weights are too heavy to complete the task, start at a lighter weight and progressively increase the weight each week. For example, start Week 1 using 30-pound weights. Try to add 5 pounds to each side each week. By Week 4, see if you can complete the exercise using 45-pound weights.

Agility Training***

Objective: Complete a mini obstacle course consisting of maneuvering around cone markers and jumping over bench step barriers.

Note: Agility is the ability to move quickly while changing direction and negotiating obstacles. Agility training will help improve your coordination, balance, and speed.



Example of a 3 Cone Drill Pattern
Three Cone Drill – Place 3 cones forming a 90-degree angle about 20 feet apart. Starting at cone 1, sprint to cone 2. Round cone 2, sprint back to cone 1, round cone 1, then sprint to cone 3, round cone 3 and sprint back past cone 1. Repeat 2-3 times per session. Perform 2 times per week.
Example of a 4 Cone Cross Pattern DrillFour Cone Cross Pattern – Place 4 cones in a square pattern about 10 feet apart at each side. Starting at cone 1, run to and around cone 2, then around cone 3, then around cone 4, and then back to cone 1 (follow the arrows and cones in order). Repeat 2-3 times per session. Perform 2 times per week.
Example of a 3 Cone Sprint Drill, 5 yardsThree Cone Sprint Drill – Place 3 cones to form a tall, narrow triangle with a height of about 5 yards. Start at cone 1. Sprint to and around cone 2. Sprint to and around cone 3. Sprint strait to finish line vertically from cone 3. Walk or jog back to cone 1. Repeat 2-3 times per session. Perform 2 times per week
Example of Box Jump Drills exercisesBox Jump Drills – A box jump is simply jumping onto a box. To perform it correctly you should select a box height that challenges your jumping ability rather than requiring excessive hip flexibility to complete the jump successfully. Perform and practice 2 times per week, 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Example of a Plyometric Jump exercisePlyometric Jumps – Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Drop into a squat and jump as high and far forward as you can. After you land, immediately repeat the leap forward. Perform and practice 2 times per week, 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Print the Physical Fitness Test (PFT) Candidate Preparation Guide PDF version.

CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION
OFFICE OF PEACE OFFICER SELECTION
TESTING UNIT