November 09, 2020 11 min read
We’ve all seen him. We’ve all wanted to be him. A man with some chains and an airplane, dragging across the tarmac. A bar with so much weight that it’s screaming for mercy being flung into the air. Dump truck tires tossing and turning surrounded by scrutinizing judges and audiences paralyzed in awe of one man’s raw strength.
How are you ever going to do that? What does it take to be up on stage with some of the world’s strongest men? Get ready to train your endurance, speed, strength, and skill, you’re going to need to dial in your diet and learn how to turn mass into movement. Training for a strongman competition isn’t easy, but it’s straightforward, and if you’re dedicated, careful, and smart you’ll be on your way to impressive feats that you can feel proud of.
Strongman competitions are a modern marriage of three different origins. We can look at powerlifting, circus strongmen, and the Scottish Highland Games. These three events all have competition, showmanship, and frightening feats of strength in common. After hundreds of years, and finally meeting in the American melting pot, they’ve simmered into the beautiful stew of the modern Strongman Competition.
The Sottish Highland games are said to have started during the time of King Malcom III when he summoned his men to race each other up Creag Choinnich, a hill outside of Braemar. Today the crest of that hill gives you a beautiful look at some of Scottland’s topography. The hill may not be especially tall, but it’s steep and the topology isn’t uniform or particularly simple to traverse.
This early challenge was said to have been between the king’s strongest men, a document from1703 hints that it might not have only been about raw strength as it claims that competitors were encouraged to bring their swords and firearms. It sounds like music, combat, and feats of speed and strength were celebrated during this time.
The Olympics began in ancient Greece. They took place in a city called Olympia as a festival celebrating Zeus. During the heyday of the Olympics, a truce was imposed so athletes could travel from all over to participate, and winning a wreath would bring home political clout for your city-states. The Olympics used to be a way for places to claim and exert political power in the Greek city-states. The ancient Greek Olympic games were also deeply tied to their religious practice. Needless to say that competing in these games was an honor, and incredibly prestigious.
Finally, the circus strongman might not sound very glamorous today, but these people in the nineteenth century were powerful showmen. They would do flashy exercises like the bent press, which entailed a lot of contortion, power, and balance, they would snap chains with their bare hands, and bend steel. Seeing a strongman when the circus was a primary form of opulent and unique entertainment was like seeing Superman fall from the sky. There was nothing else like these men. They were rare and powerful and well trained.
That all brings us to today. Competing in a strongman competition is like participating in the history of the world. The prestige of the Olympics, the showmanship of the nineteenth-century circus, and the pride of the king’s strongest men all pumps through the modern strongman competition. When you train for this, you’re training to become something more powerful than your forefathers could have ever dreamed up, and you’re taking part in some of the most time-honored traditions.
There’s no standard format for a strongman competition. No two competitions are going to be exactly the same, and that sounds like it would be impossible to prepare for one, right? But if you understand what they’re all trying to judge, then all you need to do is figure out a training routine that will sculpt your body into a strongman competing machine.
Let’s look at the things that strongman competitions tend to have in common, and from there it’ll be pretty easy to see where you should focus your efforts.
If no two strongman competitions are the same, and the events you’ll be taking part in are so different from anything you’ll be encountering in the gym, then what should you even be training? Not everyone looking to take part in these will have access to a yoke, or a ball massive enough to make the titans weak in the knees.
Looking over common strongman events will give us the answer. These events don’t ask you to isolate a muscle group, and they’re not looking to test the limits of a single aspect of your strength. Strongman competitions are trying to tease out every single ounce of power in your body. You’ll need to focus on your entire body, build on all of your muscles, and master your endurance.
Your body is a machine that’s constantly combining several different muscles in a myriad of ways to pull off all manners of motion. If you train yourself in a way that focuses on your entire body, then when it comes time to really strut your stuff, you’ll have no problem tackling anything thrown in your direction. That means simple exercises are going to be just as good as anything fancy. When it comes to building your base strength.
Anybody can start training for a strongman competition. Getting started means you need a starting point, and you might as well start at the beginning, right?
As your training becomes a little more intense, you should look into these exercises to split more intense focus on your upper and lower body. If you can blast these muscles even more than your beginner loads, you’ll find yourself excelling at strongman events.
As you start entering the advanced events, you might want to look at a Crossfit gym or some other place you can get access to the equipment you’ve grown accustomed to seeing at your events. Eventually, you’re going to want to grow intimately familiar with the different grips and combinations of efforts that strongman competitions demand from you.
You’ve probably heard more than once that mass moves mass. This is absolutely true. If you’re going to be manhandling this kind of weight and trotting around the field, then you better have to muscle to do it.
That muscle doesn’t come from nowhere. This is elementary, you hear it all the time, right? “ You are what you eat.” If you’re going to train for a strongman competition, and you’re not eating then you’re wasting your time. Your muscles grow almost out of spite. You hit the gym and push them past their limits, and during your recovery days, your body is rebuilding torn tissue, literally taking your nutrients and turning into muscle that you use to throw around even more weight.
Brain Shaw has several World’s Strongest Man wins under his sizable lifting belt. His diet is probably around 12,000 calories a day, and he’s burning those and using them all for more muscle. If Brian can eat all of that, then you can probably stand to beef up your diet too.
Eat eat eat. You want lean proteins, low glycaemic carbs, vegetables, and a touch of fat. Make sure to hydrate your body, you’re basically made out of water and protein, and without water, you’re going to be in intense discomfort, especially after a hard workout. When you start training for strongman competitions, you’ll see that your hunger will spike almost immediately. That’s your body begging you for nutrients. Get yourself a meal plan so you aren’t accidentally skipping crucial parts of your diet, and you’ll be packing on muscle almost as fast as you break it down.
Strongman competitions, by their very nature, are pretty extreme. They all ask you to push yourself past the limits of what most people will be achieving. If you’ve trained yourself evenly, and your form is up to snuff, then you’ll be coming out of the other side of your first competition unscathed. If you’re serious about this, then you need to know the common injuries, and what you can do to avoid them.
Strongman competitions have an incredible history or pride, and mind bending athleticism. These people throughout history have been the strongest and the best at what they do. There aren’t many places in the modern world where you will be called to prove how strong you are, but if you find them, then you’re sure to be participating in something incredible. Your max reps on contest day are a testament to the bodybuilding you’ve poured hours and hours into.
Records are set and broken all over the place in this world and adding supplements to your diet will help you achieve yours.. Strongmen are men that take pride in their bodies and spend a great deal of time carefully crafting a lifestyle that will allow them to break past the limits of what we once thought was possible. The ancient Greeks would tremble in the presence of a modern strongman competition, and by training yourself to take part in one, you’ll be cementing yourself in history as a person more powerful than most that have ever lived.