The Strongman Circuit Workout

By Josh Bryant  

Author, Josh Bryant, doing farmer’s walk at legendary Metroflex Gym in Arlington, Tx.

Anyone familiar with strength sports can attest to the fact that professional strongman are light years ahead of heavyweight powerlifters when it comes to body composition. Do a quick Google search of Mariusz Pudzianowski or Derek Poundstone and you will see body composition that would make an off-season IFBB Pro proud but with a helluva lot more muscle. Why is this? The way they train! Strongman drills and strength-based circuits are one of the fastest ways to help you build real-world functional strength and boost your stock for bathing suit season! We are going to take a look at four conditioning-based strength movements that are going to take your physique and conditioning to the next level.

Kettlebell Swings The Russian influence in strength training goes far beyond celebratory vodka after a great workout! One of the greatest influences is kettlebell training. While I am not downplaying the effectiveness of complex cleaning and snatching exercises, let’s go with the “keep it simple, stupid” (KISS) philosophy, by sticking to the swing.  From a strength-training standpoint, it is tough to beat the swing for working the posterior chain and hip extension.  From a learning standpoint—the learning curve is virtually nonexistent. For the conditioning workout, do a Tabata protocol by doing eight sets of kettlebell swings, accomplishing as many reps as possible in 20 seconds, resting 10 seconds and repeating this protocol for eight times, total.  As painful as this, remember you can do anything for four minutes and the results are worth it.

Farmer’s Walk Besides being an awesome grip workout, the farmer’s walk hammers the posterior chain and builds traps that make Silver Back’s envious.  Let’s not forget about the core stability being worked and the functionality of picking something up heavy and hauling ass. No farmer’s walk implements—no problem!  You can use dumbbells or short barbells. For the conditioning workout, farmer’s walk 100 feet as fast possible, rest 45 seconds and repeat the sequence until eight sets have been completed or ten minutes passes—whatever comes first. If your grip gives out, throw on straps and keep on trucking!

Heavy Bag Training Hitting the heavy bag is not traditionally thought of as strength training. However, if you are repeatedly hitting a heavy bag with all the force you can muster, it is a form of strength training. Instead of pacing and throwing punches at fifty percent, we are going to go all out!  Throw as many punches (and kicks if you know how) in 20 seconds as possible.  No arm punches either, getting your entire body behind each blow. While this may not be the way to train for a USA Boxing sanctioned points match, it will have you ready to defend yourself at the gas station at 3 AM, we like to call it #gasstationready. For conditioning, hit the heavy bag as hard as possible for 20 seconds and then rest 20 seconds for 10 total rounds.  This will be the toughest six minutes of your life, as conditioning improves, throw harder and more often, DON’T ADD TIME!

Battle Ropes Battle ropes have been popping up at gyms like big hair and spandex did in the 1980s, fortunately, battle ropes can help you contrary to the 80’s fads. Battle rope training is a low-impact, metabolically taxing modality that works the grip, shoulders, arm, upper body and the core. What makes this more interesting is a few methods of performing primarily upper body cardiovascular training outside of arm cycle ergometers exist. For battle ropes, perform undulating waves with arms as vigorously as possible.  We will use the Tabata protocol of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off.

In Action Enough talk; let’s see what this looks like in action!   


Final Thoughts Each of these aforementioned workouts are great “finishers” to a taxing workout. Complete one workout per day and no more than three days per week. Instead of interminable days of long, slow cardio that makes you weaker, slower, and eats away at muscle, you now have a better option.   If you are in the Austin area come check out the FREE ISSA Strength & Hypertrophy seminar this Saturday Nov. 4th from 1-5 at Big Tex Gym, sign-up HERE.