CrossFit and Spartan share a few striking commonalities: rope climbs, heavy carries, tire flips, cross training, Atlas stones, and the list goes on. Because of this parallel, many athletes use CrossFit WODs to prepare for their races.
“You probably don’t have a race course in your backyard, but there are some ways to improve your fundamentals in a logical progression,” says Carl Chu, NASM CPT, a CrossFit L2 trainer at Shoreline CrossFit in Branford, Connecticut. Chu designed this three-day schedule to improve your pushing, pulling, and endurance capacity, while also training your anaerobic system for explosive quickness and building an iron-clad core.
First, he recommends a little self-analysis. “How did you do in your last Spartan race—where were you deficient? Did you get caught up on certain obstacles? Were you gassed halfway through?” he asks. “Once you identify your trip-ups, you can program your training to strengthen those weaknesses and improve your overall performance.”
This three-day CrossFit program comprises all the skills Spartan racers need—and then some—to improve performance across the board. Try these cross training workouts for a month before your next race and see how your time improves. If you’re not quite ready for these workouts, prep your body with our Get Back in Shape training plan.
This WOD hones in on your pulling skills, improving performance on obstacles like the rope climb and the Herc Hoist while challenging your aerobic capacity and recovery with 800-meter repeats. Cross training with both strength and cardio exercises from CrossFit will drastically improve your Spartan Race finish.
A1: 4 X 20-second bent-arm rope hang
A2: 4 X 30-second seated hand-over-hand sled pull
B1: 3 X 6 to 8 burpee wall climb-overs
B2: 3 X 3 hill sprints
C: 5 X 800-meter run
Perform each alphabetically lettered pair as a couplet, completing all sets and reps/time on one letter before moving to the next.
A1: Rope hang: Grip a rope at eye level with your elbows bent 90 degrees. Lift your feet off the floor and hang for time.
A2: Sled pull: Sit on the floor and pull the sled toward you hand-over-hand with a rope. Use a moderate to heavy load.
B1: Find a 4- to 6- foot wall or similar height object (such as a bench). Do a burpee next to the wall, then stand and climb over it quickly. Drop to the other side and repeat.
B2: Using a short, steep hill, perform your three sprints. Rest as needed between sets.
C: Run 800 meters and time yourself. Rest half that recorded time, then repeat.
This CrossFit WOD works on grip and core strength to improve your carrying potential on things like the Bucket Carry and Olympus, as well as lower body explosive power and anaerobic capacity for tire flips and wall climbs. In this workout, cross training includes everything you’ll need to succeed in your next Spartan.
A1: 3 X 30- to 60-second sandbag bear hug
A2: 3 X 30-second single-arm farmers carry
B1: 10 minute EMOM: 3 tire flips
C: 10 X 100-meter repeats @ 100 percent on turf or track. Rest as needed
A1: Hug a heavy sandbag to your chest for time.
A2: Hold a heavy kettlebell or dumbbell in one hand and walk for 30 seconds. Switch hands and repeat to complete one set.
B1: Every minute, on the minute, perform three tire flips using a moderate or heavy tire. Rest the remaining time.
C: Using some flat turf or a track with a straightaway, run 100-meter repeats, all out. Rest as needed.
This simple WOD trains endurance, which is essential for all Spartan races. Find a trail which offers varying terrain on which you can run continuously for one to three miles. “You can add in some accessory moves to train elements of your performance you feel need more work,” says Chu.
A1: Trail Run 1 to 3 miles
Optional Accessory Moves
Integrate these into your workouts to get more upper or lower body work.
5 Tempo deadlifts @30 X 1
Take three seconds to lower to the floor, hold one second at the bottom, explode up and hold for one second at the top. Use moderate weight.
A1: 3 X 10 Strict overhead dumbbell presses
A2: 3 X 8 Elevated Ring Rows
B1: 3 minutes max pushups
A2: Place your feet on a box so when you hold the rings with your arms at full extension so your body is either in a straight line, or your feet are higher than your head.
Want More? Meet the Girls
“Any of the original girl-named CrossFit benchmark workouts have great couplings, are relatively simple in concept and improve aerobic and anaerobic systems,” says Chu. Here is a five-WOD Spartan-centric sampling of these deceptively difficult workouts. Cross your fitness by cross training with these awesome workouts.
For time. Complete all reps of one move before moving to the next.
15 air squats
EMOM—do one round of this every minute on the minute for 30 minutes.
21 kettlebell swings (53 pounds)
Do 3 rounds for time.
15 overhead squats (95 pounds)
Do 5 rounds for time.
150 wall-ball shots
Optimize your training. Download a free Spartan Meal Plan.