Let’s face it, those who compete in events such as these and who take their fitness seriously want to perform well. No one wants to train their ass off for months, only to the disappointment of finishing with a time or score right smack in the middle of the results page. The middle represents the average, and no one wants to be average. Now don’t get me wrong, events like the Spartan Race, which attracts 4000 or some other crazy number of people on race day, are going to have their share of college kids who want to get a cheap thrill, drink a beer, and have a good time. To each his own, and that’s great for them, but since you decided to read this article past the title I assume that your interests lie within a more competitive realm. Maybe you’ve completed one of these races already and you know what it takes to cross the finish line. Or perhaps you just want to be popular and are thinking about participating in the next event that your friends just won’t shut up about. Regardless on where you stand one thing is for sure, you want to perform the very best that you possibly can.
Many people do have the will to succeed. They work extremely hard in the gym or outside on the field in order to obtain a goal that they have set for themselves. Faster run times, a quicker 40, a stronger shot, or a better physique are amongst some of the popular goals. But unfortunately, after following the workout of the month from a magazine or a popular blog for a while, many people often don’t accomplish what they set out so ambitiously to attain. Disappointed in falling short of their personal goals, people usually end up in one of two outcomes. The first leads people to believe that they either don’t deserve or can’t achieve the goal at hand, and so they quit; tail between their legs, they decide to put their efforts into something else and forget all about the goal. Or perhaps they choose the other and more common solution of gritting their teeth and adding 2 more training days to their routine in response to the oh so common “logic” that they just didn’t work hard enough. Maybe this has happened to you? Ever hit a plateau on your bench press and have absolutely no idea how to get over it? Don’t feel bad, you and many others have been there too. Proper programming for all fitness goals past an intermediate level is both a science as well as an art – often times requiring a professional to step in and help. That’s why personal trainers and strength coaches exist (I hope). Tiger has Foley, Rippetoe had Starr, and even Rocky had Micky. No Olympian ever won a medal without a coach, and no serious athlete trains without a plan put together by someone who knows what he or she is doing.
Perhaps an Olympic success analogy is a bit of a stretch in relevance for this conversation, but the point is once a certain fitness level is attained, one really has to start doing certain correct things to improve past a given point. Lack of hard work is not the problem for most people. Lack of hard work focused on the correct training program is. If I wanted to learn how to fly, I could flap my arms as hard as I want, but at the end of the day, I’m just going to get exhausted, feel defeated, and look stupid. The same principle applies to fitness, and without the correct program, a lot of hard work is often times done in vain.
Strength for athletic purposes is best measured by 1 rep maxes in the 4 main barbell movements. If strength training represented Mt. Olympus, then the squat, deadlift, bench press and overhead press would be its gods. These 4 exercises represent full body total strength and if any kind of performance is your goal, then these should be the main focus of improvement during the off-season when you step into the gym. This doesn’t just apply to those who want to dominate an obstacle race either. All athletes, regardless of their sport, work on increasing their max strength during the off-season and work to maintain it in-season. This rule remains consistent for pretty much all athletes except for those who compete in elite endurance events.
**Many of my clients increase their raw numbers anywhere from 70% on their presses to 300% on their squats and deadlifts in only a 2-4 month period. When athletes are shown the correct way to perform the movements along with a sound program, these numbers can easily be attained by anyone during their first 4 months of correct barbell training. Follow the link below and read Rip’s article on the “Novice Effect” to learn how to grow big and strong at the rate comparable to “young farm animals”.
For instance, let’s hypothetically take runner Pete. Pete can run a 6 minute mile at anaerobic threshold (the point at which the body stops using oxygen as its main source of fuel and the anaerobic glycolysis system begins to kick in) and a 7 minute mile at aerobic threshold (the fastest speed while still using oxygen as the main source of fuel). We start Pete off 12-14 weeks prior to the Spartan Race on an aerobic base training program, in which he conducts his runs slowly and aerobically at around 8 minute miles. After 8 weeks Pete can now run a 6:30 mile – aerobically, due to many different cellular adaptations that occurred during his base training. This is now Pete’s “base” to work off of for the 4-6 weeks pre competition. Similarly to building a strength base, Pete now has a better starting point to increase his stamina and to start building and refining his anaerobic endurance.
- Technique – box jumps, burpees, thrusters, KB swings.
- Anaerobic conditioning – to prepare for the PIT, and for competing the obstacles/running uphill.
- Running outside – to mimic realistic situations. (Treadmills are comfortably stable and we need to get used to unstable running surfaces)
- Hypertrophy (bodybuilding training) – More volume (sets x reps), and less intensity (weight) in the weight room, to replicate the demands the obstacles will have on our bodies.