Spartan Race Prep: All the workout tips you'll need to get fit for your first Spartan

Spartan Race Prep: All the workout tips you'll need to get fit for your first Spartan

If you’re new to Spartan and wondering where and what to start training to get fit and prepped before you hit the hills for your first Spartan - don't fret, because we can help you get there. Whether you are looking to start your Spartan experience with a Sprint (5km 20 obstacle race) or are more daring and pushing for the Super/Beast (10-21kms and 25-30 obstacles) then there are a few things that you need to start training so that you can tackle the various obstacles that you'll find on course. Just to give you an idea of what to expect when you hit the hills, EXPECT HILLS (hahaha they are no joke), you can also expect to do rope climbs, sandbag and bucket carries (40-60lbs), wall and rig climbs of all sorts, and crawling, throwing and all things functional movements. Building a decent base with your cardio is a must if you are looking to tackle a more competative approach to the races, but don't worry if you are planning on taking part in an "Open Heat" just go out there and have some fun. It is advisable that you should be able to move the distances 5/10/21km thought before race day however. Upper body strength, grip strength, and the ability to move weight from one spot to another are most important exercises to focus on if you want to be successful at conquering the obstacles you will find at your Spartan Race. Often times these are the weakest areas that new Spartans find they have, and often neglect to train before they show up on race day. But that's why you are here, reading this, learning from our past mistakes and experience!! So try these exercises out and start incorporating them into your training programs to make sure you are ready to dominate your Spartan Race and hit the hills on race day feeling strong and prepared!

Start incorporating a few of the exercises a few times a week, at least 1-2 months before your race to start building the platform that will set you up for success. Ideally you should rest 1 to 2 minutes between each exercise, and you can complete this as a full workout, or start incorporating individual exercises into your training program. It’s important to  note thought that you should be changing up the exercises you do so that you don’t overwork or over train your muscles and cause an injury. Trust me, we get how tempting it can be to train as much as possible to get ahead, but taking appropriate amount of time to progressively train these areas of weakness is paramount to set your body up for success and promote full recovery and explosive growth in your strength, endurance, and conditioning. 

Prep work #1: Inverted Row & Chin Ups

Training for your first Spartan race know that there is ALOT of upper body work, whether that's monkey bars, rope climbs, walls, rigs... You get the idea - there is mucho upper body involvement in these races. This is why its important to start growing a strong upper body strength base. A lot of the time we hear how people will just do pull ups and they will be fine, however pull ups primarily use only a portion of your lats and biceps to pull you up. While this is a testament to upper body strength, it is advisable that you train inverted rows (varying grips) and Chin ups to develop a well rounded back. 

So how do we do these:

I-Rows - Position yourself under a bar in a rack so it’s approximately around waist high. Take a slightly wider than shoulder-width overhand grip, or a narrow underhand grip, and position your body under the bar facing the ceiling. Your body should be in a straight line with your heels firmly on the ground. Pull yourself up until your chest touches the bar, and then lower yourself back down. You can also incorporate holds at the top position as you get stronger in this movement to build up your muscular endurance. 

Chin ups - Stand underneath a pull-up/chin up bar, and jump up to grab the bar with a chin up grip (palms of the hands facing you). Starting from a dead hang, engage your back by activating your lats (pulling them into your back pockets) and pull yourself up until your chest touches the bar, or your face paces the bar. Hold here for 1 sec and then slowly allow yourself to come back down to the starting position - while keeping your back engaged. 

Do as many as you can until failure, and then rest for 1-2min before doing these again. Complete 2-3 rounds as you start your training, and then increase the number of rounds or decrease the rest in between rounds as your progress. 

Prep work #2: Burpees

The burpee is the signature Spartan movement, and is also the staple of a bodyweight conditioning movement. Up until this year it was the punishment for any failed obstacle ( and for 2023 season it will still be the penalty for failed obstacles in the OPEN heats ). So trust me, if you are doing a Spartan race - then you will be doing Burpees. 

So how do we do these:

From a standing position, Quickly lower yourself (jump) to the ground into a push up position. Complete a full pushup, with your chest touching the ground* THIS IS IMPORTANT. Then jump your feet back under your hips, and stand up and jump explosively raising your hands above your head reaching for the sky. That hell of a movement is 1 rep! Now drop back down and do them again.. and again. *The punishment at a race for missing/failing an obstacle is 30 of these, so get comfortable being uncomfortable with doing these.

You can spice these up and further your training by completing Burpee Pull ups to increase your grip strength while also getting yourself used to doing burpees. 

