Safe Execution of Strongman Events

By: Josh Bryant

Josh Explains Strongman Training Safety 

Strongman training is lifting heavy, awkward objects and moving  them from point A to points B – whether that is from the ground to overhead, or from a designated start point to a finish point.

Strongman training helps SWAT team physical preparedness, the aging Mrs. Jones carry in grocery bags, the linebacker, and the local moonshiner that must quickly move stills in lieu of a spontaneous raid from the g’man.

Strongman training is tactical training and strongman training is functional training.

Remember, any time an activity goes from recreational to a competitive sport, the risk of injury increases.   In fact, in comparison with many other types of competitive sport, the risk of injury is exponentially greater with competitive strongman.  Even with light weight, a farmer’s walk executed in training requires that you deliberately pick up a weight with good form, then you slowly begin the walk, and only gradually do you accelerate your pace. For an advanced athlete to win a contest, a light farmer’s walk requires you to rip the implements off the floor and haul ass.  This can throw off positioning and greatly increase the chance of a fall.  

Now, remember, anything totally safe is totally useless!

Nonetheless, here are six things you can do in strongman training to minimize the risk of injury.  Non-competitors, athletes, tactical athletes, take note.

  • Deadlift Double Overhand. In strongman events, straps are allowed.  So, use them.  Straps allow you to grip the bar with a double overhand grip without losing your grip or having to use a hook grip.  With an over under grip, the most common serious injury is a biceps tear.  Avoid this injury by going double overhead.  You will also decrease your chances of other injuries and developing asymmetries. 
  • Never Flip a Wet Tire. Water on rubber makes the tire slippery.  Not only can this increase the probability of a biceps tear, but the tire can fall on you or you can fall.  In the same way someone trying to stay sober should keep away from honky tonk bars, you should avoid wet tires.
  • Pay Attention to Friction. Always pay attention to friction.  This means that you should be aware of the surface on which you are training and the surface of the implements you are lifting. If a surface is slippery and it seems you may fall, walk away and live to fight another day.  Or, if it is 95 percent humidity and 95 degrees outside and you are sweating like a woman of ill repute in a small town church, avoid training with a wet, slippery, plate or stone.
  • Technique over Speed. There is a time and a place where a competitor needs to haul ass to win an event, but, in training, the focus needs to be on precise deliberate execution rather than mindlessly moving the implement from point A to point B as fast as possible.  As technique improves, so will your speed.  Remember what they say on the range: “Slow is smooth.  Smooth is fast.”
  • Technical Failure is Failure. When your technique breaks down, stop the set.  In training, technical failure is failure.  So, stop.  Going to failure and beyond may cause a level of fatigue from which it is difficult to recover.  It also greatly increases the chance of injury.
  • Progress Slowly. In powerlifting, it is unlikely to go from a 400-pound to a 600-pound bench press in one session.  With a yoke, it can happen much easier.  Yet, do not progress beyond 10 percent (which is a huge increase) each session, no matter how good you feel.

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