10 Of My Go-To Insanity Workouts, A Documentary You Must See & A Free Book From Me.

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Yesterday, I raced the brutal Spartan World Championships at Lake Tahoe.

Twice.

Yep, as part of my quest this year to complete the intense, masochistic crucible called the “Spartan Delta”, I logged 30+ mountainous miles of barbwire crawling, heavy bucket carries, rope climbs, cold water plunges, log flips, boulder carries and all other manner of obstacle racing madness in a special flavor of Spartan racing called the Spartan “Ultra-Beast”.

Why? 

Well, to really wrap your head around why, you should watch my buddy Scott Keneally's highly entertaining, thoughtful and funny documentary “Rise Of The Sufferfests“, which explains exactly why folks like me do what we do, and why you should consider it too if you haven't yet. It's well worth a watch (and I only see about one movie every few months, so that says something, right?).

As a matter of fact, obstacle course races and mud runs like the Spartan, Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash are now sweeping the nation. From 20,000 participants in it’s 2010 debut year, the Tough Mudder logged nearly 700,000 participants in 2013. With 350,000 participants in 2012, 60+ events in 2013, and featuring over 100 events in 2014, Reebok Spartan Race is one of the fastest growing events in the world. Tough Mudder and Spartan Race are the industry leaders and rivals, with each having about 2 million competitors enter its races since launching in 2010. The Warrior Dash (which caters to a less hardcore audience thanks to its shorter 3-mile courses) staged its first event in 2009 and has since drawn 2.5 million participants.

You get the idea. This sport is now dwarfing marathoning, triathlon-ing, and beyond – and there's even a quest to get Spartan racing into the Olympics (I raced the test course in Dallas a few months ago and if Spartan does go to the Olympics, I guarantee it will be a thrilling spectator-style short course event).

The cool, convenient thing is that when you train for an obstacle race, you not only build full body fitness that allows you to hoist heavy sandbags over your head, but you also build the mobility to crawl under barbwire, the resilience to dive into cold mud pits, and an overall uncanny ability to conquer the unknown and withstand just about anything that gets thrown at your body.

So in this article, I'm going to give you 10 slightly insane obstacle training workouts that will spice up your workouts like nothing else, and completely redefine the way you train. You don’t need much equipment for these – just some heavy stuff and the willingness to tolerate physical discomfort.

Ready? Let’s jump right in. If you can tackle just a few of these a week, you’ll be ready to race obstacle courses – or at least be a helluva lot tougher.

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Obstacle Course Workout #1: Butt Burner

A simple workout that requires just you and your body. And buns of steel.

–  400M walking lunges
– Run max distance for 5 minutes
– 400M walking lunges
– Run max distance for 4 minutes
– 400M walking lunges
– Run max distance for 3 minutes
– 400M walking lunges
– Run max distance 2 minutes
– 400M walking lunges
– Max distance run for 1 minutes

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Obstacle Course Workout #2: Battle Rounds

Perfect for when you have one set of dumbbells and you want a lung-sucking workout that includes some significant load lifting.

Try this one wearing a Training Mask (yep, the science is legit in terms of carbon dioxide overload and inspiratory/expiratory muscle training, and you can use 15% discount code Green1 here). Do 3-5 rounds for time of:

–  50 leg levers
– 40 mountain climbers
– 30 burpees
– 20 kettlebell or dumbbell swings
– 10 dumbbell manmakers (40lb men/25lb women)

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Obstacle Course Workout #3: The Running Bear

It’s called the bear because it feels like you have a bear on your back. Enjoy that feeling.

– Do 10 Bear complex using 95lbs for females or 135lbs for males. Then run 1 Mile.
– Then 8 Bear Complex, followed by running 800M.
– Then 6 Bear complex, followed by running 400M.
– And finally 4 Bear Complex followed by 200M and a final 2 Bear Complex.

The Bear Complex is a deadly five-lift complex consisting of a power clean, front squat, push press, back squat, and second push press. Completion of all five lifts counts as one rep. You choose between five sets of five reps, or five sets of seven reps, and rest for five minutes between each set either way.

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Obstacle Course Workout #4: Sandy Stairs

All you need for this is something heavy to carry and a flight of stairs. You get to work your core during your “rest periods”. You're welcome.

– Find a flight of stairs, preferably 3-5 flights
– At bottom of stairs, do 5-10 sandbag, rock or dumbbell clean and jerks (here’s how to make your own sandbag)
– Carry sandbag to top of stairs. Carry sandbag back down stairs.
– Set sandbag down and hold plank position for 60 seconds.
– Repeat for as many rounds as possible in available time.

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Obstacle Course Workout #5: Row Your Boat

Don’t have a rowing machine? Then use a bike. But double the distance if you do it on a stationary bike.

