Mitchell Hooper Breaks Down Strongman Nutrition; Programming for Maximal Strength and Muscular Endurance

Strongman athletes train movements not muscles.

After winning the 2023 Arnold Strongman Classic to cap off a historic rookie season, Mitchell Hooper is preparing for his second appearance at the World’s Strongest Man (WSM) contest. The 2023 edition of the most coveted contest in the sport will occur on April 19-23, 2023, in Myrtle Beach, SC. Hooper will attempt to improve upon his eighth-place finish in 2022.

However, training for WSM doesn’t mean Hooper is taking time away from sharing his expertise with his 17,000-plus YouTube subscribers. The elite strongman published videos and March 8 and March 15, 2023, discussing how to program training and nutrition for strongman athletes. Check out the first video below:

[Related: Evan Singleton’s Tips for Aspiring Strongman Athletes]

Despite only getting into competitive strongman three years ago, Hooper attributes his blazingly fast success to his athletic and educational background. Not only has he implemented programming to great effect off that athletic baseline, but his intellectual approach to the sport separates him from much of his top-tier competition.
 

When it comes to events, I approach it more from my mechanics than…any other strongman.

Training and recovery go hand-in-hand. As training ramps up, recovery must be sufficient to compensate for that increased intensity. A deficiency in recovery combined with intense training increases the likelihood of injury.

[Many] believe strength sports to be inherently dangerous. They actually [have] lowest incidence of injury compared to every other sport.

The reason for the lower rate of injury, according to Hooper, is due to fewer variables during competition. A log lift, for example, is “dead weight,” meaning that the goal of lapping and pressing a log overhead doesn’t have unknown variables like other players on a field to account for.

Nutrition

Hooper breaks down the nutrition for strongman into two categories: macronutrients and micronutrients. The former consists of fats, carbs, and protein. Since every event in strongman rarely lasts longer than 75 seconds, short bursts of energy are rewarded; therefore, carbohydrates are the primary fuel source after five seconds. The first five seconds of energy are provided by creatine.

Every single person in strength sports should take five to 10 grams of creatine per day.

Protein is mainly for muscle recovery, and fats are “used to keep joints healthy.” When cutting weight, it’s a trap to cut carbs for extended periods. Through the absorption of macronutrients, the body receives micronutrients (i.e., vitamins and minerals) from foods like meats, fruits, and veggies. Without micronutrients, the body will not utilize the energy provided by macronutrients optimally.

This is why most diets should consist of whole foods rather than only protein shakes or the like. If there is a lack of meat, fruits, or vegetables in one’s diet, Hooper recommends a multivitamin to offset the deficiency.

Editor’s Note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. When starting a new training regimen and/or diet, it is always a good idea to consult with a trusted medical professional. We are not a medical resource. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. They are not substitutes for consulting a qualified medical professional.

[Related: Brian Shaw to Compete in His Final World’s Strongest Man Contest in 2023]

Program for the Specific Contest

Hooper analyzes if the events test one of two areas: maximal strength or muscular endurance. This informs programming for strongman contest. If an athlete can’t move a weight that an event calls for, such as a log or an Atlas Stone, they are unlikely to score any points. If an athlete does not have the muscular endurance to score fast times in events like yoke walks, loading races, or events for reps, they will similarly score poorly.

For example, the 2023 WSM events consist of the following and their categorization as maximal strength or muscular endurance:

2023 World’s Strongest Man — Qualifying

  • Event One — Loading Race — Muscular Endurance
  • Event Two — Deadlift Machine — Muscular Endurance
  • Event Three — Log Ladder — Muscular Endurance
  • Event Four — Conan’s Wheel — Muscular Endurance
  • Event Five — Kettlebell Toss — Maximal Strength
  • Event Six — Stone Off — Muscular Endurance

2023 World’s Strongest Man — Final

  • Event One — Fingal’s Fingers — Muscular Endurance
  • Event Two — KNAACK Deadlift — Muscular Endurance
  • Event Three — Reign Shield Carry — Muscular Endurance
  • Event Four — Max Dumbbell — Maximal Strength
  • Event Five — Vehicle Pull — Muscular Endurance
  • Event Six — Atlas Stones — Muscular Endurance

Given the spread of the events, programming to improve muscular endurance is likely more beneficial than training for maximal strength for the 2023 WSM contest. Strength training will be frequent when programming a competition like this until approximately five weeks before the contest. At that point, it will still be incorporated but taper off as competition day approaches.

Training for muscular endurance follows the opposite trajectory. It will be the focus of infrequently training when starting a program but will increase gradually as the contest nears. While it changes individually, strength training usually falls in a one- to five-rep range, while training for muscular endurance is six or more reps.

[Related: Here Are the 2023 Europe’s Strongest Man Events]

Weekly Programming

Movement patterns should be prioritized when deciding how to structure training each week during contest prep. Those patterns are based on what the contest’s events call for. At the 2023 WSM, the Deadlift Machine and Kettlebell Toss in Qualifying call for training a hinge. The Log Ladder calls for training an overhead press. The Loading Race calls for training carries. The two outlier movement patterns are squatting and pulling.

When deciding which days to train, Hooper mentioned that total weekly volume is the metric that matters. Training three days in a row and four days off is just as likely to lead to burnout as training every other day if the total weekly training volume is equal.

Strongman training is not like bodybuilding training.

We’re not looking at muscles, we’re looking at movements. We’re not trying to recover muscles, we’re trying to recover nervous system.

Hooper suggests progressing in weight by two to five percent every week is the range to target. Hooper’s three pillars for recovery are optimizing sleep, nutrition, and stress. For improved sleep, Hooper recommends not going to bed with your phone, sleeping where it’s dark and cold, and having a bedtime and wake time stay consistent each night and each morning.

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Featured image: @mitchellhooper on Instagram