The Hounds of Cuchulain Workout

Channel the legendary strength and resilience one of Ireland’s greatest heroes with our high-intensity workout, ‘The Hounds of Cuchulain.’ This dynamic routine presents grim challenges for you to overcome. You will need to dig deep, using grit, endurance, and determination. Unleash your inner warrior and never back down!

Click the link below to skip the introduction and go straight to the workout!

Introduction

Welcome to our Hounds of Cuchulain workout.  This workout draws inspiration from the legendary Irish hero Cuchulain (Cú Chulainn), a figure of myth and legend renowned for his ferocity, courage, and indomitable spirit. Born of divine lineage and raised to become a mighty warrior, Cuchulain is celebrated for his extraordinary feats of strength and valour in battle, as well as his unwavering determination in the face of adversity. Known as the “Hound of Ulster,” Cuchulain’s legacy looms large in Irish folklore, symbolising the epitome of warrior prowess and resilience.

These high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts are designed to channel the inner berserker within. They aim to enhance fitness and overall well-being. Targeting cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, and endurance

Hercules workout. functional strength training. exercises for strength training. upper body strength workouts. strength exercises for back. Muscular hypertrophy. Muscular strength. Tire exercises. Exercises for CrossFit. Functional fitness.
Compound Resistance Training for agility and stability. Muscular Strength and Endurance. Super Soldier Project.

Other areas addressed include explosive power core stability, balance and coordination and functional fitness, ensuring better performance in daily activities while reducing injury risk. Prepare to face both physical and mental challenges. Tap into the heroic essence of Cuchulain, conquering each obstacle with a warrior’s mindset, unwavering resolve, and determination.

Table of Contents

Divine Blood

Cuchulain played a crucial role in defending the province of Ulster (the north counties of Ireland) and its king, Conchobar mac Nessa. This was particularly during the epic conflict of the Táin Bó Cúailnge. He was honour bound by several geasa, or sacred obligations (for example, never refusing a challenge or retreating from battle).  These sacred obligations significantly influenced his actions and led to both his remarkable feats and eventual downfall. In battle, he often entered the ‘ríastrad’, a frenzied, superhuman state that transformed him into an unstoppable warrior.  Despite facing overwhelming odds and numerous betrayals, Cuchulain’s unwavering dedication to his obligations and his role as Ulster’s champion cemented his status as one of Irish mythology’s greatest heroes.

Cuchulain’s relationship with the Morrigan, the goddess of fate and war, was complex; she alternately offered him assistance and presented formidable challenges, ultimately intertwining her fate with his tragic end. 

Embrace the Legend. Step into the shoes of the “Hound of Ulster” and prove your mettle in the face of adversity. Join the ranks of the mighty and become a ‘Hound of Cú Chulainn.’

The Circuits

About the Circuits

  • 2 x circuits with 3 stations each.
  • The circuits are a mixture of functional and bodyweight exercises.
  • In the workouts below, we shall face our own challenges. Each of the two circuits will involve three stations. The first is a conditioning station, the second is a strength station and the last an endurance station.  
  • In between each station will be a ‘Berserker’ round involving explosive, fast paced exercises.  
  • There will be conditions or obligations to meet for each circuit. Failure to do so will result in a penalty: the Challenge of the Morrigan.
  • This challenge involves fate or choice. You will select from one of the icons (runes) offered, which will reveal your fate. Be prepared, as this could be a straightforward exercise or something much nastier. You have been warned.

Warmup

Celtic Warrior Circuit

1st Circuit: Conditioning

  • 4 x rounds 40/20.
  • Medium to medium light weight.
  • Rest: Long tabata format. 20 seconds between exercises. Advanced and intermediate: No rest between rounds. Beginners: 30 secs rest between rounds max.
  • Obligation to meet: No quitting on reps during work period.
  1. Legs: Racked squats.
  2. Arms: Biceps curls.
  3. Chest: KB Press using bench.
  4. Back: Inverted rows.
  5. Shoulders: Arnold Press.
  6. Core: V-ups.

Berserker Round: 1 minute – Box jumps.

