These 20 exercises work the muscles and mimic the positions you’ll be in during a Spartan Race and help you reach your fitness goals. Add these moves to your workout routine to become your best possible athlete.
1. Decline Push up
How to do it: Elevate both feet so toes are pointed down on a bench, box, or any sturdy platform. Perform a push up with hands shoulder-width apart, keeping your back straight the entire time.
Why you should do it: This variation offers a progression on the amount of resistance being applied to your body. Your core, triceps, chest and shoulders must generate more force for you to complete the move with perfect form, which results in greater strength.
2. Strict Pull-up
How to do it: Grab a pull-up bar or monkey bars with both hands using an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder width. Keeping legs straight, pull yourself vertically until your chin is higher than the bar. Return back to start position with your arms fully extended.
Why you should do it: Pull-ups will aid you in the majority of Spartan Race obstacles. Specifically, pull-ups and dead hangs from a bar will pay dividends in the Rope Climb, Hercules Hoist, Wall Climb, and Tyrolean Traverse.
3. Inverted Row
How to do it: Lie on your back underneath a squat rack or smith machine with an unloaded barbell above you, just barely in reach. Grab the bar with both hands using an overhand grip and keep only the bottom of your heels on the ground, toes pointed towards ceiling. Pull yourself towards ceiling, touch chest to bar, retracting shoulder blades, release and return to start position.
Why you should do it: For those who can’t do pull-ups or are looking to change things up, this serves as a gruelling substitute. If you’re working up to pull-ups using the inverted row, place your feet flat on the floor to make it easier. The inverted row targets the back muscles like no other bodyweight exercise and by set four you’ll need some grit to get through them.
How to do it: Use the floor, a bench, or dip bars for this exercise. If using parallel dip bars, switch between the triceps dip and chest dip every workout. To do a dip, grab each bar with one hand and extend your arms. For the chest dip, lean forward while lowering yourself until you almost can’t go any lower. You don’t have to all the way down to get the strength benefits. The triceps dip calls for your torso to be straight, not leaning, throughout the rep. For both variations, if the bars are high enough, keep legs straight, If not, cross ankles and bend knees.
If using the floor or other sturdy apparatus, extend legs out on floor with bottoms of heels touching, and place hands outside of your hips with palms facing forward. Push yourself up so arms are extended, then lower yourself back down.
Why you should do it: This exercise develops stability in the shoulders, chest and triceps and mimics the motion of getting over the Inverted Wall and Wall Climbs.
5. Plank to Push up
How to do it: You can do this move on the floor or on a stability ball. Start in a forearm plank position, so your forearms on the ground/ball and legs straight. Transition into a push up position, moving arms one by one so palms are facing floor/ball. Repeat.
Why you should do it: This is a surprisingly mental exercise that works your core and shoulder stability. You can’t muscle your way through it like a normal push up so your core does most of the work.
6. Bicycle Crunch
How to do it: Lie with back against floor, feet slightly off of ground and extended straight, and hands behind ears. Using your core, raise torso and left knee so right elbow touches the left knee. Immediately switch and touch right knee to left elbow.
Why you should do it: An excellent way to strengthen the external obliques and rectus abdominus. Make this a staple of your core training to see strength and aesthetic results.
7. Jump Squat
How to do it: Stand with knees slightly bent. Squat so thighs are below parallel to the ground then explode vertically, reaching upwards. Land softly and under control in the starting position.
Why you should do it: The jump squat builds explosive power, needed for many obstacles on the course, especially the wall climbs. Plyometric moves won’t mimic an obstacle’s motion, but they’ll train the type II (fast-twitch) muscles fibres to react quickly.
How to do it: Here is the Spartan version of the burpee: “A burpee consists of a two components. At the ‘bottom’ of the burpee, the body and legs are straight and parallel to the ground, with a full push up, chest touching the ground. At the ‘top’ of the burpee the body and legs are straight and perpendicular to the ground, with hands above ears, and a jump with feet leaving the ground.”
Why you should do it: Aside from practicing the obstacle penalties. They serve two purposes, warm you up before a workout or finish you off as part of a metabolic conditioning circuit. The burpee improves stamina and overall conditioning without any equipment.
9. Walking Lunge
How to do it: Step forward with your left leg into a lunge position so your right knee is bent but not touching the floor. Raise right leg and step it all the way forward so left leg is bent behind you. Don’t reset after each step, keep going.
Why you should do it: This is the best way to train for hills without using any equipment or actually running on a hill. The continuous motion simulates the seemingly never-ending hill climbs.
