Which Events Should Strongman Athletes Train the Most?

As far as sports go strongman is hard going. It’s fun, don’t get me wrong, but that doesn’t make it any less tough. If you need any proof just think about the Husafell stone for a moment, an implement so displaceable that you would be forgiven for assuming it was the boulder Sisyphus was lumped with.

It’s almost always either made of jagged concrete or razor sharp steel. Has no handles and the only way to pick up the blasted thing is to wrestle it to your chest and bear hug it. Which is all well and good except that in doing so it robs you of any ability to breathe. What’s worse now that you’ve got it to your chest your expected to run with it.

Now obviously this isn’t a complaint or a search for admiration, it’s just a fact: strongman like all strength sports is tough. But when in other strength sports athletes only have to focus on a few lifts, strongmen are literally faced with infinite possible events at any given competition, all of which could either be done for time, reps, distance or max weight.

With so many possibilities it can be really difficult to know which events to prioritize in training. Which events are the most likely to carryover to the others, and more importantly, which events are going to help you win comps?

This is why I love the brilliant cumulative data that u/rickdoes on reddit put together a few years ago. Taking all the athletes placings in the World’s Strongest Man finals and combining them with how many times an event showed up, and how many times the Winner of that year’s competition won that event.

As a fan of the sport, there are a thousand different ways to look at the table below. But the one that I find by far the most fascinating is as a training guide. The information that u/rickdoes has collected provides you with a fantastic guide to the events you should be training year round.

Now before I dive into the table below and highlight those events that should be making up the majority of your training, I want to preface this with the importance of specificity. If you have a competition coming up which has public events, then train those events and ideally on the implements that you will be using on the day. This table won’t help you prepare for your next comp but it will help you in your next fifty.

EventNumber of times in WSM FinalNumber of times WSM winner won event% winning event predicted winning WSM
1 on 1 Challenge*8675
Zercher Carry **8562.5
Squat13753.8
Super Yoke15853.8
Farmers Walk***191052.6
Deadlift281346.4
Log lift331545.5
Weight for Height11545.5
Loading15640
Carry and Drag5240
Truck Pull341338.1
Atlas Stones21838.1
Fingals Fingers6233.3
Power Stairs6233.3
Crucifix Hold4125
Medley5120
Tire Flipping6116.7
Hand over Hand9111.1
Hercules Hold9111.1
Tire Toss200

 

  • * Tug of war, pole push, one on one pull
  • ** Conan’s wheel, hussafell stone, Stone carry
  • *** Farmers walk & wheel barrel events

 

The Strongman Event Outliers

I’ve come back to this reddit post a few times in the two years that it’s been up, and every single time I look at the One and One challenges, like Tug of War and Sumo Wrestling, and think, “Surely that can’t be right.” It is, I’ve checked. And while I absolutely love these events being in the shows and especially the spectacle that they bring to casual viewers, I refuse to accept them as the ultimate strongman event or as something that should take up a serious amount of training time.

Why then are they so well represented in the numbers? The main reason is that these one on one events almost always favor the larger athlete and it will come as no surprise that all things being equal being bigger at this level often means being stronger.

Load Heavy Things

The other big outlier is Atlas Stones way down the list with only a 38.1% chance of victory; this however shouldn’t come as a great surprise as Stones are almost always the final event at WSM. Meaning that often, the winner is already in the decided and all he needs to do is load X number of stones to walk away with the trophy. Can you really blame him for just doing the bare minimum, when the title is already his.

However unless you’re ahead going into that final event, stones and loading in general should make a regular appearance in your training. It’s a staple of most shows and great indicator of real strength.

Get Moving

Strongman isn’t just about picking up heavy weights, it’s about moving with them too and it shows in the data. Of the top five events, 3 of them are moving ones, in order Zercher Carries (62.5%), Yoke (53.3%) and Farmers Walks (52.6%). This should be the call to action for any strongmen out there who are neglecting their fitness for pure strength. Pick up something heavy and run with it. Rest and Repeat.

Work the Basics

Hammer those basics, Squat, Deadlift and Log have been in a total of 74 WSM finals and the chances are that at least one of them will be in every show you enter. Work them for singles and work them for reps. They come up a lot.

Be Explosive

The likes of Keg Toss and Weight for Height might not come up that often in smaller regional comps, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important to train. The explosive power you develop from throwing will carryover into almost every other event plus if you ever do find yourself on the big stage you can be safe in the knowledge that winning that event gives you a 45.5% chance of leaving with the trophy.  

Training strongman doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective. Warm up with something powerful and explosive, bonus points for keg toss because it looks amazing. Always work the basics hard and regularly, that means plenty of squatting, deadlifting and pressing. For best results do these key lifts for both low and high reps, ranging from singles to sets of twenty. Then keep your conditioning and skills up by picking up big, heavy, awkward objects and either loading them onto something or running with them. Everything else should either be to help you get ready for a specific comp or just because you enjoy it.

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

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