There are different ways to approach and obstacle race, or OCR. The traditional way is to just go out and have a laugh, however there’s now also a new breed of challengers that are setting out, not just to get through the course, but to get through it as the fastest person. Here, Dave Rigg, former trainer to HRH Prince Harry and the Duke of Cambridge. explains what kind of strength training preparation is needed to triumph at such an event

With over 26 years of experience training members of the armed forces to overcome the challenges set by military obstacle courses, teaching cadets and running charity events I have some valuable insight into the best techniques for quickly and safely conquering the obstacles you may face at an OCR. OCR training is not only challenging and fun but it incorporates all the elements of fitness – the six S’s: safety, skill, strength, speed, stamina, suppleness. You may be very good in some areas but it’s the weak link that will often let you down on the day so a graded training programme can really help. I’d recommend that you first start by conducting a detailed “Needs Analysis” of yourself. This will allow you (and your coach, if you have one) to identify specific strength and endurance areas that can be worked on to improve your performance.

OCRs come in different shapes and sizes but generally include:

  • Things to climb over
  • Things to hang from
  • Things to crawl under
  • Running in between obstacles

I’ll concentrate on the first of these obstacle types as this is where strength needs are most apparent – the challenge can be something as “simple” as a 6-, 10- or 12-foot wall. To climb over you will need good upper body strength, good leg strength and a good grip. There’s one exercise that I believe covers all these requirements and will therefore boost OCR climbing – the dead-lift. I could get very technical about this lift, but at its most basic – “make it heavy and pick it up”.

There are lots of articles about technique and progression out there so read up. Don’t forget you are trying to improve your strength, the sports science says if you get stronger you will improve your endurance – so make it heavy (once you have mastered exercise familiarity). As a rule of thumb if you can lift a weight six times it’s not heavy enough. This may not be your usual sweating-out-of-breath- high-heat-rate training that you may be more used to but it will pay OCR dividends. If you are inexperienced you only need to do a strength workout including the dead-lift once a week and you should be able to add weight at each session and progress quickly. As you get more experienced, your gains will slow and you will need to be more specific with your planning.