Obstacle Course Racing Glossary

Conquering an obstacle

Obstacle Course Racing, also known as OCR also known as mud runs, or whatever you want to call it, have a lot of jargon tied to them. Words and phrases that could mean something else in a non-OCR context or even things that don’t have a definition in the normal world. And that’s in the best-case scenario That’s why I put together this glossary of obstacle course racing-related terms.

It’s not meant to be an end-all, be-all list, but a list that grows over time as the sport continues to expand and grow. That being said, if you feel like I missed something that should be included, please let me know.


  • Agoge: A challenging and intense endurance event offered by Spartan Race, often spanning multiple days and focusing on mental, not just physical resilience. Not recommended for beginners.
  • Agility Ladder: A piece of training equipment resembling a ladder on the ground, requiring participants to navigate their feet quickly through the rungs. Great for building up cardio levels.
  • Agility Training: Exercises and drills designed to improve quick and precise movements, are just about essential for navigating obstacles.
  • Age Group: OCR events often have categories based on age, allowing participants to compete against others in the same age range. Requirements include mandatory obstacle completion or face a penalty (most often a penalty loop or everyone’s favorite exercise - the burpee). One step below elite-level racing.


  • Balance Beam: An obstacle where participants walk across a narrow beam or plank without falling off.
  • Barbed Wire Crawl: An obstacle involving crawling or rolling under barbed wire, almost always through mud or water.
  • Brick Workout: A training session that combines running or cardio with strength exercises, simulating the demands of an actual race.
  • Bucket Brigade: An obstacle where participants carry a bucket filled with heavy objects over a designated distance. Similar to a bucket carry obstacle.
  • Burpee: A common OCR penalty exercise where participants perform a combination of a squat, push-up, and jump when they fail to complete an obstacle. Also, one of the best exercises in general known to man because of its cardio and strength benefits.


  • Calisthenics: Bodyweight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, squats, and burpees used to build strength and endurance.
  • Cargo Net Crawl: An obstacle involving crawling under a cargo net suspended horizontally above the ground.
  • Carry: Various obstacles and training exercises that require participants to carry heavy objects, such as buckets, sandbags, logs, or weights.
  • Circuit Training: A workout routine alternating between different exercises with minimal rest, often simulating the variety of obstacles in OCR.


  • Deck of Cards: A training or challenge method where participants draw cards from a deck, with each card representing a specific exercise or task to complete.
  • Double Sandbag Carry: An obstacle where participants carry two sandbags over a designated distance.


  • Elite Heat: A special heat for competitive athletes who aim to achieve top finishing times and rankings. Requirements include completing every obstacle or doing penalties (burpees or penalty laps) Sometimes there’s prize money, and often there are trophies.


  • Fire Jump: A symbolic obstacle where participants jump over flames before crossing the finish line. Also looks really cool when you post the photos on social media after the race.
  • Functional Fitness: Training that focuses on building cardio, strength, and mobility for real-world movements and activities, including OCR obstacles.


  • Grip Strength: Maybe one of the most important things to work on when preparing for an OCR, outside of running. It’s the strength of the muscles in the hands and forearms, crucial for navigating obstacles like monkey bars and rope climbs.


  • Hercules Hoist: An obstacle where participants hoist a heavyweight (often a sandbag if we’re talking Spartan)  using a rope and pulley system.
  • High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): Workouts that involve alternating between periods of high-intensity exercise and short rest periods. Great for improving cardio.
  • Hobie Hop: A technique used to navigate through mud, involving jumping while moving sideways.


  • Jerry Can Carry: An obstacle where participants carry heavy jerry cans filled with water over a distance.


  • Log Carry: An obstacle where participants carry a heavy log over a specific distance.
  • Low Crawl: An obstacle requiring participants to crawl on their stomachs under a barrier, often in mud or water.
  • Long Run: A sustained run at a moderate pace, essential for building endurance over the distance of an OCR.


  • Memory Test: An obstacle where participants must remember and replicate a pattern of objects or symbols. Not used as often as it used to be in Spartan Races, but still known to pop up here and there.
  • Monkey Bars: An obstacle resembling playground monkey bars, requiring participants to swing across a series of horizontal bars without touching the ground. And when I say resembling, usually the bars are larger and placed further apart than what you’d see on a school playground.
  • Mud Run: An OCR event where participants encounter mud pits, muddy obstacles, and water features throughout the course. Traditionally these races are more focused on the mud and water, than obstacles that include a true test of strength.
  • Multi Rig: An obstacle involving a combination of hanging rings, ropes, and bars that participants must navigate without falling.


