Coach Shaul,
Thanks so much for having an innovative program. I am an Airborne Infantry officer in an OPFOR battalion that spends 2-3 weeks straight a month in the field for 10-11 months a year. Using your Operator Sessions in conjuction with the Ultimate Meathead Cycle I’ve been able to maintain my fitness and actually make gains. With the focus on strength, mixing in work capacity, I’ve been able to stay in shape for those long field rotations while being able to avoid injury (especially being on airborne status). The shoulder durability exercises are especially helpful, being that after seperating my shoulder before and during Ranger School I had issues carrying a ruck for long movements and day after day. But after the Operator Sessions I no longer have such a rough time. Again thanks.-

– N

I took your advice I jumped feet first into the Bodyweight Training Program and one week in I have been completely humbled.

Honestly, I was worried about losing the strength gains I had made through Starting Strength, halfway through my first mini leg blaster I could care less and I realized how out of shape I really was.

If anyone doubts the effectiveness or difficulty of this program, please feel free to refer them to me!

Thank you again!

Very Respectfully,
– T

I couldn’t wait to write this email this morning. A bit of a background on me, I’m currently in the Army PSYOP-Q and earlier this year I suffered a lumbar muscle strain from crossfit so bad I was in pain getting out of bed, although I have used your rucking selection plan in order to get ready for selection, I regrettably stopped the operator sessions and moved to crossfit. Now 4 months later after completing your operator sessions, I’m better than I was before my injury. Now two of my buddies in the Q (both are former infantry officers) have been kicking my ass on our weekly rucks, now I’m proud to say I was able to leave them in the dust this morning and beat them by over 8 minutes. This is an attest to the operator sessions, and I don’t plan on stopping.
Keep up the great work.
– R

Mr. Shaul,

I’ve been referred here by several forum board members to request your "SFAS prep workout." I have browsed your website and am anxious to incorporate some of the Operator WOD’s into my current routine. You’re doing great things.

– M

Here’s the link to our Ruck Based Selection Plan:

– Rob



I’ve been turned onto your site by an old weapons squad leader of
mine, and I have an interesting problem:

I can’t decide which program I want to buy.

Honestly, my weight gain is something I’d really like to see, because
I’m a fairly small guy (160 lbs, 72" tall), but now that I have a team
and we’re in Afghanistan, I want to be able to know, for certain, that
I’ll be able to max my PT test and take them out for legitimately
challenging PT sessions when we get back. I’m considering the
possibility of Ranger school, but I am unsure at this time. I’m
usually on day-on-day-off missions, with enough time and determination
to get a workout in at all costs.

Honestly, if you think I can make it going from 2 months of just
lifting and no cardio straight into your training, I’d buy the SFOD-D
program (if they’re supposed to be the best, it clicks in my mind that
this would be the most challenging of the workouts) and then another
one to keep gaining mass after that.

What are your thoughts?

– J

You’re all over the place with your training goals.

In your note you say you want to gain mass, max the PT test, be ready for Ranger School, you’ve only been lifting and no cardio, and are considering the SFOD plan.

Seems you’re mostly "working out" and not "training." We don’t do that – we like to train.

The difference – "working out" is something physical you do each day. There’s no goal in mind.

"Training" has a goal and end game. – It’s not random.

We believe that for pro athletes, like you, "working out" leads to staleness. You end up doing what you know or what you’re good at …. and your work/sport-specific fitness suffers, as does your overall physicality.

Since you’ve been lifting and no cardio- but still want to gain mass – it could be you’re a "hard gainer" – or just want to get big.

We have a Hypertrophy Plan specifically for gaining mass:

But this plan is pretty much all weight room, and my sense is you’re about over the weight room for a while.

I’ve attached our Afghanistan Pre-Deployment Training Plan – which I give free to guys down range or with orders. This plan is no joke, and "sport-specific" to mountain patrols. I’d recommend you start there. It will be a great introduction to our programming, and definitely challenge you and your team.

– Rob

I was wondering if you have any plans for people who find them self on the road often? I find myself in hotels at least 2 weeks a month and am having trouble keeping up with your daily workout due to the lack of equipment.
– C
I’d recommend our bodyweight plan to start:

– Rob
Rob –
I just finished the strength + unload cycles:

315# squat (same as my PR from a few months ago, but back was feeling less than great – However, that weight went up much more solidly than before

315# bench (same as my all-time-PR)

235# push press (PR)

Clean-didn’t even attempt a 1RM, was weak and slow that day. FWIW, 215 is my max C&J.