2nd Circuit: Strength

  • 3 x rounds.
  • Heavier weight 75/80% 1RM.
  • Rest between sets: 90 secs max.
  • Obligations: 1. Going up in weight each set. 2. Not failing.
  1. Barbell Clean and Press: 8 x reps.
  2. Kneel to stand’s with a sandbag: 10 x reps (5 reps each side).
  3. KB Snatches: 20 x reps (10 reps each side).
  4. Sandbag lunges with rotation: 20 x reps (10 reps each side).
  5. Sandbag push up and drag: 10 x reps (5 reps each side).
  6. RDL’s: 8 x reps.

Berserker Round: KB Long Cycles: x 1 minute round.

See our post on KB Long Cycles for technique and tips.

3rd Circuit: Endurance

  • 3 x rounds. Reps as stated. 
  • Medium weight (60-70% 1RM).
  • Rest: 40 secs per round max.
  • Obligations: 1. Not failing. 2. Double reps on one exercise of your choice on the final round.
  1. Burpees: 20 x reps.
  2. KB Cleans: 20 reps (10 x reps each side).
  3. Sumo deadlifts/squats: 20 x reps.
  4. SB Overhead press: 20 x reps.
  5. Close push ups/triceps dips superset: 20 reps (10 x reps each exercise).
  6. Bear crawls/ankle toucher superset: 25 x metres/20 x reps (10 x reps each side).
  7. SB shouldering: 10 x reps (5 reps each side).

Berserker Round: 1 minute – Full sprints.

Challenge of the Morrigan

The Challenge of the Morrigan is for those that have failed any of the obligations for the above stations. Consider it a finisher of sorts. The difference here is you get to choose the finisher by selecting a rune from below. Choose your fate!

Uruz

Pull Ups

Max reps in 1 minute.

Perthro

Weighted Leg Lifts

Max reps in 1 minute.

Defender of Ulster Circuit

1st Circuit: Conditioning

  • 4 x rounds 40/20.
  • Medium to medium light weight.
  • Rest: Long tabata format. 20 seconds between exercises. Advanced and intermediate: No rest between rounds. Beginners: 30 secs rest between rounds max.
  • Obligation to meet: No quitting on reps during work period.
  1. Legs: Weighted jump squats.
  2. Arms: Hammer curls.
  3. Chest: Staggered push ups.
  4. Back: KB Gorilla rows.
  5. Shoulders: DB Shoulder Complex (2x reps of each then repeat).
  6. Core: Oblique mountain climbers.

Berserker Round: 1 minute – Wall ball throws.

2nd Circuit: Strength

  • 3 x rounds.
  • Heavier weight 75/80% 1RM.
  • Rest between sets: 90 secs max.
  • Obligations: 1. Going up in weight each set. 2. Not failing.
  1. Barbell Deadlifts: 8 x reps.
  2. KB split squats: 16 x reps (8 reps each side).
  3. Bodyweight Triceps extension: 10 x reps
  4. Sandbag Walking Lunges: 16 x reps (8 reps each side).
  5. KB Rolling Thunders: 12 x reps (6 reps each side).
  6. KB Alternate Hang cleans: 12 x reps (6 reps each side).

Berserker Round: 1 minute – Med Ball Slams.

3rd Circuit: Endurance

  • 3 x rounds. Reps as stated. 
  • Medium weight (60-70% 1RM).
  • Rest: 40 secs per round max.
  • Obligations: 1. Not failing. 2. Double reps on one exercise of your choice on the final round.
  1. Reverse Burpees: 20 x reps.
  2. KB Cleans and presses: 20 x reps (10 x reps each side).
  3. Jump squats with weight: 20 x reps.
  4. ERG pulldowns/Assault bike: x 40 seconds – Maximum effort.
  5. KB American Swings: 20 x reps.
  6. Duck walks/sprints: x 25 metres (27 yards) each.
  7. Step ups with burpees: x 40 seconds.

Berserker Round: 2 minutes – KB TGU’s.

See our post on KB Turkish Get Ups for technique and tips.

