6 Plyo Moves That'll Prep You For The Mud

By Gabrielle Kassel | October 19, 2017


Whether you’re working towards your first Tough Mudder 5K or prepping for World’s Toughest Mudder, training is paramount. You need a workout routine that prepares you for probably the toughest event on the planet, after all. Whether you’re looking to boost your performance on a particular Tough Mudder obstacle, add some pizazz to your everyday Tough Mudder training routine, or reach peak toughness, plyometrics are a great way to increase overall fitness and preparedness for the mud,  explains Doctor of Physical Therapy and Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach Dr. Grayson Wickham PT, DPT, CSCS.  

Plyometrics are a type of high intensity training that tap into energy stored in muscles for explosive movements, which help encourage muscular development, agility, cardiovascular conditioning, stamina, and speed, all of which are important for obstacle course racing,  explains Yusuf Jeffers, a NASM-certified personal trainer. “These explosive movements are all about strengthening your neuromuscular connection because you are literally training your neuromuscular system to fire quickly and on demand” he says.

Ready to get obstacle ready? Give these plyometric movements a go. Combine two to three of the plyo movements below into a circuit-style training by doing three sets of eight reps of each. Just remember, explosiveness is key, so take a break if your form slips or you stop having energy to put behind each and every rep.

Depth Jump

Obstacle: Everest 2.0

Equipment needed: box or bench

What you do:

1. Start standing upright on a box (or bench)

Contract your stomach muscles to stabilize your core and spine.
Step off the bench with your dominate foot. Note, this needs to be a step, not a jump.
Land on the ground with two feet at the same time.
When you land, make sure the absorb the impact of the jump by pushing hips back (as if sitting in a chair) and flexing your knees.

Why it works: While this movement is seemingly simple, explains Coach Jeffers, stepping off a box and then jumping up helps train your muscular-reflexes and neuromuscular transmitters to react quickly. “When you are performing depth jumps, you are training your achilles tendon to do work the second you step off the box” says Jeffers. This increases an athlete's explosiveness, which is helpful for obstacles like Everest 2.0 which requires that you sprint up the slick 15’ tall quarter pipe before exploding up and reaching for the Mudders waiting to help pull you to the peak.

“Jumping” Box Step Ups

Obstacle: King of Swingers

Equipment needed: box or bench

What you do:

  1. Stand on the floor directly in front of a box (there should be less than 6 inches between your legs and the box).

  2. When you’re ready to begin the movement place your dominant foot firmly on top of the box while your non-dominant foot remains planted on the floor.

  3. Press up on the box with your dominant foot and explode your non-dominant knee up towards the ceiling. This should cause both feet to lift off the box.

  4. As you explode in the air, your arms should alternate.

  5. Land with your dominant foot back on the box and your non-dominant box back on the floor, as close to starting position as you can. When your feet land your arms should return to their starting position.

  6. Repeat 5 times on this leg.

  7. Switch legs, so that your non-dominant foot is placed on the box, while your dominant foot is planted on the ground.

Why it works: “Every rep of these is meant to be explosive” explains Jeffers, who emphasizes that this movement should be done after a warm-up but not when an athlete is already fatigued. This is a more advanced exercise that should be reserved for athletes who already have a base-level of explosiveness and power because performing this movement is tricky, especially with the box, which is the fear of shins everywhere. But for Mudder’s who are ready for jumping box steps, this move is perfect for King of Swingers training, which requires that Mudders leap  (with explosiveness, sound familiar?) from a 12 foot platform to catch a swing arm and reach with all their might to tap the bell dangling from above. While many will attempt, only the best trained will be able make that bell-ringing music.


Obstacle: Kiss of Mud 2.0

Equipment needed: none

What you do:

  1. Clear at least 5 feet in front of and behind you. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and hands at your sides.

  2. Next, reach forward and drop your hands to the floor. As your hands reach for the floor, sit your hips back so that your legs are bending and moving with you.

  3. Kick your feet back to a plank as your palm remains pressed to the floor.

  4. Release your hands from the floor completely and allow your body to drop the body to the floor. This shouldn’t feel to dissimilar to falling onto your stomach, explains Coach Welch.

  5. Re-place your palms on the ground. Then press against the ground with your palms as your push your body into a straight-arm plank.

  6. Jump both feet forward, close to your your hands. The goal is to have both feet landing at the same time.

  7. Once your feet land by your hands, immediately jump explosively towards the ceiling.

  8. When you land, make sure to absorb the impact of the jump by pushing hips back (as if sitting in a chair) and flexing your knees.