10. Glute Bridge
How to do it: Lie on your back with arms at your side and palms facing the floor. Bring your bum up, squeezing your glutes at the top. Pause for two seconds, then return to start. Do these slowly.
Why you should do it: Strengthening your hamstrings and glutes will help prevent lower back/hip pain while running.
11. Hanging Pull-up Bar Traverse
How to do it: Hang from a pullup bar or monkey bars with legs straight and arms extended. Move across the bar laterally, without crossing your arms over. Move left arm a few inches to the left, then follow with right arm. Move along the length of the bar and then move back again.
Why you should do it: The Wall Traverse is a highly underrated obstacle and unless you have good grip strength. This exercise transfers into improved performance on the Wall Traverse and any other obstacle that involves ropes, wall or lateral movements.
12. Bear Crawl
How to do it: Start in push up position and move your left arm and right leg forward simultaneously. Repeat on other side. Keep back straight throughout the movement. It’s opposite arm and leg forward.
Why you should do it: Bear crawls positively affect performance in the barbed wire crawl, cargo net climb, Tyrolean Traverse and monkey bars.
How to do it: Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width and knees bent. Jump laterally towards right, landing on right foot and placing left leg behind the right. As you do this, you left arm comes in front of your body. Quickly switch directions, jumping towards your left, landing on left foot, with right leg behind left side of body. Try to land softly.
Why you should do it: This move builds unilateral strength, since you have to land softly on each leg. Without hitting the trails, this is one of the best moves to mimic what it’s like running through difficult terrain.
14. Hand-Release Push up
How to do it: Perform a standard push up and when you reach the bottom, lift both hands off of ground. Place hands back on ground and do a push up, keeping toes on ground.
Why you should do it: By removing your hands, you’re disengaging the core so once you place them back on the floor and brace, your upper body has to pick up some slack and raise you back up.
How to do it: Lie on stomach with your arms extended straight out in front you, palms facing and touching the ground. Raise arms and heels towards ceiling while keeping hips in contact with the ground. Pause for 3-5 seconds in this position, then return to start.
Why you should do it: The Superman strengthens your lower back and core, which are essential for strength obstacles such as the Bucket Brigade. If you feel that your lower back hurts while doing the Bucket Brigade, incorporate 4 sets of 8 reps of Supermans into your regular strength and conditioning routine.
16. Legless Rope Climb
How to do it: Differentiating between the “J” and “S” rope climb is another article in itself. To perform the legless rope climb, it’s best to jump up and catch the rope with your arms to get rid of some distance. Then, start pulling yourself up. Keep moving. There is no pausing in between grabs in a legless rope climb.
Why you should do it: Regardless of the technique, the rope climb increases grip and upper body strength, especially in the lats.
17. Pistol Squat
How to do it: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Extend one leg in front of body and squat below parallel, so that glutes are at the height of your ankles. Extend arms straight in front of you to aid with balance. Return to starting position.
Why you should do it: Spartan Races require unilateral strength. Perfecting the pistol squat will strengthen the Achilles, ankles, and glutes.
18. Bulgarian Split Squat
How to do it: Place one foot, laces down, on a bench or chair behind you. Step out with the other foot until you feel a slight stretch in the quadriceps of the leg that is raised. Flex the knee that’s on the ground and push hips back until the raised knee is nearly touching the ground. Return to start position. Adjust the height of platform and distance your front leg is from it so you’re most comfortable.
Why you should do it: The Bulgarian Split Squat adds zero compressive forces to your spine, unlike a barbell back squat. If back squatting, isn’t for you, try this movement, eventually adding weight in the form of dumbbells. The combination of strength and stability developed in the ankles, quadriceps and hamstrings makes this move perfect for bodyweight aficionados and beginners alike.
How to do it: Start in push up position with arms extended. Bring right leg to the outside of your right hand then bring it back to push up position. Bring left leg to the outside of your left hand, then bring it back to push up position. Switch legs rapidly but be sure to get a deep stretch in each hip.
Why you should do it: Groiners are great to open up tight hip flexors before training or a race. They can also be used as a fat-burning, metabolic exercise within a circuit. Groiners will increase flexibility in your hips and hamstrings.
20. Cannonball sit-up
How to do it: Lie on your back with your legs about six inches off the ground and arms extended out to the sides. Bring knee into chest as you do a sit-up and hold kneecaps with palms of hands for a one count. Return to starting position and make sure legs do not touch the ground.
Why you should do it: Keeping your legs off the ground adds tension to your core, which ultimately makes this exercise a mental challenge. Add this challenging move to any circuit or core workout.