Rep Ranges for Strongman: How to Train for Speed, Strength, and Endurance

A great program will set the foundation for success in any sport. One method may work great for your friend while you experience less than spectacular results. When a coach writes down their training plan for you, they are giving life to a theory through a long, applied mathematical equation. For most individuals, basic theory will produce desired outcomes if followed correctly. By using different ranges of repetitions, a coach can get different outcomes via the same exercises.

A squat can be used to build strength, power, and mass just by employing different poundages and rep schemes. I have had interaction with many novice and intermediate athletes who did not understand how the specificity of work affected their performance. By exploring how these ranges interact with body can give you more insight as to how to effectively incorporate them in your routine.

The ultimate goal of a strongman resistance program is (most often) an increase in base strength. Over a 12 week cycle the athlete may desire to see the following changes:

  • An increase in the log clean and press from 300 to 310 pounds.
  • An increase in the deadlift maximum from 600 to 625
  • An improvement in the squat from 300 for a single to 325

All these goals ask the body to have a higher limit strength, but keep in mind that may only help your maximum, so you may also want to see the following:

  • Increasing from five stone loads of 300 pounds in sixty seconds to 7.
  • Flipping a tire 10 times in a minute beating your current best of 8.

Many athletes are also looking to increase muscle size during a training cycle as well. For our purposes let’s try and add five pounds of muscle over a training cycle such as this. Remember that as your strength increases reps at lighter weights will become easier so getting bigger and stronger will have the side effect of easier endurance. Since our top priority is strength, we will begin our examination here.

There is now way around it, to get strong you must go heavy. The body reacts to near maximal load exertion by increasing the ability of the muscle to move the resistance. It does not lead to bigger muscles, but ones that are better coordinated to move big weights. These are done with 85 to 95% of a maximum loads and done for one to three repetitions. More weight than that often compromises form; a key to truly getting stronger. Keep in mind that maximum rep in a contest should not be a guess or a do whatever it takes to make situation. It is a clean, well practiced skill that is replicable with proper peaking. In the aforementioned exercises, programing three to five sets per session at one to three reps would be the proper way to up you limit here.

Maximal strength has a cousin here, and it goes by the name of power. The limit of your absolute strength does not account for time. A lifter can grind for as long as necessary to get the weight from A to B. This costs the body a large amount of energy and that can be fixed by adding some power reps to the athletes training. Working in the 3-5 rep range with 75 to 80 % of maximum with an effort on explosiveness will help the athlete to up their power. Consider the difference between a strict overhead press and a push jerk. One will take a few seconds to complete while the other is over instantly. In the dynamic sport of strongman, being fast matters so it is helpful to increase your power to compliment your strength. A good mix in the offseason would be 50 percent of your work coming from strength building work and 25 percent coming from power work.

This will leave us with plenty (25 percent) of space left for endurance work of eight to 15 repetitions per set. The great thing about working in this zone is that it is also an effective muscle builder as well. Since strongman is not always a maximal strength contest you must be ready to work at a high anaerobic capacity. A weight is often chosen for an event that will be performed for a one minute maximum. A strong athlete will be able to easily do many reps with a light weight, but the resistance chosen is often close to 75 percent of the average maximum of participants, so you must have muscles and a cardiovascular system up to the task of supplying muscles with energy and working through the lactate build up in the muscle. This burning sensation can cause athletes to quit early, especially if their lungs can’t keep up.

Take a look at the following video from Pro Matt Mills:

Here he shows us incredible endurance, and high limit strength through a 600 pound deadlift for reps. Not only will something of this nature build you ability to work hard and fast but can also help pack on mass over the entire body.

Taking a few rep sets at the end of a session is a great idea, especially closer to contest time. Ideally you use the offseason for building mostly strength and power but as you draw closer to a major event you put more time in working the endurance. Focus on the exercises here that are often tested for reps like the overhead presses, deadlifts, tire flips, and stones. Sets of 10 here will not only increase your capacity to perform these lifts faster and better but can help pack on the mass as well. If you feel you need extra mass training stick to exercises that will compliment the events. Things like high incline chest press, pull ups, and (yes you guessed it ) squats are your better choices.

Though a well conceived pattern of rep ranges you can make constant improvements in your game. Bigger faster and stronger all have a pattern of numbers associated with them. Pick the right ones and keep moving forward with your improvements! For an in depth program check out this 12 week program I designed here.

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Featured image: Michele Wozniak