After accepting a job offer with the Forces, all new recruits are required to complete basic training.  Officer cadets complete the Basic Military Officer Qualification course over 14 weeks, and non-commissioned members attend the Basic Military Qualification course over 12 weeks. 

These courses teach you the core skills and necessary knowledge to succeed in a military environment.  The training emphasizes basic military skills, weapons handling, first aid and ethical values.  Since physical fitness is an integral component of military service, a large part of the course is spent on fitness training.

Basic training takes place at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec.

Here are a few facts about basic training:
  • All Forces members need to go through basic training.
  • After the first five weeks of training, with your instructor's approval, your family and friends may visit you on weekends and holidays.

If you are unable to store your household goods with family or friends, the Forces can arrange for storage after enrolment, until your training is complete and you are posted to your first job.

On this page:
Top of page

Basic Training

Basic training will teach you a new way of life.  It may be the most demanding experience you have ever had and requires hard work and perseverance.  The more prepared you are, the better able you will be to meet the physical demands of basic training.

Here is an overview of what to expect:

Daily Routine

Your days start at 5:00 a.m. and end at 11:00 p.m.  Each training day consists of physical training, marching, classes and practical sessions on a variety of military subjects. Evenings are spent maintaining personal equipment and living quarters in addition to preparing for the next day’s activities.

Field Exercises

Field exercises focus on practical military skills such as weapons firing, map and compass use, and marches of various lengths in full combat gear.  You may also set up your own accommodations and do your own cooking.

Obstacle Course

Obstacle course training involves physical tasks like scaling 2- and 4-metre walls, climbing a 4-metre netting apparatus, and crossing a 4-metre ditch while hanging from a set of monkey bars.  Good upper body strength and power are necessary to successfully complete the obstacle course.


The military swim standard is a key element of basic training.  This test involves jumping into a pool wearing a life jacket and swimming 50 metres.  You must also somersault into the water without a life jacket, tread water for 2 minutes and then swim 20 metres.  If you cannot swim, take some basic swimming courses before basic training.

Physical Training

Regular physical training sessions will prepare you for field exercises, 13-kilometre marches in full combat gear, and meeting the Forces minimum physical fitness standard which is a requirement for passing basic training. 

Your physical training at basic training will include:

  • skill and strength development;
  • running progressively longer distances up to 6 kilometres; and
  • completing marches of various lengths in full combat gear.

It is, therefore, important for you to be as fit as possible before basic training.

A good idea is to start a regular physical fitness routine before basic training that focuses on upper body muscular endurance, core muscular endurance, muscular strength and aerobic fitness.  Talk with your doctor before starting a fitness routine or appraisal.

Your overall success in basic training will depend on your contribution to the team effort. If you are out of shape, you will not do well on the field exercises and you will not be a strong team member.

Physical Fitness Evaluation

During the first week of basic training, you will take a fitness test to assess your level of physical fitness.  You must pass the test to continue with basic training.

This test includes three components:

  • an 80-metre sprint, dropping to a prone position every 10 metres;
  • a 20-metre sandbag drag, during which you must carry one 20-kilogram sandbag and pull a minimum of four sandbags on the floor; and
  • a 20-metre shuttle run to measure aerobic fitness. 

The chart below outlines what will be expected of you when tested.

EXPRES Test Performance Objectives
Test Item
1. 20M Rushes
51 seconds
2. Sandbag Drag
Complete without stopping
  Men Women
Under 35 Over 35 Under 35 Over 35
3. Aerobic Fitness
(Shuttle Run Stage)

If you do not meet all three of the fitness test objectives but can meet one or more of the three items, you may be able to take additional training as part of the Warrior Preparation Company at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School. You will have a maximum of 90 days to meet all three of the test objectives.

If you are unsuccessful in meeting the three fitness test objectives at the end of the 90 calendar days, you will be released from the Canadian Armed Forces.

This fitness test will be in effect for all candidates who commence basic training on or after February 1st, 2014.

Top of page

Officer Training

The Basic Military Officer Qualification course focuses on honing the necessary leadership skills required of officers.  In addition to rigorous fitness training, basic training for officers confirms that each candidate has the leadership potential, motivation and ability to lead in a military environment.

To ensure that you have the skills necessary to effectively lead small teams in simple operations, you will have opportunities to apply your military skills in training exercises involving force protection, field training, navigation and leadership. 

To become an officer in the Forces, you must have a university degree that relates to your chosen occupation.

If you join under the Regular Officer Training Program and your university education is being subsidized or you are attending the Royal Military College of Canada, you will complete the Basic Military Officer Qualification course during the summer following your first year of university. On-the-job training with the Forces is available during the summer.

If you are already a university graduate, you will join under the Direct Entry Program. In this case, you are one step ahead in your new career. Following basic training, you will begin occupation training which will introduce the basics of your chosen occupation in a military environment.  You may also be required to complete some on-the-job training before being assigned to your first position.

Top of page

Non-Commissioned Member Training

The Basic Military Qualification course focuses on teaching the necessary skills to succeed in a military environment.  In addition to fitness training, basic training for non-commissioned members ensures that each recruit has the potential, motivation and ability to work as an effective team member. 

To ensure that you have the skills necessary to work in small teams during simple operations, you will have opportunities to apply your military skills in training exercises involving force protection, field training and navigation.

