Welcome to our Who Dares Wins SAS Endurance Trials. Training guaranteed to push your physical endurance to its limits!!
Click below to skip the introduction and go straight to the workouts!!
Introduction - Born of war
- The Special Air Service (SAS) is a corps of the British Army and part of the UKSF (the United Kingdom Special Forces). Founded initially in 1941, the highly-trained unit undertakes typical roles associated with spec ops groups. These include reconnaissance missions, close-combat fighting and counter-terrorist operations including hostage rescue.
- The history of the SAS (or ‘the Regiment’) dates back to the Second World War when David Stirling founded ‘L Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade’. These small raiding units were used to operate behind enemy lines in North Africa, targeting enemy airfields and port installations usually at night.
- The corps gained fame and recognition worldwide during the televised ‘Operation Nimrod’ (carried out during the Iranian Embassy Siege in London in 1980). In a 17 minute operation, the deployed SAS Regiment rescued 24 from the remaining 25 hostages (1 had been killed previously which initiated the storming of the embassy). They also killed 5 out of 6 terrorists without losing a single man. After the action, many other counties special forces took note and began training their forces in similar counter-terrorist methods (including the US Delta and Germany’s GSG9 counter-terrorist units). The SAS are considered the founding fathers of special forces/counter-terrorist units by many.
- The SAS regiment actually refers to three regiments known as the 21st SAS Regiment, 22nd SAS Regiment and 23rd SAS Regiment. The 22nd SAS Regiment is a part of the Regular Army, while the 21st and 23 regiments are a part of the reserve Territorial Army.
- SAS soldiers are famous for their anonymity, all personal identities are hidden and not available to the public. The famous image of the SAS is wearing the gas-masked combat garb from Operation Nimrod (see above). Additionally, much of the information and actions regarding the SAS is highly classified and generally not commented on by the British Government due to the sensitivity of their operations.
- The SAS has since been instrumental in many of the UK’s conflicts and interventions including operations in the Gambia, the Falklands, Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone, Serbia, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
- More recently the SAS has found fame in accounts from two of their soldiers over a Gulf war mission gone wrong. The SAS soldiers Andy McNab and Chris Ryan (both pseudonyms) accounts tell of an eight-man SAS team inserted behind Iraqi lines during the Gulf War in January 1991. When the mission became compromised the team found themselves being hunted by Saddam’s army. Everything went wrong on the mission, from faulty equipment to exposure to incredibly harsh climates. Of the eight who went out, only five returned. After days on the run, McNab was captured, tortured and held prisoner till the end of the war. Ryan managed to escape and incredibly covered 180 miles (290 km) through hostile desert territory managed to make it to neutral Syria.
Training and Selection
- The 22nd SAS Regiment recruits potential candidates from the various units of the UK’s armed forces. In order to be accepted to ‘the Regiment’, the candidates have to pass a five-week-long selection process that is held twice per year in the Brecon Beacons (Wales).
- SAS Selection is notorious as being one of the most arduous and rigorous selection and training programs in the special forces. Timed cross-country marches, trek through jungles, and a mountain climb is just a few of the challenges that make joining the SAS an extreme task.
- From about 200 pre-selected candidates, only about 30 pass the selection process. The selection for the 21st and 23rd SAS regiments is less difficult although the standards for admission are still very high.
- Only the very best of candidates will earn the coveted beige beret, the flaming Excalibur insignia (not a winged dagger) and the title of ‘Blade’.
Phase 1 – Endurance
The first phase of selection involves a series of forced marches designed to test a candidate’s overall fitness and physical and mental endurance. Candidates have to carry an ever-increasingly-heavy bergen (military backpack) over a series of long timed hikes, navigating between checkpoints. No encouragement or criticism whatsoever is provided by any of the supervising staff at the checkpoints.
The endurance phase contains several notorious marches including marching across the highest peak of the Brecon Beacons. These marches include ‘the fan dance’ (a 20-hour time limit march over Pen Y Fan) and ’the long drag’ (a 40-mile trek carrying a 55lb bergen, that must be completed in under 24 hours).
The Fan Dance and Long Drag hold a special (and feared) place in the hearts of all candidates. Navigating alone and highly changeable conditions. The Brecon Beacons are notorious for its rapidly changing conditions, from warm weather to wet and freezing conditions! The trek can be so dangerous that several candidates have lost their lives due to exposure and hypothermia over the years during attempts.
Phase 2 – Jungle Training
Those who have passed stage 1 have to then move onto the jungle. This segment is run in the hot, dense jungles of Brunei, Belize, or Malaysia. Candidates learn the basics of surviving and patrolling in harsh conditions. This stage also involves instruction on weapons (including foreign weapons), tactics, and procedures, freefall and static line parachute jumps, field medical care, combat driving skills and hand-to-hand combat.
