While CrossFit and Obstacle Racing put functional fitness on the map over the past 20 years, the idea of fitness racing has entered the scene over the past 5 years.
Both Hyrox and DEKA are now offering fitness racing events that combine running with functional fitness exercises.
DEKA Fit is a new event from the Spartan Race team and is a 10-station event that tests an athlete’s strength, endurance, and speed.
In this article, I will answer the basic questions regarding DEKA Fit and you can decide if fitness racing will be your next big fitness challenge!
DEKA is a fitness racing event that combines endurance with functional fitness exercises.
There are 3 tiers of DEKA events: DEKA Strong (No Running), DEKA Mile (1 Mile Running), DEKA Fit (5k Running)
The goal is to finish the course (exercise stations and running) as fast as possible.What Makes DEKA Awesome:
What is Fitness Racing ?
Fitness Racing is an event that combines running with functional fitness exercises, often alternating running a specific distance with a set of exercises. The goal of fitness racing is to finish the course as fast as possible.
Fitness Racing is a relatively new sport, but it has quickly gained popularity due to its combination of challenge and excitement.
Fitness races typically involve running a set interval (160m up to 1k meters), followed by a series of functional fitness exercises, such as burpees, squats, and lunges. Some races also include obstacle courses, such as monkey bars, ropes courses, and walls.
Fitness racing is a great way to test your physical fitness and mental toughness. It targets cardiovascular endurance, lower body muscle groups, and your upper body.
DEKA is a project from the Spartan Race team that provides an extensive balance between strength and endurance.
The idea behind all DEKA events is simple: The athlete progresses through a series of 10 exercises (DEKA Zones) as fast as possible. You cannot progress to the next zones until the previous one is complete.
Two of the 3 DEKA Events also has a running component, where the athlete runs a pre-determined distance before performing each exercise.
The only thing that differentiates the 3 different types of DEKA events is the amount of running, varying from 0 running (DEKA strong) to a 5k distance (DEKA Mile). The 3 DEKA fit events are:
- DEKA Strong: No Running per DEKA Strong Event
- DEKA Fit: 1 Mile Total Running per DEKA Fit Event
- DEKA Mile: 5k Total Running per DEKA Mile Event
Your performance or score in each event is known as the DEKA Mark. Since every DEKA event is the same format, the DEKA Mark can be used as benchmark to track progress over time.
Each of the DEKA events has the exact same exercise progression, with 10 functional fitness exercises known as the DEKA Zones.
The DEKA Zones (or exercises) are listed below:
- Zone 1 – 30 Reverse Lunges: Basic reverse lunge movement with a Spartan Ram weight (55lb Men, 33lb Women). The Ram Alt reverse lunge must be controlled, jumping lunges not allowed.
- Zone 2 – 500m Row: Standard row on the Concept2 rower
- Zone 3 – 20 Box Jump/Step Overs: Athletes must step up or jump onto a 24 inch box and step off the other side (and repeat). Each side equals one rep, so you repeat until you accumulate 20 box jump/step overs.
- Zone 4 – 25 Med Ball Sit Up Throws: The 25 med ball sit ups are a weighted version of a sit up, with the athlete performing standard sit ups and throwing a medball at the top end of the motion (20lb Men, 14lb Women)
- Zone 5 – 500m Ski erg: Standard ski erg rowing for distance on the Concept2 Ski erg
- Zone 6 – 100m Farmer’s Carry: Farmer’s carry challenges the athlete’s carrying ability and consists of 100m walking/running with weights in each hand (60lbs Men, 40lbs Women)
- Zone 7 – 25c Air Bike: Standard air bike for calories (same as Rogue Echo Bike & Assault Bike)
- Zone 8 – 20 Dead Ball Wall Overs: Athlete picks up a medicine ball off of the ground and throws over shoulder (60lb Men, 40lb Women)
- Zone 9 – 100m Tank Push/Pull: The Torque tank push/pull requires the athlete to move the weighted tank 100m, with half being a push and the other half being a pull
- Zone 10 – 20 Spartan Ram Burpee: The Spartan Ram burpee requires the athlete to perform a standard burpee while holding a weighted ram (44lb Men, 22lb Women). Athlete must put the weight overhead for the rep to count.
Who is DEKA Fit For?
DEKA Fit is a fitness event that welcomes all fitness levels, not just elite athletes.
It is for people interested in training both strength and endurance in the same day.
There are multiple Heats at each DEKA event, often divided into the “Open” division for most people and there are also team versions of the event. Some locations also have dedicated Heats for underage athletes.
