Truth: To crush a Spartan race, you must have a regular, rock-solid weightlifting routine that builds total-body strength to power you through monkey bars, haul sandbags, send wall climbs, and muscle up for on-course surprises.
The good news? With just a few equipment essentials and lots of grit, you can torch target muscle groups to prepare for race day — and, ultimately, never get soft.
“I think of fitness in three different cups: endurance, strength, and power,” says Spartan Master Coach Trevor Franklin. “To be resilient and anti-fragile in OCR, you want the strength cup to be super full.” Think about a marathoner, he says. Sure, long-distance runners can pound out the mileage, but their body compositions tend to be leaner, and they can struggle with bone health.
Lifting — both with equipment and body weight — in addition to endurance and power work (like plyometrics), sets athletes up for bone-and-muscle health, and long-game performance, no matter their sport. “Strength training will keep you active longer than everything else,” says Franklin. “It’ll keep you more resilient in life, and generally speaking, a strong body is a prepared body for OCR.”
That’s where a DIY weight routine works wonders. Most Spartans are busy people, and don’t always have time for three-hour sweat sessions. So, we tapped Franklin (an absolute pro at crafting total-body fitness workouts) for his favorite, simple, yet highly-effective 30-minute session. Do this right at home in a time crunch, or as a precursor to longer cardio workouts.
The Rationale Behind Trevor’s Workout:
Franklin intentionally designed this to warm up your joints, move into supersets featuring compound lifts and isolated movements, and then balance those out with bodyweight work. The key, he says, is focusing on slow lifts to fight gravity and maximize the eccentric benefits.
Because you’ll be engaging competing muscle groups throughout this workout, you should be fatigued. Your muscles should be burning. And you should see big gains (if you’re doing it right). Give it a shot, and keep in mind Franklin’s pro tips sprinkled throughout to avoid common pitfalls that many athletes make in form and function.
Consider this excellent race-day prep to build grip strength, foster dynamic power, and destroy obstacles. Hint: Got more time? Flex the number of sets completed up to four. Still building up your weight base? Drop the number of sets to two. Need equipment? Titan Fitness has everything you need to tackle this workout.
The 30-Minute Total-Body Workout to Prep for OCR
Goal: “This is designed to get your spine moving: Mobility is key to maintaining integrity in the spine during the lifts to come,” says Franklin. “For example, when you’re using the barbell, you want your spine to be equally mobile and stacked for proper form. So, in this warm-up, we loosen the upper spine with rotations, first, to ensure you get the most bang for your buck later on.”
Time: 3 minutes; set a timer for 30-45 seconds for each movement
From all fours, place your hands underneath your shoulders, knees underneath your hips. Inhale and drop your stomach, look up. Exhale, round the spine and press it up to the ceiling. Curl your nose to your naval. Repeat.
PRO TIP: “This wakes up the erector muscles of the spine and gets it active,” Franklin says. A must, especially if you’re going from desk to gym.
WGS (World’s Greatest Stretch)
Start in a high plank position. Shift your weight into your right hand and right foot, and reach your left hand up to the ceiling, rotating your trunk. Repeat back and forth from right to left sides until the timer runs out.
PRO TIP: “The key is to disassociate your hips from your torso, so keep them low, and stretch upward with your chest,” says Franklin. “This will feel different to each athlete (I feel it in my low back, which I like) but should aim to increase upper-spine mobility without torquing on it.”
Hip Openers (2 Options, Pick 1)
The Fire Hydrant: From beast position on hands and knees, lift one knee up, back, and out, like you’re a dog peeing on a fire hydrant. Repeat, flipping sides.
Standing Hip Flex: Stand up tall, drive one knee up until it’s at 90 degrees. Open it out to the side as far as you can, keeping your knee bent. Bring it back to center, drive it down, and switch sides. Repeat.
Remember when you’d skip as a kid? Do that: Jump high off one leg, reach with your opposite arm. Repeat moving back and forth from side to side.
PRO TIP: “This is a fun one to warm up your feet and get the Achilles tendon ready to rock and roll,” says Franklin.
Time: 9 minutes
Goal: Focus on the eccentric movement. In other words, lengthen your muscles on the way down into the squat — the objective isn’t to move fast. (That’s why Franklin included only four reps). He recommends counting three seconds on the way down, then driving up in one second to stand up tall.
PRO TIP: “I often see athletes loosen in the chest, causing their shoulders to fall forward,” says Franklin. “This indicates a lack of mobility in the thoracic spine. Keep a proud chest: Look straight ahead — not down, not up — and squeeze the barbell with your hands to promote a proud chest.”
Goal: Focus on lengthening your hamstrings as you reach your hips back.
PRO TIP: “Don’t round the spine,” says Franklin. “Think of pouring cement into your stomach so you can maintain a strong core. Success with this move comes in the hinge: the reach in the hips and bend in the knees.”
Goal: Stand up tall, step back with your left foot, and drop your back knee. Your right knee should be bent at 90 degrees. Make it more challenging: Don’t let your back knee hit the ground to maintain tension. Count three seconds on your way down, and drive up in one second — this helps keep your weight centered and lights up your glutes.
PRO TIP: “Leaning too far forward or backward with the chest and shoulders isn’t great form,” says Franklin. “Think about integrity in your back leg as it moves up and down, and imagine a straight pole running through your spine.”
Time: 9 minutes
Goal: Make this a strict upper-body press where your legs aren’t involved. Maintain tension in the lower part of the lift, and exhale to press up the bar. The bar should go straight up and straight down.
PRO TIP: “You should adjust to the bar, the bar shouldn’t adjust to you,” says Franklin. “Your torso shouldn’t round. If you struggle with this, set your gaze about 45 degrees above your normal eye level to help stabilize your core.”
Goal: Make sure you use your entire body, including the legs. Push-ups are not just about upper-body strength. Drive your toes actively into the ground to create tension in the legs (your base).
PRO TIP: “I often see people do ‘the worm’ in push-ups,” says Franklin. “This isn’t good form: Become like a board. Raise and lower everything at the same time. Think about maintaining long legs, and make sure your hands are directly under your chest (not your shoulders) so you work your chest and triceps and avoid isolating this move to the shoulder.”
Time: 9 minutes
Goal: Pull-ups are crucial to OCR performance because if your grip strength fails, you won’t hit obstacles. Activate your lats and core, in addition to using your biceps, to power you upward.
PRO TIP: “Use a band to lessen resistance as you build up to resistance in your pull-ups,” says Franklin. “Another option: Jump to get your chin over the bar. Then, see how long it takes you to lower down, focusing on the eccentric piece. Fight gravity.”
Goal: Isolate your bicep in your curls by slowly lowering the dumbbell. (This will also help build strength for pull-ups.)
PRO TIP: “When people curl, the most common mistake I see is that their elbows fly too far backward or forward,” says Franklin. “Think of your elbows as if they were stapled to your rib cage. Also, never rest the bells on your shoulders — aim for about 30 degrees between the bell and your torso at the top so you’re not dumping pressure into the elbow joint.”