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2 Secret Methods for Obstacle Race Training

Written by: Mark de Grasse

Obstacle races, with all of their rope climbs, uneven terrain sprints, spear throwing, and heavy carries, are just one of the many activities that can directly benefit from functional fitness tools like kettlebells, sandbags, steel maces, steel clubs, and suspension tools. Better yet, specific training methodologies like Unconventional Training are designed to build a fully capable athlete by balancing key fitness abilities like strength, conditioning, and agility.

Did you know that even the ancients used two training methods that could massively enhance your ability to perform during obstacle races?

What if I told you that the most useful training methods that could enhance your obstacle race abilities don’t come from a high-tech training lab in a prestigious performance training center, but instead our ancestors from thousands of years ago? It makes sense if you think about it; who would have the best ability to run a jagged landscape full of obstacles...a spearman hunting down his next meal or a warrior on an ancient battle field maybe?

While functional training is often touted as one of the keys to success for obstacle racing, there are several extremely useful implements that you’ve probably never even tried. Try combining these “new” warrior implements with some Unconventional Training protocols to dominate your next race!

Erik Melland demonstrating an overhead squat.

Erik Melland demonstrating an overhead squat.

The Steel Mace: The Key to Grip Strength

If you’re looking for the grip strength you need to pull any load across rough terrain and the grip endurance you need to hang from one bar while swinging to another, the Steel Mace is the fitness tool for you.

The Steel Mace is a recreation of an ancient training tool known as a Gada. It’s extremely simple; basically just a ball of steel at the the end of a 40 inch handle. Typical Steel Mace weights vary from 10 to 25 pounds; this may not sound like much, but the way the weight is distributed makes a huge difference! Even experienced Steel Mace users will still rely on a 25 pound Steel Mace for a list of exercises.

While some of the core benefits are found using traditional swinging/rotational exercises like 10-to-2’s and 360’s, this versatile implement can also be used as an offset barbell or sledgehammer.

Since the weight of the Steel Mace is located at the end of the handle, controlling movement requires much more grip and forearm strength than balanced implements like barbells and dumbbells. Simply gripping the Steel Mace off center and holding it horizontally will force your arms and grip to work much harder. The push/pull engagement necessary to keep it level with the ground will have you sweating in no time. Add movements like the Steel Mace Joust or the Curl Grip Squat into the equation and you’ll wear out your grip in under 60 seconds! Give this set a shot and find out what the Steel Mace can do for your grip.

Sample Steel Mace Grip Workout (Visit ONNIT Academy for full demonstrations)

A1: Steel Mace Curl Grip Squat 4 rounds x 30 seconds

A2: Steel Mace Joust 4 rounds x 30 seconds

REST: 30 seconds between rounds

John Wolf demonstrating the Front Press Lunge exercise.

John Wolf demonstrating the Front Press Lunge exercise.

The Steel Club: The Spartan’s Choice for Core Strength

How do you stabilize your core as you carry heavy loads up hills, rotate and contort your body to get up, around, and under obstacles, or take a hit while sprinting through the Gauntlet? You train for it! As any warrior should know, swinging a Steel Club is the best way to do that!

The Steel Club is exactly what it sounds like; a heavy, baseball bat-like piece of steel used for swinging. While your ancient ancestor could probably wield heavy clubs like a boss, you can’t. Not to worry though! The Steel Club is a relatively new unconventional training tool that combines the use of swinging and grinding movements to engage your arms and core more than almost any other piece of exercise equipment.

The cousin of the Steel Club is the Indian Club; an extremely popular shoulder and arm mobility tool used for hundreds of years across the globe. While the Steel Club utilizes some of the rotational movements that made Indian Club popular, it goes far beyond in its capacity for building iron core strength.

The use of the Steel Club is all about controlling unwanted body rotation. In order to stabilize both your body and the Steel Club through a list of hundreds of dynamic movements, you’ll need to focus on strengthening and controlling your core. This requirement enhances your ability to control your entire body, leading to enhanced performance in any challenge you may encounter.

Two exercises that can quickly engage your core and humble you to the potential of the Steel Club are the Steel Club Clock Squat and the Steel Club Alternating Pullover. These exercises will awaken your inner warrior while highlighting the weaknesses in both control and stability that you may have. Start light! While achievable with some practice, you can hurt yourself swinging any heavy weight around if you’re careless!

Sample Club Core Strength Workout (Visit ONNIT Academy for full demonstrations)

A1: Steel Club Clock Squat 1 to 10 Seesaw

A2: Steel Club Alternating Pullover 10 to 1 Seesaw

REST: None. Perform 1 Clock Squat then 10 Alternating Pullovers, then 2 Clock Squats and 9 Pullovers, etc.

Mark de Grasse is the founder and editor of My Mad Methods Magazine, a publication dedicated to unconventional training methods, which was started in2010. With a primary goal of bringing the greatest amount of people to an optimal “functional” standard, Mark has dedicated years of his life to networking with coaches and trainers who are willing to step outside the box when it comes to fitness. Working with hundreds of fitness professionals around the world, Mark collects their knowledge in the form of articles, pictures, and videos, and organizes them to make the greatest global impact. He is the editor, graphic designer, writer, and photographer of the publication.

To learn more about Mark and his work, please visit: www.markdegrasse.com

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