Picture any OCR event, especially a Spartan race, and you immediately visualize climbing and crawling. But there’s a ton (literally) of carrying too. Timber, tires, sandbags, buckets of gravel … you’ll be lugging it all up hills, through mud, and across rough terrain.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re facing a race of three miles or three days, you need to prepare. That means adding loaded carries to your training, say Spartan SGX coaches. Here are four to mix into your training.
Exercise #1: Bucket Carry
At most Spartan races, you’ll be lugging a bucket over a long distance of inclines and declines. “The awkwardness of carrying a bucket in a specific position,” says Spartan SGX coach Matthew Gustafson of Twisted Steel Fitness in Cleghorn, Iowa, “will cause major lower back fatigue, which can affect the rest of your race.”
That’s why you must train with a bucket, says Steve Pokk of Pokk Fitness Kingsboro in Brooklyn, New York. “The buckets should be versatile so you can add weight accordingly,” he says.
When training, get your arms around the bucket and pick it up as high as possible, locking one hand around the other wrist to maintain a strong hold. “The higher you lift the bucket,” Pokk says, “the less likely you are to drop it or have to put it down when it starts falling.”
This training, he notes, is also beneficial for the atlas stone carry.
Exercise #2: Sandbag Carry
Adding this to your workouts will not only strengthen your back, says Gustafson, “but it will provide great opportunities to practice different carrying techniques.”
The shoulders are often the best support for heavier objects, Pokk says. He suggests toting the weight evenly across your shoulders or switching from left to right to strengthen both sides. “To really get going,” he says, “throw in some squats with the bags in between walks or runs.”
Exercise #3: Overhead Carry
You can improve shoulder stability by practicing overhead carries, but this one is often overlooked in training, says Juan Andres Saa, Spartan SGX coach at OCR Training in Fort Lauderdale. “It’s great for shoulder stamina and stability as well as core strength.” If a carry is too difficult, try an overhead press, as shown in the video above
Saa notes that it can be executed with a plate, two dumbbells, “or any odd object such as a large wooden log.”
To do it, he says, “keep the elbows locked out, arms overhead, core tight, and walk it out.”
Exercise #4: Farmer’s Walk
This move does it all. “It’s a great exercise to activate the glutes for a stable pelvis and aligned spine,” says Saa. “But more than that, it’s great for your grip.”
Sometimes in monkey bars and other obstacles, your grip is under tension for a long time, explains Saa, so the farmer’s walk is a good way to train for it—especially if you go heavy.
It’s also incredibly simple. Hold a heavy dumbbell in each hand, stand tall, shoulders back, and chest high. Then, with short quick steps, walk 25 to 100 yards.
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