While not a team sport, every strongman benefits greatly from a group training day. Weekday training is often done under the supervision of a coach or with a committed training partner and Sundays are reserved for rest. Saturday is most often the choice for a like minded group of athletes to get together and practice their events and benefit from being pushed each other.
I have coached and been a part of one of the greatest strongman groups in the country. On any given Saturday we would have up to three Strongman Corporation pros, Women’s National Champions, five or six nationally qualified heavy and light weights and Division I and III college college athletes working on a variety of events together in small groups. Due to the ability, mindset and skill of this wide variety of competitors we would all benefit in different ways from the group atmosphere.
Writing a template for group day is nearly impossible. Every contest has a different set of events, each athlete has different skills that need to be improved and beginner and advanced athletes have different levels of conditioning affecting their performance. What you will find here are concepts and coaching strategies designed to make your group competitive, effective and cohesive.
Strategy I: Have a plan.
Walking in the door and saying “What do you guys want to work on today?” shows a lack of winner’s mentality. Plan out three or four events to work with that day. If a contest is in the near future (8 weeks or less) you should spend the bulk of your time on those events. If you are in the off-season plan to spend time on some of the things you dislike training or need to improve.
Strategy II: Keep something in the tank for game day.
Strongman training is demanding. It taxes all your energy systems, bones, muscles and tendons, tires and stones can damage the skin, and you are challenged mentally during many events. Many groups view every group day as a mini-contest maxing and competing on every event. This is way too much on a regular basis and will kill your progress quickly. On this program you are getting work on some of those events during the week. This means there is very little reason to train them at high intensity on group days; instead practice your technique and comfort level with them.
As you draw within three weeks of your contest you might use your last two Saturdays to do a contest run through at competition weight but still hold back 10%. Keep one rep in the bag on your work sets for contest day.
Example: You have a 150lb log for reps in an upcoming contest. Your template has you pressing the log one day a week for low reps and clean & pressing it for higher reps during the week. You have consistently hit a 150 log for 6 reps in previous contests. You have a goal of 7 for the next event. For 6 weeks prior to the event use Saturday to improve your rhythm on the log making flawless sets of 4 then 5 in under 40 seconds. Three weeks prior to the event attempt to make 6 in 50 seconds. Avoid the temptation to go for 7. Two weeks out attempt to get 6 in 45 seconds. If the template is working for you, this should be no issue at all.
Strategy III: Get in shape!
Sled drags and prowler pushes may kill you while you do them but you recover very quickly from them due to little or no eccentric contraction during the lift. Anaerobically conditioned athletes will recover more quickly between events and help you from gassing during difficult contests. Add three or four sets in at the end of a group session with little rest in between them.
Strategy IV: Hire a coach or have an excellent team leader.
Every dog pack needs a lead dog that sets the pace and tempo for the group. That person should be a leader in every aspect of the word. It will help everyone involved. They should be the first one there and the group should thank them and the gym by cleaning up all equipment after and leaving the place nicer than they found it. The leader should educate and encourage all members who are dedicated to the group. It helps to be the best at the sport as well but not mandatory. If the leader isn’t the best they should encourage the group to chase the best participant on the events.
Strategy V: Have fun, this sport pays off more than it costs.
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. Images courtesy Richard Stout.
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.