There's a reason why adventure races have become so hot—it’s fun to get down and dirty with your workout, plus the unconventional training earns you a killer shape. (Here, more reasons to sign up.) That’s because these physical feats have you going every which way—up, down, around, through, over, and under. When you move your body through its entire range of motion, you train your muscles in a totally different way than a typical cardio-strength routine might, says Lawrence Sikorski, a trainer at the world’s first Spartan Gym, located at the 1 Hotel South Beach in Miami. (The studio gets its name from the super popular Spartan Races that helped jump-start the adventure racing craze; so many exercisers turned to the race organizers for a way to train for obstacle courses that they created a signature gym fully devoted to the method.)
The classes there are similar to what you might see in an actual Spartan Race, but you don’t have to be gearing up for an event to reap the benefits. Body-weight training is key to a Spartan-style workout because getting yourself over obstacles is the name of the game, says Jeff Godin, Ph.D., the head of fitness education at Spartan Race. And the same mix of strength, endurance, and agility you’re building with those functional total-body moves will make you a machine at just about any fitness activity. Plus, you’ll burn monster calories during such high-intensity sessions. (Here's another intense calorie-burning workout.)
Going Spartan with your workouts also means incorporating forgotten movement patterns like crawling, climbing, and crouching. “When you have greater knowledge of what your body can do, you’ll activate more muscles during your workouts and even in your everyday life,” says Sikorski, who designed this powerful eight-move Spartan workout using simply body weight and a medicine ball.
Each move works your core while targeting parts of your upper or lower body, so you’re boosting strength, but the real focus is on pumping up your stamina. You’ll do two rounds of the exercises, decreasing both your rep time and rest time in the second round. Your goal? Do as many reps as you did in the first round. “Hit it hard right from the beginning of the second round, and when you start to reach a brick wall, push through it,” Sikorski says. Your reward: revealing a tougher, firmer, leaner you.
How it works: Start with a dynamic warm-up. Do 30 seconds each of jumping jacks, squats, inchworms, and bicycles. Then complete one round of the moves, doing each move for one minute and resting for 20 seconds between moves. For the second round, do each move for 45 seconds and rest for 15 seconds between moves.
Total Time: up to 30 minutes
1. Power Squat Press
Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding medicine ball into chest, elbows bent by sides.
Squat, sitting hips back.
Jump as high as you can, bringing feet together and pressing ball directly in front of chest. Return to squat immediately from jump and continue.
Scale it down: Instead of jumping, rise up on balls of feet to engage calves
2. Three-Point Slam
Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding ball with both hands in front of hips. Drive through heels to rise up on balls of feet, raising ball overhead, then slam ball outside of right foot as you squat.
Repeat, slamming ball center. Repeat, slamming ball to right. Continue, returning to center between sides.
Scale it down: Skip the slams and do a touchdown.
3. Side-to-Side Push-Up
Start on floor in plank on palms. Step left hand to the left and perform a push-up
Bring left hand to center.
Step right hand to the right and do a push-up; return to start position. Continue alternating
Scale it down: Perform push-up from knees.
Scale it up: Perform a power push-up, elevating palms and upper body off floor for a split second with each push (land with elbows soft before lowering again)
4. Bear Plank Palms to Elbow
Begin on all fours (tabletop position) on floor. Lift knees one to two inches off floor to start.
Lower left forearm to floor, then right forearm to floor, maintaining a flat back.
Reverse movement back to start. Repeat, alternating leading arm each time.
Scale it down: Keep knees on the floor.
5. High to Low
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding med ball with both hands directly overhead to start.
Squat as you bring ball outside of left foot with straight arms. Return to start. Repeat to right. Continue alternating.
6. Duck Walk
Stand with feet hip-width apart then lower into a squat to start, keeping hands at chest with elbows bent.
Maintaining squat position throughout with chest up, step forward with left foot then right. Continue walking
Scale it down: Perform walking lunges instead.
Scale it up: Hold medicine ball at chest while walking.
7. Low Crawl
Start face-down on floor then rise up onto elbows (with lower body still flush against floor).
Reach left elbow and right knee forward (as if crawling under a fence).
Pull with right arm and push with left leg to move forward, bringing right elbow and left knee forward. Continue crawling
Scale it down: Perform a bear crawl, starting on all fours (tabletop position) on floor then lifting knees to walk forward, backward, and side to side.
8. Gorilla Walk with Medicine Ball
Stand with feet wider than hip-width apart, holding ball down in front. Squat to start.
Extend ball out in front, bringing chest toward knees.
Push into ball as you hop forward, landing with ball between legs. Continue walking.