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Endurance, Wellness / March 1, 2016

How to Train for the Wall Climb

Written by: Morris Brossette

Second to the rope climb, the wall is what new obstacle racers dread.  Especially a 10ft wall.  Veteran OCR racers know that usually the deeper into the race you get the higher and more challenging the walls become.  In this article I will give strength training and mobility strategies to use in any gym to get you safely up and over any wall.

Before we get to the videos, I want to give you some advice as to how I recommend you approach each wall before attempting to get over it.  Often racers are out of breath, running full steam ahead and have the tendency to run straight into the wall… not up it…  Instead of mimicking a bug hitting the windshield of your car, I suggest that you give yourself time to recover from the run for a few seconds.  As I approach a wall, or any obstacle, I will stop running and walk for at least 15 seconds.  This gives me time to get my heart rate down just a bit, get my legs back under me, and execute a better jump so that I get a solid grip on the top of this obstacle.

Once you have got a good grip on the wall you obviously have to get over it.  To do this requires total body strength and a very good range of motion, particularly in your hips and knees.  The below videos are movements that I use to build both strength and total body mobility.  I recommend implementing these into your training plan 2-3x week.  They can be all in one training session or split up into different workouts.  The goal is to complete 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions at each workout.  Let’s get to it…

Jump Press on Cable Cross or top of Rack: This is a great move to build strength in your Lats & Triceps through the press up,  and to build plyometric “explosive” strength in your calves.  Be sure to fully extend your arms at the bottom of each repetition to promote optimal range of motion through your Lats and shoulders.  Beginners tip: Start this slowly and use your legs as much as needed to get your hips over and clear of the bar.   As you get stronger, use your legs less until you can perform this movement almost 100% with your upper body.

Fingertip Pull up: This is a great strength movement not just for the wall but for any grip focused obstacle.  My recommendation is you grip the top bar with just the first two joints of your fingers, that’s the middle of each finger to the tip.    If you don’t have the strength to execute the pull up you can just perform a dead hang for time.  Try to increase your time hanging to 60 seconds total, or longer, with your arms fully extended. Then begin holding with a slightly bent elbow.  Why just the fingertips? In my experience, the higher the wall or if you have smaller hands you may not be able to get your full hand grip on top of the wall.

Squat Jump with reach:  In a recent OCR workshop had an athlete tell me once she got her grip on the top of the wall she was fine, but the problem was she couldn’t jump to the top.. This movement will help build the explosive power you need to increase your vertical leap.  Be sure to reach high as you are jumping to simulate reaching for the top and also to build muscle memory. This way when you approach the wall in a race your body knows exactly how to react when you jump.   I recommend adding this movement 3 days a week for 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.  Don’t rush the reps!! Take your time and focus on building explosive power rather than plowing through the set with poor form.

Box Jump with reach:   Nothing helps you jump higher, well in my experience at least, like the fear of cracking your shins on a box if you miss 🙂 #whateverittakes.  Just kidding… Kind of…  Seriously though, the box jump with reach is your progression from the Squat Jump with Reach.  Start with whatever height box you are comfortable with and execute 2-3 sets of 8-10 repetitions.  Again take your time and be sure your form is as perfect as possible.  You can add this movement into any workout 2-3xweek.

High Step up:  I love this movement not just for the wall but again for most obstacles you will face.  A major limiter in our range of motion is hip mobility.  As you will see in the video my hip/knee are at a very aggressive angle.  But if you take a look at the cover photo for this article you will notice that my hip/knee are at almost the exact same angle.  The better your range of motion the easier you will get over the wall.  If you have injuries or issues with your knees use caution when performing this movement.  Don’t ever perform a movement if you feel pain in the joint, especially the knee.  As you begin to step up be sure to put your weight on the heal of your foot that is on the box, engage your glute on that side and stand.  Perform 2-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions per side 2-3xweek.  This movement would precede either of the jumps above in a workout if done on the same day.

There you have it.  I am sure there are other very useful techniques to getting over this obstacle, but these are ones I have personally used and know work for me and my clients.  If you have any comments of questions please feel free to leave below. Now get after it!!

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about the author

Morris Brossette

Morris “Mo” Brossette grew up running, hiking, biking, and basically living everyday in the woods. Each day was a new adventure of building forts, exploring new areas, and even as a child, creating obstacle courses and other physical challenges to build strength and fitness.

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