How To Dominate Your Next Obstacle Course Race

First you're zipping across monkey bars; then you could be leaping over a pit of fire. Use these real-world training tips to rule the obstacle course.

Mark Barraso |

First you’re zipping across monkey bars; then you could be leaping over a pit of fire.

Get used to tests like these if you ever enter a Spartan Race, Warrior Race, or The Beast—all obstacle course races (OCRs) that require agility, power, and strength. With the right training, your body can handle it all. These techniques will help—or at least spice up your gym grind.

Forge Real-World Strength

Your 5K endurance means nothing when you tackle the bucket carry, common in a Spartan Race. You fill a 20 litre bucket with rocks, sand, or water, and then tote this ungainly load around a track–or worse, uphill. You’ll need lower-back strength, grip strength, and grit.

Related: Run Your Best 5K: The 4 Week Plan And The 3 Best Shoes

“Bearhug the bucket as tight as you can and interlock your fingers around it,” advises Isaiah Vidal, who’s won multiple Spartan Races. When racing, “the faster you can get this one done, the better.”

How to train

Either fill a bag with rocks or grab a heavy medicine ball. Pick it up, hug it, and walk for time. Do 2 or 3 rounds of this a few times a week, working to increase your total walk time in each session.

Boost Flexibility And Agility

Crawling under something—barbed wire, wood beams—is virtually guaranteed in an OCR. That will challenge your hips and core, so work on mobility, flexibility, and balance.

Related: Pack On Beach Muscle In Just 4 Weeks With This Summer Workout Programme

Spartan Race 2015 world champion Robert Killian recommends hamstring stretches to avoid cramping. Bonus: They’ll help your running form.

How to train

Killian’s go-to stretch is basic: Stand tall, then bend to touch your toes. Don’t round your back as your hands near the ground. For balance: Stand on one leg, extend your arms fully, and toss a 15-pound medicine ball, slam ball, or sandbag in the air; do 2 sets of 10 reps per leg a few days a week.

Upgrade Your Grip

Rope climbs and monkey bars are child’s play compared to the cage-like OCR rigs that have you swinging from end to end, grabbing everything from gymnastics rings to hanging baseballs.

Related: This Workout Uses 3 Different Grips And Stances To Spur Muscle Growth

To prepare, you’ll need to work on both your crush grip (squeezing something between your fingers and palm) and your support grip (holding on for long periods of time).

How to train

Killian works his crush grip by tying a weight to a fat bar, grasping the bar with both hands, and rolling the weight to the top of the bar. For support grip, hang from a pull-up bar for as long as you can, says Vidal. Do this 4 times a week.

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