Special Forces Selection is the toughest testing platform in the Military – a twelve-month process that 85 percent of candidates fail. It’s designed to break you.
There are only three options on selection: You quit, you get injured, or you outlast. 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. Personally, when it comes to mental strength, I believe you need to increase your body’s ability to withstand pain and getting comfortable being uncomfortable.
The Right Mindset
People often ask me “How do I get mentally tougher, Scotty?”, and the answer is pretty 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.
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 whilst everyone around us gives way, we are setting ourselves up for success.
Many people will offer you an excuse to end your suffering but you need to find the people who offer you a challenge instead. Here are my tips for improving your mental toughness.
Set Clear Goals
Be specific with where you are going. Instead of getting distracted thinking about how big the workout is and how painful it will be, just focus on one small victory at a time. Turn the part of your brain off that’s telling you to quit, and 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. When you use mental visualisation repeatedly, it teaches you and rewires your brain at a primal level.
Next time you step in the gym use this technique during your workout, visualise your success in completing the workout. I like to use the saying “fake it till you make it”. If you see it and believe it enough you will reach it.
Control Your Emotional State
Do you often have knee-jerk reactions to things? This is caused by huge powerful dumps of cortisol and adrenaline, which when mixed with stress or fear cause 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 try to combine all the knowledge we’ve 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.
Your diet and what you put in your body can literally make or break a fitness program and your mindset. What’s tougher when it comes to training or nutrition? Nutrition always wins for most people.
For me nutrition is all about performance based results and the aesthetics is a great bi-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.
Putting large quantities of processed, junk food into your system will leave you feeling sluggish, lethargic and slow. This in turn 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.
Successfully training for a Special Forces body and mind requires a certain level of commitment and discipline. Training principles often includes resistance training, work capacity (HIIT), gymnastics/calisthenics and endurance.
It’s no surprise then that SF soldiers are very well rounded athletes since the goal is to build a body that performs under any environment. But we all want the aesthetically pleasing side as well right?
The key to this is keeping the training functional and developing strength not only for mass and muscularity, but also for lifting, holding, pushing, pulling, throwing and heaving. This will ensure that your body has the actual fitness to match the aesthetics.
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.
The Special Forces Test
Here is my Special Forces WOD for you to try:
3 x Rounds – 30 seconds on each exercise
- High Knees
- Inch Worms
- 3 Sets – 5 x Heavy Back Squats – superset 25m Sled Drag
- 3 Sets – 5 x 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
Scott Evennett is a health, fitness and mindset expert who has served in the Australian Special Operations Command (SOCOMD) as an Australian Commando