Train Like a Pro: Faye Stenning & Josh Stryde

Faye Stenning ran her first Spartan Race in 2013. Two years later, she placed ninth at the 2015 Spartan World Championships. This year, Stenning joined the Reebok Spartan Pro Team and continued her success by finishing second or better in each of the five Spartan U.S. Championship Series races. Her 1197 points in the inaugural series was good enough for second and only three points behind winner, Lindsay Webster.

Faye-Stenning-Medal-Picture

Though Stenning does have a background in track and cross country, success like this comes from a number of areas, including a great training regimen. The following workout is one that she designed with boyfriend Josh Stryde. Stryde, himself, is part of the Western Canadian Spartan Elite Team. He’s also the Calgary Place World Health Regional Nutrition Director.

The workout comes in four parts. Try to rest as little as possible throughout since you don’t get much, if any, during a race. Stenning and Stryde perform this weekly.

Pro Tip: Stay positive throughout and work your way up each time. Don’t use the workout too close to race day. As you’ll see, if you do it right, you’ll be too drained to perform at your best. Give yourself at least a week if you have an upcoming race.

Faye-Stenning-and-Josh-Stryde
PART ONE
TREADMILL HILL CLIMB WITH MEDICINE BALL (10-15 minutes)

Set a treadmill to an incline that will make you uncomfortable. Try increasing the level each time you do the workout. If you become comfortable with the incline, you know it’s time to bump it up. Every minute, get off the treadmill and do five burpees. Keep the timer running when you do your burpees. Most treadmills shut off after 30 seconds, so try to perform the burpees in that time frame. Hold the medicine ball however you feel comfortable. Stenning loads it onto her shoulder, while Stryde alternates between shoulder and front, to simulate a bucket carry. Stenning normally does 12 minutes at an incline of 15 and speed of 4.0, using a 40-pound medicine ball.

Writer’s Tip: If you don’t have a medicine ball, find something other than dumbbells to carry. Anything that would give you the option to carry it on your shoulder or in front of your body. I used an open bag of grass seed weighing about 35-pounds that I had in my garage. If you do that, just make sure it’s sealed up!

Josh-Stryde-Loaded-Incline

PART TWO
EMOM/Every Minute on the Minute (15-30 minutes)

Alternate between the following three each minute.

  • Hook a TRX strap up to the end of a weight sled. Run forward, dragging the sled behind you. Go as far as you can for one minute. If you don’t have a strap to attach, push the sled instead. Stenning and Stryde use four 45-pound plates on the sled.
  • Hop on a fan/air bike and go as hard as you can (bike or row) for one minute. If you don’t have access to a fan bike, use a stationary bike and pedal as fast as possible on as high of a resistance as you can stand.
  • Do between 5-15 toes to bar, depending on your core and grip strength. Grab a pull up bar with an overhand grip, roughly shoulder width apart. Engage your core and lift your toes up to the bar. If you’re unable to do toes to bar, do knees to elbows or knee raises instead.

Pro Purpose: This part of the workout hits your entire body. The sled drag gives your lower body strength and power, which helps for hill climbs. The bike portion is great for general aerobic conditioning and the toes to bar gives your core and grip both strength and endurance training.

Pro Tip: Try adding a couple minutes to this part each time you do the workout.

Writer’s Tip:If you don’t have access to a sled, you can take a larger weight plate (45-pound should work) and put it on the ground, flat part down, and push the plate. Add a dumbbell for extra weight.  Another option is to put a treadmill on an incline and turn it off. Then, hold onto the sides and run for the minute.

Faye-Stenning-Sled-Drags

PART THREE
MAX HOLD: SINGLE-ARM DEAD HANG

Grab a bar with one arm and hang for as long as you can, then switch arms. Your only rest is doing the opposite arm. Do three sets per arm.

Pro Purpose: This improves grip strength, while also getting you used to being supported on one arm. This will help on obstacles like rigs and monkey bars.

