13 Gym Exercises for Tough Mudder Training
The Tough Mudder is a running event that has a very clear goal – to leave all participants wet, dirty and absolutely exhausted. And it’s great fun! While running the 16+ km course, you’ll encounter a variety of obstacles, which involve all kinds of totally bonkers and tiring activities. Maybe you’ll be pulling yourself along a net while submerged in freezing cold, muddy water. Or perhaps you’ll find yourself clambering through a web of tightropes suspended over a pit of water (we did mention that you’d be getting wet!). Or running through a field of dangling wires that deliver 10,000 volt electric shocks.
As thrilling as it is gruelling, you’ll need every part of your body to be in tip top shape to get through this course without injury. A mixture of functional training, cardio and strength training is a great way to ensure you’re ready to get muddy.
Here we’ve broken down some of the key elements of a Tough Mudder, with some recommended gym exercises to help you prepare for this endurance test.
Expect to be crawling at some point on the Tough Mudder. Whether it’s on your knees or even lower, it’s likely you’ll face situations where you’ll need to propel yourself forward in some kind of crouch stance under netting, obstacles or even barbed wire. This means you’ll need strong legs and back so you can stay low with ease while still moving efficiently. We recommend you prepare with:
- Bear crawls – crouch with your hands in front of you and feet behind you, all shoulder width apart. Crawl your left arm and right leg forward, followed by your right arm and left leg. Keep alternating for a set amount of time while keeping your eyes forward.
- Arm plank walks – start in a plank stance with your forearms flat on the ground. Crawl your left arm and right leg forward, followed by your right arm and left leg. Alternate, while keeping your body long, your core tights and your knees, hips and head level.
Just as you’ll be crawling under obstacles, you can also expect to need to propel yourself over them as well. Maybe you’ll need to pull yourself over a wall, or up through a tunnel filled with cascading muddy water. Either way, you’ll appreciate strong upper body strength on your Tough Mudder. Some exercises to try include:
- Press ups – face the floor, with your feet hip-width apart, palms on the floor and arms straight hands at shoulder-level, as wide as feels comfortable. Balancing on your toes, lower your chest towards the floor, while keeping your abs tight and your back straight. Then push back up to starting position. Repeat for slow, measured reps.
- TRX rows – the TRX is one of the more underused pieces of equipment in the gym, but great for upper and middle back strength, as well as boosting your shoulders and core. For rows, hold the straps in a vertical plank position, before walking your feet forward until the straps go tense. Turn your hands so your palms face each other and pull your body towards them, keeping your elbows tucked in close to your body, then gently lower to starting position. Don’t forget to engage your core throughout.
- Chair dips – with a chair or bench behind you, place your hands on the bench, keep your arms straight and stretch your legs in front of you, bent at around a 90 degree angle. Lower yourself, bending your arms until they’re also at a 90 degrees, before straightening up again.
So you’re prepared for crawling and climbing, best not forget jumping – you’ll need strong legs to help you hop onto the variety of obstacles you’ll be facing along the way. To prepare, we recommend:
- Jump squats – stand with feet hip-width apart, feet turned slightly out. Perform a squat, bending your knees and sinking your hips back, while lowering your hips towards the floor until they’re just below the knees. Push your heels into the floor, and swing your arms to jump as high as you can, before landing softly on your feet.
- Box jumps - they’re not easy, but then neither is the Tough Mudder. Start with your feet shoulder width apart, bend into a half squat swinging your arms back. Generating momentum swinging your arms forward explode up off the ground landing on a box, secure bench or ledge. As you land try to keep your knees straight and soft.
- Lunges – begin with your feet shoulder width apart, before stepping one foot forward with a long stride. Bend your knees and lower your body until your knee is at around a 90 degree angle, making sure your front knee doesn’t travel beyond toe level. Bring your back leg forward, driving through your front heel, to return to standing. Alternate legs. Consider incorporating dumbbells to increase the effectiveness of your lunge
Along with strong legs and upper body, your core will be vital in helping you stay balanced and stable as you run around the course. You may even encounter some balance-specific obstacles, which a sturdy core will really benefit. Good core-focused exercises include:
- Mountain climbers – start in press up position with your hands shoulder-width apart. Alternating legs, pull one knee at a time towards your chest as quickly as possible, not letting it touch the floor until you return it to starting position.
- Farmer’s walk – hold a heavy dumbbell in each hand, and, keeping your chest up and your core tight, walk back and forth until exhaustion causes you to stop. It’s that simple, but not as easy as it sounds!
- Goblet squats – hold a kettlebell or dumbbell with both hands facing each other, at chest height, held almost against your chest and elbows tucked towards your stomach. With feet slightly wider than hip distance apart, sink your hips back and down towards the floor until your hips sink just below your knees (taking care that your knees don’t cross over your toes). After a brief pause, push through your feet and drive your hips back up to standing before repeating.
The Tough Mudder isn’t all jumping, crawling and climbing – you’ll also be running from obstacle to obstacle, covering a long distance while getting increasingly exhausted from each activity. Having a good level of fitness will mean you’re more likely to maintain energy without suffering fatigue. Consider integrating the following into your workout plan:
- Running – it may sounds obvious, but hitting the treadmill and ensuring you’re able to run the 16 – 19 kilometres needed to cover the course is a solid starting point. Try running at different inclines to simulate the types of terrain you may be facing on the course, or include HIIT workouts to really boost your stamina and endurance.
- Rowing – the rower machine works multiple muscle groups and joints, whilst providing the cardio and aerobic exercise you’ll need to power yourself for the Tough Mudder. This targets your legs, upper body, back and core and is also low impact, so you can give your joints a rest as your work out.
Combine some or all of the above into your workouts and training plan, and you’ll be sure to ace the Tough Mudder, and have a blast while doing it too!