3 Unusual Strongman Assistance Exercises You SHOULD Be Doing

I’m a big believer in the basics. The way I see it, an athlete will get 80% of their results from a few key movements. The squat, the overhead press, and the deadlift will build the strength that they need to compete in the sport. Mix in a few events, and you have a well rounded program. For those that have holes in their game, though, some specific fixes can come in handy. I’ve had the pleasure to work with some amazing coaches across the country, and I have “borrowed” (One of my favorite sayings is “Everything I have stolen, I took from someone else.”) some really great ideas to handle specific problems. If you have an issue, one of these obscure exercises might help.

Inverted Kettlebell Hold

Issues addressed: Circus Dumbbell rack position, Grip

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This simple movement has the athlete hold a kettlebell upside down close to the rack. While not identical to where the DB would be, it engages the muscles in a similar fashion. It puts a tremendous amount of focus on the grip and the stabilizer muscles in the shoulder. The lat is also engaged in a position that is otherwise uncommon, helping you learn to build a more stable shelf. When you strengthen these key muscle groups and positions, you will have fewer issues balancing the DB in its place. This is important because most competitors have a hard time getting comfortable with the implement in the rack position and this makes hitting the press next to impossible.

I find doing this movement for timed holds works best. Using ⅓ of the weight you would for a press, try three sets of one minute. This may even highlight some weaknesses you weren’t even aware existed.

Pull-up to Sternum

Issues addressed: Stone and Sandbag picks,  Carries, Grip

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The easiest way to imagine how to do this is a body row on a smith machine and pull to the bottom of your rib cage. Now, just do it on a regular chin up bar. If there is a struggle with this make sure you know exactly where you are failing.

  • Can’t keep your plank? : weak back or hamstrings
  • Can’t pull all the way up? : weak lats or rear delts
  • No coordination? : exercise may be too advanced and you should switch to body rows

Plate Stack Rows

Issues addressed: Stone picks, Posterior chain

A video posted by Michael Gill (@prostrongman) on

There are two ways to do this movement. The simplest way is to stack a bunch of 45’s on a 25 lb plate and straddle them as you would a stone. Then simply lift them as you would a stone to at least the height of your knees. If you want extra security, you can put all the weight on the end of a bar (that you have removed from the bar) and then collar them down.

This is such a great way to work your stone picks without having to use a stone and get all tacked up. You can also do them in commercial gyms that don’t give you access to the correct equipment. I found these to be a great way to approach a new stone PR. I would do triples with the weight of the stone I was going to attempt. Keep in mind that it is easier to grab and not as wide as your stone, but works the muscles in the posterior chain in a similar fashion.

About the author

Michael Gill

Mike Gill is a retired 105kg professional strongman and currently a broadcaster for Strongman Corporation. He has a background in all weight disciplines and has competed in Bodybuilding, Powerlifting and Weightlifting with a lifetime best 252 kg total. He can be reached for coaching at Michaelgill100 [at] gmail.com, @prostrongman on Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, and on Facebook.