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Strongman Basics


Before you even think about becoming a strongman, you must ensure that you are healthy. Go to your doctor for a complete physical if you have any doubts at all. This is not a sport for anyone with a history of heart problems or respiratory difficulties.

Be warned that any old (or new) injuries and weaknesses will be spotlighted the first time that you attempt a strongman event. Play it safe - rehabilitate existing injuries before you begin event training.

Line up a chiropracter and a massage therapist/ART practitioner/physical therapist. You're going to need their services.


The most frequently asked novice question is, "How much should I be able to lift?"

In order to be successful in this sport, a certain level of core strength is required. However, that level will vary between individuals and weight classes, so it is difficult to define with any degree of certainty. At the very least, you should have at least one year of good, solid powerlifting training under your belt before attempting to compete at an amateur level. Assuming that there are weight classes in your competitions, lightweights and middleweights should be able to bench 200 lbs, military press 130 lbs, clean and jerk 180 lbs, squat 300 lbs and deadlift 350 lbs - as a bare minimum. Heavyweights should be closer to the classic 3-4-5 as a minimum (bench 300,
squat 400, deadlift 500 lbs, military press over 150 lbs).

Conditioning is a major factor as well. If you cannot run 50 feet without collapsing and heaving up a lung, you're going to have some trouble when the cardio events come along. There is an incredible amount of conditioning required to be successful at this, so face it: you're going to have to do some of that dreaded cardio training as well.


As mentioned previously, a solid foundation of powerlifting is definitely required. Therefore, work on the "Big Three" is in order - Bench, Squat, Deadlift.

People often say that there's no bench press in strongman... however, unless you have some physical limitation, don't hesitate to train it - if nothing else, it is a good compound exercise. However, only close-grip and incline benching really carry over well into strongman. Two- or three-board presses are excellent triceps exercises that will help with log lockouts. You should also concentrate on overhead work and Olympic lifts... these exercises will pay dividends down the road. Explosiveness is a good thing for many events.

Ensure that you are getting even muscular development. Many injuries are caused by nothing more than muscle imbalances. If you generally squat with a wide stance, ensure that you occasionally throw in oly-style squats and lunges to work the quads and hit the VMO. Your front delts get plenty of work doing presses -- do some isolation work for the rear delts.

Recommended exercises are as follows:

Squat. Narrow- and wide-stance. Front squats and Zerchers (with a thick bar). Excellent exercises for adding mass and strength.

Deadlift -- regular deadlift, deadlift from plates (helps the initial "pick" for the atlas stones) and deadlift from pins. Mostly lower back and hamstring involvement. The deadlift is probably the most useful gym training movement for the strongman. Other variations include RDL, SLDL, Axle DL, DL holds, suitcase DL - with Farmers Walk implements or a pair of loaded bars.

Bent-over Rows. Another excellent compound movement. For barbell rows, grip can be either double-overhand or double-underhand. Dumbbell rows are also highly recommended.

Power Cleans. Good explosive exercise.

Good Mornings: lower back/hamstrings. Good for the second phase of stone loading.

Overhead work. military press, jerks, snatches, push press, dumbbell press, push press, raises. Your shoulders can never be too strong.

Bench. Incline, close grip and dumbell benching are highly recommended. Close grip, two- and three-board benching will build the triceps and will help with the log, as well as any other event that involves straightening the arm.

Accessory work - traps (dynamic shrug), calves (standing calf raise, also worked with the dynamic shrug), abs (weighted incline situps - add heavy weights, sets of 10), Glute-Ham Raises, Saxon Side Bends. DB Hammer Curls, Cross-body hammer curls, MVM DB curls. Heavy cheat curls will help with portions of the tire flip, and the DB curls will help with hand-over-hand truck pulls.

Prehab work - rotator cuff exercises such as band dislocates, internal and external rotations, hitchhikers, scapula protractions (bench shrugs), as well as a good stretching regime post-workout.


Military Press
Good Morning
core work

Power Clean
Push Press
core work

3-board press
Bent-over rows
core work


Military Press
Front Squat
core work

Fridays are accessory days and sundays are for event training.

Putting It All Together

Always try to have one compound movement (compound = involving more than one muscle group) per workout. Normally, programs are constructed around three major compound exercises: squats, deadlifts and bench (or an overhead press). After performing your "major" exercise, accessory exercises are added

By: Grant Buhr is an active strongman competitor, and is currently the Executive Director of the Ontario Strongman Association, as well as the webmaster of

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