Spend £100 for FREE UK Shipping**
Are you as calisthenics-fit as the special forces?

Are you as calisthenics-fit as the special forces?

November 02, 2023 4 min read

Are you as calisthenics-fit as the special forces?

Special forces around the world use calisthenics and bodyweight movements in their fitness tests and selection criteria. Here are 4 special forces inspired challenges you can try to see if you’re as calisthenics fit as the forces.


Do special forces use calisthenics?

Calisthenics or bodyweight training is found in a lot of special forces training routines, fitness tests and selection criteria. Calisthenics is the art of moving your bodyweight at different angles, speeds and in different plans of motion. When you think about it, that’s the foundation of what special forces operatives need to be able to do. Calisthenics is great for building functional strength and adaptability and minimal equipment.


Calisthenics in the special forces

Functional strength: calisthenics uses functional movements, replicating real-world actions, which is vital in special operations.

Minimal equipment: special forces need to be able to train without gym facilities or weights. Bodyweight exercises can be done almost anywhere.

Full-body training: most calisthenics exercises use multiple muscle groups in various planes of motion, building full-body strength and stability.

Bodyweight mastery: special forces operatives need to be agile, flexible, and good at moving their own body in unpredictable situations. Calisthenics builds these skills.


UK Special Air Services fitness test with calisthenics

The SAS has to be one of the famous special forces in the world. To get in, you need to pass the selection fitness test which involves 45 push ups and 45 sit ups (no rest), 1.5 mile run (under 9:30), jumping from a 10m tower into water, a 25m swim in uniform with a weapon, a 200m swim in uniform and a 5 minute water tread, an underwater retrieve, and an 8-mile hill run in sub-60 minutes. Phew.


Try the UK Special Air Services-inspired challenge

Extract the calisthenics and non-water based bits of the SAS test and try a mini version at home.

20 push ups (aim for unbroken)

20 sit ups (aim for unbroken)

800m run

20 push ups (aim for unbroken)

20 sit ups (aim for unbroken)

2 mile incline run or fast walk


Navy Seal fitness test with calisthenics

The Navy Seal fitness test involves a 500 yard swim in under 12:30, and then 2 minutes each of max reps push ups, sit ups, pull ups, before ending with a 1.5 mile run in 11:30 or less.


Try the Navy Seal-inspired challenge

Try this at home to get a taste of the Navy Seal experience. But remember, they have to do the run in boots – you get to wear running shoes! 

1 minute max reps push ups

1 minute max reps sit ups

1 minute max reps pull ups

1000m run


Australian Commandos qualifying fitness test with calisthenics

The Australian Commandos are seen as some of the toughest soldiers in the world – and it’s no surprise when you look at their qualifying fitness test.

At least 60 push ups, 100 sit ups, and 10 pull ups, followed by a run/dodgy/jump course in under 50 seconds. Then a 2.4km run in full kit with a weapon (sub 11:30). Immediately into a swim test in full uniform, involving a 2 minute water tread and 400m swim in 18 minutes. Finally, a 15km endurance ruck with a 29kg pack – cut off time 2 hrs 20 minutes.


Try the Australian Commandos-inspired challenge

Try a mini version of the Australian Commandos fitness test.

Max reps push ups (at least 15), sit ups (at least 25), pull ups (at least 8).

Straight into a 2km run.

Finish with a 60-minute weighted walk/hike in a weighted vest.


Austria’s Jagdkommando fitness test with calisthenics

The Jagdkommando is the special forces unit of the Austrian Armed Forces. Their gruelling fitness test is one small part of a 72-hour ordeal and typically weeds out more than 80% of people who get that far. Candidates need to complete max rep pull ups (at least 6), air squats (at least 48), push ups (at least 41), sit ups (minimum 25), split squat jumps (at least 19 reps) and then do a 2.4km run in under 12 minutes.


Try the Austria Jagdkommando-inspired workout challenge

We’ll spare you the rest of the 72-hour Jagdkommando fitness tests and let you go straight into the calisthenics-based stuff in your nice cost gym. Give this mini version a go. Take a minute between each exercise.

Max rep unbroken pull ups

Max rep unbroken bodyweight squats

Max rep unbroken push ups

Max rep unbroken sit ups

Max rep unbroken split squat jumps

1000m run


Calisthenics and cardio to build a special forces body

We hope this has been a fun and interesting glimpse into how calisthenics forms the foundation of almost every special forces fitness test and selection criteria in the world.

It’s no surprise – not only is calisthenics the oldest form of training, it’s the most functional, adaptable, and useful.

Give these workouts a go and be sure to tag us on socials! We’d love to see how you get on.

And don’t forget, if you need any calisthenics kit, check out the Gravity Fitness store for top-quality equipment that is as tough as any of these training challenges.