The Killing House
The ‘killing house’ is the SAS’s prime training facility for hostage rescue operations. The point of the Killing House is to train the SAS operatives to enter a room and be able to assess the situation and shoot any threats. It is designed just like a conventional building, with furniture, pictures, toilets, etc. Candidates are given a set time to ‘clear’ a room without injuring targets dressed as hostages. The Killing House concept has been adopted by other elite units, including America’s Delta, the FBI and the Israeli Special Forces.
Selection Phase 3 – Escape & Evasion and Tactical Questioning (TQ)
The small number of candidates who have made it through endurance and jungle training enter the final phase of selection. The likelihood of a special operation going wrong behind enemy lines is quite high, given the risks involved. The SAS require soldiers determined to escape and evade capture as well as resist interrogation.
- The candidates are briefed and then taken into the countryside. For this, they must wear heavy greatcoats and are given instructions to make their way to a series of waypoints. Along the way, they must avoid being captured by a ‘hunter force’ of other soldiers. This portion lasts for 3 days after which, captured or not, all candidates report for TQ.
- Tactical Questioning (TQ) tests the candidate’s ability to resist interrogation. Here they are brutally treated by their interrogators. They are often made to stand in ‘stress positions’ for hours at a time, while disorientating white noise is blasted at them. During this ordeal, they may only answer questions with the ‘big 4’ (name, rank, serial number and date of birth). Any other answer results in the candidate failing the course. The SAS are looking for men who can withstand such treatment long enough so that the effects of revealing any operational information.
Selection Training Objectives
SAS instructors goals are to enable candidates to obtain peak physical fitness. Essentially they want them combat-ready and to be able to run, jump and lift more effectively and efficiently. These will also be our goals also, peak functional fitness. To achieve these aims we shall be looking at developing speed, agility, muscular endurance and explosive power.
For the average person in the street time restraints and commitments, there is no way we could get the level of training in. Indeed, SAS candidates are a breed apart physically and mentally. The average person would undoubtedly break undertaking the type of physical training they are required to do!! However, that does not mean we should not look to them for inspiration and push ourselves. Therefore the purpose of our SAS Who Dares Wins Trials is in creating a ‘Selection-lite’ course, to push you hard but within reason.
- SAS Who Dares Wins workouts: This is a five-week program.
- The program involves four components over five days.
- The first element ‘Endurance’ involves timed backpack runs over hills gradually increasing in distance and weight load.
- The second element is ‘the Killing House‘, which consists of body weight and circuit training exercises all to be completed within a set time period.
- The third element is ‘Escape and Evasion’, a series of speed orientated 2kms runs that can be undertaken solo or with a buddy.
- The final section is ‘Jacobs Ladder’ a ladder style bodyweight circuit continually increasing in intensity whilst giving you the option to quit at any point you choose. The choice is yours, make or break.
- The training split is outlined below in the section ‘Selection program‘.
We hope you enjoy our SAS Selection Trials!
‘Who Dares Wins’
Special Air Service motto
Selection Trial 1: Endurance
Welcome to SAS Who Dares Wins Selection Trial 1. As the name suggests this trial will aim to improve mental and physical endurance as well as cardiovascular fitness. Firstly, grab a backpack and some running shoes. Fill the backpack up to around 10kgs (22lbs) or more if you feel able to. Next, find challenging terrain in your local area with gradual inclines. Ideally, if you can make it in grassy conditions, look for hills, woods near your location. If you are struggling with time/commitments, look at running to and from work. All that is important is that you are putting in the distances twice a week.
A route planned (see above). A filled rucksack (10kgs). Appropriate outdoors running gear for the weather. Trail running trainers.
- With regards to distances, our starting point will be 4-6 miles (depending on running experience) and progressing as the weeks go on.
- Run the route initially without a backpack or anything to weigh you down. This will give you an idea of your best time for running that particular distance.
- Struggling to plan a route in your local area? Try mapmyrun.
Notes on backpack running: Be aware that running with a backpack increases cardiovascular effort and running economy deteriorates. This is especially true when running at higher speeds. It’s going to make your body work harder, especially if you are someone who is running at faster speeds.
The Endurance Running Plan
Selection Trial 2: The Killing House
Welcome to SAS Who Dares Wins Selection Trial 2. This section is a HIIT style AMRAP and involves timed circuits. The weights involved will be approximately 70/75% of your 1 RPM. Nothing heavier. The workout is veering more towards muscular endurance than strength building.