Writer’s Tip: If you aren’t strong enough to do single-arm, throw a towel over one end of the bar and grab it with the opposite hand. Focus on mainly using whichever side is holding the bar, and only use the other to lightly hold the towel, giving yourself some support. This doesn’t give your arms much rest, but will allow you to work your way up to using one arm.

Faye-Stenning-Monterey-Rig

PART FOUR
FOUR SUPER SETS

Do the first exercise, then move right onto the second.

  • Hold a weight plate with a pinch grip in each hand and walk, like you would for a farmer’s carry. Your distance is determined by how long you’re able to hold the plates before putting them down. Aim to hit the same distance each set. Also, try only squeezing with your fingertips. Stenning considers it cheating if you’re using the edge of the plate to hook your fingers around.
  • Do 15 reps of barbell bent-over row.

Pro Purpose: Doing these at the end of your workout will help to burn out your grip.

Writer’s Tip: To avoid cheating, use two plates per hand and press them together so that the flat sides face out. This removes the temptation to hook your fingers around the edges.

Writer’s Note: Thank you to Josh and Faye for sharing this workout. You can follow Faye on both Instagram and Facebook. Follow Josh on Instagram

Photo Credit: Faye Stenning’s Facebook Page, Faye Stenning, Spartan Race

How I Built My Own Hangboard

I’m a competitive person, by nature. So when I completed my first Spartan as well as first (also last) BattleFrog within two weeks of each other, I learned quickly what my strengths and weaknesses were. One common theme was grip strength.

Because so many obstacles put your grip to the test (rigs, monkey bars, heavy carries, etc), fatigue can become an issue. Going into both races, I had trained grip strength pretty heavily by doing various towel pull-ups, weighted carries, and dead hangs. After them, I still wanted to improve.

Barre-Multi-Rig

A friend of mine, who had done BattleFrog Xtreme, gave me an idea. If you’re unfamiliar, BFX had racers complete as many 8k laps as possible. Each lap for this particular race included a jug carry, monkey bars and two rigs, which is where I struggled. He had completed both rigs in the elite lane all three laps he ran. When he could see how impressed I was, he mentioned that he was a rock climber.

I had known that climbing improved grip strength, but this had me sold. Unfortunately, I don’t have easy access to a mountain or rock wall and buying a hangboard/fingerboard can be a bit pricey. So I decided to do the next best thing: make my own hangboard.

DIY-Hangboard

Because I’m not the most handy person in the world, I began doing some research. After taking some advice from various online sources, I dove head-first into building a board that would fit my mounting location. I didn’t need the board to be pretty. Function here is the most important aspect. The space available to attach the board was about one foot tall and three feet wide. As I said before, I’m not contractor. This setup has worked for me but, depending on your situation, you may want to do things a bit differently.

What I used:

  • Plywood (½” thick) – My local hardware store sold it in 2’x4’ sections, so I cut it in half and doubled it up to make a 1” thick piece for more stability.
  • Several 2″ x 4″ pieces – I used these to mount the plywood to, but also as my holds. Most hardware stores have scrap piles sold up to 70% off.
  • Wood screws – To hold the two pieces of plywood together so that I could drill, which will come later. If you go with a 1” thick piece, you may not need these.
  • Bolts/washers/nuts – For the holds, I used ½” thick and 3” long hex head bolts matched with the proper washer and nut. Hex head lag bolts (½” thick / 5” long), with washer, were used to mount the board above my door frame.
  • Tools – This includes a drill, drill bits, torque wrench, socket set, wrench, and whatever you normally use to cut wood.

