One of the most uncomfortable memories of me doing the Spartan Race was challenges that involved lifting heavy rocks, logs and the worst of them all: The bucket brigade.
For me, it was the heaviest challenge out of them all. It was also on the longest up and down climb which made it far worse.
What is the bucket brigade (carry)?
It is one of the final obstacles along the Spartan Race route. Basically after getting really tired over the majority of the course, you reach the top of a hill and see empty buckets. In the 3 Spartan Races I did, one which was rained out, but the other 2 being the Super and Beast, the Bucket challenge was right near the end of the course, both times.
You job is to load them up with a bunch of gravel up to about 80-90% of it and then take it down hill and then return them to where you started the challenge so others can go too.
The length of this descent and then ascent is ridiculously long, about a quarter of a mile and is extremely exhausting. Really there’s no easy solution to completing this obstacle, but what you can do is not add to the already uncomfortable hardships this obstacle brings by doing the following things:
1) Practice carrying something that is about 40 lbs well before you start your event.
It’s a great way to prepare you mentally for the hardship bucket brigade brings as well as the other challenges. I believe 40 lbs is what men have to carry, women are allowed to carry lighter weights.
2) Always practice keeping your back straight when holding onto the weight.
The way they want this challenge done is that you have have to hold the bucket in front of you, against your chest at all times. You can hold onto it from the bottom or in the middle. You are not allowed to carry it on top of your shoulders, otherwise, they’ll have you redo the obstacle, that’s how it was for us.
But while carrying it for so long, you’re guaranteed to get tired and start slouching. This is something you have to practice avoiding by doing the first thing above (practicing it). Bending your back which is what I did a number of times along this challenge is what can lead to injuries and back pains later and keep in the mind the event doesn’t end with this challenge, it continues so you need to be healthy and flexible after it.
3) When going downhill, get into a rhythmic walk, when going uphill, take frequent breaks.
The momentum of the downward slope makes it easier to carry it to the bottom, but the second half of this challenge is where you’ll get most tired.
Do NOT blaze through the upward area because that will destroy your legs. Uphill climbs, especially with weights need to be done at a slow pace, but a continuous one.
When you start walking upward, try to get into a rhythmic walk and get a momentum which carries you, rather than forcing yourself to walk. If you find yourself starting to force yourself to take the next step up, stop, put the bucket down, take a break and resume when you’re feeling better.
4) Talk to your team and other people, joke around while doing this challenge.
Why? Because this obstacle is very mentally destructive, especially if you’ve been running for hours prior. I found that by joking and talking to your teammates and other people and positively encouraging them, that it makes this challenge easier.
One of the biggest hurdles to the Spartan Race is the mental aspect of it and besides being physically able to complete it, you may moments like I did where you feel as though you’re ready to break down.
To avoid these moments, again, talk to people along the race, in addition to this obstacle, be positive and take those breaks when you need to. Don’t try to mentally break yourself through something when you need to relax and regather your strength.
5) Keep in mind that you are not allowed to drop a certain amount of gravel.
There’s a reason they have you fill it up so much, it’s so that when you finish it, however much you had to fill it up with, you can’t drop it along the route to make it less heavy, otherwise it’ll be considered that you didn’t complete the challenge and…you’ll have to redo it.
6) Stretch out before, along and after this challenge.
For me personally, the stress of the race prior put a lot of hardship on my body so going into the bucket brigade was even harder. By stretching out before I started it and several times through it, in addition to after, I prevented serious injury and I recommend you do this too, especially if you’re over 30.
In fact, stretch along the entire event when you can. The less flexible you are entering the next obstacle, the more likely you are to get injuries.
7) Do not look at how far you need to go, because it’ll depress you.
This is the longest and heaviest challenge for the Spartan Race. When I began this challenge and looked at how far I needed to go, it became depressing and it didn’t help me when I continued looking at how much longer I had to go.
Look down often or side to side. If you focus on the momentum on your walk, not how far you have left, you’ll make it mentally easier for yourself to finish this. The same goes for when you go up-hill.
These 7 tips are what I’ll take to the next race.
I had to learn these things the first time I completed a big Spartan Race and keeping them in mind will make the next challenge much easier for myself and you.
I wasn’t prepared for all the strength heavy challenges the first time, but next time, I definitely will be. Practice lifting the weights so you get used to it, keep a safe form when carrying them and remember how important the mental aspect is!
Don’t let the bucket brigade stop you from finishing the Spartan Race, good luck!
4 thoughts on “How to Complete The Bucket Brigade Challenge in The Spartan Race.”
Ouch! I can already feel the challenge and the fatigue just by reading your post! My friend, I applaud you for challenging yourself and completing the Spartan race!
You know, I was wondering if your tips can be applied even on a standard marathon run…. some, such as the tip on stretching and not burning yourself up during the uphill stretch sound like valuable tips for a marathoner too. What do you think?
Standard marathons are generally on flat surfaces Ash so I don’t think this would apply, what would apply is a slow jogging pace that prevents fatigue from happening too quickly.
Yikes! That’s all I can say. YIKES! I’m a runner of a few marathons which are tough but these type of races sound very difficult. There are a few different types of these races in Ireland, such as the Hell and Back and I know that Tough Mudder comes here too.
Fair dues to you though. The Spartan Race sounds extremely attractive albeit a little mental. The bucket brigade really sounds like a tough challenge, especially owing to the point in the race you’re faced with it.
Reading the comment you made about slouching made complete sense. Just in case I do decide to do this at some stage (and I’m not promising that I will) can you recommend any good core exercises that might help. I’m not a fan of the dreaded sit-up and always looking for alternate exercises.
Well, I would say the most important aspects of completing bucket brigade aren’t having a strong core, but rather a good posture, good quad muscles and resilience. But for core, the only exercises I practice were pull ups with my legs raises at a straight angle, it’s difficult to hold, but it works the core very well Dan.