Ugh, I know, this guy is talking about workouts again? But after being totally engrossed in the beret flap with Special Forces, it is good to get back to what we’re all for in the first place …right? So for those of you who are aspiring members of the Special Operations community,  you have to be in the best shape of your lives because you’ll be tested like you’ve never been before.

And you have a tremendous advantage over us old guys,(FOGs) who didn’t have the internet at their fingertips and be able to tap into the benefit of so much great information that is out there these days. Now you can find some great trainers in the military or sports world out there and show you what works for them thru the benefit of their experience.

Having worked for a time at Selection, we’d see the guys who were very well prepared and we’d see guys who were woefully unprepared. Nowadays there isn’t any excuse not to be in the very best shape of your life. Even still, the course will put a hurt on you…that is what it was designed for.

When tasked with the writing for the Selection physical training preparation and the articles to help the prospective candidates get ready for the present day courses here at the side of I delved deep into the internet and wanted to tap into the information that is out there, to give you the best shot at passing the courses.

First a caveat, I’ve said this numerous times before but it bears repeating. I’m no exercise physiologist or personal trainer. So, I will be the last person to say, that my way is the end all/ be all. But I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t after more than a decade in Special Forces and have worked out at Selection. While some things have changed, the basic course hasn’t. If anything, it has gotten better, with better instructors and a better system of evaluating candidates. But by all means, check around and do your due diligence.

So after all of that intro, let’s talk about core strength for the tactical athlete, and Special Operations troops are in fact superior athletes in a way. Not in the sense of football and baseball, hockey or soccer players but they have a unique skillset all of their own. Core strength is many times misrepresented as just your abs and obliques, “the beach muscles” as they’re collectively known as. But it is much more. It also contains your lower back muscles, hip flexors, glutes and the muscles that run up your spine. (My personal trainer would be proud….yes I do pay attention). Your core along with your legs is what drives the train so to speak. When you run or more importantly carry a rucksack, your core and legs will determine the amount of force that you can generate. So your core is the foundation that everything generates from. It is this foundation that allows you to generate the power and explosion while rucking, the change of direction and agility in running and more.

Leigh Crews, from the American Council on Exercise, says training your core will also improve your overall balance. Balance not only requires equilibrium, but also good stability of the core muscles and the joints, particularly the hip, knee, and ankle…

So here are some exercises that will help build up and strengthen your core.

Single-Leg  Wall Squats:

Single leg wall squat. (YouTube)

Sets: 2
Reps: 10

Wait! Don’t we do these already? Yes but these are a variation.Squats build strength, and that is what you’ll need. As I’ve said ad nauseam, if the man beside you goes down and you have to carry him, his gear for 60-80 meters at a dead sprint, that isn’t going to take a marathon runner, it is going to take a guy who has the strength and stamina to do just that.

The operators in the SOF units know this. They incorporate squatting now in their physical training programs because they build overall strength and muscle, increase flexibility, and prevent injuries, build core strength, build healthy bones and joints and helps you maintain mobility and balance.

So in a single leg squat, place a stability ball against the wall balance your body so that you’re standing straight up. The ball will keep you balanced throughout the exercise.
With your left leg slightly bent and your right foot off the floor.

  • Slowly squat with your left leg and rise up and explosively
  • Repeat nine more times.
  • Rest and repeat with right leg Squats with your left foot off the floor for 10 reps.
  • Rest, hydrate, and repeat.

Medicine Ball Feet-Elevated Push-Ups

Medicine ball pushups. (YouTube)

Sets: 2

Reps: 10

  • Assume a push-up position with your feet elevated on a bench and your hands shoulder-width apart on top the ball.
  • Keep your back straight, and keep your abs tight throughout the exercise.
  • Slowly lower your chest toward the ball, pause one second, and explosively press up to start position.
  • After 10 reps, rest, hydrate and repeat.

These Push-Ups with your hands on the Medicine Ball will improve both your core stability and upper body strength.

Medicine Ball Leg Raises

Medicine Ball Leg Raises. (YouTube)


  • From a supine position with your legs extended, hold the ball with your arms extended above the chest.
  • Slowly raise your right leg until your foot comes as close to the ball as possible (hamstring flexibility helps); pause one second while contracting your abs.
  • Slowly lower your leg to the start position and repeat nine more times.
  • Immediately follow with 10 left Leg Raises.
  • Rest, hydrate, and repeat.

Holding the ball up during the entire movement promotes shoulder, chest and arm strength and muscular endurance, and the Leg Raises especially target the lower abs.

Plank Step-Ups

Plank Step Ups. (YouTube)


  • Assume a standard push-up position with a step-up board in front of you.
  • Keeping your core and back tight, lift one hand off the ground onto the board, followed by the other hand.
  • After both hands are on the board, lift the first hand off the board and place it back on the ground followed by the other hand. That is one repetition.

Alternating Shoulder Tap Plank

Alternating Shoulder Tap Plank. (YouTube)

Sets: 2
Reps: 20

  • Assume a standard push-up position.
  • Lift one hand and reach it across your body. Tap your opposite shoulder then place your hand back on the floor.
  • Perform the same motion with the opposite hand. That is one repetition.

These core exercises should be incorporated into your routines as they’ll not only help you as you go thru Selection but later on down the road when, hopefully, you are a member of the smallest but best fraternity in the world.
Keep Grinding, No Days Off! DOL

Photos: US Army, YouTube, (our photos were blurry, probably a good thing)

Originally published on Special and written by