Scrap-2x4s-for-Hangboard

How I used it:

  • I cut two lengths of 2×4 at one foot to attach to the back of the plywood, serving as a gap between the plywood and mounting surface. This helped because, when changing holds, I needed space behind the plywood to use my wrench so that the nut could be either tightened or loosened. This makes the board completely adjustable!
  • I then cut the plywood into my two 1’x3’ pieces. I used the wood screws to attach these pieces to the previously cut 2x4s. This kept the two pieces of plywood together so that I could drill the holes.
  • I used my ½” drill bit to put holes about 2” apart in the plywood. You can use whatever distance you’d like, but just make sure that if you cut a longer hold, you measure the holes to match.Drilling-the-holes-for-holds
  • Using the remaining 2x4s I had purchased, I measured and cut various lengths for holds. Some were 3” wide, others 4” and a few as long as 8-10”. I used a spade bit to drill down into the wood slightly so that the hex head was recessed. I also did this to the corners of the plywood for when I was ready to mount. Be sure to make it large enough for your socket. I then used my ½” drill bit again to make a hole in the 2×4 pieces. In the larger ones, I put two. Once the holes were drilled, I sanded down each edge to prevent splinters.
  • (This part may require a friend) I had my dad hold the board on the mounting location so that I could pre-drill the holes for the lag bolts. Since the hex head lag bolt still needs wood to grab onto as it goes in, I pre-drilled the holes a few sizes smaller than the bolt.
  • Once all the holes were drilled, I used a torque wrench to insert one lag bolt into each corner. A washer was used so that the hex head didn’t dig into the wood.
  • After the board was mounted, it was time to attach the holds! To attach the hold, I simply lined up the hole in the 2×4 with the plywood, inserted the bolt through the front and attached the washer and nut on the back. Holding the nut with an adjustable wrench, I used the proper socket size to tighten via the front hex head.

How-to-attach-the-holdAnd there you have it! With only a few items from the local hardware store, I was able to build my own hangboard. Now I have been able to add a variety of deadhangs, pull-ups and even hold transitions to my training.

How to Prepare for an Endurance Event

I’m not going to claim to be an expert, however I have participated in plenty of endurance events such as multiple BFX events, Spartan Hurricane Heat, Spartan Agoge Class 002, multiple road races and an ultramarathon. If you are interested in testing the waters or pushing your mind and body to the limits, you want to be as prepared as you possibly can for anything that might happen. Here are a few of my basic tips on how to prepare for an endurance event:

  1. Always follow the gear list. Then double check it. It may sound stupid, and you may think “I don’t need that item,” but you will. For instance, on my most recent Spartan Race HH12HR event, some of my gear list required 3 balls any size, a condom, a sharpie, a bucket with no handle, a headlamp, 1 gallon of water and a bag/ruck sack with 20lbs for females and 30lbs for males. If you don’t have everything you need, you may not finish. You have no idea what the item will be used for. You may or may not use all the required items during the event, but at least you will be prepared. Also always have duct tape, even if it’s not on the list. You can use duct tape to strap on all kinds of things to your bag or body to keep your hands free. Trust me, duct tape is a life saver.
    HH12 gear list
  2. Create a mantra. Ok, I know this sounds corny, but when you are exhausted and think you can’t continue another step it comes in handy. Being mentally strong is a big part of the battle during endurance events. You will be physically exhausted, but more times than not, it’s not the physical exhaustion that causes people to quit or DNF. It is the negativity that creeps into your mind that will make you feel like you can’t continue another step. Just know that whatever pain you are in, it’s only temporary and you can do it. I personally keep it simple. I just keep repeating to myself, “Don’t stop. Don’t quit. Just keep moving.”
  3. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. If I have an event on Saturday, I start hydrating on Monday or Wednesday at the latest. Cut back on caffeine, because it is a diuretic. My 7 hour drive to Nashville from South Carolina took 9 hours, because I stopped every hour on the hour to pee. Peeing every 10 seconds like a 9 month pregnant chick sucks on a long drive, but, if I hadn’t been hydrated I may have not finished. That wasn’t fun, but I was adequately hydrated for my event the next day. Not drinking enough fluid before a race, can lead to fatigue and muscle cramps. I personally experienced this a few weeks ago at the Asheville Spartan Super, I was so dehydrated that my run turned into a crawl. Fatigue from dehydration is no joke. For reference, if your urine is clear or pale you are well hydrated for race day. For you beer lovers this means, if your urine looks like a pale ale or IPA, you need to drink more water.

