The Spartan's Ultimate Guide to Training for a Trifecta in 2023
The Trifecta is pretty much the ultimate test for a Spartan. Finishing a Sprint or Stadion, Super, and Beast or Ultra — all in one year — is a Herculean feat for sure.
The good news? This year, there are more chances to complete a Trifecta than ever before, so pick those dates and start training. It may feel impossible at first, but many Spartans have overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to make their Trifecta dreams come true. There’s John Sanders, who completed his first at 14 years old. Lorraine Tobierre, a mom of seven, and Georgie Ly, who has cerebral palsy, did it. (Not to mention Paul Lachance, who — in his 80th year of life — completed 10 Trifectas.) They are all esteemed members of the Trifecta tribe.
Related: 2023 Has More Trifecta Weekends Than EVER. Join the Trifecta Tribe at One of These 16 Locations.
To help you train, we enlisted the help of Spartan SGX Coach Yancy Culp, a member of the Trifecta tribe and a true believer in the importance of loving the process.
“Is training meshed into your lifestyle in a way where you are enjoying the process?" he asks. "Because if not, the chances of you sticking with the program are slim to none."
To that end, he shared his insider Spartan tips for training your body and mind to build up the strength and endurance necessary to complete a Sprint (or Stadion), Super, and Beast (or Ultra) in the same year. His best advice for Trifecta hopefuls, though?
“Fall in love with today’s workout," he says. "Don’t let your feet hit the ground when you get out of bed until you do.”
How to Train for a Sprint or Stadion Spartan Race
Don’t Be Intimidated
“If you can walk and breathe, you can finish a Sprint,” Yancy promises.
It may mean failing obstacles, having to take the penalty, and you may take three to four times as long, but you can do it — just like the over 7 million other Spartans who have. The first step is picking a date, signing up, and putting it on your calendar. Since you’re going for the Trifecta, you'll want to complete this race early in the year so you have time to train for the Super and Beast. Yancy swears that the moment you finish it, your confidence will go through the roof and you’ll be amped up to train for the next one.
Related: 4 Tips to Train for Your First Spartan Sprint
Train for the Basic Obstacles
We’ve got workouts for days (months and years) when it comes to preparing for your first Sprint. What’s most important for a new Spartan is to practice these 10 exercises, avoid these common mistakes, and perfect your burpee technique. If there’s one thing we can guarantee in an Open heat, it's that you'll likely have to take the 30-burpee penalty at some point!
How to Train for a Super Spartan Race
Gain Confidence in Going the Distance
One of the key differences between a Sprint and a Super is the jump from 3.1 to 6.2 miles. It may not seem like much from a running perspective, but as Yancy explains, you’re doing that distance on what he calls “compromised legs.” (Translation: Your legs will be really fatigued from doing all of those obstacles in between.)
Related: 5 Tips to Train for Your First Spartan Super
His recommendation is to train three to four days a week, and to make sure that two of those workouts incorporate OCR strength training that exhausts your lower body, upper body, and core. That way, you’re training your body to finish the distance even when it’s fatigued.
Build Your Grip and Pull-Strength Endurance
According to Yancy, there’s one thing in particular that causes 99% of all obstacle failure: not being able to support your own bodyweight as you traverse across them. The solution is to train your grip and pull strength like your life depends on it. Hang from things and pull yourself up on things. His favorite exercise for this doesn’t require any equipment: Just drape a rope or towel over a horizontal surface, reach halfway up, and grab it, and pull yourself off of the ground. Your lower body will help you do the work in the beginning, until you eventually can reach and pull yourself all of the way up using only your upper body.
Related: 8 Essential Exercises to Build Incredible Grip Strength
Master the Twister With Hand Progressions
The Twister is new to Spartans doing the Super for the first time, and it has the highest failure rate. It also often takes the longest to complete. Grip and upper-body strength are key for this obstacle.
Yancy suggests testing yourself by seeing how long you can hang on a bar after running on the treadmill for four minutes. You also want to work on what he calls "hand position progression," so you can traverse across the handles quickly. You can mimic the Twister with a regular pull-up bar, hanging on it and then reversing your hand position, over time progressing to shoulder slaps in between, and then hip slaps.
"If you practice this three to four times a week, it will translate on the course,” he promises.
How to Train for a Beast or Ultra Spartan Race
Increase Your Distance With Elevation
6.2 miles to a half-marathon is a pretty big distance jump, especially when you take into account the terrain of a Beast. If you don’t live in an area where there’s natural elevation, Yancy recommends training on a treadmill with an incline to mimic the various courses’ hills. You’ll want to do lunges and step-ups (or box jumps) on those days when you’re practicing a 15-to-20-minute climb on the treadmill, so your legs get used to going the distance when they’re fatigued.
Related: My First Spartan Race Was a Beast. Here Are 5 Things I Wish I'd Known.
Yancy insists that you don’t need to run every day, though. Over the course of 14 days of training, you'll want to run six to eight times. And again, make sure to work on OCR-specific strength training throughout.
Practice Those Heavy Carries
You likely will never "fail" at a heavy carry, but they will definitely slow you down if you don’t train appropriately. In addition to priming your body with inclined runs, Yancy recommends practicing carries on some of your running days. Carry a sandbag or a weighted bucket (or whatever you have to mimic the strain it will cause on your body). Increase the weight 20-30% over the course of your training in preparation for the Beast’s hills. This will cut down your time on the course and prepare you to handle the climbs and carries without "blowing up your calves."
Master the Tyrolean Traverse
Yancy has a super insider training secret to cross this epic obstacle off your list without getting a penalty: Get on top of the rope, so that it’s supporting your bodyweight. One of your legs should be hanging down like a rudder in the water, with the other leg behind you — curled up — with your shoe resting on the top of the rope. That’s the driving force that helps push down the rope.
Push with your left leg while your right leg is resting, pulling yourself along the top of the rope. This creates a level of balance, so even if you have terrible grip strength, you can do it. (Another pro tip for the Beast Twister — which sometimes has three sections — is to move backwards so you can get across it faster.)
Make Your Grip Even Stronger
Yancy spills even more insider tricks when it comes to putting your grip strength into Beast mode. He strongly recommends practicing the farmer’s carry, because all you need is something heavy that you can hold in your hand. Every day, carry it for a longer duration, starting with 200 meters and working your way up to a mile.
Related: This Is the Best Workout to Do Before a Spartan Race
“It will build insane grip strength endurance, fatiguing your forearms and turning your hands into vices,” he says.
Work it into your training once a week and you’ll “go into cyborg mode over a three-month period.” Perfect for finishing that Beast and joining the Trifecta tribe.