The Spartan Guide to Building the Ultimate At-Home Obstacle Course
Right now, it's more crucial than ever to #BeUnbreakable (and stay unbreakable). Life with COVID-19 seems up in the air, though—in good news, business are reopening and we're hosting our first post-lockdown race (with new health protocols) in Florida next month. On the flip side, people are still stuck at home, and until the CDC knows more about Coronavirus, it's probably the safest bet.
That said, if you're just over it, we're with you. As much as discipline and routine have muscled us through this pandemic thus far, we also have to lighten up and have a little fun, too. So if staying at home feels like an unbearable GD haul right now, we've got your back with a sweet DIY project to keep you busy. Enter: the ultimate backyard obstacle course. (Remember when you were a kid and built forts? Yeah, like that, but better.)
With just a few household items, you can design your own at-home OCR training arena. "It's a lot easier than you think," says Steve Hammond, longtime course manager and OCR consultant for Spartan Race. "We have stuff around the yard and inside the house that we can replicate Spartan obstacles in a simple, fun way. Staying sharp with your obstacle training is critical right now. During this time in lockdown, it's easy to get complacent and not exercise these skills."
No, you don't have to be a construction worker to make it happen. All you need is a little imagination, and a basic understanding of what fitness skills you're trying to hone. For example, if you're working on grip strength, Hammond says try carrying your kid around to replicate the Bucket Carry. The key is to keep it simple. "I like to create a series of low-maintenance obstacles that keep me on my toes and my kid can enjoy as well," says Hammond. Here are his top-tier ideas to make your at-home obstacle course easy to craft, but totally badass. Run this in circuits, and you'll be OCR-ready when the time comes. Guaranteed.
How to Build a Backyard Obstacle Course
Obstacle #1: Hercules Hoist
Key Skill: Grip Strength
Similar to obstacles like walls, carries and the Rope Climb, the Hercules Hoist tests your upper body strength and endurance to the max. The quicker you can hoist, the more efficient your hoist will be. Grip strength disintegrates quickly when you stop working on it, so keep it shipshape with a pulley system and a weight like the one Hammond sets up below.
What You Need:
- Eye bolt
- Weight (Hammond uses his son in a climbing harness)
- Drill with small bit
SPARTAN Official Climbing Rope Spartan
SPARTAN Official Climbing Rope
Related: Hercules Hoist Training: A Week of Workouts for a Stronger Upper Body
How to Rig Up Your Own Herc Hoist
Use an existing hook or eye bolt if you already have one mounted high somewhere in your garage or yard. If not, drill a small pilot hole and screw an eye bolt in. Feed the rope through the eye bolt.
Attach your weight to the end. (Your kid works, too!)
Practice your grip and arm strength by raising and lowering the weight, or go for speed.
PRO TIP: Switch up the weight on the end and track how fast you can go. As you increase the weight, see if, overtime, you can also increase your speed. This means progress.
Related: How to Make Concrete Holds to Train Your Grip Strength
Obstacle #2: Plate Drag
Key Skill: Upper Body Strength
This modified Plate Drag is one of the best ways to build serious upper body strength, right in your own backyard. Unlike gym weights that also work your shoulders, arms and chest, this exercise deals with uneven ground and (if you're using your kid) a weight that might move around. These added variables will make this challenge feel more like the course itself.
What You Need:- Sled
- Weight (sandbag, log, kid, dog etc.)
- Open Space
Related: How To Train For An Obstacle Course Race
How to Master the Plate Drag
Tie the rope to the front of your sled and place your weight on it. (The longer your rope is, the greater distance you'll have to pull, so play with your length to find a good fit for your space.)
Allow the rope to become taut.Engage your core and take a bend in the knees. Pull the weighted sled from the far end of your space toward you. Rewind and repeat.
PRO TIP: You can also try this at a higher heart rate after a quick tempo run to increase the challenge.
Related: 4 DIY OCR Tools to Amp Up Your At-Home Gym
Obstacle #3: Barbwire Crawl
Key Skills: Rolling, Core Strength, Stamina, Hip Mobility
To prepare for the Barbwire Crawl, it's smart to work on your roll-to-crawl techniques. Sure, passing the Barbwire Obstacle is doable for most Spartans—but it slows them down. To avoid this, practice staying low to the ground, get comfortable with rolling, and embrace face-fulls of mud, dirt, grass, and rocks. Add uphill and downhill sections if you have access to them to simulate course-like conditions. With a little training, you'll make up a ton of time on this obstacle.
What You Need:
-Flat open space
How to Simulate the Barbed Wire Crawl
Practice rolling across uneven terrain in your backyard. Move as quickly as you can, allowing yourself to become accustomed to the speed. Try to keep your awareness of your orientation.
PRO TIP: Take it up a notch by throwing in various crawling techniques, like the Bear Crawl, Army Crawl, and Shrimping. Focus on smooth transitions, moving from one technique to the other and staying as low as possible to the ground.
Related: Spartan Death Race: Barbed Wire Crawl WR Attempt
Obstacle #4: Bucket/Sandbag Carry
Key Skill: Grip Strength, Core Strength, Shoulder Mobility
In a race, you're tasked with carrying a weighted 5-gallon bucket several hundred yards, which gets heavy fast. Dominating the Spartan Bucket Carry requires strength of the upper-back, glutes, your grip, and some serious posterior-chain endurance. Plus, holding the Bucket can feel clunky if you don't practice your arm-wrap technique to hold it close to your body as you move. With a mini-mapped out course and some awkward AF objects, you can quickly build physical and mental strength for this obstacle.
What You Need:- Weight (log, bucket filled with sand, sandbag, cement mix, kid etc.)
Related: Obstacle Fitness Training: Bucket Carry
How to Crush the Bucket Carry
Plan a route around your yard, down your street, through varied terrain. Grab your weight, hold it in tight to your chest, engage your core and get going.
PRO TIP: Try the Bear Hug technique. Hold the bucket (or weight) high against your chest with your arms wrapped around it as one hand grasps the opposite wrist. Squeeze in tight using your lats and back muscles. This keeps the bucket close to your center of gravity, which allows you to move faster and carry longer.
Related: 5 Workouts for the Bucket Carry
Obstacle #5: Multi-Rig/Monkey Bars
Key Skill: Grip Strength, Upper Body Strength, Weighted Hangs
At first glance, the Multi-Rig and Monkey Bars seem like some of the most straightforward obstacles in a Spartan Race. You did them all the time as a kid on the playground, after all. Jump, swing, reach, repeat, and you’re through, right? Wrong. These kinds of obstacles require that you build enough grip and upper-body strength to hang from and propel yourself forward, strategically. To build on the grip strength you already have, get used to hanging for periods of time and you'll blow through these obstacles.
What You Need:- Something to hang from (climbing holds, pull up bar, door frame etc.)
Related: Multi-Rig Tutorial: Essential Tips and Tricks
How to Practice Weighted-Holds for the Monkey Bars/Multi Rig
Create a dedicated space where you can hang. Install climbing grips, a pull-up bar, use your kids’ monkey bars... get creative. You can also go hardcore and build grip strength just from hanging by your fingers in a door frame.
PRO TIP: Accumulated time in goes a long way in making you more comfortable bearing your own weight. Focus on keeping your core, back, and arm muscles engaged to prevent injury in the shoulder joints.