Take on this intense functional strength workout from former SAS operative and ThruDark founder Anthony Stazicker.

When Anthony ‘Staz’ Stazicker left the Special Forces with 13 years of military service under his belt, his training intensity did not let up. This circuit is proof of his uncompromising, all-encompassing approach to fitness. It’s a highly functional full-body workout that – if you manage to complete it – will develop your mental strength as well as physical prowess. 

“I usually train at a high intensity and complete all my workouts within 45 minutes,” Staz tells MF. “The below exercises are my go-to, and I’ll usually combine five or six of them into a circuit. These circuits tend to be done three to four times a week, and I’ll sometimes add in a weighted vest to increase the challenge.”

How to do the functional strength workout

  • Pick out five or six of the following exercises
  • Complete 10-12 reps of each exercise, moving from one to the next with minimal rest
  • Once you’ve completed 1 round of exercises, head over to the air bike or rowing machine and work until you’ve burned 50 calories
  • Rest 90 secs, then repeat
  • At the end of the second round, go for 40 calories on the bike or rower – then 30 on the third, 20 on the second, and finally 10 on the last round
  • Do 5 rounds of the functional strength workout in total

1. Rope climb

“An integral part of basic military training and fitness, rope climbs utilise multiple muscle groups,” says Staz. “I will sometimes add weight or isolate to arms only etc. to increase the difficulty.”

  • Grip the rope overhead, positioning it in the centre of your body
  • Make sure your knees move as close as possible to your chest
  • As you climb, wrap the rope on top of the dominant leg’s foot
  • The free foot catches the rope, steps on the rope, and pinches the rope between the feet
  • Pull with your arms to reach them overhead, while extending the hips and knees to stand up at the start of each pull

2. Dumbbell man maker

“These are a great full-body workout in their own right, usually completed with 20kg dumbbells,” says Staz. “Concentrate on controlling the movement throughout.”

  • Start in a standing position with a dumbbell in each hand
  • Lower your dumbbells to the ground and assume a press-up position, with hands on the dumbbells
  • Perform a full press-up
  • As you return to the top of the press-up, pull one arm up into a row
  • Repeat the same movement with the other arm
  • Next, jump both feet towards the outside of your hands and stand up, going straight into a full squat clean thruster
  • You should be in a low squat, holding both dumbbells over your shoulders
  • In a continuous movement, stand up and perform an overhead dumbbell press, lifting the dumbbells straight into the air
  • Return to the squat position, placing the dumbbells shoulder-width apart again on the floor, jumping both feet back into the modified press-up position in which you started

3. Pull-up

“Pull-ups are a great benchmark for upper-body strength,” says Staz, “and these have always been a go-to exercise for me.”

  • Grip the pull-up bar with your hands more than shoulder-width apart. Brace your abs and pull yourself up until your whole head is above the bar
  • Lower your body under control until your arms are straight. Keep your shoulders engaged and don’t sag at the bottom
Anthony Stazicker demonstrating how to do a sled push

4. Sled push

“I have a lower-back injury, so I really like sled pushing and pulling as an alternative to squatting,” says Staz. “I can still maintain a high weight load and really target the legs and core.”

  • Stay flat and low – your aim is to push the prowler along the floor, not into it
  • Keep a straight back, as a rounded back acts as a shock absorber, taking force out of the prowler
  • Keep strong, straight arms; by keeping your arms rigid and strong you’ll ensure there’s no loss of power by having ‘soft’ shoulders and elbows
  • Take long, powerful strides. As you fatigue, the temptation will be to take shorter strides, but always try to take the longest, most powerful strides you can. This will ensure better power transfer and keep momentum in the prowler

5. Handstand push-up

“I’ve always been interested in gymnastics, and handstand press-ups really hit the shoulders and core like no other exercise,” says Staz. “These can be performed anywhere, with just your bodyweight.”

  • Place your hands about 30cm from a wall and kick your legs over your head and rest them against it
  • If you’re struggling, lead with one leg and progressively kick harder until you feel the wall, then bring your other foot up to meet it
  • Brace your core and lower your head towards the floor. Take a progressive approach with this and only go as far as you feel you can control. As you get stronger, you’ll be able to move your head closer to the ground
  • At the bottom of the press-up, tense your core again and push down hard, straightening your elbows until you’ve returned to the start

6. Turkish get-up

“This is my favourite core exercise,” says Staz. “It requires minimum space, and either a kettlebell or dumbbell. Turkish get-ups target the whole body, and help with coordination and movement patterns.”

  • Lie on the floor on your right side, with arms and legs bent, holding a kettlebell by the horns with your right hand
  • Roll onto your back while bringing your left arm and left leg down flat and out to the side slightly. At the same time, punch your right arm up to the ceiling (locked out), keeping your right leg bent, with your knee pointing up to the ceiling, and your foot flat on the floor
  • Using your core, roll onto your left forearm, pause, then shift your weight onto your left hand, while keeping the right arm locked out and vertical above your shoulder
  • Press through your left palm to a tall, seated position, with both arms now straight
  • Press through your right heel to extend your hips up so your torso forms a straight line from right knee to right shoulder
  • Move your left leg under your hips and behind you until your left knee is in line with your left hand
  • Shift your weight until you’re in a half-kneeling position, with your torso vertical and left hand off the floor
  • Push through the back foot to a standing position, right arm still locked out with the kettlebell above your right shoulder
  • Pause for a few seconds, then slowly reverse the movement to eventually return the kettlebell back to the floor in the position you started

7. Kettlebell lunge

“Isolating the legs and core with lunges works really well for me,” says Staz. “Take each lunge slowly and controlled for maximum muscle activation.”

  • Stand tall, holding a kettlebell in one hand
  • With your chest up, core tight and back straight, take a big step forward with your opposite leg and bend your knees to lunge down
  • Push back off your front foot to return to the start
  • Switch the kettlebell to the other hand and lunge with the other leg – that is 1 rep

8. Box jump

“Box jumps are great for explosive power and coordination,” says Staz. “I alternate heights and angles of the jumps when required.”

  • Stand just in front of a box with feet shoulder-width apart
  • Swing arms and hinge hips back with a tall chest, flat back, and engaged core
  • Swing arms forward, using momentum to jump up and slightly forward, landing softly with both feet completely on the box
  • Stand up, locking out your knees and extending your hips
  • Carefully step back down to the ground
Anthony Stazicker demonstrating how to do a farmers carry

9. Farmer’s walk

“Nothing is as simple – or difficult – as moving heavy weight under control over distance,” says Staz. “Farmer’s walks are great for grip strength, which is often ignored.”

  • Grab two heavy dumbbells or kettlebells and walk for 30-40m, lifting as heavy as you can without your grip giving out before the end
  • If you don’t have a 30-40m track at your gym, walk back and forth over a shorter distance, drop the weights at one end, turn around and pick them straight back up until you’ve completed the requisite distance

10. Sumo deadlift high pull 

“A great movement for any functional strength workout, which isolates almost every muscle group,” says Staz. “It’s vital to maintain good posture and form throughout.”

  • Hold a barbell with an overhand grip with hands around shoulder-width apart
  • Stand tall and let the bar hang at arm’s length in front of your thighs
  • Hinge at your hips and lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor
  • Pull the bar as high as you can toward your chin by explosively standing up as you bend your elbows and raise your upper arms
  • Reverse the movement to return to the start