10 Exercises to Prepare for Obstacle Course, Spartan & Tough Mudder Races

10 Exercises to Prepare for Obstacle Course, Spartan & Tough Mudder Races

Obstacle races can bring you back to your younger years. My childhood was filled with games that incorporated zigzagging, bounding, leaping and climbing. Today’s obstacle course races are drawing more than 4.5 million participants a year. Competitors are faced with a wide variety of obstacles that are reminiscent of long summer days playing with friends, jumping from yard to yard, or epic versions of Capture the Flag. The modern urban/obstacle course racer counts on various events that challenge coordination, climbing skills, total body strength and even mobility.

Since 2010, events like the Spartan Race and Tough Mudder have relied on Facebook and social media to capture participation. The Tough Mudder, founded by two British guys, Will Dean and Guy Livingstone while attending Harvard Business School have grown their event into a worldwide draw that spans the globe. The Spartan Race also launched in 2010 as a spin-off from a 48-hour endurance race called the Death Race. Its popularity has captured Reebok and now it has its own show called Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge.

Over 4.5 million people participate in these races yearly. Competitors come from over the world. Host cities of these obstacle course competitions benefit from the active, out-of-towners that support the local communities where races are held. The popularity of these races has even created a new niche in the fitness industry. Gyms all over the U.S. are now offering Spartan Race training and obstacle course conditioning classes.

Here are some tips for preparing for any type of outdoor obstacle course race.

  • When designing your training program, integrate a recovery strategy into your week. This should include cryo-therapy, foam rolling sessions, massages and bodywork specialists.
  • Learn to run downhill. Then practice running downhill.
  • Purchase clothes that help protect your skin. These type of races commonly leave scratches and abrasions.
  • A few weeks out from your race date, begin consuming hydration packs, various food gels, and electrolytes packs so your body and stomach are used to them. These supplements are critical for proper nourishment.
  • Make sure you incorporate gripping exercises as a training drill. The forearm and grip strength quickly fatigues.
  • Make sure you incorporate loaded carries into your workout. Diversify your movement by carrying over boxes and use lateral movement.
  • Find trainers that can provide you with private lessons on events that require tremendous skill. For example, the seesaw, the rings, rock climbing, rope climbing, etc..

Here are 10 great exercises to incorporate into your training regiment when training for an obstacle course race. Begin by performing these exercises for 30 seconds. Then, start to build your endurance and strength by adding 30 seconds. Your goal is to make 2 minutes. One element often overlooked is training for ‘The Grind.’ The grind gives you the endurance to simply make it through the moments that suck. Make sure you add movements and drills that mimic this experience.


  1. Plate Pushes – Use a rubber-coated plate and push down the turf for time. Options are to push the plate one full lap and then run it back while carrying it overhead.
  2. Bear Crawl & Gorilla Hops with Resistance Bands – If you do not have a rip-cord system like the one shown in the video, use an extra large band with a partner and have them place it on your waist.
  3. Lateral Plank Walk with Resistance Bands – If you do not have a corded system like the one shown in the video, this exercise can be done without resistance and for a longer distance which will create sufficient challenge.
  4. Barbell Snatch to Overhead Carry for 5 to 10 yards- Make sure you have good snatch form before doing this exercise. You can substitute the snatch with a barbell overhead press.
  5. Endless Rope – This piece of equipment has a dial to adjust the level of intensity.
  6. Rope Climb – It is important to work with a coach who can teach you proper technique. Make sure you wear pants when learning to rope climbing.
  7. Explosive Bear Crawl Hop –If you can do even a handful of clap pushups / power pushups, then this is a great progression. Start with a low box.
  8. Explosive Push Up to Cliffhanger – If you can do even a handful of clap pushups / power pushups, then this is another great progression. Start with a low box.
  9. Ring Swings – This exercise is excellent for building grip strength. It will also build strength on your upper back.
  10. Box Hop to Thruster or Bunny Hops over a Prop – This is two great exercises that train the coordination of bounding over obstacles. The bunny hops is a regression from the box hop.

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