Strength & Speed

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Planning your training calendar

Posted by ackbar80 on April 11, 2021 at 9:25 AM



Going out for a run, maybe do a pull-up or two, possibly flip a tire, then go run again. Sounds like a general approach to training for an OCR, right? But what if I told you there is a better way, a way to specifically target your training for your race? Well this article is the ticket to give you those tools, so read on and thank me later.

Factors to consider

There are a number of factors to consider when training for your next race, distance is a big one and the major requirements/physical demands of the event should be accounted for. For instance, if you are going to run a Spartan Stadion working on speed while being able to recover from a near max heart rate quickly will be beneficial. If your next event is Conquer the Gauntlet, grip strength should be a more of a priority due to the mandatory obstacle completion; running speed is still important but if you can’t finish the rig your speed doesn’t matter.

What about a more general approach? What if you just want to be ready to compete at any race but not specialize in one brand? Then a more balanced approach to training is needed, working on a broad range of OCR skills will be required, but at the cost of specializing in a specific set of skills.

Training Phases


How to train and when is a big factor in getting ready for your next race. I advocate for a periodized training program that has you focus on different outcomes at different parts of the year. In the off-season, roughly 12-16 weeks out from your first race, you may want to focus on strength. No, I don’t mean getting up to a 3 times bodyweight squat (although that would be impressive). We do want to get stronger though. First and foremost, strong things don’t break; while yes, it is a cliché there is an element of truth to it. When we lift weights not just our muscle gets stronger, our bones and connective tissue get stronger as well. This in turn acts as an internal insurance policy that lets your body protect itself when you accidentally put it in bad positions. If you are generally stronger everything gets easier, and you can put more force into the ground with each step which means you run faster. The off season is also a great time to work on your base level of cardio. Using this time to lift heavy and run slow will give you a great platform to build the rest of your training from.


As you get closer to the race, what we will call pre-season, approximately 8-12 weeks out, your running volume should increase. But we also want to start working on running faster. That doesn’t mean you just try to get your long run done sooner. Instead this is where you may want to put interval work into your program. 200m, 400m, 800m or any other distance you want to try if you are going all out and giving yourself time to nearly fully recover before you run again. If you have heard of “repeats” they are similar, but different from true intervals. For a true repeat we are still running fast and resting for a set time however, on a repeat your run may not be 100% effort. Instead set a goal time or pace and maintain that pace for the prescribe sets, your rest period may be a bit shorter because your focus isn’t on all out speed. Instead your focus should be on being able to keep a pace while not fully recovered.


In Season

During the racing season maintenance is the key, your race schedule should also dictate your training schedule. If you have a couple months between races, then you can probably train a little harder between races. If you race every week or two then it will be hard to gain any ground because you will need to recover from your first race, train for a day or two, then rest for the next race, and boom it’s race day. This makes performing at your peak very difficult for each event. Keep in mind depending on where you live the race season can last anywhere from six to nine months, or even longer in some areas. That is a long season where a lot can happen, mitigating the risk of overtraining is important. You can help yourself out by setting certain races as more important than others. That way you can set your training schedule to peak for those events, and train through other less important races.

Post Season

After that championship race there is still a whole section of training to not forget about, even if there isn’t much true “training” to be done. I like for this block of training to last 4-6 weeks after my last event. I treat post season as an opportunity to recover, we have been training and racing for over half of the year. Physically, neurologically, and hormonally our bodies need a break. We can’t perform at 100% everyday of the year, we need to recover and let our bodies get back to something that resembles normal so that we can start building again. My recommendation is a solid week of rest maybe even two weeks after your last race, I know you will be bored, but your body will thank you. After the week of rest a simple program with low volume weight training and lower running distances for another 4-6 weeks will be beneficial until you get back to off-season and can start to really get serious again for next season.

What it all means

While this article doesn’t give you specific set and rep schemes, it does give you a direction to go in when you do decide to plan out your training calendar. Do some research on the best ways to reach your individual goals, find a trainer who specializes in OCR, find and join OCR groups on social media in your area, etc.

Good luck as you move into what we are all hoping is a more open OCR season, and I wish you all the best in reaching your goals for the season.



