3 Things You Must Avoid in Strongman Training

Everyone is always asking me for tips and help with their training. I’ve been coaching the sport for over a decade and have worked with countless people that went on to compete at different levels or incorporate strongman workouts into their athletic training. With thousands of hours of watching athletes perform, there are most definitely certain things to avoid that are common place. Take these three progress stoppers and trade them in for techniques that work.

Becoming a One Trick Pony

You may be a really great presser or deadlifter and decide that you want to be the best in the world (or the country, or the state) at this movement. That’s a perfectly fine goal to have, but do not let it come at the expense of everything else. I have seen programs designed to maximize the goal movement by cutting the work necessary to improve the other basics. This will kill your chances at winning shows and moving up the strongman ladder.

A much better option here is to keep your eyes on the main goal but have a program that is going to move everything along with it. Take Rob Kearney as an example. He is still under 300 pounds and the best overhead guy in the world pound for pound. That alone would not get him invited to WSM; you have to combine that with his 770 pound deadlift for reps and running with super heavy yokes. Let success in one movement breed it in all the others.

Image courtesy Rob Kearney

A good way to do this is to set percentage increases across the board in the squat, press, deadlift and one or two strongman movements when working on your new program. The time you lose with a singular focus is easily avoided and you will be a better athlete for it.

This Is Not Rocky IV

You are not (most likely) training under ideal circumstances. You have a job, a family and a home to maintain. You can’t hit your diet perfectly all the time, and your sleep becomes less than ideal at times. Despite all of that, you get to the gym and sell out every single workout. You take a tremendous amount of pride in the fact that you get it done despite everything else and that’s really great. This could also be holding you back.

Killing it in the gym without using proper recovery techniques can lead to a lack of gains and possible injuries. You may really want to hit certain numbers every day, but when your program was designed you didn’t know you would have to retool your department’s budget or you would get an order for 10 custom fabricated tables that the customer wants ASAP. Remember that it is OK to cut back your volume a bit when necessary, or if you are really overwhelmed, to take a day off. This also goes for training when you are sick. Your training partners don’t want to get ill and your body is lacking the tools to recover. Be honest with yourself and your coach and be able to roll with the punches when life is giving it to you from both barrels. This is a sport of supernovas, not shooting stars.

Image courtesy Rob Kearney

You Aren’t Truly Testing Yourself

A ton of competitors with good potential fall in to the same trap, and that is competing in the same events year after year but never acting on their Nationals or Arnold qualifications. Some can’t for very good reasons, but for many, there is an underlying fear that they may not do as well as they want, and damage the self image they have created. You should really test your mettle against the best, at the highest level you can from time to time. You may surprise yourself and do better than you think or it may be the catalyst to really improve your training.

Additionally, big events can give you the following bonus benefits:

  • Meet like minded fellow competitors in person. Social media is great for intros, but I know many lifelong relationships that blossomed from the face to face meeting.
  • Get a ton of advice, some good and some bad, but all of it will get you thinking about your training techniques.
  • A chance to explore a new city with a ton of like minded people.

Bonus Tip: There’s Always Someone Better

No matter how good you are, there is a kid out there who is younger, hungrier, and has the potential to beat you. Never forget this.

If you see yourself in one of these situations, do your best to make the changes necessary to improve your game. The best title to give yourself for your strongman career is as a student, so spend your time time wisely learning and experimenting!

Editor’s 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.