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Top 10 Insane Obstacle Course Workouts

Top 10 Insane Obstacle Course Workouts

Written by
January 15, 2015
Updated September 18, 2018

In case you hadn’t noticed, obstacle course races and mud runs like the Spartan, Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash are sweeping the nation. From 20,000 participants in it’s 2010 debut year, the Tough Mudder logged nearly 700,000 participants in 2013. With 350,000 participants in 2012, 60+ events in 2013, and featuring over 100 events in 2014, Reebok Spartan Race is one of the fastest growing events in the world.

Obstacle racing is a sport in which, traveling on foot, you must overcome various physical challenges. Obstacles include, but are not limited to, climbing over walls, carrying heavy objects, traversing bodies of water, crawling under barbed wire, and jumping through fire.

With a history of heavy military influence, it’s no surprise that many obstacles are similar to those used in military training. But other obstacles are unique to obstacle racing and test endurance, strength, speed, mobility, and mental toughness. Races vary in both distance and challenge level, combining trail running, road running, and cross-country running in distances ranging from 1 mile arena sprint events to 26.2+ mile “death races”!

When you train for an obstacle race, you not only build full body fitness that allows you to hoist heavy sandbags over your head, but you also build the mobility to crawl under barbwire, the resilience to dive into cold mud pits, and an overall uncanny ability to conquer the unknown and withstand just about anything that gets thrown at your body.

In this article, you’re going to get 10 slightly insane obstacle training workouts that will spice up your workouts like nothing else, and completely redefine the way you train. You don’t need much equipment for these – just some heavy stuff and the willingness to tolerate physical discomfort. Ready? Let’s jump right in. If you can tackle a few of these a week, you’ll be ready to race obstacle courses – or at least be a helluva lot tougher.

Top 10 Insane Obstacle Course Workouts

Top 10 (Slightly Insane) Obstacle Course Training Workouts

Obstacle Course Workout #1: Butt Burner

A simple workout that requires just you and your body.

  •  400M walking lunges
  • Run max distance for 5 minutes
  • 400M walking lunges
  • Run max distance for 4 minutes
  • 400M walking lunges
  • Run max distance for 3 minutes
  • 400M walking lunges
  • Run max distance 2 minutes
  • 400M walking lunges
  • Max distance run for 1 minutes

Obstacle Course Workout #2: Battle Rounds

Perfect when you have one set of dumbbells and you want a lung-sucking workout that includes some significant load lifting.

Preferably wearing Elevation Training Mask, do 3-5 rounds for time of:

  • 50 leg levers
  • 40 mountain climbers
  • 30 burpees
  • 20 kettlebell or dumbbell swings
  • 10 dumbbell manmakers (40lb men/25lb women)

Obstacle Course Workout #3: The Running Bear


It’s called the bear because it feels like you have a bear on your back. Enjoy that feeling.

  • Do 10 Bear complex using 95lbs for females or 135lbs for males. Then run 1 Mile.
  • Then 8 Bear Complex, followed by running 800M.
  • Then 6 Bear complex, followed by running 400M.
  • And finally 4 Bear Complex followed by 200M and a final 2 Bear Complex.

Obstacle Course Workout #4: Sandy Stairs

All you need for this is something heavy to carry and a flight of stairs. You get to work your core during your “rest periods”.

  • Find a flight of stairs, preferably 3-5 flights
  • At bottom of stairs, do 5-10 sandbag, rock or dumbbell clean and jerks (here’s how to make your own sandbag)
  • Carry sandbag to top of stairs. Carry sandbag back down stairs.
  • Set sandbag down and hold plank position for 60 seconds.
  • Repeat for as many rounds as possible in available time.

Obstacle Course Workout #5: Row Your Boat

Top 10 (Slightly Insane) Obstacle Course Training Workouts

Don’t have a rowing machine? Then use a bike. But double the distance if done on a stationary bike.

Row 1000m, rest 2 minutes, row 800m, rest 90 seconds, row 600m, rest 60 seconds, row 400m, rest 30 seconds, and finally row 200m for an all out effort. Finish by hopping off the rowing machine for 30 burpees.

Obstacle Course Workout #6: Hotel Room Workout

I travel a ton and do body weight workouts like this quite a bit. I’ve also done similar workouts (without the cold shower of course) in airport terminals, parks, etc.

As many rounds as possible of:

  • 10 lunge jumps per side
  • 15 burpees
  • 20 box jumps onto bed
  • 25 chair dips
  • 30 jumping jacks

Finish with a 2-5 minute cold shower

Obstacle Course Workout #7: The Wrestler

You’ll feel like you’ve been in a wrestling match after this one.

Complete 3 rounds of:

  • 75 burpees
  • 30 squat tosses with sandbag
  • 10-30 pistol squats each leg
  • 10-30 pull-ups
  • 5 rope climbs

Obstacle Course Workout #8: 5×5 With Sprint Finisher

very good combination of strength, speed and muscular endurance.
5 sets of 5 reps of:

  • Benchpress
  • Deadlift
  • Backsquat
  • Shoulder Press
  • Power clean

Finisher: 10×30 second sprint at 8-10mph on 8-10% incline

Obstacle Course Workout #9: Hotel / Stairs Workout

very good option for when the hotel gym is crappy.

  • Run one flight of stairs one step at a time. Stop on landing for 20 second isometric squat.
  • Run next flight of stairs two steps at a time. Stop on landing for 20 push-ups.
  • Run next flight of stairs by box jumping as many steps at a time. Stop on landing for 20 mountain climbers.
  • Repeat for as many flights as possible.

Obstacle Course Workout #10: The Stairmaster

If you really fancy yourself as fit, try going from 5 to 1 minute, and then back up.

  • 5 minutes hard stair climb, 100m walking lunges with 40lb dumbbells
  • 4 minutes hard stair climb, 100m walking lunges with 40lb dumbbells
  • 3 minutes hard stair climb, 100m walking lunges with 40lb dumbbells
  • 2 minutes hard stair climb, 100m walking lunges with 40lb dumbbells
  • 1 minutes hard stair climb, 100m walking lunges with 40lb dumbbells

Want over a hundred more workouts just like this? You can get them, along with Onnit’s Unconventional Guide To Obstacle Course Training, a complete 12 week nutrition plan from Ben Greenfield, obstacle how-to training videos with top Spartan athlete Hunter McIntyre, a guide to making your own backyard obstacles, top-secret interviews with the world’s top obstacle racing athletes and much more! Just head over to

Ben Greenfield is human performance consultant, speaker and New York Times bestselling author of 13 books, including the wildly popular titles “Beyond Training” and “Boundless”. A former collegiate tennis, water polo and volleyball player, bodybuilder, 13 time Ironman triathlete and professional obstacle course racer, Ben has been voted by the NSCA as America’s top Personal Trainer and by Greatist as one of the top 100 Most Influential People In Health And Fitness. A frequent contributor to health and wellness publications and websites and a highly sought after speaker, Ben’s understanding of functional exercise, nutrition, and the delicate balance between performance and health has helped thousands of people around the world achieve their goals and improve their quality of life – from high level CEO’s to soccer moms to professional athletes and beyond.
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