Running a Tough Mudder might be the most physically and mentally demanding challenge a person can put themselves through.
Not only does Tough Mudder require you to run up and down hills in potentially bad conditions, you will also have to complete quite a few physical feats like crossing money bars, climbing walls and ropes, swimming underneath barrels in freezing water and navigating your way through an electric shock field.
Something like this certainly is not for the couch potato. It will take a lot of preparation because you will be forced to use all aspects of fitness like: cardio, strength, endurance, core stability and flexibility. It will help you to prepare for the elements as well, depending on time of year it could be pretty cold or very hot. This is not the workout you’re used to doing in the comfort of your local gym.
As many as 15 to 20% of the competitors do not make it past the finish line and that’s most likely due to a lack of training and preparation. If you are lacking just one aspect of training, chances are good you will not have the physical and mental strength or stamina to make it to the to the finish line.
You need to have a balance of training by incorporating all the necessary elements of balance, flexibility, cardiovascular and strength, endurance and core stability. You should always start a workout with a good warm up and use proper form and full range of motion with each exercise.
Tough Mudder Workout Warm Up
Your training to complete the Tough Mudder will be. A proper and sufficient warm up before your workout is imperative if you want to avoid injuring yourself. Your warm up must include movements that offer a range of motion through every plane, using all body parts and muscle groups. The following is the good example of what should be included in your warmup.
Band Pull – 25 reps
Overhead Lunge – 12 reps per side
T push up – 6 reps per side
Psoas stretch – 20 second hold
Chest stretch – 20 second hold
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
Endurance and Interval Training for a Tough Mudder
During the Tough Mudder competition you will most likely find yourself on a few relatively long distance runs. Those runs will most likely be broken up with exercises and obstacles, but in order to prepare you’ll have to add some endurance and stamina running to your training. One long run of 8 to 10 kilometers per week should be enough. Doing too much running will probably hinder your training in other areas.
Interval training needs to be a staple in your training plan. The Tough Mudder is not a steady long distance run; it is really an intense, long workout that will feel similar to an interval workout with heart rate extremes and short recovery times. A few interval training specific workouts per week should be enough to train the heart and lungs.
Your best bet is to keep your training conditions as similar to the competition as possible. Choose the steepest hill you can find or the longest flight of stairs and use them in place of a treadmill. You might want to alternate interval day workouts 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 then alternate with stair sprints for speed.
Core Training for a Tough Mudder
For the Tough Mudder, it doesn’t matter how many plates you can squat or dead lift at the gym if you’re core is weak. You will find a huge core component involved in the Tough Mudder. Having to crawl under wires, slither through the mud and possibly snow on your forearms and navigating your way through dark, shallow tunnels will require a lot of strength and endurance from your core.
It might seem running up and down steep, slippery slope is a cardio workout, it requires a great deal of balance which will be achieved only through proper core training.
You need to focus on exercises like the plank and all variations of it like the side plank, one armed and rotating. During the race you will be in this position over and over again.
Add in some high intensity, unconventional core exercises that will add a strength and cardio component. One arm dumbbell snatches, Turkish get ups and kettle-bell swings are all great practical exercises that will give you the core strength, endurance and balance components you are going to need.
Weight Training for a Tough Mudder
The Tough Mudder is chock full of obstacles that will test your strength and stamina, specifically the ability to push and pull your own body weight. The obstacles of climbing ropes up the side of an old school bus or over a rocky mountainside will test your upper body strength like nothing else you have done before.
The race is also 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 test of your stamina.
Pull ups and push ups will have to be a very large part of your Tough Mudder training program. Your workouts should mimic events in the race a closely 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.
One thing that you should do is tie a rope to a vehicle and try to pull it as far as you can.
Push ups and all variations of them should be a staple as well since you will come across all types of obstacles that will use the strength and endurance of your pecs and anterior delts. Try all types 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 and try and push it instead.
Your legs are going to take a beating because of all of the climbing and running on steep, unstable, slippery surfaces both up and down. You will need 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. Your quads, hamstrings and calves will be screaming louder then you have ever heard them!
Pair your upper body exercises with lots of body weight 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.
Balance Your Training
Due to the heavy load of training required in preparing for a Tough Mudder you will want to space out your workouts accordingly. Two interval training sessions plus three strength/core workouts per week will be enough. That will leave you one day for a long run and one day to rest and recover.
So train hard and train smart. Be consistent with your training and of course keep your body hydrated and fueled with good wholesome real food for optimal results. This Tough Mudder workout plan will get you in shape to complete the race.
My workout plan is basically a simplified version of the “Turbulence Training” program by Craig Ballantyne. I would recommend his program if you are really serious about doing a Tough Mudder, or any other type of “Mud Run”.
The program is designed to get you into peak fitness in a short period of time using “Interval Workouts”, which have been proven the most effective way to lose weight and get into phenomenal shape. Its a complete program of workouts and how to eat for the most effective results.
If you follow this workout plan you should be ready for the Tough Mudder, Spartan Race or Warrior Dash!