Find out how to train like a HYROX athlete with Michael Sandbach, the fastest HYROX athlete in the UK…
Michael Sandbach was the first UK male to break the 60-minute barrier in the HYROX Pro Category, and he’s the current World Record Holder for the Male Doubles.
A high-level competitive football player up to the age of 24, Sandbach competed at a number of CrossFit competitions as an amateur, but fell in love with HYROX in 2021, where he finished 6th in the World Championship race in Las Vegas – and he hasn’t looked back since.
2022 has been a breakout season, with a Doubles WR under his belt and currently sitting 3rd in the Elite 15 qualification table. Sandbach will be competing in front of a home crowd at the World Championships in Manchester – and with some composed performances already under his belt this year, he will be looking to make a statement.
Balancing his full-time role as a rotating equipment engineer in the oil and gas Industry, he has to balance a demanding schedule with training up to three times a day.
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How to train like a HYROX athlete
Here’s a look at a day in the life of one of the UK’s fittest men…
MORNING: Long run (8-10km)
“Most of my runs are done in the cold and dark at 5am,” says Sandbach. “HYROX is over 50% running, so the advice I give to most people – and probably the biggest thing people miss out on – is to get comfy running non-stop for 40-60 minutes.
“That will give you the baseline capacity in your legs, to sustain you through the race. Too many people focus on hitting the sleds and the ‘sexy’ stuff, without building the engine to not just run, but run fast.”
“I’ll work through this session in a waterfall for quality,” says Sandbach, “meaning I’ll complete each movement before moving onto the next, and work through the whole thing 2-3 times.
“As this is a race-prep session, I’m thinking about prioritising power development, that means moving fast, with purpose.
“If you try this workout, you’ll want to adjust the weights to your capacity – this is a pretty advanced session that I wouldn’t programme for a beginner!”
- Box squat
– Sandbach aims for 200kg
- Sled pull
– Sandbach pulls 200kg
- Kettlebell swing
– Sandbach uses 32kg, plus a heavy resistance band
- Kettlebell lunge
– Sandbach uses 2 x 35kg
- Landmine half moons
- Seated box jump (40 inches)
“As I get towards a race,” explains Sandbach, “the volume drops down in this session, but the intensity will go up, as I’m looking to prime my central nervous system. It’s always a battle for a sport like HYROX. Too much muscle mass and weight will negatively impact your run times, but having the strength to move the sleds without overly taxing yourself pays off in terms of total effort expenditure.
“A lot of the work I do will use partial ranges or assistance like bands to maximise force production, without creating too much [muscle-building] hypertrophy – especially in season.
“My off-season work will look a lot more like traditional strength training and bodybuilding, as the benefits of building muscle and keeping connective tissues healthy is super important.”
EVENING: Cardio conditioning
“In the evenings I like to get my pure conditioning work in,” says Sandbach. “This will often be on an erg like a ski or a row – it’s not sexy, but it’s the simple engine work that will allow you to build tolerance to working at a high percentage of your max heart rate for an extended period of time.
“A HYROX has rhythm to it: there are moments at the start of a run or as you finish a station where you need to be able to assess, manage your heart rate and, crucially, never ‘red line’ (where you’ve overloaded the system and you need to take a break to bring your heart rate and breathing back under control). Knowing your ‘recovery pace’ is the first step to becoming a more proficient athlete.”
- (Repeat x 5)
- Hard run x 3 mins
- Easy jog x 3 mins
“This session I’m looking to hit a race pace or faster for my ‘on’ sections and then recover in the jogs,” says Sandbach. “The challenge with a session like this is that your total score will be the distance covered, so really slacking off in the easy jog can hurt you.
“I’ll pick an aggressive number for the jog and aim to hold it the whole way through – it needs to be a number that will let you recover enough to hit your goal for the ‘on’ sections.
“I’ll aim to have to be really pushing on the last couple of sets to maintain this and have a ‘secondary number’ that’s maybe 10/15secs per km slower, which I’ll drop to if I lose my first target for more than 5 seconds.”
You can sign up to a HYROX race as an individual, in a pair or as a four-person team relay at hyrox.com