Workout of the Week: A Tough Spec Ops Leg Day Awaits. Are You Ready?

Stew Smith beach running
Beach running (courtesy Stew Smith)

This workout is rather advanced and involves a series of events that special ops students need to master when training before selection. When you plan to incorporate running, rucking (on the beach, hills or rough terrain), lifting, calisthenics and swimming in 60°F bay water into an extended workout session, you will need to build up to this level of activity and plan for an easy recovery day before or after.

Here is a great outdoor workout we did this week:

Squat and Run 100 meters Pyramid 1-10: This warmup is one of our classics. We accumulate about 1,000 meters of easy jogging and dynamic stretches mixed in with a total of 55 squats (1-10 half pyramid).

Stew Smith beach running
Beach running (courtesy Stew Smith)

Run two miles and ruck two miles or do one event for four miles: Whether you run on a track, hills, soft-sand beach or rough terrain, put some effort into this event and time yourself to check your pace and assess your progress at these distances.

Stew Smith sandbag
Sandbag lift (courtesy Stew Smith)
Sandbag lift (courtesy Stew Smith)

Walking lunges 400 meters: With a 40-pound sandbag, try to chest-carry or shoulder-carry lunge for 400 meters. If you have not done this before, try it without a sandbag for your first few times as you build up to this event. Do this once a week on a leg day, and in about four weeks, you no longer will have the post-exercise leg soreness that is common with lunging at this volume. Another option is to build up to it with sets of 100 or 200 meters before attempting a 400-meter lunge.

Stew Smith lifting
Lifting (courtesy Stew Smith)
Lifting (courtesy Stew Smith)

Lift: We make a circuit of these movements, and the weight is not heavy, limiting to maybe 1.5 times bodyweight for the deadlift.

Repeat 3 times

Deadlift: 5 or kettlebell Romanian deadlift (RDL): 10

Kettlebell swings: 20

Kettlebell squats: 10 (Use a 40- to 50-pound kettlebell)

Farmer walk: 2 x 25 meters fast

Sandbag or medicine ball power throw: 3

Stew Smith bay swimming
Bay swimming (courtesy Stew Smith)
Bay swimming (courtesy Stew Smith)

2,000-meter swim with fins: Mix in some freestyle, sidestroke and turtle-backing to add some variety and work those legs for a 30-minute, cut-off limit. It is recommended to swim in a pool. Only attempt this in open water if there are lifeguards and you have a swim partner and a wetsuit. Our bay swimming takes place only 15 meters from shore swimming parallel in four- to five-foot deep water.

We call the cardio events the Spec Ops Triathlon, and we do these a few times every quarter to check not only our speed in each event, but our overall endurance when it’s all put together in a two- to three-hour workout. The leg lift and calisthenics were a new addition this year to the normal cardio-only event.

Reminder: This is an advanced level workout that many special ops candidates are doing before joining the military or attending selection.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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