Since becoming the first NASS (North American Strongman Society) State Chairman for Nebraska and Iowa, I have had many people contact me, asking how to get started in strongman. The first thing that they want to know is how to train for a Strongman contest? Now unlike Powerlifting or Olympic lifting, Strongman does not have set events. The events are up to the individual promoters. Now there are some events you will see often, like the tire flip, truck pull, and atlas stones, but you may find contest with events created by that promoter. So strongman competitors can’t be one-dimensional. You have to train outside the box. Training more than just the traditional barbell movements is vital.
Now I am fairly new to the sport of strongmen, and I do not claim to be an expert, but I have been fortunate enough to draw from the experiences of veteran competitors. What I have concluded after compiling this data is, strongman training is not an exact science. What I have learned is that you cannot have a narrow focus when training. Powerlifting movements (squat, bench, and deadlift), and Olympic lifts (clean & jerks and snatch) are great base exercises, but there is so much more that is needed. Many people don’t realize the cardiovascular conditioning it takes to compete in strongman. I can tell you walking for 10 minutes on the treadmill does not compare to pulling a semi truck 60 feet. I like to refer to cardio training for strongman as ‘power-cardio’! Carrying or loading heavy object, pulling or pushing trucks, will build muscle and build the cardiovascular conditioning needed to compete in strongman.
Another thing to remember when training to become a Strongman, is the importance of functional strength. Many of the events require the lifting or carrying of heavy, odd shaped objects. This requires power, stability, and explosiveness through out the whole body.
This year at the Arnold Classic Expo I was introduced to kettlebell training. I was truly convinced this was something I needed to incorporate into my work out. Kettlebells build functional strength! They allow a variety of movements, as well as many options for isometric training. Unlike many exercise implements, Kettlebells come in a wide range of sizes, including an 88lb Kettlebell. Not only did I find Kettlebells to be a useful training tool for strongman, but also a great training tool for Powerlifting, Armwrestling, and Highland Games.
Sample Strongman Workout
Deadlift from ground: 3 sets of 5 reps.
Deadlift partials (bar set 18” from ground): 2 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 2 reps
Stiff legged deadlifts: 3 set of 10 reps.
Leg Curls: 3 sets of 10 reps
Bent over rows: 3 sets of 10 reps. (straight bar for 2 hand) (kettlebells or dumbells for 1 handed)
Shoulder Shrugs: 3 set of 10 reps, 2 sets of 5 reps.
15 minutes of various ab crunches
Bench Press: 5 sets of 5 reps
Triceps extension: 5 sets of 10 reps (kettlebells can be used for seated of lying extensions)
Biceps curl (straight bar) 4 sets of 10 reps
Dips (weighted if you can) 6 sets of 10 reps
Power Cardio: Suggestions –farmer’s walk with dumbbells, Carry 100lb plates, carry and load sand bags
Squat or Leg Sled: 3 set of 10 reps, 4 sets of 5 reps
Leg Curl: 4 sets of 10 reps
Calf Raises: 5 sets of 20 reps
Power Cardio: Suggestions -carry and load sand bags, push or pull vehicles, stadium stairs carrying weight
Military Press: 3 set of 10 reps, 2 sets of 5 reps
Kettlebell Isometric Shoulder Exercises: front raise and hold, side raise and hold. These are great for training for the Crucifix Hold in Strongman
Power Cleans: 3 set of 10 reps, 2 sets of 5 reps
Full Pull with Kettlebell or One Armed Snatch with Dumbell: 3 sets of 10
15 minutes of ab work with a medicine ball
Big Power Cardio Day
Work with Strongman Implements you have or just find some heavy items and lay out a carrying medley
Wind Sprints at 80 percent effort
5 – 100 yards 5 – 50 yards (then add as you need)
This is great for building endurance and wind!
Suggestion: Get a massage on this day