How To Put A Military Spin On Your Workout

How To Put A Military Spin On Your Workout


The British Army is renowned for its heart-pumping workouts that aren’t for the faint-hearted. Whether it’s with benches, tyres, ropes or your own bodyweight, a military fitness session is guaranteed to build muscle, strength and endurance. From hill sprints to weighted runs, SLMan sat down with two former soldiers to discover their tips for training like the Special Forces…
Photography iStock/Wavebreakmedia

It’s All About Stamina

“Military training targets every part of the body, but one thing you do need is great stamina. Running is a great way to improve overall fitness, but it’s important to alternate exercises to change your focus and work all body parts efficiently through a combination of cardio and strength training. If you’re out for a run, great, but add in a few hill sprints to boost your workout further.” – Ollie Ollerton, ex-special forces & founder of Battle Ready 360

Push Yourself To Fatigue

“For a true military workout, work yourself to fatigue. This may mean lowering your weights slightly, but this will push you and make you more resilient. Put simply, working to fatigue is repeating each exercise until you physically can do no more. Typically used for body weight and strength-based exercises, working to fatigue ensures the muscles used are being completely isolated and thoroughly engaged, giving you better results.” – Ollie

Build Mental Strength

“A military workout is just as much about endurance and stability as it is physical and mental strength. Many workouts tend to focus on just one of these, but a military workout is incredibly demanding and targets everything – this is what makes it unique. In your own workouts, start to push yourself – not just physically, but mentally too. If you usually do ten reps, challenge yourself and do more. Try to do the exercises you dislike the most, as they’re usually the ones that make you feel the best afterwards. This will also improve your mental strength and capability.” – Ollie

Incorporate Variety

“Military-style training is very much about total body fitness. Most of the training I did while serving in the Royal Marines was load carrying, running and bodyweight drills. Building a strong foundation is key, so it’s important to ensure your training methods are varied. In the military, you’ll often find yourself in situations that require agility and multi-directional movements. Start by incorporating the basics with bodyweight training, a favoured form of training for most military personnel. When you’re back in the gym, focus on these six compound movements: deadlifts, front squats, pull-ups, lunges, parallel dips and overhead military presses. Try to create a balance between strength and endurance workouts: spend one session working through each of these exercises focusing on low reps with a high weight, then decrease your weight but focus on higher reps.” – Jay Copley, ex-Marine & co-founder of GRNDHOUSE

Get Creative

“When in the military, you’re thrown into all corners of the globe and have to deal with all types of situations and environments. It’s not often you have pristine gym equipment to hand, but training cannot slip. Make do with what you have, whether that’s heavy items you have lying around the house, the great outdoors, or your own bodyweight. Our Battle Box was inspired by a small selection of lifeline kit designed to withstand intense workouts that we would take on operations in an old ammunition liner.” – Ollie  

Forget Aesthetics

“The most common mistake men make with training is trying to increase muscle size, which isn’t the best solution for effective soldiering. It is something I was once guilty of too – training to look good rather than feel strong and healthy. Physical fitness should be focused on mind and body for purpose rather than Instagram. People simply want to look like they have a military physique instead of having the strength and stamina of a soldier. The aesthetic results of training should be a bonus, and not the sole purpose.” – Ollie

Don’t Forget Your Legs

“You see so many guys with huge upper bodies and out-of-proportion legs. Training legs is the best and most efficient way to increase lean muscle mass; they’re the foundation of your body and help with agility, balance and endurance.” – Jay



“Stamina and endurance are paramount when looking for a role within the special forces. You need to be able to run and walk for sustained periods of time at a great pace, often with added weight. All you need is a decent pair of running trainers, a backpack and the great outdoors. No matter the weather, layer up and load up a backpack – use filled water bottles, or whatever you can get your hands on to add some extra weight. If you have one, use a weighted running vest, or a sandbag would be even better.”

Target: 3km in under 11.5 minutes; 5km under 20 minutes; 10km under 42 minutes; 20km under 88 minutes.


“Your body should be able to withstand prolonged periods of moderate to high-intensity exercising, and cycling is a great way to improve this. As well as working all major muscle groups, it is low impact so there is less risk of injury, yet it is a surefire way to increase your VO2 max and lactate threshold levels.”

Target: 15-20 miles is a good session, as is two to three hours.

Wall Sit

“This may seem simple, but it’s incredibly challenging. Once in the position of a traditional wall sit, stretch your arms out in front of you while holding a weighted plate. You’ll find this is more of a mental exercise and will really push you to your limits.”

Target: Hold until fatigue. Time yourself and aim to beat it every time.

Bear Crawl

“Mental fitness is crucial when training for any of the special forces, and even if you’re not, it is great to be mentally prepared for any difficult exercises. Sometimes, it is a simply a case of mind over matter. Although a bear crawl sounds easy, it is harder than it looks. Use a big open space and really try to exaggerate each movement, ensuring you work all of the muscles in your body.”

Target: Repeat until you can no more. Beat your PB each time.

Hang Test

“Whether you’re a member at your local gym or if you have a park nearby, find a secure bar that is slightly higher than your height. Ensure it can support your weight, and reach up to hold it, lifting your feet off the ground.”

Target: Hold until failure. Time yourself and aim to beat your personal best every time you try it.


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