Workout of the Week: Build Your Own Devil's Mile

Marines participate in fireman carry.
Lance Cpl. Rigoberto Rodriguez carries Lance Cpl. Davey Villalobos toward the finish line during the fireman carry event at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. (Cpl. J.R. Heins/II Marine Expeditionary Force)

The Devil's Mile is challenging fitness training packed into a single, grueling mile. The specific types of Devil's Mile workouts often depend on the training program (police, fire, explosive ordnance disposal, special ops, etc.).

To make up a Devil's Mile, you select four exercises and perform them for a quarter mile each. One of our favorites consists of a 400-meter bear crawl, 400-meter walking lunges, 400-meter fireman carry (200 meters for each partner) and 400-meter burpee broad jump.

Note: We like to add in a quarter-mile run between each set as a transition exercise so you actually will move two miles with varying types of options.

Here are several ideas on challenges through which you can emphasize elements, such as load bearing, equipment carry, person carry, crawling and other calisthenics done for distance:

The classic Devil's Mile. This is the one we created a few years ago. Mix it with cardio events such as running or rucking.

Quarter-mile bear crawl. This event is common for both athletes (football) and in special-ops selections.

Quarter-mile walking lunge. Lunges for long distances are common for special-ops selections. Add a sandbag or log and make it even more realistic to what you may see in your future spec-ops selection training.

Quarter-mile burpee/broad jumps. This is a sadistic way to move a quarter-mile, but dropping down and standing up quickly is a very functional movement that should be practiced. It is best not to do this on concrete; turf or grass is OK, but sand is better.

Quarter-mile fireman carry (partners split the quarter-mile). You never know when you will have to carry someone, even for longer distances. If this is too difficult for you at the beginning, try to do the quarter-mile using a sandbag over your shoulder or replace with the farmer's walk for the distance.

The Sandbag Mile. How fast can you run while carrying a 50- to 100-pound sandbag for one mile? Many have advanced this to the five-kilometer distances as well.

The Fireman Carry Mile. How quickly can you and a buddy fireman-carry each other for one mile? This is not for the weak back or those with back injuries. Pick someone of similar bodyweight.

The EOD Bomb Suit Mile. This is a very popular event within the Explosive Ordnance Disposal world (military and law enforcement). How quickly can you run a mile wearing your EOD bomb suit? The world record for running a mile while wearing the 80-pound bomb suit is under eight minutes.

Other quarter-mile distance moving options that offer grip strengthening and log PT/boat carry prep include:

Quarter-mile, two-handed farmer's walk. Carry dumbbells or kettlebells in both hands (equipment carry event).

Quarter-mile, single-handed farmer's walk. Carry a dumbbell or kettle in one hand. Change when your grip gives out.

Quarter-mile sandbag shoulder carry. Carry sandbag over the shoulder (simulate log PT event).

Quarter-mile sandbag chest carry. Chest-carry the sandbag (simulate log PT event).

Quarter-mile sandbag head carry. Head carry (simulate boat carry on heads).

Quarter-mile 45-pound plate carry. Pinch the plate and walk fast until your grip gives out (grip).

It's not necessary to do these often, but they're good for occasional gut checks to test your grip, load bearing, crawling and carrying ability for distances. Any version of the Devil's Mile will make you question your desire to prepare to serve in challenging military, police and firefighting programs.

Your training can incorporate these exercises in much smaller sets of 50 to 100 meters as warm-ups, rest exercises, grip workouts and transitions to other exercises during a workout.

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

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