Strongman Training: Find Your Strength

Are you looking to get a lean and chiselled physique? Are you getting frustrated because you are not seeing results, even though you have tried everything from bootcamp to barre to body pump? If so, this article is for you. I have discovered a revolutionary method of training which has helped me get faster, stronger, and leaner than I have ever felt before. Let me introduce you to the concept of ‘modified strongman training’.

“What is ‘strongman training’?” you might ask with a hint of scepticism in your voice.

Images of giant and bulky men may conjour up in your imagination, such as Ser Gregor (alias ‘The Mountain’) from Game of Thrones. Definitely not a look you would like to sport!

This might sound controversial, however, this is exactly what I am suggesting – borrow some training techniques from The Mountain, played by actor Hafthor Bjornsson, who also happens to be an Icelandic strongman champion.  Stay with me a little longer – I promise it will all make sense.

Strongman training is not the type of training you will see in a typical gym. Modified strongman training evolved from traditional strongman training to condition the body.  As such, it encompasses many of the disciplines used in strongman competitions. I have found it to be a fantastic ‘strength cocktail’ workout which has helped me improve different dimensions of my strength, such as static strength, strength endurance, maximal strength, grip strength whilst giving me a great cardiovascular workout at the same time. What’s not to like?

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I completely appreciate that many women are unsure about working with heavy weights, because they are afraid of getting big, and looking ‘manly’. However, the truth is that women do not have the same hormone profile as men, and therefore they cannot gain enough lean mass to look too bulky. In fact, it takes strongman competitors like Hafthor Bjornsson tremendous effort to look that muscular and big. To start with, these people are at the highest level of their sport and need to weigh around 300 pounds to even qualify to enter! So, unless you are prepared to train for 3 hours a day in the gym and to consume about 10,000 calories a day (roughly 4 times the recommended amount), I would safely say that the chances of you turning into Hafthor’s twin sister are quite slim.

So what does a typical ‘modified strongman training’ session involve? Firstly, be prepared to push yourself hard both physically and mentally. You need to work as hard as possible, and lift as heavy as you can, in order to get the most out of the session. The good news though is that there is absolutely no need to spend hours doing strongman training – because it is so intense and it works the whole body, just half an hour in one go can be quite impactful.

Here are some staple strongman training moves, to give you a flavour of what you can expect:-

  • Picking up and moving heavy objects over longer distances, quickly – for example, shouldering ‘atlas stones’ (or sandbags/slam balls);
  • Loaded carries or farmers walk – for example, using a trap bar/beer keg/heavy kettlebells or dumbbells;
  • Isometric holds – keeping still whilst holding a heavy kettlebell or dumbbell, to improve grip and static strength;
  • Pushing something heavy – such as a weighted prowler;
  • Lifting heavy objects – such as flipping giant truck tyres;
  • Deadlifts – with a log tube;
  • Pressing – such as performing ‘clean and press’ with a log tube or big keg;
  • Pulling/dragging something heavy – for example, a weighted sled;
  • Lunging –  whilst holding a sand filled keg over your head;
  • Squatting – whilst hugging a big sandbag;
  • Throwing heavy objects – such as slam balls;
  • Dynamic chopping – for example, hitting a giant tyre with a heavy sledge hammer.

…and many more. There are no set rules what a workout session should look like, you can get as creative as you like, and have fun mixing up the different objects. All I can say that it is always an epic feeling to arrive in the office after a sweaty early morning strongman session, having flipped and hammered on some heavy truck tyres! It kind of makes you feel invincible, ready to face anything.

As illustrated through the above exercises, modified strongman training uses functional and primal strength movement patterns which you can use in everyday life. Think about pushing a dead car off the road, carrying heavy shopping bags, chopping up some wood for the wood burning stove, bending down and lifting up a heavy suitcase onto the check-in belt at the airport, and so on.

Another interesting thing to note is that you use ‘real’ and varied objects during the sessions – some of them may even be awkwardly shaped, non-uniform objects. I can guarantee you that these will challenge your body in ways you have never experienced before. These odd objects will provide new stimulus and help you grow stronger as a result. Because of this, things will never get boring during a strongman session!

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If you have not done any form of strongman training before, here are some tips for getting started (whether done at a group class, or as a home workout):-

  • The workout can be done with minimal, low-tech, and relatively cheaply sourced kit – your local scrap yard will almost certainly have some hidden treasures for your home gym, such as truck tyres, old barrels, beer kegs and so on.
  • Try to master the key moves and techniques first – have someone coach you through the moves and give feedback on your technique.
  • If you are new to lifting, start with lighter objects, then move up slowly, especially if you have back issues – just be sensible and listen to your body; it is not worth risking an injury.
  • The key thing is going heavy during the sessions, but remember that good technique comes before speed.
  • This type of workout is best done outdoors, but works anywhere. The world is your playground!
  • Be mindful of who else is around you, if you are participating in group session. The goal is to hit the tyre with the hammer and not someone else’s skull!

I hope this article has inspired you to give modified strongman training a go. The great thing is that I have not only benefitted from strength training on a physical level, but also mentally. It has been a great confidence booster in all areas of my life – a very nice side effect, if you ask me!

If you have enjoyed this article and would like to connect with me, please visit my blog on www.trainstrongtolivestrong.com and follow me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/trainstrongblog) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/train_strong_to_live_strong). My mission as a fitness blogger is to help people become strong and grow into the best version of themselves, inside-out, no matter what life throws at them or what they choose to throw themselves into.

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