(also FWIW my deadlift PR from a couple months ago is 365#)

I have one week left on the running plan, but I like how it is put together. Personally I enjoy running-even though I’m short and stout – and I love the mix of intervals and long runs. I have been eating it on the 2 mile intervals while still killing the 400s/800s, but changed up my nutrition a bit (adding more sweet potatoes and some rice) and have noticed a bit more energy.

I will be starting the Ruck-Based Program after this week of running improvement plan + work capacity.


1. I herniated my L5-S1 in 2011. Through Chiropractic care and lots of stretching, core building, etc, I’ve been feeling pretty good the past couple years. Once in a while I’ll have an episode of what seems to be muscle contraction (usually when I’m too tight-mobility work alleviates it), but I was wondering what, if anything, you would suggest exercise/mobility work wise? Reverse hyper? (which, of course, my gym does not have) RDLs? specific types of core exercises?

2. Feet toughness – Only two times I have had problems – in San Antonio after doing 7ish miles in the wet grass and this past weekend (no wetness whatsoever) – back of my heels TORN UP. I use Nike SFBs and Rocky S2Vs. Right now I’m using a dual sock system + foot powder.

I only went 8.4 miles this weekend (55# ruck), and everything felt strong – except for my feet.

Any suggestions? Track running barefoot?

2A. With the increased running, my feet hurt – achy hurt. Rolling them with a lacrosse ball seems to help, but during Selection that will be unavailable – is there some kind of fundamental issue I may have, that you have come across before? This isn’t just a "because I started running more, recently" kind of thing – whenever I run/ruck a decent amount my feet are like that.

3. I haven’t looked at it yet, but have you incorporated more calisthenics work in the updated ruck program? I’m goo on pushups, good on pullups, run not too bad….but even with a strong core my situps are lacking. I’m trying not to deviate too much from your programming – it’s really good – but I definitely want to up my scores.

Thanks again for all that you do!


– A

Awesome on the PR’s – good for you!


1) It seems every low back issue is individualized and different. Many of our athletes have had success with the Founder exercises in the Low Back Complex. But not all – these exercises hurt some athletes. Bridges are good, as are the Hinge Lift – as long as you do it correctly. I’ve found stretching doesn’t help anyone. The Core Circuits benefit all.

2) More rucking

3) Yes.

– Rob


Coach –

My first week of the strength cycle is going great – working in those stretches really makes mobility work easy.

I am going to start the running improvement plan tomorrow – I see that you suggest the running plan in the evenings, however, you mentioned that I could train in the AM and do it wet (in order to try to get my body ready for PT in cold weather) – is there a reason you suggest doing the running prog after the operator series, in the evening?

Also, what do you guys do after the operator session with regards to stretching, mobility, etc, if anything?


– A

In general, it’s better to lift first, then run. Running will effect your lifting more than lifting will effect your running.

We do nothing in addition. What you see in the session is all we do.

– Rob

Coach –

Thanks for the (prompt) response!

I signed up for the Operator Series for this month – going to start the ruck-based next month (two months prior to my <hopeful> SFAS date).

You would suggest the run-program for this month coupled with the operator series over the ruck-improvement plan? The only assessment I will have until SFAS is an APFT and 12-mile ruck in mid November.

How do the strength cycles compare to the work capacity cycles? Would strength + run improvement plan be better than work capacity + run improvement plan?

Thanks again, and looking forward to the journey!

– A
p.s. Going to get the on-ramp for my dad as a Christmas gift!

I’d recommend starting the Operator Sessions with the most recent strength cycle. You could do the run improvement with this in the evening.

If you start the Ruck Selection Plan at the beginning of November, it will set you up for your November APFT/Ruck assessment.

Once you start the Ruck Selection Plan, go to paypal and cancel your subscription to the Operator Sessions. You can’t do both and no need to pay for both. Here is how you cancel your subscription:

How do I cancel a subscription?
Cancelling a subscription cancels all future scheduled payments of that subscription. A subscription can be cancelled up until the day of the next scheduled payment.
1. Log in to your PayPal account.
2. Click the My Account tab.
3. Click the History subtab.
4. Click More filters, select Subscriptions and agreements, and then click Subscriptions.
5. Change the date back to the year the subscription was created, and then click Show.
6. Click Details next to the subscription.
7. Click Cancel Subscription.
– Rob

Coach –

After seeing good results from CrossFit (starting in &apos;08), I was turned on to SOFWODs last year. I modified the programming a bit, mainly taking out some swimming and adding in more running and rucking.

I increased my strength some, but had great gains in my rucking/running endurance.

