Tough Mudder Obstacles — A Guide to the Most Grueling Challenges
You know that Tough Mudder obstacles are challenging. But you might not know exactly how challenging until you face one head on. Sure, they all test your fitness and your mental toughness, but some can seem downright cruel if you’re not prepared.
That’s where T-MINUS 30 comes in to save the day. This 30-day training program is designed specifically to help you build up the strength and skills you’ll need to conquer the tough obstacles you encounter on the course, like the ones mentioned below.
Tough Mudder Obstacles and How to Train for Them
To help you mentally prepare for your upcoming Tough Mudder, here’s a list of the 13 most brutal challenges the obstacle course has to offer. And to help you physically prepare, we have some specific training exercises from T-MINUS 30, provided by program veteran and New York-based personal trainer Angelo Grinceri.
Together, these tips will help you sail — not slog — through any challenge that stands in your way.
1. The Gauntlet
The longest obstacle Tough Mudder has ever built combines some of the race’s most grueling challenges into one brutal test. First, you have to walk across a narrow balance beam, and then swing across a set of rings. Next, you’ll have to hang tight as you work your way across narrow ledges that will test the limits of your grip strength. Finally, you’ll need to support yourself in a “bridge position” between two angled surfaces as you shuffle sideways to the finish.
How to train for it: Hanging Leg Raise
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a part of your body this obstacle doesn’t test, but Grinceri suggests some hanging leg raises to help bolster the muscles that will take the worst abuse.
“They help your grip strength, which you’ll need going across the rings, and work your core, which is crucial for maintaining the bridge position,” he says. To do this move, hang from a pull up bar, and lift your feet up with straight legs to hip height. If that’s too hard, you can tuck your knees up toward your chest.
2. Leap of Faith
For this one, you’ll first have to jump halfway across a six-foot, water-filled gap to a hanging cargo net, and then swing to a slanted pole that you’ll shimmy down to complete the obstacle. Six feet might not sound that far — until you’re standing in front of the gap, ready to hurl yourself through the air.
How to train for it: One-Legged Burpee
Explosiveness is crucial for clearing the gap. You’ll want to do a running leap, which means taking off from one foot. Grinceri suggests doing the one-legged burpee to prepare for this Leap of Faith. Do this move like a a regular burpee, but when you complete the push-up, step forward with one leg, and jump up by pushing only off of that foot.
3. Spread Eagle
A pair of shaky slack lines are your only option for crossing 30-feet of unforgivingly chilly water. Hold tight, keep your core engaged, and spread your legs to optimize your stability as you crawl carefully to dry land on the other side.
How to train for it: Bear Crawl
You probably learned the best way to train for this obstacle back in grade school: the bear crawl. “This obstacle is all about maintaining a strong, neutral spine position with intense core engagement,” says Grinceri, adding that the bear crawl reinforces both of those skills.
Keeping a tight core while you move your extremities will help keep you stable, which can make the difference between a quick victory and an unwanted dip in the water. Just remember to move opposite hands and legs together in what trainers call the “cross crawl” pattern. Learn how to do a proper bear crawl here.
Stay low as you military crawl for 30 feet below a series of electrified wires — or suffer the consequence: a surprisingly sharp and unpleasant full-body shock. Lift your head to see how much farther you have to go, and you’ll get zapped. Ditto for raising your butt a little too high or letting your feet come a little too far off the ground. So grit your teeth and keep your nose to the ground as you claw your way forward, soldier.
How to train for it: Plank and Ground Exercises
You’ll need a powerful core to move quickly and efficiently while staying low to the ground, making the plank a highly effective option for preparing for this difficult obstacle. Grinceri also suggests committing to a regular series of ground exercises such as those found in the Mudder Ground Strength workouts in T-MINUS 30. Learn how to do a proper plank here.
5. Texas Hold’Em
You’re going to need a partner for this one. Each person chooses a side of an unstable triangular platform that rocks back and forth as you move. Locking hands with your partner and driving your feet against the surface will give you the stability you need to shuffle sideways across the obstacle.
How to train for it: Romanian deadlift and Bent-Over Row
Get your muscles ready for this surprisingly taxing trek with the bent over row and Romanian deadlift. The obstacle requires you to pull with your back muscles to keep yourself locked in with your partner, and also maintain tension in your hamstrings to keep your feet pressed against the surface of the shaky, triangular platform. Together, these two exercises will hit both of these muscle groups to prepare you for this grueling Tough Mudder obstacle. Learn how to properly do a deadlift here, and a bent-over row here.
6. The Block Ness Monster
A series of rotating blocks in four feet of frigid water stand between you and the other side of this diabolical ditch. Team up with some pals to rotate each block, using its momentum to carry you to the other side. The water makes for a slippery grip, and the ditch’s muddy bottom won’t give you much traction when it’s time to heave-ho, so dig in and hold fast.
How to train for it: Dumbbell Thruster
You’ll need total body strength to conquer this monster obstacle. To build the necessary pushing power, Grinceri recommends adding the dumbbell thruster to your routine. Do this move by holding a pair dumbbells at your shoulders, doing a full squat, and then simultaneously stand up and press the weights directly above your shoulders.
