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Tough Mudder obstacle tips

obstacle course races
(Image credit: unknown)

You’ve probably heard horror stories (or rousing war stories, depending on how robust your mates are) of some of Tough Mudder’s more infamous obstacles. Don’t worry, though – we’ve found two men with the knowhow to give you a helping hand. World’s Toughest Mudder veteran Ben Kirkup shares technique tips for each obstacle, while Virgin Active UK’s national head of fitness James Trevorrow recommends the exercises that will ensure your fitness doesn’t let you down.

Tough Mudder veteran? Check out two of the new obstacles for 2015, The Birth Canal and The Liberator.

Hero Walls

A longstanding Tough Mudder tradition, these 3m-high walls test upper-body strength and teamwork. If you’re taller than average or have an impressive vertical leap you might be able to reach the top by yourself and use brute force to get over; for the rest of us a helping hand is the only way. ‘Help your team-mates over the walls by interlacing your fingers and letting them step into your hands while they pull themselves over the obstacle,’ says Kirkup.

Trevorrow’s suggested exercise: Pull-up Sets 3
Reps 6
Rest 2min

Island Hopping

Like something from Takeshi’s Castle or Total Wipeout, this slippery water obstacle is mostly about watching other Mudders get an unceremonious drenching. It’s not impossible to get over without taking a dunking – you’ll just need balance and agility. ‘The key is to think like a cat,’ says Kirkup. ‘But if you find it difficult to get in a feline frame of mind, the best practical tip is to take just two small steps on each island. Any more and you’ll sink.’

Trevorrow’s suggested exercise: Jump squat Sets 5
Reps 10
Rest 1min

Balls to the Wall

Remember climbing ropes in PE as a kid? Well, add to that a tonne of mud and a crowd of people jostling behind you, and hauling yourself up a 3.5m rope suddendly sounds pretty daunting. But master the technique and it becomes less so – plus you’ll keep your most vulnerable parts out of danger. ‘The secret weapon for this obstacle is a pair of fingerless gloves,’ says Kirkup. ‘If you don’t have any just wipe your muddy paws off on a friend or a well-chosen stranger.’

Trevorrow’s suggested exercise: Towel pull-up Sets 3
Reps 5
Rest 90sec

tough mudder

(Image credit: unknown)

Boa Constrictor

A claustrophobic’s nightmare, this requires you to crawl down a series of muddy pipes then up a slippery slope to freedom. Keep as flat as you possibly can and just ignore the barbed wire ceiling. Simple. ‘The stronger your core is, the easier this obstacle will be,’ says Kirkup. ‘Keep your head down and propel yourself forwards with arms and legs simultaneously. If you’re really lucky someone might help you at the end.’

Trevorrow’s suggested exercise: Plank Sets 8
Time 30sec
Rest 10sec

Everest 2.0

Usually positioned towards the end to test your failing strength, this Tough Mudder classic is back and it’s harder than ever. You’re going to need a little help from your friends to scale Everest 2.0, a slightly inverted half pipe with water flowing down it. ‘If you want to scale Everest 2.0 solo, approach it at full pelt and angle your torso forward at the top to hook your body over the precipice,’ says Kirkup. ‘If that doesn’t work, brush yourself off, admit defeat and get a fellow Mudder to reach down and help you with the final bit.’

Trevorrow’s suggested exercise: Lunge Sets 4
Reps 20 each side
Rest 1min

Funky Monkey 2.0

Take monkey bars and multiply their difficulty by a factor of five. Funky Monkey 2.0 has slippery rungs over a muddy pool, followed by a trapeze bar that you use to swing onto a pipe you’ll need to shimmy down hand-over-hand. ‘Wearing gloves or using Liquid Grip will help keep your hands from slipping,’ says Kirkup. ‘But it’s determination and upper-body strength that will get you from one end to the other without taking a muddy dip.’

Trevorrow’s suggested exercise: Chin-up Sets 3
Reps 6
Rest 2min

Arctic Enema 2.0

A chilling update to Tough Mudder’s signature ice bath obstacle, Arctic Enema 2.0 forces you down a short slide, under a fence and into freezing cold water. Once submerged, you need to boost yourself over a wood partition before escaping the icy temperature. ‘The only way you can try to prepare for the way this suddenly takes your breath away is to get used to immersing yourself in freezing water,’ says Kirkup. ‘And the last thing you want to do is hesitate. Just take a deep breath, go down the slide and don’t stop moving until you’re out the other side.’

Trevorrow’s suggested exercise: Cold shower Sets 3
Time 30sec
Rest 1min

tough mudder

(Image credit: unknown)

Hold Your Wood 2.0

You’ll need at least four other lumberjack-looking people to help you lug these massive logs over, under and through walls. ‘This one can be a logistical nightmare, so think how you’re going to get the log to through as you approach each mini-obstacle,’ says Kirkup. ‘This is another challenge where gloves are a godsend.’

Trevorrow’s suggested exercise: Barbell thruster Sets 3
Reps 15
Rest 3min

Pyramid Scheme

This is similar to Everest 2.0 in that you’ll probably need the help of your team-mates to scale it. Form a human pyramid to get over it and, if you want your team to stay together until the finish line, be careful which body part you step on. ‘Bigger people should go at the base of your human pyramid with lighter ones using their shoulders to climb,’ says Kirkup. ‘Then, two at a time, the people at the top can pull up the foundations.’

Trevorrow’s suggested exercise: Handstand press-up Sets 3
Reps 6
Rest 1min

Read our complete guide to Tough Mudder for more advice on making it through the race with a respectable time.

Find out more about XperiaZ3 (opens in new tab)from (opens in new tab) Sony (opens in new tab) and its benefits for your Tough Mudder preparations. 

Sam Rider is an experienced freelance journalist, specialising in health, fitness and wellness. For over a decade he's reported on Olympic Games, CrossFit Games and World Cups, and quizzed luminaries of elite sport, nutrition and strength and conditioning. Sam is also a REPS level 3 qualified personal trainer, online coach and founder of Your Daily Fix (opens in new tab). Sam is also Coach’s designated reviewer of massage guns and fitness mirrors.