This summer I was introduced to your Operator Series from 2009 – and I am impressed. The difference in my core strength is especially noticable. I added in some running and cal days, but overall very solid programming.

I am looking at an SFAS date in January – based on an Assessment in November – and had a couple of questions:

1. Would you suggest starting the operator series now (and if so, what cycle should I start on? My strength is good right now, but my running has suffered – went from a sub-35min 5 mile to over 40min) and hitting the Ruck-Based program at the beginning of November, assuming all will go as planned (if I get delayed, I&apos;ll have to redo my Physical, which will probably add a couple of months onto the timeline)?

2. How much running is involved in the program? I like to do 2-a-days (and luckily my LEO position allows me the time), with MA in the morning and alternating intervals, distance, and rucking in the afternoons.

3. Selection is going to be cold – and I&apos;ve spent the better part of my adult life (including now) in deserts. Any way to prepare for that, training-wise?

My other question involves your body weight program.

I am looking for something to get my 66-year old father on (he is probably above average for his age group) besides CrossFit or some over-priced Globo-Gym trainer. Is this program too advance for someone that is older and not at an "advanced" level of physical fitness?

Again, Coach, you have done some really good things here – I even had a PJ tell me your workouts were "really long, and REALLY hard" (a testament to the level of your programming I would say!).

Thank you in advance,


1) In general, we generally don’t do 2-a-days during the Operator Sessions. One option for you would be to do the Operator Sessions, or one of our strength plans in the AM, and complete the Running Improvement Plan ( in the PM.

2) Depends upon the cycle. During the last endurance cycle we ran quite a lot. During the just-completed strength cycle we sprinted 2x/week, but didn’t run distance.

3) Get all your clothes wet, and train early in the am.

Bodyweight plan – this plan doesn’t use weights, but it’s no joke, and I would think too intense for your Dad given his age. A better option would be the On Ramp training plan:

– R

What would be a good training plan to prepare for "The Activity’s" selection? Given about ten months to train? Thanks.

– E

Between now and 8 weeks out, the Operator Sessions.

Starting 8-weeks out, the Ruck Based Selection Plan:

– Rob


I’m on my final week of your 357 Strength Training Plan and I’m completely satisfied with my results. Which plan would you suggest as a follow-up? I’m in Afghanistan, so I have limited equipment. I have all of the necessary equipment for 357, just no sandbags, bumper plates, or kettlebells. I’ve been considering Big 24 or Rat 6, what would you suggest?


– M

I’d recommend you get away from strength for a while and do some work capacity or endurance.

Here’s our Work Capacity Plan:
Here’s our Endurance Plan:

If your determined to keep training strength, Big 24 will blow your doors off….:

– Rob

I’m an older National Guardsman in a sniper section (waiting on sniper school) in a state that has an SF NG unit. I looked at some of the MA programing and my current fitness level, even with scaling, puts it out of my current capabilities. My PT score is a poor indicator of my actual physical ability (270). Despite a reasonable APFT score, I am unable to do a pistol squat or more then 2-3 handstand push-ups and I am very weak at Olympic style lifts. Is there a pre-MA course available either from you or that you would refer too, that would help someone reach the level of being able to utilize the Military Athlete programing?

– R

We built an On Ramp plan specifically for guys like you:

– Rob

I am a soldier in the Australian Army Reserve. I intend on using your site for training towards the Special Air Service Regiment Selection Course (August 2014). Could you advise on how I can utilise the programs you offer towards this end.

I have included a description of what is expected (physically), if you are unfamiliar with the Australian SASR selection course. Prior to being paneled on the selection course, all applicants must complete a Special Forces Screen Test, to be considered for the actual selection course. This will be held in May/June 2014. Only the top candidates in the screen test are paneled on the selection course, as positions are limited.

My stats:
• 28 years old
• 5 feet 5 inches
• 160 pounds

Baseline fitness (without specifically training for any particular event)
• 20 dead hang pull ups
• 75 pushups in 2mins
• 100 situps
• 220lbs 1RM Front Squat
• 1.5mile run in 9mins 30sec
• 6mile ruck, 65lb load, in 100mins

I have taken time off, from now, to train for this. Therefore 2 training sessions a day, are no problems, especially leading up to the selection course. I am onto the third session of the Free Operator Session – they are challenging, but I am able to complete all exercises.

Your guidance on this is greatly appreciated.

Kind regards,
– G

Special Forces Screen Test
There are no minimum standards, candidates are expected to give maximum effort for each event, which is to occur one after the next. Results in brackets are considered the unspokenminimum standard.

