Definition of spartan – “showing or characterized by austerity or a lack of comfort or luxury”
As many of you who follow me on Instagram may know, I’m training for a Spartan race. I always said I’d never do it (mostly because I was scared of losing weight), but here I am.
As it turns out, I’m having the most fun training ever.
I’m doing the race with two of my clients (who are now friends), as well as another close friend of mine.
The group aspect of training is extremely motivating and competitive, and has extracted another level of beast out of me. The sessions are very tough, but mentally, I feel stronger than ever, because I’m working with a team for a common cause.
In a Spartan race, you have to run, jump, crawl, pick up & carry heavy objects, climb up a rope, pull yourself over a wall etc. I’m a big proponent of being strong and being able to use that strength (‘functional’ as some refer to it). That’s why it appeals to me so much.
What use are powder puff muscles if you can’t climb up a rope or run more than a mile?
We are not cavemen anymore, but we still have cavemen instincts. We must nurture these instincts to stay human.
I was discussing training with a friend the other day, and we both boiled our training down to wanting one thing – we want to feel like warriors.
Why do people sign up for dangerous obstacle course races or for white collar boxing matches, knowing they could get knocked out cold?
Because they want to feel like warriors.
With that said, today I want to talk about spartan training. How to achieve simplicity in your workouts.
During my prep for the race, I’ve switched up my training a little.
Gone are many of the smaller, ‘luxury’ exercises – curls, rear delt flyes etc (they are definitely still important, but not right this moment).
I’ve replaced them with basic, primal exercises. Basic, primal exercises work. They burn fat. They build muscle. They hurt. They’ve been around forever because they work.
Below is a list of basic, spartan exercises you can re-introduce to your regime and really kick your workouts up a notch.
- Swap shrugs for… Farmers Walks
I hate shrugs (although I do like incline shrugs). I just don’t feel them and have never really noticed much growth from the standing version. Why bother when I can just do a heavy farmer’s walk with it’s whole plethora of benefits?
They forge a crushing grip
They fix your posture (making you look taller and opening up your chest)
They build up your traps, abs, lower back, quads, and glutes. I attribute some very good upper back growth to these.
They can be used for conditioning (aka to get lean).
They are raw in every sense!
- Swap lat pulldowns for.. pull-ups.
There is a time and a place for lat pulldowns (it’s not in a Spartan race). Every healthy adult male should be able to bust out at least five dead hang pull-ups (females should try to get at least one). The ability to pull yourself up over a bar is an excellent indicator of your pound-for-pound, relative strength.
Don’t get it twisted, pull-ups are hard (especially well-executed ones). This is why you don’t see many people bothering with them.
Stick with this basic, classic exercise which builds cobra lats and strong biceps. They’re known as the ‘upper body squat’ for a reason.
- Swap crunches for.. crawls
Crawls are used by martial artists (such as Brazilian Jiu-jitsu practitioners) for many reasons, one being that they improve ability to get into different positions that we usually find difficult (because of tight muscles etc). They also build shoulder and core strength, and really work the legs.
So dispense with the 100s of situps a day (which is probably just giving you a hunchback) and start crawling.
- Swap leg extensions for.. sled pushes/drags.
Pulling and pushing a heavy sled is one of the weapons of the spartan. There are so many ways to use it (as you can see below), but it’s guaranteed to lift your heart rate into the stratosphere (potential fat loss), as well as building quad and glute strength.
Any exercise that builds strength and burns fat simultaneously is a winner in my book. It’s primal as hell – no fancy machine or elaborate technique needed (you don’t even need a sled – you can use a tyre, sandbags etc).
Keep it old school and do the work.