StrongmanFrequently Asked Questions
How do I prepare for strongman training?
So what exactly is strongman? Well, it’s a way for really strong guys to show off their strength. I’m talking about maximum weight deadlifts, which can be pretty brutal. Anyone who is looking to compete here must be willing to push themselves to the limit in terms of their strength, will and endurance.
Ever seen a guy pull a train? Even watched someone squat with a boulder? This is what strongman is all about. And contrary to what most people think, it’s not just about strength.
If you want to win strongman competitions, you must have good technique. You must be capable of adapting quickly to whatever you’re asked to lift, which means you can’t just have one motion down pat.
What does this mean for you? It means you can’t only focus on shaping your body like a champion. You also need to have the mind of a winner. If this is the path you want to take, you’re going to encounter pain, failure and even injury, but you need to move past all of these in order to find success.
So, before you even think about joining this brutal competition, you need to start building your strength first. If you can’t even squat with 3 plates or deadlift with 4, then you obviously have a long way to go before you can even qualify for these competitions. But don’t worry. As long as you put in the work and stay focused on your goal, you will make progress.
When it comes to your training, forget about leg extensions and focus on barbell compound movements instead. I’m talking deadlifts, presses and squats. And don’t even think about ignoring those biceps or you’ll end up with a tear.
What are the different strongman events?
Now that you know what to expect and do when you’re training for strongman, let’s look at what you can expect from strongman events that you’ll be taking part in (if and when you get there).
1. The yoke walk
This test of endurance, strength and willpower requires you to walk a certain distance with a really heavy load on your back. You’re going to need your back, quads, calves, core, hamstrings, chest and arms to work together so you can go the distance without getting crushed by the weight.
The yoke itself is actually a steel frame with two connected posts (kind of like a half-rack) with the horizontal bar placed across your shoulders. The yoke itself is already pretty heavy—heavier than what most guys have benched before—and in some competitions, weight plates are added on each side of the frame to make it even heavier.
You can expect this yoke to weigh between 220 and 270 kilograms when you get to one of the smaller competitions. It is also not very comfortable.
You need to do a quarter squat before you start walking and that’s tough enough. Moving too much to the sides will cause the yoke to swing and you don’t want that.
2. The log clean and press
Now let’s move onto the log clean and press. This will really test your core and your upper body strength. The log you’re going to carry is about 12 inches in diameter, so this is going to push the centre of gravity away from you.
To perform this move, you need to stand with your feet hip-width apart, bend your knees in a squat position and grip those handles within the log as tightly as you can. Quickly pull it up to your waist (your legs are now supporting the log) while your elbows are flared and high.
In one explosive movement, roll the log right up to your chest and tilt your head backwards. Finally, dip down, extend your arms and lift the log overhead to do your push press.
Most pros prefer to have supporting gear in place, including chalk, for this one. Chalk is useful in preventing the log from slipping off your hands.
3. Axle clean and press
The axle bar is nearly impossible to grip, so your biggest challenge will start there. Large hands are going to be a big plus for this one. The aim of this challenge is to clean and press the bar but its diameter is going to make that even more difficult.
What most people do is go for a continental clean where they lean back and rest the bar on their belly instead before raising it up to their collarbone/shoulders before finally pushing it overhead. You also need to go for a mixed (overhand and underhand grip) to lift the bar.
4. Conan’s wheel
This is one of the more majestic-sounding events in the roster, but it’s also the one that sends most of the strongmen cowering. With this one, you need to lift and support a long thick bar that is attached to a pivot point (and the bar has weights attached to it) and walk a full circle for as long as possible. The difficulty with this one is that it’s a really painful experience, especially for your arms. You can expect weights of between 200 and 250 kilograms for this one.
5. Tyre flips
This is a pretty straightforward event. You’ll be given a tyre weighing around 270 kg and you need to flip it over for reps or until you reach the end of the line. Keep in mind that the simplicity of this event does not mean it is easy.
