How to build a Special Forces body

How to build a Special Forces body

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Special Forces selection is the toughest testing platform in the military — it’s a 12-month process that 85 per cent of candidates fail. It’s designed to break you. There are only three options on selection: you quit, you get injured, or you last.

The human body is built for survival and will adapt to better handle cold, heat, stress, pain, and just about anything you can throw at it. Special Forces training is designed to test you physically, mentally, and emotionally to build your mental strength.

When it comes to mental strength, I believe you need to increase your body’s ability to withstand pain and get comfortable being uncomfortable.


People ask me, ‘how do I get mentally tougher, Scotty?’ It’s simple. The secret lies not in the body, but in the mind. To be successful in life, you need the ability to stick things out when the going gets tough, something today’s society is seriously lacking with our heated car seats, fast food delivery services to your doorstep, prizes for last place — it’s no surprise that people fail at the slightest tinge of suffering.

What’s fascinating to me is that in a world brimming with softies, developing mental toughness gives you a staggering advantage. By building the capacity to stick it out as everyone around us gives way, we are setting ourselves up for success. Many people will offer you an excuse to end your suffering; you need to find the people who offer you a challenge in these times instead.

How to improve your mental toughness

Set clear goals: Specific to where you are going, instead of getting distracted thinking about how big that workout is and how painful it will be, just focus on one task at a time — small victories, breaking down each section. Turn the part of your brain off that’s telling you to quit and instead soldier on.

Visualise your success: During Special Forces selection, those who use mental visualisation have a higher chance of passing than those who don’t. Using mental visualisation repeatedly teaches you and rewires your brain at a primal level. Next time you step in the gym, use this technique during the workout and visualise your success in completing it. I like to use the saying, ‘fake it ’til you make it’. If you see it and believe it enough, you will reach it.

Control your emotional state: Do you often have kneejerk reactions to things? This is caused by huge, powerful dumps of cortisol and adrenaline, which when mixed with stress or fear causes you to make irrational decisions. One way to fix these emotional breakdowns is to use breathing techniques and positive body language. During Special Forces selection we learn to manage our emotions under extremely stressful environments using these methods. Next time you feel like you’re losing control, take four long, deep breaths and pay attention to switching your body language to a positive stance. If you want to perform at your peak during high-stress periods, then you need to have a way of controlling your emotional responses.

Once you have your mind on point, it’s time to get down to training the body to match. This also requires rewiring your brain. We have so many built-up ideas about training and nutrition that everything gets convoluted and we are trying to combine all the knowledge we have ever learnt into one. What you need to realise is that not every body is the same as the next, so not every plan will work the same for you as it will for someone else. To set yourself up for success and keep you motivated, you need a customised plan that is specific to your training and nutrition goals.


Training for a Special Forces body and mind requires a certain level of commitment and discipline. You will need to include these training principles: resistance training, gymnastics/calisthenics, work capacity (HIIT), and endurance.

SF soldiers are very well-rounded athletes. You want to build a body that performs, but we all want the aesthetically pleasing side as well, right? The key to this is to keep the training functional and develop strength — and the fitness to match — not only for mass and muscularity but also for lifting, holding, pushing, pulling, throwing and heaving.

When the whole body is strong and works synergistically, you develop a flow and strength that isn’t easily gained by traditional body part splits of one-muscle-group-per-day-type training. It’s time to step outside the box with your training and start gaining some serious functional fitness.


Scott’s Special Forces WOD


(3 rounds – 30 seconds on each exercise)

High knees

Inch worms




Resistance session

3 sets x 5 heavy back squats – superset 25m sled drag

3 sets x 5 heavy deadball ground to overheads – superset tyre flips



(3 sets for time)

5 wide-grip controlled pull-ups

5 strict toes to bar

5 skin the cats

5 handstand push-ups


Work capacity (HIIT)

(9-minute EMOM (every minute on the minute))

6 deadball slams

6 burpee box-overs



2km pack (weighted vest) march for time; 10-20kg



Your diet and what you put in your body can literally make or break a fitness program and your mindset. What’s tougher: training or nutrition?

Nutrition always wins for most people. For me, nutrition is all about performance-based results, and the aesthetics is a great by-product. When you switch your brain to eating for performance, you will be pleasantly surprised with the way it shapes your physique. You must feed your body quality fuel for optimal energy and performance — the right fuel for the right engine.

If you put large quantities of processed, junk food into your system you will feel sluggish, lethargic and slow, and this will slowly derail your fitness and body goals. Correct supplementation also has a huge impact on your results; this will give you faster results and hugely improved performance. If you’re going to put money, time, and effort into your training, but your nutrition is poor, you’re wasting your time. 



Scott is a health, fitness, and mindset expert and former Australian commando. After eight years and four deployments as part of the Australian Special Operations Command, he shifted his focus to performance-based human development. Scott’s programs are based on his military as well as broad training experience in competitive gymnastics, professional soccer, competitive bodybuilding, CrossFit, and Ninja Warrior obstacle course challenges. (Scott features in the upcoming series Australian Ninja Warrior.) His 12-week mentoring package incorporates custom training, nutrition, and mindset lessons, while he also hosts a three-day Warrior Immersion Course several times per year. Visit for more details.

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