strongman exercises Iron Guild Blog

7 Strongman Exercises to Master

At first glance, there seem to be dozens of strongman exercises to master. Correct!

However, getting started doesn’t have to be overwhelming. There are a small handful of essential lifts that pay dividends. 

If you invest most of your energy in these lifts, the rest will be much easier as you progress in the sport.

What are Strongman Exercises?

Strongman is the decathlon of strength sports and includes lifts from many other sports, such as:

  • Powerlifting 
  • Olympic Lifting
  • The Highland Games 
What are Strongman Exercises

Albeit, there is a Strongman twist.

Strongman exercises typically consist of the following: 

  • Deadlifting
  • Overhead Pressing
  • Pushing 
  • Pulling
  • Throwing
  • Carrying

The equipment used to accomplish these exercises ranges from traditional barbells to wacky stuff like cars, huge stones, log presses, and even refrigerators! 

In short, strongmen are equal-opportunity lifters, and every object we encounter in the wild is a worthy candidate for lifting.

Benefits of Focusing on Strongman Exercises

Traditional barbell exercises are fantastic, and being strong in general is vital for long-term health and function. 

However, if you want to get even more from your time at the gym, I highly recommend lifting more awkward objects like sandbags, atlas stones, and logs. These closely resemble the awkward nature of things you might have to lift daily.

Think of all the day-to-day activities and health benefits that Strongman can help you with. 

  • Deadlift: improved strength, muscle mass, metabolic rate, improved testosterone.
  • Farmers Carry: carrying groceries — ALL OF THEM IN ONE TRIP, BABY!
  • Sandbags/Atlas Stones: picking up awkward objects like heavy boxes or furniture.
  • Carrying Events: balance, core strength, grip strength.

So, how do you choose from the dozens of exercises which ones to focus on? 

Of course, like most things, we need to dawn our thinking pants, because it depends! 

If you are a beginner or experienced athlete in the off-season, it is a good idea to invest in the lifts that will build the deepest foundation of strength and carry over to more specific events later.

Another consideration is the frequency at which the event appears at comp.

Once you master the exercises listed below, you begin to build a training program.

7 Exercises for Your Strongman Training

Deadlift: One Lift to Rule Them All

Let’s start with the king of all of the lifts, the deadlift.

What could be more primal than lifting the heaviest possible object off the ground?

The deadlift is the most important lift in the sport of strongman as you will be hard-pressed to find a competition that doesn’t test the deadlift for max reps or weight.

Additionally, since the deadlift targets your entire posterior chain from your upper traps down to your calves—including your quads, core, and more—it is applicable to most strongman events and everyday activities.

Although the movement may seem simple, nine years as a strength coach has taught me that dialing in this lift and reaching your genetic potential can take quite some time.

However, if you have the patience and willingness to keep your weight submaximal while you learn the basics and only increase weight when your technique improves, you’ll be good to go.

Here is a brief overview and the key elements of a proper deadlift to get you started.

STEP 1: BAR OVER MID-FOOT

First, start by getting the bar exactly where you want it, then approach the bar so it’s directly over the middle part of your foot. You should have a 1-1.5 inch gap between your shins and the bar.

Stance will vary from person to person, but I start the average person with their feet between hip and shoulder-width apart, with toes pointed out slightly. 

Edge of the Cliff Rule: Before moving to step two, you must embrace this rule. 

Imagine the plates on the bar are at the razor’s edge of a cliff, and one forward bump of the bar sends it over. And the bar is made of pure gold and happiness. Thus, NEVER LET THE BAR MOVE FORWARD!

This is the most common mistake I see on the deadlift. It can be costly, both for your personal records and safety.

When the bar drifts away from your center of mass, it takes more force to lift it and places a greater strain on your back.

STEP 2: HIP-HINGED TO THE BAR

Next, squat down until your shins are barely kissing the bar.

Push your knees out slightly to activate your glutes – don’t forget the cliff edge is right there.

Then, hip-hinge down with a flat back until your fingertips touch the bar.

Your foot width decides your hand width. Place your hands on the bar so your forearms are touching but not pushing on your thighs.

STEP 3: NO SLACK

Imagine a chain running the length of your body, starting at your hands, running up your arms, wrapping around your shoulder, and running the length of your back and down your legs. Before we lift the bar, we want to tighten that chain, leaving no slack in the system.

