3 Performance Boosting Tips Strongman Athletes Forget

As a broadcaster, I have enjoyed the best seat in the house at all of the major strongman contests in the last two years. My job as the color man is to point out the interesting aspects of the action and talk about how the events should be performed. This has given me the opportunity to watch every rep of every event from some of the best athletes in the world. This, combined with 25 years of coaching experience, has improved my eye for what’s right and what’s less effective. Here are three very simple fixes competitors can make today that will easily improve their game.

1. The Press is an art form. Make certain you are starting it out right.

If you didn’t learn how to put weight over your head from a qualified coach, your dip probably sucks. Most athletes who lack techniques do not load their hips correctly for maximum power. Unfortunately, they slide the weight in front of their center of gravity and then lose all their ability to be explosive. This can be resolved by better understanding of weight placement and how to generate power.

Image: @mikejdewar

If your feel compromised in the dip and drive, odds are you are simply letting your knees slide forward and pulling your hips along with them. This is how you would shoot a free throw, not move massive weight (especially on a log that is difficult to keep close to the center of gravity). It would be better to get your weight on the outside of your feet and heels, thereby loading your hips. Now, instead of sliding the knees forward, drop your hips down, and push your knees slightly out. This should mimic how you squat. Your entire lower body will accept the load of the racked weight and most importantly the weight stays directly over your center of gravity.

Doing this without any weight a few times should have it instantly click in your head. You should feel more powerful and balanced and realize how this will transfer into more power under the bar. Just remember the law of diminishing returns; Don’t dip too deep! It’s only necessary to come down a few inches then explode your hips and rocket that weight skyward.

2. Breathing and comfort are key; don’t make it harder than it has to be.

Front carries can be an athlete’s worst nightmare. They not only exhaust the posterior chain but can completely drain your cardio system too. I see far too many people making things difficult on themselves by not allowing themselves the ability to breathe. Wearing a belt becomes commonplace in a contest but wearing the right one at the right time is imperative to success. I recommend using a soft belt, under your weightlifting/powerlifting belt on maximum effort lifts. On caries (and most times with a stone load) a power belt actually works against you.

The thick belt is designed to put compressive forces against your core. This adds some extra strength to your system on maximum effort lifts by increasing intra abdominal pressure. This same pressure though makes it difficult for you to breathe when moving for a minute at a time. You won’t be able to completely fill your lungs with the belt constricting your waist and this will contribute to you gassing out faster.

Additionally, on hard objects like a keg, the belt often gets in the way of a comfortable placement on your body, especially as you get tired and the object slips lower. Don’t make yourself do more work than necessary and get used to doing your carries and loads without a hard belt. You will breathe easier and improve your position on the object.

3. Is your warmup effective?

The last point is one that will likely see more debate, but I would argue that most on the field doing warmups are wasting their time and energy at these events. Disregard this advice only if you are in the first group to go off or are in a small show of just a handful of athletes.

A good warm up prepares the body for the coming action, and you should treat the event differently than you do a training day because the circumstances are different. Many athletes in a deep field will do five, six, seven, or more sets with the apparatus they are going to compete on. Then proceed to sit around for an hour waiting to go. While you may feel more comfortable on the piece of equipment, you just wasted a bunch of energy and then cool back down by the time you get started. Try the following instead:

  • Do one set with a moderate weight to get used to any particular quirks of the piece of equipment.
  • Relax and wait until 20 minutes until you are supposed to start competing. Mentally prepare for the event by using visualization techniques and remain calm and upbeat.
  • At 20 minutes out, being using a few bands (that you brought) to properly warm up the muscles for the contest. Do a few power jumps, and get the body ready for action.
  • Ingest a small amount of water when you are in the hole (some people like to add five grams of sugar).

By not wasting a lot of energy and then cooling off you are better preparing your body for the event. You should expect a better outcome from hanging on to your energy and saving it for your performance. Trust that you are prepared and you aren’t going to get better at the venue itself.

Making a few technical and strategy changes will pay off at your very next contest. If you find these tips helpful, a custom review of your last contest may be in order. I, as well as many former competitive coaches, can do this and it is often overlooked by the novice. Never cheat yourself out of placing because of correctable mistakes. Get your contest game tuned and tight!

Editor’s 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.

Featured image: Michele Wozniak