Jared is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with a master�??s degree in exercise science. Jared ran his first OCR in 2014 and was able to compete at OCRWC in 2016 finishing top 50 in the world in the short course event for his age group. Jared is the owner of JRenFitness which offers personalized online training for Elite OCR athletes and general population clientele.

Not All Sandbags are Created Equal

Posted by ackbar80 on January 14, 2018 at 10:50 AM

Over Christmas I asked Santa for sandbags that I can use for my own training and for training clients. Santa was kind enough to bring me two models Brute Force Training bags, The Athlete and The Strongman bags. That being said, I paid for these bags and Santa was kind enough to wrap them for me then give them back. Now let’s get down to the good and bad of these bags

Price: I am not going to lie these things are expensive, at least on my budget they are. Right now as I am writing this review you can get the same to bags as I bought for $130 and $160 on the Brute Force web site. This seems expensive for an empty bag with handles and a couple of empty fill bags inside. However, when you compare this price to other sandbag type training tools on the market targeted towards Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) enthusiasts the price may be cheaper, depending on size. Also, with the Brute Force bag you control the weight inside. So as you get stronger you can make your bag heavier while other bags on the market will make you pay for another $130+ bag.

Durability/warranty: Each bag is made 100% in the U.S.A., which as a vet I find kind of cool. The bag itself is made from a similar material that military duffle bags are of. Which if you have seen of the abuse those bags get put through that should be an indicator of how tough these bags are. In case you do damage your bag Brute Force will repair the bag if it falls under their warranty, which covers “normal wear and tear, zipper issues, manufacturing defects and generally anything else (… ) within reason”. When you receive your bag included is a care sheet that outlines what you should and should not due with the bag in order to keep the bag in as good of shape as possible. Basically don’t drag it across rough jagged surfaces and don’t set it on fire (apparently someone did that).

Versatility: About the only thing I can’t do with these bags is max out on a lift, but I also didn’t buy the biggest bag. Furthermore, single rep max lifts are usually not the point of sandbag training. For most of us using sandbag training it is to get ready for a specific obstacle in an OCR race or to use the dynamic load as a different way of training as opposed to the static nature of barbells and dumbbells. I have yet to go truly heavy with my bags, but even with only 45lbs in the bag lifts like cleans and even curls take on a whole new aspect of core training. If you are unfamiliar with sandbags, basically think of the weight as a pendulum you now have to control and absorb as opposed to a barbell that provides a more rigid and controllable object.

One major difference between a Brute Force sandbag and others in the OCR world are the handles. And to be quite honest, the handles are one of the main reasons I went with these bags over others. Brute Force attaches not one, not two, but nine handles to their sandbags (unless you opt for the bag with none, but that’s your choice). Each set of handles is positioned to be able to give you a different grip for different lifts and exercises, which makes them a much more versatile tool in anyone’s workout regimen. As a certified personal trainer I feel that the handles make the bag much more beginner friendly. More handles lead to more exploration as to how to best use them. If you have a bag with only two straps coming off of the ends, it can be more difficult to find the best ways to use it. Also with all of those handles included on the standard bag you are saving money. Other bags will make you pay around $30 for an extra attachment that you have to configure yourself.

Lastly on the topic of versatility we have the load itself. As I talked about earlier you can put as little or as much weight in each bag as you want (each bag is rated for a certain range of weight). Which is a nice way of saying you have to go out, and put the sand in the bags yourself. If you want to buy the sand it is roughly $4 for a 50lbs bag of play sand. So for my 2 sandbags I used 4 of the included fill bags and 150lbs of sand for a whole $12. With those three bags I have four fill bags with 25, 35, 45 and a 55lbs respectively, this is where the true value of Brute Force bags comes in. I can load all of those bags up in my one Strongman bag and go get a killer workout, OR I can now use four different weights with my clients across a range of abilities and strengths. The fill bags take about 15 seconds to switch out.

In closing I am a HUGE fan of these sandbags. While yes the upfront cost is steep, the value of Brute Force Sandbags over other sandbags in the OCR market is astounding. Whether it is the ability to make the weight personalized, or the usefulness of the different handles Brute Force Sandbags are definitely my choice for sandbag training for OCR. Check out all of their gear at I don’t have a promo code to give you because this was not a sponsored review, I’m just a fan of their product.