Row 1000m, rest 2 minutes, row 800m, rest 90 seconds, row 600m, rest 60 seconds, row 400m, rest 30 seconds, and finally row 200m for an all out effort. Finish by hopping off the rowing machine for 30 burpees.

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Obstacle Course Workout #6: Hotel Room Workout

I travel a ton and do body weight workouts like this quite a bit. I’ve also done similar workouts (without the cold shower of course) in airport terminals, parks, etc.

As many rounds as possible of:

10 lunge jumps per side
– 15 burpees
– 20 box jumps onto bed 
– 25 chair dips
– 30 jumping jacks
– Finish with a 2-5 minute cold shower

Oh, and if you didn't listen to this podcast I just recorded on the best way to do body weight training, you need to.

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Obstacle Course Workout #7: The Wrestler

You’ll feel like you’ve been in a wrestling match after this one. It's admittedly a bit advanced.

Complete 3 rounds of:

– 75 burpees
– 30 squat tosses with sandbag
– 10-30 pistol squats each leg
– 10-30 pull-ups
– 5 rope climbs

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Obstacle Course Workout #8: 5×5 With Sprint Finisher

This one gives you a very good combination of strength, speed and muscular endurance. Recover 60-90 seconds between the big weight training sets, and by “recover” (you guessed it), I mean do things like bird dog exercise, flutter kicks, clamshells, stretching, walking, etc. Not Snapchatting.
5 sets of 5 reps of:

Benchpress
– Deadlift
– Backsquat
– Shoulder Press
– Power clean
– Finisher: 10×30 second sprint at 8-10mph on 8-10% incline

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Obstacle Course Workout #9: Hotel / Stairs Workout

A very good option for when the hotel gym is crappy.

Run one flight of stairs one step at a time. Stop on landing for 20 second isometric squat.
– Run next flight of stairs two steps at a time. Stop on landing for 20 push-ups.
– Run next flight of stairs by box jumping as many steps at a time. Stop on landing for 20 mountain climbers.
– Repeat for as many flights as possible.

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Obstacle Course Workout #10: The Stairmaster

If you really fancy yourself as fit, try going from 5 to 1 minute, and then back up.

– 5 minutes hard stair climb, 100m walking lunges with 40lb dumbbells
– 4 minutes hard stair climb, 100m walking lunges with 40lb dumbbells
– 3 minutes hard stair climb, 100m walking lunges with 40lb dumbbells
– 2 minutes hard stair climb, 100m walking lunges with 40lb dumbbells
– 1  minutes hard stair climb, 100m walking lunges with 40lb dumbbells

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Summary

Sure…to a puriust weight lifter or purist endurance runner, these workouts seem like a vaudevillesqe freak show. But you'd be surprised at the big increase in stress resilience, lactic acid tolerance, lung capacity and other important physiological parameters you can train with relatively little time when you sprinkle these in just a few times a week.

What do you think? Do you plan on trying any of these? What are your toughest workouts? Your key workouts? Your favorite workouts?

Share in the comments section below. I'm going to choose my favorite, or most insane workout, and I'm going to send you a signed copy of my book “Beyond Training“. Let the Sufferfest begin (and yes, check out that Rise Of The Sufferfests movie here, it's worth watching).

Ask Ben a Podcast Question

40 thoughts on “10 Of My Go-To Insanity Workouts, A Documentary You Must See & A Free Book From Me.

  1. Alexander Burns says:

    Hey Ben give this a go, I came up with it in Bagram Afghanistan

    2 parts
    100 burpees for time (10 minute cap)
    Rest 4 minutes
    ARMRAP 16 minutes plus the remaining of the 10 minutes above
    (I.e if 100 burpees takes 5 minutes, you get 21 minutes for amrap)

    The 4 minutes rest will be a mental drag

    Get some

  2. Dalles says:

    Hey Ben,

    I love those monster workouts and some day, maybe when I retire I’ll have a crack at some of them, then again I might fit one in on a quiet day.

    I recently turned 45 and on my 45th birthday, inspired by Seal Fit coach Mark Devine, I did 1 000 pushups, damn that felt good. I now continue to do 200 push ups every morning as part of my hot/cold shower routine and occasionally throw in a couple of other sets of 100 towards evening.

    As I’m a farmer I do the farmers carry to feed and water my pigs every day, all weather. Anything from 5 – 10 kgs per hand across uneven ground, 2 trips twice a day, total distance of around 400m.

    Then there’s fencing, the boring kind with pliers and wire and stuff, digging post holes, chainsawing and carting of wood, shearing of sheep etc etc.

    I love my workouts and cringe at the thought of setting foot in a gym to get fit.

  3. Chuck says:

    Ben,

    What is your favorite way to strengthen grip? My farmers carries are fine, but I struggle on the odd-shaped hanging/swinging obstacles in Spartan races!