Start at your hands, lower your hips, and raise your chest to tighten the chain and create leverage through the floor. This allows you to transfer the weight from the floor into your body through your feet. You and the bar are now one, and your body is primed to lift the weight.

Deadlift starting position

The mistake of starting the lift with slack in the system is common, like letting the bar roll forward on the setup, and it can cost you big with those records and injuries.

What will happen if you have slack in our metaphorical chain and yank on the bar? Your butt will shoot up, and your back will round before the bar moves at all, transferring all that power to the slack in the system instead of the bar. 

Your positioning will also be poor, leading to potential injury and the inability to meet your genetic potential. 

STEP 4: DEADLIFT LIKE CHUCH NORRIS

deadlift like chuck norris

You know how Chuck Norris chuckles at physics when you tell him to do a push-up? Obviously, Sir Norris doesn’t push himself up, but he pushes the earth away from him. 

Do you think his Chuckness would pull the bar off the ground, or would he push the earth away from him? 

Bingo! 

Stop thinking of the deadlift as a pull and start thinking of it as a push – or a leg press. 

WHEN TO TRAIN

The conventional deadlift is a taxing exercise with a longer recovery time than average lifts. I recommend only training on this exercise once per week.

You can add one secondary deadlift to your workout if you recover quickly. For example, you can do:

  • Trap Bar Deadlifts
trap bar deadlifts
  • Snatch Grip Deadlifts
snatch grip deadlift
  • Deficit Deadlift
  • Elevated (block or wagon wheel) Deadlifts
block deadlift

These deadlifts should be programmed with less volume and/or intensity so they don’t tax your nervous system as much as your primary deadlift.

HOW TO TRAIN

If you are new to the deadlift, I recommend starting with the bar at 18” off the ground. You can elevate the bar with sturdy wood or rubber mats under the plates on the end of the bar. Don’t elevate the bar with safety pins in a squat rack because this can damage the bar permanently.

Stay at this height for about one month until the technique feels natural. Lower the bar by two inches every month until you’re down to the standard 9” ground clearance.

Be patient here. The more time you spend building your technical foundation, the more weight you will lift in the future.

JOIN THE GUILD

Farmer’s Carry: Get a Handle on Grip Strength

The farmer’s carry is another fundamental movement for Strongman and daily living.

There are a wide variety of farmer’s handle shapes. The most common types you’ll see are streamlined and ergonomic. These handle heights are between 12-17 inches, making the difficulty range quite large.

The farmer’s carry is excellent because it works your upper back, core, leg, and grip strength. 

Additionally, you’ll become a one-trip grocery-carrying warrior while maintaining a high degree of functional strength. 

A strong grip is vital in the sport of Strongman. Many comps have a very grip-intensive event, like the farmer’s carry, frame carry, pulling event using a thick rope, and other similar events. 

Below are the basics of performing a farmer’s carry.

STEP 1: SHOULDER WIDTH DECIDES HANDLE WIDTH

Farmers carry handle width

Start with the handles only as wide as your shoulders.

Many athletes make the mistake of letting their typical deadlift stance dictate where the handles start – which is typically wider.

Trying to lift the handles from here will cause them to collapse inward on the way up, and they may hit your knees and throw you off balance.

STEP 2: FOOT PLACEMENT

Farmers carry foot stance

Line the middle of the handles up with the middle of your feet like a deadlift.

Turn your toes out to push your knees out for a stronger deadlift. 

STEP 3: SKIN IN THE GAME!

Farmers carry grip

For a solid grip on the handles, wrap your hands around the handles, grip, and pull up.

Since the handles don’t rotate, the more your hands are rotated around them, the stronger your grip and the longer it will last.

Where do you grip the handles on a farmer’s carry?

You guessed it. It’s time to reach down and grab your thinking trousers because it depends on a couple of variables.

Deadlifting is a relative weakness for me; therefore, I grip the handles slightly behind the center so the back end rises first. This makes the start of the lift easier as long as you have a good grip. 

I recommend developing this movement with a centered grip and a slightly behind-center grip so you can use what you need on any given day.

Finally, your grip on the handle is vital to your success. I encourage you to use an obnoxious amount of chalk for maximum friction!