(all images from Brute Force website and social media channels)

Jared Renyer

Jared Has a B.S. in Fitness & Wellness and is a Certified Personal Trainer. Jared was a college athlete competing in both soccer and track. Since beginning OCR in 2014 Jared has competed in numerous races, he qualified for OCR World Championships in 2016. Jared finished in the top 50 in the 30-34 age group on the OCRWC short course, he also completed the 15k standard course completing each obstacle and keeping his band. Jared is a member of Team Strength and Speed as well as the owner of JRen Fitness

Facebook/IG @JRenFitness


Pick Up Heavy Stuff

Posted by ackbar80 on November 28, 2016 at 8:10 AM

It is no secret that many runners for years have avoided the weight room. Many people have stated different reasons, “I don’t want to get bulky” “I don’t want weights to slow me down” yadda yadda and many more. However, in today’s OCR competitive world weights are a must.

Gone are the days that you could just be a fast runner and turn that into a win or at least a podium finish at an OCR. With more and more races and series moving toward obstacle completion the elite racer now must have some level of strength to go along with their speed. Granted you can make the argument that outside of heavy carries and walls that all someone might need is the ability to hold their own weight while hanging. With new races popping up all over the place and the existing races thinking up new obstacles to present new challenges to their racers it is imperative that you be ready for whatever may be thrown at you this coming season.

If you look at the OCR season as a full year and break it down into sections of post season, off season, pre-season, and in-season, (micro seasons) each section should have a different training goal and purpose than the other. All of which building toward the final in season goals, whatever accomplishments those may be.

So how do you get ready for all of this? Well that depends on where in your training regimen. Since, for most racers, the season has ended I will assume we have all taken a few weeks to rest, and start with the offseason. During the off season lifting heavy is the way to go. Like really heavy, 4-6 reps maximum for 4-6 sets. “Why”, many of you may ask; “that sounds like the opposite of my goal”. Take into account you should still be on a light well rounded running program as well, but your goal in the off season is not to finish first at every race, the point of the off season is to improve and prepare for the pre-season. Lifting heavy weights, with safe and properly executed form, will build your overall strength. Increase strength will lead to increased power; this is my next transition. After 8-10 weeks of building strength it is a good idea to switch to power based exercises, think Olympic lifts. Your hang clean, jerk and snatch type exercises are excellent ways to create large bursts of power using your entire body starting with the legs and moving up the body. You do not have to look too far into a race to see where being able to generate large amounts of power can be helpful; sprinting up a warped wall, getting your body over an 8ft wall or simply jumping over the fire for that awesome profile pic.

If you are still with me at this point I can tell you are at least curious to see how this all gets back to running miles at a time. Good, I am glad you asked. This again all depends on where in your training season you are. As you move from one micro season to the next your training methods should change with them. As we just talked about off season is for gaining strength and power, and getting closer to actual race season you want to start to harness those new-found abilities into skills that will help you out perform the other racers on race day. During preseason, I start to increase my number of reps per each exercise, and by this time my mileage is starting to creep back up to be ready for the coming races. The rep range I like to keep my preseason exercises to is that magical 10 rep set we all know and love and probably grew up on (if you lifted weights anyway). This will start to help with teaching the muscle endurance under load as well as help build new muscle tissue (hypertrophy).

Moving into the race season I still suggest lifting weights. While the weight being lifted has dropped the intensity should not have. In season, I keep the reps at 15 or above. This is solely focused on muscular endurance at this point, and your mileage should be gauged on how and when you are looking to peak next. Your weights program should also be geared toward specific lifts and movements that are needed on race day. This is usually in the form of pull-ups, muscle-ups, farmers walks etc.

As you can tell, and many of you may have already known, a thorough OCR training program is anything but straight forward. OCR demand a great deal of physical ability from its athletes, and while endurance and physical stamina are a large part of that the strength and power needed should not be over looked.


