July 05, 2017

Team Bright Hammers’ head coach Joseph Brigham¬†has written this great articles for us packed full of tips to overcome some of the more common obstacles you may come across in a OCR event.

Obstacle racing, mud runs, and mucky challenges will have you tested with a variety of different obstacles that could have your palms sweating in anticipation. I have seen my fair share of unusual and unique obstacles come up in my years of racing, but there are a few that keep coming up in one form or another in every race. Here is a look at how to conquer 3 of the best.

1. Monkey bars

From scaffold poles, horizontal ladders, to stage rigs, to specially designed set ups – no race is worth its salt without a set of these!

There are many styles for conquering the bars – from facing for cycling the legs, gorilla swings, and flying monkeys. One that I think is highly functional for all is the side facing pendulum technique. Having your hands on bars roughly shoulder width apart with you palms facing each other will allow you control on wetter and muddier bars but also allow you to swing like a pendulum to get good momentum and there for make your trip across the bars a lot quicker and easier.

Which ever style you use make sure that you start with your best hand forward. Active shoulders are also a must to protect your rotator cuff and help control your swing. So pull your shoulders down so your chest comes up a little, similar to what you would do on a scap pull up or the start of a Lat pulldown.

Avoid grabbing the bar you are already holding with one hand with your travelling hand, otherwise you may find yourself losing momentum and spinning off the bars!

Your grip style is also important! Doing a full grip that includes using the thumb can tire your forearms quickly and make you want to fall off when the small forearm muscles pump with lactic acid. Try using a sloth grip until things get desperate and only engage the thumbs if things get slippery or desperate.

Make sure use your momentum and generate speed so you can grab from bar to bar as quickly as possible. The longer you are up there hanging the more you will tax your grip and tire yourself out, so when you do make a reach for the next bar you are more likely to slip and drop off!

Are you lacking strength for monkey bars? Spend some time working on heavy farmers walks and dead hangs for your grip as well as pull ups for your upper body pulling ability.

2. Wall Climb

Walls come in allsorts of shapes and sizes. 4, 6, 8, 12 foot? Overhanging? Flat top? Time to get over it!

I want to show you the best possible way for you to get over any wall in a race… by yourself! So if you are not racing with a buddy or within the aid of a helpful marshall you can conquer this simple but often challenging obstacle.

Start by picking a side of the wall to climb. If you are right handed choose the right hand side of the wall, left side for southpaws.Make sure you are a fully extended arms length from the side strut of the wall. This is because you are going jam your foot onto this to provide 3 points of contact and an easy ascent. Too far away and you wont reach, too close and you will lack the mobility to get in position.

Now you need to grab the top of the wall. You may need to jump or use any support step provided or both. Either way you want both hands firmly grabbing the top!
For the sake of this example we will say you hanging on the right side of the wall and now turning your body toward the closest edge of the wall so you can jam your left foot hard into the side strut (do the opposite movement if you chose the left side of the wall) and swing your right foot over the top of the wall.

Pull yourself to the top with both arms and your leg locked over the top while pushing with your trailing leg. You are now on top of the wall – sit tight!

To get down, firmly grab the top of the wall with both hands, swing over your trailing leg, brace your feet against the wall so you can lower yourself down and then drop into a squat landing. Try and push against the wall with your legs and feet as you let go in order to land away from the wall and not down it

Are you lacking strength for wall climbs? For the above technique -Work on pull ups (strict or assisted), full press ups or dips, and walking lunges.

3. Rope climb

A much feared obstacle that is as simple as it is challenging and that a lot of people have not tackled since school!

There are many techniques for conquering the rope climb but I am going to take you through the safest for beginners and for a race situation where a rope is outside and possibly wet, muddy, or both – and that is the S-wrap technique.

First we need to know which foot is going to be on the bottom of the wrap and which is going to pin the rope to the bottom foot. This is a case of best foot forward! Get a friend to shove you in the back, whichever foot takes a step forward is going to be the pinning foot.

Get a solid grip of the rope with both hands at around level with your face – grip hard. Now its time to perform the s-wrap! Bring your knee up nice and high on the non-pinning leg and wrap your foot around the rope so it droops down the inside of the foot (clockwise if doing it with your left leg, anti-clockwise if it is your right leg). Now step up and stand hard on the rope with your pinning foot so the rope is clamped firmly between your feet. Reposition your hands to around face height again and you should be now locked into wrap.

Time to ascend the rope! Grip the rope hard, release the wrap by unclamping your feet, suck your knees up high like you are doing a stomach crunch, clamp your feet into the wrap so the rope is secured again, stand! Reposition the hands in front of the face. Keep breathing long and regular throughout this process and repeat these steps until you are at the top of the rope.

Now, DO NOT SLIDE DOWN THE ROPE. To get down you will need to bring the hands down one at time (always keep one hand on the rope) bending the knees as you lower. Now you are in the crunched position with both hands tightly on the rope, release the wrap so you can straighten your legs down the rope, and then rewrap so your feet are securely clamping the rope. You will resemble a caterpillar wiggling down the rope while repeating this process all the way to the ground.

Are you lacking strength for rope climbs? Put towel hang or towel hang pull ups into your training, heavy sled pushes and pulls, and hanging knee raises.