Health & Fitness | September 22, 2021 4:11 pm

Do the Norwegians Have the Toughest Special Ops Fitness Test in the World?

Only 1% of applicants make it into this elite Arctic task force

Special forces troops march through a field.
Walking around with 55-pound packs and eight-pound guns is the norm for Norway's LLRP.
Photo by NurPhoto/Corbis via Getty Images

Norwegian climber-turned-vlogger Magnus Midtbø was recently granted unprecedented access to the training of Norway’s highest level of special forces: the Long Range Reconnaissance Squadron.

Nicknamed LRRP, the Scandinavian is similar to the U.S. Navy SEALs: a highly-classified unit that works independently and primarily behind enemy lines. Earlier this year, one team spent 44 consecutive days outside in 22°F

Part of their appeal to Midtbø, aside from the obvious, is that Norway’s LRRP squadron is also famously talented at climbing. It sort of comes with the territory, when your country has peaks 8,000 feet above sea level. Midtbø first got a taste of what it’s like to conduct covert missions at extreme altitude while tagging along on a 35-hour trip to recover a downed pilot. You can watch that adventure here.

Equally insane, though, was his trip to the team’s training center, where just 1% of applicants pass the test to join the Arctic’s most elite task force. Midtbø took the test alongside a veteran soldier named “Evan,” whose face is shown in the video because he’s about to enter retirement.

Here’s a breakdown of the test:

  1. Bench pull your bodyweight for one rep: this test actually starts at 175 pounds, which is above Midtbø’s weight. He managed to lift 175, 198 and 220 pounds. (Some of the numbers, FYI, may read a bit strange because Norway operates on the metric system.) For this test, Evan lifted 242 pounds on his final try.

  2. Weighted pull-up for one rep: the minimum here was a bonkers 55 extra pounds, which is affixed to the body via a chain and weight belt. Pull-ups are Midtbø’s specialty, and he cranked out a max rep with an extra 140 pounds dangling from his waist. Evan got up to 132 pounds.

  3. Medicine ball toss: it may seem random, but this is an efficient way to monitor functional strength. It’s likely that soldiers have to launch backpacks or other equipment to each other during a mission. The ball weighs 22 pounds, and the minimum distance a trainee has to throw out is 16.5 feet. Both Midtbø and Evan cleared this.

  4. Treadmill weighted hike: the main event. The test is tough until this point, but not exactly diabolical — it’s more of a test of physical strength. This is where it becomes an excruciating battle with one’s brain. You have to walk on a treadmill in full uniform with a 55-pound pack on your back and an eight-pound gun in your hand for at least 25 minutes. Oh, and, every five minutes after the 10-minute mark, an official raises the incline by 3%. Midtbø made it to 18 minutes. Evan, the professional, reached 30.

Is it the toughest special forces fitness test in the world? Impossible to say. Each black ops unit around the world has some variation of that treadmill weighted hike, designed to reduce the planet’s fittest men to puddles of sweat and tears. (As Evan was gunning for 30 minutes, and started to falter, soldiers off-screen started screaming “COME ON!” to him in Norwegian. It was as terrifying as it was inspiring.)

Short of anointing a GOAT test, though, let’s just enjoy this rare peek into a world where “functional fitness” takes on an actual life-or-death meaning. And all credit to Midtbø — while he may not have passed, he took the test immediately after finishing his 35-hour mission in the mountains. Vlogging is usually a questionable profession. Not so here.