    IMG_0893 (1) My 7th pee stop on a 7 hour drive :/

  4. Switch up your training. I’m guilty of gravitating towards the weight section of the gym way too much. I’m not claiming to be a great endurance athlete, but I do know plenty of them. They alternate weights, with trail/hill running, HIIT (high intensity interval training), plyometrics and more. They don’t focus on one type of training, because in endurance events you can be doing anything from heavy carries up hills, sprints to regular PT (i.e. burpees, bear crawls and squats). Endurance athletes must be well rounded. And if it’s a Spartan endurance event, absolutely be prepared to go for long distances under heavy loads.
  5. Eat healthy for you. Now, I’m not going to say carbs are bad or good, or that you should only do a certain type of diet. We all can’t be amazing #wafflehouseelite athletes. Different diets work for different people, but you should try to eat foods in moderation. A well balanced diet that includes protein and carbohydrates to replace the glucose that is burned during  activity is important. Try to eat more natural foods versus processed foods. You can’t out train a bad diet. So eating pizzas, cake, and cheeseburgers aren’t going to make you feel that  amazing while running 10 miles. Common sense people.

    mind over matter

  6. Train your brain. This may go hand in hand with mantras, but honestly endurance events are just as mentally challenging as they are physical. Train your mind to avoid the negative. When you start to think negative thoughts like, “I can’t do this anymore” or “I’m too tired to go on” you need to change your thoughts. Focus on one thing at a time. Focus on that one task or obstacle, not how much more you have to do because it will overwhelm you. Think about how much you have already completed versus how much time you have left. Why quit when you have finished 10 out of 12 hours? 2 hours is nothing compared to all the hard things you already put yourself through! When times are really rough, vision yourself at the finish line getting your finishers medal or patch. Visualization is one of the best techniques that even Olympians have used to help them focus. Finally, just believe in yourself. If you had the guts to sign up for an endurance event in the first place, you must have had some faith in yourself that you could finish. So take that faith, work hard and make it happen.

Good luck and I hope to see you at a future endurance event! Next stop for me is the Spartan Agoge in China!!

HH12 Nashville

Best Wetsuit For World’s Toughest Mudder

Editor’s Note: We asked ORM contributor Keith Allen to answer some FAQ about the best options for wetsuits for World’s Toughest Mudder. Keith completed 50 miles at the 2014 WTM, 55 miles at the 2015 WTM, and 60 in 2016.

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Greetings! If you are reading this you are most likely interested in being a participant at World’s Toughest Mudder. Congratulations! This is a big decision, but I’ve got some unfortunate news for you, if you thought the entry ticket was expensive, just wait until you realize how much gear you need to purchase to make it through the night.

The gear list for World’s Toughest Mudder is extensive even if you merely settle on the bare essentials. Rather than writing Moby Dick 2: World’s Toughest Mudder Edition, I’m going to answer a few frequently asked questions about the best options for wetsuits for World’s Toughest Mudder.

What Do Those Numbers Even Mean?

Should I Buy New Or Used Gear?

Fullsuit or “Shorty”?

What About Layering?

What Do Those Numbers Even Mean?

The first number represents the thickness of the neoprene of the wetsuit in the torso area. The second number represents the thickness in the arms and legs of the wetsuit.

The whole deal here is balancing this question: How warm do I want to be versus how much mobility do I want?

Bigger numbers mean thicker, but less flexibility. Smaller numbers mean less warmth, but more flexibility. Make sense? Good. Let’s Mo Vaughn with the next question you probably have.

New Versus Used?

One way to save some money on your gear list is to scour the internets for used wetsuits at places like eBay or craigslist. There is one positive to buying used: Saving money.

