Can you be as fit as the New Zealand Special Forces SAS?

The New Zealand SAS – or NZSAS – was formed in 1955 and inspired partly by the British 22 SAS. The NZSAS is a special unit of the New Zealand Arm, tasked with surveillance, reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, and unconventional warfare as well as direct action. The men and women of the NZSAS go through rigorous fitness tests and physical training. Could you be as fit as an NZSAS operative?


Is the NZSAS based on the British 22 SAS?

When the NZSAS was formed in 1955, it took some inspiration from Britain’s 22 SAS which was formally added to the British army list in 1952. The British 22 SAS have specialist capabilities in land and airborne ops. They originally served in Malaya, and have since taken part in reconnaissance and raid missions in Oman, Borneo, Gambia, Mogadishu, Northern Ireland and other key areas. The regiment played a key role in the Gulf War and the Iraq War.


How fit are the New Zealand Special Forces SAS?

With the motto “who dares wins”, the New Zealand SAS are one of the fittest regiments of the New Zealand armed forces. They’re an elite, tier 1 special forces group like the US Army Delta force and British SAS.

Their duties are varied and sometimes unexpected, so they have to be ready for almost anything land and airborne. In terms of selection, assessment, and training, the NZSAS have their own standards of NZ Defence Force fitness tests.


What are the assessment day fitness tests for the NZSAS?

Anyone NZ citizen over the age of 20 (and taller than 152cm) can apply to get into the New Zealand SAS, but selection is tough and around 90% of applicants don’t make it through.

The first fitness test happens at assessment day (A-Day) and is a twist on the regular fitness tests for the rest of the NZ Defence Force. A-Day fitness tests include a bleep test, press up test, and curl ups (sit ups) test. The better you do, the more competitive you’ll be throughout the selection process, so it pays to aim high.

Whilst the rest of the NZ Defence Force has minimum, satisfactory, and strong standards, the NZSAS has just one standard. You pass it or you fail it. Here it is:

MSFT (bleep test): 12.01

Press ups: 30

Curl ups (sit ups): 66


What are the physical fitness tests during New Zealand SAS selection?

After the initial A-Day selection, NZSAS hopefuls move on to induction day. There they’ll do the entry level fitness test: run 2.4kms (12 minutes for men, 14 minutes for women), do more curl ups (45 for men, 35 for women), and more press ups (15 for men, 8 for women).


What is the fitness regime for the New Zealand Special Forces SAS? 

The NZSAS do ongoing fitness testing throughout initial training. Once a member of the NZSAS, these tests will be carried out once or twice a year. To graduate from recruit training, you’ll need to pass Grade 2 – although Grade 1 is preferable as it’s the level for all serving members of the NZSAS. G2 standards differ between age groups, so to make it easy we’ll just give you G1.

2.4km run: 10 minutes (men), 11:50 (women)

Press ups: 30 (men), 15 (women)

Curl ups: 66 (men), 55 (women)


How to train for the New Zealand SAS fitness tests

Perhaps you’re thinking those selection tests and ongoing fitness tests don’t look too bad for one of the world’s toughest special forces. There’s much more to the NZSAS fitness training than those basic tests.

During assessment, selection, and ongoing training the NZSAS will be expected to navigate assault courses, swim and tread water, climb ropes (carrying another person), and do endurance ruck runs in an allotted time.


How to do workouts like the New Zealand SAS at home

You don’t need any special equipment or a gym membership to replicate the NZSAS fitness tests at home. Running, push ups, and sit ups are at the heart of every stage of the NZSAS fitness journey. Add a ruckpack for a weighted ruck run and you can practically replicate the demanding standards expected of these applicants.


Workouts similar to New Zealand Special Forces SAS pre-selection

Workout 1: Get it done

Blast through the exact standards of an NZSAS hopefully to see how you measure up.

2.4km / 1.5mile run - timed

Press ups: 30 (men), 15 (women) - timed

Sit ups: 66 (men), 55 (women) - timed


Workout 2: Run, strength, ruck

Complete this circuit 5 times

400m run

5 pull ups

10 press ups

15 sit ups

After 5 rounds, finish with a 3km fast weighted ruck walk.


Workout 3: Just keep going

Every 8 minutes for 8 rounds

400m run

15 push ups

20 sit ups

1 rope climb

(rest the remaining time if you finish within 8 minutes)

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