Designing a Strongman Split

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Designing a Strongman Split

Post  Admin on Tue Jun 08, 2010 1:48 am

This is how to design a Strongman training split that will emphasize building your deadlift strength, overhead lifting and any other strongman event. A common question among athletes who are relatively new to strongman is, “How should I train for a Strongman contest?” I will answer that and many more questions in this article.

In some ways, designing a strongman training split is very similar to designing a training split for bodybuilding or powerlifting. The first thing to do is to decide how many days per week you can train.
You need to consider what your schedule is like so that you decide on a routine that is realistic. Sure, it would be great to train everyday, but when you have a full-time job, a family, and a host of other responsibilities, you probably won’t be able to maintain that schedule for long before you begin to miss workouts.

Another thing to consider when you are determining how often to do strongman training, is how much can your body handle without overtraining? There is no point in training beyond the point of recovery. I have heard Jesse Marunde say that he trains everyday, and people constantly marvel about Mariusz Pudzianowski and his ability to train constantly at a high level. Jouko Ahola was rumored to train events all the time, although I have also read that he prefers to split his strongman training up over 4 days a week. All of these guys train more than most people can, because they are full-time athletes and they have an amazing ability to recover quickly between workouts.

Most people should be able to train around 4 days per week. I usually train 3 or 4 days per week, depending upon what kind of competition I have coming up. My upper body recovers pretty quickly, but my lower back usually can’t handle being trained more than once a week for very long. One reason for this is that I tend to go all out in my strongman training, and that takes a little longer to recover from. You can train more frequently if your training is less intense, but I question whether you can do well in strongman without very intense training.

Let’s assume that you are going to train 4 days per week. We will set up a strongman training split that will allow you to train your body for Strongman competition. The event training and the emphasis can be altered for specific contests, and to work on weak areas, but this split will provide a good base before specialization.

Monday- Start your strongman training with some shoulder presses. You can choose between a variety of barbell and dumbbell presses, and even some machine presses from time to time. Do around 4 or 5 sets of 8 to 12 reps to build up your shoulders. After shoulders, move on to some movements for the lats. This is important so that you will be better able to lift heavy stones and do any arm over arm pull. You can rotate between a variety of rows and pulldowns or chins.
On these exercises you should do around 4 or 5 sets of 8 to 12 reps again. Next is some work for your triceps. Choose a basic, heavy movement like JM presses, skull crushers, or close grip benches and do 4 sets of 6 to 10 reps. Finish things off with some heavy biceps work. I know a lot of lifters think biceps work is just for bodybuilders, but if you want to be a Strongman, you need strong arms to pull on ropes, squeeze stones and flip tires. More than one powerlifter has tried to make the switch to Strongman training and torn their biceps because of the lack of biceps work in most powerlifting workouts. For biceps, you should do something basic like barbell or dumbbell curls. You can rotate hammer Curls or do curls with a strongman log as well. Do 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps on these. Magnus ver Magnusson has said that hammer curls will help your stone lifting events.

Tuesday- As a former powerlifter and a top professional strongman now, Karl Gillingham knows the importance of the squat and deadlift in strongman training. On this day you will do some form of Deadlift and Squat each week. For example, on one week you might squat heavy for several sets of 5 repetitions or less followed by stiff-legged deadlifts for 4 sets of 10. The next week you might deadlift heavy for several sets of 3 repetitions or less followed by 3 sets of 12 to 20 reps in the squat. Obviously, there are many other variations to these exercises, but the idea is to do one heavy and one for reps, and then rotate the order each week. Core strength is vital to your ability to squat and deadlift heavy weights, so you will need to train your abs on this day. Make sure to do some heavy ab work like side bends, weighted sit-ups or crunches, etc. You also need an iron grip in strongman, so today is the day to work your grip hard. Wrist rollers, grippers, thick bars and so on should be the staples for your grip training.

Thursday- Start with an overhead event such as the log lift or axle press. Make sure to clean each rep until it is too heavy, and then use your favorite alternate method for getting the weight to your shoulders. Most of the time you should do this exercise for heavy singles, unless you are preparing for a contest in which the most reps wins. Even in that case, it still helps to build up your maximum strength by doing singles at least some of the time. Do about 5 near max singles. Follow that up by doing some work for your traps. Heavy barbell shrugs are great, or you can substitute high pulls. Do about 4 sets of 10 reps for these. Today is another great time to get some arm work in, so follow the same protocol as you did on Monday, but use different exercises than you did earlier in the week.

Saturday- Today is your event day. Since you already did your overhead event for the week on Thursday, you can focus on other events on Saturday. You should not try to do every event each Saturday, but try to make sure you do something that works each aspect of strength.
For example, you will need to perform a farmers walk or super yoke at some time, and nothing can prepare you for walking with weight other than just doing it. Whether it is a farmers walk, super yoke, or just carrying a keg or stone, make sure that you practice walking with weight. Do an event that taxes your back, like the tire flip or the stones, but don’t do too many. No more than two, and just one might be better. You will need to practice dragging and pulling sleds or vehicles also. Make sure you limit your total events to 4 or 5 at the most on Saturday. Of course, you need to work on your event skills, but if you overdo your event day, you will quickly become over trained and start losing the strength you already have. Like I mentioned before, rotate your exercises and events so that you don’t become stale, and so that you don’t try to do all of them each week.

If you follow this simple guide for designing your strongman training split, you will be ready to compete successfully in no time. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to get good quality sleep so that your body can recover and grow. Good luck with your training, and I will see you out there!


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