The Perfect Spartan Race Workout Plan

Spartan Race
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It shouldn't come as a surprise that the state of the running industry remains strong after significant growth through the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st. A big part of the growth after 2010 came in the form of non-traditional running events, most commonly termed obstacle course races, or OCRs.

In fact, according to a 2014 State of the Sport press release from USA Running, the growth of non-traditional running events, including obstacle course races, adventure races, and themed races, surpassed the record-setting participation in half marathons and full marathons with a whopping 4 million runners taking part in such non-traditional events.

To put this another way, while running as a whole continued to grow during this time period, participation in non-traditional running events didn't just grow, it exploded.  That said, the drastic rise in participation has started to turn, with more recent data released by USA Running that indicated a 30% decline in OCR finishers in 2015.

The initial surge the industry experienced dropped off as the novelty of the experience started to wear out. But despite this decline, overall interest remains strong, and millions of runners continue to seek out the challenge of such OCRs and adventure races each year.

Obstacle Course Racing

Obstacle course races (OCRs), as opposed to some of the other "themed" or "adventure" races, are highly competitive events. They have a militaristic mentality that encourages participants to push their physical boundaries—climbing cargo nets, jumping into mud pits, and crawling under webs of barbed wire—all while aiming to complete a race ranging from three to 26 miles.

These races aren't for the faint of heart, but they're perfect for anyone who thrives on competition. In fact, there's even an OCR World Championship that brings together top OCR athletes from a range of race series and competitions who want to prove they're the best of the best. 

Of all the OCRs around, the most popular and competitive include the Spartan Race and Tough Mudder. These races, along with a slew of other up-and-coming events, are all considered qualifying races for many of the OCR World Championships' competitive events.

Qualifying takes serious training and requires a rigorous workout regimen that helps competitors achieve the "diverse and well-developed motor skills and physical capacities," required of OCR athletes, as according to Nicole Mullins, the author of the 2012 paper, "Obstacle Course Challenges: History, Popularity, Performance Demands, Effective Training, and Course Design."

OCR Training for a Beginner

The good news is, you don't have to undergo an hours-per-day workout regimen to prepare for your first OCR. In fact, there are many races that are actually quite accessible for beginners.

Most events give runners the option to choose shorter race distances with the ability to opt out of difficult obstacles. This flexibility enables almost anyone who follows a reasonable and consistent training program to complete such an event.

The challenge, of course, is knowing what type of training program a runner should follow. Because OCRs aren't traditional running events, athletes should follow more comprehensive strength and cardio routines that incorporate bodyweight exercises as well as interval work to build endurance.

The Spartan empire is growing and making its training programs more accessible to anyone who's interested in competing. In 2016, Joe De Sena, Spartan CEO and founder and author of three books, published Spartan Fit!, a 30-day diet and exercise plan to prepare readers for a Spartan Sprint race.

In 2017, Spartan began offering an exclusive group fitness classes at 100 Life Time fitness centers across the U.S. Then in 2019, Spartan entered the corporate wellness space and launched the SpartanFIT app, a 30-day challenge app to promote health and fitness camaraderie among employees in the workplace.

While these training programs are specifically designed for Spartan races, they're also a great way to build strength and endurance for many OCR events, giving interested participants an idea of what to expect from a race of this caliber. 

While it's always a good idea to work directly with a coach or trainer leading up to a big event like an OCR, if you're looking for a few routines to get you started, you're in luck. Spartan SGX Training Director Joe DiStefano, BS, CSCS, SGX, prepared an exclusive Spartan SGX plan for Verywell Fit readers to help get you started.

This plan takes about 20-minutes per day, three days a week, not including endurance training days. It's a great way to start preparing for your first OCR, whether it's a Spartan race or another similar event. 

Workout Plan for Beginners

Weeks 1 and 2

Duration: 3 days per week, plus walk at least 3,000 steps every day

Theme: Establish fundamental levels of output

Workout: Perform 4 rounds of:

  • Bear crawl, 10 yards (keep your knees 1 inch off the ground, back parallel to the ground)
  • Reverse lunges, 10 reps per leg
  • High plank hold, 30 seconds (keep your abs, quads, and glutes tight with your body parallel to the ground)
  • Walking rest, 30 seconds

Weeks 3 and 4

Duration: 3 days per week, plus 3,000 daily steps, and one endurance day

Theme: Accumulate high-quality total output in minimal time

Workout: Break up the reps and movements as you wish to finish the workout in the least amount of time possible:

  • Bear crawl, 50 yards
  • Reverse lunges, 50 reps per leg
  • High plank hold, accumulate three total minutes of hold time

Also, complete an endurance hiking day of 60 or more minutes hiking in nature

Weeks 5 and 6

Duration: 3 days per week, plus 5,000 daily steps, and two endurance days

Theme: Take training to the next level

Workout: Repeat the movements twice, completing them as fast as possible, then rest two minutes. Repeat the entire series three times:

  • Push-ups, 5 reps
  • Bear crawl, 15 yards
  • Reverse bear crawl, 15 yards
  • Walking lunges, 30 yards
  • Burpees, 5 reps

Also, complete two endurance days:

  • Hiking day: 90 or more minutes on your feet hiking in nature
  • Running day: 3 miles completed as fast as possible
5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Robinson R. Runner's World. How the Running Boom Began. May 6, 2011.

  2. Peer to Peer Professional Forum. Running USA 2014 State of the Sport - U.S. Race Trends.

  3. Bachman R, Helliker R. The Wall Street Journal. Obstacle Racing Finds Itself Stuck in the Mud. May 11, 2016.

  4. Dern N. The Atlantic. Why Are Obstacle-Course Races So Popular. July 14, 2018.

  5. Mullins N. Obstacle Course Challenges: History, Popularity, Performance Demands, Effective Training, and Course Design. J Exerc Physiol Online. 2012;15(2).

By Laura Williams, MSEd, ASCM-CEP
Laura Williams is a fitness expert and advocate with certifications from the American Council on Exercise and the American College of Sports Medicine.