You love them. You hate them. You crush them. They own you. They're a welcome break from the nonstop running. They kick your ass when you're on a roll.
Every racer has a different relationship with obstacles, but one thing is universal: You need to overcome them over the course of a Spartan race, or you're doomed to an afternoon of endless burpees and a poor finishing time.
There are a lot of Spartan obstacles, and we mean a lot. Over the course of a race, you might face off against anywhere from 20 (a Sprint or Stadion) to 60 (an Ultra). Before your race, you need to know what you're up against. We've put together the ultimate obstacle bible, designed to educate and prepare you for any and every obstacle that might be in your path.
Scroll below for detailed instructions, tips, videos, and images to get you fully prepped and ready for every obstacle you can expect to see on race day.
Spartan Race Obstacles: A Complete Breakdown of Every Single One
A towering obstacle that takes after its name, this giant A-shaped structure will test both your dynamic footwork and fear of heights. Climb over the top and down as quickly as possible using only the webbing. This is hard to do fast, especially in wet conditions.
Balancing blindfolded on a fragile wire 50 feet above the ground, you'll fear for your life. That's why we made this obstacle a lot lower, with no blindfold, but it's definitely harder than it sounds. You need to walk up the incline, across the top, and down the other side without falling off. Still not convinced? Former Spartan World Champion Robert Killian fell off the balance beam during the 2019 Trifecta World Championship in Greece.
Often found in European Spartan events, the Slack Line is the Balance Beam's cousin. You must walk across a tightly-strung truck strap from one side to the other. Unlike a wooden balance beam, the Slack Line twists and bows under your weight, making it extremely difficult to keep from falling off and earning a 30-burpee penalty.
The Atlas Carry is a strength challenge that dates back more than 1,000 years, to the Highland Games of Scotland. Summon Celtic strength to lift a 100 lb/45 kg stone up, carry it around a flagpole, and haul it back to the start. Female competitors must carry an equally difficult 75 lb/35 kg stone.
The Armer is the sick invention of a Spartan madman who discovered that the Farmer's Carry becomes exponentially harder when you have just one weight instead of two. This makes you stagger to one side as you try and heave the thing out and back to the start. The Armer is comprised of a handle, a chain, and a giant heavy Atlas stone.
Chains that can hold a cargo ship are heavy, and these are no exception. They also make you look extremely badass in photos. Picture yourself carrying one of these things around your shoulders while hiking up a steep hill in the pouring rain. Who wouldn't want to see a picture of that?
Double Sandbag Carry
You may not have guessed it, but this is the most feared obstacle of all, according to Spartan Pros and Elites. The Double Sandbag Carry is both horribly awkward and ridiculously heavy, and it drains every drop of strength from your body as you clutch onto these long, sand-filled sacks and haul them around the marked course. You'll find this obstacle on Beast and Ultra courses only, and for good reason.
Ancient Greek farming was all about carrying heavy stuff around all day, and for modern Spartans, it still is. Grab two weights, one in each hand, and watch your knees buckle and shake as you walk to the turnaround point and back.
Not much of an explanation is needed for this one. It's a log, which is heavy as s**t, and you've got to carry it around.
Vertical Cargo Plus
In Super races and beyond, you’ll need to first get your butt over a towering shelf before clambering onto the vertical webbing itself.
What’s in The Box? Not you, because you'll be on top of it (should you manage to actually get up there). This towering black monolith of an obstacle has ropes dangling for those that decide to use them, and a surprise at the top is guaranteed to make scaling it exponentially more difficult.
Stairway to Sparta
You'll find this obstacle on Super, Beast, and Ultra course. This is a narrow A-shaped obstacle with a smooth 3-foot wall at its base, followed by horizontal ladder rungs up and over the other side. In Beast mode, the rungs are replaced with rock-climbing handholds. The coolest part? You'll have a panoramic view of the course around you from the top.
This intermediate-to-advanced obstacle is essentially a ladder with a series of wide rungs starting high off the ground. Each of the rungs bends back toward you, making it progressively harder to get up, over the top, and down onto the crash mats on the other side.