Start with doing as many burpees as possible, resting 1-2min in between and completing a few rounds. Ultimately you will want to get yourself comfortable with doing at least 30reps in a row. 

Prep Work #3: Farmers Carries & Goblet Carries

No matter what race you are tackling (Sprint/Super/Beast) you can gaurentee that on the hill somewhere, you will find yourself carrying something heavy - usually up hill in mud - for an uncomfortable amount of distance. Lovely sounding isnt it. Spartan races boast a Bucket carry, Sandbag rarry, and Farmers carry, usually 400m for the Bucket/Sandbag - and 20-40 yards for the Farmers carry. 

So how do we do these:

Luckily you can train these with ease to prepare yourself for the hills. For Bucket carries and sandbag carries, you can find a household item or use a KB/DB and just get used to carrying them around. There are no rules on how they must be carried on race day, other then you can not roll it/throw it, and movement can only happen when you are holding the item. Men will move 60lbs - Women will move 40lbs. You can prep yourself by starting light if you arnt at these weights yet, or find a similar weight and get moving and build up your endurance with carrying weight. 

For the Farmers carry, pick up 2 DBs, and while carrying them with the weights by your sides and start walking. Very straight forward with these, the goal is to build up your tolerance moving the weight and your endurance with the movements. 

Prep Work #4: Dead Hangs

Earlier in this article I talked about the importance of upper body strength and grip strength. If you haven't caught on yet, there will be a lot of this come race day. Dead Hangs, will increase both your grip strength and upper body strength, and get you comfortable holding your weight suspended in the air - which will transfer over into increase strength at obstacles where you will hoist ropes, climb ropes, or have to move your body up and over all the spartan goodies you will find on the trail. 

So how do we do these:

Find a pull up bar, or any object that you can hang from with your feet fully off the ground. Jump up and hang on for as long as you can, - vary your grips as you practice this movement, but the goal is to keep your back engaged. Make sure to time yourself as you hang as the goal is to be able to hang longer and longer as your progress. Rest for 1 to 2 minutes between each hang and perform 3-4 sets. Increase the time that you hang, decrease your rest between hangs, or increase the amount of hangs you do as you get stronger with this exercise. 

Prep Work #5: Plate Pinches & Sprints

Grip strength and recovering quickly from an obstacle that requires high metabolic demand are two of the most important components to being successful in your Spartan Races. I personally love this pair as it embodies exactly how it feels when you are tackling a row of obstacles that are close together on the course, where your heart rate will be elevated and your grip in burning

So how do we do these:

Either running outside or on a treadmill, set yourself up to run for at least 60sec at a 60-70% effort PACE, and the second you finish your 60sec sprint grab a pair of weight plates, or a dumbell and pinch them (1 in each hand) for DBs grab the end of the DB holding it up/down - not by the handle. Pinch and hold working your grip strength holding until failure, and then drop the weights and get back at our next run repeating 60sec sprints and max time pinch holds for 3-5 rounds. 

Don’t overdo these though. Keep your running drills short and simple and use them as a recovery for your grip strength. Obviously only run to your abilities, and as your progress increase the duration you run, or pick up you pace, while ultimately increasing the time that you can pinch hold the DBs or plates. Trust me when I say that it wont take long to feel burning everywhere with this workout combo. 

Prep Work #6: THIS ONE IS THE MOST IMPORANT.... Hit the Hills!

Unless you are completing a Stadium workout, or are at an event where the geography doesn't have any hills, then there is a 99.9999999% chance you will be running UP & DOWN.... and UP again, and DOWN again on hills. Running on treadmills and hitting the streets is great for getting someone who is not used to running more prepared and for working on their cardio. However being able to run a sub 20min 5km does not mean in the slightest that you will have a same time on the hills. Hills are the destructor of every runners dreams, and if you are not training on them, then you are failing to prepare for your Spartan, and this battle of mind & body takes place on the slopes. But there is a very easy way to get yourself prepared for this.... HIT THE HILLS. Start off with running a course and slowly incorporating hills into your runs, as you progress, depending on your skill level - add in hill sprints, or if you live in an area where you can run trails on hills then get after it. Being able to run the duration of the race you wish to complete, on trails (not pavement) and running up and down hills, will best prepare your body for what you plan to undertake. 

Most importantly we  want you to train smart, stay safe, and continue to push yourself as your prep for your upcoming Spartan Race. We hope that these prep tips help you out and that you can incorporate them into your training, and we hope to see you on the hills, and wish you the best with your future Spartan Adventure.


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