Getting ready for Army Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS), the first step to attending the Special Forces Qualification Course, requires commitment and a near life time of preparation. I recently spoke to a Special Forces operator and we discussed the top ten things a SF candidate needs to know before they take the SFAS challenge. He spoke of many different elements you should focus on during your training preparation. Here is the Top Ten List:
1. Have a Solid Running Base
You will not only run everywhere you go but you will be running with a back pack and fast. Shin splints, knee tendonitis, and foot problems occur in those who do not have a running base of at least 25–30 miles per week. Prepare your legs and your lungs by putting in the time — and the miles. Run distance and run it fast. The runs are not very long, no more than 10–12 miles at the very most, but we moved out. My SF buddy mentioned, "One day we took off and I recorded we were running a 6:10/min mile". He continued, "I am not sure if this is still the case but if guys want to be successful I would suggest they get out and do some intervals in addition to their longer runs."
2. Leg Endurance and Muscle Stamina
Two things will give out on you if you are not prepared — your lungs and your legs. Mix in both a lung and leg workout with running and leg PT. Run at timed run pace for 1/2 mile — rest with 20 squats and 20 lunges. Repeat up to 5–6 times or build up to it over time depending on a logical progression. Try a few 1/4 mile lunge walks in your training to prepare for a lunge walk around your training area.
3. Strong Lower Back
Carrying around back packs, logs, and performing injured man drills, you need to have a strong back. Exercises like dead lift, hang clean, farmer walks, fire man carries, and body drags will prepare your lower back for lifting weight and walking with it. Be prepared to stand up all day — not even sit down at all. Also see the New Lower Back Plan for a calisthenics based back plan to build upon.
4. Land Navigation
Much of SFAS and the Q course is getting from point A to point B in the quickest amount of time as possible. Know how to read a map and use a compass.
5. Ruck Running
SFAS is all about time and moving to your points quickly. You need to be able to move out when you are in a time crunch or are stuck in a draw. To prepare, put 45lbs in your ruck and move 4 miles as fast as you can. A good goal is to get 4 miles in under 35 minutes. If you can cover that distance during SFAS it's a game changer.
6. Shoulder PT
During SFAS you will have log and rifle PT. This isn't everyday but a very extraneous event that gets a lot of guys to quit. I would recommend doing a lot of push presses, snatches and light weight military presses to get ready. The weight isn't heavy, just very repetitive. Learn to work under the log as a team and it helps. Especially if you all can do a push-press at the same time. Really muscle bounds guys could get the weight up no problem but got smoked really quickly into these events.
Swimming is a passable event in the course. Besides being a great non-impact aerobic activity, the survival swim with all your gear on is tough and quite a shock if you have never tried it before. You have to be able to swim 50 meters in a pool with boots and a uniform. If you are a weak swimmer, get to the pool and do some laps. This was one event that snuck in and got a few people because they did not incorporate it into their workout plan.
You can be the fastest and the strongest and crush the course physically, BUT if you have an attitude and not a team player, you will not be selected to go to the Q Course. Help your classmates when you can and stay in RECEIVE mode when learning a skill from the instructors.
9. High Rep, Crossfit Like Training
The biggest reason I say this is they are now doing mostly crossfit workouts in the course. Morning PT incorporates kettle bells, bar bells, pull-ups etc. So if you have a little bit of a crossfit background you will be able to keep up during PT. Use CF workouts as a warm-up. You still need to put in the time with running, rucking, and more rucking and running.
10. Upper Body Round Robin Prep
This is a fun new fitness test the Spec Ops World is testing: This is becoming the new SF PT test. My SF buddy mentioned. "I just completed my first one a few months ago during my E8 development course. It hasn't become a go/nogo event, yet, but it's being heavily considered as the new standard and is already in use by some of the teams." CIF companies are already using it as their must pass event. As you can see it's a big test and is taken all at once. So you have to have some serious chest strength to knock it out and be able to ace a 5 mile timed run.
Take these recommendations seriously. My SF buddies from REFactor Tactical are serious operators and are still operating with the reserve SF units and other NGOs. I'd like to thank them for the recommendations. For you future Spec Ops warriors I wish you the best of luck and would like to remind you to keep working hard to prepare for the first step of a career in the Spec Ops world.
Stew Smith works as a presenter / editorial board with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). There are also over 800 articles on Military.com Fitness Forum focusing on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.