Your application is in, but now you’re freaking out about that upcoming Spartan race. Happens to the best of us! Whether you signed up for the Spartan SPRINT, SUPER, or BEAST race, this 8fit workout plan will help you develop the strength you need to complete the course and feel like a true Spartan. For all you ULTRA and ENDURANCE race competitors out there, you’re already superhuman — keep doing what you’re doing (aka slaying those long, muddy obstacle courses). Read on to learn how to train for a Spartan race.
Obstacle course training method
There are a number of difficult obstacles you’ll encounter during a Spartan race and the amounts vary by event type. For example, in the SPRINT race, you’ll cover 3-5 miles and 20-23 obstacles. In the SUPER, your legs will carry you 8-10 miles and through 24-29 obstacles. If you’re signed up the BEAST race, you’ll claw your way through 12-14 miles of 30-35 obstacles and test your mental strength. If you happen to fail an obstacle, no worries — you’ll just have to do 30 burpees before moving on.
In addition to being able to speed walk, jog, or run those distances, it’s important to build total-body strength as you prepare for your Spartan race. At 8fit, we love high-intensity interval workouts (HIIT). These types of workouts are a great way to get stronger, improve aerobic capacity, and increase anaerobic capacity (i.e., strengthening your muscles while improving your cardiovascular system).
Your 8fit Spartan workout plan
In this 8fit Spartan training plan, we recommend Tabata-style HIIT. Tabata consists of eight, 20-second all-out exercise bursts followed by 10 seconds of rest for a total of four minutes of exercise. If four minutes doesn’t seem like a lot now, we promise you’ll change your tune if you do these right. Work at 100% effort during the 20-second intervals and use the 10-second rest to catch your breath.
We recommend you start training for your Spartan race at least five weeks in advance or, if you’re new to exercise, give yourself a few months to train.
Here’s your customizable HIIT workout plan looks like this:
- 3-4 Tabata-style HIIT workouts per week
- 2-3 runs, jogs or brisk walks per week
- 2 rest or active recovery days per week (e.g. low-intensity walks, bike rides, yoga, stretching)
Your Tabata workouts should include two or three obstacle-exercise pairings below. For example, if you choose to practice your burpees and squat jumps, do eight rounds of 20-second burpee intervals as the first Tabata, then eight rounds of 20-second squat jump intervals as the second Tabata — both with 10 seconds of rest in between intervals and 60 seconds between each Tabata.
Note from our coaches:
Exercises to prepare for Spartan race obstacles
Below, find some of the most common Spartan obstacles and our recommended exercises to prepare for each.
For this obstacle, squat down low to pick up the heavy stone, carry it to the next flag, move through a squat to put the stone down, do five burpees, and carry the stone back. Your exercise pairing for the atlas carry is goblet squats.
- Stand with feet hips width apart and hold a kettlebell or set of weights at your chest
- Bend at your hips to sit back into a squat with weight in your heels
- Squeeze your glutes and push through your heels to return to start position
- Keep your spine straight, shoulders back and core engaged throughout the movement
Barbed wire crawl
This is where you get dirty. Get down low to crawl quickly under barbed wire (rolling is allowed). Exercises that are great to strengthen for this obstacle include army crawls and bear crawls. Here’s how to do an army crawl (search for bear crawls in the 8fit app):
- Start in a plank position with your forearms and elbows on the floor
- Crawl by doing small “steps” forward
- Crawl forward with one arm and at the same time step forward with the opposing foot
For the bucket brigade, fill your bucket with gravel, carry it on a specified route, and then dump the gravel back into the bin. Sound easy, however, 1. That bucket is very heavy, and 2. If you lose any gravel along the way or try to carry it on your shoulder you have to do it all again. One of the best ways to prepare for this obstacle is by carrying heavy groceries or a child in front of you as often as possible. If you’re looking for an exercise for you HIIT workout, we recommend diamond push-ups. This movement will work the chest and arms, while also forcing your obliques to work and help you balance.
- Place your hands on the floor with index fingers and thumbs touching to form a diamond shape
- Step your legs back to a plank
- Tense every muscle, then lower your chest to touch the floor with elbows tight to the body
- Straighten your arms to push your body back to start position
Even Hercules would even have a hard time with this one. To complete the obstacle, anchor your feet to the ground, get a good grip on the rope, pull the weight to the top, and lower it slowly. If you let that weight drop too quickly, you’ll hear someone yell burpees! To strengthen for this Herculean feat, do renegade rows. This movement will build your arm and upper back strength, all while building those solid core muscles (something you need for this obstacle course). It’ll also help you prepare for rope climb and tire drag obstacles.
- Begin on all fours with holding dumbbells with your hands directly under shoulders and knees under your hips
- Step your legs back into plank position
- Tense every muscle in your body and ground the weight in one hand to lift the weight in your other hand towards your chest with elbows hugged into your sides
You get one chance to throw that spear and hit your target, i.e., a block of wood or bale of hay. To prep for this obstacle do lunge with rotation. The lunge position mimics the spear-throwing stance and the rotation movement strengthens the core and obliques for better spear throwing.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms stretched out with palms together
- Step forward with one leg, bending your knee to your drop hips
- Descend until your rear knee nearly touches the floor and your front knee is directly above the ankle
- Rotate your arms and torso over the leading leg
- Drive through the heel of your leading foot and push off the rear foot to return to start position, then switch sides
Getting over that wall requires a running start, strong triceps, and an engaged core. To prep for this one, we recommend practicing your pull-ups (if you don’t have easy access to a pull-up bar or jungle gym, diamond push-ups will help you strengthen for this too). If you’re a beginner, build your strength by just hanging on the bar.
- Hold the pull-up bar with hands facing away from your body and arms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart
- Contract your shoulder blades down and use upper body strength to lift your entire body up off the floor until your chin is level to the bar
- Lower yourself back down to start position
Failure is bound to happen, especially as you fatigue or get muddy. The best way to prepare for those 30 reps of burpees required when you fail an obstacle is by doing them a few times per week. We recommend making burpees a part of almost every Tabata workout you do. Here are some pointers:
- Stand tall, then squat down and place your hands on the floor outside of your feet
- Keep your hands planted as you jump your feet back and land with straight legs
- Lower your body to the floor and keep your elbows tight to your body
- Push into your palms into the floor to come back to plank position, then engage your core to jump your feet forward into a squat
- Finish the movement by exploding up into a jump, landing on your feet softly
Sample weekly Spartan training plan
As we said, we recommend three or four Tabata-style HIIT workouts per week (that include two or three Tabatas each), two or three runs, jogs, or brisk walks per week, and two rest or active recovery days per week.
Here’s an example of what your week might look like:
- Monday: Brisk walk/jog/run followed by a burpee Tabata and diamond push-up Tabata
- Tuesday: Recover day
- Wednesday: Brisk walk/jog run followed by a goblet squat Tabata and pull-ups Tabata
- Thursday: Recovery day
- Friday: Army crawl Tabata and renegade row Tabata
- Saturday: Brisk walk/jog/run
- Sunday: lunge with rotation Tabata and burpee Tabata
When training for a Spartan race, remember to listen to your body and rest when you need rest. Actually, this goes for everyone — whether you’re training for a fitness event or training to build strength or lose weight. Find more workouts and exercises for your Spartan training plan in the 8fit app.