Dominate Obstacles With 4 Climbing Exercises

When preparing for an obstacle course race, incorporate these four climbing exercises from STACK Expert Rob DeCillis into your training.

Climbing an obstacle at the Spartan Race

Have you failed to climb a rope or found yourself slipping off the monkey bars and falling into the mud? If so, you need to get stronger, especially in your grip, back and core.

The following four climbing exercises will address your strength needs, allowing you to conquer climbing obstacles and simultaneously make you a better overall athlete.

The Deadlift


The Deadlift increases strength in your  lower body and back. Holding a heavy bar for several reps builds grip strength and endurance, both critical for rope climbs and monkey bars.

This movement is particularly beneficial for obstacle course rope climbs, because the ropes usually have several knots in them. You can push against the knots with your legs to help you climb, similar to how you drive off the ground when performing the Deadlift.



The good old Pull-Up is one of the best exercises to help you complete monkey bar obstacles. It builds back strength, which will help you pull yourself up a rope or across the bars and help you maintain a strong grip for an entire obstacle race.

Farmer's Walks

Farmer's Walk

Walking with heavy weights improves your grip and core strength. Each step challenges your grip and forces you to activate your core muscles to keep you from swaying from side to side.

Alternating Hanging Knee Raises

Alternating Hanging Knee Raises simulate the way you move across monkey bars. Your core must stabilize to maintain control of your body while your legs move below you. And of course, it challenges your grip.

Putting It Together

In the Obstacle Course Training System, I recommend performing two total-body strength sessions per week. Below is an example of how you can incorporate the above climbing exercises into a workout.

  • Deadlift x 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 (weight equal to your body weight)
  • Pull-Ups x 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
  • Farmer's Walks - 5x125 feet (start with 60 to 70 percent of your body weight and progress to a weight equal to your body weight)
  • Hanging Knee Raises - 5x12

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Photo: The Painted Warrior

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