Really, that’s about it. One positive.

The negatives to buying used are as follows:

  • When buying used it is rare to know the exact type of neoprene that the suit is made of. The stretchier the neoprene the easier it till be to run in and the less it will tax your system. I’ve had a random medium O’Neill 3/2mm that I grabbed on eBay for $32 that I promptly relisted on eBay as it was very uncomfortable. I have no idea what model or year it was from, but I do know that it did not work for me. For comparison sake, my medium 3/2mm Hyperflex Cyclone 2 suit fit me perfectly and the 100% super stretch neoprene was extremely comfortable.
  • People pee in wetsuits. People also clean wetsuits, but that is not a given.  If you want a suit that only you will pee in it is best to look at new options!

Worlds-Toughest-Mudder-Wetsuits-2

Should I go Full Suit or “Shorty”?

If you are going to bring one wetsuit to World’s Toughest Mudder then that wetsuit should be a fullsuit. The water isn’t extraordinarily cold (in Vegas), but there is no humidity in the desert and it gets chilly, especially if you aren’t moving quickly, which most people aren’t during night ops.

A shorty can be a good early evening option if you can maintain a fast enough pace that allows your body to generate heat to stay warm. You can layer over or under a shorty to make it warmer, but unless you are a really strong competitor you will most likely wish you had a fullsuit at some point.

In short, if you can afford multiple options then get multiple options, but if you can only afford one, go with a full suit. Here are some examples of reasonably priced comfortable suits that you can buy.

My Very Favorite And First Choice :

Best Wetsuit For World's Toughest Mudder

I fell in love with this wetsuit last year after a recommendation from Ryan Cray. I previously used a 5/3/1.5 Xterra Vortex TriSuit in 2014, but I felt too too restricted and it took too much damage from the Vegas terrain for someone as OCD about equipment as me. This particular suit is made of 100% 4-way Stretch Quantum Foam construction, which translated into:

“Holy smokes this thing is comfortable. Is this really a 3/2? The 3/2 I bought on eBay was waaaaay more restrictive!?! This is really comfortable”

Additionally, it it has knee pads which provided extra protection against the rocky Vegas terrain. I was ecstatic when the event ended last year and there were no holes in it. Last but not least, I felt like the sealed seams allowed me to stay warmed  and get away with wearing a 3/2mm suit instead of going thicker, which many World’s Toughest Mudder participants recommend.

For those that feel more comfortable going thicker, here are the links for the 4/3mm and 5/4mm versions of the suit, along with women’s options.

The thicker suits have the same features as the 3/2, just with thicker neoprene, and they are not sealed.

Men 

My choice:  3/2mm

Thicker choices:

4/3mm Wetsuit

5/4mm Wetsuit

Women

My choice:  3/2mm

Thicker choices:

4/3mm Wetsuit

5/4mm Wetsuit

Why/How Should I Layer?

Personally, I prefer using layering options to add warmth as opposed to buying a thicker suit. Using the 3/2mm as my base and adding one piece layers on top gives me more flexibility than if I was in a thicker suit.

World's Toughest Mudder Layers 2
This also allows me to quickly adjust my layers as I get colder or warmer without having to do a full suit changeout (which is very time consuming).
Unfortunately, these layers do not have a unisex or women’s option but if one becomes available I will add the links. However, if you look at the Men’s size chart and fit within the sizes then I would definitely pull the trigger on these layering options.

