Spartan races are known for how tough they are as well as signature obstacles like the Spear Throw. But the one thing that worries most are penalty burpees.
The question racers have is how many burpees will they need to do?
The answer is, it depends!
What? I thought Spartan had a standard number of burpees, 30 for each failed obstacle.
That is true, sort of.
Things have changed a little in 2018. Spartan has begun to experiment with different types of penalties, like a 400 meter lap at some races.
Stadium races were standardized at 15 repetitions at all workout obstacles and penalty burpees. Some think this is because stadium races are easier, but it has more to do with the speed and course congestion than making the race easier.
Most races include an atlas carry, which includes 5 burpees as part of the carry.
That's right you pick up this heavy ball, usually out of sticky mud, carry it about 10 meters and drop it so you can do 5 burpees. Then you pick the ball back up and return it to the starting position.
Races with an atlas carry spare no racer from burpees.
So the answer is 30 or 15 plus 5 for a possible atlas carry, right?
Let's be honest some racers can complete any course without failing an obstacle. This is known as a ‘clean race’. This means you did zero or 5 burpees.
Most racers fail at least one obstacle. I mean 90% fail the spear throw alone.
How often do you complete a race failing one or more obstacles? I know I failed at least 5 at Blue Mountain this summer!
Each one of those failed obstacles is 30 burpees. So, I did 150 burpees at blue mountain.
What Obstacles Have a Burpee Penalty?
The secret to knowing how many burpees you will do at your next Spartan race is determining how many obstacles you think you will fail. Hopefully the answer is none, but things go wrong all the time.
Here are burpee obstacles:
- Rope Climb
- Monkey Bars
- Ape Hanger
- Tire Flip (it may be better to burpee this one)
- Spear Throw
- Tyrolean Traverse
- Log Hop
- Herc Hoist
- Memory Test
As far as I know the remaining obstacles are mandatory completion. This means you can't do penalty burpees to avoid the bucket brigade, sorry. But you can avoid the 400lb tire flip.
The goal of course is to do as few burpees as possible. To do that you need to be obstacle proficient. This means you need to have a strong upper body, with solid grip strength. You will also need to be competent throwing a spear and rock climbing.
In case you are not a top elite Spartan racer, even they fail obstacles, you need to be ready to do burpees. To be ready you need to be good at doing burpees.
No one likes burpees, not even Spartan founder Joe DeSena.
Spartan Burpee Fitness Test
Spartan has created standards to determine if you are ‘Spartan Fit’ based on your age.
The Spartan Burpee Test
- Begin in the "bottom" position of the push-up with chest touching the ground.
- Perform the maximum number of repetitions possible in five minutes.
- Count reps on the vertical jump when hands are over ears.
My personal best is 96. But my fitness fell off last Fall. This year my max was 86 with a bottom of 71. Full disclosure though, I was wiped out the day I did 71 from a heavy workout the night before.
I find this test or any workout I can measure and repeat at a later day a good way to track my current fitness state. I knew something was off this year and the burpee test confirmed my suspicions. My course times have also reflected my fitness levels.
I don’t recommend doing the burpee challenge every week. Sometimes every month may be too much. But I recommend doing the burpee test 3-4 times a year. I think you will be surprised how many burpees you can do in 5 minutes.
If you really want to challenge yourself, see how many burpees you can do in 10 minutes!
Urban Fit keeps a board with everyone's count who has dared take on that challenge. The max is over 150.
Yancy Culp has a famous 400 meter burpee challenege.
In his test you run 400 meters on a track, then do as many burpees as you can within 3 minutes (including your 400 time). Repeat this 4 times or 12 minutes. Your goal is to do as many burpees as possible.
I have heard of athletes scoring over 200 in this test! Personally, I think anyone scoring over 75 is doing a great job.
Here’s the good news.
When you workout with burpees you get better at burpees. When you can do burpees efficiently you will run the race better. When you run the race better you do fewer burpees in the race!
Set a goal of no more than 5 burpees in a race. Do burpees, lots of burpees to get ready for your next race and avoid the burpee pit.