Every race series has the movements they say are most important in order to begin tackling their obstacles. Every race series releases some sort of basic training program as well. Race companies want as many people to try their races out as possible, but they also want competitors to do as well as possible and do so safely. The truth is, every true competitor also loves to see others join in on the fun and loves to see them do well. I read and viewed a lot when I started out and sometimes it can be overwhelming, so I decided to narrow it down to five basic movements you will want to practice a lot as a beginner, and, as your body becomes more adapted, slowly begin to modify them making them more difficult as well as adding more movements into your repertoire. Note this list excludes running assuming that anyone preparing for an Obstacle Course Race is already running as much as possible.
1. Planks- Planks of all kinds, shapes, sizes, and colors are one of the easiest beneficial movements to overall strength required in OCR among other realms of fitness. The best part about planks? They are like green eggs and ham. You can do them at home. You can do them on a boat. You can do like the GOAT (shout out to Jim Campbell.) You can do them on a train. You can do them on a plane, and then be told, “Get back into your seat please sir! We aren't in a gym!” You get the point, you can do them anywhere. Planks strengthen your core which is a major component in being able to haul yourself up over walls, climb ropes, run with proper
form, control your body on rigs and monkey bars, etc.. The basics for a plank are to brace yourself on your forearms, hands (in push-up position), braced sideways on one arm or hand, or however you please depending on which other muscle group you would like to work. Regardless of which modification you choose, the key is to keep your body is perfect alignment a much as possible. Bottom line: You want your spine in line, and you want to breathe deep and evenly. Planks are fun for challenging friends, and yourself. See how long you can hold one, and watch your time lengthen the more you practice.
2. Pull ups- No matter if you can do a full pull up, an assisted pull up, an inverted body weight bar row, ring rows, or any shape form or fashion of pulling your body weight up. Start doing them and do a lot of them. The more you can control and move your body weight up or hold it up the better especially since some race series such as Savage Race focus very heavily on upper body obstacles. You will have to pull yourself up over walls, up a rope, hold yourself up on 2bars, up on a rig, climb up giant ladders, use this upper body strength to help pull yourself up
slip walls. The bottom line is that upper body pulling strength is super necessary and you should work on it as much as possible.
3.Grip Strength Exercises- All that upper body pulling strength in your shoulders and arms isn't going to do you much good without grip strength. Yes of course you will gain some of that from doing tons of pull ups themselves. However, it might not be enough. Even if it is, you can't just hang out on a bar all day long (a man can only dream.) You can do these other exercises though. Get a stress ball, tennis ball, or some ball with a tiny bit of give to it and squeeze it. That's it. While you are watching TV, working in the office, whatever doesn't require both hands and a lot of attention. Squeeze a ball. It may not sound like much, but trust me it's beneficial to strengthening the hand muscles as well as getting you used to gripping ball grips on a multi-rig, and you wouldn't be doing anything with that hand otherwise so why not use your time wisely? You can also purchase various grip strength trainers at sports stores or even your local Wal-Mart that look like this:Some have adjustable tension which is very useful. I highly recommend grabbing an adjustable unit if you choose to purchase one. Other exercises which greatly help grip strength, but may have to be
worked up to are:
kettle bell swings
fingertip push ups
Indian club exercises
Bottom line: squeeze stuff, and pick up heavy stuff and hold it using only your grip as much as
possible. The more variety in the objects you hold, the better.
4. Deadlifts- Many obstacle courses will require you to pick up something heavy off of the ground and carry it a certain distance. Aside from that, being able to deadlift objects properly is essential to everyday life. You know that old saying, “lift with your knees, not your back.” It's
a bit of an oversimplification, but it's true. The most important thing to remember when deadlifting, be it a bar, a sandbag, a box, a child, or even groceries is DO NOT ROUND YOUR BACK. The key is to utilize your hips, back, glutes, and legs by naturally arching your back, pulling your shoulders back as far as possible and getting all of those muscles to fire
during the lift. Yes, this may take a lot of practice, but the better you get at a basic deadlift the better you will be able to perform at an obstacle race and in life. Even if the race you are planning on doing doesn't have any heavy carries, deadlifts help strengthen grip, core strength,
and overall functional fitness. Bottom line: Lift some stuff off the ground with proper form.
5. Burpees- Yeah whether you are doing a Spartan Race or not this movement is still super beneficial for a few reasons
They are super simple
They are great cardio
They are a full body workout
They help you become more aware of how to control your body and compound movements
They will let you know if you need to do more mobility exercises. (For example: if your hips are super tight you will feel it.) Burpees (like planks) can be done anywhere, anytime.
Just drop yourself down into a push up position (once you get used to it you can go straight down without having to go onto your knees or into a plank position first).
Perform a push-up.
Jump straight up with your hands reaching for the sky.
It's that simple. In spite of the ridiculous name, burpees are one of the most useful compound movements in fitness. They can be thrown into any program to add cardio and a full body exercise. However, that doesn't make them easy. No matter how good you get, pushing yourself for more burpees in a row or more in a certain time is usually not fun (at the moment), but always challenging. Shirts that say things like buck furpees exist for a reason. Most athletes have a deep love, hate relationship with them, but trust me if you do them you will begin to see the benefits.
Bottom line: Burpees work a whole lot of different fitness functions, and you should do them- alot. These movements should help anyone looking to get into OCR, and please remember if you have any questions feel free to contact me!
Have a wonderful day and remember: progress is key!
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