STEP 4: WEDGE AND PUSH

The execution of lifting the handles is similar to lifting a barbell during a deadlift, with two key differences.

First, the handles are typically higher.

Second, there is nothing in front of your shins!

You can now push your knees further forward to get a more vertical torso and use more of your legs.

Farmers carry Starting position

The same rules apply, though. You want to draw a line from your armpits, down through the middle of the handles, and over the middle of your foot. The difference is that if you push your knees this far forward on a deadlift, the bar moves away—a cardinal sin that will send you straight to hades…or at least scrape your shins on the bar.

Now, you only need to push the ground away and stand up!

STEP 5: STAND UP BEFORE YOU WALK

This may sound like a no-brainer, but the most common mistake in this event is moving your feet before the deadlift is complete. You’ll be very unstable and likely to drop the handles.

Take the time to stand up completely. Then, gradually build up a solid pace, and you’ll crush many athletes who rush towards the walking part.

WHEN TO TRAIN

In my opinion, heavy farmers’ carry, like any deadlift variation, should be trained no more than once per week.

You can either swap out your heavier deadlift with a heavy farmer’s variation or keep your primary heavy deadlift as is and have a lighter farmer’s variation on a different day of the week. 

HOW TO TRAIN

In my experience in the sport, this event is either done as a short carry going one way (40-60ft/, 12-18 meters), down and back, one way followed by another implement, or as a static hold.

If you are new to the event, I would treat this movement like most new compound lifts. Start with higher reps and lower weights to practice good technique. Over time, you can increase weight and decrease reps.

With Farmer’s Carry, you would start with lower weight and longer distances and increase weight and decrease distance as you improve in technique.

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Atlas Stones: The Icon of Strongman

There is nothing more iconic in the Strongman sport than the Atlas Stone. 

What’s more iconic and crazy-looking than rolling a stone up your body and loading onto a platform? It also happens to be highly functional since most things you have to lift on a daily basis are hard to handle and awkwardly shaped. 

Here is the method of stone lifting I learned from following Martins Licis, the 2019 World’s Strongest Man.

STEP 1: SPLIT THE STONE WITH YOUR MIND

atlas stone starting position

First, put your shins in contact with the stones with your feet pointing out.

Now, find the stone’s diameter and ensure your big toes are crossing that plane. This will ensure the stone is as close to your center of mass as possible, making the deadlift portion of the lift efficient.

STEP 2: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MIDDLE FINGER

atlas stone middle finger

Next, spread your fingers and reach around the stone’s diameter, ensuring your middle finger is lined up with the middle of the stone. This will ensure the stone is balanced in your hands. 

STEP 3: SQUEEZE IT!

To lift the stone off the ground, squeeze it hard like you’re doing a chest fly.

A successful lift relies on maximum grip on the stone, and strong pecs and forearms are essential. 

STEP 4: LAP THE STONE

atlas stone pick

When you deadlift the stone above your knees, rotate your feet forward to turn your quads into a shelf to rest the stone.

If your stance needed to be further out due to your size or lack of mobility, you might have to take a step inward to bring your feet closer together. You don’t want to cave your knees in to make a shelf. 

STEP 5: BECOME ONE WITH THE STONE

Shaw classic stones

Next, roll the stone as close to your body as possible, ensuring there is no gap between the stone and your hips. Then, wrap your arms around the top of the stone as far as you can.

At this point, your armpits should be on the stone and your hands should be close together, making a diamond shape.

STEP 6: TRIPLE EXTEND

Shaw classic stones 2

Finally, it’s time to hump the stone.

I’m not kidding!

I want you to thrust your hips into the stone while also extending your knees and ankles (hence triple extension) and roll the stone up your torso with your arms.

The goal is to get the stone up to your chest and almost your neck, which will allow you to clear a bar or platform if you are loading the stone onto or over something.

There’s no need to overthink triple extension. When you’re jumping or being explosive, it’s very intuitive.

WHEN TO TRAIN

Generally speaking, you don’t want to train stones more than once per week to manage the high stress on the nervous system.

Regarding exercise order, it really depends on your current skill level and goals. 

There tends to be an assumption in Strongman that since stones are typically the last event in a competition, stones need to be trained at the end of a workout. While this may be a good idea for athletes who are already highly skilled at stones, I find that for athletes who need more practice on stones to make larger improvements, it makes a lot more sense to prioritize them and train them first when you are the freshest. 