Why it works: If you’ve ever had to do burpees in part of an exercise routine, it won’t surprise you to learn that burpees are a full body movement. “Burpees require core-stability and strength in the chest, biceps,  triceps, glutes, quads, hamstrings as well as many stabilizer muscles. Plus they force you to practice ‘falling down’ and getting back up quickly” says Head HIIT Coach at ICE NYC, Margie Welch. That makes burpees only great for life training and building muscular strength, but they can be used in high reps to increase the aerobic capacity and endurance of any athlete, explains Welch. You’ll be glad for that extra chest and arm strength as you crawl and shimmy through Kiss of Mud 2.0. With less than18” of clearance between tangled rows of barbed wire and your bum, and a floor of slushy cold mud beneath you, there’s nowhere to move but forward. And with your hands in the mud and knees dragging behind, move forward you will. Just be sure to jump out of the mud on the other end, style points matter even in the muck.

Box Jumps

Obstacle: Skidmarked

Equipment needed: box

What you do:

  1. Start standing between one and two feet from the box. The taller and more experienced you are, the further you should stand from the box.

  2. To begin the movement, push your hips back into a quarter squat. As you squat down, swing your arms backward. This should be done with urgency.  

  3. Without pausing at the bottom of the squat, you are going to immediately reverse the direction of the squat, explosively jumping at an angle into the air.

  4. You are going to land as softly as possible with both feet on the box in a semi squat. Coach Margie emphasizes that to prevent injury, athletes should land with their whole foot on the box.

  5. Again, without pausing at the bottom of the squat, stand up on the box and fully extend your hips.

  6. Once both feet are wholly on the box and your  hips are fully extended, the movement is done

  7. Jump or step of the box onto the ground.

  8. Reset so that you are standing one to two feet from the box, and repeat.

Why it works:  Box jumps use all the major muscle groups of the legs: glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves, while building explosiveness, all of the muscles used for climbing walls, explains Welch. As the ultimate wall-scaling workout, Skidmarked boasts a 10’ slanted wall with a foot hold just out of reach for even the tallest Mudder. Instead, Mudders have to use the air they get jumping for the walls ledge. Or their wings.

Broad Jump

Obstacle: Mud Mile 2.0

Equipment needed: none

What you do:

  1. Clear at least 6 feet in front of you. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and hands at your sides. Face the direction of your jump.

  2. To begin the movement, push your hips back into a quarter squat. As you squat down, swing your arms backward. This should be done with speed.

  3. Without pausing at the bottom of the squat, you are going to immediately jump horizontally forward as far as you can, as you swing your arms forward.

  4. When you land, make sure to absorb the impact of the jump by pushing hips back (as if sitting in a chair) and flexing your knees.

  5. Repeat the movement with speed anywhere from 1-5 times.

  6. Rest the necessary amount of time.

  7. Repeat the movement in succession as desired.

Why it works: What's so great about broad jumps is that they translate into overall leg strength and power, explains Coach Nicolas Dromard, co-owner of Drovarfit. No obstacle requires quite the leg strength of Mud Mile 2.0. With pits of waist-deep dirt-lava, mounds of mud caked high, and steep angles to navigate, with each lung, jump, and step through muck, you’ll be glad you trained for this Tough Mudder classic.


Obstacle: Funky Monkey The Revolution

Equipment needed: none

What you do:

  1. Start on your hands and knees.

  2. Place your elbows down on the ground and directly underneath your shoulders so that you are no on elbows and knees.

  3. Straighten one leg, then the other so that you are on your elbows and feet.

  4. Place your hands directly underneath your shoulders one at a time, and lift yourself up so that you are now on your hands and your feet in a high plank.

  5. Lower yourself slowly down to the ground by bending your arms, keeping your elbows in close to your body. Continue lowering your body until your chest touches the floor. This is your official “start position”

  6. Push yourself off the ground using both your arms and legs as hard and fast as you can so that your hands come off the floor by a few inches.

  7. When you are in the air, try to keep a straight body. If you get enough air, depending on previous strength and conditioning, you can clap either in front of or behind you.

  8. Land back on your hands, bend your arms, and continue coming back down until your chest meets the ground.

Why it works: “The plyo push-up requires explosive strength in the tricep and the chest and is a great builder of upper body strength” explains Dromad. “If at first you can't get off the ground very high that's totally fine. You'll get stronger and push off the ground higher next time. You’ll notice yourself slowly getting higher and more explosive as you practice. Plus, you’ll notice muscular gains in your upper-body, chest, and core” he adds. While many of the 20+ obstacles on course require upper-body strength like The Block Ness Monster, King of Swingers, and Hold Your Wood 2.0, no obstacle tests your upper-body endurance quite like Funky Monkey The Revolution. Here, monkey bars are just the start. When the monkey bars end, Mudders will have to take on a series of revolving wheels that only get more complicated as you get closer to the finish. Hold on tight and show no weakness. Or fall into a pit of muddied water below.


Want to keep your training going? Find a Tough Mudder Bootcamp near you.