Grip Strength: The Key to Obstacle Course Racing
by Janet Barry
The biggest thing I struggled with when I was new to OCR was the amount of grip strength the sport required.
Throughout a race, there are multiple obstacles that all require excellent grip strength.
When I ran my first elite Spartan race, I placed 5th qualifying for Spartan Race World Championship despite missing five obstacles (and was barely able to complete my burpees at an acceptable pace). I knew that if I took time to build up my strength (esp. grip strength) I could really dominate in the sport.
When I first began grip training, I couldn’t even hang on to a monkey bar with one hand, let alone do three monkey bars in a row without falling off, immediately. I had my work cut out for me if I was going to build the hand strength these obstacles demanded.
However, with some research and trial, I discovered a regimen that worked for me. Here’s the routine that got me into the shape I needed to compete in Spartan Race World Championship:
- Farmers carries – Carry heavy weight in each hand with arms straight by your sides and walk forward.
- Dead hangs – Hanging from a bar with your arms straight.
- One arm dead hangs – Hanging from a bar with one arm straight.
- Monkey bars – Find monkey bars on a playground or anywhere and swing across the bars.
- Teared monkey bars – Monkey bars that vary in width apart and bars that vary in height from the ground.
- Rings – Find a set of rings on a playground and try swinging from one ring to another in the most efficient way possible for you.
- Rock climbing – Rock climbing gyms are great to challenge your grip strength in different ways with the varying size of the rocks.
- Hang boarding – Hang from different holes in a dead hang position on a practice obstacle.
When I trained my grip strength I also made sure I did these workouts after a cardio session or in the middle of a circuit work. This way, my body learned how to perform these movements when I was tired (mimicking how you would feel during a race).
If you’re going to incorporate grip strength into your training keep in mind that grip strength uses small muscles and tendons and you will tire our your forearms quickly. The good news is these smaller muscles also recover quickly and you can incorporate grip strength into your workout regimen multiple times per week!