How To Train For Life, Spartan & Getting Ripped With A Hybrid Of HIIT, Gymnastics & Weight Training Complexes.

Affiliate Disclosure

Article-new, Articles, Body, Fitness, Fitness, Performance, Workout & Exercises

If you read my article “How To Get A Strong & Shredded Body With Just Two Gymnastics-Style Workouts Per Week.”, then you know that for most of this past winter and “off-season” I've been implementing a unique mash-up of gymnastics and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to unlock a potent combination of strength, cardio, bulging biceps, rippling abs and beyond.

Problem is, I'm also training for obstacle course racing, and am in fact racing for the Spartan Pro Team this year, so learning how to do a muscle-up or to walk on my hands simply isn't going to cut it when it comes to charging through a 13 mile obstacle race in the mountains.

So what's my solution?

Well, in addition to relying upon my obstacle course training coach Yancy Culp for his insane and mildly masochistic Spartan training workouts that he delivers to me each week (and that you can follow yourself here), I've also partnered up with Stephen McCain, a 2x Olympic Gymnast, 4x World Championships Team Member and Silver Medalist, USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame Inductee (with 11 and half consecutive years on the Elite National Team) and a guy who has performed competitive gymnastics on every continent with the exception of Antarctica.

Based on my work with Stephen, I now, two times a week, throw into my routine the exact program I'm about to highlight below – a hybrid combination of HIIT, gymnastics and – to put the puke-inducing icing on the cake – the weight training complexes introduced to me by yet another friend, Rob Shoecraft in my article last week entitled “The Most Potent Training Method On The Face Of The Planet For Supercharging Conditioning, Melting Fat, Busting Through Strength Plateaus & Banishing Long Drawn-Out Warm-Ups Forever.

Alright, yeah, yeah, I'll admit, it sounds like a horrible scenario “too many cooks in the fitness kitchen”, but honestly, I'm having a ton of fun with this extremely functional and somewhat minimalist exercise program and just had to share it with you. Enjoy, and leave any comments, questions, or feedback below the post!

How Gymnastics Helps With Obstacle Course Racing Fitness

I turned to Stephen to give a good perspective on why you may want to consider gymnastics in the first place, whether you're doing obstacle course racing, or anything else that requires you to carry, crawl, lunge, run, jump and climb.

Take it away Stephen.

“Thanks Ben.

Almost every gymnast I have ever met got started in gymnastics because they were climbing the walls as a kid.  You have never seen a happier kid than I was while sprinting to the monkey bars during recess in elementary school.  And, it didn’t stop at school.  When I yanked the chandelier out of the ceiling at home, my mom decided it was time to put me in gymnastics.  After 2 decades of hard work, I perfected those “monkey bars.”  So when Ben Greenfield asked me to help him put together a Spartan Race training plan that incorporated body weight and the type of high intensity gymnastic training I introduced to him in the article “How To Get A Strong & Shredded Body With Just Two Gymnastics-Style Workouts Per Week“, I was excited to help.

This makes perfect sense because the sport and practice of gymnastics is really just one giant obstacle course.  The only caveat is this: gymnasts have to make it look really easy and artistic.  I believe using an obstacle course training program that includes gymnastics strength elements will prepare you for the rigours of the many types of obstacles you will encounter during a Spartan Race.  Armed with the conditioning these gymnastics exercises will give, you can navigate your Spartan Race obstacles with greater ease, and dare I say…artistically. And, let's face it: it's a great change-up from the ho-hum, standard obstacle course training you might currently be doing.


My recommended gymnastics core exercises will strengthen your torso, connect the muscles of your upper and lower body, and allow you to coordinate your obstacle course movements with more precision, balance, and stability.  You will be able to pull with an arm and push with a leg as one cohesive unit.  You will also be able to extend your body to reach without collapsing in your midsection.  With a strong core, all of your movements will improve, and you'll look a whole heckuva lot less like Bambi on ice during your obstacle course training.

Straight Body Hold Between Mats 


Olga Crunch

L Sit Drills


Using this training, you will spend time doing inversion exercises where you are bearing most of your weight on your hands.  This is where gymnastics training really opens up new possibilities for manipulating your weight.  You will be able to lever your feet from one point to another while holding your weight with your upper body.  You will also be able to crawl more efficiently and hurl your body over objects.   Being comfortable and strong on your hands will give you another gear in the race. Can you say “barb wire crawl” like Flash the superhero? Yeah, I thought so. This will do that for you.

