Whether you are new to OCR or a seasoned pro, you will undoubtedly be tackling rope climbing, sandbag carrying and tyre dragging.  Even at sprint distance this is no mean feat if you haven’t thought about adapting specific strength exercises to build up your endurance.

Upper body and grip strength will be essential to conquering any OCR course, but these are often many competitors’ weakest points. So what are my top tips for building race strength, power and technique?

In order to master the key upper body and grip strengthening exercises, it will be important to complete 5 rounds of a minimum of 2 of the exercises below around 3 times per week.  Remember to take a breather for 1 minute between each exercise.

These exercises could be a complete workout, part of your regular strength training routine or as a finisher after a run.  As we have talked about in previous blogs, it is important to mix up your routine and your combinations so that you avoid injury (as well as boredom!).  Make sure you also take 1 or 2 days rest during the week too – don’t worry your body will still get faster.

The Pull-up

When you’re training for any kind of obstacle race, you can’t go wrong with pull-ups. The inverted row is a great choice as your go-to upper body move. Do as many as you possibly can and that’s one round. When starting, you may only be able to do one rep. That’s fine, with practice you will improve quickly.

The Burpee Pull-up

The burpee is the signature exercise of many obstacle courses. It’s the penalty if you don’t complete an obstacle, it’s great for overall strength and it is also a fantastic cardio exercise. Adding a twist onto the traditional pull up will help with grip strength, and it gets you accustomed to lifting your entire body weight, which is something that is essential for many obstacles.

Straight Arm Hangs

All versions of pull-up exercises will help you with your upper body endurance. By building the upper body you will find pulling yourself up ropes, through mud and over vertical walls a much less daunting task. Dead hangs or straight arm hangs as they are often known are the ultimate training for nailing that grip strength.  For this exercise progress is measured in time. Carry out 3 reps, hanging onto the bar each time for as long as you possibly can. Take a break for one minute between each rep. Once you can see an improvement increase it to 5 reps.

Pull-Up Hold

Mastering the atlas stones, up-and-downs and rope climbs requires an ability to tackle unstable obstacles quickly.  The pull up or “unstable isometric-static hold” works to strengthen your shoulder girdle as well as grip strength to complete both climbing and hanging obstacles.

If you are a beginner, complete this move by holding yourself at the top of a pull-up position. If you’re not physically strong enough to hold yourself up, you can try connecting bands to your knees to lessen the weight. Intermediate and advanced athletes should hold themselves up statically in this position. Hold as long as you can for one rep. Do as many reps as you can and take a rest for a minute between each.

Mix it up

It’s important to mix up your strength training with anticipating the training required to cover the distance between obstacles too.  Take into account your training goals as well and the environment you’re training in.  In between exercises try integrating some hill sprints, a short run or some interval training on the treadmill.

By implementing these exercises into your routine, you can build strength and enjoy your next obstacle course to the fullest!