Grab it like you mean it at your next mud run!

Obstacle Course Racing (OCRs)  has exploded over the last five years.  It is no surprise then that many gyms have been adding in “mud running” training. And why wouldn’t they? OCRs have been a great source of fun, inspiration and considerable amounts of mud for  both, the dedicated and the weekend athlete. A date on the calendar circled in red with exclamation points is also a great motivator to get you to the gym.

With this growth, we have also seen an increase in the variety of challenges. There’s walking with absurdly heavy objects, like BattleFrog race’s notorious Jerry Can Carry. Savage race has the infamous “sawtooth” monkey bars, which look like a gigantic letter “M” (as in “murder your grip”? Just a guess). Spartan has ropes…so many ropes to climb. Three different races, all wanting to wage war on your poor mitts. Here’s my list of training tips and tricks to help grab that next bar up!

Training tip #1: The pull up bar is your friend.

Pull-ups (palms out) are significantly harder than chin-ups (palms in) and daunting for many, if not most. However, most gyms now have an assisted pull-up machine or resistance bands to help take some of the load off while you build your grip, shoulders and back as well. Even hanging from the bar and doing knee/leg lifts helps significantly. You can also throw your towel length-wise across the top of the bar and then hang by grabbing the sides  of the towel, mimicing the same grip used for rope climbs. Well worth it!

Try this trick: Chin-ups tend to be easier than pull-ups, yet people instinctively reach for a monkey-bars with a pull-up grip. Turn those palms inward so that your biceps can do the bulk of the work.

Training tip #2: Farmers know what’s up.

Logs, tires and jerry-cans, oh my! Carrying heavy and unwieldy objects has become a standard obstacle in most races. Moving water from a well, livestock to a market, bags of seed to be planted – this was a day’s work for a farmer, and the creation of one of the most functional exercises around: The farmer’s walk. How to do it? Pick up something heavy in each hand (I use the weight plates or dumbbells) and walk a set distance. This simple exercise will leave fire in your forearms as well as give you a full body burn, since it utilizes so many muscle groups at once. While I normally preach caution when adding weights to a workout, it is OK to go as heavy as you can manage for a farmer’s walk – just make sure to not drop anything on your toes!

Training tip #3: Swing the bells.

Kettlebells that is. Kettlebell training has been a staple of Crossfit gyms for a while now and with good reason: they work. The slightly unwieldy weight coupled with the various swinging motions used during a kettlebell workout helps gain monkey-bar beating grip.

Training tip #4: Get hooked.

Are ropes tying you down? Learning how to “J-Hook” the rope with your feet is the holy grail of climbing. The rope hangs down along the inside of one leg, crosses over your shin and over the outside of the foot. You sweep your other foot under and pull the rope up then clamp down on it. This “J” shape lets you push up by firing up the glutes, taking a significant amount of the weight-bearing off of your grip. Visual learner? Check out one of the countless YouTube videos showing this amazing technique!

Grip could be compared to the kicker on a football team; normally not talked about much until that moment when success of winning a game is suddenly crucial. Surprisingly easy to train and with many not only athletic but real world uses, I encourage you to go ahead and get a grip on it! Yes, I could not resist at least ONE grip pun – but hey at least I saved it for last, right?

Need a mud run in your life? Head on over to and check out the calendar to see what’s coming up in your state!

More ways to get ready for a mud run:

A Mud Run: Can I Do This, and Will I Survive?

Top 5 Mud Run Must-Haves

Mud Run Gear That Plays As Tough As A Mud Runner