Challenge of the Morrigan

The Challenge of the Morrigan is for those that have failed any of the obligations for the above stations. Consider it a finisher of sorts. The difference here is you get to choose the finisher by selecting a rune from below. Choose your fate!

Raidho

Sled Push

for 1 minute.

Isasz

Weighted Leg Lifts

1 minute weighted wall sit.

Whichever workout you undertake. Remember to cool down, stretch and drink water!

Workout Complete!

Cu Chullain

Éirinn go Brách! (Ireland forever!)

Appendices: Beginners Guide to the Legend

Important Elements in the Story

A geis (plural: geasa) is a magical taboo or prohibition in Irish and Scottish folklore that can bring power and blessings if followed but acts as a curse if violated. These rules often shape an individual’s destiny and actions.

Cuchulain was bound by several ‘geasa’ (obligations) that shaped his destiny and provided him with supernatural abilities.  Examples include never refusing a challenge or retreat from battle, he was also obligated to offer hospitality to all guests. A more unusual geis involved him being forbidden from eating dog meat (a rule he was tricked into violating).  These geasa guided his actions and ultimately contributed to his tragic end.

Cuchulain was famed for his trance-like battle frenzy, known as ríastrad in Irish, meaning ‘contortion or convulsion.’ Similar to the Viking berserkers, this fury transformed him entirely before battle. Descriptions from the Táin Bó Cúailgne portray his terrifying transformation: his skin reddens and heats up, one eye becomes large and bloodshot while the other shrinks, his mouth expands and emits fire and sparks, and his hair spikes, also emitting flames.

The Morrigan is a goddess in Irish mythology associated with fate, war, and sovereignty, and plays a significant role in Cuchulain’s story. Their relationship is intricate, alternating between antagonism and assistance. Often appearing to Cuchulain in various forms, such as a crow or a raven, she tests his strength and resolve, sometimes offering guidance or magical aid in battle. In the epic Táin Bó Cúailnge, the Morrigan intervenes both as an ally and a hindrance, taking on different guises to interact with Cuchulain.

The Legend

Cuchulain, originally named Setanta, was born to the god Lugh and the mortal woman Deichtine. From a young age, he showed remarkable strength and skills. He lived near Dún Dealgan (now Dundalk) with his father Sualtam, a warrior, and his mother Dechtire. His uncle, Conchobar mac Nessa, was the king of Ulster and commanded the Red Branch Knights.

As a child, Cuchulain traveled to Alba (Scotland) to train with the warrior-woman Scáthach. Under her tutelage, he mastered incredible combat techniques and acquired legendary weapons, including the Gáe Bulg, a fearsome barbed spear. During his training, he met Ferdia, a renowned warrior from Connacht (a rival Irish state). Ferdia and Cuchulain formed a close bond, but their destinies would eventually place them on opposite sides in a future conflict.

Upon returning to Ulster, Setanta was determined to join the Red Branch Knights. Despite his parents’ belief that he was too young, he left home one night while they slept and set off for King Conor’s castle, taking his hurling stick and ball.

King Conor invited young Setanta to a feast hosted by Culann, a smith who made spears for the king. Delayed by a hurling game, Setanta arrived late and encountered Culann’s ferocious wolfhound. Armed only with his hurl and sliotar, Setanta killed the hound in self-defense. To make amends, he offered to guard Culann’s grounds until a new hound was found, earning the name “Cú Chulainn” (Hound of Culann).

Cuchulain became Ulster’s foremost defender, renowned for his bravery and combat skills. He protected the province from various threats, including invasions and internal strife. His heroic deeds included repelling enemy armies, thwarting plots, and overcoming formidable opponents single-handedly. His dedication earned him a reputation as Ulster’s greatest champion.

“I think that it is Cú Chulainn mac Súaldaim who now comes to you. He will lay low your entire army. He will slaughter you in dense crowds. Ye will leave with him a thousand severed heads.”