HOW TO TRAIN

There are many ways to break down stone training that can improve your game. 

I’ve listed these ways from easiest to hardest. For those wondering about stone-tacky, I will cover this in a future post. I recommend going chalk only or using tack cloths for a good while.

  • Stone Pick Holds: 10-second holds with the stone just hovering off the ground.
  • Stone Loading: Loading a stone over a bar or onto a platform of varying heights. Higher is harder, of course.
  • Stone Extensions: Roll the stone all the way to your chest and back down.
  • Extension Holds: Roll the stone halfway up and hold for 10 seconds.

For those who don’t have access to stones, I recommend buying sandbags from Cerberus Strength. The basic skills for sandbags will serve you well for stones.

Speaking of sandbags!

Sandbag Carry: Be Strong and Fast

Today’s winning athletes are strong and can quickly move with heavy weights.

Gone are the days of static powerhouse Strongmen like Big Z, Brian Shaw, and Eddie Hall. 

You’ll see a variety of implements at Strongman competition, such as:

  • Stones
  • Farmers
  • Yoke
  • Anvils
  • Anchors
  • Safes
  • and many more

However, sandbags are the most affordable and accessible and transfer well to other types of events. 

If you were paying attention to the Atlas stone rules, you know how to handle a sandbag! 

Simply substitute “atlas stones” with “sandbags.” 

The only difference is the shape and density of the implement. So here are a few key considerations for sandbag training:

STEP 1: BAG ORIENTATION

When filled properly, sandbags are relatively compact until you exceed 200 lbs. Then, they are shaped like a giant pill, and you have two options for picking it up.

Most pro-strongmen opt to pick it up horizontally rather than vertically. This works well if you have a strong deadlift from the floor and/or long arms.

horizontal sandbag lift

For a horizontal sandbag lift, you want a wide stance. Then, just like the Atlas stone, get close to the bag, wedge your hands underneath the bag, and deadlift the bag until it’s above your knees.

Bring your stance in and lap the sandbag. 

Grip over the bag, stand up with it, and go for a walk, leaning back enough to keep your balance. 

The other way to pick up a horizontal sandbag is by straddling it. This one is less common, but historically, my deadlift and sandbags are weakest off the floor and this method makes it easier to get the bag into my lap.

vertical sandbag lift

For a vertical sandbag lift, you’ll straddle the bag at the halfway point with feet close together. Reach down and wedge your hands under the bag at the halfway point.

Deadlift the bag and keep your knees out to make room for the back of the bag. Once the back of the bag is above your knees, lap, grab and go!

If your arms are long enough, wrap around the bag and grab your other arm for a secure grip.

 If it’s easy enough, whip it up and grab it in the air, skipping the lapping portion. Caveat: This takes practice and isn’t for beginner athletes. 

WHEN TO TRAIN

With the variety of ways to train sandbags, they can be on almost any day of training or multiple days, especially if it’s lighter conditioning work. For heavier bags, I would space them further away from a deadlift or highly taxing workout so you have the juice to get the work in.

HOW TO TRAIN

Regardless if you are loading the sandbag onto a platform, over a bar, or powering it over your shoulders, you’ll almost always have to carry it before you complete that task. So, learning how to move with it quickly is paramount. 

Practice both lifting and carrying the bag. I recommend carrying the bag about fifty feet, dropping it, picking it back up, and carrying it back to your starting point. Before going heavier, start with a weight that you can move pretty quickly with.

Press: Real Men Do It Standing 

One of the funniest things I encounter every week is what people ask me in public when they notice my size. The most common question is, “BRO, how much do you bench?” 

To which I respond: “I don’t.”

This is partially true.

I spent 13 years highly focused on bench press when I was powerlifting, but now that I compete in a sport that tests overhead press, I train it twice a week and do incline bench press and dumbbell pressing as secondary exercises to train my triceps and chest.

I’m not sure how the bench press became the primary measure of upper body strength for the general population. In my opinion, the overhead press is a far greater test of upper body and core strength and is far friendlier on your shoulders.

For our purposes, we will be discussing the strict overhead press, which means only using your upper body instead of a push-press that uses leg drive to generate power for a bigger press.

