The Ultimate Spartan Race Training: Test Your Body, Mind, and Spirit

spartan starting line race racing

Are you bored with your workouts? Are you ready for a new challenge? Do you want to test your body, mind, and spirit? Well, then you're ready to start doing some Spartan Race training.

Now, we aren't going to sugar coat this for you. Spartan Race training is going to be hard. But it will make you stronger, and it will prepare you for what you'll face on race day. You don't even have to like it. You just have to do it and know that all of your hard work is going to pay off big time.

Have you ever seen those memes where a guy has an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other? That's what we all face when we try something new or try to change our lives. Our devils are continually telling us that we can't. Fortunately, we also have that angel that says, "Yes you can!"

It's time to ignore that devil. Listen to your angel!

What Is a Spartan Race?

spartan race training

Image Public Domain, by Steven L. Shepard, via Flickr

A Spartan Race is no ordinary marathon. It's a unique race that will test your body, mind, and spirit. It's also some of the most fun you could legally have as an adult athlete. Is it tough? You bet it is! It will kick your butt.

And you will love every minute of it.

The Spartan Race debuted in 2010. Then in 2013 Reebok became the title sponsor for the event. The race has come a long way in the past nine years, and it has grown a sort of cult following. People love it, and with good reason!

Spartan races involve running and a series of obstacles. Remember how much fun obstacle courses were when you were a kid? Well, this is a grown-up course that requires cardiovascular fitness, strength, plus agility.

Beginners to elite athletes love this race

I know that when you see the people covered in mud, scaling a greased wall or climbing a rope, it can be intimidating when you're a couch potato. But believe it or not, with a little Spartan Race training you can get yourself off the couch and into a race. Yes, even if you're a beginner.

One of the cool things about the Spartan races is that they are all different. You never know what obstacles you are going to face until you show up at the event. It's kind of like life that way. However, some obstacles frequently show up. Some of them include wall climbing, climbing under barbed wire, mud crawling, rope climb, heavy object carrying, monkey bars, Herculean Hoist, long jump, and tire flips.

Another great thing about this race series is that there are several different types of races available.

Each separate race varies in length and obstacles. If you've never worked out in your life, this probably isn't where you want to start. But if you have any fitness level at all, you can do this, even if you are a beginner.

Are you in great shape? Are you an elite athlete? Well, this race is for you too. In fact, this is a challenge for athletes like no other.

Pro Tip

Helene Dumais is a Spartan SGX coach and a Canadian professional endurance athlete. She says that you should practice the 3/4 safe, 1/4 race method. “For the first ¾ of the total race distance, focus solely on your nutrition and pace with the goal of completing this distance safely. For the last quarter of the distance, start thinking about racing and competing. At the start line, it’s not about other racers, it’s about you.”

Dude, What's the Deal with All the Burpees?

Burpees are one of the best overall full-body exercises you do. And oh man, does Spartan love them! By the time you finish with Spartan Race training, you're going to love them too. It might be a love, hate relationship, that's true, but you will certainly be familiar with the move.

As I just mentioned, Spartan races include some super challenging obstacles. Not everyone will be able to do every one of them. So does that mean that you won't be able to finish the race if you can't climb a rope, for example?

Nope!

If you can't do one or more of the obstacles, there's no need to fret. You can do burpees instead!

Every time that you fail completing an obstacle you have to do 30 burpees as a penalty before you can move on in the race. Every obstacle will have a designated area for burpees. Each athlete is responsible for counting their own.

When you're working on your Spartan Race training, it is essential that you do a ton of burpees. The more you practice them, the better you'll do in the race. Burpees work your legs, arms, trunk, and core while testing your cardiovascular fitness. You don't have to love them. You just have to do them.

If you're a beginner, watch this short video to see how to do burpees.

Spartan Sprint

If you're new to obstacle course races, the Spartan Sprint is a great place to start.

Sprint races are between 3 and 5 miles long, and they have 20 to 23 different obstacles. This race is considered the starting line of champions. Newbies love this one, but so do Spartan veterans.

Every time you run this race you have the opportunity of crushing your last time and conquering the obstacles that you previously struggled to complete.