Here’s a wall with a twist. It’s a hollow frame, filled in with vertical- and horizontally-strung webbing on both sides, and it must be climbed with speed and precision. There are some pro techniques to get down the other side, including the forward flip while grabbing onto the webbing. Trying this without proper training is not advised or recommended!
Capital A-Frame Cargo
Imagine the A-Frame Cargo on steroids! We supersized this obstacle, and the result is massive.
There have been many amazing cliffs in Spartan history. Some of them are scrambles up a mountainside, and others are waterfalls in the middle of a forest, like in the annual Spartan event in Morzine, France.
If this technique really came from the Tyrolean Alps over 100 years ago, whoever invented it got a kick out of dangling from a horizontal high rope while hanging upside down. This is a classic alpinist and military challenge, with a few different techniques for getting across. Correct use of the feet as an anchor is crucial to keep from falling off.
At Spartan, swimming challenges come in all varieties, from teeth-chattering frozen mountain lakes to torrential tropical rivers to stints in the sparkling ocean. Sometimes there will be an extra challenge thrown in for good measure, like pushing a big heavy log in front of you. In deep water, you’ll get handed a personal flotation device.
Rolling Mud is a series of deep, water-filled mud pits that make your life difficult by filling your shoes and socks with wet, sticky mud. It’s called “rolling” because you’ll need to wade through several of these pits of brown mud and water, including scrambling up and down slippery slopes on either side of the pits.
Who doesn’t love a dip in freezing, muddy, murky water? You. Submerge, swim under a floating wall, and pop up on the other side. The Dunk Wall takes seconds for some and tens of minutes for others. Happy swimming.
This often involves a steep wooden ladder on two sides of a flat crossing, sometimes made from stacked cargo containers. It's high, and after running your legs off, you'll want to take this carefully.
This obstacle has defined Spartan World Championships. Your challenge is to choose a spear, fire at a target 25 ft/7.6 m away, and hope it sticks in the target without falling out. Once you try the Spear Throw once, you'll want to come back and try it again. If you miss, it will cost you 30 burpees.
The Fire Jump is the iconic finish-line obstacle. If you want to prove that you're truly a Spartan, you need to have at least a few Fire Jump photos to show off to your friends. There are different ways to complete this obstacle. Some go for hang time. Others tap an ankle. Racers have also been known to tuck jump or join hands with friends. Just don’t land in the fire...
Barbed Wire Crawl
Wire obstacles were used during the Civil War to slow the enemy, and since then, armed forces around the world have made this a staple of basic obstacle courses. Click here to learn how to conquer it in three simple steps.
Gym class was nothing. At the top of the 16 ft/4.8m rope is a bell that must be rung with your hand. All Spartan race levels feature the Rope Climb, and it becomes progressively more difficult in cold, wet, or muddy conditions. Top Spartan athletes get up and down in a matter of seconds, but don't let that discourage you. With certain techniques that can be quickly learned, anyone can conquer this obstacle.
Hard men and women like sandbags. Spartan sandbags come in various shapes and weigh 60 pounds (27 kg) for men and 40 pounds (18 kg) for women. This isn't like carrying a bag of groceries.You'll usually find the Sandbag Carry on uneven ground, in mud, or if you’re particularly (un)lucky, up the side of a ski slope. If you're racing Age Group or Elite, you'll have competitors running with theirs and bearing down on you.
Even the fiercest Spartan men and women have been reduced to tears in the face of the Bucket Carry. It’s awkward, it’s heavy, and it may have you blaming your parents for giving you puny T-Rex forearms. The Bucket Carry obstacle becomes more agonizing when placed on the side of a hill. Beast and Ultra racers take note: Expect to carry your bucket a long way, and probably uphill.
The Memory Test is a classic Open-heat-only obstacle found in City races and select Beast and Ultra events. You'll need to memorize a sequence of ancient Greek symbols, and then sometime later on the course, when you least expect it, recite the exact sequence to a race official. It's not easy, and even the most photographic of memories can struggle with this after running for miles.
