If you’ve ever watched World’s Strongest Man on TV and thought it would be fun to try some of the exercises/events, this post is for you. Besides being a fun challenge, strongman events are a great way to strengthen muscles and tendons that don’t get much stimulation from typical gym exercises. There are a lot of strongman events to choose from, but the following four will give you the biggest bang for your buck.
- Deadlift – Strongmen/women build tremendously strong and muscular backs by training a variety of deadlifts. Conventional deadlifts, partial deadlifts (typically from 18” bar height), thick bar deadlifts, and side handle (e.g. trap bar) deadlifts are the most common, sometimes done for maximum weight and sometimes with a medium weight for maximum reps in 60 or 90 seconds. To build a back like a strongman, deadlift every week and mix it up by picking a different variation each time. Depending on your mood and energy level, either work up to a heavy set of 1-5 reps in good form, or just do one work set with 75-80% of your max for as many reps as possible in 60 seconds.
- Log Press – Lifting a log bar (large cylindrical implement) from the floor to overhead strengthens the entire upper body better than any other lift I can think of. Lifting the log to your shoulders works your back, biceps, forearms, and core. Pressing it overhead works the chest, shoulders, and triceps. If you drop it accidentally you’ll even work your skull (joke). If you’re following a bodybuilding split routine, your best bet is to train the log press on shoulder day. Use your preferred set/rep scheme and occasionally test your 1 rep max. Log press technique is hard to put into words, so check out the short video below to see how it’s done.
- Farmer’s Walk – Weight carries are a staple in the sport of strongman, and the farmer’s walk is probably the best and most famous of them. It will build your forearms, traps, core, and hips unlike any other exercise you can do in the gym. Farmer’s walks can be done using dumbbells, kettlebells, a trap bar, or preferably farmers walk handles. In any case it’s a relatively simple exercise to do – just pick up the handles by bending at the knees and hips while keeping the arms and back straight, and then walk, starting with small choppy steps and lengthening your stride as you get going. Warm up using a comfortable weight for a distance of 60 to 150 feet and work on your foot speed. Add weight and repeat. After a few sessions of getting used to the exercise, you should work up to a weight that’s herculean effort to carry for 60 feet. A weightlifting belt is recommended when going that heavy. By the time you set the bars down, your traps and forearms should be begging for mercy!
- Tire Flip – This is a fantastic exercise for working your hip drive (i.e. glutes & hamstrings) and your conditioning. As shown in the video, flip the tire by using your legs and hips to explosively drive your body forward into the tire. This is primarily a lower body exercise. Do not deadlift the tire using your back or try to use your biceps to curl the tire up, as that can cause injury. I recommend picking a tire that you can flip 12-15 times in row and work on adding a rep each workout or cutting down the time it takes to do a certain number of flips. Either way, you’ll find it’s a great exercise to get your heart rate up and a terrific excuse to bring your workout outside on a nice day.
As fun and effective as strongman events are, unfortunately most gyms don’t carry the equipment to do them. If you’re a member or visitor of Spring Hill Fitness, you’re in luck and can find the log bars and farmer’s walk bars in the small room by the back door, a dozen or so large tires out back, and a deadlift platform and various bars by the cross fitness area. Have fun and add some strongman flavor to your workouts. Bill Kazmier would approve!
Log press (2 minute vid):
Farmer’s walk (2 minute vid):
Proper tire flip (2 minute vid):