The Spartan Race training guide below will help you to get in shape before you run this one. You will need to train for endurance, agility, strength, and cardiovascular fitness.

spartan race at at&t

Image Public Domain, by Steven L. Shepard, via Flickr

This race is perfect for

  • Newbies
  • Experienced athletes
  • Runners and triathletes who are looking for a challenge
  • Health and fitness enthusiasts
  • Anyone ready to change their life

Stadium Series

The Spartan Stadium Series is similar to the Sprint in length. These races are 3 miles long and have 20 different obstacles.

The thing that's different about this race is that it takes place in historic stadiums around the country. Generally speaking, these races contain no water, mud, or barbwire. You will, however, be running a ton of stadium steps.

Your Spartan Race training for the Stadium series should include endurance work, stair climbing, and indoor track racing.

This race is perfect for

  • Newbies
  • Experienced athletes
  • Parkour and CrossFit athletes
  • Sports fanatics
  • Anyone who wants to change their life
spartan race sgx trainers

Image Public Domain, by Steven L. Shepard, via Flickr

Spartan Super

So you're ready to step it up a notch? Do you want an even more difficult challenge than the Stadium or the Sprint? Well, then it looks like you're ready for the Spartan Super. It's longer than the Stadium or the Sprint, and it has even more obstacles. The Super is 8 to 10 miles long, and it has 24 to 29 obstacles.

This race is a real athletic challenge that combines endurance and speed. This race will kick your butt; there are no two ways about it. But if you're up for a new challenge, it will push you beyond what you ever imagined you could do. It will test your mind, and it will most certainly test your body. If you've already tried the Stadium or the Sprint, then you're ready for the next level. That's the Super.

This race is perfect for

  • Athletes
  • Anyone ready for more of a challenge

Spartan Beast

So you've tried the Sprint, the Stadium, and the Super, but you still need a tougher challenge? Then the Beast is your next step. This race is not for the faint of heart. You're going to need to dig deep to get through this one. The Beast is 12 to 14 miles long, and it has a whopping 35 obstacles!

To conquer the Beast, you're going to need strength, endurance, and a whole lot of resolve. This race will separate the serious from the posers. And it will also test your will. If you're looking for something to push you deep into your discomfort zone and past what you thought were your self-imposed limits, then look no further than the Beast.

Like the other races, you will need to do Spartan race training for endurance, strength, agility, and speed for the Beast.

Most people get hooked once they run their first Spartan race. It's very common for people to run several Spartans. For those people, Spartan offers a Trifecta award. To get the Trifecta, you have to complete a Sprint, Super, and Beast in one calendar year.

spartan race crawling on mud

Image CC by 2.0, by Edwin Martinez, via Flickr

This race is perfect for

  • Athletes who want to test themselves
  • People ready to push beyond their limits.

Spartan Ultra

Wait, there's more??

Oh yeah, there's more.

For elite athletes who need an even more significant challenge, there's the Ultra. Seriously, if you can make it through this race, there's truly nothing you can't do. The Ultra is crazy long at 30 miles with a mind-blowing 60 obstacles.

Your Spartan Race training for this one should focus on endurance, strength, and speed.

This race is perfect for

  • Elite athletes

Spartan Race For Kids

Your Spartan Race training can work for your whole family. Yes, even the kids!

One thing that I can tell you for sure after teaching fitness to adults and children for more than 20 years is that when kids learn to love exercise at an early age, they are far more likely to be healthy as adults. So forget the babysitter, bring the kids with you to the Spartan race!

Spartan offers three separate kids races:

  • Ages 4 to 6: 1/2-mile of more fun that you can imagine
  • For ages 7 to 9: 1-mile course of epic proportions
  • Ages 10 to 13: 2-mile course at all outdoor events

The Spartan Race Training Schedule

spartan race contestant on the mud

Image Public Domain, by Senior Airman David Owsianka, via Air Force Medical Service

You should begin your Spartan Race training two months before your race.