As if burpees weren't already brutal enough, the weighted burpee involves a clean and press of a heavy Spartan RAM over your head, while extending your hips and elbows. In between, you're required to drop to the ground — just like a regular burpee — with your chest touching the deck. Then, you'll jump to your feet and press the Spartan RAM over your head. Expect your heart rate to climb fast.
Rolling Epic is a true test of core strength. Place both feet on the dolly (a.k.a. platform with wheels) and get into plank position while keeping your hands on the ground. Hand-walk to the end line while staying in plank position, keeping your feet on the dolly, which will be following behind you. If anything apart from your hands and elbows touches the ground, it’s burpee time.
Fans of functional fitness rejoice! Box jumps require full-body explosive power, not just strong legs. You’ll need to use your arms and sense of balance to jump up onto the box. Stand tall and extend your hips, and then jump back down again 15 times. Spartan referees will check your form.
This obstacle is in Stadion races. It calls for 15 push-ups, with slightly unusual form. Lift your hands up from the ground as soon as your chest touches, and then press back up again. That's one repetition.
Even kids can jump rope. That’s why this Stadion-specific obstacle takes the mother-of-all heavy ropes, places an elastic band around your ankles, and requires you to complete 15 arm-and-shoulder burning reps.
Jerry Can Carry
This is a favorite of Spartans from Down Under. Pick up one or two 42 lb/19 kg water containers and carry them through the marked course as fast as possible.
This special Stadion-only obstacle features hanging heavy bags that you must run through. Choose the bulldozer method (slow) or a more nimble approach (hard). Either way, the bags will be swinging all over the place, so keep your feet!
Will you pedal all out and hit the 10-calorie target fast, or take a more leisurely Sunday ride approach and work on a few selfies? There is no time limit, so if you do burpees on this obstacle you are a certified lunatic, and are doing it simply for the joy of self-punishment.
This is a Barbed Wire Crawl without the barbs. This is often found in stairwells at Stadion events, making for some awkward stair climbs. Your body can touch the paracord.
The Slam Ball is a great way to destress while getting ripped. You pick up a 25 lb/6.8 kg medicine ball, lift it over your head, and slam it onto the ground. Pick it up again and repeat 15 times. Stress balls are for wimps.
"Herc" is essentially a heavy sandbag attached to a rope and pulley system. Each competitor must pull on enough rope to raise the weight to the top, and then gently lower it back down without it free-falling. Look like a pro and brace one foot on the fence, and use your body as a cantilever. This obstacle comes in Sprint, Super, and Beast flavors.
When you're not flipping tires on a Spartan course, you'll be dragging them, out and back again across uneven ground.
Plate Drag is a heavy sled attached to a long rope. You must pull it from the starting mark all the way to your feet, and then use your hands to drag the entire sled back to its starting position. Sometimes Plate Drag is on slippery snow and ice, but you’ll usually encounter thick grass, mud, sand, and rocks to add some extra friction.
Experienced Spartans know that the elusive Ape Hanger is a special championship obstacle worth tracking down. When spotted in the wild, this rare obstacle features a Rope Climb over water, followed by a tricky transfer to an ascending/descending monkey bar ladder, with a bell at the other end. Sign up for a championship race to experience it firsthand.
Monkey in the Middle
This combines two tricky challenges into one: Twister, followed by Monkey Bars, followed again by another section of Twister. The transfer between Twister and the Monkey Bars breaks all rhythm and recruits an entirely different technique, especially if navigating Twister backwards, as many do. Whether you're an Open, Age Group, or Elite athlete, you can experience Twister at championship-level races across the world.
Beater might as well have been named after the sheer number of Spartans who have been defeated by it. In reality, it was named after its spinning wheels of monkey bars, which look like an eggbeater. Depending on the type of event you’re racing, Beater can be comprised of a few spinning bars mixed with some stationary horizontal bars, or entirely made up of tricky rotating bars placed at different heights. Get a good flow going on this obstacle, and it's a hell of a good feeling.
