Lifting heavy weights is not a new phenomenon. Research has long suggested that you will gain more strength when exercising with heavier weights. We've all seen the muscle magazines and Venice Beach has been around for a while now.
But us Spartans, we are concerned about endurance and longevity. We care about mobility and agility. Does lifting heavy interfere with these goals? Where does strength fit into the mix?
Heavy strength training should be the number one tool in every Spartan’s training toolbox. This is because heavy strength training will help you:
- Build stronger legs to power you up a mountain
- Make your grip strength skyrocket
- Hone your mental toughness
Because of the functional nature of our sport, strength training for us should be programmed differently than that of a bodybuilder or a position-specific athlete. Our body is required to work in a singular unit at all times out on the course.
When working maximum strength in the obstacle course racing world, it is essential that every racer incorporates at least one big lift into every strength training workout. The necessary big lifts should work one primary motion:
- Lower body push
- Lower body pull
- Upper body push
- Upper body pull
The most beneficial of these lifts for OCR athletes are:
When you perform these movements, you are recruiting your total body to effectively lift weight. You will work your major muscle groups, but need to also learn to fire your stabilizer muscles to maintain proper form and to prevent injuries. This allows for more joints to fire synonymously, thus requiring more energy needed, burning more calories, and producing a stronger force.
As Spartan Racers, we want to train our bodies to for the greatest force production possible with the littlest amount of energy expenditure. While it sounds taxing to work yourself at a maximum effort in training, even though you won’t need to lift to this extent on race day, by increasing your maximum strength and utilizing maximum energy in training, your body will learn to preserve as much energy as possible on the course when strength demands aren’t as significant.
In other words: train hard, race easy.
So how should you program your workouts to accommodate maximum strength training? Here are three pointers:
- Perform your heaviest lifts first. These are going to be the Olympic lifts that require the most amount of joint involvement and the most energy expenditure. These movements are going to be done at a heavier weight with a moderate number of sets, but a lower number of repetitions.
- Do not push past 6 repetitions in any set. Once you’ve finished your major lifts, then you can work your accessory or lesser joint movements for a lower set range and a higher repetition volume. The weight here will be significantly lighter than your major movers because we do not have as many joints producing that force.
- Sit down and take extra time re-evaluating your training. Are you lifting heavy weights? It is never too late to begin incorporating heavy strength training. Climbing and carrying will become easier, hanging obstacles will suddenly feel much more simple, and you’ll be able to dig down deeper into the pain cave with your newfound grit and determination. To get big results, you need to lift big weights.