Here are my favorite two pieces of layering gear:

Hyperfelx Polyolefin 50/50 Top Longsleeve 
This top is extremely versatile as you can layer it over a shorty or full suit while also using it by itself over a regular running top. The chest section is made of 1.5 mm neoprene and the arms are made of polyolefin. Polyolefin has the highest insulating capacity of any fiber, natural or man made, which makes this top a good option for creating more warmth. The fit is tight in the arms and looser in the chest, as it does not fit like compression gear or a wetsuit would. I’ve used this top in both 2014 and 2015 World’s Toughest Mudder and plan on using it again this year.Wetsuit For Worlds Toughest Mudder Layers

These polyolefin bottoms can be used as a baselayer under or a layer above a wetsuit. They do fit tight, however they are not as tight as compression pants. These add a layer of warmth without restricting movement. I wore these above my 3/2mm full suit last year and as a layer over a shorty in 2014 and was very pleased. The only wear on them is slight scuffing on one of the knees. Another plus is that these are a great base layer for snow shoveling in the winter.
Well, there you have it. A few of the many pieces of gear that you will need to embark on the 24 hour journey that is World’s Toughest Mudder.

Keep an eye out for some other lists including gloves, headlamps and other goodies.Seacrest OUT!

Utilizing Pull-Ups as an OCR Athlete

Obstacle Racing Media (ORM) has teamed up with Complete Human Performance (CHP) to bring you reoccurring tips and training advice that will help you at your next race, whether you’re trying to conquer your first rope climb or move more quickly and confidently across the Platinum Rig. This week’s training is brought to you by Alec Blenis, running and OCR coach at CHP. You can see him below at the fire jump of the first Spartan World Championships in 2011, where he finished 5th. Alec has been around OCR for over five years.

Fire Jump

Why Everyone Should (and can) Do Pull-ups:

If you had to pick just one upper body exercise for OCR training, the pull-up would be it. So many obstacles require the upper body strength that you can develop with a strict pull-up or pull-up variation. However, training for pull-ups is one area where I see a ton of mistakes, especially among beginners.

In this article, I’m going to discuss some common training mistakes that people make and some fun pull-up variations to include in your training. This will be especially useful for those of you working towards your very first pull-up, but also for more advanced athletes too.

Preparing for your pull-ups:

Warm up: For some reason, a lot of athletes will perform plenty of warm up sets before heavy squats or deadlifts but rush right into pull-ups without even considering warming up. Don’t do this. If pull-ups come towards the end of your workout, you are probably already pretty warm, so you might not need an extensive warm up, but you should still do something. If pull-ups come first in your workout, take a few minutes to warm up your core, back, and lats. Some great exercises to try here include hollow holds, face pulls, and easy ring rows.

Brace Yourself: When it comes to developing athleticism and the ability to conquer obstacles, a well-braced “hollow” pull-up is going to be most beneficial. What does this mean? When you are hanging from the bar, your abs should be tight, your glutes should be tight, and your pelvis should be tucked. If you’re unfamiliar with this position, I suggest working on some hollow holds on the floor first. Basically, your body should be concave like the photo below.

Hollow Hold

Hand Care: There’s nothing tough, hard-core, or beast-mode about ripped up or bloody hands. It may have been a great workout that tore your calluses off, but it’s going to take time to heal before you can really work hard again. Pull-ups result in more hand tears than any other exercise by far, so it’s extremely important to take care of your hands. Use chalk. Use a pumice stone. Take care of your hands and keep them looking good so that you never miss a beat.

Chalk

Plan your workout: You should never begin a training session without a clear goal in mind. Is your goal for the day to improve your strength? Do you need to improve your muscular endurance? As an OCR athlete, you may want to ask yourself what obstacle weaknesses need addressed. If you’re just randomly playing on a pull-up bar until you’re tired, stop and come up with a better plan. If you’re not sure how, we can help.

Pull-up Variations: 

We’re going to look at a couple variations of pull-ups now. Below you will find a video demonstrating each kind of pull-up, with a detailed explanation below it.


Ring Rows: Of course, the ring row is not really a pull-up at all, but this is an ideal starting point for the athlete who can’t even come close to doing a strict pull-up and for whom even banded pull-ups are a struggle. One great thing about ring rows is that it’s simple to adjust the difficulty of the exercise by modifying your foot position. At first, you may be nearly vertical when doing these rows. Over time, you should walk your feet out and approach a more horizontal position. Ring rows strengthen many of the same muscles that a pull-up does, but it is not a direct substitute. You should start here, but quickly introduce banded pull-ups and other beginner variations as you get stronger.

