In recent years, the sport of climbing has taken off. Once resigned to the peripheries of the sporting world, climbing has since become the kind of sport that attracts followers that hold the same passion and zeal as the most ardent of football supporters. Anyone who watched the documentary, Free Solo, which captured the incredible feat of Alex Honnold as he became the first person to ever free solo climb El Capitan, will know that climbing is one of the most physically demanding sports. Aside from the cardiovascular fitness and incredible strength required to do the actual climb, there’s also the mental component: one lapse in judgment and you’ve hit rock bottom, literally.
So, when professional rock climber and YouTube sensation Magnus Midtbø decided to take on the physical fitness test used by the FBI to screen potential agents, most thought it would be a cake walk for the athlete. He’s taken on such feats before, including the military physical fitness test amongst other physical challenges. It came as something as a shock then, that Midtbø was nearly broken by this one.
For the uninitiated, the FBI fitness test is no easy task. It consists of pull-ups, pushups, setups, a 300-metre sprint, and 1.5-mile run (approx. 2.4km). Each round is worth up to a maximum of 10 points and participants must achieve at least 12 points overall in order to pass the test. They also need to score at least 1 point in each round. Should you fail in an event, that’s an automatic fail, as you won’t be able to make it up in other exercises. As Midtbø cautioned to viewers, “The unique thing about this test is that you’re only allowed to have 5 minutes between each exercise.”
The test begins and Midtbø immediately sees himself enter into 1 minute of pushups. 71 reps are required for a perfect score, with a minimum of 30 needed to pass. If that wasn’t hard enough, the pushups have to be consecutive with no pauses allowed between. He completes 60 reps in 60 seconds, secures 7 points and his first passing score of the test. After 5 minutes rest, he then goes into 1 minute of sit-ups in which he completes 52, earning another 7 points. Midbtø revealed the strategy behind his slower pace, saying: “I thought if I just kept a steady pace, I would be able to do it.”
For the 300-metre sprint, participants are required to complete it in 40.9 seconds or less to achieve a perfect score. Midtbø completes it in 43 seconds and earns a further 7 points. “I feel like the biggest difference is that when you haven’t run in a while, you just feel sick afterwards,” he admits. “That was just 300 metres, and now I’ve got to run 2.4km.”
For a perfect score, the 1.5-mile run must be completed in 9 minutes or faster. Midtbø said, “I’m going to pace myself, or try to at least,” and finishes the run in 9:18, earning 9 points. But the exertion proved too much and Midtbø almost collapses on the side of the track, gasping for air. “I don’t understand how some people do this voluntarily, as a sport, do this every day,” he says.
Following this comes the pull-ups. There’s no time limit, participants simply crank out reps until failure. Midtbø manages to complete a hefty 24 reps, earning a perfect score which brings his total to 40 points and qualified to join the ranks of the Special Agents. But as the athlete admits, the physical fitness test is a punishing one and not half as easy as it appears on paper. “My body is just so tired right now, just from the first rep it was really hard,” he ex[plains. “Doing all these in a row, with only 5 minutes in between, was really tough…It’s definitely a good workout, though.”