How to Train for a Decathlon at Home
Turn your home or backyard into the ultimate sporting arena.
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Ever since the Greeks held the very first Olympics in 776 B.C., human beings have been obsessed with athletic competition. We lift. We climb. We run. We throw. Any manner of physical exertion can become sport, but most competitions target single or specific events, movements and skills — until now.
Enter DEKAFIT — the Decathlon of Functional Fitness — created by Spartan Race experts. “We wanted to create something that was straightforward and accessible to any range of fitness,” explains Yancy Culp, a Spartan master coach who serves as the DEKAFIT sport development manager. This grueling Decathlon gauntlet consists of 5,000 total meters of running interspersed with 10 unique events that test strength, endurance and mobility. Your results are tabulated into a “DEKA Score,” which can be used to see your ranking among the worldwide masses, from Decathlon beginners to weekend warriors to elite athletes.
Culp created this at-home DIY Decathlon workout exclusively for Oxygen readers, noting that each DIY Zone should be preceded by a 500-meter walk or run. “Run 250 meters out and back down your street,” Culp suggests. “You can also do a two- to three-minute bike ride instead.” Use this plan to prepare for an upcoming DEKAFIT event or organize a fun friends-and-family weekend competition — loser does the dishes!
Test Your Mettle
How long does it take you to complete the DIY Decathlon?
DIY Zone 1
Weighted Alternating Reverse Lunge
Doubles for DEKAFIT reverse lunge with a 33-pound Spartan RAMroller
Reps: 30 (15 each leg)
Equipment: Sandbag, dumbbells, kettlebells, weight plate, barbell or Spartan RAMroller
- Hold a sandbag across your upper back and shoulders and grasp a handle in each hand. Take a large step backward with one leg and bend both knees to lunge straight down toward the ground. When your legs and hips make 90-degree angles, push off your rear foot and return to the start. Continue, alternating sides, maintaining a controlled but aggressive cadence.
Training Tip: No weights? Get creative. “I love using a rock because it pretty much pushes all excuses out — we can always find a rock somewhere,” Culp says.
DIY Zone 2
Exercise-Band Squat and Row
Doubles for DEKAFIT 500-meter row
Time: 2 minutes
Equipment: Thick exercise band, rope or towel
- Wrap your band (rope or towel) around a pole or another stationary object that can support your full bodyweight at shoulder height. Take an end in each hand and step away from the anchor point to create some tension. Lean back slightly while keeping your body straight from head to heels with your feet flat and your elbows bent. Bend your knees and hips to lower into a deep squat as you simultaneously extend your arms, then drive your elbows back as you quickly stand up. Repeat for two minutes at a vigorous pace.
Training Tip: This exercise essentially mimics a rowing movement while standing, Culp says. “Picture that in your mind as you’re learning the motion: driving with your feet to give power to your row as you pull with your arms.”
DIY Zone 3
Box Jump Up and Over
Doubles for DEKAFIT 24-inch box jump up and over
Equipment: Box, platform, tree stump or bench
- Stand facing a stump with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides. Bend your knees and hips and swing your arms behind you to load up your posterior chain, then quickly extend your legs and hips and swing your arms forward to jump up on top of the stump, landing with soft knees and light feet. Continue over the stump and jump off the other side. Turn around and repeat.
Training Tip: “You can do step-up and overs instead, and if you don’t have a bench or platform, you can substitute stationary knee tuck jumps,” Culp says.
DIY Zone 4
Weighted Sit-Up to Wall Touch
Doubles for DEKAFIT 14-pound medicine-ball sit-up to target throw
Equipment: Dumbbell, medicine ball, kettlebell, sandbag or rock
- Lie faceup with your toes tucked into the base of a wall, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hold a dumbbell behind your head with your elbows bent. In one fluid motion, lift the dumbbell forward in an arc and sit up, extending your arms and touching the weight to the wall in front of you. Reverse the steps to return to the start.
Training Tip: Make this more challenging by passing the dumbbell to a partner, Culp suggests.
DIY Zone 5
Exercise-Band “Skierg” Pulldown
Doubles for DEKAFIT 500-meter SkiErg pull
Time: 2 minutes
Equipment: Lightweight exercise bands
- Anchor two lightweight bands above your head — for example, around the top pole of a swing set. Grasp one in each hand with your arms extended and step away to create some tension. In one fluid motion, bend your knees and drop your hips into a shallow squat as you pull the bands down and around in a circle. Extend your legs as your hands come above your head and repeat, using a steady cadence without a pause or hitch in your motion.
