There are some basics when it comes to how to train for an obstacle course race: You can expect to run, hike, crawl, jump, and climb your way through typically muddy, mountainous terrain. Here’s exactly how to prepare.
Signing up for an obstacle course race can boost your motivation by giving you a date on the calendar for which to train.
Obstacle course race training doesn’t just provide physical benefits like weight loss, improved balance, coordination, mobility, functional strength, and cardiovascular endurance, however. The sport also offers major mental and social benefits as you test your mental fortitude and compete alongside a global community of like-minded fitness enthusiasts.
What to Expect From an Obstacle Course Race
Every obstacle course race is slightly different depending on location, event type, and terrain, but you can usually expect to complete anywhere between 3 to 31 miles of running and hiking and 20 to 60 obstacles. While some obstacles require pure physical strength, some are more skill based.
If you’re considering signing up for a Spartan race, here are a few obstacles you’ll face – plus how to train for them.
1. Bucket Carry
The typical bucket carry obstacle requires you to carry a five-gallon bucket filled with rocks (about 40 to 50 pounds for women and 50 to 75 pounds for men) around a loop (typically a quarter-mile) before continuing on the course. A staple of mountainous races, the loop usually involves a hill.
Barbell and/or dumbbell deadlifts prepare your lower back for the strain it will encounter during this unforgiving obstacle, and machine back extensions and barbell good-mornings are also great moves to prepare your spinal erectors (the muscles that support your spine) for this core-centric obstacle.
2. Rope Climb
The Spartan Rope Climb is a staple obstacle, and it requires a combination of strength (particularly in your back and biceps), technique, and overcoming any fear of heights.
Inverted rows on a Smith Machine or TRX system help build your back up for this challenging obstacle, and you can simulate climbing a mud-slicked rope by looping a towel over a pull-up bar and hanging for as long as you can. However, the best practice is to find a gym with ropes and climb them.
Like monkey bars, rigs are tall metal structures equipped with all sorts of hanging objects you’ll have to grab one-by-one to get across. Many rigs feature gymnastics rings, ropes, frayed nylon, baseballs – any combination of objects that’ll absolutely torch your forearms as you try to hold on.
Practicing the monkey bars at your local park or walking your hands side-to-side while hanging from a pull-up bar can help you prepare for any unknown rigs at your next obstacle course race.
4. Barbed Wire Crawl
Nearly every obstacle course race includes some type of low-crawling obstacle. Practicing army and bear crawls at the gym will prepare you to move quickly and efficiently while low to the ground. And because this movement requires solid hip mobility, incorporate side lunges and wide mountain climbers to prepare your hips for the course’s demands.
8-Week Obstacle Course Race Training Plan
Training for an obstacle course race will ideally include a combination of the following 10 training modalities and practices.
2. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
3. Core and Lower Back
5. Full-Body Endurance
7. Grip Strength
9. Active Recovery
If you’re ready to train for an obstacle course race, follow this training plan to cross the finish line in eight weeks.