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Good Benchmarks for Predicting Obstacle Race Performance?

What are some good bench marks for predicting obstacle race performance? This will vary somewhat depending on distance, so the distances I have in mind are from 3.1-10 mile obstacle course races (OCRs). I have a 5 mile battlefrog OCR planned in November. What I’ve come up with so far is:

  • Basic strength standards: bench press 195 lbs x 5 reps, squat 215 x 5 or deadlift 275 x 5
  • pull-ups bodyweight x 15, bodyweight + 40 lbs x 3-5, one arm pull-ups 1+
  • run 5k in less than 24 minutes.

Any other ideas?

Find a low wall. Low enough that you can jump up and grab the top. Then haul yourself up and over. Do that a bunch of times. Especially when you are a little tired from running.

Pullups, mile time, and bodyweight/bodyfat are the only benchmark items that would be across the board. I’d just be making up numbers If I came up with specific figures for each, but feel confidant that as each of those three inproves, so will your performance and experience. I train with big lifts but they are not an indicator of my success past a certain point.

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Performance in the big lifts will have damn near zero relationship to performance in obstacle course races. If I were picking the best indicators for the obstacle course races it would include mostly ability on bodyweight exercises like pull-ups and medium-distance speed since most of these involve repeated burts of a quarter-mile to a half-mile broken up by the obstacles, most of which are things like scaling a wall, walking a balance beam, crawling through a tunnel or under barbed wire. None of these things are at all related to performance on the big lifts. I’ve said this before - if I was choosing a guy to train for this I would start with the best climber from the local rock climbing gym and make sure he was ready and willing to run a bunch of half-mile dashes. A guy like that will dust most powerlifters, even very fit ones, in an obstacle race.


Do you think barbell lifts are a waste of time when focusing on OCR training or would it be useful to do one barbell session per week (e.g. squat and overhead press), with the rest of the week divided into running sessions (uphill, lsd, sprints, tempo) and strength circuits?

@geologist: well…if your focus for this year is an optimal performance in your obstacle course race, then yes, I absolutely think big barbell lifts are wasting time. You’d be better off mapping out a route to all of the local playgrounds, then running from one to the next and making yourself do an assortment of random bodyweight movements (dips, monkey bars, pull-ups, climbing up the jungle gym, etc) at each one. OCR’s include things like rope climbs, balance beams, monkey bars, scaling walls, etc…I can’t recall anything on a course that I’ve seen where limit strength would have been beneficial at all.

That being said, please understand the following: I’m not actually suggesting that you drop all barbell lifting just because you’re planning to participate in one of these things. I don’t know many people who take OCR’s so seriously that they would drop all other fitness pursuits in favor of maximizing performance specifically in an OCR. Most of the people who participate in those things are policemen, firefighters, military, or guys from the local CrossFit gym / rugby club / etc that are just looking for something that feels like a rugged physical challenge, for whom the goal is merely “completion” of the event rather than “competition” or placement. If that sounds like you, then carry on with your barbell training and some other conditioning work. If you’re a guy who lifts using 5/3/1 and does some Prowler pushing and hill sprints, you’ll surely be able to finish the thing based on your overall level of fitness - just don’t kid yourself into thinking that’s optimal training for an OCR.

Really, it comes down to goals and priorities. Are you trying to “compete” in the obstacle race, or just trying to “complete” the event (as a side benefit, improving your all-around “conditioning” on top of lifting goals)? If it’s the former, quit wasting time with the barbell lifts and start spending as much time as possible running hills and doing all sorts of wacky climbing stuff. If it’s the latter, carry on with your standard lifting program, add some hill sprints, and once a week go for a long-ish run or hike to get yourself prepared to spend some time on your feet.

Crawling under stuff is harder than it looks. Especially if it’s low-low, where you have to get on knees and elbows.

A lot of people probably won’t spend much time practicing dragging their faces through the mud.