Snapshot of Takeaway Points
- Learn the quickest techniques so you can get the most reps
- Have contingency techniques and change within a set when needed
- Learn how to program the repetition event effectively
In the sport of Strongman/Strongwoman you are guaranteed at least one event that involves a test of overhead strength. Sometimes (if you’re lucky!) you might get two. They will usually be a test of maximal strength, asking for a one repetition maximum. Or a test of strength endurance where you are required to take the implement and perform as many repetitions as possible. This article involves looking at the latter on the three most common implements: Log, axle and monster dumbbell.
Log Floor to Overhead Options
Here are the five quickest techniques I’ve found to be beneficial to learn and utilise in order of quickest first.
Log Power Clean to Push Jerk (Thrust transition)
This technique is the quickest but it is technically challenging as the timing needs to be spot on and happens very quickly. That being said, exposing yourself to more movement patterns challenges the brain and nervous system which is important for improving strength.
Log Power Clean to Push Press (Thrust transition)
This the next step down from the first option due to the fact that it is neurologically less complex to learn and perform.
Log Power Clean to Push Press (Paused transition)
If timing is off or fatigue is inhibiting you then you can simply revert to power cleaning with a pause before the push press. If the timing is off it’s better to pause to ensure a good line in the press.
Log One Motion (from Power Clean)
This movement will require significant strict/military pressing strength. Often this option is best if the implement is incredibly light and you’re looking to get 15+ repetitions within the time limit.
Log One Motion (from Squat Clean)
This is the most popular option but it’s last on my last due to the amount of effort needed for the press. Even with the momentum generated the power clean to push press will be quicker but also easier. Blood pressure, when it comes to the final repetitions using this method, will be considerably higher than the first three options and will lead to higher fatigue and less repetitions overall.
Axle Floor to Overhead Options
Due to the amount of options available I’ve organised a number system. Simply take the ranking of the three options (Clean, grip, transition), add them up and the lower the score the better/quicker the option you have. Regarding a fixed vs rotating axle; you may find you’ll need a larger number to complete if it is a fixed axle as opposed to a rotating plate/sleeve option.
For example: Valdas Clean (4 pts) + Double Overhand Grip (1 pt) + Thrust to Push Press (2 pts) = 6 pts total
Note: Although the double overhand muscle clean requires a large amount of grip strength it’s still the quickest option which can be handy even if for just the first repetition of an event. Don’t be too quick to dismiss it. I managed to build up to 135kg at an u90kg strongman and I had another client perform 150kg with a slightly thicker 50mm diameter axle at u105kg. I always recommend to train this first in warm up sets, with the longer term in mind. You can’t have too strong a grip in strongman/strongwoman!
(I know belt cleans aren’t often allowed this option might be ignored!)
Axle Clean Techniques
Muscle Clean: 1 pt
Hip Touch Clean: 2 pts
Belt Clean: 3 pts
Valdas Clean: 4 pts
Axle Grip Options
Double Overhead: 1 pt
Mixed to Clean Grip: 2 pts
Mixed to Shoulder Catch: 3 pts
Axle Transition Options for Shoulder to Overhead
Thrust to Push Jerk: 1 pt
Thrust to Push Press: 2 pts
Paused to Push Jerk: 3 pts
Paused to Push Press: 4 pts
Monster Dumbbell Floor to Overhead Technique
Although there are other competitors who hold the various dumbbell for repetition world records, when I’ve timed this technique versus the others, Dimitar Savatinov’s comes out on top. One of the key mistakes I see made in this event is a counter-movement at the start of the clean. You don’t want a double movement from floor. I understand you are using a stretch reflex but you’re taking longer than someone who can power clean the dumbbell straight to the shoulder.
The other key is to train both arms in preparation for the competition. They may not be equal but you should play the long term game as they might be close with a few years of training. Worst case you can at least alternate for 1-2 repetitions every 5-6 repetitions to give the stronger arm a quick rest before returning to it.
Monster Dumbbell Power Clean
Monster Dumbbell Power Clean & Push Jerk (Thrust Transition)
Three Periodisation Principles
#1: You must be strong before you can be enduring
Maximal strength is the mother of all qualities and it is the base of your preparation pyramid. An increase in strength prior to the competition will see the set weight as a lower percentage of one repetition maximum, making more repetitions come game day easier to come by. It should be prioritised first before training strength endurance. You could consider two blocks, for example
Block 1: 12 weeks of maximal strength focus [average repetitions 3-4]
Block 2: 6 weeks of strength endurance focus [average repetitions 8-10]
#2: Identify realistic target repetitions
- 1-5: focus on maximal strength improvement throughout
- 6-10: Maximal strength then strength endurance
- 11+: Maximal strength then strength/power endurance and even lactate tolerance as a possibility
#3: Consider where the event is placed within a competition
Pre-fatigue is a big factor within the sport of strongman/strongwoman and which event(s) are before the overhead for repetitions will affect your target and also how you should train for it. For example, training it fresh throughout your preparation when it’s after a deadlift event where you might get 10 repetitions isn’t going to transfer perfectly. In this example you might consider using a pre-fatigue protocol for the posterior chain before training the overhead event in accumulation/volume phases.
So here you have many techniques, some possibly new, to practice and include within your training. Sticking to just one and disregarding others isn’t always the best idea. Within an event you can revert to a different technique as you move through the time limit if that’s what is required. Once you fatigue say around 2-3 repetitions with the fastest option, revert to the next one and so on until the time limit is up.