The great thing about DEKA Events are that the course is the same across every race worldwide. Since the format is static, you can compete against yourself and measure against previous times. This is a great way to track overall fitness progress.
How is it Different Than Hyrox?
Hyrox and DEKA are both fitness racing events that combine running with functional fitness.
The main difference between the 2 races are the length of the running portion and the station exercises themselves.
Hyrox has 8 exercise stations, while DEKA has 10 zones. There is overlap in some of the exercises (Ski Erg, Rowing, Sled Push, Sled Pull, Farmer’s Carry, Reverse Lunges).
In a Hyrox event, you will end up running just about 5 miles in total at the end of the race.
In DEKA events, you running distance will vary from no running (DEKA Strong), to 1 mile (DEKA Mile) to 3.1 miles (DEKA Fit).
What are the Benefits of DEKA?
DEKA Fit is a perfect test for anyone interested in training like a Hybrid Athlete. If you like to combine running with well rounded strength training, DEKA Fit is for you.
All DEKA Events place a huge focus on cardiovascular endurance as well as strength of the entire body. It requires cardiovascular endurance as well as both upper body strength and the lower body muscle groups.
Another great benefit of DEKA Events are the ability to benchmark your performance agains the DEKA Mark. You can track your improvement over time which adds motivation and makes each race more fun.
What are the Downsides of DEKA Fit?
Much like Hyrox, DEKA Fit is the same event format every time. It is always the same running distance and the same exercises.
While some people are drawn to this so they can track their improvements over time, some people could get bored with the idea of doing a similar race multiple times.
How do I Start with DEKA Fit?
The best way to start is to sign up for a local event, whether it is DEKA Fit, DEKA Mile, or DEKA Strong. There are locations all throughout the world putting on events.
Once signed up, it will be important to train for the race specifically and get some experience with each of the stations. Identify what the toughest zone is for you and work to improve your skill in that area.
A training program for DEKA Fit requires basic lifting combined with an equal amount of endurance training. Endurance is THE key role in success in a DEKA event.
This means diverse programming with a big focus both inside and outside of the gym, often doing the weight lifting with a fatigued body.
Your training program should also focus on pushing, pulling, grip strength, and shoulder mobility.
What Gear Do I Need to Prepare for a DEKA Fit Race?
In a perfect world, you would be able to practice the different DEKA Fit stations as part of your training.
Full gym access is likely needed for ALL of the equipment, but you can also get by with minimal equipment if required. Here is a comparison of the full equipment needed for a DEKA fit event and also a “minimum” requirement in my opinion:
Full Equipment List:
- Spartan Ram OR Sandbag
- Concept2 Rower
- Plyo Box
- Ski Erg
- Air Bike
- Torque Tank OR Sled
If you don’t have access to all of this equipment, I believe you can get by with:
Partial Equipment List:
- Spartan Ram OR Sandbag
- Dumbells or Kettlebells
Obviously the more specific you get in training to the DEKA Zones will help improve your time, but you can still successfully complete the race without access to all of the equipment.
What is the Strategy During a DEKA Event?
On race day, strategy will be unique to each competitor based on strengths and weaknesses.
Athletes will deal with both physical/mental challenges throughout the race, moving through the zones with a now fatigued body. Your entire body will be challenged while also taxing the central nervous systems.
Since the race is the same each time, DEKA Fit events are designed for you to be able to gamify the system and constantly improve based on previous successes/failures.
If it is your first ever race – Here are some tips:
- Pace yourself and do not come out of the gate too hot. Moving too fast at the beginning could result in needing to take an unnecessary break later on or even risk not being able to complete the eve
- Fuel for the DEKA event and eat a carb heavy meal 60-90 minutes prior to start time.
- Consume plenty of water and electrolytes several hors BEFORE the race.
- Keep on moving at all costs! It is okay to take a break, but try to move continently (especially during the Deka Zones)
After you complete your first event, you can come up with a specific strategy in the Deka Zones for your next race. As an example: If you know grip strength is a weakness muscle group, you can strategize to drop the weight every 20m until complete.
In Conclusion: Is DEKA for Me?
Fitness Racing is taking the endurance world by storm and could be considered the modern day decathlon.
Hyrox and DEKA have both entered this same arena in the past 5 years and are bringing the Hybrid Athlete mentality to people of all fitness levels.
DEKA is a project launched by the Spartan Race team and offers 3 different events: DEKA Strong, DEKA Mile, DEKA Fit.
Each event combines the 10 DEKA Zones with an element of running.
If you’re interested in taking on a new challenge that combines endurance with strength training, DEKA should be one of the first options you consider!