• Pushups (80)
• Situps
• Pullups (15)
• 2mile webbing run (16mins)
• 6mile ruck march (90mins)
• 400m swim test in uniform, after 2mins tread water (15mins)

The selection course is 21 days, split into 3 phases.

First Phase (9-10 days)
Designed to physically wear the candidate down
• Continuous PT sessions, at all hours, utilising rifle, tires, metal bars (weighing 33lbs) etc, with sprinting involved
• Webbing (27lb load) runs ranging from short high intensity to longer distance timed runs. Past course standards were 6miles in 60mins, 9miles in 100mins
• Ruck marches, very fast paced, 3-10miles in distance
• Some ocean swims (course will be held in winter)
• Limited food – not guaranteed to receive 3 meals a day
• No continuous sleep – woken up during night for PT

There are 2 pass/fail events that will occur within 48hrs of the selection course commencing (candidates who fail this standard will be dropped immediately)

• 12mile ruck with 70lb load, in under 3hrs 15mins
• 2mile webbing run with 27lb load, in under 16mins

Second Phase (5-6 days)

Individual navigation exercise
• Very long distances 85-100miles covered
• Mountainous terrain
• Heavy loads of 100-110lbs
• Issued rations

Third Phase (5-6 days)
Most arduous – tests problem solving skills and working in small teams

• Food deprivation. Fed one or two meals the entire time
• Sleep deprivation. Not uncommon for candidates to sleep 3 to 5hrs the entire phase, non-continuous.

Tasks involve strength work, over long distances, in addition to individual combat load (ruck, webbing and rifle)
• Carrying heavy and awkward shaped items through dense bush (eg logs, trailer with 1 wheel, tent, casualty on stretcher)
• Carrying water jerries over long distances (3 water jerries per soldier)

– G

Specific training for the selection – I’d recommend our SFOD-D Training Plan:, with a couple modifications/additions:

– Change the 6-mile run assessment, and the 2-mile run assessments to webbing runs, and use webbing runs for the follow on intervals.
– Increase the heavy ruck load to 65#
– Swimming – the plan doesn’t include swimming. The assessment you have isn’t very challenging, but what more swimming in the selection there is, could be important. You only have so much time to train, so I would recommend overweighing rucking, but make sure you’ve got the swimming covered.

This is a 8-week training plan, designed to be completed directly before your event. Between then and now there are a couple options:

1) Subscribe to the Operator Sessions, start at the last strength cycle, and follow along in order from then, then do the SFOD-D plan directly before selection

2) Do the SFOD-D plan now, then subscribe to the Operator Sessions, then repeat the SFOD-D plan directly before selection.

– Rob

Hey Rob, I had a question for you about some modifications I could make to my diet. My weight has been kind of a roller coaster for the ten years or so. Until I was about twenty, I used to be able to be able to eat whatever I want and not gain a pound. I’m 6’1" and when I left for basic training at the age of 18, I weighed 155 lbs. While I was in the Army I started lifting and around 20, my body started putting on some weight. When I got out of the Army, I weighed about 200-210, then I went to college. My diet was pretty atrocious there, and I mushroomed to about 230. After school, I cleaned up my diet a bit and got more consistent about exercise and dropped down to about 205. A couple years ago, I had a bout with testicular cancer (healthy now thankfully), and it did something to body. I’ve dropped down to about 178 and become what you call on your site a "hard gainer." I eat a pretty healthy diet split between protein (meat and cheese mostly), whole grains (wheat bread, quinoa, and brown rice), and fruits and vegetables. I would like to try to gain 10-15 pounds of muscle to help with my strength. Do you have any suggestions for things I could add to my diet that will help me bulk up a bit. Also, I’m currently finishing up your ramp-up plan and then was going to jump into the base fitness sessions. Should I be doing a different plan to get bigger? Thanks for your help, and sorry for the long email. Have a good one.

– J

I’d recommend our Hypertrophy Plan for Skinny Guys:
The set-rep schemes in this plan are specifically designed to build muscle mass. The strength work in the Operator Sessions are not.

Diet – our dietary guidelines are pretty basic:

6 Days a Week: Eat lean meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and drink water. Don’t eat carbs (bread, spuds, rice) or sugar.
1 Day a Week: Cheat like a mother! Beer, pizza, ice cream – you name it! We’ve found you can’t eat clean over the long term without cheating. We’ve also found the longer you stick to this diet, the less you’ll "cheat" on your cheat days, and the more cheating will hurt you – i.e. stomach ache, gas, etc.

– Rob

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