Planch Walk with Sliders (or with paper plates)

Crab Walk with Sliders (or with paper plates)

10 Press First Half Drills – Press Compression slider assist (1 min to end of video)

Press Ball Assist

Max Time Wall Handstand


Without question, you must have the ability to pull yourself up and over certain obstacles.  In my opinion, there is no better exercise for this than mastering the ring Muscle Up. You might already know this, but the Muscle Up is a combination of a pull up and a dip exercise.  What it really gives you is the ability to pull up and distribute your weight onto your hands so you can push down…just like pulling yourself out of the water on the edge of a swimming pool, or pulling yourself over an 8, 10 or 12 foot wall.  If you can master that tricky part of manipulating your weight from pulling up to pushing down, you can really gain an advantage to climbing over just about anything.

Muscle Up Theraband Assist

Pulling Shoulder Exercise

Grip Strength Exercise

“Russian” Climb Technique & Demo from Andrea Murray, a professional Aerialist. You can check out her work on Instagram @andre_amichelle.

A close-up breakdown of the “Russian” Climb

Bonus: A combination climb showcasing efficiency & energy conservation capacity at work

Full Extension Eccentric Rope Exercise (Bonus)

How To Add Weight Training Complexes To The Routine

In addition to gymnastics training, my desire with this program was to still expose my body to “lifting heavy stuff”: not only for the anti-aging and aesthetic benefits, but to also ensure I'm able to handle elements I may experience during an obstacle course race, such as heavy bucket carries, sandbag carries, log carries, tire flips, etc.

Enter complexes: a form of lifting in which one strings together three to up to a dozen different exercises – exercises that usually multi-joint and usually performed with an unwieldy object like a barbell, kettlebell and sandbag. For example, the Crossfit Bear complex is comprised of 7 total sets of 1 repetition each of power clean, front squat, push press, back squat and push press (you finish that last push press and go straight back into power cleans. 

Why complexes?

As Rob says on his excellent complex database page, and in the recent article he wrote for this site entitled “The Most Potent Training Method On The Face Of The Planet For Fast Results, Supercharging Conditioning, Melting Fat, Busting Through Strength Plateaus & Banishing Long Drawn-Out Warm-Ups Forever.” they are “an efficient and aggressive method of performance enhancement that saves time…”

These words, originally written by Istvan Javorek (who is a strength coach acclaimed for making complexes very well known) sum up these exercises in one sentence.

Rob goes on to say…

…”In case you’re not familiar with complexes as they’re defined in the fitness space, they’re an array of exercises designed to be completed in one continuous set. That, I know, is a very general description, but that’s part of their beauty; they leave much to the sadistic trainer’s imagination.

Complexes can fit neatly into just about any exercise program, and there’s no fitness goal they can’t help you tackle; whether it be conditioning, fat loss, muscle growth, strength or masochism.”

Rob describes the benefits of complexes as:

“…Efficient and aggressive: If massive amounts of volume packed into a minute or two of work is efficient, then he’s on the money here. Javorek’s original barbell complex, for instance, demands 30 reps across five compound exercises in one set.
And aggressive? Yeh, complexes are pretty freakin’ aggressive. I told one of my clients just last night, as he geared up for his third set of Ben Bruno’s Brutal Trap Bar Complex (10 split squats, 10 RDLs, and 10 deadlifts) that he was about to go to war. Five minutes after the set, while he was still lying on his back, he knew exactly what I was talking about. Complexes force you to be aggressive. They’re an amazing tool for sewing toughness, and insist that you to drive past your breaking point without looking back.

….“performance enhancement: I can’t help but think of Smiling Bob from those stupid Enzyte commercials anytime someone says “performance enhancements” (that’s just my cross to bear), but I don’t think that’s what Javorek had in mind (unless he’s copping Arnold’s style). No, what he’s referring to are the indisputable gains athletes experience when they add complexes to their programming.

“…in addition to muscular endurance, complex practitioners also quickly notice the increase in strength and hypertrophy. Dan John often refers to hypertrophy as “armor building”, and in his book Mass Made Simple he includes a routine that will drop you in a suit of plate mail (you get to do up to 80 reps of bent rows, hang cleans, front squats, overhead presses, back squats and good mornings without putting the bar down).

“…makes the program more enjoyable: I just adore puking on the floor and spontaneously crapping my pants…it’s just so darn “enjoyable”. Javorek, you crazy Romanian!I’m just joshing ya, buddy. I know what you’re talking about. Complexes are synonymous with variety, which staves off a stale time at the gym, and in some cases, might just foster an enjoyable experience. Not to mention the sheer feeling of accomplishment, knowing that you just slayed an exercise that would literally have killed 50% of American couch potatoes. Completing complexes feels good (then again, so does crapping in your pants…for just a second…but I wouldn’t know…more than once…ok, twice…).”

That about sums it up, but if you want to take a deeper dive into the nitty gritty of complexes, then you should check out Rob's full article from last week published right here on my site:”The Most Potent Training Method On The Face Of The Planet For Supercharging Conditioning, Melting Fat, Busting Through Strength Plateaus & Banishing Long Drawn-Out Warm-Ups Forever.

