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Move the SF Way

Six exercises from a Special Forces trainer that teach your body how to minimize strain
Photo from Raphael Ruiz
Photo from Raphael Ruiz

Special Forces Soldiers are constantly pushing the limits of human potential. They need to be able to move skillfully at high speeds, for a significant amount of time, while under duress. This level of fitness isn’t achieved performing standard bench presses and curls. It’s accomplished by preparing their bodies for the actual movements they’ll need to execute while minimizing strain. If you’re looking to work out like an SF Soldier, Raphael Ruiz, who owns the fitness company 1441 and trains clients such as Special Operations Forces, Olympians and professional football players, has created a routine designed to make your body more flexible, balanced and biomechanically sound for SF-level demands.


How to use this workout

For this workout, perform two exercises together as a “super set.” Alternate between 90 seconds on and 90 seconds off, and complete 3–4 reps of each super set. The super sets, or exercise pairs, are:

- Barbell Bench Torso Rotation & Spiderman Push-Ups

- Scapular Depression to Pull & Single Dumbbell Lateral Flexion

- Barbell Staggered Squats & Single Weight Side-Bending Lunge

Tip: During each exercise, make sure that you focus on maintaining the correct posture and positioning through each movement to protect your joints and create a rigid yet mobile spine.


Barbell Bench Torso Rotation

Start in a standard bench press position with your feet and hands shoulder-width apart. Keeping your feet grounded, slowly rotate the barbell to your right in a controlled movement. Before the barbell touches the ground, return to the start position and do the same to the left side.


Scapular Depression to Pull

From a dead-hang position, perform a reverse shrug motion, causing your shoulders to move downward, and hold. From there, pull yourself up slowly and with control, while maintaining a “stand at attention” posture—head looking forward and back straight. Then lower yourself downward.




Barbell Staggered Squats

This squat variation will help your body maintain control and prevent injury under large amounts of weight. Assume a standard, shoulder-width stance with the right foot slightly forward. As you squat down, keep your weight evenly distributed on your feet, heels down and hips driving straight back. Stand up tall, switch your stance and do the same on the other side. Start out using 95–135 pounds.



Spiderman Push-Ups

While in a standard push-up position, lower yourself to the floor and lift the right knee to the right elbow, while maintaining complete control. Return to the start position and do the same sequence to the left.



Single Dumbbell Lateral Flexion

Hold the dumbbell in your left hand and let it pull you into a controllable stretch to the left. Make sure you don’t twist your body in the process. Then use the same muscles that are being stretched to steadily pull yourself all the way over to the right side. Switch hands and do the same movement with the dumbbell on the other side. Keep the weight low to focus on control, roughly 25–45 pounds.



Single Weight Side-Bending Lunge

Perform a lunge with your left foot while holding a plate overhead with your arms fully extended. As you’re in the lunge position, move laterally to the right and left. Then return to the start position and switch feet. Perform the same movement for each side while in the right lunge position. Start out with a weight range of 10–25 pounds.




Warning: Always seek the advice and guidance of a qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have before commencing a fitness program. This article should not be relied on or substituted for professional medical diagnosis or treatment. The exercises presented are for suggestion only. Participate at your own risk. Stop if you feel faint or short of breath.