2020 World’s Strongest Man Oleksii Novikov Shares Pressing Tips With Martins Licis

The two World's Strongest Man champions logged a training session together — and it was productive.

The 2021 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) contest came to a close on June 20 in Sacramento, CA, and saw Tom Stoltman of Scotland raise the first-place trophy overhead. 2020 WSM winner Oleksii Novikov watched the Finals from the sidelines after an unfortunate tiebreaker eliminated him in the qualifying stage. Likewise, 2019 WSM champion Martins Licis was also watching from the sidelines as he was unable to compete for the second straight year due to injury. However, that doesn’t mean that either former champion started to slack in their training. In fact, they decided to train together at Licis’s “Wreck-It” Gym in El Segundo, CA.

Licis got a masterclass in proper heavy dumbbell technique from the Ukrainian, who holds the record for most reps done in 75 seconds with a 220-pound dumbbell. Despite Licis being a WSM champion known for impeccable lifting technique in even the most obscure lifts like the Steinborn squat and zombie squat, he had a lot to learn. Check out Novikov and Licis’s training session below, courtesy of Licis’s YouTube channel:

[Related: Strongman Peiman Maheripourehir Deadlifts 450 Kilograms (992.1 Pounds) Without a Suit]

Rack Position

Novikov immediately noticed flaws in Licis’s form, specifically with his rack position — when the heavy dumbbell sits on the traps after the initial clean. Licis held the dumbbell so that it was nearly parallel to the floor with his torso slightly bent to balance. in contrast, Novikov urged Licis to stand tall with the dumbbell racked upright — Novikov practically positions the dumbbell behind his head in the rack position, rather than next to it.

Novikov is more upright and almost pushes his dumbbell handle almost perpendicular to the floor.

This adjustment proved to be difficult for “The Dragon”. Licis noted how much more mobility it takes to remain relaxed with the dumbbell racked. The more he warmed up, though, the easier it became.


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[Related: Strongman Daniel Ashcroft (U80KG) Hits Monster Dumbbell World Record of 96.2 Kilograms]

No Arm, All Body

Novikov’s second tip was to complete the dumbbell press using the entire body, not just the shoulders and arms. Novikov performs the movement less as a press and more as a jerk. The same way a weightlifter will “jump” under the barbell during the jerk, Novikov “jumps” under the heavy dumbbell, placing more emphasis on the legs than the arm or shoulder.

Additionally, when the weight is locked out overhead, Novikov tells Licis that the shoulder should not be entirely responsible for stabilizing the weight — the legs should take on the brunt of that work. It seems strange to think that the legs can stabilize weight overhead, but Novikov shows Licis an exercise to acclimate to this cue.

With the dumbbell locked out overhead, Novikov takes several lateral steps to the left, then several steps to the right, and then perform a mini-squat. He squats just to the depth before his torso would have to lean forward. This exercise requires that the shoulder remain “packed” with the lat engaged while the base shifts. Thus, the legs lead and control the movement, not the shoulder.

The Champions Return

Licis has said he plans to return to competitive strongman at the Rogue Invitational on Oct. 29-31, 2021, which is the first time this event will feature strongman. Behind the scenes footage of Licis at the 2021 WSM contest revealed how hungry he is to get back into the competitive scene. Novikov, undoubtedly, intends to return to the 2022 WSM contest to reclaim his title. Novikov is also planning to compete in the 2021 Shaw Classic, set for August 27-28.

Both Novikov and Licis have experienced what it is like to stand atop the highest podium in the sport of strongman and aim to assume that position again. Sharing tips to help fix each others’ weaknesses proves that to be the best, one should train with the best.

Feature image: @martinslicis on Instagram