The Tough Mudder is perhaps the most physically and mentally exhausting challenge a human being can put themselves through. Not only does the challenge require you to run numerous hills in potentially less than perfect conditions, you will also have to complete a number of physical feats like bear crawls through muddy water and dark tunnels, swimming underneath barrels in freezing water and navigating your way through the electric shock field.
A challenge like this certainly isn’t for the faint of heart or the couch potato. This takes a lot of preparation since you will be forced to call upon all aspects of fitness including cardio, strength, endurance, core stability and flexibility. It certainly doesn’t hurt to prepare for the elements as well. This won’t be the workout you’re used to in the comfort of your local gym.
It is estimated that as many as fifteen to twenty percent of competitors do not make it past the finish line and that’s likely due to a lack of preparation. If just one aspect of general fitness is lacking, chances are you won’t have the physical or mental strength and stamina to make it to the end.
Balance your training by incorporating all the necessary elements of balance, flexibility, cardiovascular and strength endurance and core stability. Always start your workouts with an efficient warm up and use proper form and full range of motion with each exercise.
Tough Mudder Workout Warm Up
The training you will have to put yourself through in order to successfully complete a tough mudder is grueling. A proper and sufficient warm up done prior to your workout is imperative if you plan to avoid injury. Your warm up should include movements that offer a large range of motion through every plane, using every body part and muscle group. The following circuit is the perfect example of what should be included.
Foam rolling – 15 rolls over trouble spots
Bodyweight squats – 15 reps
Stick ups – 15 reps
Duck unders – 6 reps per side
Bird dog – 6 reps per side with 5 second hold at top
Side plank – 30 second hold per side
Glute squeeze – 30 second hold
Band Pull – 25 reps
OH Lunge – 12 reps per side
T push up – 6 reps per side
Psoas stretch – 20 second hold
Chest stretch – 20 second hold
Bodyweight Training for Tough Mudders
The tough mudder is full of obstacles that will test your strength and stamina, specifically your ability to push and pull your own weight. Obstacles like climbing ropes up the side of an old school bus or over a rocky mountainside will test your upper body strength like nothing else.
Since the competition is a test in camaraderie, you may also find yourself forced to help a fellow competitor over the same wall you just barely made it over yourself. This will be a measure of stamina.
Pull ups and push ups will need to be a huge part of your tough mudder training program. Your workouts should mimic the event itself as much as possible. This means you’re best bet is to try an assortment of pull up and chin up techniques including overhand, underhand, wide, medium and close grip. Inverted rows and unilateral exercises like one arm rows are great additions as well.
Really up the ante by harnessing a rope to a vehicle and pulling tug of war style or harness your own body to it and try to take it for a walk.
Push ups and all variations of them should be a staple as well since you will come across all kinds of obstacles that will call upon the strength and endurance of the pecs and anterior delts. Try all kinds of push ups like decline, explosive, close grip, rotational, staggered stance, suspended, or one arm if you’re capable. Once again you can use the same vehicle you pulled as a pushing tool to really test your own strength.
The legs will take a beating due to all of the climbing and running on steep, unstable, slippery surfaces both up and down. You’ll be asked to pick up heavy objects and run uphill with them, scale down the slippery side of a muddy hill, and run up a pipe covered in oil. The quads, hamstrings and calves will be screaming louder than they do on your heaviest leg day.
Pair your upper body exercises with lots of bodyweight squats, glute raises, lunges, split squats and plyometric leg exercises like prisoner squat jumps, box jumps and lateral lunge jumps. Add in one leg variations like Bulgarian split squats and pistol squats to even out any imbalances and help improve stability.
Core Training for Tough Mudders
As far as this competition is concerned, it doesn’t matter how many plates you can squat or deadlift at the gym if you’re core is weak. There is a huge core component involved in the tough mudder. Crawling under wires, slithering through the mud and snow on your forearms and navigating your way through dark, shallow tunnels will require a lot of endurance from your mid section.
While running up and down steep, slippery slopes may seem like a cardio workout, it actually requires a great deal of balance which will be earned through proper core training.
Focus on exercises like the plank and all variations of it like the side plank, one armed and rotating. During the challenge you will find yourself in this position over and over again.
Add in some more high intensity, unconventional core exercises that will add a strength and cardio component. One arm dumbbell snatches, Turkish get ups and kettlebell swings are all great functional exercises that will offer the core strength, endurance and balance components you will need.
During your tough mudder competition you may find yourself on a few somewhat long distance runs. Most of the time those runs are likely to be broken up with certain exercises and obstacles, but in order to really prepare yourself for anything you’ll have to add some endurance runs to your training. One long run of 8 to 10 kilometers a week should suffice. Doing any more may hinder some of your progress in other areas.
Interval training should also be a staple in your plan. The tough mudder is not a steady state marathon; it is an intense, long workout that will feel similar to an interval workout with heart rate extremes and very short recovery times. A couple of interval training specific workouts per week will be enough to train the heart and lungs in preparation.
Your best bet is to keep the conditions of your training as similar to the competition as possible. Choose the steepest hill or the longest flight of stairs you can find and use them in place of a treadmill. You may even want to alternate your interval days with strength and speed drills. On one of your training days, try running uphill wearing a backpack filled with as much weight as you can manage. Alternate with stair sprints for speed.
Balance Your Training
Due to the heavy load of training required in preparing for a tough mudder you will want to space your workouts accordingly. Two interval training sessions with three strength/core workouts per week will suffice. That leaves one day for your long run and one day for complete rest and recovery.
Train hard, train smart, be consistent and of course keep your body hydrated and fueled with wholesome, real foods for optimal results. This tough mudder workout plan will prepare you for an enjoyable, successful event.