Training Tip: “If you don’t have a band, use a rope or towel wrapped around a sturdy object,” Culp says. “You’ll hold this as you jump off the ground and pull yourself upward using your arms with
DIY Zone 6
Doubles as DEKAFIT 40-pound (each hand) farmer’s carry
Distance: 100 meters
Equipment: Two dumbbells, kettlebells or buckets of sand/water
- Hold a weight in each hand at your sides with your shoulders down and your lats engaged. Take small, quick steps forward, keeping your core tight and your chest lifted to prevent the weights from swinging back and forth.
Training Tip: “This is all about grip strength and endurance, so any sort of weight will do,” Culp says. “I’ve done this by loading up two reusable cloth grocery bags.”
DIY Zone 7
Bodyweight Step-Down with Band Push/Pull
Doubles for DEKAFIT 25-calorie Assault bike ride
Time: 2 minutes
Equipment: Bench, box or platform and resistance-band loop
- Stand on top of a bench and hold a resistance-band loop with both hands at shoulder height. Step back behind you off the bench and lightly touch your foot to the ground as you simultaneously extend your opposite arm straight and pull your same-side elbow back. Immediately stand back up onto the bench and repeat on the opposite side. Continue, alternating sides.
Training Tip: The upper-body motion should be continuous, as with an elliptical trainer or Assault bike. “Never release tension on the band,” Culp says.
DIY Zone 8
Doubles for DEKAFIT 40-pound medicine-ball clean-and-throw
Equipment: Sandbag, medicine ball, kettlebell, dumbbells, weighted barbell or rock
- Stand over a sandbag with your feet shoulder-width apart, legs turned out slightly from your hips. Keep your core tight and back straight as you drop your hips and bend your knees to take a firm grip on the sandbag with both hands, arms straight and chest lifted. Quickly extend your legs and hips and drive your elbows upward to lift the sandbag straight up along the front of your body. When it reaches shoulder level, flip your forearms underneath and “catch” it across your upper chest and clavicle. Reverse the steps to return to the start.
Training Tip: “Try finishing each rep by extending the weight away from you at the top of the clean, as if you were about to toss it without actually letting it go,” Culp says.
DIY Zone 9
Running Wall Push
Doubles for DEKAFIT 100-meter “Tank” push/pull
Time: 2 minutes
- Face a wall and place both hands flat against it at chest height, elbows bent. Lean into the wall as you run quickly in place, driving yourself forward with force as if pushing a heavy object down a field.
Training Tip: To mimic both the pushing and pulling actions of the Tank — essentially a weighted sled — pair the wall push with rounds of the exercise-band squat and row from DIY Zone 2, Culp suggests.
DIY Zone 10
Doubles for DEKAFIT 22-pound RAMroller weighted burpee
Equipment: Dumbbells, medicine ball, kettlebells or
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Crouch, place the dumbbells on the ground and jump your feet behind you into a plank. Bend your elbows and perform a push-up, then jump your feet back outside your hands, drop your hips and stand up pressing the weights overhead at the top.
Training Tip: Try using a sandbag for a different kind of stimulus. Culp suggests snatching the bag from the ground to overhead instead of doing a clean-and-press. “That’s the fastest and most explosive way to complete the lift, taking less than one second,” he says.
Make Your (DEKA) Mark
Although the rollout was (understandably) delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Spartan organization is hoping to reschedule its DEKAFIT events to launch in the fall of 2020. (Follow on Instagram @deka-fit for more info.) Should you choose to accept the challenge, here is what to expect:
- A standardized, climate-controlled indoor venue to eliminate the uncertainties of terrain or natural interference.
- Tiered waves of 20 individual competitors running at one time.
- Ten fitness stations (DEKA Zones) to test all manner of strength, endurance, balance, coordination and mobility.
- Five events with resistance-based exercises scored by completion time, and five events using weighted implements and a prescribed number of reps.
- A running track around the perimeter of the event area on which to run 1.5 laps (500 meters) at the contest start and in between DEKA Zones.
- An overall DEKA Score encompassing 21 individual time splits: 10 laps of 500 meters each, 10 individual DEKA Zone times and a Zone transition time.