    Thanks!

    1. Start here: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2016/02/how-to-i… and let me know if you have any questions

  4. Kerrie says:

    I love all of these and I’m a fan of the stepper at times I’m stuck at my gym.

    I’ve completed a stepper workout with:

    1 minute stepper 20 bench jump squats 10 burpees

    2 minutes stepper 20 bench jump squats 10 burpees

    3 minutes stepper 20 bench jump squats 10 burpees

    4 minutes stepper 20 bench jumps squats 10 burpees

    5 minutes stepper 20 bench jumps squats 10 burpees

    5 x 30 second sprints with 10kg weight vest.

    DONE!!!

  5. Jesse says:

    Hi Ben,

    Congrats on completing the Delta and thank you for all the work you put in to sharing your knowledge with the world.

    My “favorite” sufferfest workout is death by burpees, because you don’t need any equipment it’s physically tough, and will test your will when deciding to do more rounds or call it.

    Just in case you haven’t done it yet.

    You do burpees at the top of every minute.

    with with every minute that passes you add a burpee.

    so minute 1 you do 1.. minute 10 you do 10 etc.

    1. Jesse says:

      By the Way today Is my Dog’s birthday.

  6. Eric Pritchard says:

    Ben thanks for putting this out there! Currently doing Zach Even Esh Kettlebell Bodyweight Hybrid in the mornings and then running practice with my XC kids. The “Butt Burner” looks brutal! I was just doing one set of 400m lunges when building towards Ultra Beast 2015 at Killington. I’m also partial to your “wrestler” workout since I coach wrestling in the winter!

    At the end of the day, all these workouts are nuts!

    Keep crushing it and “living the code” as Zach would say! Big UPs on crushing that Tahoe UB, especially after you’ve been hinting your prep wasn’t your usual mix!

  7. tanya gilliam says:

    Loved the article!! Thank you for the awesome workouts! What is that cold recovery beverage you are drinking?

    1. Moscow Mule. Oh yeah, baby.

    2. tanya gilliam says:

      Lol! What do you think about the Fitaid drink they give out there? Just curious your opinion.

  8. Luke says:

    When you say a few times per week, does that mean 4 times per week and these are your main workouts? What would a weekly training schedule consist of if my assumption is incorrect?

    Thank you,

    Luke

    1. You should space tough workouts like this by about 48 hours, but yes, they can be your main workouts. To see an example of how I work these in, check out my look good naked/longevity article here: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2015/09/how-to-l…

  9. Sam Schwab says:

    I’m training for the rescue run www.rescuerun.org.nz in Auckland, NZ right now which is a 15 km obstacle race in teams of 6 and is all about fundraising for the Westpac rescue helicopters. Each time the team arrives at an obstacle, like the flood, earthquake and motorway pile-up zones, they carry a the designated team member through it on a stretcher. Needless to say we’ve been doing some leg-heavy workouts in preparation, like this one that was a favourite of ours!

    4 rounds for TIME:

    20 push-ups

    30 squat jumps

    25 DB thrusters @2x16kg

    30 weighted lunges @2x16kg

    100m row / sprint

    rest 60 sec

    1. Sam Schwab says:

      P.S. Looking forward to trying #1 Butt Burner!

      I cant imagine how it would feel doing over a mile of lunges!

  10. Andre says:

    #4 sounds pretty awesome anday I’m stoked to make myself a sandbag… I’ll probably use my friends 3 year old and just throw her up I. The air until I make one.

    Also I am at artist over from scratch with getting in shape. What supplements would you suggest to gwt the most bang for my buck to help me get as strong as possible as fast as possible?

  11. Elisa Ruefer says:

    For this workout, I use Furniture sliders which you can find just about anywhere for a few bucks!

    25 Reverse lunges with foot on one slider/ leg

    25 push ups sliding one hand out with slider/ arm

    25 push-up pike-up with feet on sliders

    25 mtn climbers with feet in sliders

    25m army crawl with feet on sliders

    25m bear crawl with hands on sliders

    Repeat x 5

  12. Etienne T says:

    Thanks for the list! Will definitely incorporate many of these to prepare for my first Spartan Beast next summer (working my way up…!). Prepping now for 1st GoRuck in 2 weeks.

    I enjoy Sealfit Weekly Monster Mash (introduced to Sealfit through your blog series on Kokoro camp, I am grateful to you for that! It changed my life.) This Saturday, I did:

    – Warm up: 3rds: 5 pullups, 10 pushups, 15 air squats

    – Work capacity: 10 rounds of: 10 x tire flip, 30 pushups and 800 m run

    – Endurance: 30 in rowing (moderate pace)

    My forearms are still pretty sore!

