Training for your First Obstacle Race


Obstacle races are fun, but don’t kid yourself: They are challenging. You (and your body) may regret it if you do not prepare. The most challenging part about these types of races is that they test many different aspects of your fitness level, including cardio endurance, strength, and coordination, not to mention mental nerve! Utilizing a training program 6-8 weeks prior to an obstacle race will help you complete the race strong!

Many organizations include free and complete training programs on their websites; when you sign up for a race I would recommend checking them out. Spartan’s training program can be found here. If you don’t have 30 days to train, here are some general things to try to accomplish before a race.

Cardio Endurance


Although this seems like the most important area to train before an obstacle race, your cardio level may not matter as much as you are worried it will. During races it is not uncommon to see participants walking between obstacles. So if you signed up for a 6 km race and can only run 3 km straight, don’t stress.Whether you are a seasoned runner or a newbie, push yourself past your current limits with distance, incline, and speed. Work on cardio 3-5 times a week, following strength training.

General Upper Body

trainingUpper body strength – coming from your back, chest, arms, and core – will be important in maneuvering yourself over obstacles and through mud or tough terrain. A wide variety of muscles contribute to a strong upper body. Some great compound moves (exercises that work more than one major muscle group at once) to utilize are pull-ups, push-ups, and bench press. A mix of compound and targeted moves will build a strong upper body. A large variety of targeted moves for biceps, triceps, shoulders, chest, and core can be used – check out this site for a great training workout. Try splitting workouts into Bicep/Triceps, Core/Chest, and Back/Shoulders, training each once a week.


trainingThe ability to grip ropes, hand holds, and the tops of obstacles to balance yourself is extremely important in an obstacle race. While upper body strength is required to actually lift your body up, it won’t be of much use if you cannot maintain a strong grip while doing so. This comes from strong hands and forearms. The pull-ups you will already be doing to build upper body strength will help develop your grip. You can also perform plate pinches and wrist rolls. These moves can be added into upper body training days.

Single Leg Training

trainingAll lower body training is great, but single leg training helps increase the strength of each individual leg faster than bilateral leg training. It helps with coordination and balance, as well. Some great exercises for this are lunges (of any variety), Bulgarian squats, and cable kickbacks. Lower body can be trained once or twice a week.

Fellow mud racers: What have you done before races to prepare? Let me know in the comments! Check out my last article here.


Kassy Possberg
About Kassy Possberg
Kassy Possberg enjoys weightlifting, obstacle racing, and jogging with her dog Jacob. In the summer you can find her camping and quadding all over Alberta, and in winter you can find her reading a good book. She is a food lover and an avid meal prepper, which helps keep her on track despite her substantial sweet tooth!
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