On Saturday 23 November 2019, people in the UK can experience the first ever Spartan Stadion race on British soil in Twickenham Stadium. If you want to get Stadion ready, we have a Spartan Race training that could benefit you even if you aren't interested in participating in the race. Just take it as a full body workout it is and build strength and endurance for the sake of it. That works too.
Three weeks is not a long time to get ready if you have been slacking off up until now, but we'll try our best to provide you with some pointers and most importantly, exercises that can get your body ready for the big race day.
What is Spartan Stadion, what to expect and what to wear for the race
You might be unfamiliar with the race and wonder: "What is Spartan Stadion?" The Spartan Stadion is a 5km obstacle course race, where competitors will have to overcome 20 of Spartan’s most fun and exhilarating obstacles, all suitable for racers of any abilities. So, even if you aren't a top athlete, you can give the Stadion a shot and see how well you fare on the course.
You can expect obstacles and some running on race day, of course! You will weave your way through sloping walkways, navigate the winding corridors and scale the stadium stairs. Spartan has also incorporated CrossFit style obstacles involving box jumps, low crawls and carries into the course, so if you are into CrossFit, this event is not to be missed!
In terms of clothing, leave you full-cotton long johns home and put on some compression tights and tops, preferably ones that wick moisture away from your body and apparel that dry quickly: wet clothes will just slow you down and make you cold. In terms of footwear, get those waterproof trail running shoes out of the cupboard, you can put them to good use here.
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A few notes on nutrition and rest
Needless to say, races like the Spartan Stadion will put some stress on your body, so you want it to be in top condition for race day. Make sure you rest enough before the race – nothing can reproduce the effects of a good night sleep – and that you don't tire your body out with bad diet in the upcoming weeks.
If you are planning on hitting the gym, and considering you are reading this, there is a good chance for that, you will want to keep an eye out for your protein intake, before, during and after the race.
To help muscle repair, take a serving of protein powder mixed with some water or milk/milk substitute after your exercise sessions in the gym.
On race day, have some running gels on you, that can give you a bit of a boost if you are running a bit low on energy.
For after the race, have some quick sugars (a banana or an apple) and a protein snack to replenish the energy lost and also to help muscle repair.
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Better be safe than sorry
Some of the below exercises use weights and movements that can potentially be difficult to perform by people who haven't exercised much recently. Don't be silly and head into injury, especially if you already booked your ticket to the Spartan Stadion.
• There is still time to book your tickets for the Spartan Stadion race in Twickenham Stadium
We also recommend wearing an activity tracker or a multi-sport smartwatch for the race and in general. The latter wearables are very sophisticated devices and can measure heart rate 24/7, track your movements using on-board GPS, and some of them even have built-in altimeters and other useful functions.
They tend to be waterproof too as wells as having scratch free screens, so they can withstand some abuse.
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Spartan race training: full body workout to get you Stadion ready
Make sure you warm up before you hit the weights. Do some light cardio, either running or cycling, to get your heart rate up a bit (you can always check your smartwatch to see what zone you are in).
Before performing the sets with the max weights you will use for the exercises, do a set or two with smaller weights to activate your muscles. Even small weights will use the muscles so don't overdo the warm up.
Also, let your muscles rest between sets to avoid muscle fatigue. Depending on the rep range, 90-120 seconds should be enough rest between sets.
And as always, if you are ever unsure, consult to your doctor before you start working with heavy weights.
One thing is for sure: you will need overall strength for the Spartan Stadion race. And is there a better way to build overall strength than doing deadlifts? No, there isn't. There is a reason why it's called the King of Lifts. Mastering deadlifts means mastering full body strength and unleashing the raw potential in your body.
To perform a barbell deadlift, you need the barbell in front of your legs on the floor, legs shoulder width-apart. Grab the barbell with overhand or mixed grip, legs bent and your back straight, shoulders open. Before you lift, activate your core and focus your attention on your legs and glutes.
First, start pushing with your legs and glutes, driving the bar up your legs. The barbell stays close to the body all the way through the movement. Once the bar went past your knees, straighten your back gradually until you fully stood up.
