Why You Need a Strong Back for Obstacle Course Racing

Why You Need a Strong Back for Obstacle Course Racing

by Janet Barry

Many people suffer from back problems, obstacle course racers included. That is why upper and lower back strength are very important in the sport of obstacle course racing. Obstacles such as the bucket carry, log carry, sled pull, sandbag carry (to name a few) all require back strength and a strong core. 

Many people suffer from back weakness, pain etc. in the sport of obstacle course racing. Only recently have I personally even began to focus more on back strengthening after I ended up messing up some ribs from the bucket carry at the Asheville Spartan race. Ever since that race I started incorporating some different back strengthening work. In as little as three weeks I saw tremendous improvements in my back strength and core stability! 

Here are a few exercises I have found that have really helped me and may help you too as you train for your next race:  

  • Bucket carry – The best way to perfect something is to actually do it, right? I carried a bucket of rocks (50lbs) for about 200 meters as a “rest” between my 400-meter repeats.
  • Kettle Bell/Bar Dead Lifts – Depending on your back strength the weight needed will vary. Start lighter and work your way up to a weight that feels hard but comfortable. Form is very important! Without proper form, you can pull/tweak your back.
  • Kettlebell Swings – Again form is important! Keep your core tight and back straight swing the kettlebell into the air with both hand and back down between your legs. I do about 25/30 pound swings between 8-12 reps X 5.
  • Supermans – Lying on your stomach raise your arms and legs. I will hold this position for 30 seconds, then flutter my arms and legs for 30 seconds and then repeat X 5.
  • Kettlebell Power Cleans – This is an explosive lower-body movement that lifts a weight from a lower position to a higher position. This exercise is great for lifting up those logs, sandbags and buckets up off the ground and into the proper positioning (low to high).

If you have back issues take caution when doing any of these exercises. When/if you feel you are capable use lighter weight and higher reps. Also, pay close attention to always keep your core tight and back in proper alignment.

Check out my video to see some of these movements in action.