The popularity of obstacle races such as Spartan Races and Tough Mudders has exploded over the past several years. They provide a unique challenge to athletes and generally active people alike that is different from any other kind of competition or exercise that exists. These races allow gym members to stay motivated through their workout programs and give them something new to strive for. While it is impossible to train for exact race circumstances due to the ever-changing nature of these races, there are some aspects that remain constant. This workout, with the proper progressions, will allow you to complete any obstacle encountered.
This workout contains two separate circuits to be completed on the same day. The goal is to build strength and then develop functional endurance related to muscular function that translates to what an individual may experience during an obstacle race.
The first circuit is meant to build overall strength in accordance to muscular recruitment based on obstacle course racing. Essentially, the stronger these muscles are, the easier it will be to maneuver through the course and obstacles. These exercises will require a heavier load (more weight), so make sure to take time to recover in between exercises, about 30-45 seconds and about 90 seconds in between each circuit. The second circuit is meant to boost metabolic output and build the strength of multiple energy systems. To get the best results try to only rest when you have to, otherwise moving from exercise to exercise and only resting after the circuit is complete for 30 seconds.
Complete three sets through this circuit. Take your time and allow recovery to happen in between exercises, taking about 30-45 seconds and about 90 seconds after each set.
Squats: In a Smith machine or squat rack, place the bar on top of the shoulder blades. Push the hips back keeping chest up and bend the knees down to just above a 90 degree angle. Make sure the drive up comes through the heels, using your gluteal and quadriceps muscles, while the core holds strong. Strong legs are a must! The quadriceps and glute muscles provide strength and stability for climbing up and down mountains, maneuvering efficiently in mud and powering you up, over and through many obstacles. Choose a weight that will only allow for 10 repetitions maximum. Looking for a range of 8-10.
Fireman Carry: Holding a pair of heavy dumbbells at your side, keep chest up and squeeze shoulder blades in the back. Maintain proper posture with the upper trapezius muscles in the back and forearms engaged to hold that position and weights. Walk from one end of the gym to the other. Start with a weight that will only allow you to travel to one side of the room, but not back as well. As you increase strength and endurance with this exercise, try to make it from one side of them room to the other and back. Then increase weight. Grip strength is a must for any obstacle race.
Pull-ups: Hands should face away from your body and be placed wide enough for your elbows to bend to a 90-degree angle as you pull up. Chest stays out and the pull comes from the back and not the shoulders or arms. Keep shoulders down away from the ears and don’t lock the elbows on the way down. The Latissimus dorsi, or back, is an extremely important part of obstacle racing. Performing well during these races requires this muscle to be strong. From climbing ropes, to pulling tires, successfully crossing the monkey bars etc., the lats are used throughout obstacle races.
The goal is stay in the 8-10 repetition range. You can use an assisted machine or if you can do more then 10 with your own body weight, squeeze a dumbbell in between the ankles to add resistance.
Plank: In the prone position (face down) on the ground, hold your body up in the air in a flat position and belly button braced into the spine. Elbows should be directly under the elbows and start on the toes. Drop to knees if necessary. Without a strong core, the body will struggle to complete obstacles and maintain proper posture. This will put joints at risk for injury and burn more energy as muscles will need to fight harder to accomplish the goal at hand. Hold this position as long as you can! Each time you complete this exercise hold for a few more seconds.
Single Leg Deadlift: Balancing on one leg, bend at the hip bringing the chest forward until it is parallel with the ground. Keep the knee slightly bent and core braced, lift the back leg to assist with balance. Squeezing hamstrings and gluteus pull the chest back up to starting position. This exercise will provide power climbing up hills and assist with obstacles that require balancing on one leg at a time.
Stay in the range of 8-10 repetitions for each leg.
Set a timer for 20 minutes and complete as many rounds as possible. Rest 30 seconds in between each circuit, if needed. Move quickly from one exercise to the next with little to no rest.
Box Jumps: This is a quick movement down and up. Bend knees and explode up on top of a step or box. Reset by stepping down and repeat as quickly as possible. Repetitions: 15-20.
Army Crawls: Start in a plank position. Move opposite arm and knee forward at the same time in a crawl movement, keeping hips and chest square to the floor. Abdominals should feel the brunt of this exercise, as they should be braced the whole time. Go for 45 seconds – 1 minute. If limited in space, just move a few crawls forward, then backwards and repeat until time is up.
Burpees: Start in a standing position then drop down to the floor for a pushup. After the pushup, pull knees in at the same time so feet are flat on the ground and you have a solid base underneath you. Jump into the air then land with soft knees to absorb the shock of the jump. Repetitions: 15-20.
Dumbbell Bent-Over Rows: Holding dumbbells hinge at the hip and push the hips back so the back remains flat. Squeeze shoulder blades together and pull dumbbells up to the side so hands end up next to the chest. Keep shoulders away from the ears and don’t allow the forearms to curl in. You should be using the middle of your back to pull up. Choose a weight that will allow for 15-20 repetitions.
Release Push-ups: In normal push-up position, lower body to the ground and once body is on the ground, lift hands off the ground squeezing shoulder blades together. Then place hands back on the ground and push body back up to starting position using your pectoral muscles (chest). Repetitions: 15-20.
Lunge With Shoulder Press: Use either a barbell or dumbbells, hold the weight above shoulders and complete a lunge. Make sure back knee drops almost to the ground and you drive through the heel of the front foot, engaging your glutes. As you return to a standing position press the weight overhead using your deltoids (shoulders). Alternate legs as you walk forward. Repetitions: about 8-10 steps per leg.
Sprints: Go fast! Ideally, run with an incline of about eight percent and a speed that you can only last a maximum of 1 minute.