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Train To Compete On Survivor

Updated on April 10, 2016

Outwit. Outplay. Outlast.

Those three words are the premise of CBS' hit reality TV show, Survivor. Do you think you have what it takes to compete on Survivor? Every season is different with its own varied cast of competitors and twists that the producers throw in. You'll need to be ready for anything. The only way to do that is to train smart and hard.

This guide offers training tips and highlights key areas that potential contestants should focus on when training to compete on the show. There are also featured training materials that will help you get ready for each of the three game elements.

The tips on this site are also applicable for training to compete on other reality TV shows such as Big Brother and The Amazing Race.

Good luck!


Outwitting is the mental aspect of the game. How well can you strategize, build alliances, neutralize threats and influence the outcome of the game?

  • Know The Game - Watch previous seasons to study the elements of the game and how the competitors reacted to situations and one another. Pay attention to the various strategies used and why they did or didn't work. Wikipedia has a thorough summary of every season that includes rules, challenges, trivia and player info.
  • Think About The Game - Get in the habit of thinking through different scenarios. Each season tries to throw the contestants a curve ball, so anticipate surprises.
  • Play Some Strategy Games - The object here is to develop your ability to think strategically. Learning chess is also a good way to practice thinking several moves ahead.
  • Learn To Listen - A big part of the game is knowing what other people are thinking. By developing the skills of talking less and listening more, you will gain valuable information from your tribemates while giving away less of your own.

Learn to Outwit

Below are some good resources on strategy and improving your ability to influence others.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu - Special Edition
The Art of War by Sun Tzu - Special Edition

Required reading for the Survivor China contestants. Each tribe was provided a copy.

How to Win Friends & Influence People
How to Win Friends & Influence People

The classic book on how to interact with and influence other people. Use this to improve your social game.


Study Hard - Watch Previous Seasons of the Game

Hopefully you've watched Survivor before and have an idea how much strategy is involved. Even so, re-watching past seasons can help you identify strategies or options to consider for the various scenarios you'll face.

I selected a couple seasons below that stood out to me as a fan for strategic reasons. While watching these or any other seasons, pay attention, think about how you would handle tricky situations that come up and keep notes on what you learn.

Survivor - The Complete First Season
Survivor - The Complete First Season

Study the 1st season when no one knew what to expect.

Survivor Pearl Islands - The Complete Seventh Season
Survivor Pearl Islands - The Complete Seventh Season

Learn from Johnny Fairplay who pulled off one of the greatest cons in Survivor history. The first episode includes one of my all-time favorite Survivor moves when Rupert stole the other tribe's shoes saying that "We're supposed to be pirates, I'm acting like a pirate."


Vote For Your Favorite Season

Vote For Your Favorite Season

See results


To win the many reward and immunity challenges in the game, you will need to outplay your opponents.

  • Swim - Nearly every season has involved water challenges, typically requiring players to swim out to a buoy or dive down to retrieve items. If you can't swim, learn. If you can swim, get better at it. A good drill is to dive to the bottom of an 8ft pool, swim 3 strokes across the bottom, surface, then do it again and again. Also get to a beach and practice running in and out of the water.
  • Get In Shape - Do a lot of cardio and aerobic workouts. This means running, stair-climbing, swimming, rowing, whatever you can do to improve your athletic performance and endurance. It will help you to compete and endure the many challenges.
  • Improve Your Balance - A lot of the physical challenges involve balance...standing on a pole, running across a narrow beam, etc. Take a yoga class to improve your flexibility and balance. You can also practice moving across narrow objects such as a wooden plank.
  • Solve Puzzles - Many Survivor challenges involve some type of puzzle. Typically a form of jigsaw puzzle, these can also be word scrambles, riddles or untying knots. Practice solving any type of puzzle you can get your hands on.
  • Learn To Paddle - Paddling is an overlooked Survivor skill but many challenges involve paddling some type of canoe or raft. Know how to properly hold a paddle (outboard hand on the shaft, inboard hand on the handle at the top) and steer by paddling. Don't be the one who loses a challenge for your tribe because you can't paddle. This is a pet peeve of mine when watching the show.

Learn To Outplay

A collection of helpful training tools to prepare you for Outplaying your opponents.

Power Yoga - Total Body Workout
Power Yoga - Total Body Workout

Improve your balance, flexibility and strength. These will help you in the endurance challenges. Learning yoga can also help you learn to calm yourself in stressful situations...not that there are any of those on Survivor.



Outlasting your opponents is the ultimate goal of the game. This will test all of your mental, physical and survival skills. Preparation and a positive attitude will serve you well here.

  • Learn to Build a Fire - Having fire is critical throughout the game to boil water for drinking and to cook. It is also a skill that may come in handy in challenges or a Tribal Council tie-breaker.
  • Learn to Catch & Clean Fish - Learn how to use a basic hook and line to catch fish. Tribes typically also get a basic speargun. Know how to use these so that you can be a hunter for your tribe that people will want to keep around.
  • Go Camping - Sleep under the stars, learn to cook over a fire, get used to being out in the elements. If all goes well, you're going to be doing it for 40 days.
  • Learn About Edible Plants - You'll need to find your own food in Survivor most of the time. Being able to identify safe food sources will be a valuable skill.
  • Bring a Wide Brimmed Hat - The stamina challenges almost always take place in the broiling sun or heavy rain. Get yourself a good hat for an edge over your opponents.

Learn to Outlast

This guide will help you to survive in the wild and Outlast the competition.

Boy Scout Handbook 2016
Boy Scout Handbook 2016

A classic, easy to read guide to building fires, tying knots, setting up camp and cooking outdoors.