7. Funky Monkey – The Revolution
This obstacle requires you to suspend from and maneuver between a variety of grips 15-feet above the shimmering surface of the water below. You’ll encounter monkey bars, suspended beams, and even rotating wheels. If your timing is off or your grip slips, you’ll find yourself taking a dunk.
How to train for it: Switch Grip Hang
Your hands are going to be working overtime to keep you from falling from this obstacle. You’re also going to need some serious back and shoulder strength, says Grinceri, who recommends the switch grip hang to help you prepare for all of the dangling and grip changing. To do this, hang from a pull up bar using an overhand grip, and then one hand at a time, switch to and underhand grip hang. Continue alternating for all your reps.
To get to the top of this 13-foot high curved wall, you’ll need a good running start, some serious lower body power to propel yourself upwards, and plenty of upper body strength to pull yourself over the ledge. You can get some help from your teammates at the top — but you have to make it there, first.
How to train for it: Jumping Plyo Lunge and Pull-Up
The jumping plyo lunge can help you build the leg and glute strength you’ll need to explode up the ramp and launch yourself to the ledge. “It’s like an amplified version of sprinting,” says Grinceri. Learn how to do a jumping lunge here.
Once you grab hold of the ledge, the emphasis will shift to your upper body as you haul yourself over the top. There’s no better training for this part than the classic pull-up.
9. Mud Mile
Okay, so it’s not really a full mile, but trudging 30 feet through mud that’s trying to suck down your shoes and all of your energy is still pretty darn tough. To make this obstacle even more difficult, you’ll have to scale eight-foot high mud mounds, likely with the help of some fellow Tough Mudders. Bonus points if you manage to rescue someone else’s shoe from the muck.
How to train for it: High Knees
The muck is going to try and pull you down like quicksand. Grinceri recommends some max effort high knees to build the strength and power you’ll need to fight that suction. You can do them while running forward or in place, but make sure to bring your knees up as high and as quickly as you can. Check out this article to learn how to do them effectively.
Climbing a 10-foot wall is pretty hard. Climbing a 10-foot wall that’s angled toward you is even harder. You can tackle this upper-body focused obstacle solo by grabbing onto the ledge and muscling over it all by yourself, or you can recruit others to give you a leg up, so you can hook your other one over the top and flip yourself to the other side. Once you get to the top, don’t forget to pay it forward by turning back to give others a helping hand.
How to train for it: Pull-Up, Biceps Curl, and Bent-Over Row
Getting to the top will require the same muscles you use for the pull-up, so that exercise will definitely help. The biceps curl and bent-over row will help you build the heave-ho strength you’ll need to help others clear this obstacle once you do so yourself. Brush up on your biceps curls with these tips.
11. Hero Carry
This is the grown up version of piggyback rides. Have another Tough Mudder athlete hope on your back and then trek 200-feet without letting them touch the ground. The extra weight makes every step feel like a chore, and your core will be working overtime to keep you steady and upright.
Half way through, you’ll switch roles, but that doesn’t mean your work is done. When you’re being carried, you’ll have to use your chest, arm, and maybe even leg muscles to hold on tight!
How to train for it: Racked Squat
You’ll need a strong core in addition to powerful legs to conquer this back-breaking obstacle. That’s why Grinceri recommends adding the racked squat (a squat performed with a pair of dumbbells “racked”(AKA held) in front of your shoulders) to your weekly workouts.
“That weight up top will force your core to work overtime as you move up and down,” he says. “You’ll need that core strength when you have a slippery athlete on your back pulling you down.”
12. Hold Your Wood
For this Tough Mudder obstacle, you’ll need to lug massive 75-pound logs with a group of other mudders. Getting the log up takes coordination leg strength, and keeping it up there and moving it across the field will test your upper body strength and staying power.
How to train for it
You’ll need some major leg power and shoulder strength to maneuver the log around. To train both muscle groups at once, Grinceri suggests a split-leg press. You’ll strengthen your legs and glutes with the split lunge and target your shoulders with the overhead press. You’ll also need to engage your core to remain stable—a skill that will definitely come in handy on the course. Do this move by performing a split lunge (legs are staggered), holding a pair of dumbbells at your shoulders. Lower down into the lunge, and then when you straighten your legs, press the weights straight above your head.
13. Pyramid Scheme
You can manage most Mudder obstacles on your own, but the Pyramid Scheme is all about working together. Band together with a few other teammates or fellow Tough Mudders to create a human pyramid that will help others scramble up the slippery, slanting slope. Once they do, it’s their turn to reach down and repay the favor. Hold on tight with one hand, and use your other limbs to scurry up the mud-slick surface.
How to train for it: Flagpole Push-Up
You’ll need plenty of core stability to clamber up this obstacle, and the flagpole push-up will help you build it, says Ginceri. Every time you push-up, you’ll raise an arm overhead as if reaching for a teammate’s hand—just like you’ll do when it comes time to conquer the real deal. Lower down into a normal push-up, and when you push back up, lift one arm out straight forward, engaging your core to keep your body stable. Lower back down, and then push up and lift your left arm forward.