A strongman (strongwoman) competition is a spectacle that intrigues fans — whether it’s their first time watching or their hundredth. Once they witness the athletes, become aware of their personalities, and comprehend how hard competitors train, it’s hard not to respect them and the sport.
Twenty-eight-year-old Bobby Thompson is one such example of the type of athletes fans love to watch. The American is relatively new to the sport, but he has competed on some big stages already. Thanks to winning the 2019 Arnold Amateur world title, he was in the lineup at the 2020 Arnold Strongman Classic, where he placed 10th. He also was a part of the 2020 World’s Strongest Man contest. Now, his sights are set on Bahrain and the 2021 World’s Ultimate Strongman “Strength Island” contest, which is taking place on March 13, 2021. Thompson gave BarBend insight into how he prepares for a contest of this magnitude.
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Details of his Week in Training
Thompson trains four days in a row before taking a day off. A lot of what he does is based on how he’s performing at the beginning of the workout and how he feels overall. Other factors away from the gym or platform also plays a factor, especially when preparing for a contest.
“Programing for a contest can only be so finite, you can’t account for variables life throws at you such as work, kids, getting sick, and injuries — but you need an outline,” Thompson tells BarBend. “I have found setting the majority of my accrued volume at the beginning of a program to be made up of accessories and progressing towards mainly event work towards the end of the program gives me my best training cycles for the contest.”
Thompson generally trains alone or with his coach, Zane Angle. He has found that training with multiple people isn’t as effective. What he did find helpful was improving his sleep after being diagnosed with sleep apnea.
“After I got my sleep study done and started wearing an APAP to help with my sleep apnea, it was a game-changer,” Thompson says. “Also, when I started training more like an athlete and focused on moving fluidly, my body always seemed ready to fire versus only being able to move like the Tin Man most of the time.”
Sunday — Event-Specific Training
Most athletes take Sunday as one of their days off, but Thompson commits this day to focus on two main major movements in his sport. One is usually a press, while the other is a pulling movement or a moving event. The example he shared was with the circus dumbbell press and the Atlas stones.
“The press will be something like three sets of five at 75% and at times a set of singles at 102% or contest weight with 15 to 20 seconds rest from rep to rep. For my second event, we will use atlas stones, and I will have a target rep count allowing for only so many misses broken into timed sets with the reps dropping with each stone. For example, 300 pounds for two sets of five loads, 350 pounds for four sets of three loads, and 425 pounds for five sets of one load with 15 seconds rest.”
Thompson may also do perform cardio after he has finished his two main movements.
- Circus Dumbbell Press: 3 sets of 5 reps with 75% of one-rep max. 20 seconds rest between reps
- Atlas Stones: 2 sets of 5 loads or 4 sets of 3 loads. 15 seconds rest between loads
Monday – Lower Body Day
On Monday, the attention is focused on the lower body. This is one of Thompson’s favorite training days of his week. Sometimes it will begin with squats, which he is solid at. At the 2020 World’s Strongest Man, Thompson squatted 700 pounds for 11 reps. The only person that was able to beat him in that event was J.F. Caron of Canada.
As for this workout, he starts with the deadlift with the weight elevated 15 inches, and he goes heavy. The top single he performed was with 900 pounds. Then, he goes to the other extreme. He focuses on an isolation movement such as leg curls to complete 200 total reps. Obviously, the weight is light, so the focus is on endurance and getting a lot of blood into the back of the thighs. The workout concludes with sandbag carries and standing oblique twists.
- 15-Inch Deadlift: 6 sets of 8, 6, 5, 3, 2, 1 reps. Rest as needed between sets
- Leg Curl: 200 total reps
- Sandbag Carry: 5 Rounds for marked distance
- Standing Oblique Twist: 300 reps for both sides
Tuesday – Press Day
Pressing is another of Thompson’s strengths, but his focus is on getting even better since he competes at such a high level. He also has his sights set on the American Log Press record, which he hopes to take at this year’s Clash on the Coast contest. He actually starts this session with two versions of the Axle Press. An Axle bar is thicker than a traditional barbell, so the forearms and grip will be challenged as well as his delts and triceps.
He focuses first on doing them with strict form (no assistance from the legs). The top weight he will go for this workout is 300 pounds, which he can use for three sets of five to eight repetitions.
After the shoulders have been pre-exhausted with strict form, Thompson performs five more sets as all-out push presses. He can lift as much as 420 pounds for a double. Rounding out this session will be incline dumbbell presses, band triceps pushdowns, and full range triceps extensions with a cable or dumbbell.
- Axle Strict Press: 7 sets of 30, 20, 15, 5-8, 5-8, 5-8 reps
- Axle Push Press: 5 sets of 6, 5, 3, 2, 2 reps
- Incline Dumbbell Press: 3 sets of 30, 20, 15, 15 reps
- Band Triceps Pushdowns: 4 sets of 1 minute each
- Full Range Triceps Extension: 3 sets of 25 reps
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Wednesday – Pull Day
On the last day of his training cycle, Thompson will focus on the upper back. He does admit that biceps tendonitis could impact how this day goes, but he still gives his all. Sometimes, he finds that self-motivation helps.
“I’m big into self-talk. I look insane driving down the road or even at the gym mumbling to myself,” Thompson says. “But I’m a firm believer that if I can truthfully say it to myself, then it’s something I can accomplish.”
The major lift for this training session is the classic bent-over barbell row. He will increase weight and decrease reps with each set. The final set will be with a top weight that he can perform for five reps. Next, like the leg curls on lower body day, he will perform an exercise such as banded face pulls for 200 total reps. The final two accessory movements are good mornings with a Safety Squat bar and lat pulldowns while sitting on an incline bench.
- Bent Over Row: 5 sets of 25, 15, 10, 10, 5 reps.
- Banded Face Pull: 200 total reps.
- Safety Squat Bar Good Morning: 5 sets of 12 reps.
- Incline Lat Pulldown: 5 sets of 20, 15, 12, 10, 10, reps.
Aside from the Strength Island contest, Thompson will attempt to compete in every WUS contest this season and Clash on the Coast. He also has the goal of returning to the 2021 World’s Strongest Man contest. So, it’s a good thing is training seems to be on point.
Featured Image: @bobby_thompson_prostrongman on Instagram