Banded pull-ups: A common mistake when training beginners is to abandon the bands too soon. Just because someone has successfully completed their first strict pull-up doesn’t mean it’s time to ditch the bands altogether. Even for athletes who can complete as many as 5 strict pull-ups, there is still value in utilizing an assistance band to complete sets of 8, 12, or more.

Banded pull-ups with pause: If you’ve been progressing towards a strict pull-up using bands for assistance, you may find that the hardest part of a strict rep is breaking from a dead hang. Because a band offers the most assistance at the bottom of a rep, banded pull-ups don’t develop much strength in the dead hang position. So, if you’re progressing towards a strict pull-up using bands, you’ll need to focus some extra energy on this position. One simple and effective way to do this is to implement banded pull-ups with a pause. All you do is pause in a dead hang position for 3-5 seconds per rep. Whenever implementing banded pull-ups, I recommend at least a slight pause at the bottom to help develop the strength needed to break from a dead hang. Also, don’t forget to move up to the next band when you’re ready! Go ahead and purchase multiple bands with varying degrees of assistance. Use a different band when the goal of the workout is different. Trying to improve strength? Use a less helpful band. Training muscular endurance? Use a more helpful band.

Negatives: Negatives and weighted negatives are great pull-up variations but, in most cases, are overused, especially by beginners. Imagine telling someone who wants to increase their bench press from 95 to 135 that you’re just going to have them do negatives with 135 until they reach their goal! They certainly have their place, but don’t neglect other variations liked banded and jumping pull-ups by devoting too much time to negatives. That said, don’t be afraid to add weight for negatives, even if you struggle with strict pull-ups. You can safely and effectively do negatives with weights as heavy as 20% greater than your one rep max, so if you can do one strict pull-up, you may want to add about 20% of your bodyweight to slow negatives for maximum benefit, but this should just be a small portion of your total training.

Pronated vs. supinated grip pull-ups: pronated-supinated-grip
Most people find it easier to start with a supinated grip as you’re able to recruit the biceps more in this position. However, this doesn’t mean that the supinated grip is a beginner variation. It’s important to routinely train both grips, and even neutral grips for well-rounded athletic performance. Close underhand grip pull-ups are great for developing the strength you need for rope climbs and heavy hoists, while overhand pull-ups will help you prepare for wall climbs and monkey bars.

Jumping pull-ups: Jumping pull-ups offer many of the same advantages and disadvantages as banded pull-ups. Like banded pull-ups, jumping pull-ups are not very effective at developing strength near full extension, but they offer the advantage of being a convenient and effective exercise that can easily be worked into body weight circuits without additional equipment. For an added bonus, try variations like burpee pull-ups mixed into a circuit. Jumping pull-ups are generally safer than kipping pull-ups for beginners (advanced athletes can do kipping pull-ups just fine with practice), so these are my preferred option for new athletes in workouts like Cindy and Fran that involve a lot of pull-ups.

Weighted pull-ups: Once you can do at least 3 strict pull-ups, it’s time to start thinking about adding weighted pull-ups into your routine. You don’t have to be an elite athlete or pull-up monster to do weighted pull-ups. Even if you’re just adding 5-10 pounds for sets of 3, that’s great. Treat pull-ups like other exercises, implementing heavy singles, triples, sets of 5, 10, and more. Don’t get bored by only doing bodyweight sets all the time!

L pull-ups: To further engage the core while also working the back and lats, try pull-ups with your legs lifted. The easiest variation is with your knees tucked towards your chest. A more advanced variation is a strict “L” pull-up. If you feel like you are good at pull-ups but struggle with obstacles like Spartan Race’s Herculean Hoist, then this is a pull-up variation that you should try. Many obstacles require you to engage your core and even legs while pulling up your bodyweight (or pulling down on a rope), so pull-up variations like this are great at replicating the sort of challenges you’ll face on race day.

