7 of the World's Toughest SAS Fitness Tests

Annie Hayes
·6-min read

SAS fitness tests are the world’s toughest job interview by design. The very first stage of the SAS selection process, this rigorous physical assessment thins out the herd of recruits so only the most competitive specimens remain. For most mortals, it tests the upper limit of their athletic ability. For Special Forces troops, it’s a minimum entry requirement.

SAS selection is widely regarded as the most gruelling mental and physical challenge you’ll ever put yourself through. Only the fittest, hardiest, most resourceful soldiers make the cut, having been pushed to their absolute limits during months (even years) of intense training. No wonder SAS courses have the biggest dropout rate of any military branch.

Of course, it’s not for nothing. The Special Forces operate the deadliest, most complex military missions, from counter-terrorism to hostage rescue. The notoriously extreme and relentless selection process prepares recruits for life in the field, where they’ll need a level head to make high-pressure decisions in the name of national security.

SAS fitness tests are the first step down a long, merciless road. Reckon you’re tough enough to handle it? Read on for seven of the world’s most formidable SAS fitness tests – and remember, there are no prizes for showing up. You either have what it takes, or you don’t.

1) The UK’s Special Air Service

It’s the oldest Special Forces unit in the world, and also the best-known – not just because of alumnis Bear Grylls and Ant Middleton. The selection process is exceptionally gruelling, and considered one of the hardest globally, with a dropout rate of more than 85 per cent, according to MSIG Warrior. To qualify, recruits must pass the following fitness test:

1. More than 45 push-ups
2. More than 45 sit-ups
3. 1.5 mile run in under 9:30 minutes
4. Jump from a 10m tower into water
5. 25m water swim in full uniform holding weapon
6. 200m swim in uniform with 5-min water tread
7. Underwater object retrieval and dive test
8. 8 mile hill run in less than 60 minutes

2) Austria’s Jagdkommando

So intensive is the training for Austria’s Jagdkommando (or ‘JaKdo’) that only 15 per cent of recruits go the distance, according to MSIG Warrior. The fitness test below marks the beginning of three weeks of pre-selection drills that culminate in a 72-hour survival challenge. To pass, each candidate needs to outperform their peers:

1. Pull-ups (at least 6 reps)
2. Air squats (at least 48 reps)
3. Push-ups (at least 41 reps)
4. Sit-ups (at least 25 reps)
5. Split squat jumps (at least 19 reps)
6. 2,400m run in under 12 mins

3) Russia’s Alpha Group Spetsnaz

One of Russia’s Special Forces Units, Alpha Group Spetsnaz boasts by far the toughest SAS fitness test on this list. Among the criteria? A literal fist fight – okay, hand-to-hand combat – at the bitter end. Acting defensively is an automatic fail. Little wonder their motto is ‘Win and Come Back’. Here’s the rest of the test, according to MSIG Warrior:

1. 3000m run in under 10:30 mins
2. 100m run in under 12.7 secs
3. 10 x 10m suicides in under 25 secs
4. At least 25 pull-ups
5. At least 90 push-ups in under 2 mins
6. At least 90 sit-ups in under 2 mins
7. At least 30 dips
8. 10 reps bench press, equivalent to body weight (but no more than 100kg)
9. 10 round of 15 push-ups, 15 sit-ups, 15 half burpees (from sitting position to push-up plank), and 15 burpees (from sitting position)
10. Hand to hand combat, 3 x 3 minute rounds against a larger opponent

4) India’s Para Special Forces

The selection process for India’s Para SF is among the hardest to pass, with just 10 per cent of recruits typically making the final cut. The entire programme lasts three and a half years, with a mandated 12.4 mile run every morning and weekly 80 mile ruck march. To earn a spot, candidates must nail the following fitness test, according to MSIG Warrior:

1. 5,000m run in under 20 mins
2. 14 strict chin-ups
3. 40 push-ups in under 1 min
4. 80 sit-ups in under 2 mins
5. 17 x 5-metre shuttle run

5) US Army’s Delta Force

Like all good Special Forces units, the US Army’s Delta Force is shrouded in secrecy. As many of 90 per cent of candidates won’t make it through the selection phase, according to MSIG Warrior. This fitness test was shared by Delta Force founder – and first commander of the unit – Charlie Beckwith back in the eighties, so who knows if it’s still relevant today. Still, it's a stinging challenge:

1. 40m inverted crawl in under 25 secs
2. 37 sit-ups in 1 min
3. 32 push-ups in 1 min
4. A run, dodge, jump course in under 24 secs
5. 2 mile run in under 16:30 mins
6. 100m swim fully dressed, including jumpsuit

6) Israel’s Sayeret Matkal

Also called Unit 269 or just ‘The Unit’, Sayeret Matkal is the Special Forces arm of the Israeli Defence Force. It takes almost two years to join this notoriously secretive team, and much of the training is classified. The very first stage? This fitness test, according to MSIG Warrior:

1. 8 mile run (under 14 mins to pass, goal is 11:05)
2. 60kg squats barbell (at least 3 reps to pass, goal is 14)
3. Suicide runs in 15kg weighted vest (under 14 seconds to pass, goal is 10:20)
4. 60kg bench press (at least 3 reps to pass, goal is 14)
5. Pull-ups in 15kg weighted vest (at least 3 reps to pass, goal is 14)

7) Australia’s Commandos

A specialised unit within Australia’s Special Air Service Regiment (SASR), the Commandos motto is ‘Strike Swiftly’. The full Training Commando Phase lasts 11 months, so the pre-selection fitness test really is the tip of the iceberg. Recruits must complete the following to qualify, according to MSIG Warrior:

1. A minimum of 40 cadence push-ups
2. A minimum of 7 cadence chin-ups
3. 2 mile run in under 16 mins wearing patrol uniform and kit weighing 10kg
4. 6.2 mile march in under 90 mins wearing patrol uniform and kit weighing 30kg
5. 400m swim in full uniform in under 18 minutes with 2-min water tread

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