STEP 1: STARTING POSITION IS EVERYTHING

Like most lifts, your starting position is key for a good lift. 

Before pressing the bar, protract your shoulder blades to create a shelf for the bar, which will rest across your collar bones and front deltoids. 

Next, push your elbows forward in front of the bar.

overhead press start and finish

STEP 2: CRANK A WALNUT WITH YOUR BUTT CHEEKS

nacho-libre-stretchy-pants

You heard me.

Tuck your tailbone and squeeze your glutes tight. This helps keep your lower back flat while you arch your upper back and create stability for your press.

STEP 3: CLEAN THE RUNWAY

Next, we will pose for your dating profile picture by pulling your chin back as far as possible, making a sexy double chin while arching your upper back and pointing your chest to the sky. This will clear the runway for the bar to go up and back without hitting your chin on the way up.

Yes. I have done this before.

STEP 4: PRESS THE BAR UP AND BACK

For maximum mechanical efficiency, the bar should never move forward during the press.

Instead, keep your head back and push the bar straight up until it passes your head.

Then, push it back a few inches so the bar is stacked over your ears when you lock out at the top.

STEP 5: THE SECRET TO MORE REPS

One of the biggest mistakes beginners make with the overhead press is breathing while the bar is on their chest. This prevents them from getting the air they need and increases the time they spend holding the bar on their chest, making the press much harder.

Instead, get your first breath before unracking the bar and all subsequent breaths on the way down after the first press.

Finally, briefly pause on your chest after the first rep so you are practicing your “first rep” again rather than doing a touch-and-go rep. This kind of rep doesn’t translate well to your one rep max.

WHEN TO TRAIN

For an aspiring strongman athlete, I would train the strict overhead press once per week as your primary press for one of your training days.

When you add push-press to your arsenal (which I will go over in the future), you will train that on a separate day and possibly with a different implement such as a log, axle, etc. 

HOW TO TRAIN

For the sport of strongman, it is vital to have a strong overhead press for one rep and press submaximal loads for many reps without fatigue. Therefore, spend every 8-12 week training cycle training either maximum strength or rep work.

Squat: To Squat, Or Not To Squat

squat

That is NOT the question!

Everyone should be squatting, especially since there are so many variations to choose from if you aren’t yet able to do a barbell squat.

I managed to squat 480 lbs at a USA Powerlifting meet two years after I lost my foot in a motorcycle accident and recently matched my all-time best raw squat of 500 lbs in the gym, so I have no time for silly excuses for why someone “can’t squat.”

Ok, with the scolding over.

I’m passionate about this because if you asked me what three exercises I’d choose if I were allowed to do them forever, squat would be on that list. 

In addition to the obvious quad and glute development, squats also develop your:

  • Lower back
  • Upper back
  • Core
  • Balance.

If we include all variations, then this list would be much longer.

The technical cues below apply to every variation of squats you throw at me. Credit Alan Thrall for support on this squat guide. 

When I’m working with a client in person, more details and tools are needed, but these simple steps he teaches are fundamental. If you nail these, you can eliminate the dozens of unnecessary cues you hear from most coaches. 

One more caveat, I swear.

These are general steps that apply to all squats. I won’t be able to go over hand placement, bar placement on your back, or foot stance since there are many variables and preferential factors. I will go into more depth (wink) in the future.

STEP 1: BALANCE

The most important thing you can do is stay balanced and keep an even weight distribution throughout your feet.

I wasted so much time and effort for years as a coach using unintentionally confusing cues and feedback, which can be easily simplified by this one key element. 

For those new to squatting, as with all new lifts, it can help to keep the movement very slow until the movement pattern feels more natural. 

STEP 2: HOW LOW SHOULD YOU GO?

squat depth

This topic creates amusingly heated online debates.

To avoid that, for now, I will keep it simple.

The goal for a barbell back squat should be to achieve the depth required in the only sport where squat is a primary discipline, powerlifting. 

To quote the IPF (International Powerlifting Federation) rule book,

“the lifter must bend the knees and lower the body until the top surface of the legs at the hip joint is lower than the top of the knees.” 

In short, just squat until your thighs are just below parallel. 

STEP 3: TORSO ANGLE

If you are following rule #1, your specific torso angle on the way down will be dictated by your torso and femur length. Longer torsos and shorter femurs allow a more vertical angle, while shorter torsos and longer femurs make someone’s torso more horizontal. 

