Tactical Fitness: How to Prepare for Army Special Forces Selection

Special Forces candidates carry a simulated patient.
Candidates assigned to the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School carry a simulated patient through a sandy firebreak during Special Forces Assessment and Selection at Camp Mackall, N.C., March 14, 2020. (K. Kassens/U.S. Army photo)

Preparing for any special-ops selection program can take many months of specific training, as well as a lifetime of physical activity (sports, manual labor, outdoor hobbies). There are many skills you should practice before attending boot camp if you are a civilian; boot camp is not designed to prepare you for the rigors of a spec-ops selection. Here is a great question from a hard-working, spec-ops candidate preparing for Army Special Forces:

I'm training for SFAS [Special Forces Assessment and Selection] and wanted some input on where I should focus my training. I currently focus heavily on cardio running between 30-35 miles a week. My two-mile time is well under 10:30. I also cross-train when possible on the bike or in the pool. As far as weight training goes, I do the basic push-ups, sit-ups and lifting when I have access to the equipment.

My goal is a perfect score of 300. In regards to assessment and selection, what other exercises should I incorporate into my schedule? Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.


Your running is off-the-chart fast, and your base running per week is spot-on. Keep that up, but you may want to consider adding in rucking a few times a week.

Before you do, make sure your lower back is strong enough to handle rucking.

Add in some lower-back exercises:

Start with the Lower Back Plan or mix in some weightlifting exercises, such as deadlifts, hang cleans and push presses, for strong back and shoulder muscles to prepare for rucking and log PT. If you lack equipment, another option is to make a log or "sandbaby."  See the related link (Sandbaby Murph) and workout to help you simulate log PT and weighted running and shuffling.

If you have not rucked, you may want to start off with 20-25 pounds in a backpack and build up to 40-50 pounds over a few months. The same goes for mileage. Ruck 2-3 miles at first and work on your pace. You eventually will have to walk really fast or shuffle/jog with a ruck. If you can get four miles in 35-40 minutes, you will be in good stead with the front runners in the SFAS class.

Finally, work on your land navigation skills. If you are not familiar with using a compass, take a course, ask a few Eagle Scouts and do some online research. There is plenty of information out there to help you improve your map and compass abilities.

You have the cardio base to crush SFAS, but passing comes down to more than running and PT. Being a good team player is critical, as well as having a strong core to handle rucking, log PT, injured-man drills and other weighted events.

Keep up the great work.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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