How First-Time Spartan Racers Can Out-Train the 6 Hardest Obstacles

How First-Time Spartan Racers Can Out-Train the 6 Hardest Obstacles
Presented by Spartan Training®

For first-time or novice obstacle course racers, nothing will ever compare to getting out there and practicing on the actual obstacles themselves. That’s where you’ll truly learn the technical skills, bodily control, and the muscular demands to get them done. The ideal situation — if you ever plan to get competitive — is to be out there consistently doing as much race simulation as possible, both logging miles on the trails and performing the obstacles.

Related: How to Crush These 5 Obstacles Better, According to Age Group Winners

However, if you’re going to join an Open heat for your first race, haven’t raced in a long time, and don’t have much time to train (but still want to beat your friends or coworkers), here’s how to handle six of the toughest obstacles on the course. 

How to Train for (and Conquer) the 6 Hardest Spartan Race Obstacles

Rope Climb

Hardest Spartan Obstacles Training

Contrary to what you might think, the Rope Climb is a full-body exercise — not just an upper-body one. Why? The pros know that to be as efficient as possible while climbing, you should be practicing a J or S hook. These are technical skills that involve wrapping your feet around the rope, enabling you to save your arms while leveraging your legs to support and power you up. Definitely practice the leg hooks, but make sure those arms and legs are strong as well with the following exercises.

  • Squat
  • Tuck Jump
  • Dead Hang, Pull-up, or Inverted Row
  • Pull-Down
  • Reverse Curls

The squats will strengthen your legs, the tuck jumps will enhance your lower-body power, the dead hangs, pull-ups, inverted rows, and pulldowns will improve your upper-body vertical pulling strength, and the reverse curls will strengthen your forearms. 

Atlas Stone

Hardest Spartan Obstacles Training

The Atlas Stone is a bend and lift. You'll have to really turn on all of the muscles in your core and use a lot of your legs to save your back. Then, rely on your arms to do some carrying. 

  • Plank
  • Side Plank
  • Sit-Up or Hollow Hold
  • Weighted Front-Rack Carry
  • Sumo Deadlift

The plank, side plank, and sit-up (or hollow hold) will develop your core strength from multiple angles, the weighted front-rack carry will also strengthen your core, legs, and shoulders. The sumo deadlift will strengthen your back, glutes, and hamstrings.

Olympus Wall

Hardest Spartan Obstacles Training

The Olympus Wall is awkward as hell. Age Group winners and Elites alike say that there seems to be a few different ways to do this one efficiently. But either way, your legs, arms, and grip will be truly tested. No matter how well-trained you are, when it comes to race day, you can only pray that no one from the Spartan Media Team is capturing any photographic evidence of your attempt to traverse this often burpee-inducing obstacle.

  • Isometric Squat Hold
  • Plate Pinches
  • Dead Hang

The isometric squat hold will simulate what it would be like to prop yourself up with your feet into the Olympus Wall, and the plate pinches will improve your grip strength by taxing the small muscles in your fingers along with your forearms. Similarly to the plate pinches, the dead hang will improve your grip strength while also strengthening your shoulders and back.

Related: Why Doing a Daily Dead Hang Can Save Your Life

Sandbag and/or Bucket Carry

Hardest Spartan Obstacles Training

The Sandbag and Bucket Carry are at about equal suck level, depending on who you ask. While the Atlas Stone is heavy, it’s a relatively quick challenge in comparison to the slow and painful slog of the Sandbag and/or Bucket Carry. Again, this is another obstacle with different techniques depending on personal preference, but you’ll want to build as much strength and muscular endurance in your legs as possible.

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Weighted Step-Ups
  • Weighted Incline Walk


The squats and lunges will strengthen all areas of your legs while the weighted step ups and weighted incline walks will simulate the muscular demands of an uphill carry. 

Barbed Wire Crawl

Hardest Spartan Obstacles Training

The Barbed Wire Crawl is sneakily tough. How tough can crawling be? Well, very, especially when you need to stay low enough not to slice yourself open. (And when it’s anything further than about 10 or 15 feet ... and up a hill.)

Your core, legs, forearms, and shoulders will be burning like hell the whole way. 

  • Bear Crawl
  • Crab Crawl
  • 90s Stretch
  • Pigeon Pose
  • Burpees

The bear crawl is a perfect simulation of the Barbed Wire Crawl obstacle. It will strengthen your core, legs, and shoulders. Flipping over and crab crawling will counterbalance the bear crawl by strengthening the opposing muscles. This will eliminate any weaknesses or imbalances. The 90s stretch and pigeon pose will improve your hip mobility in the event that you need to get even lower to the ground at certain points. What purpose do the burpees serve? To race fast, you need to train fast.

The 5-Day First-Timer Sprint, Super, and Beast Training Schedule

The following accelerated program takes the exercises listed above and compiles them into a full weekly training program that you can perform week over week, no matter which race you plan on tackling. 

Monday: Uphill Walk at Low Intensity

For Sprint Prep: Incline walk at 12% grade for approximately 15-20 minutes.
For Super Prep: Incline walk at 12% grade for 20-30 minutes (with weight vest, if possible).
For Beast Prep: Incline walk at 12% grade for 40+ minutes (with weight vest, if possible).

Tuesday: Pull and Carry

  • Plank (3 sets x as long as possible)
  • Side Plank (3 sets x as long as possible on each side)
  • Sit-Up (3 sets x 25 reps) or Hollow Hold (3 sets x for as long as possible)
  • Farmer Carry (3 sets x as long as possible, with 40-70-pound dumbbells or kettlebells)
  • Pull-Up, Inverted Row, or Dead Hang (3 sets x as long as possible on each side)
  • Pull-Down (3 sets x 10-15 reps)
  • Reverse Curls (3 sets x 10-15 reps)

Wednesday: Tempo Runs 

For Sprint Prep: 2 miles at easy and harder paces throughout
For Super Prep: 4 miles at easy and harder paces throughout
For Beast Prep: 4-6 miles at easy and harder paces throughout

  • 30-90 burpees

Thursday: Active Recovery

Friday: Lower-Body Strength 

  • Plank (3 sets x as long as possible)
  • Side Plank (3 sets x as long as possible on each side)
  • Sit-Up (3 sets x 25 reps) or Hollow Hold (3 sets x as long as possible)
  • Squats (3 sets x 30 seconds)
  • Lunges (3 sets for 30 seconds)
  • Weighted Step-Ups (3 sets x 10-15 reps)
  • Sumo Deadlift (3 sets x 8-10 reps)

Saturday: Active Recovery

Sunday: Long Run 

For Sprint Prep: 4 miles at a comfortable pace
For Super Prep: 6 miles at easy and harder paces throughout
For Beast Prep: 8 miles* at easy and harder paces throughout
*Increase mileage by 10% each week.

Commit to Your First Race

If you can easily run a 5K, commit to a Sprint.
If a 10K is a breeze, commit to a Super.
If a half-marathon is no problem, commit to a Beast.
If you can run a marathon (and/or are downright crazy), commit to an Ultra.

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