When it comes to getting tough during training, some people believe women and men need to part ways. The truth is, science long ago showed that gender doesn’t influence training effects.
Still, while that means both gals and guys can get equally ripped if they put in the sweat, there are a couple of common issues that can make a Spartan race more challenging for women, says Rashelle Brown, Spartan SGX coach and owner of Full Steam Fitness, a virtual and studio-based training lab in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.
“The first is lack of upper-body strength, which makes obstacles like monkey bars, rings, the Twister, and the rope climb very difficult,” she says. “The second is that women tend to be shorter than men, which makes it hard to get up and over all those walls.”
So what training tactics should women embrace to overcome these potential problems?
Training Tactic #1: Fortify Your Grip
“Upper body strength starts with a strong grip, and anyone who’s completed a Spartan race knows that it’s usually your grip that gives out first,” says Brown.
For that reason, she suggests including one-handed deadlifts in women’s workouts using the end, or “fat” part, of a barbell, with the opposite end of the barbell placed into a pivot or swivel device. “This forces the muscles of the forearms to work extra hard rather than relying only on the fingers for grip,” she says.
Another terrific grip-centric exercise: Farmer’s carries.
Brown recommends including several sets of grip strength exercises in every workout, assuming two days off or active rest days, per week.
Training Tactic #2: Make a Leap
It’s also important for women to include a lot of vertical jumps when training. “Gaining even just an inch or two can make all the difference in getting your hands to the top of a wall,” she says.
Squats jumps, box jumps, and skipping drills are a few of her favorite exercises for increasing air between ground and feet.
Brown generally structures her workouts to focus on one of three training goals—muscular endurance, strength and power, or aerobic stamina—and suggests women getting race-ready do the same. “Include the vertical jump exercises on strength and power day,” she explains. “I would also throw in some skipping or other footwork drills at the end of a running workout.”
Training Tactic #3: Race Before the Race
Replicating the race as much as possible in training takes some of the fear out of facing the most troublesome obstacles on the day, says Brown. So along with strengthening grip and jumps, women should lift sandbags, climb ropes, and leap along the monkey bars wherever possible.
By the time race day comes around, they’ll be fully fit to torch that course and put an end to any lingering doubts that women can’t Spartan up like their male competitors.
Now you’re ready.
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