After completing basic training, you will continue training specific to your career – i.e. Navy, Army or Air Force:

  • Navy recruits attend a five-week fleet school where they learn about naval history, watch keeping and firefighting duties, and skills necessary while at sea.
  • In the 20-day Soldier Qualification course, Army recruits undergo more in-depth physical training, weapons handling and tactical maneuvers specific to the Army.
  • The basic Air Environmental Qualification course is a four-day overview of the history of the Air Force, evolutions in aviation technology, and Air Force customs and traditions.

The next step is occupation training which, depending on your job selection, can run from a few months to a year.  This training introduces you to the basics of your job in the military.  You will most likely complete your training with some on-the-job training.

Here is what lies ahead for you in your quest to become a physically fit member of the Forces. 

Before starting basic training, you should be able to:

  • run 5 kilometres.;
  • run 2.4 kilometres within an appropriate time (see chart below);
  • complete push-ups  with a full range of motion and sit-ups;
  • complete a hand-grip test; and
  • tread water for at least 2 minutes and swim 20 metres without a life jacket.
Acceptable time ranges for completing a 2.4-km run
Age range
Acceptable Range
Under 30 years
10:13 - 11:56
12:36 - 14:26
30 – 34
10:35 - 12:26
12:57 - 14:55
35 – 39
10:58 - 12:56
13:27 - 15:25
40 – 44
11:12 - 13:25
13:57 - 15:55
45 – 49
11:27 - 13:56
14:26 - 16:25
50 – 54
11:57 - 14:25
14:56 - 16:54
55 & over
12:27 - 14:56
15:27 - 17:24

By the time you complete basic training, you will be able to:

  • complete a 13-kilometre march in full combat gear;
  • complete push-up and sit-up tests;
  • run up to 6 kilometres;
  • complete swimming tests; and
  • scale walls and cross ditches as part of obstacle courses.

The following suggestions will help you get to basic training and achieve your goals. Passing the basic training fitness test is up to you and your training program.

Top of page

Getting Ready to Train

Regular physical activity is fun, healthy and very safe for most people.  An excellent way to determine your fitness level is to undergo a fitness appraisal.

Talk with your doctor before starting a fitness routine or appraisal, particularly if you have a heart condition, feel chest pain, lose your balance or consciousness, have a bone or joint problem, or take drugs for a blood pressure or heart condition.

Tell your doctor about the kinds of activities you want to do and follow his or her advice.  

If you are not feeling well because of a cold or fever, wait until you feel better before starting a fitness program. If you are or may be pregnant, talk to your doctor before becoming more active.

Top of page

Physical Fitness Training

Your fitness program should start at a level that’s right for you now and progress gradually as your strength and endurance improve.

Consult a fitness professional or personal trainer if you are just starting out and to get expert advice on improving your physical fitness.

When starting a workout session, take into consideration the frequency, intensity, time and type of activity and your goals – in other words, follow the FITT principle.  Here is a breakdown of FITT:

  • Frequency is a balance between exercising often enough to challenge your body and resting enough to allow your body to recover from the workout.
  • Intensity is measured using your heart rate during aerobic activity and workload during muscular strength training.  Gradually increase the intensity of your workouts to increase your overall endurance.
  • Time of your workout generally increases as you become more fit. However, if you exercise more than 60 minutes you may risk overtraining and injury.
  • Type refers to the kind of exercise you choose to achieve particular fitness goals: aerobic exercise for cardio fitness and resistance training for muscular strength.
Top of page

Getting Fit With FITT

As a rule of thumb, ease into your activities, gradually increase each element of FITT, and end each session with a cool-down. For example:

  • Begin with a 5- to 10-minute warm-up. Light walking, biking or a slow jog will increase blood flow to the muscles and lightly increase your heart rate. Follow up with some light stretching of the muscles you will be using in your workout.
  • Improving your overall fitness is most effectively done through a combination of 20-60 minutes of aerobic and strength exercises. The two sample fitness sessions below are based on Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology guidelines.
  • A 5- to 10-minute cool-down helps return your body to its normal, pre-exercise condition. Suddenly stopping an intense workout can make you dizzy, nauseous or even faint.  Walking, biking or a slow jog will gradually bring down your heart rate and relieve muscle soreness.
Top of page

Sample Fitness Sessions

Aerobic Fitness Session

Frequency: 3 to 5 times a week. Initially, exercising 3 times a week on non-consecutive days is best, gradually increasing your frequency to 4 to 5 times a week.

Intensity: 65%-90% of your maximum heart rate. To determine the intensity of your aerobic exercise, first calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. Next, count the number of times your heart beats in 15 seconds and multiply by 4 to determine the average beats per minute. Divide the beats per minute by the maximum rate and multiply by 100. The resulting number is the percentage of intensity.

Time: 20-60 minutes. Your workout sessions should last about 20 minutes for the first few weeks.  Gradually increase your time 2 to 3 minutes each week.  The frequency and duration should not be increased in the same week; increase them one at a time.

Type: Any activity that raises your heart rate is a good activity.  However, work towards running which is a major part of basic training.

Muscular Strength Session

Frequency: 2-3 times per week. Use all major muscle groups.

Intensity: The appropriate weight is what you can lift the required number of times and not more.  The first set of exercises in a weight program is a warm-up set even though you have done a structured warm-up.

Time: 15-60 minutes.  Your workout sessions should last about 15 minutes for the first few weeks.  Gradually increase your time 2 to 3 minutes each week.  The frequency and duration should not be increased in the same week; increase them one at a time.

Type: Resistance training can include both free weights and resistance machines.  Include push-ups, sit-ups and chin-ups in your program as they are major components of the EXPRES test and basic training.