Jared Renyer

Jared Has a B.S. in Fitness & Wellness and is a Certified Personal Trainer. Jared was a college athlete competing in both soccer and track. Since beginning OCR in 2014 Jared has competed in numerous races, he qualified for OCR World Championships in 2016. Jared finished in the top 50 in the 30-34 age group on the OCRWC short course, he also completed the 15k standard course completing each obstacle and keeping his band. Jared is a member of Team Strength and Speed as well as the owner of JRen Fitness

Facebook/IG @JRenFitness


When Four Minutes is Enough

Posted by ackbar80 on August 26, 2016 at 9:50 PM

In today’s fitness world we seem to have a plethora ofoptions. Recently circuit training has come back into the main stream largely due to, in my opinion, the popularity of CrossFit (see my previous article formy take on CrossFit). But out of this resurgence has come a variety of choices from the all-out never ending WOD, to your various High Intensity IntervalTraining (HIIT) classes offered at many gyms across the country to this weird class called Tabata. No, Tabata is not the newest craze dance class like the name may imply. Even though the classes in your local gym may be somewhat new, the Tabata workout was actually created in 1996 by a Japanese physician andresearcher by the name of Dr. Izumi Tabata as a way to increase the maximum volume of oxygen (VO2 max) for Japan’s top speed skaters.

I know you are all saying “Well that’s neat. Why do I care?”  Well because your local gym, and the one I work at are doing it wrong! You see Dr. Tabata’s initial protocol and workout called for only 4 minutes. It’s hard to sell a class for only 4 minutes of work. So the fitness industry took Dr.Tabata’s idea, watered it down some and poof a workout for the masses. Now I am not saying the class at your local gym isn’t any good,  anything that doesn’t pose an elevated risk of injury and can get you up and moving is good. However, my OCD doesn’t like mutant forms of anything, much less a mutated workout (except for X-men and Ninja Turtles those are cool mutants).

So what does the “real” Tabata look like, well it is similar to your class in that it is 20 seconds of work with 10 seconds of rest, however, the kicker is in the intensity. In your class I am assuming the instructor istelling everyone to push hard and really work. But knowing everyone still has another 20 minutes of class left psychologically you are going to leave some fuel in the tank for the rest of the class. In Dr. Tabata's study he found that if the athlete works at 170% of their VO2 max for 20 seconds then rests for 10 seconds after only 8 rounds (4 minutes), this will illicit an increase in VO2 max. Like any workout this is not a one and done fix, Dr. Tabata’s study took place over 6 weeks having the participants perform the exercise multiple times per week. So if the 170% of VO2 maxmight as well be a foreign language to you here is an easier way to figure theintensity. Take 220-your age to find your maximum heart rate (roughly) this is not as fast as your heart can beat it is just a rough estimate that it is asfast as your heart will/should beat during strenuous activity. Now take 120% of that number.  Using myself as an example 220-31=189x120%= 226 is the heartrate I need to achieve. Now most people will say that is very high, which it is…that’s the point. That is also why this workout is only 4 minutes long. That level of intensity is near impossible to draw out for an extended period of time. In the simplest way to explain it, this workout forces your body to work harder and faster than it is able to pump oxygen through your body. So even though you are breathing you are still not getting oxygen to your muscles, thus forcing your body to adapt. The Tabata workout should be made of up primarily total body multi-joint movements, here is an example that I gave to one of myathletes: Sandbag squats, dumb bell cleans, mountain climbers, push-ups,burpees, jump squat, jump lunge, squats. Notice the progression from legs to arms incorporating the entire body then going back to legs, these are all big multi-joint movements with elements of speed and explosion that tax the system much greater than other exercise choices.

Now I understand that to Jane and John gym member this may be alittle intense. This is true, as I stated in the beginning, this work out was designed for top level international caliber athletes. As a trainer I havebegun to implement this on a couple of my clients. Both of which are endurance athletes, whom are accustomed to longer duration workouts.  So when they saw a4-minute workout there was some initial kickback, which only makes sense.  However, after they were not asking me to extend any form of the workout.

For the everyday person intense intervals have been shown to have a longer lasting effect on fat burning post workout and encourage the body to retain muscle as opposed to longer duration steady state cardio which can cause the body to use muscle as fuel. So for the gym goer looking to lose fat while keeping that oh so important fat burning muscle, I recommend inserting some type of interval into your cardio regimen. For the athlete, intervals are paramount to keeping your body a well-rounded machine tobe ready for everything tha is asked of it during your sport. Finally, for the OCRathlete I feel as if this can be a very useful tool to help get you over whatever hump or plateau you may be facing.  The intense nature of this workout with laughable time to rest between sets forces you to push beyond what you thought was possible. So please when you see the short 4-minute workout, be weary, because it may be the best/worst 4-minute workout you have done.