Here's an example of a Spartan Race training schedule:

  • Monday: Strength circuits
  • Tuesday: Running hills finishing with sprints
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Interval training with the stair master or stadium steps
  • Friday: Strength circuits
  • Saturday: Running for endurance training
  • Sunday: Rest

What Should I Wear to a Spartan Race?

First, you should try to wear light-weight, breathable, quick-dry shorts, t-shirt, and underwear. You will also want to wear thin, breathable socks, preferably not cotton. One excellent option is compression runner's socks.

The next thing you're going to need is some running shoes that offer good drainage and traction. Remember that you're going to be running through mud and water. An excellent option is quick-drying trail running shoes.

It's also a good idea to wear a heart rate monitor watch both while you're doing the Spartan Race training and the actual race. Fitbit is one example. They make a waterproof smartwatch specifically for runners that has GPS so you can see a map of the event. You can also keep time with it and monitor your heart rate throughout the race.

The Fitbit Ionic even plays music and keeps track of the stairs you climb, which would be ideal if you run the Stadium series. Whatever watch you choose make sure that it's waterproof.

In addition to that, you should wear some gloves. The weight lifting gloves that you use during your Spartan Race training are a good option. The gloves will help you grip better on obstacles like the rope climb and the wall climbs.

The last thing you'll need to wear is sunscreen. Don't forget that!

Pro tip

Save your hat and sunglasses! Leave them in the car or throw them in your gym bag instead of trying to wear them in the race. They might not make it to the finish line otherwise!

What You Need to Bring with You

When you finish with your Spartan Race training, and you're finally ready for your big day, there are a few things that you don't want to forget to bring with you.

  • ID, money, and directions to the race
  • A gym bag to carry all of your gear
  • An extra outfit to change into after the race
  • An extra pair of shoes to change into, flip flops are a popular choice
  • A towel
  • A plastic bag for your dirty clothes after the race
  • First aid kit
  • Extra pair of socks
  • Snacks

If you are a veteran Spartan or are running the Beast or the Ultra you should also bring:

  • A hydration pack with stash gels and food bars
  • A small cooler with post-race recovery drinks and snacks

How Much Does It Cost to Do a Spartan Race?

The prices for each race will vary depending on the type of course and the length. Another thing that affects the price is how many people have signed up for each heat block. As more people sign up for each block, the cost will go up. So sign up early!

Generally speaking, doing a Spartan race will cost you from $60 to $200 per person. If you race with a team, you can get a 5 to 10 percent discount.

Spartan Race Training

In the Spartan Race training schedule above I mentioned that you should do strength circuits twice a week. The nine exercises below are an example of a kick-ass strength circuit.

Here's how you put it together:

  1. Dumbbell burpees: 15 to 20 reps
  2. Pull-ups: 5 to 10 reps
  3. Box jumps: 12 to 20 reps
  4. Walking lunges: 10 to 15 reps on each leg
  5. Planks: 3 to 5 reps
  6. Single-leg deadlifts: 8 to 12 reps on each leg
  7. Kettlebell swings: 10 to 15 reps
  8. Jump squats: 10 to 15 reps
  9. Push-ups: 10 to 15 reps

Go through the exercises one through nine in order, completing all reps for each. That equals one Spartan Race training circuit. You should do two to three of them total for each workout. Try not to rest more than one minute between exercises.

1. Dumbbell Burpees

Remember when I told you that you were going to get very familiar with the burpee? Well, you have to start by doing them in your Spartan Race training.

You can practice doing the regular burpees that we went over earlier, or you can add weights to them. The dumbbells will make the exercise significantly more difficult. Once you get used to doing them with the added weight, the regular burpees will feel like a breeze. Okay, maybe not a breeze, but they will definitely be easier.

Don't go too heavy with this; use light weights. Start by standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart, holding a weight in each hand. Drop down to the push-up position while gripping the dumbbells. You can either then do your push-up next, or you can skip it. Don't worry about it if you skip the push-up. We're going to do a bunch of them in a minute. Next, jump back to your feet and stand up in a squat position. And then finish with a jump.

In your Spartan Race training, that counts as one rep. You will be doing 15 to 20 reps for each set.