If there’s anything easy about it, it’s that it is very easy to hurt yourself while you’re doing it, so be very careful. Aside from this, you also need to be careful with your time and direction so that you’re not flipping the tyre off-centre.
6. Truck pulls
Ah, now we move onto one of the strongman events that usually make it to the news or telly because there’s nothing quite as flashy as pulling an enormous vehicle!
For the truck pull, you’ll be using a harness that is strapped across your chest and shoulders and all you’ll be doing is walking ahead, pulling a huge vehicle behind you. Some competitions require you to pull a fire truck or semi truck. It’s usually the larger competitions that get more creative.
7. The sled drag
The sled drag is another strongman favourite. Basically, you just need to drag a sled that’s loaded with weights from one point to another. You’re going to need a lot of endurance and brute strength to do well on this event.
8. Car deadlift
The car deadlift is another flashy strongman event. It’s pretty self-explanatory—you’re attempting to deadlift a car. Car deadlifts obviously raise the bar higher than traditional deadlifts. Aim for high reps, but also keep in mind that jerking can lead to a loss of points.
9. The farmer’s walk
Lastly, we get to the farmer’s walk. For this one, you’ll be using special bars with handles in the middle. You’ll be holding the bar from their handles in each hand and start walking. Weights can be added at each end of each bar.
You’ll need to combine strength with stability and speed here, so make sure you’re ready for it. Expect over 100 kg per hand. It might not be enough to crush you, but it’ll throw you off if you’re not used to it. My tip: make sure you chalk up because you’ll need all the help you can get.
What's the best strongman equipment?
You can’t just walk into a strongman event and expect to be the champion. You need to train for it and training for it means getting the right equipment.
Here’s a few things you’ll need to get started.
1. The barbell
The deadlift is a very important part of any strongman event, so the classic bar should definitely be at the top of any strongman trainer’s list! You can develop your strength and perfect your technique with just a quality barbell and some weights. You don’t need anything too flashy, but you need to have a wide range of weights so you have enough room to grow.
2. The axle bar
As I’ve mentioned above, an axle bar is slightly thicker than your standard bar. If you don’t want to buy one, consider getting some fat grips to thicken your barbell handle. This will help improve your grip and prepare you for what may come up during your competition.
3. Atlas stones
These five round and smooth stones weigh between 100 to 160 kg. If you can’t afford to buy them outright or you don’t have the space for storing them, just use the ones from your local gym. You’ll thank yourself later.
The good thing about sandbags is they aren’t as expensive as the other equipment on this list. You can even make them yourself! Sandbags can be dragged, loaded onto other equipment to make the load heavier or simply carried.
The same can be said for kegs. If you’re going to compete using sandbags or kegs, I say go out of your way and get your hands on one of these to train with!
Kettlebells are great weights to train with for the farmer’s walk. You’ll need heavy ones, so don’t hold back and get the heaviest weights you can find!
Just like the sandbags and kegs, nothing substitutes for the real thing here. If you want to practise your tyre flips, go and get some tyres! But I’m not talking about the spare tyre from your Ford Focus. Get something that weighs 200 kilos at least and start working your way up from there.
7. Strongman throw bag
Strongman throw bags are very durable bags that are used in strongman training and competitions—most popularly in the 2018 Arnold Fest—and they generally come unfilled so that you can choose your weight.
Their rubber handle makes them a little bit easier to carry (I said a little bit easier, not easy!) Pay attention to the maximum load when purchasing one of these.
8. The log bar
What will you do if you want to train with a log but you can’t get your hands on a real one? You train with a log bar, of course. Log bars are designed to feel like the real thing, so you can practise getting the weight distribution right before your actual competition. The big plus with these bars is that you can get a weight that’s well over 450 kg for some powerful training.
9. The yoke
Training for the yoke walk is a lot easier when you have a yoke to practise with. This equipment comes with adjustable crossbars, so you can customise it however you want. You can also get them with skids on their feet so you can also use them for sled training.
So there you have it! I just shared with you everything you need to know to get you started on your strongman journey. Remember, the sky’s the limit when you have a strong body, so make sure you eat right, train smart and hard, and stay focused on your strength goals.