This epic battle is a central event in Cuchulain’s story. The tale, recorded as early as 620 AD, is also known as “The Cattle Raid of Cooley.” It tells of Queen Maeve of Connacht’s attempt to steal the prized Brown Bull of Cooley from Ulster. When her request was refused, Connacht and Ulster went to war. A prophecy foretold Cuchulain’s role, warning of great destruction.

Due to a curse, the warriors of Ulster were incapacitated for nine days, leaving Cuchulain to defend the province alone. Entering a superhuman battle frenzy known as the “ríastrad,” he became an unstoppable force, holding off armies and defeating renowned warriors.

All seemed lost for the forces of Connaught but Medb had one last ace up her sleeve. She sent Ferdia (Cuchulain’s childhood friend and training partner) to confront him.  Despite their friendship, they engaged in a fierce duel. Cuchulain emerged victorious but at the cost of losing his beloved friend. Their duel is a poignant reminder of the complexities of loyalty and honour in Irish mythology.

After Ferdia’s death, Cuchulain continued to defend Ulster until the warriors of the Red Branch Knights recovered. They then joined the battle, driving Queen Maeve’s forces from the field and securing Ulster’s victory.

Over the years, Cuchulain had gathered together quite a list of enemies. Sons and daughters of murdered fathers who all wanted their revenge.  The family of Cuchulain’s great enemy Cú Roí mac Dáire (a powerful Munster king) was one of these. Cuchulain had managed to slay his foe years earlier, but his family had not forgotten.  Furthermore, during the Táin Bó Cúailnge, Cuchulain had slain many enemies sent by Cú Roí’s descendants and allies. 

The culmination of the feud reached its peak when Lugaid mac Con Roí (Cú Roí’s son) challenged the hero to a duel.  Unbeknownst to Cuchulain, Lugaid has conspired with other forces to ensure that this time Cuchulain will not survive.

En route to the duel, Cuchulain encounters an old hag by the roadside who offers him food and drink. Since one of his Geis (obligations) is never refusing hospitality from a stranger, Cuchulain partakes of her offerings out of politeness. However, as soon as he consumed the food and drink, he was overcome by a weakness that rendered him powerless. The woman had served him dog meat (making him break another of the geis). The old hag reveals herself to be the Morrigan (the shape-shifting goddess associated with fate and prophecy) who mocks Cuchulain for his vulnerability. In some versions of the story the hag turns out to be queen Maeve, seeking revenge on the hero who destroyed her army.  Either way, it results in a weakened Cuchulain.

The duel that led to Cuchulain’s death involved multiple participants and treachery. Cuchulain faced Lugaid mac Con Roí, son of Cú Roí mac Dáire, and three other warriors. Ambushing him together, each wielded spears cursed by a druid. The first warrior wounded Cuchulain, piercing his abdomen, but he continued to fight. Lugaid then struck the fatal blow, hitting Cuchulain in the chest.

 

Mortally wounded, Cuchulain tied himself to a standing stone to die on his feet, facing his enemies. Lugaid, wary of a final act of vengeance, refused to approach him. Only when the Morrigan, in the form of a raven, landed on Cuchulain’s shoulder to signal his death did Lugaid dare to advance. His enemies then decapitated him, taking his head as a trophy and fulfilling their quest for vengeance.

Legacy

Cuchulain remains a significant figure in modern Irish culture, symbolizing bravery, heroism, and the rich mythological heritage of Ireland. His legendary exploits are celebrated in literature, art, and popular culture, inspiring countless adaptations in books, plays, and films. Many sports clubs, particularly in hurling, bear his name, reflecting his association with the sport. Additionally, his story is a key part of Irish educational curricula, teaching students about their cultural history. 

Statues and monuments commemorating Cuchulain stand in various locations, further cementing his legacy as an enduring icon of Irish folklore and national identity.

Many sports clubs, particularly in hurling, bear his name, reflecting his association with the sport. Additionally, his story is a key part of Irish educational curricula, teaching students about their cultural history. 

Hurling, one of Ireland’s ancient national sports, dates back thousands of years and is often mentioned in mythology. Today, numerous hurling clubs and a Dublin-based TV channel, Setanta Sports, are named after Cú Chulainn or Setanta.

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