Monkey bar simulation: For the advanced athlete looking to get better at monkey bars, rigs, or even progress towards a single arm pull-up, this monkey bar simulation is a great way to develop the shoulder stability, grip strength, and body control needed for those challenges. To execute the monkey bar simulation, simply get into a dead hang position, then tap your right leg with your right hand, then your left leg with your leg hand, and repeat. For an even more advanced variation, try touching opposite hand to opposite foot. Once you’ve got this down, you can start working on single arm banded pull-ups, negatives, and eventually, single arm weighted pull-ups!

Remember, you should treat pull-ups like other exercises. Don’t allow your training to get stagnant by doing the same thing every week! And make sure you check out Complete Human Performance!

OCR Training: King’s Camps and Fitness

King’s Camps and Fitness is a new 4,300 square feet OCR gym is located in San Carlos at the San Francisco Bay Area (Peninsula) in Northern California where they recently moved into brand new facilities, opening the doors just in May 2016. The location and gear might be new but Owner Mike King has been coaching clients and classes for five years now. The equipment offers treadmills, rowers, rope climbs, TRX, plyo boxes, 4- and 8-foot climbing walls, a 24-foot multi-rig, sleds, spears, a traverse wall, and a ton of other equipment aimed to improve functional fitness for OCR athletes.

KingsCamp-facility

Parents with smaller children will be happy to see that there is a play area in the same space as the gym. Depending on demand, an attendant will be present to take care of the kids while their parents can train just a few feet away in line of sight – without anxiety or stress.

KingsCamp-kids

Rig Practice

Everyone who has recently participated in a BattleFrog, Spartan Race, or Terrain Race, has become familiar with the rig setups: Obstacles which must be traversed using almost exclusively your grip and upper body strength and the right technique. Several races have been lost and won because of these rig type obstacles. King’s Camps and Fitness has ropes, rings, bars, and plenty of climbing holds to attach to their rig in order to deliver a training experience that mirrors what you will encounter out on the race course.

KingsCamp-rig

Coaching

The founder, Mike King, is an experienced OCR competitor and coach with several OCR podium finishes and three trips to World’s Toughest Mudder under his belt, as well as several fitness certifications.

For anyone interested in OCR but unsure of how to start or how to take it to the next level, Mike offers a variety of training programs including an Obstacle Course Training Camp and a “Young Warriors” class for kids ages 5 to 12. Even aspiring police officers will find a program tailored to their needs: With a 50% failure rate on the police academy admission test there is clearly a need for intense preparation.

KingsCamp-mike

If you want to build fitness, King’s Camps and Fitness also offers HIIT classes, functional strength training, and running coaching. Mike opened his gym with the purpose to focus on “Warriors”: be it everyday warriors or performance athletes, this is for anyone that wants to feel good and look good or needs help to overcome the intimidation of running their first obstacle race.

KingsCamp-gear
Open Gym

Once per week the Open Gym offers a playground to everyone who is looking to fine tune their obstacle technique or put together a circuit: Run with a sandbell on the treadmill or around the block, do a spear throw, followed by a bucket carry, and then facing the rig is just one example of what you can do here.

Usually there is a group of people across all ages present and the open minded and welcoming atmosphere makes this gym a great stepping stone for everyone aiming to improve their fitness.

KingsCamp-opengym

If you do not feel particularly creative there is always a workout posted on a whiteboard that will make sure to make you sweat. Fortunately there are wide garage doors and fans on the inside of the facility!

KingsCamp-opengym2

Over time you can expect to find ever changing rig configurations and new obstacles like a Delta Ladder or even Balls to the wall. As OCRs evolve, Mike will adapt his facilities and even combine existing obstacles for new challenges to keep all athletes on their toes.

(All pictures have been taken by the author)