Obstacle course racing or “OCR” is the sport of running various distances, often in technical terrain, while completing various obstacles of strength, agility, and speed. It was considered a fad at first, a sport that wouldn’t last, and a sport that the athletic world didn’t take seriously.
In only a few short years obstacle course racing became the fastest growing sport in the world… Ever.

Events range from fun mud runs you can do as a team, to competitive races. The community is amazing and no matter what level of athlete, or how competitive the race, there is always a fellow racer cheering you on, encouraging you, or helping you over that wall. This truly is as much a team sport as it is an individual one.

Training for these races is often overlooked but the most important part of your success and safety. Being that the sport is relatively new there are few places to train. There are a few options that have obstacles you can practice on but you can also prepare on your own with some inexpensive equipment and resolve to work hard.

The key areas you need to focus in upper body strength, grip strength, and full body conditioning. Below are some key exercises you can do to prepare for your next OCR. There are progressions for every exercise so pick the exercise suitable for your fitness level:

Upper body strength is the most important thing to work on to be successful in obstacles. There are often monkey bars, ropes, walls to climb, and hoists to raise.


Before you say you can’t do pull-ups remember that there is a progression for every exercise. Pick the option suitable for you:
• Beginner: Inverted Rows on Lebert Bar or TRX
• Intermediate: Assisted Pull-ups (with band) or Jumping Negative Pull-ups
• Advanced: Standard Pull-ups

Dead Hangs

Grip strength is required to hang from various bars, ropes, etc. There are many ways to hang and you will want to work hanging different ways:
• Hang from a standard bar (hands face forward, hands face backward)
• Hang from a towel or rope
• Hang with arms bent at 90 degrees

Lunges (With Weight)

You will in most races have to carry something heavy a set distance and most likely it will be up a hill of some kind. Leg strength is very important to be able to complete these obstacles. You can do many different variations of lunges to help prepare:
• Walking lunges w/ sandbag over shoulders
• Walking lunges holding bucket (Cheap and easy to find at any hardware store). Put the desired weight in the buckets. I throw dumbbells in the bucket.
• Bulgarian Split Squats. Hold a weight plate or dumbbell for added weight.

Farmer Carries

This is a very easy exercise to do and so effective. Start with a lower weight and carry it a set distance. If you carry up hills and stairs you will be training both grip and leg strength. As you progress increase the weight and the distance. A good start may be walking 45s with 25 lb weight plates.


What would obstacle course race training be without burpees. Certain races use them as penalties so get practicing.


You spend a lot of time getting up and down in a race and practicing makes perfect. You simply lay down on your back and stand back up. You may use your hands to help if required but try to use just your core and strength. You can progress by adding a weight vest or holding a weight close to your body.

Bear Crawl

The bear crawl is my favorite. Simply walk forwards and backwards on your hands and feet in a bear position. Try keeping low, belly close to the ground or keeping you body high putting more weight in your shoulders, and go in all directions.

A great way to combine these exercises together for a great OCR workout is to combine a cardio component with these exercises. For example:

1. Run 400m
2. 20 Burpees
3. Bear Crawl 50m
4. Run 400m
5. 20 Get-Ups
6. 200m Farmer Carry
7. Run 400m
8. 20 Walking Lunges/Leg
9. 3 x Dead Hang to Failure

Repeat 1 to 4 times.

I fell in love with this sport not only for the community and the competition but for the great all encompassing fitness you require to be successful. You don’t have to be super fast, you don’t have to be super strong, you need a little bit of everything, speed, strength, agililty.. The challenges are endless and the training truly unique. Find some buddies, sign up for a race, and train with to get over that wall.

By: Amanda Fex – City Fit Shop