Strongman Training—Why?

by: Josh Bryant

Harry Walker, Green Beret, Executing a Real-World Tire Throw

Google “functional training” and you will see exercises that look straight out of a three-ring circus sideshow; at best, these bizarre exercises entertain the easily entertained but often they cause injuries.

So, what the hell does functional training really mean?

Functional training is something that transfers to real life needs, whether its hunting alligators in the cypress swamps of Florida with primitive weaponry, throwing hands for the last of the Peking duck at the Choctaw Casino, or playing D-1 ball.

Bottom line is there is nothing more functional than picking up shit and moving it.

This is strongman training!

Let’s look at three additional reasons strongman training benefits you.

Time Efficiency 

The beauty of strongman training is its simplicity, Olympic lifting often takes tedious years to learn under the supervision of a highly-qualified Soviet defect coach to acquire mediocre technique.

While strongman training, on the other hand, has a very small learning curve.  

A wildland firefighter, Green Beret, any other tactical athlete, or, hell, regular athletes, do not have the time to learn a sport i.e., Olympic Lifting, that is often more technical than their occupational demands or athletic demands faced on the field of play.  

Even if the athlete is willing and able to commit the requisite time to learn Olympic lifts, this time can be more efficiently used, unless the goal is Olympic lifting competition.  

Even at top tier division one football programs, athletes execute Olympic lifts with the technical precision of Dick Cheney on a duck hunt.

Juxtaposed to a high school JV athlete that can learn efficient technique in strongman movements in one session!

Strongman Training as Part of a Powerlifting Program

Grip Strength 

You will never see a strongman worth a hoot n’ hell with small forearms!

Strongman events themselves are extremely grip intensive and it is essential to be able to distribute a massive amount of force through your hands be it Turkish Oil Wrestling or badminton. 

Picking up sandbags, farmers walking with loads in the neighborhood of your 1 RM deadlift and performing various lifts and carries with abnormally large diameters to grip, requires a cock strong grip.

Grip strength will benefit any physical challenge you encounter.

An added benefit is increased grip strength is associated with increased life span and a higher cognitive function with aging.

Explosive Strength

The notion that the only way for athletes to build explosive triple extension strength (extension of the ankle, knees and hips) is with Olympic lifts is antiquated, at best, and dangerous at worst!

Besides gung-ho Olympic lifting aficionados pushing their agendas to major certification bodies, it simply comes down to coaches and athletes broadening their horizons.  In Plato’s allegory of the cave, those inside the cave have a myopic view seeing nothing outside of their surroundings.  Since the Olympic lifting agenda has been pushed, strength coaches often see nothing else.  To be your best you cannot operate in “the cave” and simply accept the status quo.

Besides the fact that studies show submaximal deadlifts (admittedly, not triple extension movements), have similar outputs to cleans in trained Olympic lifters, did you know it has been demonstrated that trap bar deadlift jumps yield greater output than cleans in average athletes?

Many strongman events require tripe extension with odd-shaped objects in a multi-planar environment.

Some strongman events that require triple extension, but are no means an exhaustive list:

·      Keg Throws
·      Keg Loads
·      Throw Weight Over bar
·      Sand Bag Loads
·      Tire Flips
·      Atlas Stones over bar
·      Atlas Stone Loading
·      Tire Flips
·      Real World Tire Throw
·      Any loading/throwing event

Olympic lifts benefit competitive Olympic lifters and elite athletes with personal coaches they work with on a daily basis, like many track and field athletes.  But, at the end of day, for most athletes, the Olympic lifts are too technically demanding, overrated for developing athletic power and build little size or strength.

As Bob Jodoin, strength coach and high decorated ISSA trainer says, “with stone lifting, you start with your knuckles on the ground and finish at triple extension.  The loads and leverages are different, however, and this plays well into the concept of dynamic, real-world training.  Good stone lifting emulates the perfect football tackle.” Adding to this, unlike an Olympic lift that requires a catch post triple extension, loading requires you after triple extension to push the object on top of a designated surface, a tire requires you to push it down after triple extension.

In the real world against an opponent, you have him on his heels, while you are in triple extension, will you drop to passive catch position or put the son of a bitch in the ground?

Grab the Strongman Encyclopedia 

Advanced Training Program with Strongman Movements