A Competitor's Guide to Training for a Spartan Race

Chris has completed over 150 Spartan races since 2011. He is a Spartan SGX Coach and Instructor, former member of the Spartan ProTeam, and offers on-line coaching. For more info on Chris check out his Instagram @ToughTraining. Take it away Chris.

Chris completing the Slip Rope obstacle.

So, you signed up for a Spartan Race, congratulations! What you are about to read will give you the knowledge to finish your first (or next) race more efficiently than you thought was possible.

Most Spartan racers show up at the start-line unprepared for the challenges ahead on course. If you are looking for an edge on the competition, tap into my 10+ years of coaching and racing knowledge. Now is the time to refocus your training on the 3 major disciplines required to have your best race.

  • Endurance
  • Mobility
  • Grip Strength

Endurance

Running is the core of every Spartan Race, so it should be at the core of your training. A solid training plan will have you running 3 days a week. Your weekday training should include both long and short intervals with a longer steady state effort on the weekend. Ideally at least one of those runs would be on a terrain similar to where you will be racing, i.e. trails. Weighted run training is also critical to success. Grab a sandbag, bucket, or medicine ball and add them into your running once a week.

Chris practicing trail running.

Sample workouts

Short Interval session:

  • 10 times
  • 1:00 fast
  • 2:00 easy

 At the conclusion of the 30-minute session immediately complete 30 burpees.

 Long Interval session:

  • 6 times
  • 5:00 fast
  • 2:30 easy

 At the conclusion of each fast interval complete 12 push-ups.

 Weekend Steady State effort:

  • 40-minute run for time
  • First 20 minutes run from Point A to Point B
  • Second 20 minutes return to Point A trying to reduce your time
  • Rest 5 minutes
  • Complete 800m heavy carry with a sandbag or a weighted bucket

Mobility

Mobility will save your butt, literally and figuratively, in a race. This is often the most overlooked and undertrained discipline in racing. You can make it through the barbed wire, over the walls and cargo nets much more easily if you work on enhancing your mobility. When you are carrying buckets and sandbags up and down mountains mobility will make it less painful during and after the race.

Spartan Coaching’s mobility basics are called the ABCs - Ape, Bear and Crab.

  • Ape Crawl – Forward, Backward and Side to Side
  • Bear Crawl – Forward, Backward
  • Crab Walk – Every direction just like a crab moving on a beach

Sample workouts:

Incorporate one of these movements into your warm-ups/cool downs while at your gym.

Try 2-3 sets of 10 paces in each direction. Ape on Monday, Bear on Wednesday, and Crab on Friday.

Grip Strength

While strength in general is a huge asset in racing, grip strength specifically is essential if you want to avoid burpees. Most of the failure obstacles require you to traverse the obstacle using primarily your hands… Monkey Bars, Bender, Twister, Multi-rig, Hercules Hoist, Rope Climb. I could go on, but I think you get the point. By now you should be asking how do I improve my grip strength? My training and coaching programs often incorporate the grip training in the main workout. In addition, I often drill them after the main workout before heading into the cooldown. Three of my favorite exercises are the dead hang, farmer's carry and switch grip drill.

Chris completing the Rope Climb obstacle.

Sample workouts:

Dead Hang

  • 8 rounds or until failure
  • Hang for :30 secs rest for :15 secs

Farmer's Carry

  • Grab two dumbbells of kettlebells of equal or similar weight
  • Complete a 5-minute hike without setting them down if possible

 Switch Grip Drill

  • Week 1: Perform a max effort switch grip drill test, record your number of switches
  • Weeks 2 - 5: Once a week perform 3 sets of 70% of your max reps from Week 1 with 90 sec rest in-between sets
  • Week 6: Retest Week 1

Adding these disciplines to your workout will make you a better racer and all-around athlete. When you hit the Spartan start-line you will be confident you are in a better position to have a faster and burpee-free race. Now is the time to get training for that race!

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