YOUR OBSTACLE COURSE OF ACTION
Want more strength and agility? Want to bust out of a workout rut? Train for an obstacle course race.
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, Tough Mudder, or Rugged Maniac--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. “Bear hug 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.”
TRAIN FOR IT 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. Spartan Race 2015 world champion Robert Killian recommends hamstring stretches to avoid cramping. Bonus: They’ll help your running form.
TRAIN FOR IT 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 cagelike OCR rigs that have you swinging from end to end, grabbing everything from gymnastics rings to hanging baseballs. 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).
TRAIN FOR IT 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.