Being assessed on both work capacity and agility during competition makes strongman a unique strength sport. The time domain of the Strongman competitions is a key distinction from other strength sports.
Strongman competitors often move heavy objects as quickly as they can or for as many repetitions as they can in a limited amount of time, while there are a few maximal effort lifts. These competitions aren’t just strength competitions; they are also tests of stamina and mental fortitude.
Here at Strength Ambassadors we offer a safe space for Strongman training for both women and men at our London gym. These classes offer the basics of strongman exercises for beginners as well as training for local Strongman and Strongwoman events.
But first of all let’s explore together what Strongman training actually is and the exercises and events involved.
Strongman training for beginners
Even though the objects seem outrageously heavy, a Strongman program combines functional movement patterns like pushing, pulling, and carrying to provide a real-world usefulness.
Obstacle-based events, such as lifting Atlas stones, carrying a yoke on your back, or lifting a log above your head while performing a clean and press, are the ‘bread and butter’ of strongman training.
However, beyond the training itself, that strength, cardiovascular stamina and skill only enhance your daily life. The power you develop during Strongman training doesn’t just increase muscle mass, it can be applied to everyday tasks like bending correctly, lifting goods without getting hurt, and transporting objects from one place to another.
Strongman training is regarded as a natural progression from strength training in the gym. Your bench press, squat and deadlift will be a good starting point for developing strength and power for Strongman. The core strength, muscle mass and fitness you’ve developed through gym training will be an advantage when trying strongman or strongwoman for the first time.
But don’t worry if you are not an experienced gym goer. It’s possible to start with Strongman even if you have never lifted before. In fact, it can be an advantage, as you won’t have preconceived notions of the lifts or need to unlearn any techniques that are not relevant to Strongman. Whatever your starting point, Strongman and Strongwoman can help you achieve your strength goals.
Popular strongman events
- Log Press
- Atlas Stones
- Axle Deadlift
- Truck Pull
- Farmers Walk
- Sandbag carry
These are just a few exercises you might witness at a strongman competition. You must be confident and comfortable in pull, carry and press-focused events in order to be successful in strongman and strongwoman competitions.
6 classic Strongman exercises
There are a number of exercises that beginners can utilise when training for Strongman. Below, I’ll list 6 of my favourites. Though you may not find all of the equipment mentioned below in a standard gym, I’ve included some exercise options that can likely be performed in any gym, not just a specialist Strongman gym. However, remember that it’s always best to train under the guidance of a professional who is equipped with the appropriate Strongman equipment and expertise.
When it comes to lifting something off the ground, the barbell deadlift has the most application. Your grip strength, core strength, and overall athletic development will benefit greatly from it.
Any strongman training program should include the deadlift because it works your entire body, especially your posterior chain, which includes your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. The deadlift is a powerful cornerstone exercise that increases your endurance for other strongman training exercises.
Atlas stone lifts
Despite their intimidating appearance, atlas stones are a crucial part of strongman equipment and training. Try the atlas stone once you have mastered basic strength and lifting techniques.
Despite their look, Atlas stones aren’t so terrifying after you’ve had enough practice to master the method. Your erectors, lats, pecs and biceps will become stronger if you train frequently with an Atlas stone.
Pushing weight over distance works both the legs and cardio system incredibly well. Strongman competitions often include a vehicle push, such as a bus push, which can be hard to replicate in the gym. Pushing a sled is a great alternative, as it can be loaded with different weights, depending on whether you want to go very heavy, or lighter for longer distances. The sled push (or pull) is also highly effective for overall cardiovascular fitness, which you’ll need to be a successful strongman or strongwoman.
Kettlebell swings prepare the muscles in the low back and hips to support powerful hip extension actions. Your hips provide the force needed to throw kegs over high bars or load stones onto high platforms during strongman contests. The swing is a dynamic motion, which assists with everyday tasks like sprinting and jumping.
The muscles of the posterior hip (glutes and hamstrings) drive the weight while the kettlebell swing stabilises your entire upper back and core. It is a quick, strong workout that complements the slower, more stationary exercises you’ll find in a Strongman program as well.
An example of a compound movement is the tyre flip. In other words, it simultaneously engages a number of large muscular groups, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves, chest, biceps, and abdominals. For just one movement, that’s a lot!
A tyre flip is similar to a deadlift or a clean in terms of the movement skills needed. It is an impressive event to watch and is great for power development.
Wide Grip Lat Pulldowns
Your “pull up muscles,” or the latissimus dorsi, are the subject of lat pulldowns. They are the large, flat muscles that resemble wings and are located on either side of your centre back. Lat pull-downs, which are typically associated with bodybuilding, are actually a great complement to strongman pulling events like arm-over-arm, log or axle clean, and various types of deadlifts.
They target the muscles in your middle and upper back and are a beneficial countermovement to bench pressing.
Strongman and Strongwoman training in London
Strongman athletes do lift unusual objects and a lot of weight, but the majority of strength needed is built around the fundamentals of the squat, deadlift, and press. To achieve the greatest strength gains, make these the cornerstone of your workouts and load them heavily.
Come along to our strength building classes to start your journey to a stronger body and mind, or you can find out more about our Strongman training sessions online. Our team of skilled instructors can help you reach your strength goals whether you’re a beginner or an experienced lifter.
You can also subscribe to our YouTube channel for more videos on how to enhance your core strength training!
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Strongman training FAQs
How do you train to be a strongman or strongwoman?
Strongman training is a combination of basic strength training in the gym, using barbells and dumbbells, and event training with a variety of Strongman objects, such as atlas stones, sandbags, log and yoke.
Since strongmen and strongwomen have to be skilled, strong, explosive and have good stamina, different types of training are needed to cover all the bases. As a strongman or strongwoman, you’ll do strength training, power training, conditioning, technical/skill work and you’ll also work on mobility.
We advise starting with basic strength exercises such as squat, deadlift and overhead press, to build a solid foundation. We would also recommend technical work once or twice a week with a coach to start learning the events.
What type of training do Strongmen do?
Strongmen will do different types of training depending on where they are in the competition cycle. In the ‘off season’ the training will look more like bodybuilding and powerlifting, to put on muscle and improve lifting strength.
Big compound movements such as deadlifts, squats, bench press, overhead press and cleans are done with heavy weights. Accessory exercises such as dumbbell shoulder press, dumbbell chest press, tricep extension, bicep curl, leg extension, leg curl, dumbbell row and core exercises are performed to build muscle mass.
As the competition season gets closer, training will be more technical, focussed on the Events. Conditioning work will also be included to get fit for the competitions. This may include sprints, carries, plyometric training, sled pushes and sled pulls.
What builds the most strength?
Big compound movements such as deadlifts, squats and presses build the most overall strength for lifting heavy objects. Events such as yoke and farmers walk will develop strongman-specific strength such as grip and core stability.
It’s important to work every major muscle in your body during your weekly training sessions. When starting out, it’s best to train the whole body every session, as strongman is a sport which involves the whole body working together.
As you get more advanced, it may be better to use a split such as Push/Pull/Legs or Chest/Shoulders/Back/Legs. This allows you to train a particular body part hard on one day while the other muscle groups are rested.
Remember though that strongman is not the same as bodybuilding! You will need to combine upper and lower body exercises more frequently, to develop the skill and coordination required to move the whole body in a heavy exercise.