Don’t worry about the specific angle. 

What is very important, however, is that you maintain the same angle on the way down and on the way up.

A common mistake for beginners is their hips rising faster than their chest on the way back. This is typically a body awareness issue. It could also be their legs are much stronger than their core and back, or a combination of the two. 

STEP 4: TOES OUT, KNEEW OUT

mike t squat

Alan Thrall may call this rule unnecessary at first, but I think it’s worth discussing.

I’ll keep this brief and save the details for a future squat tutorial.

Most lifters will achieve their strongest and most efficient squat if when they turn thier toes out and, on the way down, point their knees in the same direction as their toes. This keeps their hips closer to their center of mass.

WHEN TO TRAIN

The majority of my clients squat at least once per week, but I typically have them do it twice a week.

Squats provide so much bang for your buck. For example, they have a lower recovery cost than deadlifts, particularly if we are discussing secondary variations such as front-loaded squats.

It is very important when designing a strongman program to manage fatigue across each week, so I just make sure that the heavier squat day is 48 hours or more removed from the heavy deadlift day.

The secondary and lighter squat can be done on the same day as the deadlift, but it should be purposefully lighter and less taxing.

HOW TO TRAIN

The secondary squats can include:

  • Zercher Squats
  • Barbell Front Squats
  • Goblet Squats
  • Paused Squats
  • Tempo Squats
  • And many more

The common variable with all of them is that by nature of the exercise, you aren’t able to lift as much weight, which helps you tax the muscle but reduce stress on your nervous system.

Sled Push/Pull: Drive Those Legs!

Last but not least is pushing and pulling.

This skill is needed not only for the sport of Strongman but also to help build healthy knees, aerobic capacity, and mental toughness.

For the purposes of this breakdown, I will discuss the most common equipment set-up: a sled on turf.

STEP 1: PUSHING

Pushing a sled is pretty straightforward.

Using the straight arms technique, grab the uprights so all of your energy is horizontal. You’ll want to grab them about halfway down or lower so you don’t accidentally tilt the sled. 

Then, while keeping the arms straight, lean into the sled until it starts sliding, then start pumping your legs. Your spine should be neutral, and with each drive with your legs, you should fully extend through your toes. 

STEP 2: PULLING

Pulling a sled can be done with straps you hold onto or a belt around your waist. Either is fine, but the straps you hold are more specific to a strongman event.

Whichever you choose, you will squat down slightly and lean back until the sled starts to move, then pump your legs, reaching back and driving from your toes all the way through the full ankle range of motion. 

The other way to pull is more akin to pushing, but the sled is behind you as you pull it with either a harness or straps/ropes over your shoulders.

The only difference between this and pushing is how you are attached to the sled. To be even more strongman-specific, you can have a rope in front of you and pull with your arms while pushing with your legs, but we will cover this in a future post.

STEP 3: HEAVY VS. LIGHT 

Your technique will dramatically change with heavy versus light training.

For heavy training, you focus on mechanical efficiency and moving the heaviest weight using the least energy. Pushing and pulling means taking smaller, more frequent steps and exploiting your body weight to your advantage. 

For lighter training, which is good for warming up or longer durations, you will want to maximize the range of motion to focus on blood flow and muscle engagement.

WHEN TO TRAIN

The beauty of sled training is that you have no eccentric muscle contractions.

Eccentric muscle is the phase of most movements when you are moving with gravity and putting the muscle on a stretch. This phase is most responsible for muscle breakdown, soreness, and growth. 

With sleds, you get to skip this phase, making recovery much easier and, therefore, the movement can be performed more often.

If you are doing heavy pushing or pulling, it might be possible to do it twice per week. Pay attention to your fatigue level and how you recover from the exercise.

I would recommend one heavy and two or more light sessions for conditioning and warming up.

HOW TO TRAIN

I start most of my workouts by pushing a sled 50 feet and pulling it back for three to five rounds with short rest to increase my body temperature and warm up my hips and knees.

You can also do conditioning work by pushing and pulling every minute on the minute (EMOM) for multiple rounds or having a specific and short rest between rounds that keeps your heart rate up.

