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OCR Training: The Multi-Rig

Self made rig

The multi-rig, here the double-long version at the end of the Spartan Race World Championship 2015 at Lake Tahoe, combines gymnastics rings, ropes with knots, and pipes in an ever changing order and height. Without proper training, or strong crossover skills (e.g. from rock climbing), no one can succeed here.

Spartan Race Multi Rig

Since it requires technique and significant grip strength, it claims about the same number of victims every race as the spear throw (my estimate). Other OCRs feature setups that are similar, like the Platinum Rig. Mastering this obstacle also gives you skills which transfer to other obstacles as well. You will be able to navigate everything that consists out of ropes, rings, or similar items. These items could be climbing holds:Skull Valley at the OCR WC, nunchucks/pipes which can be found at BattleFrog races, or globes/balls like they are being used at Terrain Racing events.

Jump directly to one of the sections further down or continue reading:

  1. Your own rig
  2. Build grip strength
  3. Bring the plan together

Your own rig: Climbing gear, gym rings, GripSlings

You don’t need a lot of equipment to practice the rig, but since the gear has to support your full body weight swinging off of it, you should make sure to buy quality – which is rarely cheap. If you have fellow OCR fanati….enthusiasts, you could possibly split the cost and share the gear.

I have followed the buying recommendations of this article. Be aware that the rings are much more slippery than all the rings I’ve ever encountered in races. Personally, I prefer more challenging training equipment, since you won’t arrive at the obstacle all rested and relaxed in a race. The extra challenge in training simulates the extra stress you will feel in your race. Note: I ended up ditching the black nylon rope because I didn’t trust my knot skills enough to throw my weight on them. Instead I use my GripSling ropes which I can instantly set up and remove without any worry of me falling on my butt. If you use the codeĀ Fabian20 at checkout you get 20% off and I eventually get a few bucks as well.

Training Multi rig climbing holds

You can rig it up on monkey bars, tree branches, field goals, anything that is sturdy enough to support your weight. This is what part of the rig looks like in action on some monkey bars:

Purpose: This simulates the rigs you will find in most OCRs today. Some have a mix of ropes and rings and pipes, others have only rings, sometimes you will see other kinds of climbing holds thrown in as well.

Equipment: 2x GripSling (or rope), 2x gymnastic rings, 2x climbing slings/runners + monkey bars or something similar to rig them to.
Read more about OCR and training on my blog https://www.flownotforce.com

Execution: At the monkey bars, keep your arms extended and use as much or as little swing you feel comfortable with. You may try to skip bars, just watch out for wet/muddy/rotating bars.
At the rings, always start with your arms fully extended or locked at 90 degrees – never “fall” into the first ring or rope, that’s just a waste of energy. Depending on your strength and the room you have available, you should try to swing across rings with fully extended arms to save energy. For ropes, I prefer to lock my arms at 90 degrees for maximum grip strength.
Always try to keep up your momentum, every second you pause and have to hang on will burn out your grip strength. Use your hips to swing your legs back and forth to regain momentum if you find yourself stuck between rings/ropes.

Remember: At Spartan Race, you can’t touch the ground at all – keep your legs up!

A video posted by Fabian Lindner (@fabian_runs) on

Build grip strength: Towel pull-ups

Now, how do you hold on to those things? Especially after having climbed up and ran down hills and fought through mud and water already? Race directors have a great sense of humor, so usually they place the obstacle right after some other obstacle that smokes your arms and your grip (hercules hoist, bucket carry, rope climb).

The single greatest simple exercise to increase your grip strength for the multi-rig is the towel pull-ups. You can do it at every gym with your towel (you carry a towel in the gym, right?) and you can benefit from it even if you can’t do pull-ups at all. Here is how it works:

Purpose: This advanced exercise increases your grip strength, and trains your upper back just like narrow grip pull-ups with the added benefit of working out your forearms.

Equipment: Something like a towel or a rope or a GripSling + a pull-up bar or a tree branch or a goal post (anything you can throw the towel over)

Execution: From a dead hang, pull yourself all the way up and move your head out of the way so you don’t hit the bar. Pause at the top for 1 sec with your shoulders being on the same height as your hands or above them. Slowly lower yourself all the way down. Pause at the bottom in a dead hang for 1 sec. This completes one rep.

If you can’t do full pull-ups, just do a dead hang while holding on to the towel instead to increase your grip strength. Work your way up to keeping your arms locked at 90 degrees, as shown at the end of the video and hold that position as long as you can.

If you do have the climbing holds for your own rig, you can do pull-ups or dead hang on the nunchchuks/pipes for a similar effect. Since the towel will get “crushed” under your grip and is a bit easier to hold on to, while the climbing holds remain solid and are more slippery, the experience is a bit different.

A photo posted by Fabian Lindner (@fabian_runs) on

Bring the plan together

You can hold on to that towel forever, you swing across your self-made rig like Tarzan and look good while doing it. Good job!

Here’s some final pointers that might help you out on the course!

For those who don’t know me: I’m the guy in the middle, black shirt with a white skull on it.
It is very easy to accidentally touch the ground here, so I always try to keep my legs bend on 90 degrees as well. The height of the rig above ground changes every time, so assess that as you run up to the obstacle. Also consider if might be wet or muddy from rain or a previous mud/water obstacle.

Pipe: Having my arms locked at 90 degrees, I shuffle my hands up the first pipe in front of each other but you can see the guy in front of me shuffling his hands next to each other (sideways). I feel like the sideways shuffle is quicker, since your reach is your full arm span, but less secure. It’s a judgement call each race which technique I use.

Rings: Notice the arm is fully extended when reaching for the first ring and I reach as far as I can when transitioning to the next one. Most of the time, you can skip a ring this way. This also gives you more forward momentum.

Ropes: Depending on the varying height of the rig and the length of the rope, it is easiest to grip just above or directly on the knots. Don’t hesitate to grip on the rope though, it’s not as slick as it looks and if you’ve worked on your grip strength, you will be fine.

When it comes to the bell, you have to make a judgement call: Do you have the strength to just go to the last rope and tap the bell to be safe? Do you have enough reach to simply kick it? It might be safer to simply hold on and kick it, too. It all depends on your athletic ability and I can only recommend to try different things to find out what feels right (and quick!).

 

Comments 5

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  2. I plan to put up rings to train for races this coming summer. I have not found these answers anywhere. Are there “standard” measurements? For example: how far apart are the rings suspended? How long are the straps from structure to ring? How many rings are in a usual race rig? What diameter rings re most common?

    Thanks!

    1. I’m sure Spartan Race has internal standards on the height of the rig, length of the ropes, etc. This is not public though. Based on the rigs seen at races courses, you will frequently see at least 3 ropes and/or rings in a row at any given rig. Spartan is playing around with these nunchuck style grips as well as with the baseballs at the end of the ropes so those could also be in the mix now. Regarding the length of the straps and the diameter of the rings: Those linked in the article are pretty close to what you would find at the races.
      If you want more specifics I would recommend volunteering for the build crew. You can get a free race out of it as well as talking to the Spartan staff about this kind of things. Or you bring a tape measure with you to the next race and measure either before the race or during one of the open heats when you’re running the course yourself.

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