By: Brian Diaz

Published in Endurance Magazine in April 2012 Issue.

It’s that time of year again, when your friends ask you to join them in trudging through mud up to your neck, jumping through a ring of fire, and managing obstacles that look like they came straight out of basic Army officer training or even worse (hanging live wires!).

You oblige, or maybe even you’re the one who’s asking. You’ve done a few of these events and are looking to not just finish with a dried-dirt grin but to actually post a decent individual or team time. You have your running plan under control and are looking to supplement your endurance training with some strengthening. You’ve done some research (or perhaps read one of my previous articles) and know that functional movement training with intervals is what you should incorporate into your plan, but why and how do you do that? Let’s start with the why.

A little more than a decade ago, Dr. Izumi Tabata, at the National Institute of Fitness and Sport in Tokyo, started using different exercise protocols to study their effect on energy production systems in athletes. Trial and error of some intense exercise protocols helped him and his team discover one method that produced extraordinary and repeatable improvements in athletic performance (VO2Max, anaerobic threshold, fat loss, aerobic conditioning). What emerged became known as the Tabata Method, or Tabata Intervals.

The study hit the United States in 1996 when it was published in The Journal of Medicine and Science in Sport & Exercise documenting his findings and listing the prescribed protocol of 20 seconds of high-intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest for a total of 4 minutes, or eight different movement periods (cycles, as some call them).

This study has been reproduced and analyzed dozens of times and the results are still the same: Tabata high-intensity interval training bouts of 4 minutes can do more to boost anaerobic and aerobic capacity than an hour of endurance exercise.

How do we incorporate the Tabata, or high-intensity interval training (HIIT), into our own workouts? The key is finding exercises that will strengthen the muscles you will be using in your mud race. Races are sprouting up all over the country with varying obstacles and distances to be covered. Know what you are getting yourself into by looking at the pictures or photos online or reviewing the course map. If the race description is vague, write the race director or visit some blogs to see if you can find out any more information.

For the purpose of this article, I am going to keep the exercises in the line of the most common obstacles that I have seen and will try to use minimal weights or gym equipment. Last time I covered an exercise routine for a mud run, I gave you an entire plan on the TRX Suspension Trainer. I will leave that out to vary the routine for this run but please see my YouTube channel ( for that entire series and this one that I will list now.

1. Jump rope or hop in place

2. Spider push-ups

3. Shuffle jumps

4. Kettle bell swings

5. Speed Skaters

6. Kettle bell cross curl to press (left)

7. Kettle bell cross curl to press (right)

8. Plank

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