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How to Ace Common Obstacles

Race smarter—not harder—with the pros’ tips for beating the most popular obstacles.
How to Ace Common Obstacles

A three- to eight-foot-high wooden wall
HOW TO BEAT IT: Use your running momentum to catapult your chest to the top of the wall. “Hinge over the top at your waist,” Atkins says, then “while grabbing the top, pivot, swinging your legs around together.”

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Hand- and footholds anchored in a vertical wall
HOW TO BEAT IT: There are plenty of forearm/grip-strength obstacles in any race. “Keep your body close to the wall—like you do in rock climbing—so you can keep the weight on your feet and off your hands,” Magida advises.

A large rope net strung vertically between two poles or over a wooden A-frame
HOW TO BEAT IT: “Take your time,” Atkins says. “You’re better off catching your breath than rushing and getting caught in the net.” Stay close to the sides, too, where the rope will be most taut and the net easiest to climb.

A thick rope to ascend and descend
HOW TO BEAT IT: “Leave your macho pride behind,” Pak says, “and learn the S-hook.” If you try climbing with arms only, you’re likely to fail on a muddy rope. Magida adds, “You need to use your entire body to hang on while taking the pressure off your arms and fingers.” J-hook is another foot method worth learning.

Sharp wire fencing strung low over mud and rocks
HOW TO BEAT IT: Everyone agrees that crawling is more physically taxing, and rolling sideways is more economical and, well, dizzying. Beyond that, you have to find what works best for you. Magida suggests mastering your dizziness beforehand by repeatedly rolling on your side, then standing up and running. “It’s really difficult, but eventually your body gets used to it.” Pak suggests offsetting the spin effect by “rolling in the opposite direction.” Atkins, for his part, switches between the two.

Hurl a wooden spear into a hay-bale target 25 feet away
HOW TO BEAT IT: Plant your feet, point your counterbalance arm directly at the target, and draw the spear back in your throwing arm. When you’re ready to throw, rotate your hips and push the spear forward, keeping it pointed at the target throughout the throw.

A leap into a frigid, occasionally ice-filled pool; sometimes swimming across it or diving underwater is required
HOW TO BEAT IT: Practice getting into an ice-cold bath at home. “Be the master of the cold, and don’t let it get you,” Atkins says. “And remember that once you get out and start running, you’ll warm up fast.”


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