Here are six must do exercises to include in your training for Tough Mudder and other obstacle course races.

For even the fittest guys out there, obstacle course races challenge your aerobic fitness, stamina, upper-body strength and toughness with rope and wall climbs, mud, fire, water hazards and many more physical and strategic obstacles.

Obstacle race training differs from most endurance based competitions as strength also plays a key role.  According to Tough Mudder statistics only 78% of participants actually complete the race. If you want to be one of them, it’s time to ramp up your training!

Here are six must do exercises to include in your obstacle course training from expert trainer
Paul Haslam that can be performed in the gym.

PULL UP (or Assisted Pull Up) – 3 x MAX REPS

Race Tip: The Pull Up using varying grips (overhand/underhand/neutral) and hand spacing’s (wide/shoulder/narrow) mimics the climbing action that is seen in many obstacle course races.

How to do it: Start with underhand narrow grip, then progress by first increasing hand spacing before graduating to the overhand grip. Pull yourself up toward the bar, leading with the chest. Drive your elbows toward the floor. Pull Ups are difficult to master so initially aim for 2 or 3 reps and then push up the reps at each session.

Weighted Push-Up (with pause)3 x 6 REPS

Race Tip:  The added weight will increase your strength in this action and the pause is similar to the body position achieved in many crawling movements performed at these of events.

How to do it: Assume the push up position and then place a weight disc between your shoulder blades. Lower to the bottom position, about 10cm above the floor. Hold for a count of 3, then push up to the start position. Progress through the ascending plates (5kg, 10kg, 20kg) and if necessary, multiple plates can be used.

Roll Outs (or Ab Wheel) – 3 x 10 REPS

Race Tip:  Roll outs target the core together with shoulder stability which is essential for many of the postures performed during the race.

How to do it:  Load an unweighted barbell (or an EZ bar) with a 5kg disc each side. Begin the movement in a kneeling position with the arms straight and the hands shoulder width apart on the bar directly in front of you. Roll the bar out as far as you can go, ideally to a position with the nose hovering just above the floor. The focus is on bringing the hips down in a smoothly and controlled. You may not be able to achieve full range initially, but with practice you will improve rapidly.

Power Steps – 3 x 6 REPS

Race Tip:  Being able to produce bouts of explosive locomotion is common in obstacle course racing, and this unilateral exercise will provide just that.

How to do it:  Power Steps are performed like a normal step up, except that as the lead leg steps onto the box you generate enough force so that the foot actually leaves the surface. Begin with body weight, then progress using a dumbbell in each hand.


Leg Raise on Dip Bars – 3 x 12 REPS

Race tip: As well as being a great core strengthener this will assist in the “over” part of any up and over obstacles that you may face during the race.

How to do it:  Assume the top position for the Bar Dip exercise with elbows locked. With the knees slightly bent, raise the legs as high as you can in front of the body. Minimise any swing by controlling the downward phase of the movement.



Jump Squats – 3 x 6 REPS

Race Tip: During the event you will need to powerfully jump and bound. This exercise will help boost those powers.

How to do it:  Use a Smith Machine or dumbbells with a weight that is half your normal 10 rep range. Lower into a half squat then jump as high as possible making sure you extend fully at the knees and ankles. Land with bent knees to absorb the shock.

Click here to find the obstacle course races that are coming up in your state during 2013.