Free 4-Week Training Plan to Get You Spartan Race Ready

Andrew Read


Melbourne, Australia

Endurance Sports, Kettlebells, Strength and Conditioning



So you hit the sign-up button for an obstacle course race, but don’t know where to start? I hope the four-week plan I'll be sharing here at Breaking Muscle gives you some help in getting ready for your event. But first, some information.



I’ve had to make some assumptions in my plan:


  • Firstly, that you’re already running. These events are running events with obstacles, so if you’re not already in shape to run then you’re going to get a rude shock when you need to run anywhere from 5km to 21km on race day.
  • Secondly, that you’ve already got a decent strength base. The focus in these last four weeks is on strength, power, and endurance. It’s assumed that you are already at a reasonable strength level. For instance, that you can perform sets of handstand push ups and pull ups, and that push ups are no trouble for you.


The plan is four days per week, with three of the days being double, split with extra running later in the day. It’s also imperative that you have a long run every weekend.


mud run, obstacle course, spartan race, tough mudder, train for spartan race


I’d suggest that if your event is up to 10km long that this long run should be around two hours, and that if your event goes to 21km then you will need more like three hours on these weekend runs. These extra long runs are not written in the plan but don’t neglect them, as they are the cornerstones of distance running.



Here is what the last four weeks should look like with regards to the long run:


  • 4 weeks out - three hours
  • 3 weeks out - two and a half hours
  • 2 weeks out - two hours
  • 1 week out - one hour


Most of the exercises are self-explanatory, but a few may leave you scratching your head. Here are the explanations for the few uncommon ones:




  • Overhead face-the-wall squats - Stand facing a wall, toes right against the wall, feet straight ahead, with a reasonably narrow stance. Place hands against the wall with arms stretched out overhead. Squat as low as possible, keeping arms straight and hands the same distance apart (as if locked in place by a bar). Don’t turn your head to the side to try to get extra movement. Most of you will feel this in your mid back and many will barely be able to move more than a few inches. Keep at it as you need to get rid of that stiffness.
  • Sled pull - This is done with a long rope attached to the sled and you pulling the sled hand over hand, as you would if you were climbing a rope without your legs. This is an excellent grip and arm strength builder to help you with actual rope climbing, while placing less stress on the elbow joints. The sled can have more or less weight added to it to change difficulty too making it a good starting point for getting people ready for rope climbing.
  • Lateral apes - Crouch on the ground with both hands and feet on the ground. Place hands far out to one side and then hop sideways towards them. Make sure hips stay down – apes don’t move with their butts up in the air.
  • Shrimp walk - Stand on one foot and grab the other ankle behind you with the same side hand. Bend forward and touch the ground. As you come up step forward with the foot you were holding and repeat the process with the other side. This is an excellent quad stretch as well as stability exercise.



The day three circuit is a mix between bodyweight and kettlebell exercises. All of the kettlebell exercises are designed to work your grip so that it is developed for monkey bars and rope climbing. If you need to substitute these exercises make sure to still include plenty of grip work in your training.



The majority of upper body strength work is done with body weight. The reason is simple - these races involve needing to move your body weight in all manner of ways so getting strong at it is vital.


Also, using heavy bars tends to make you hold onto body weight and unnecessary muscle mass is the enemy when it comes to fast running. The goal here is to be as light yet powerful as possible and body weight fits the bill perfectly here. If you can’t do handstand push ups, then use another variation of push ups or dips that limits you to only a few reps.


In week four there is an overall decrease in the amount of work being done. That is to allow you to freshen up so you can have the best race possible. Don’t freak out and do a normal length workout just because you’re feeling good - you’re supposed to be feeling good, but save it for race day.


Finally, on rope climbing - there is a definite art to it. The following video is good, although ignore the second half as it’s just set up to sell products (why do people need to fill instructional videos with sales pitches?)



In my experience this is the easiest way to get up and down a rope while sparing your energy as much as possible. You may want to wear long socks when you first do this, as you’ll probably get some rope burn when you start.


Work hard, eat well, and sleep a lot. In four weeks you’ll be Spartan ready AROO!



Spartan Race photos courtesy of Crs9740 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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