We all have seen it at Christmas time the world’s strongest men battling it out for the title of the world’s strongest man. As we watch we tell ourselves I’d like to give that a go and trust me it’s a lot of fun flipping a massive tractor tyre or lifting an atlas stone.
Well let me tell you using strongman training in your development can have a huge impact on your strength, endurance and overall physique.
Let’s look at the physique side of it all, have you seen a strongman with small legs, back, arms and shoulders no definitely not! This is because muscle is built not just through intense overloading of the muscle but through TUT (time under tension). Most strongman events are done for how many reps you can do in a given time. 40+ seconds is known as the ideal time to build muscle and most strongman events are 60-75s long so if you apply this in the gym. Not only will you build muscle but improve conditioning and endurance.
You will see in a lot of my posts referring to slowing down the eccentric phase to build muscle and strength. In strongman there isn’t much focus on the eccentric, atlas stones, tyre flips, farmers walk, train/plane/truck pull, axle press the list goes on they are all concentric only movements.
You can build strength with this in mind, a great example is a gentleman by the name of Mark Westaby (apologies if iv spelt your name wrong). Mark was a farmer by trade and was at a strongman show when they asked the audience if anyone would like a go at an atlas stone. Mark stepped up and popped it on the platform, he had never lifted an atlas stone or trained for strongman before. With all the work he did daily on the farm loading hay bails, carrying equipment, lifting and loading. Mark went on to train strongman in his farm gym and compete for Britain’s strongest man. Mark also made it to the world’s strongest man missing out in the group stages to get to the final.
The key to building muscle and strength when training is to use 50%-80% of max weight and working for speed and time. If we use the farmers walk for example and one of my favourite protocols the Norwegian method.
Week 1 3x60m 55% of max weight
Week 2 4x50m 60% of max weight
Week 3 5x40m 65% of max weight
Week 4 2x30m 70% of max weight
Week 5 3x50m 65% of max weight
Week 6 4x40m 70% of max weight
Week 7 5x30m 75% of max weight
Week 8 2x20m 80% of max weight
The longer distances being utilized in this will build incredible grip strength, forearm, shoulder and trap muscle size as the time under tension will be longer than using heavy weights for a short distance. Using the longer distances, you will have multiple pick ups, let’s say you have a 20m run you can use, you will pick up the weight 3 times. This will work your quads, hamstrings, glutes and lower back as well as the muscles mentioned already. This will give you more focus on building these muscles then it would if you picked the weight up once walk and put it down.
Most moving events are for a distance away and back so with this in mind using multiple pick ups in training helps you improve your pick up speed and quality of execution. This could save you seconds in competition giving you the best chance to place well in the event. Remember muscle and strength are built through repetition.
As the starting weights are low in this method this will allow you to move the weights as fast as possible. Strongman isn’t just about who is the strongest but events are done on who finishes fastest. Speed is an area that gets neglected as lifting the heaviest weights is what most aspiring strongman/woman focus on.
Working on speed while carrying something heavy has a great cardiovascular response. We all know the faster we can get the heart pumping and the lungs burning the bigger the calorie deficit you will be. This will not only make you faster when not carrying something heavy but will also work towards getting you into your best shape. The reason strongmen are not lean is because their goal is to be the strongest and need enormous amounts of calories to help recover and get stronger. If you are looking to get lean and strong then this is a great way to do it.
If you train like a strongman using concentric movements only with TUT then you will make some incredible improvements to your strength, endurance and physique.
It is literally written in history as proof it works!