  13. MaryAnn says:

    1, 5, 6 & 7 I am definitely going to try. I am a big fan of functional fitness with the use of creativity and only body weights. A huge excuse we give ourselves is that there is no time to go to the gym. Why go to the gym? All you need is you, the energy you bring and showing up present and ready!

    I think your Spartan Delta tops my list of masochistic workouts that nobody I know at least can beat. But I would absolutely love a signed copy of your book :)

  14. John D says:

    My most insane workout as of late:

    1. 2 X’s Diaper Change (9 month old) for time + weird smiley face

    2. 3 X 5 sets of going on worm/cricket/bug/moth catching expedition with 6 year old. Not for time, but must continually answer booming existential questions over and over and over again.

    3. 1 X Empty Dishwasher for time

    4. 2 X’s Making Bed (again, weird smiley face important. 2nd set includes doing it wrong the first time and re-doing it)

    5. 117 X 1 pick up dog poop (grimacing allowed).

  15. Tammy Phillips says:

    What is a Bear complex

    1. The Bear Complex is a deadly five-lift complex consisting of a power clean, front squat, push press, back squat, and second push press. Completion of all five lifts counts as one rep. You choose between five sets of five reps, or five sets of seven reps, and rest for five minutes between each set either way.

  16. Alex Drusch says:

    The box where I partake in Crossfit completed a 30 minute AMRAP similar to the running bear. Instead of decreasing the run it held steady at a cool 800m at 0,10,20,30 minutes. In between we completed as many bear complex at 205 Lb’s. Lets just say I was pooped afterwards…

    Cheers

  17. Eric says:

    Tempo run up flagstaff road in Boulder, CO. That’s a 4 mile temp that is entirely uphill. Great for building strength – both mental and physical.

  18. Greg McLane says:

    Love the article! Thanks for the tips!

  19. Thom says:

    Thank you for all of your blog posts and podcasts. They have been helpful over the years.

  20. Christale says:

    I love all your workouts!!! I plan on trying all of these!!!

  21. Rob says:

    Sweet List. For me any good training session means incorporating some form of tactical thinking, (maybe I’m exploring one of my why’s here), but heck, why do we train, I mean apart from wanting to look good and perform well? In my humble opinion its to survive if the sh!t ever did hit the fan and to that you need to be able to think under pressure.

    Few examples here.

    Work out 1: Escape and Evade

    5 + rounds of:

    5 Deadlifts at 100 Kg’s

    100 metres farmers walk with dumbbells (30 Kgs per hand)

    5 Strict muscle ups

    1 minute to solve random organic chem equation while standing on wobble board, (30 seconds per leg).

    Work out 2: Its Time to Fight, (requires partner)

    8 rounds of:

    6 – 8 squats at (currently 80 kg’s)

    400m dash

    2 minutes grappling with partner or until one of you submits

    Lie back and let the rhabdo set in.

    Workout 3: Breathe!

    Been using an elevation mask and weighted vest for this one.

    10 rounds of

    50 cal row

    1 minute isometric squat per leg, (or until failure)

    10 strict push ups, (that weighted vest)

    1 minute Isometric Handstand Hold

    1 minute of juggling, (or as in my case, attempted juggling).

    Currently my training is fun, granted there’s some definite periodization to it and a lot of it is strength based, if I can get one to two of these “less structured,” workouts into my weekly routine though I’m happy.

  22. Summer says:

    What do I think? I think I only have a year to get myself ready for Spartan WC 2017. These sound great and I can’t wait to try them! (Although, living in the Pacific NW, the outside ones will soon have to be done in snow – although I suppose that’s rather Spartan-esque).

  23. Steve says:

    Row 500M

    10 KB clean & press @ 45# ea

    10 KB bent row

    10 KB Rack Squat

    5 TGU each side

    4 rounds

  24. Gary Scott says:

    We 63-year olds will have to scale back on these regimens

  25. Andrew Bowen says:

    Great recommendations, Ben! One of my favorites right now is the following circuit. Complete at least 5 rounds.

    Max Tire/sledgehammer: 30 secs.
    Max Pushups: 30 secs.
    Max pullups: 30 secs.
    Max Distance Farmer’s Carry: 30 secs.
    Rest 90 secs.

  26. Christopher Jimeson says:

    Hi Ben,

    My favorite would have to be the workout #6 because I’m frequently where a body weight- based workout is the difference between working out or not.

    I’ve finished three Mud Day races in previous years and the Spartan Race trifecta this year all here in France where I live. At 38 years old, father of three young children, obstacle racing has been my way to keep moving forward with my health and fitness. I especially like the mental challenge of pushing my body past my “limits” – it’s a nearly spiritual experience. Thanks for writing about your own experience with obstacle racing!

  27. Love it! Thanks Ben.

    (There’s a missing link to how to make your own sandbag by the way ;) )

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