  • Nutrition Station: A station along the course where participants can refuel with water, electrolytes, and energy gels. You’ll tend to see these on longer races, but even if it’s listed on the map, it’s not a guarantee.


  • Obstacle: Any physical challenge or barrier that participants must navigate, such as walls, ropes, mud pits, and climbing structures.
  • Obstacle Course Racing (also known as OCR): A sport that involves running a course filled with a variety of physical challenges and obstacles, often held in outdoor environments.
  • OCR Community: The collective group of OCR enthusiasts, athletes, and participants who share a passion for the sport. An active and welcoming community.
  • OCR Shoes: Specialized running shoes designed for obstacle course racing, offering grip, drainage, and durability. Popular brands with OCR shoes are Inov 8, Salomon, Altra, Hoka, and VJ. Not required for your first mud run, but you may want to get a pair once you're hooked on racing.
  • OCR Training: Training focused on building the specific skills, strength, and endurance needed to excel in obstacle course racing. A solid training program would include a mix of running, time with weights, regular work with a pull-up bar, and more.


  • Plyometric Training: Exercises that involve explosive movements, like box jumps and squat jumps, to improve power and coordination. Plyo training will help with running and getting over obstacles like walls.
  • Prehabilitation (Prehab): Exercises and routines designed to prevent injuries by addressing weaknesses and imbalances in the body.


  • Race Simulation: Training sessions that mimic the conditions and challenges of an actual OCR, helping athletes prepare mentally and physically. 
  • Recovery: Strategies and activities like stretching, foam rolling, proper nutrition, and adequate rest to help the body recover from intense training.
  • Rope Climb: An obstacle where participants climb a vertical rope using only their hands and feet. Spartan likes to make the rope climb after an obstacle involving mud, making the difficult obstacle even more difficult.
  • Ruck: To carry a weighted backpack or "rucksack" during the race, adding an extra challenge to the course.


  • Sandbag Burden Carry: An obstacle where participants carry a sandbag on their shoulders or back over a distance.
  • Sandbag Training: Incorporating sandbag lifts, carries, and drags into workouts to simulate carrying heavy objects.
  • Slip Wall: A wall covered with a slippery surface (water or mud), challenging participants to climb and reach the top. Often there’s a rope to help racers, but not always. 
  • Spartan Race: A well-known series of OCR events with varying distances and levels of difficulty, known for its challenging obstacles.
  • Spear Throw: An obstacle where participants must accurately throw a spear or javelin into a target. 
  • Sprint Training: Short, intense running sessions designed to improve speed and anaerobic capacity.
  • Stairway to Sparta: A Spartan obstacle with ascending and descending sections of inclined walls with a wooden ladder in between.


  • Tarzan Swing: An obstacle involving swinging from one platform or bar to another using a rope or other hanging apparatus.
  • Tough Mudder: Another popular OCR series known for its team-oriented focus and unique obstacles, often involving mud and water.
  • Trail Running: Running on natural trails and uneven terrain to prepare for the varied surfaces of OCR courses. Spartan now offers a trail running series.
  • Travelator: A moving walkway obstacle, often at the end of the race, requiring participants to run up an incline.
  • Tire Carry: An obstacle where participants carry, drag or otherwise move a heavy tire over a specific distance.
  • Tire Drag: An obstacle involving dragging a heavy tire attached to a rope over a designated distance.
  • Tire Flips: Incorporating flipping heavy tires into workouts to build strength and power.
  • Tyrolean Traverse: An obstacle where participants traverse a horizontal rope while hanging above the ground.


  • Vertical Cargo Net: A large net structure participants must climb up and over.
  • Vertical Training: Focusing on exercises that improve climbing and vertical movements, crucial for obstacles like rope climbs and walls.
  • Vertical Wall: A tall, smooth wall that participants must scale using a rope, footholds, or teamwork.


  • Wall Climb: Various types of walls participants must scale using techniques like jumps, grabs, or teamwork.
  • Water Crossing: An obstacle where participants cross a body of water. Some water obstacles are shallow enough that they can be walked through, while others will require swimming.
  • Weighted Vest: Wearing a weighted vest during workouts increases resistance and makes training more challenging.
  • Wreck Bag: Like a long sandbag that can be filled with sand or come pre-filled with non-toxic rubber. Used for a variety of exercises including carries, strength, and core workouts.