- The workout consists of two sections Circuit A and B.
- Work through the stations of circuit A.
- 60 seconds of work per station.
- 30 seconds of jumping jacks or running on the spot between stations.
- At the end of Circuit A, you get one minute of rest before moving onto Circuit B.
- Be strict and aim for very little if no rest between stations.
Functional Training Equipment. Barbell and weights; battle-ropes; chin-up bar; pylo box or substitute; sledgehammer; tyre and medicine ball.
- Sprints then 10 X pushups.
- Barbell back squats.
- Box jumps.
- Chin-up burpees (squat thrust into a single chin-up).
- Barbell bent-over rows.
- Barbell Romanian deadlifts.
- Sledgehammer or medicine ball slams.
- Tyre carries.
- Barbell Lunges.
- Weighted sit-ups.
- Triceps dips/Diamond push-ups.
- Barbell deadlift.
- Incline push-ups.
- Walking lunge with dumbbells.
- Tyre flips.
- Hanging knee raises.
- Decline push-ups.
- Split Squats (30 seconds each side).
- Dumbbell clean and press.
- Dumbbell step-ups (alternate legs).
- Wallball throws and squats.
Selection Trial 3: Escape and Evasion
Welcome to SAS Who Dares Wins Selection Trial 3. Our objectives here are designed to improve cardio, speed, muscular endurance and dynamic power.
- The drills consist of 4 X 2km ‘dashes’ (faster runs over short distances).
- Between 2 and 3 of the runs will involve running with weight (backpacks).
- Choose to undertake the drills solo or with a training partner (see below).
- Pick a role ‘prey’ or ‘hunter’. The prey will be trying to finish the 2km (1.6mile) dash without being ‘caught’ by the hunter.
- The difference is the prey will be wearing a weighted backpack. (10kgs+).
- The prey also gets a head start. The objective is to complete the 2km run without being intercepted by the hunter.
- If the prey is caught, they must undertake a forfeit (see below).
- Upon completion of the 2km, change roles, the runner who is prey becomes the hunter and vice versa.
- For each participant undertake 2x runs as prey and 2x runs as a hunter.
- With regards to the headstart, this will depend on the individual ability of the runners. If one runner is faster than their partner then a greater head start for the prey may be required). Look at the average time for the prey in undertaking a 2-mile run and decide based on that.
- Acknowledge your respective abilities and undertake the number of rounds/backpack weight that will push you both.
- ‘Jog’ not run 2km with no backpack at a steady to slow pace.
- Record the time.
- Rerun the 2km route wearing a 10+kgs backpack.
- 2nd run objective: beat your original jogging time.
- If you don’t make the time you are considered ‘captured’ (see forfeit below).
- If you feel like challenging yourself run the first ‘jog’ at a faster pace.
- 1X initial jog run. 3X backpack ‘hunted’ runs.
- 80 X Burpees.
- 50 Push-ups. 50 X Sit-ups. 50X Squats. 50 X Triceps dips.
- 30 X Pull-ups. 50 X weighted lunges. 50X Leg raises.
Selection Trial 4: Jacobs Ladder
- Welcome to SAS Who Dares Wins Selection Trial 4.
- The aim of ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ is to develop your physical and mental endurance.
- Set a timer for 40 minutes.
- Start with the first round of just one repetition of each exercise. In the next round increase the repetition(s) by one. (In the 1st round perform 1 x burpee, in the 2nd round perform 2x burpees etc).
- Aim for no rest throughout. The rest comes with the change of exercise.
- There is the option to stop at any point with a penalty run to undertake (see RTU run below).
- ‘Jacobs Ladder’ is complete upon the 40 minutes time limit expiring or on completion of 20 rounds. Whichever comes first.
- Bodyweight squat and hold.
- Staggered push-ups.
- Plank shoulder taps (one tap on each shoulder counts as ‘1’).
- Mountain climbers (one extension of each leg counts as ‘1).
- Dynamic jump lunges.
- In and outs.
- Bodyweight squat and jump.
- Bodyweight rows.
- Triceps dips.
- Leg raises.
Return to Unit Run
If you do ‘quit’ you will immediately undertake an outdoors or treadmill ‘Return to Unit’ run for 20 minutes with the knowledge that you didn’t make the grade.
The 'Selection' Training Split
Monday and Friday – Endurance training.
Tuesday – The Killing House.
Wednesday – Escape and Evasion.
Thursday – Jacob’s Ladder.
Saturday and Sunday – Active rest. As in ‘active’ aim to be getting in longish walks if possible.
NB: The SAS Who Dares Wins Endurance Trial is a five-week program.