Before you know it, you might be starring in the next “The Strongest Man in History” (if it gets renewed, that is) or even earn a spot on this list!
What's the proper diet for strongman training?
Now that we’ve laid the groundwork for strongman and hopefully gave you the right expectations, let’s talk about the food.
I’ll be really blunt here: if you’re not eating right, you’re just not going to make it to a strongman competition, more so compete in it. Why? Because you need to build some serious muscle if you want to be taken seriously as a strongman.
You need to eat at least 3,000 calories each day to get close to where you want to be. These calories should be coming from quality foods like ground beef, chicken, cheese, potatoes and heaps of vegetables. You also need to get the timing of your meals just right.
You’ll be really hungry after your training so make sure you have food prepared and ready to go. Also, say goodbye to eating 3 meals a day. You need to eat more frequently so that your body has a constant source of fuel.
Be careful about what you eat on competition day. Just eat like you normally would the day and night before your competition. To be safe, don’t eat anything you haven’t eaten before. You don’t want any digestive trouble when you’re trying to lift a car, believe me!
How many days a week do a Strongman Train?
Most of elite strongman train 5-6 days a week. With their primary focus being strength training, conditioning and most importantly recovery.
If you are new to strongman training, it would be best to start out training with 3-4 day split program. This would give you plenty of time to recover and condition your body to rather vigorous strongman training.
As you get stronger, you can switch the training program to a 5 or a 6 day one. This would allow you to incorporate additional accessory exercises.
How to Train Strongman in a Regular Gym?
Preparing for an amateur strongman competition in a regular gym can be a tricky business. Mostly because the events you are going to be competing in are going to be done with specialty equipment.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t prepare for a strongman competition in a commercial gym.
There are a few key areas you should shift your training focus to which would benefit you during the competition day.
Core Strength – if you want to compete in strongman you will need an exceptionally strong core muscles. They consist of your abdominals, obliques, and posterior chain muscles. They are going to be used in every single event.
Grip Strength – most of the strongman lifts are done on thick barbells. Such as a fat axle bar or thick grip dumbbell. You will also need grip strength for events such as farmers walk, frame carry, duck walk or deadlifts. You can strengthen your grip by either training on a thick grip bar or performing grip specific training exercises.
Shoulders – There are a lot of overhead press events such as log press and Viking Press. Having strong shoulders (and triceps) certainly comes in handy. You can train these specific muscle groups by performing standing military press and standing dumbbell press.
Biceps – biceps have to be one of the most torn muscles in strongman competitions! You need to strengthen your biceps throughout the whole range of motion. Bodybuilding style biceps curls simply won’t cut it. As you will have to grab oddly shaped items and carry them for either time or distance.
Legs – might seem elementary, but having strong legs is a bonus in strongman competitions. A lot of professional and amateur events include squats for maximum weight.
Endurance – You will need great cardio if you want to compete in strongman. Long gone are the days where the competitions were designed for 1 rep max strength. Now it is all about endurance and recovery time. Having great cardio will certainly give you an advantage over fellow competitors. You will be able to recover quicker in between the events and avoid running out of breath too quickly whenever you are carrying something for time or distance.
Mobility – having tight joints will lead to injury. You will have to bend and twist at awkward angles to pick up oddly shaped items. Having great joint mobility will allow you to get into a better lifting position. This way you will be able to exert the maximum amount of strength.
Is Strongman Training Healthy?
Professional strongman training couldn’t be more far off from considered healthy. It has one of the highest rates of injuries of any sport. Being on the heavier side also comes in as an advantage as mass moves mass.
The training sessions themselves are also extremely taxing on your body.
In saying that not everyone is born or wants to be a professional strongman. Doing it at an amateur level or for your own enjoyment can be an extremely healthy choice.
A lot of the movements will translate into everyday life movements. Training itself is far more fun and interesting compared to your run of the mill big three lifts.
On top of that you will end up burning a tonne of calories and having great cardio and mobility.