So you’ve qualified for the OCR World Championships and you want to make sure you keep that all important band, but where do you start?

With the right training and with enough confidence and belief you can take on nearly any Obstacle Course that is set out in front of you.

The physicality required to navigate the course mimics the functional, whole-body movements made by our ancestors thousands of years ago: natural movements such as running, balancing, crawling, jumping, climbing, and carrying. Obstacle Course Racing is the perfect marriage of strength and endurance in a competition. In addition, you need explosive power, stability, and stamina.

A good OCR training plan should focus on these elements:

  1. Improving core strength and mobility.
  2. Building strength and stability across the hips, midsection, and shoulders.
  3. Developing explosive movements, such as jumping and leaping.
  4. Increasing endurance.
  5. Creating seamless transitions between obstacles.

Man racing through obstacle course in UK.

Here’s what you’ll need to start an OCR training plan:

  1. Somewhere to run or a treadmill if in a gym
  2. A set of monkey bars or a bar to hang off
  3. Park bench or gym bench
  4. Makeshift balance beam
  5. Box to jump on.

The 400 Workout

Start with dynamic warm-up stretches, and then repeat the sequence of exercises below workout until you reach 40 minutes.

1. Run 400 metres.

2. Jumping Squats

Develops explosive power for leaping up and over obstacles.

1. Stand with feet at shoulder width. Squat by pushing your hips back and bending your knees so that your thighs are parallel to the ground. At the same time, swing your arms backward.
2. Jump vertically by extending your ankles, knees, and hips in a straight line, while swinging your arms forward and upward. Reach as high as possible, as if trying to block a volleyball.
3. Land on your forefeet, then heels, with knees bent.
4. Repeat 20 times.

Note: Once you start getting more confident try jumping onto a box and gradually increasing the height of the box.

3. Burpees

The benefits of burpees are that it improves full-body strength, power, and endurance.

1. Start in a squat position and place your hands on the ground. Jump your feet back into a plank position. Keep your core engaged and avoid arching your back.
2. Perform a pushup.
3. Jump your feet forward toward your hands to return to a squat position. Immediately jump as high as you can while swinging your arms over your head.
4. Repeat 10 times

Run 400 metres.

4. Monkey Bars Or Dead-Hangs with Hand Release*

Develops upper-body strength and technique required to traverse monkey bars and rings.

1. Start with two hands on the first bar in a dead hang. From this position, reach one arm forward to the next bar.
2. Swing your hips forward to generate momentum. Your hips will then swing backward and forward again. As you begin your next swing forward, reach your trailing arm ahead and grab hold of the next bar.
3. As soon as your trailing hand becomes the lead hand, let your body swing backward and forward again. Use the momentum to reach your trailing arm to the next bar.
4. Repeat for 10 rungs.

*Note If you do not have access to monkey bars, substitute dead-hangs with a hand release. Try to take one hand off the bar for a few seconds, before grabbing the bar and releasing the other hand. Repeat the release 10 times for each hand.

As you develop further, start using towels, nunchucks, balls to help your grip strength develop further and start bouldering or climbing so that you can learn the techniques on how to shift bodyweight, developing flow that you can introduce to obstacles on course.

OCR youth swinging through monkey bars at ocr race.

5. Bench Routine

Builds upper-body and core strength as well as shoulder stability, which helps you pull yourself up and over obstacles.

Alternate bench pushups and bench dips for sets of 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, and 2 repetitions.

Bench Pushups (12, 8, 4)

1. Start by facing a park bench or other elevated surface. Place your hands on the bench, slightly wider than your chest, and step your feet back into a plank position.
2. Keeping your weight on the thumb sides of your palms, bend at your elbows. Keep your body in a straight line and your elbows at a 45-degree angle relative to your chest.
3. Press your hands into the bench and extend your elbows to rise to the starting position.

Bench Dips (10, 6, 2)

1. Face away from a park bench or other elevated surface. Place your hands behind you on the edge of the bench, with your palms down and fingers facing forward. Keep arms straight and chest open.
2. Step your feet forward and away from the bench. Straighten your legs so that your weight is resting on your heels and the palms of your hands.
3. Bend at your elbows to lower your body toward the ground, with triceps parallel to the ground, keeping your butt close to the bench and your chest open.
4. Press your palms down and extend your elbows to rise to the starting position.

Run 400 meters.

6. Front plank with Superman Reach

Develops core strength and improves mobility and stability in shoulders and hips, which helps with crawling and climbing.

1. Start in a plank position on your forearms, with your shoulders directly above your elbows, your entire body forming a straight line from head to toes.
2. Reach your left arm forward while lifting your right leg off the ground. Focus on keeping your hips level. Note: If this is too challenging, extend one limb at a time, going clockwise: left leg, left arm, right arm, right leg.
3. Return your left arm and right leg to the ground. Then reach your right arm and lift your left leg.
4. Alternate lifting your left arm/right leg and right arm/left leg for one minute.

7. Balance beam

Develops skills necessary for balancing obstacles.

1. Find a narrow surface (no wider than 4 inches) similar to a balance beam. Step onto the “beam,” putting one foot directly in front of the other. Engage your abs and keep your shoulders back and down.
2. Transfer your weight to your front foot, making sure to engage your glutes. Slowly step your back foot forward while keeping your abs tight and knees softly bent. Keep your arms close to your body.
3. As you place your new lead foot on the beam, distribute your weight evenly between both feet. Once you feel stable, continue walking forward in this manner.
4. Repeat for 20 feet (one set). Perform 10 sets.

8. Sprint

Give your absolute all – whilst remaining in control, when on a treadmill 400 Metres to Finish.

Women crossing finish line in obstacle race.

How many times should you do this routine? That depends on you and what other training you are doing.

Here is a possible OCR training plan for beginners:

Monday – The 400 Workout
Tuesday – Bouldering/Climbing
Wednesday – The 400 Workout
Thursday – Short Run (5km)
Friday – The 400 Workout
Saturday – Rest
Sunday – Long Run (10km+)

There are several ways to increase the intensity level, either increase the distance run between exercises, increase the reps or time of each exercise, add weight (bench press-ups become dumbbell bench presses) or try to beat your time and try to recreate the urgency that you will face in the OCR World Championships, you can even work out with an accountability buddy of a similar level and compare scores.

-Tom Nash

Tom is the founder of Team UK OCR, a keen Obstacle Course Racer, and Personal Trainer, Instagram @tomnashpt