The New Year always evokes memories of me as kid watching the "World's Strongest Man" on TV and fantasising about what it would feel like to pull a truck!
Here I want to take a closer look at what 'Strongman Training' actually is, and how you can incorporate some of the exercises into your own training programs.
So Firstly, What Characterises Strongman Training?
1) Functional Strength - I.e. full body movements that replicate a lot of movements we do in everyday life (such as picking objects up from the floor, carrying objects, pulling, pushing etc)
2) Moving Heavy objects
What are the Benefits of Strongman Training?
- Gets you strong!
- All movement patterns are covered: pushing, pulling, rotating, squatting, lunging, bending, walking
- Strongman training has a great degree of carryover into more conventional exercises such as squats and deadlifts. This means that by getting strong in some of the strongman exercises I outline below, you will also get stronger in more conventional exercises.
- Great for both fat loss & muscle building: This is due to the full-body nature of many of the exercise, placing a huge demand on the body and providing a huge calorie burn.
- Provides Variety
- Recoverability: Many of the exercises don’t have eccentric components (such as prowler pushes), meaning less muscle soreness & faster recovery
- Develops grip strength & core strength more than any other type of training
- Good for building mental toughness and resilience
- Good carry-over into everyday life
What Strongman Exercises Could I Incorporate Into my Training Plan?
1) Farmers Carries: Quite simply, pick up 2 heavy objects in each hand and walk as far as possible with them without dropping them. You can set up farmers carries in two ways: 1) Walk as far as possible before you can no longer hold the weight. 2) Set a distance to achieve and cover the distance as quickly as possible.
You can make Farmers Carries even more difficult by performing 'Suitcase Carries'. Here you only hold weight in one hand. This is perhaps one of the best ways to strengthen your core without a sit-up or leg raise in sight.
For me, the biggest benefit of Farmers Carries is the development of grip strength. Poor grip strength is often what impedes people making greater progress in the gym.
2) Zercher Squats: The Zercher Squat has you holding the bar in the crook of your elbows, as demonstrated in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9P0SI9s2k0
Similar to the front squat, the load is at the front of the body, meaning there is a much greater requirement for core strength. It's important to either use a thick bar, or put a pad or wrap a mat around a normal bar to provide protection to your arms.
3) Prowler Pushes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhNPyY0UlcI - Can be made heavy (as seen in the video), or can be lighter to make more of a 'sprint'. Manipulating the weight changes it from more of a strength exercise to more of a cardio/conditioning exercise. The good thing about prowler pushes is that there is no eccentric component to the movement, meaning you get very little muscle soreness from performing these. However, anyone who has ever done prowler pushes will attest to how brutal they are on the legs and the lungs! An excellent exercise if your car ever breaks down and needs pushing!
4) Tire Flips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZb1PUm2_O4 The tire flip is another great full body exercise. With strongman equipment becoming increasingly prevalent in gyms, exercises such as these are becoming increasingly accessible to the general population. Before performing these ensure you watch the video to ensure proper technique. The key thing to remember is NOT to squat the weight and try to curl it with your arms!
5) Single Arm Overhead Presses: Pressing weight overhead has far more practical uses than bench pressing. There are far more instances in life where we have to push weight overhead (airplane overhead lockers anyone?!) than we do lying on our backs. Single arm overhead presses with either a dumbbell or kettlebell also adds a element of instability that you don't get with a standard barbell.
Strongman training can be extremely effective for developing full body strength, building muscle and burning body fat. Despite the name these exercises are as much for females as they are for men.
If you wan to add a little variety into your program then give some of the exercises here a go - you might just enjoy it!