My favorite conditioning method, however, is Tabatas. You do eight rounds where you work as hard as you can for twenty seconds, followed by ten seconds of rest or a slow pace. You can manipulate the work/rest ratio to suit your level, but this is a very simple way to structure it.

Then, of course, there is heavy pushing and pulling. I would treat this like a strength movement with three to five sets of shorter distances with heavier loads and full recovery between sets (2-5 minutes).

Key Considerations For Successfully Performing Strongman Exercises

I have three tips for a long and happy life of training.

  1. Never stop learning. I’ve been lifting for twenty years and training people for nine years, and I can promise you that I never plan to stop learning. I will learn from anyone who has advice. Let go of your ego, become hungry for knowledge, and never be satisfied with your current knowledge.
  2. SLOW DOWN! For some of my clients, my primary role as a coach is to help them zoom way out and look at their lifting career as a 20 to 30-year endeavor, which can be challenging for young and new lifters. Most of the major mistakes and injuries I had in my career were due to impatience.

    For example, a 20-year-old typically wants to become the World’s Strongest Man, deadlift 900 lbs, or achieve any number of extremely ambitious goals very quickly. The ambition isn’t the problem; it’s the timeline.

    Here’s some advice from Mitch Hooper, the current WSM winner:

    “If people get inspired by me and say that since Mitch did it in three and a half years, maybe I could become the World’s Strongest Man in three and a half years, too, they would discredit a lot of amazing progress, like being a provincial champion (it’s a Canadian thing) in a couple of years.”

    What Mitch is saying you may have the ability to become a WSM, or maybe you don’t; however,  if you hang your hat on that one outcome as the only measure of success, then winning a local show, winning a national championship and setting PBs in the gym become worthless to you because you’re “not there yet.”
  3. Have fun! Wild concept, I know. Don’t put a limit on what you can achieve, but make sure you enjoy the process. Don’t make yourself miserable by taking yourself too seriously and putting a weight on your shoulders you have yet proven to be liftable.

    Strongman is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling hobbies and communities you can be a part of, so enjoy it.

Take Your Training to the Next Level

If you want more tools for structuring your training and improving your lifts, you can purchase one of my strongman training templates. You can also contact me about online coaching!  

How Can I Train Like a Strongman at Home?

There are more and more gyms offering strongman equipment with reasonable membership rates.

However, if you’re somewhere more remote and there’s nothing around you, you can do plenty of things at home. Everyone’s budget is different, but here’s a list of replacement exercise or equipment options for each lift we discussed today.

Deadlift, Squat, Overhead press

Buying used gym equipment has never been easier.

On the FB marketplace, you can easily pick up a used but decent barbell for $100 or even a top-of-the-line Rogue Ohio Bar for $250, and plates can be purchased for $2/lb or less. 

Using the same equipment above alone allows you to overhead press if you learn how to clean the weight to your shoulder; however, I recommend bumper plates for this.

You can also pick up a decent squat rack for $100-$300 on FB marketplace if you want to unrack the bar for your press, which also opens up back squats as an option.

Atlas Stones

You can make these at home if you purchase the molds and the concrete yourself, but for a simpler and much cheaper solution, you can purchase the best sandbags on the market at Cerberus-strength.us.

Sandbags carry over very well to stones and you can start as light as 60 lbs and progress to well over 300 lbs!

Farmer’s Carry

Purchasing farmer’s handles doesn’t have to be that expensive. If you have some tools and know how to turn a wrench, you can buy 4x4s and pipe from a hardware store to make your own and get some weights.

I’ve also seen simple things like plastic buckets with sand or even concrete with handles sticking out. 

Push/pull

This can be the simplest of them all. 

Pulling can be done by buying a wheelbarrow and using the tub without the wheel and handles.

Simply remove all of the hardware until you’re left with the tub. Then, drill a small hole on the lip, install an eye bolt, and attach a nylon strap. Now, you can drag the tub around your yard, adding weight as needed.

For pushing, get a friend in the driver’s seat of your car or truck and push away. If it’s too hard, have them build some momentum. If it’s too easy, apply the parking brake lightly.

Done!

Conclusion

These are just a few of the many lifts to master on your journey.

And, in my opinion, if you only did these lifts, you could build a champion’s strength and physique!

Just take your time, never stop learning, and have fun!

JOIN THE GUILD

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