Stairway To Heaven made big waves when it was brought in from the US Midwest based company Conquer The Gauntlet in 2016. The obstacle required athletes to complete a roughly 16 foot ascent and descent grabbing what looks like the underside of a set of stairs. However, the sport is still young and things continue to evolve. Here’s what Stairway 2.0 has in store for you, which was featured at Battle OCR, and how to train for it.
Stairway 2.0 is roughly a 16 foot incline and decline movement with your arms that requires moving up 12 T bar holds that have a rectangular shape making them harder to grab. It kind of looks like Valkyrie but with T bar grips.
1. Practice The Obstacle
The first and easiest solution to getting better is to practice the actual obstacle. Unfortunately you may have missed your only chance this year. Sidney Paul Morris’ Battle OCR debuted the obstacle the first weekend of March in 2020. The obstacle had a profound impact on the field…especially on the woman’s side as several top athletes had to take multiple attempts to cross it successfully. Without the actual obstacle to practice on you can still practice for it via mimicking the hand position and practicing the movements associated with Stairway 2.0.
2. Mimic The Hand Position
One of the benefits of the new Stairway over the old one is that on the T bar holds you can use an opposing grip (one hand facing forward and one backward). This matching of hands will provide a more secure grip and in many respects is actually easier than the traditional thumb less Stairway grip. Still, you won’t be grabbing a circular bar or hold so you are going to want to practice grabbing things that are squared off. If you are in a gym using somethings like the crossbeam of a pulley machine, the top of a squat rack or the top of a Smith Machine. You can also pick up rig hold that looks like a block allowing you to mimic the hand position on exercises like single arm lat pull-downs.
3. Practice the Ascent/Descent
If your arms are exhausted or back muscles aren’t strong the ascent will be challenging since it requires pulling your bodyweight up repeatedly in order to make the transitions. For this version of the obstacle, I recommend using a sideways movement instead of going backwards (like traditional Stairway). This will allow you to match hands and see your movement without having to lean back and look behind you.
For practicing the ascent you can do pull-ups on a squared surface and then reach with one of your hands before bringing it back to the squared surface. This simulates the movement you will do on a Stairway step. Pulling up with both hands and then rapidly moving one to the next hand hold.
For many, you will find the descent a little awkward. The important part is to have a plan. Just like with Stairway or Valkyrie you need to control your descent. I recommend also doing opposing grips and matching hands on each hold. For the ones going for the fastest time or willing to take more risk, a single hand per hold is doable.
4. Practice The Transition
Unlike Stairway To Heaven, you don’t need a lot of work on the transition. The transitions at the top, if going sideways, should be some of the easiest moves of the whole obstacle. Just continue to match hands moving in a controlled manner to the descent portion. The hardest part will probably staying focused and not getting in your own head about how high you are off the ground. Focus on the obstacle and your movement and ignore how high you are off the ground.
Stairway to Heaven 2.0 isn’t necessarily harder or easier than Stairway To Heaven, it is different providing a unique set of challenges to OCR athletes. Specific training and practice will make even the most difficult obstacles something you can master. Stay persistent and keep working so you can walk away with all your bands intact at the end of the most epic weekend in OCR.
Evan “Ultra-OCR Man” Perperis, NSCA-CPT, is an athlete on the Conquer The Gauntlet Pro Team, the author of six books on Obstacle Course Racing and known for his record setting multi-day OCR events for charity. Included in his 58 podium finishes is a 2nd place Pro Coed Team at the 2018 North American OCR Championships and 1st Place Team at 2018 World’s Toughest Mudder. Find more of his content at www.teamstrengthspeed.com.
Want more great training tips? Look throughout the OCRWC Blog page for more articles in the “How to Train for the OCRWC” series and pick up a copy of Evan’s newest training book “The New Strength & Speed’s Guide to Elite Obstacle Course Racing” or if you are more ultra-focused like Evan is “Mud Run Guide’s Ultra-OCR Bible”.