We’ve all been there at Christmas watching World’s Strongest Man on the TV as youngsters, inspired by legends like Bill Kazmaier & Mariusz Pudzianowski. These 2 guys in particular not only had tremendous success but also carried amazing physiques.
For the past 7 years I have been honing my skills as a successful strongman competitor & coach to many Strongmen. In this time I have noticed many benefits of training like these legends that carryover to many gym related goals.
1) Overhead Work & Improved Shoulder Health
Yes Monday is international bench press day for most, but for my clientele it’s likely to be push press day. Overhead pressing is neglected by most as it’s not seen as a sexy lift. It’s lighter & tougher than the bench press so it’s seen as inferior.
If you consider structural balance ratios though, most need to improve their overhead press. In fact, most peoples behind the neck press numbers are no way near where they need to be. So by training like a strongman and including an overhead day will improve your shoulder health, therefore all of your pressing numbers and most importantly your longevity.
2) Increased Arm Size
Strongman don’t normally train arms directly. If they do it’s certainly not every week. Show me a strongman who doesn’t have decent size guns though, despite not training them directly?! It just goes to prove that if you get strong at pressing things overhead, cleaning a log, deadlifting, picking up Atlas stones & carrying sandbags that your arm size won’t suffer and will even benefit.
Strongmen also have great grip strength due to the awkward events & additional training. I would say this further adds to impressive arm size and also improvement in strength ratios between the hand, forearm & elbow flexors and extensors.
3) Functional Movement Patterns
Although the word functional has been bastardized by special personal trainers & coaches over the years, it’s used in good context here. Strongman training offers movements in more planes. Whereas traditional gym lifts your feet are static, the strongman movements they are not.
These movement patterns are great for transfer into sport specific movements like flipping a tyre for a rugby player. Or for the general population like the farmers walks comparable to my fiancée carrying her Paris trip shopping spree.
4) Functional Hypertrophy
Functional hypertrophy comes about by training in the 20-30 second time under tension zone. This results in sarcomere/myofibrillar hypertrophy which is an increase in the density of the muscle. This comes about from multiple sets & heavier weights.
Muscle built by heavier weights will last longer, giving you that muscular look well into your later years. Strongmen have less use for sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, especially those in weight categories, and many phases are dedicated to this type of hypertrophy & training.
5) Core Strength
Again we have another word terrorised in recent times. Core refers to your trunk. Strongmen not only get plenty of core stimulus from the big compound movements such as squats & deadlifts, but also the traditional strongman moves such as the yoke and farmers walks.
One of my preferred movements to work the obliques is the unilateral farmers walk or suitcase carry as it’s known. Also a favourite of lower back expert Stuart McGill, you complete distances or time under tension carrying a farmers walk implement on one side of the body and then repeating on the other.
So to conclude there are many benefits to analysing and taking on the habits of strongman competitors. Success leaves clues.
The sport of competitive strongman is gaining in popularity every year and many gyms are noticing this trend and including more strongman equipment in their facilities. I recommend you don’t get left behind and find yourself someone to learn from with experience in strongman & modified strongman.