How to Fix Your Overhead Lockout in Strongman

Giant traps, huge glutes, and freaky shoulders can indicate a strong, powerful lifter. When the rubber meets the road in a contest, looks are out the window and the athlete who has a complete game will rise to the top. Far too often strongmen will focus on just the big movements and neglect the detail work. Making sure you possess a complete game is the mark of a true champion. I recently penned an article about fixing the grip, now we take a look at maintaining balance with weight overhead.

Why the Lockout Is Hard

Log, axel, dumbbell; all tests of full body strength and all unique in their technique. These lifts require the most balance because the movement is only complete when the object is as far away from the body as possible. Far too often athletes cannot maintain control at the lockout and it costs them reps. If you can not completely control your lockout for at least once second, you really can’t lift what you think you can. With a better approach you can fix that.

Actually Lock Out Your Training Reps

When people post videos of a training session and they hit multiple repetitions on an implement, I will often sit and say to myself: “No rep, no rep, no rep.” Strongman training is not bodybuilding. Putting the weight over your head for a microsecond is not a finished lift. Every rep of every work set you do should be done in a way that would satisfy a contest judge:

  • Feet together
  • Eyes forward (to make eye contact with the judge)
  • No moving or squirming
  • A full pause at the top before the weight is lowered

Simply doing this during every strength building session will stop bad habits in a contest and help you have a more stable press.

Chains on the Bar

Chains and bands on a bar are a technique stolen from powerlifting and a huge addition to your game. While adding chains can help your overhead, never ever use bands. Bands can not only drastically change the overhead bar path but could seriously injure you. With the implement overhead, the last thing you want is an increase of downward bar speed in case of a missed lift.

By adding the swinging weight of a chain, all of your stabilizer muscles will be recruited and get some necessary work. Start out with light chains and practice your strict press and lockout. Once you get the feel you can really kick up your full body balance by doing an overhead walk with chains on the bar.

  • Clean and press the bar with the chains on it
  • Hold the lockout while walking forward
  • Carefully lower the weight at the end or;
  • Make a slow and controlled turn and walk back to start

The swing of the chains will make an incredible impact on every muscle group in your body. It is fantastic for your upper back and erectors. Just remember to walk lightly and under control and always have a plan to bail if something goes wrong.

Isometric Holds

A very simple technique to work your fiber endurance and hit rarely recruited muscles is a front or side hold for time. You have seen it in contests so the setup is similar. Simply hold a weight(s) in the Iron Cross position or in front of you as long as you can. Fight the fatigue and dig deep to make your press muscles work under a failure situation. This is a safe and effective way to finish a press session and get your muscles working in ways they are often neglected.

It doesn’t matter what you get overhead if you can’t control it. Be confident in attempting new PRs if you have the core and pressing muscles to handle the strain. Don’t cheat your reps and take one more step forward on the road to success.

Featured image courtesy Michele Wozniak

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Weight training is in the blood of BarBend contributor Mike Gill. Learning how to lift as part of his conditioning for Jr. High School wrestling fueled a passion that has lasted now for 35 years. He has a background in all weight disciplines and has competed in Bodybuilding, Powerlifting and Weightlifting eventually finding his niche and turning professional in the sport of Strongman. Retired from competition, he now focuses on coaching and applying events from the most versatile weight discipline to other sports. His vast knowledge of Strongman has been highlighted in his work as a color commentator for live broadcasts of the Arnold World Championships, National Amateur Championships, World’s Strongest Man Over 40 and World’s Strongest Woman.Not limiting himself to just working with weights, Mike has used his decades of discipline to work as a life coach and speaker. Additionally he can often be seen in New York City as a stand up comic.He can be reached for coaching at Michaelgill100 [at] gmail.com, @prostrongman on Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, and on Facebook.