It is very important for your back to stay straight all the way. Don't hunch your shoulders and don't slump.
On the way down, bend your hip until the barbell passes your knees, then bend your knees and place the barbell down. Never just bend your back fully as you place the barbell down. That's the fastest route to the spinal ward.
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There will most likely be some walls to jump and climb over during the Spartan Stadion race. You can try practising muscle ups (an exercise we added to the hardest calisthenics workout list), but if you lack the explosive upper body strength, you can also do pullups, pretty good exercise in their own terms, too.
There are two key factors to keep in mind about pullups – the depth and the grip.
In the lowest position, don't let your shoulders drop completely. The good thing about pullups is that your arm muscles are engaged all the way through, no rest for the wicked here!
Also, you would like to grab the bar in a wide overhand grip to activate your lats. This is not a chin up after all, the main focus is on working the last.
If you find it difficult to do pullups, you can try doing lat pulldowns until you build up the strength to pull yourself up.
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Apart from many wall-style obstacles, the Spartan races are also famous for their penalty system: burpees! The famous 30-burpee penalty for missing an obstacle, synonymous with traditional Spartan race events, has been reduced to 15 to make this a fast-paced course.
Although you don't want to miss any obstacles, even if you did, you can get ready for the inevitable penalty session by practising burpees in advance.
We won't start telling you how to do burpees, you know it full well already. If you never did a burpee in your life, you might want to think twice going for the Spartan Stadion.
If you were one of millions (billions) of children who did burpees in school, well, it's still the same thing. Do a couple of practice rounds at home to make sure your muscles can remember the whole movement.
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4. Box jumps
As mentioned before, the ability to hoist yourself over obstacles will come handy during the Spartan Stadion race, or any Spartan race for that matter. The ability to jump over obstacles can also come handy, too, and box jumps can get your lower half ready for just that.
Nothing is rocket science about it: stand in front of an elevated surface – doesn't have to be as high as on the image above – and jump on top of it, without using your arms to climb.
You should use your arms for swinging, though, helping you generate enough momentum for your take off. Bend your knees and really push with all your muscles (mainly glutes, hams and calves) and stabilising your body using your core.
Be careful when you jump down from the box!
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5. Seated rows
We mentioned hoisting quite a lot already – maybe a bit too many times – but we would like to emphasise the importance of having strong pulling muscles, ready to pull yourself up and pull objects close to you, both which you will do on race day.
You can do seated rows using a cable machine or even using resistance bands, like on the picture above.
Sit on the bench in front of the cable machine. Grab the little triangular handle and place your feet on the footrests. Pull the handles towards your abdomen, not your chest, slowly and not jerking the cable back and forth.
As you let the handle go forward, don't let your body lean forward too much. You are trying to work your lats and biceps here, no need to rock back and forth as you row. You're not trying to work a WaterRower here.
Your legs are not locked straight, neither is your elbow when your arms are fully extended, both are ever so slightly bent. Be careful when you let go of the handle at the end of each set.
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6. Farmer’s carry
Farmer's carry is as simple as it gets: pick up some weights and walk some distance. Probably the simplicity that gives it the competitive edge: you have to hold your posture, shoulders open, back straight as you walk, not to mention the grip you will require to hold the actual weights.
You will be required to carry weight on the Spartan race, one way or another, and a firm grip is not a disadvantage either. The farmer's carry can help you improve both your carrying capacity and grip strength, all in the same time.
Even better, this exercise can be do carrying anything, dumbells, kettlebells or even barbells (the trap bar variety). As long as it doesn't restrict you in your walk and the weight is relatively heavy to carry, anything goes.
Make sure you don;t drop the weights on your feet, though!
We left the most obvious entry last: what could build endurance better than long cardio sessions? Let it be running (outside or on a treadmill), cycling (on a road bike or indoor bike) or rowing (indoor rowers are great), going the distance will improve your VO2 max, your stamina, cardiovascular health and can improve your overall wellbeing too.
Although you won't have to run excessive amounts between obstacles on the Spartan Stadion race, it is still recommended to do cardio before the race, for the aforementioned reasons. Having outstanding stamina will help you breeze through the race and conquer the Stadion like a champ!