A long line of rotating handles attached to a spinning bar stands between you and the bell you must ring at the other end. This is a supercharged overhead rig found in Super and Beast races, and every time you grab a handle, it rotates (along with all the other handles in your lane). Note that each handle is offset from the next by approximately 20 degrees, requiring control of the attitude and motion of your body. In other words, Twister is hard.
The Multi-Rig comes in many configurations, starting with the Sprint and going right up to the Ultra. Sometimes you’ll encounter rings, other times rings and pipes, and sometimes ropes, baseballs, and other tricky things to grab onto. There’s seemingly no pattern as to who makes it across — tall, short, light, heavy, young, or old. It doesn't seem to make a difference. It’s all technique, and there are a variety of them. There's even a rarely-seen version with a wall ending.
This special Super-only version features a solid wall at one end. Once you reach the wall, you'll have to dismount the Multi-Rig and grab onto the wall, scale it, and dismount on the other side.
This thing will have you asking 6-year-olds for an autograph. But these are no playground monkey bars. The height of the bars, and the length in between them, is no joke, and the bars are staggered for Super events and upwards. Beware of wet and muddy hands: If you slip and fall off, it’s 30 burpees. Women may use the red step to get onto the rig.
You must race at Super and Beast levels to take on Olympus, with Beast mode being the hardest. Inspired by bouldering, Olympus is an obtuse-angled wall with a plethora of holes, rock-climbing holds, and short chains to grab onto. First pick a route, or freestyle as you go. Any of the handholds may be used, as long as your feet don't touch the holds.
Consistently voted a racer favorite, Helix is deceptive in its difficulty, and it has even sent many Elite racers to the burpee zone. Shaped like a twisting metal strand of DNA, you must climb from one side to the other while avoiding touching the top. Just as you get a handhold, you’ll notice that the footholds have disappeared, and then vice versa. Respect the Helix.
Beast and Ultra racers: Prepare to adduct, because hanging heavy bags stand in your way. It’s your job to catch onto one, and then transfer yourself to another — then another, then another — without touching the ground. This is as difficult as it sounds, especially during the transfers.
This is literally a zig-zagging wall in the shape of the letter Z, with a variety of slanting hand and footholds that are just small enough to make slipping off a reality. Getting around the corners is also challenging, considering you’re not allowed to touch the top of the obstacle or the ground. It's fun to leap off and smack the bell once you're close enough.
Imagine a giant box full of a maze of criss-crossing pipes that you must weave through without touching the ground. This athletic obstacle requires route planning and core strength, and can be found at Super, Beast, and Ultra events. It's also been known to make special appearances at Stadion races.
This is a special Super-only obstacle. A Multi-Rig for the feet, the Low Rider is comprised of hanging ropes and foot platforms that you must transfer between without falling off. The whole experience is highly unstable, so hang on tight!
Spartan walls are formidable wooden barriers. Starting at 4 feet and reaching up to 8 feet high, walls require a combination of strength, agility, coordination, and technique to scale. As always, Spartans are encouraged to attack the course together but conquer all obstacles alone, and walls are no exception. Once you get some practice, scaling walls quickly is one of the most satisfying parts of Spartan races. Higher walls feature a red “kicker” for female competitors.
Whoever named this had no idea what inverted actually means, but the name stuck. You'll find this in almost all races. It's an acute, angled wall that stops many in their tracks. With some practice, it's possible to run at it, flip over the top, slap the face of it with one arm, and catapult down the other side. You will surely be more popular if you can do this.
It didn't take long to name this obstacle, but it will take you awhile to get up and down the other side. This sloping metal ramp is wet and often covered in mud. For Sprints, there’s long ropes. Supers and Beasts have short ropes, and there's times where there are no ropes at all. You’ll smell smoke from the Fire Jump at the finish line while you slip and slide repeatedly back down to the start.
Did you compete in track and field in high school? Cool, but that won't help you with this obstacle. These hurdles are high enough that you have to haul your entire body onto the hurdle itself, and then roll and drop down to the other side. Hurdles have a habit of showing up halfway through a brutal hill climb.