(top picture from, bottom picture from


Jared Renyer

Jared has a B.S. in Fitness & Wellness, as well as acertified personal trainer. As a college athlete he played soccer as well asran track. In recent years Jared has started competing in OCR events and hasbecome one of the strongest members of Team Strength&Speed and qualifiedfor and will be competing in the 30-34 age group for the 2016 OCR WorldChampionships.


Why CrossFit is good for crossfitters....only

Posted by ackbar80 on May 11, 2016 at 11:00 PM

Know before writing this I considered just how I wanted this article to come across. I know it is popular to bash CrossFit for a number of things, whether it is the cultish mentality, the constant need to talk about CrossFit, or any other common stereotype. I try to avoid this where I can and present an unbiased opinion as a personal trainer.

Here are a few of the reasons I feel that CrossFit is only meant for crossfitters.

First and foremost, in my book is an apparent disregard for proper lifting form. No I am not referring to the kipping pull up although that would be easy. My biggest problem is the encouragement to continue performing an exercise after the individual has lost form. People will argue “Do you not spot someone doing a bench press if they can’t perform the lift?” the short answer is “Yes”. However the longer answer is “It depends” if I have a client who reaches technical failure, the point at which they can no longer perform the exercise with correct form, in the middle of a set I am going to tell them to stop, rest and then continue the set at a lower weight. In my opinion there is no reason to risk injury for an As Many Reps as Possible (AMRAP) set.

Secondly drawing from my first argument is a lack of injury prevention. The first rule in designing an exercise/workout program for a client is “do no harm”; an injured client can’t work out and if they can’t work out you don’t get paid and they can’t improve, plain and simple. On top of that now that injured client is going to tell their friends about how their trainer had them do these crazy lifts past the point of the body’s ability to perform them correctly. So to compound things you have an injured client who is now telling their friends that you are the one who caused it.

Third, in my limited experience, there appears to be no screening or clearance testing for individuals starting CrossFit. By this I don’t mean they walk in with a doctor’s note saying they are ready to exercise. I am referring to a series of simple yet telling screening movements to tell the trainer that the individual is capable of getting their body into the required positions to properly execute each exercise. The screening I prefer to use is the Functional Movement Screen which uses 7 different movements building from basic to advanced, all designed to tell me what that person can and cannot do with their body under only the force of gravity. For example if the person does not have enough hip mobility to get to 90 degrees in a squat how can I ask them to do so? Also if I didn’t test that and then asked that person to squat and they were injured while attempting to get to 90 degrees that is my fault I did not make sure they had the requisite ability to get into that position. This point can be argued for many joints in a variety of different lifts.

My final reason for thinking CrossFit is only good for crossfitters is exercise selection. While I am a fan of CrossFit avoiding machine exercises, there appears to be no regression of exercises. For example if I can’t perform a proper deadlift the CrossFit mentality is to just practice deadlifts. Rather than breaking the movement down and performing corrective exercise to strengthen the body’s ability to perform the exercise under bodyweight. Then once they have met the requirements to slowly add more load to properly work the body.

All of this being said CrossFit can be a super intense body beating workout for many people. However in today’s fitness world of “I want results yesterday” CrossFit has become a buzzword that people flock to not knowing exactly what they are getting into. For the seasoned athlete and exerciser CrossFit may be a good addition to what they are already doing. For the seasoned crossfitter who wants to do better at CrossFit, by all means do more CrossFit, I know an orthopedist who specializes in shoulders so give me a call in a few years (I couldn’t resist). But for John and Jane Q. Public I advise go to your local gym, talk to the training staff, not just the sales people at the door, ask questions about their philosophy, the programs they design and their overall approach to a client like yourself. Blanket programs and routines were not built for you and your goals may be different. Take your time, find the right gym/trainer then go out and blow your goals out of the water.



Jared Renyer: Jared has a B.S. in fitness and wellness and is also a certified personal trainer. Jared played soccer in college helping his team to a conference tournament championship as well as being a member of the track team. Jared has recently picked up OCR as a hobby and is beginning to compete in the elite and competitive waves.