Modern combat is increasingly less scripted. Today’s troops aren’t lining up to trade musket fire or charging a hill against a seen enemy. The battle has evolved to feature short, kinetic bursts of activity and close-quarters engagement against flagless insurgents that embed themselves among civilian populations. As a result, warriors have added physical strength, agility and battle-closing stamina to the list of combat-requisite traits.

This is particularly true of elite soldiers, who are called upon for up-close-and-personal clashes with the enemy on a regular basis. On any particular mission, they could be called upon to nimbly ascend a set of stairs in full gear, sprint for cover or detain a larger, stronger combatant. As with weapons training and hand-to-hand defense, fitness is a vital part of a special forces soldier’s ability to perform effectively in combat. A former helicopter pilot and physical training instructor for the British Army, Steve Perrins, who now heads government and defense accounts for Cybex (, shares some of his 23 years of experience working with and training elite soldiers.

Tell us about your military experience with the British Army. What was your level of fitness in your early years of service?

I completed 22 years of service in Army Aviation, providing support for Airborne Forces and UK Special Forces for the majority of my time, the last nine years as a combat Helicopter Pilot. Initially, my fitness was very average but within a year I was in great shape.

How did you transition to physical training instructor?

It was brutal course back then, with units only selecting the best from within to attend. I was 19, fit, strong and hungry to prove myself. For me, it was a natural transition that shaped my career.

What can the rest of us learn about the training habits of elite tactical athletes that can help us get bigger, stronger, faster and leaner?

Tactical athletes train with alarming regularity as part of their daily routine, regardless of how sore, battered, exhausted and blistered they usually are. They vary their routines with the same regularity which increases the body’s response to the training, their bodies never get the time to fully adjust to any one program. This variation ensures continued adaptation.

Other key areas of variation are; time of day they train, the environment in which they conduct their training, using indoors and outdoors areas and training in heat, rain, cold and humidity. Also, the terrain they use, by training on hard and soft surfaces and using hills, mountains and water.

The equipment they use and the type of training by the use of endurance, functional, high-intensity, combat physical training, traditional strength and plyometric training. This variation increases adaption and delivers superb results every time.

Not so long ago, soldiers would just run and do push-ups. These days, that’s changed. The NSCA has developed an entire training curriculum around tactical athletes. Why the continuing evolution in how today’s troops train? 

Warfare is changing and the roles the armed forces are asked to fill are also changing, so they need to adapt the way they train. The armed forces are also shrinking; commanders can ill-afford high levels of injuries and a reduction in a unit’s combat effectiveness, so the continued evolution in physical training is essential if they are to be successful in future operations. I also believe that this evolution will also play a big part in the long-term health and well being of our soldiers.

SEALs are famed for their endurance and mental toughness. Are there other units you have experience with that come close?

Difficult to call, as there are many elite units across the world that I respect that are extremely well conditioned and highly capable. But for me, UK Special Forces have a level of endurance and overall physical conditioning that makes them highly adaptable and allows them to operate in every environment around the globe and even today their selection process remains one of the most physical and mentally demanding.

Full-Spectrum Strong: Army Ranger Workout


Steve Perrins offers a day-in-the-life example of how top tactical athletes train for modern warfare.

“This High Intensity workout will increase caloric burn, increase power and strength, improve lean body mass and continue to burn calories for up to 48 hours post workout due to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption,” Perrins says.

Perrins performs this workout using the Cybex Arc Trainer or Bravo functional trainer but says that substituting with your available equipment will produce the same results.








50-60% 1RM

Cybex ARC Trainer



30 Secs @ 80-90%


Adaptive Power or High Constant Power setting

Wide-Grip Pull-Up



Weighted Vest

Decline Push-Up



Weighted Vest

Cybex Bravo Chest Press *


Barbell Bench Press



50-60% 1RM

Inverted Row



Weighted Vest

–This circuit-style routine should be done at speed but with great form. Perform five total sets with 100% effort, taking one minute rest between circuits. To increase intensity, reduce recovery time between circuits or increase the resistance.

Steve Perrins joined Cybex in 2012 after serving 22 years in British Army aviation, where he enlisted in 1986 and became a physical training instructor in 1989. In 2000, after several operational tours, Steve became a combat helicopter pilot and throughout his career provided aviation support primarily to Airborne Forces and Special Forces across the world, including Asia, the Middle East, Central America, Canada and Europe. Steve’s area of responsibility is all International Government and Military sales business including U.S. military overseas. He was integral in the creation of the new Cybex Tactical Athlete Training Facility (TATF), a mobile, inclusive, high-intensity training facility capable of delivering an endless amount of workout combinations to troops wherever they are deployed.