Strongman Mitchell Hooper took to his YouTube channel to continue his ongoing training series wherein he teaches techniques for various strongman events. He previously covered how to lift Atlas Stones properly and how to angle the torso correctly during a deadlift.
The 2023 Australia’s Strongest International champion continued his training seminar by teaching his students the technique for a yoke walk. The yoke is arguably Hooper’s best event, as he brings intense speed and agility unlike many other elite strongmen currently at the top of the sport — his Car Walk from the 2022 World’s Strongest Man contest is a prime example of his prowess in the event.
The yoke technique video from Hooper’s training seminar was published on Jan. 18, 2023, and can be seen below:
[Related: Hafthor Björnsson Elected to International Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2023]
The first aspect of tackling the yoke is knowing how high to set the crossbar. Hooper says that height depends on two things:
- How heavy is the yoke?
- How fast do you need to move?
The faster an athlete needs to move the yoke, the lower the crossbar needs to be. This is so the bottom of the yoke is farther away from the ground to prevent contact if there is an imbalance during the run. Additionally, the more top-heavy the yoke is, the more forward momentum there will be during the run, meaning there will be less wobbling throughout.
If the yoke is extremely heavy, the crossbar should be higher because squatting the yoke into position if it is a substantially heavy weight can be punishing at the start of a run and even more so if an athlete needs to set the yoke down and lift it again mid-heat.
Hooper’s standard for crossbar height is approximately mid-sternum when standing against the crossbar. Lifting the yoke in a wide-stance squat will make the lift more efficient, and then when the feet are brought back to center, the athlete will have several more inches of height to move with the yoke away from the ground.
[Related: WWE Superstar Tag Team The Usos Train Strongman in 2023 Royal Rumble Commercial]
When walking with the yoke, Hooper keeps his hands on the beams rather than the crossbar. The rationale is that by having hands on the beams and driving them forward, he is furthering the inertia of the yoke’s backward tilt while he moves forward.
Anytime you create intentional inertia, you take away unintentional inertia.
This is not to say Hooper can press the weight of the yoke forward. “It’s purely intention,” but it can alleviate one of the variables of the yoke walk. If the hands are on the crossbar, the yoke will naturally swing forward and backward, making it difficult to move forward steadily.
Tibialis Posterior Muscle
Hooper mentioned that the muscle under the most duress when performing a yoke walk is the tibialis posterior — the deepest muscle of the lower leg. It attaches from the shin bone, right under the back of the knee, and travels down under the foot to the base of the pinky toe.
If that tibialis posterior isn’t strong enough to handle the weight of the yoke, the foot will flatten out, stretching the tibialis posterior. Training with so much weight with the tibialis posterior in the stretched position will cause pain in the shins and likely make yoke walks unsustainable.
The way to strengthen the tibialis posterior muscle is running. Hooper attributes his ability to yoke walk effectively to his background in marathon running.
[Related: 2023 Britain’s Strongest Man Results — Adam Bishop Reclaims The Throne]
When performing a yoke walk, Hooper says, “breathing doesn’t happen” while yoke walking. The reason for that isn’t strategic but practical.
You breathe out on the yoke — have fun trying to breathe back into your stomach; never going to happen.
- Wide feet, toes out, small squat to lift the yoke.
- Waddle forward from that initial position. The feet will naturally come to the center as you gain speed.
- Hands drive into the beams of the yoke with the intention of pushing it forward. This hydroplanes the yoke and removes the tendency for it to swing along the sagittal plane.
- Keep moving the feet — don’t stop moving.