4 Elements Every Obstacle Course Training Program Must Have
Want to crush your next Tough Mudder or Spartan Race? Make sure your obstacle course training program includes these elements.
Obstacle course training is a unique animal due to the unpredictable nature of each race. Race creators are constantly finding new ways to push weekend warriors and competitive racers to the edge of their abilities.
Because of this, having a carefully crafted training program has become incredibly more important than ever before.
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A carefully designed obstacle course training program will not only improve your endurance, athleticism and strength, but will dramatically reduce your risk of injury.
Ask any race veteran and they can tell you endless stories of watching individuals who showed up on race day without training and severely struggled or were injured due to their lack of preparation.
If you want to avoid these pitfalls and perform your best on race day, make sure you include these elements in your obstacle course training program.
Obstacle Course Training Essentials
Essential Element #1: Endurance
Many races require athletes to complete a series of obstacles over the course of up to 12 miles, so it goes without saying that all obstacle course training programs should include significant long distance training.
However, unlike a half marathon, obstacle courses are not run in a steady state cardio fashion.
Because of the obstacles they require athletes to constantly stop and start in order to tackle the various torturous tasks the “Game Makers” have created.(like that Hunger Games reference?)
Instead of logging long miles on the treadmill or pavement, set up your cardio so that you have to stop and complete a physical task every half mile or so. This is also a great way to address the other elements I will discuss in a moment.
For example: run a half mile and then complete a 100 yards of army crawls or farmers carries.
Long runs in general are helpful for building the required endurance, so you should still dedicate at least one day a week to logging extra miles.
Just know the length of your upcoming course and plan accordingly. If you are running a short race, your time will probably be better spent focusing on improving your obstacle skills.
Essential Element #2: Climbing, Pulling and Hanging
Your obstacle course training program needs to dedicate a very significant amount of time to climbing and hanging. Every race incorporates multiple obstacles that require athletes to climb walls, traverse monkey bars, etc.
I suggest finding a program like our Pull-up Maximizer program and making it the core of your strength program.
General strength training is good, but being a master of your own bodyweight is essential to completing each challenge; especially when you are tired.
A good way to work this into your obstacle course training is to find an elementary school playground. Run a half mile as mentioned above, then complete a set of pull-ups or cross the monkey bars.
Or, just dedicate an hour to climbing on the equipment doing various pulling and hanging movements. The variety available on a playground will give you a great training session and improve your overall obstacle abilities.
Playgrounds are also a much more enjoyable training environment for a weekend warrior than a stuffy gym.
Essential Element #3: Carrying
In addition to upper body pulling strength, obstacle course training programs should incorporate regular carrying movements. In every race I’ve completed I have been required to carry at least one object 100 yards or more.
Good ways to train this are to incorporate sandbag and kettlebell carries into each workout. My favorites are farmers carries and sandbag shoulder carries.
Again, you are likely going to have to complete a carrying obstacle when you are cold, muddy and tired as hell, so don’t start your workout with your carrying work.
Work it into the endurance portion of your workout or as a finisher at the end of your obstacle course training sessions. This will more closely simulate the way you are likely to feel when asked to carry a 40lb log up and down a hill.
Essential Element #4: Crawling
Crawling is one of the most neglected elements of obstacle course training; especially army crawls.
Most races require athletes to crawl under barbed wire, under logs or through tubes filled with crap, so you should train these movement patterns regularly.
The best way to incorporate them into your obstacle course training program is to incorporate them into your warm-up. This will not only ensure you do them every training session, it will also help prevent injuries and improve your joint mobility.
Crawling exercises engage the entire body and use nearly every joint, so in addition to becoming a better crawler you will likely notice you become stronger, move better, have less pain and become more efficient at just about every obstacle.
Again, every race is different, but one thing is for sure: your obstacle course training needs to be dynamic if you are going to be ready for everything you could possibly encounter on the course.
Focus on the elements above and you’ll be ready for anything.
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