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Prepare for Obstacle Courses without One!!

New Obstacle Course Ebook!

Prepare for Any Training

Many pre- military and law enforcement recruits who are training for their future training programs often are hit with this problem of not having an obstacle course to train with before departing.  Here is an email from a trainee seeking advice on how to pre-train for this issue:

I do not have access to an o-course, but would really like to be able to train on one, or at least train a workout that has some carryover to something like the bud/s o-course or the USMC confidence course.  Any ideas?  Thanks very much.

All obstacle courses have high and low obstacles and usually some distance to run in between them.  Here is how I recommend training for such a test:

1 - Continue with upperbody strength / endurance workouts - You need the muscles that enable you to perform a pullup, pushup, and dip.  Keep doing those in a regular program in your PT workouts.  If you are not doing these exercises here is a sample plan:

Repeat 5-10 times
Run 100m fast
Pushups - 10-20 reps
Pullups or flexed arm hang - 15-20 seconds worth
Dips or bench dips - 10-20 reps

This type of quick circuit will ensure you are working the right muscles that will help you get over a wall, up a rope, and over a fence.  Notice the short fast 100m sprint in this workout.  This addition will help you cover ground quickly and make up valuable time if you are struggling with any obstacles.

2 - GRIP - climbing a rope or jumping over a wall will require significant upperbody strength but it will also require you to be able to grip a rope or wall edge as well.  Once again, flexed arm hangs and pull-ups will help to a degree, but I like to add a piece of rope or rolled towel over a pullup bar and practice hanging on the two ends or even doing pull-ups with it.  That is one of the best grip workouts ever.  In fact, on the strong man competitions, often they have the world’s strongest men hang from a bar the longest as a part of the event.

3 - Balance - find a curb or long beam you are walk across / run across to practice balance on a log as many obstacle courses have a balance portion.  A trick I always use is to look at the end of the balance beam and run to it.  Do not look straight down as that can interfere with your ability to stay on the balance log.

Weights or Calisthenics - Many people ask me what they should use to prepare for military or law enforcement training programs.  I always recommend to do a calisthenics based program complete with plenty of cardio activity like running, swimming, biking to increase your endurance and muscle stamina.  However, I do like to supplement the workouts with some weights IF you must lift weights, but any of these programs will not have significant weight lifting in them.   This is mainly a logistical issue as large recruit classes are difficult to run through “real” weight lifting programs in a gym.  As a former power lifter, I understand the urge to lift, but do yourself a favor and while you are pre-training just PT and run with some weights to balance your training. 

Great Idea - Mix Pullups with Full body Exercise - The NEW 8 count bodybuilder Pushup / Pullup Pyramid: 

This one can be done at the beach if you have a pullup bar or run down to a local play ground or park and find some monkey bars.  Here is how the Pullup / 8 count body builder pyramid workout works:

Do ONE 8 count bodybuilder pushup -  run 30m to a pullup bar - do 1 pullup.  Run back to 8 count area and do TWO 8 counts - run back to pullup bar - do 2 pullups.  Continue up the pyramid to 20 if you really want to challenge yourself.  Another option is go to 10 and repeat in reverse order if you are failing at pullups soon.  This mimics pulling over a wall and pushing off the ground / crawling mixed with a short run to another "obstacle".

Put it this way, no 400 lb bench press is going to get you over a wall or up a rope!    

Feel free to email me if you have any questions at

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at



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Published Books / DVDs
Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness (Book / DVD)
Maximum Fitness

The Special Operations Workout

The SWAT Workout - From Recruit to SWAT Team Member
The Combat Swimmer Stroke DVD

The Pre-Habit Workout DVD
Clinic DVD for Navy SEAL PST
The FBI Special Agent Test Clinic DVD

The Complete List of Stew Smith's eBooks:

Fitness for All Levels of Fitness

The 90 Day Beginner Guide to Fitness
The Advanced Maintenance and Recovery Program

Reclaim Your Life - The Erin O'Neill Program

Veteran's Fitness - Baby Boomer and a Flat Stomach

The Busy Executive Workout Routine
The Advanced Weights / PT Workout (Fall / Winter Weight Gain Cycle)
The Perfect Pushup Workout

The TRX Workout
- Circuit Training 101 ebook

NEW Obstacle Course Race Ebook

The Special Forces Physical Fitness Workouts
 Combat Conditioning Workout

Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1  Beginner Weeks 1-9
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2 - 3 - Intermediate Weeks 1-12
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4  Grinder PT -  Four weeks before Hell Week

Navy SWCC Workout

The Army Special Forces / Ranger Workout 

The Army Air Assault School Workout

The Army Airborne Workout

Air Force PJ / CCT Workout

The Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer Workout

The OCS, ROTC, Service Academy, & Bootcamp Workouts

New - Army PRT and CRT
Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard OCS Workout

The USMC IST and PFT Workout
USMC OCS / TBS Workout
The Service Academy Workout (West Point, Navy, Air Force Academy)
The Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp Bootcamp Workout

The Army OCS and PFT Workout
The PFT Bible - Military / Police Standard PFT


The Law Enforcement Physical Fitness Test Workouts

The FBI Academy / PFT Prep Workout

The DEA Prep Workout

The FLETC Prep Workout - Ace the PEB

The State / Local Police Academy Workout

The Fire Fighter Workout
Check out the Inventions for Fitness

Seal Multi Men's Multi-Vitamin Multi-Mineral

TRX Train Like the Pros


Some Titles Above available in Print Softcover Format