Ask the Expert—Erin Holt

Erin Desharnais

Q: I keep hearing about obstacle races and I want to do one. What is the most important part of training?

A: Running, jumping, and climbing, all while getting muddy! It’s easy to see why so many people are signing up for the challenge. After all, who doesn’t want to feel like a kid again and get rewarded for it. However, it’s important to train properly so that preventable injuries don’t keep you on the sidelines. The most important step you can take in training is strengthening your core. This will help guarantee that you successfully Spartan_Race_2cross that finish line—and with a smile.
During the race, you are only as strong as your weakest link, and for most people this means their core—or speed center—which includes abdominals, lower back, and hip musculature. For a solid base of support capable of transferring power through the kinetic chain, you need to build strength from the center of the body out to the periphery. And with obstacle-course racing, an improved core means improved performance.
While traditional crunches or sit-ups may be what first comes to mind, try mixing in
stabilization (slow & controlled) exercises, explosive movements, resistance, and unstable surfaces to train both strength, balance, and power. Incorporate the exercises below in with your other running, hiking, and strength training and you will be more than prepared. See you at the finish!

Examples of Explosive Core Exercises:

Medicine ball slam downs
Medicine ball rotational wall throws
Plyometric push-ups
Kettle bell swings

Examples of Stabilization Core Exercises:

Prone arm reaches
Cable circles
Renegade Rows
Physio ball pikes and tucks

Examples of Unstable Core Exercises:

Medicine ball push-ups
Inverted body weight rows with feet on a physio ball
Physio ball rollouts (feet on a bench, elbows on the ball)
Resisted bear crawls

A Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and TPI fitness professional, Erin Desharnais also holds a B.S. in Exercise Science from the University of New Hampshire.

Obstacle-Course photos from

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