How to train like the SAS

Want to train like the toughest unit of the special forces? It’s time to introduce some SAS-style training into your life.

The SAS - the Special Air Service - is a special forces unit of the British Army which specialises in counter-terrorism, hostage rescue, and covert reconnaissance. SAS action is kept pretty secret (most people in the SAS don’t tell anyone except their nearest and dearest). But the way they train is public knowledge. So how about we all get a little more SAS in our workouts?

How do you get in the SAS?

It isn’t easy to work out exactly how the SAS trains their operatives, because the whole thing is pretty secretive. But we can find out what’s involved in the famous SAS fitness test, and make a good guess.

 You can’t apply to be in the SAS unless you’re already a member of the Royal Navy, Royal Marine Commandos, British Army, or Royal Air Force. The military fitness standards include 2-minute “best efforts” in press ups and sit ups, a 1.5-mile run, and weighted/loaded timed marches of up to 8 miles 

These basic fitness standards are a must before you even think about applying to the SAS. So to train like an SAS hopeful, you’ll need to combine bodyweight exercises, distance running and long-distance loaded hikes.

What is the SAS fitness test

To be considered for the SAS, applicants have to reach level 14 or higher on the bleep test, swim 100m fully clothed in under 3 minutes, and tread water for 15 minutes. They also need to show that they can pass the basic military fitness standards we mentioned previously, including a 2-mile run in 18 minutes and an 8-mile run in 1 hr 40 minutes.

How to build military grade strength and fitness

 As you can see, special forces fitness standards involve cardio fitness, endurance, lower body strength, and a bit of upper body strength. To train like the SAS, you’ll need to work all modalities – plus push your mental resilience to uncomfortable places!

10 exercises to train like the special forces

Push ups – press ups are part of the military fitness requirements, so get training. Begin with an EMOM approach (to see how many reps you can get on the minute, every minute) for 4 minutes. Then test your 2-minute max.

Sit ups – core strength and stability are key to hiking and running with a pack and weapons. Combine sit ups, planks, and weighted rotational work like wood choppers to build core strength.

Pull ups – pull ups aren’t in the fitness test, but we reckon SAS operatives are easily able to pull their own weight – plus a weighted pack – up and over obstacles. Train your pull ups using bars, gymnastics rings, and different grip options. 

Odd-object squats – special forces fitness focuses on lower body strength, so build muscular endurance in your legs with squats. Instead of classic barbell back squats, focus on higher reps holding an odd object like sandbag, med ball, or kettlebell.

 Bear crawls – your body needs to be flexible to move in any direction, and there’s no better way to train flexibility during movement with bear crawls. Add a few into your warm up. 

Standing broad jumps – these are a good demonstration of your explosive power. Do 10 sets of 10 as a finisher on lower body training days.

Weighted hiking or rucking – throw on a weighted vest or ruck pack and head out for 2+ hours, maintaining a decent pace. This will build the awesome base fitness that is every special forces operative’s bread and butter.

 Sprints – interval cardio develops top level fitness and helps you perform better in those distance runs. It doesn’t need to be a bleep test (although you should do a regular bleep test if you want to develop military grade fitness). It could be track sprints or fartlek running outdoors.

Distance running – there’s no substitute for good old long-distance running. Add a 5-8 mile run into your training plan every week and you’ll soon have the kind of engine that would get you through those basic tests.

Swimming – to get into the SAS you need to swim 100m fully clothed and tread water for 15 minutes. Get practicing! Rather than plodding up and down the lanes, do interval work in the pool to get your lungs and limbs used to hard work in the water.

Every member of the military has a weighted vest of some sort! Get yours at the Force Fitness store – you can walk, hike, run, ruck and do bodyweight exercises in our top-quality weighted vests.

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