As you'll see in the program below, I also have a certain section of the workout in which I perform a few basic weight training complexes.

A Gymnastics / Obstacle Course Training / Complex Weightlifting Workout

OK, so putting this all together, what would a sample day look like?

Below is the complete mash-up. Depending on which options you choose, this workout will last anywhere from 60-90 minutes. It is hefty, it is voluminous and it is intense, but it's unique mashup of gymnastics, metabolic bursts and weight training c0mplexes will get you extremely fit, with just a couple workouts like this each week (I do mine on Mondays and Thursdays).

You can click on any of the moves below to see videos!


Easy 5 minute jog
Full shoulder set with bands. I've been doing the exact Crossover Symmetry band training routine that I demonstrate in this video
30 burpees OR 1/8-1/4 mile run at race pace (masochists can do both)

-Static Holds/Core/Positions: 

45 second Straight body hold between mats (stomach up)
45 second Straight body hold between mats (stomach down)
Max Time Wall Handstand
15-30 V-ups
30 Olga Crunches

-Metabolic Boost For Obstacle Course Racing:

Insert 30 jump pull-ups OR 1/8-1/4 mile run at race pace (masochists can do both)

-Gymnastics Exercises:

Planch Walks with Sliders (or paper plates)
Crab Walks with Sliders (or paper plates)
10 Press First Half Drills – Press Compression slider assist (start at 1 minute mark to end of video)
10 Press Ball Assist
30 Second L Sit Leg Extends (stay in tuck for as long as needed)

-Metabolic Boost For Obstacle Course Racing: 

Insert 30 burpees + 1/8-1/4 mile run at race pace (masochists can do both)

-Gymnastics Exercise/Major Muscle Group Combo:

3-10 Muscle-up Theraband Assist or (if muscle-ups already practiced earlier in day or sprinkled through day using “Grease The Groove” technique) weighted horizontal pull-ups or other hanging or grip activity like regular pull-ups or neutral grip pull-ups, one set to failure.

-Metabolic Boost For Obstacle Course Racing:

Insert 30 jump pull-ups OR 1/8-1/4 mile run at race pace (masochists can do both)

-Weight Training Complexes:

Choose 2-3 complexes from this exercise complex database and complete 3-5 sets or rounds, following the exact instructions, with full recovery between each round

-Optional Metabolic Bursts For Finisher (choose one to three of the options below):

10-30 box jumps or band assisted squat jumps
4 sets treadmill sprints or sprints with jog back or band assist sprint in place
Tabata set on treadmill, rowing machine bike or elliptical (4 minutes of 20 seconds all-out hard, 10 seconds easy)


My cooldown is simple: I simply do 20 arm swings and 20 leg swings then lay on my back for 2 minutes and do deep nasal breathing to reactivate my parasympathetic nervous system.


So that's it!

As I highlight in the article “How To Get A Strong & Shredded Body With Just Two Gymnastics-Style Workouts Per Week.” in addition to two of the gymnastics-style training sessions above, I am indeed stacking and sprinkling a few other components into my weekly program, such as obstacle course training challenges thrown at me by my coach Yancy Culp, mobility, foam rolling, ELDOA stretches, Core Foundation training, Kundalini yoga, my biohacked infrared sauna, cold thermogenesis and tennis. I share all of those additional components and how I manage to squeeze them into a week in this plan, which is the exact workout plan I'm following for the first three months of 2017.

Finally, Stephen and I are in the process of creating a eight short and simple versions of the workout above, and will be making it all available as a downloadable hybrid gymnastics/strength  training program that will keep your body guessing all year long and can easily be injected as “extra” training into any program or a standalone program all on it's own. If that is something you're interested in, please let us know in the comments below, and click here to sign up for my free newsletter to be the first to know when it's released!

In the meantime, do you have questions, thoughts or feedback for Stephen, Rob or me? Leave your comments below and one of us will reply!

Ask Ben a Podcast Question

Related Posts

5 thoughts on “How To Train For Life, Spartan & Getting Ripped With A Hybrid Of HIIT, Gymnastics & Weight Training Complexes.

  1. Glenn says:

    Hi Ben, any word on this program yet?!

  2. Glenn Forsyth says:

    Would absolutely be interested in that program, looking to add something new in to my current weight training! Thanks Ben!

  3. Daniel Walton says:

    Sounds great keep us posted!

    I have been using various gymnastic exercises as it really adds to overall performance.

  4. William Haug says:

    I’d definitely be interested in that training program! Thanks so much Ben and Stephen!

  5. Stephen says:

    Just got my Crossover Symmetry system to strengthen and protect my shoulders Ben. Thanks for the recommendation…it looks to be the perfect complement for my gymnastics training;)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *