September 29, 2023

Obstacle Course Racing Home Gyms

Author: Evan Perperis
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Conquer The Gauntlet Pro Ashley Sample’s home gym (indoor and outdoor). Wreck Bag, weights, rower, treadmill and full outdoor rig.

Home gyms are more important that ever right now with people focusing more on what they can do while minimizing time in public settings.  Many are building, re-building or redesigning their home garage gyms, workouts rooms or backyards.  Here are a couple of examples and things you should consider when building your perfect Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) home gym.

In my book, Strength & Speed’s Guide to Elite Obstacle Course Racing, I teach three attributes that your OCR training should include to help you maximize your performance.  These principles also should apply to your home training location:

  1. Specific: Your training/gym should mimic your racing in movement and form.
  2. Progressive: Your training/gym should have an option to get harder as you get better giving you a method to continue improving.
  3. Enjoyable: You should enjoy what you are doing because the more you are enjoying yourself, the more likely you will stick with it and continue to put out your best effort.

With those three characteristics in mind, here is what your home gym should have and what could be considered more optional.

Strength & Speed‘s Trina Fox uses outdoors for her cardio training but has Force5 Gibbons/rig, weights, rig holds and tire drag in her garage. She also has monkey bars and pegboard under her back porch.

1. Cardio Equipment: As much as we love obstacles, the majority of every race is running and not obstacles. To improve you are going to want to be specific in your training by including options for developing your aerobic systems.  While some choose to have a treadmill in their home gyms, you could also just use the trails/streets by your house thus making this an optional item based off your location.

Ideally the treadmill will be the most specific piece of equipment you can buy but if you are preparing for something like the Spartan Mountain Series or the Spartan National Series, you may want to consider purchasing an incline treadmill to provide your legs with the training needed to improve and use the road/trails near your house for flatter running.

If you have great access to trails/roads, consider an alternate piece of cardio equipment to keep you motivated.  Personally, I use a bicycle attached to a trainer (a device that turns a normal bicycle into a stationary bicycle).  Whatever you choose go with something you enjoy whether that be a rower, elliptical or stair stepper.

American Ninja Warrior Kat Radcliffe’s “Lady Cave” including weights, rig across the ceiling, peg boards, fingertip trainers, bicycle for cardio, rowing machine for more cardio/cross training, balance boards and more.

2. Obstacles: Nothing is more specific that having obstacles in your home gym. This allows you to do the exact movements you will do in a race.  At the far end of the price and functionality spectrum is having a rig for your house, Conquer The Gauntlet Pros Ashley Samples, Doug Snyder and Lisa Nondorf, each have their own in their backyard.  Personally, mine is across my garage and consists of Atomik Climbing Holds attached to the ceiling.

CTG Pro and American Ninja Warrior national finalist Amy Pajcic’s “dungeon” style gym including pegboard, rig, weights, treadmill, dip/pull-up station, punching bag, hangboard and more.

However, if you don’t have the room, money or an understanding spouse, consider some other options including the Atomik Ninja Hangboard or even just a simple doorway pull-up bar that you attach Atomik Climbing Holds onto.  Whether you have a rig or just a pull-up bar I highly recommend a variety and surplus of Atomik Climbing Holds to make the training more progressive so you can challenge yourself when necessary and practice specific movements.

Conquer The Gauntlet Pro Jenny Overstreet using the Atomik Ninja Hangboard in her house which includes pegboard, finger tip trainer, two rig holds and pull-up holds.

Depending on the race brand you are preparing for, this will look different to get the best specificity.  If you are more Spartan focused you are going to want an area for spear throw practice and a bucket to carry.  If you are focused on OCR World Championships, Savage Race or Indian Mud Run a rig and grip obstacles will be more useful.  If you are getting ready for Conquer The Gauntlet add in a pegboard, slackline along with some other balance obstacles in addition to your rig to get the most specific training.

Conquer The Gauntlet Pros Doug Snyder and Lisa Nondorf go all in on OCR training: rig in the backyard, climbing wall in the living room and more rig underneath the back porch.

3. Strength Training (optional): While you can make your OCR specific training progressive through the addition of weight vests or changing holds, I’m a fan of strength training with weights.  Weights make it very easy to be progressive by simply adding more weight.  This can be made more specific through the addition of Fat Gripz (rubber sleeves making it harder to hold the barbell or dumbbell thus working on grip strength as well as your targeted muscle simultaneously).

Jake Diehl’s setup including weights, Wreck Bag, tire drag, treadmill, bicycle trainer (with bikes against the wall) and Rogue squat rack/pull-up bar with Atomik Climbing Holds hanging down.

 4. Balance (optional): Depending on the series you are preparing for you probably want some balance obstacles as well. If you are specifically preparing for Conquer The Gauntlet or ninja competitions like American Ninja Warrior, you definitely want some balance obstacles.  Options include slackline, Atomik Climbing Holds Balance Boards or simple things from a home improvement store.  I have the Atomik Balance Boards (one foot and two foot versions), a PVC pipe for walking/rolling on and 2×4 as well as 1×4 boards set up in square to provide a simple balance beam.  Want to make the balance beam harder?  You can practice turning around on it instead of just walking in a square pattern.

Physical Therapist William Shell’s indoor/outdoor gym including weights, pegboard, unstable monkey bars (that you can add rig grips on) and even a at home Dragon’s Back.

 5. Cross Training (optional): Just running and doing obstacles all the time may get monotonous and not enjoyable for some. In order to keep your fitness high and avoid injury, I recommend some sort of cross-training implement.  Whether it be a bicycle, stair stepper, rowing machine or literally anything else fitness-related you enjoy.  This will keep you training on a day you may not necessarily feel like going for a run or if the conditions outside are dangerous (i.e. lightning or in some areas running at night).

OCR nutritionist Luc Labonte’s home gym with cardio equipment, cross-training (stationary bicycle and karate equipment), weights, squat rack and Wreck Bag.

Overall:  That’s a quick rundown of some key items/topics to consider when setting up your home gym.  The final note I’ll add is make sure you throw up some motivating images or mementos up on the wall.  To create a good workout environment you want a motivating atmosphere whether that be posters, race medals, flags or something else that drives you.  Take a look at some of the home gyms in this article to get some further ideas.  Then post yours in the Facebook comments below this article to so you can share your ideas with others who may be in the process of building their own training facilities.

When you are ready to start signing up for races again, check out Mud Run Guide’s Ultimate OCR Bucket List book (now in digital and hard copy) to help you decided.  With over 100+ event types in there you are sure to find the race that fits you the best.  Then head over to our discount page to save some money on your entry.

Author’s home gym including rig across the ceiling, traverse wall plus pegboard along back wall, balance beam area including PVC pipe, bucket, tire carry/drag/hit with sledge hammer, dumbbell/barbell rack setup, bicycle with trainer and treadmill.

Pictures provided by the athletes named in each picture.

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