Poll: Should Survivor Players That Quit Be Allowed On The Jury?

On the episode of Survivor 21: Nicaragua that aired Dec 1, both Kelly S and NaOnka gave up and quit the game during Tribal Council. Jeff Probst kept their snuffed torches and said they would be joining the jury. Why should these quitters get the benefit of continuing as part of the game and determining the winner?

20 seasons of Survivor have aired, anyone who tries out for the game should know it's gonna be mentally and physically tough. Why anyone would quit the game (outside of family or medical emergencies) is beyond me. Probst should have thrown their torches in the fire pit and banished them from the jury and ever appearing on any of the live finale or interview shows. And then tell them to find their own ways home. Just my opinion, what's yours?

Should Quitters Be Allowed To Stay On The Jury?

See results

Common Mistakes

It seems that every season offers up new contestants who never watched the show before or weren't paying attention if they did. Don't make these common mistakes when playing the game.

  • Don't Pull Your Weight Around Camp - One of the quickest ways to earn your tribemates' wrath (and vote at tribal council) is to kick back and let them do all the work. Do something to earn your keep...get firewood, catch food, help build the shelter, cook...anything.
  • Don't Try to Know Your Tribemates - This hurts you in several ways: 1) If you haven't made an effort to get to know them, why should they keep you around? 2) Winning a challenge later in the game may depend on how much you know about your tribemates. 3) The more you know about your tribemates, the easier it is to influence and build alliances with them.
  • Say That You Want To Go Home - If you aren't going to stick it out no matter what, then don't apply and let somebody else who wants $1 million compete. You're just asking for everybody's vote off with this.
  • Be Wishy Washy Or A Flip Flopper - People don't like to keep wild cards around and that's what you are if you join then back out of alliances frequently.
  • Don't Consider Alternate Scenarios - Surely everything will work out exactly as you assume it will. There's no need to anticipate or plan for unexpected events in this game. Yeah, right. In Survivor: Samoa the former Galu members dismissed any chance of Russell finding a second immunity idol with no clues and what happened?
  • Get Dressed Up - Don't believe the producers when they say you're going to a photo shoot. Several recent seasons have started "by surprise" for the contestants. Wear the clothes you want to play the game in everywhere. No high heels, etc.
  • Don't Play The Hidden Immunity Idol - James got voted off with 2 immunity idols in his pocket in Season 15. Then Season 16 had two tribal councils in a row where someone holding an immunity idol got voted off (Ozzy then Jason). If your tribe mates know you have the idol, then you're a huge target and must play it.
  • Give Russell Hantz Your Immunity Idol - Ok, maybe not a common mistake, but definitely a huge dumb costly one for JT when he assumed Russell was the victim of an all girls' alliance in Heroes vs. Villains. The lesson here is never assume what's going on at the other tribe.

Eye of the Tiger
Eye of the Tiger

Used by Rocky Balboa, this is the classic motivation song for a reason.


Training Tunes

Listen to these songs while you're training and they'll be playing in the back of your head while you're competing to give you that extra edge.

  • I'm Still Standing by Elton John - You'll be singing this after surviving another tribal council.
  • Lose Yourself by Eminem - A powerful song about seizing the moment and capturing your dream.
  • The Power by Snap! - Celebrate winning the Power of Immunity.


Have you tried to get on Survivor? What would you do to prepare if you got on? Please leave a comment below.

Cast Your Vote!

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I had never try to get on the show. Before I get on there,I would have to build up my endurance by jogging and also my stamina and balance and I could learn how to trust someone who is first strangers and then friends and teammates.

    • Country-Sunshine profile image

      Country Sunshine 

      6 years ago from Texas

      A friend of mine has been trying to get on Survivor since it first started. He has actually been contacted by them, and now it's just a waiting game.

      I think you have given some great tips! Also, you might point out that people need to be comfortable having someone follow them around with a camera all day.

    • bechand profile image


      7 years ago

      I love this show - I do a pool on it with over 100 people betting and winning $$$ way fun - has been done every season ...

      I never tried out as I know I could not handle it - but my brother did apply for the amazing race this season ... will see if he gets called back - he and his new wife are just their type - if they are on they will be known as "the DJ's" (just in case you see them a couple seasons from now ...)

    • MacPharlain profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @julieannbrady: I hadn't heard about Susan trying out, I'll look for more on that. You should try out!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Well ... I was seriously trying to get the ex to try out for Survivor ... and of course The Amazing Race AND Big Brother. I thought one of our fellow lensmasters, Susan, was talking about trying out for one of the reality shows.

    • RuthCoffee profile image

      Ruth Coffee 

      8 years ago from Zionsville, Indiana

      I would be voted off immediately. (and would be thankful for it) But, for those who want to compete, all of this prep should certainly serve them well.

    • Janet2221 profile image


      10 years ago

      Welcome to the TV Game Shows and Competitions Group!

    • card lady 2 profile image


      11 years ago from Midwest, USA

      Great info for anyone wanting to try out! I'm lensrolling you to my

      Survivor TV Lens!

    • Meloramus profile image


      11 years ago

      I really enjoyed this lens - it really dissects the gameplan. Have you considered making a 'survival' lens? I think it would be v.interesting.

    • Barkely profile image


      11 years ago

      Great info you have here, I have no plans to be a contestant, but I'm a huge fan of the show since the first season. Having summer withdrawal.

    • Senora M profile image

      Senora M 

      11 years ago

      This is great! My brother is always acting like he wants to get on Survivor. I will pass this along to him. He might even win some day! ;) Thanks for putting this together. It made me smile!!


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