Muscles Targeted

The dumbbell burpees will work your whole body including your arms, chest, core, quads, glutes, and hamstrings. They will also work on your cardiovascular system. This Spartan Race training exercise is a prime example of functional fitness.

Not only will they help you to get through the 30-burpee penalties in the race, but they will also make you stronger to get through those obstacles. If you do enough of them in your Spartan Race training, you won't have to do as many of them on race day. Not a bad deal, right?

2. Pull-Ups

The next exercise in your Spartan Race training is the pull-up. I'm not going to lie; pull-ups are hard. But they are also necessary if you plan to make it over the wall and climb the rope. You need to be strong enough to pull yourself up if you want to avoid endless burpees.

Start by gripping the bar a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep your core engaged and your body in a plank position as you pull your chin toward the bar. Then slowly lower your body back down. Be sure to go through the full range of motion.

If you're not strong enough yet to do pull-ups, you can use a spotter to help you, or you can do this Spartan Race training exercise with the lat pulldown. If you do the lat pulldown, make sure that you go as heavy as you can without sacrificing your form.

You should do 5 to 10 reps for each set.

Muscles Targeted

Pull-ups work your back and your biceps. This Spartan Race training exercise is another example of functional fitness that will help you pull yourself up that rope or over the wall on race day.

Pro Tip

“Once a client is interested in doing a Spartan Race, I make sure they’re working on grip strength,” says Sparta Race training coach Nicole Rosa. “I’ll have them start doing dead hangs, toes to bar, jumping pull-ups, assisted pull-ups, and kettlebell or dumbbell walks to help them build the grip strength they need to succeed at obstacles.”

3. Box Jumps

Box jumps are another important Spartan Race training exercise that you should master before race day. There are many times in Spartan races where you have to jump or leap. The fire jump is the final obstacle at most events. You don't want to be the Spartan who can't complete that last obstacle do you? Well, then you need to practice your box jumps.

Make sure before you start this exercise that you have a stable box or platform to jump onto that won't move.

Then, with your feet about shoulder-width apart jump straight up onto the box. Use your arms to help drive you up. Either jump back down or step down after each jump.

You will do 12 to 20 reps for each set.

Muscles Targeted

Box jumps are another full body Spartan Race training exercise. They work your core, glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, and they even work your arms as you use them to get more height. In addition to the strength training with this one, box jumps also work your cardiovascular system.

4. Walking Lunges

As I said earlier, I have been a fitness trainer for over 20 years, and I can tell you for sure that walking lunges are one of the best exercises you can do to strengthen your entire lower body. You'll need that on race day.

When you're doing your Spartan Race training, you can do them with or without weights. You can also practice them with a heavy sandbag on your back or shoulder.

Start standing with your feet together and then take a giant step forward with your right foot, lunging straight down, not forward. Be sure that when you're in the lunge position, neither of your knees bend beyond 90 degrees. Your right knee should be lined up directly above your ankle. Then put your weight into your right heel and stand up. Repeat the movement on your left leg and continue with the full set alternating legs.

Each set will include 10 to 15 lunges on each leg.

Muscles Targeted

Walking lunges work your core, quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. They will also give you some cardio work. On top of that, they're excellent for endurance and balance, both of which you'll need to make it through the obstacles.

5. Planks

Perhaps the most crucial exercise in your Spartan Race training is planks. Planks are excellent for your core. And you will need a strong core throughout your race, especially on the heavy-lifting and carrying obstacles.

Start by laying on the ground on your stomach. Place your elbows on the floor directly lined up under your shoulders. Then pull your abs in tight and lift your body off the ground so that you balance on your elbows, forearms, and your toes. You want your body to be in a straight line from your toes to your head. One thing to avoid is letting your back sink. Focus on keeping your bellybutton glued to your spine.

You will hold each plank for at least 30 seconds to 1 minute. One set includes three to five planks.

Muscles Targeted

Planks are another full body exercise that targets your abs, obliques, back, glutes, arms, shoulders, and quads. The reason that I say planks could be the most crucial exercise in your Spartan Race training is that you are going to need a strong core for every single obstacle you face on race day.

6. Single-Leg Deadlifts

The next exercise in your Spartan Race training is the single-leg deadlift. You can either do them with a kettlebell or without weights.

