10 physical exercises that build mental toughness

10 physical exercises that build mental toughness

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Mental toughness is made up of multiple traits, but they all come down to one thing: resilience. Do you respond well to discomfort? Do you perform consistently under pressure? Does failure motivate you to succeed? 

If the answer to any of the above is “no,” then you’re not as mentally tough as you could be. 

Fortunately, there are lots of ways to improve your mental toughness, and a number of them can be included in your fitness regime. 10, to be exact – each one designed to push the limits of your endurance and test your mental and physical resilience. 

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Your mind is more important than your muscles. This is your chance to train it.


A military staple. Wear a weighted backpack and run. Start with lower weights (we recommend 10lbs) then build it up in jumps of 5lbs / 2-3 kilos as your physical and mental toughness grows. Doing bar squats and weighted box step-ups are efficient ways to train between rucks and great exercises for increasing your endurance.

Sotts Press

Works legs, abs and arms all at once. Perform a weighted squat and stay at the bottom with your core activated, then press up the weights until your arms are straight and your biceps are almost touching your ears. Slowly lower the weights back to your shoulders and return to standing.


The classic endurance exercise. Lay flat with your toes pressed against the ground and your elbows directly beneath your shoulders, then lift your legs and hips by pushing your elbows and toes into the ground while keeping your torso straight. Add weight over time to avoid growing too comfortable.

Hollow body crunches

Satan’s sit up. Start in a hollow hold – lying down with your lower back pressed against the floor and your arms and legs extended outward at a 45-degree angle. Hold that position for between 10 and 20 seconds before pulling your body into a crunch. Rinse and repeat.

  • Hanging

    Exactly what it sounds like. Hold the bar in an overhand grip and raise your feet off the ground. From there, you can either ‘active hang’ (activating your shoulder, back and arm muscles so that you’re slightly raised) or ‘dead hang’ (relaxing your shoulders so they touch your ears and take your body weight, stretching you out). The world recording for dead hanging is held by Harald Riise of Norway, who lasted agruelling 16 minutes and 13 seconds.

  • Elevated feet push-up

    The push-up for people bored of push-ups. Assume the standard push-up position, but rest your feet on a raised surface, preferably so your feet are level with your shoulders. This forces your chest to work much harder and makes for a surprising challenge. 

  • Anderson Squat

    The ultimate bar squat. At a squat rack, ensure the bar is on safety pins and perform a squat from a dead parallel or just above – starting from the place you would normally stop. This also works with front squat and overhead squat variations.

L – Sit 

A test of core strength. Sit on the floor with your legs straight and your hands beside your hips, so that your body resembles the letter L. Push your whole body off the floor with your hands, keeping your legs outstretched and your core activated. It’s an exercise widely associated with professional gymnasts and guaranteed to build abs of steel.

Lateral raise

Discreetly difficult. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and a weight in each hand. Extend your arms out to your sides with a slight bend in your elbow and hold before repeating. If you want to push yourself even further, perform lunges or squats at the same time.

Farmer’s Carry

Simple but effective. Take a heavy weight in both hands and walk as far as you can. Don’t be fooled by how straightforward it sounds, as it won’t be long before you feel the strain. The world record is held by Irishman Jason Hickson, who walked a punishing 31.08 miles holding 100lbs.

Why is mental toughness important for fitness?

In short, if you’re not tough mentally then you’ll struggle to be tough physically. Anyone can go for a run or workout once a week, but maintaining a powerful fitness regime requires resilience and dedication. You need to eat right, train right and be willing to put in the work every day, regardless of how you’re feeling.  

It’s not easy, but that’s the point. Mental toughness is what lets your mind push the limits of your body. 

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