Build an obstacle-ready body with these key exercises from professional obstacle racer and trainer David Magida.
Peter Koch 1 / 7
Last fall, Spartan pro David Magida opened Elevate Interval Fitness (trainatelevate.com), a boutique group training facility in Washington, D.C. To build prelaunch hype, he began conducting an OCR training program in Rock Creek Park, the city’s sprawling 1,700-acre wilderness. The class proved wildly popular, attracting lawyers, politicos, and other pros for 90-minute sufferfests of hauling sandbags up hills, running off-trail and through streams, and crawling under picnic tables.
“People don’t want to train for a marathon anymore,” Magida says. “Or they do it once, it’s off the bucket list, and they wonder, ‘What’s next?’ Obstacle racing is truly an adventure.”
Of course, in between the adventurous stuff were the body-weight exercises that can transform a lump of flesh into a proficient, strong, obstacle-tackling machine. We asked Magida for his top OCR-prep exercises.
WHY IT’S GREAT: The king of all body-weight exercises is essential in OCR training. “You need to have the ability to pull your own body weight free of gravity. It’s going to help you with rope climbing, with basic things like grip on monkey bars, and with hoist obstacles. Pullups are huge in this sport,” Magida says.
WHY IT’S GREAT: It combines pushup strength and the hip mobility that comes in handy for hugging close to the traverse wall or crawling under barbed wire; it also builds stability in the abs for better overall fitness.
WHY IT’S GREAT: “It’s a great conditioning exercise* interspersed with running,” Magida says. “Plus, you’re going to have to do them as penalties in a lot of races,” so it’s best to just get used to them now. Burpees build great cardiovascular endurance.
*Junyong Pak has come up with what he considers the most ruthlessly efficient version of this workout, the Burpee 5K. A timed 5K run with five burpees added in every quarter mile, it perfectly mimics the physiological reality of obstacle racing, in which powerful anaerobic exercises-obstacles-routinely force you into the red, depleting your glycogen reserves and causing lactic acid to build up in your muscles, spaping your running efficiency. "If you can break 20:00," Pak says, "you're probably going to find yourself on the podium."
WHY IT’S GREAT: “It teaches you how to get that explosive power for jumping but also how to land softly—and landing mechanics are important in obstacle racing. People come over an eight-foot wall, they land weird, and they hurt themselves.” Softer landings help you spring into action quicker.
WHY IT’S GREAT: “Posterior strength in the glutes and hamstrings is important because when you’re going up a big climb, that’s what you’re engaging.” Like Spider-Man pushups, this exercise builds ab stability, useful in obstacles like heavy carries.
WHY IT’S GREAT: “Climb poles, climb monkey bars, swing from ring to ring,” Magida says. “You need to wipe out your grip strength on a regular basis. Train it to become stronger and more powerful so that your fingers and forearms don’t fatigue during a lot of these obstacles.”