Start by standing up straight with your core tight and the kettlebell in your right hand. Slowly lift your right leg behind you and bend forward, hinging at the hip.

Then squeeze your hamstring and your glutes on your left leg and stand back up. Repeat all of the reps on your right leg before you shift to your left leg. One thing to remember is that you want the kettlebell in the opposite hand of the leg you're working. Incidentally, the working leg is the leg you're standing on, not the leg you're lifting.

For your Spartan Race training, you will do 8 to 12 reps on each leg for each set.

Muscles Targeted

The single-leg deadlifts work your hamstrings, glutes, and core. For muscular balance don't use weights with the deadlifts unless you're using weights with the walking lunges.

7. Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell swings are the next exercise that you should focus on in your Spartan Race training. If you don't have a kettlebell, you can also do this exercise with a dumbbell or even a heavy bag of sand.

Start standing with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and hinge at the hips to pick up the weight. Then swing the kettlebell between your legs. From there you pop your hips forward and straighten your legs as you swing the weight up to chest height in front of you. That counts as one rep. Repeat by swinging the kettlebell back between your legs as you hinge forward and squat.

To protect your back on this Spartan Race training exercise be sure that you keep your core tight.

For each set, you will do 10 to 15 reps.

Muscles Targeted

Kettlebell swings work your lower back, abs, shoulders, legs, and glutes.

8. Jumping Squats

For more explosive power, the next Spartan Race training exercise is jump squats. You can do these with light weights or no weight at all.

Start standing with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Then sit back into your squat making sure that your knees stay lined up above your ankles. Your knees should never go forward of your toes or bend beyond 90 degrees.

Think of the movement like you're sitting down into an imaginary chair. As you squat, let your arms swing behind you a little so that you can use them to propel you into the air. From the squat position jump straight up as high as you can, bringing your arms overhead. If you're holding weights, don't swing your arms.

For each set, do 10 to 15 reps.

Muscles Targeted

Jump squats work your legs, core, and glutes. They are also an excellent Spartan Race training tool to help you with explosive power. That will help you with many of the obstacles on race day. Another reason that jump squats are part of your Spartan Race training is that they work your cardiovascular system.

9. Push-Ups

I know what you're thinking. Everyone hates push-ups. That's okay. You don't have to like them. You just have to do them.

Push-ups are one of the very best Spartan Race training exercises that you can do to strengthen your upper body and core.

Just like with the burpees, the more push-ups that you do in your Spartan Race training, the better you will do on the obstacle course. You can either practice regular push-ups, or you can challenge yourself and take it to the next level.

Try doing your push-ups declined.

For declined push-ups, you will put your feet up on a chair or a bench. Keep your core tight as you get into a high plank position. From there you will lower your chest toward the ground, go as deep as you can go. And then push back up to the plank position.

For each set, you will do 10 to 15 push-ups.

Muscles Targeted

Push-ups work your arms, chest, shoulders, and core.

Be sure that you concentrate on using the correct form with this Spartan Race training exercise. If you get pain in your lower back when you do them declined, that is an indication that you're either not using the proper technique or you're not quite strong enough yet to do them on the decline. If that's the case, go back to regular push-ups on the floor.

One Last Thing

One important thing to remember while you're doing your Spartan Race training is that your mind can be the biggest obstacle. We all have that negative voice in our heads that sometimes tells us we're not good enough or that we can't do it. The key to your training and ultimately your success in the race is learning how to ignore that negative voice.

You really can do this. You just have to be ready to change your life. Spartan will do precisely that.

So as you do your Spartan Race training keep reminding yourself that you can do this. Appreciate your hard work and your dedication to your health. And take note when you have successes. Are you finally strong enough to do a pull-up or declined push-ups? Celebrate that! That's a hell of a lot more than most people can do. If you're not there yet, don't fret. Just keep up the hard work.

Now, are you ready to get off that couch and test your mind, body, and spirit?

Let us know what you think. Share with our readers your experience with Spartan. If you have some words of encouragement be sure to share that too.

Today's the day my friends. Let's do this!

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