Using Strongman to Build Mass: A 4-Week Hypertrophy Program

A love of the iron is often accompanied by a desire to increase the muscle mass on one’s frame. Ask most new trainees and eye popping muscles are one of the things that attracts them to the weight room. While weight gain is heavily reliant on eating a calorie surplus, exercise selection is just as important for big muscles. Too many beginners spend far too much time lifting light weights and isolating muscle groups. Strongman training focuses on using the entire body together, requiring a coordinated effort of will and muscle to tax the body. This in turn stimulates massive muscle growth uniformly over the body as an adaptive response to the extreme stimulation of full body, odd object training. Use the following suggestions to get started on bodybuilding the strongman way!



No, strongmen don’t “own” this exercise but it is used in daily training. Everything we lift is heavy and starts on the ground making it a deadlift. Many bodybuilders never deadlift, because it uses the entire posterior chain and doesn’t work so well with tradition bodypart splits. There is no better way to build massive erectors and traps then by doing deadlifts and you have a wide variety of styles to choose from:

  • Rack pulls
  • Traditional
  • Side handle
  • Car deadlift (lever pulling)

By incorporating pulls of some sort into your program every week, you are commanding the body to grow. Do most of your sets without straps to get the extra benefit of forearm work.

The Log Clean and Press

While most bodybuilders do overhead pressing with a bar or dumbbells they tend to do them seated and neglect to clean the bar. If they were to start with the bar on the ground for each rep, they would receive the additional benefit of bringing the bar to rack position and add some real kick to the exercise. The log clean is much easier to master, natural for most athletes and adds work to hamstrings (picking it up is similar to an RDL) and the lower back. The biceps and grip are also worked due to the curl like motion. In the rack, the lats become engaged and so do the front deltoids.

Additionally, the handles are in the neutral grip position and that is a much more natural position for the shoulders. To get the most out of the exercise you should train it like competitors do; lock it out and hold it for a second. We can’t put it down until we get a signal so we must have a perfect isometric contraction for at least a half second.  That lockout will help every single tendon and ligament  in your body get stronger and better able to handle stress over time.

Arm Over Arm Pulls

The best way to develop massive arms and back muscle is this exercise. Use a thick rope and drag any object toward you with an arm over arm motion. Despite not really getting a negative connotation of movement involved, you get a wicked pump from doing these. If you do them standing you get the quads and glutes involved as well.

[Is gaining muscle a priority? You may want to check out these 7 best mass gainers we’ve tried!]

How to Train

Say goodbye to having the traditional chest day, back day, leg day, etc. With strongman training, everything gets used on a daily basis. To recover for the next day we simply do a more intense and dramatically lower volume program. You still get in your 15 sets for squats, but you see them over a few days, not all at once. Since some isolation work can be beneficial (for growth recovery and joint health), we simply add them in as needed. To help you form a training program with new and exciting exercises, I put together a four week sample program that you can run through multiple times just by swapping out a few exercises as desired.

All in all you will welcome the change in exercises and new found mass you will gain from this style of training. Strongman training reaches all the muscles that give the body the pop that most guys desire. You get bigger, become stronger and increase your capacity to add size in the future. Get get lifting old school for new gains!

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.