OCR Training Part 3: Core Components of Obstacle Course Training

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I couldn’t wrap up a series of training tips for obstacle course racing without providing OCR specific guidance on a key component to ANY training program – core training. Every obstacle you face out on course will require well-trained core muscle groups. As I mentioned in part 1 –  grip and pull strength, I tend to program exercises that maximize your workout time. Exercises that not only train a specific skill set or area of focus, but also target a combination of muscle groups – i.e. efficient, functional training moves with an OCR twist.


Here are some of my favorite core training moves and a few bonus functional exercises as well:


Squat Jump with Medicine/Slam Ball Throw:

  1. While standing, position the ball between your legs or behind the heels.
  2. Squat down and grab the ball, then quickly explode up out of the squat and at the same time.
  3. Throw the ball up and out in front of you.

*Make sure you focus on accomplishing full hip extension which will require lower body muscles as well as erector spinae muscles (lower back core muscles).   If using a medicine ball, perform the exercise near a wall to create a rebound so you can keep the ball close to you for multiple reps with little rest in between.  This can also become a great partner exercise with either a medicine ball or a slam ball – a partner can catch the ball, place it on the ground, then back up and prepare to catch the next rep.


Medicine/Slam Ball Sit-Up Throw:

  1. Position yourself flat on your back with feet out in front of you and your arms extended above the head with the ball in your hands.
  2. Using a wall to rebound the ball or a training partner, sit-up and throw the ball out in front of you at the same time.

*With a partner, you can throw the ball back and forth while both accomplishing the movement.  This movement will work the abdominal muscles while also working the musculature of the shoulder and the latissimus dorsi during the throwing motion.  Incidentally, the lats are a prime mover used to conquer certain obstacles.


Plank w/Hip Circles: (one of my favorite for working the core)

  1. Begin in a plank position – prone on your forearms and toes.
  2. Make a full 360-degree rotation motion with your hips
    • Drop the hips down to full extension
    • Move hips to the left
    • Raise hips up above neutral/normal plank position
    • Move hips to the right
    • Then drop hips back down to full extension
  3. Continue repeating hip circles, switching the direction of rotation each rep.

BONUS – Heavy Carries:


Many OCR races will have heavy carry obstacles in which you must move heavy and awkwardly sized items such as sandbags, buckets filled with rocks, logs, and various other weighted objects up and down steep hills/mountains. These obstacles are more challenging than they appear as they alter your center of mass and task the core to the max! Mastering the burdened carry requires a strong core that will support the low back through the strain of picking up a heavy load, holding it in front of your body, and moving it as efficiently as possible over rough terrain.


Below are some exercises that will help you train like you race and prepare for heavy carries.


PowerWave or Sandbell Walking Weighted Lunges:

As you perform the lunges, transition the PowerWave or Sandbell around to different positions.  Behind the neck, on the shoulders, or a front carry should all be used.


Powerwave or Sandbell Step-Ups:

  1. While holding the PowerWave or Sandbell, place one foot on a box or bench.
  2. Step-up and switch feet while stepping back down.
  3. Continue repeating while transitioning the weight around to different position as outlined with the weighted lunges.




Core Hammer Swings:

Arguably one of the best full body exercises.  The great benefit of the Core Hammer vs a traditional sledgehammer is the fact that you don’t need a tire to hit.


Power Systems 2-in-1 Flip & Plyo Tire or Standard Tire Flips:

Flipping a tire is a great way to train your grip strength while also working the entire body.  Like with the Core Hammer swings, numerous muscle groups are being used to accomplish the movement.  Creating superset exercises with heavy-duty, functional pieces such as the 2-in-1 Flip & Plyo and the Core Hammer allows you to train 3 of the essential skill sets for obstacle completion:

  1. Grip Strength – as you flip the tire and alter your grip naturally on the core hammer through the phases of the slam
  2. Endurance – as you limit the transition time between one exercise and the next
  3. Core Strength – as you work through your foundational core muscles to integrate total body exercises movements that develop both strength and power


As I mentioned earlier, including full body movements in your training is great for maximizing your time.


In conclusion of this series on OCR training tips, remember that your core is what carries you through the race. This is the reason that core training is an integral part of the programs I have my clients perform year-round.  A strong core can also improve running mechanics and the ability to maintain a strong pace over great distances.   Whether your goal is to run an obstacle failure free race or to reach the podium, the strength of your core will either be your secret weapon or your Achilles heel.

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About Yancy Culp

Yancy Culp is the owner of YancyCamp.com where he provides online coaching to Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) Athletes. Yancy provides full time coaching to many pro level OCR athletes in the United States and around the world. OCR is the fastest growing participatory sport in the world, and Yancy has competed in every type of OCR ranging from outdoor 24-72 hour races, single day races in the 3-30 mile range, indoor/outdoor short course races in the 10-30min range, and has approximately 25 podium finishes all while in his 40’s. He’s on the HumanN/BeetElite Pro OCR Team, is a Partner at Demon Sled, Chief Inspirational Officer at Until Life Makes Sense, coaches Boot Camps and Group OCR Fitness, and provides Sports Performance Training for MS, HS, and Collegiate Athletes. His wife Amy Culp is the Sports Performance Dietitian for the University Of Texas Longhorn Athletic Department and they have two kiddos – Scout & Lily. Power Systems is thrilled to welcome Yancy as a Master Coach.