Three Hour Strongman: How to Stay Strong and Competitive on Limited Training Time

Time. We all have the same amount of this precious commodity but have different demands on how we allocate it. Most people who train for the sport can manage to spend five or six days per week in the gym along with a long group session over the weekend. This may add up to 10 hours (or more) of training per week. For many with demanding jobs, young children and homes to care for this amount of time is just not a possibility. Via smart programming I believe that an athlete can be competitive on three short sessions per week. Even less if necessary. By combining the right exercises, repetitions and sets, those pressed for time can compete and often beat those who live in the gym.

How is this possible?

Much research has been done on the effectiveness of minimal training. The trick is to do just a few sets of the basic exercises at maximum (near failure) intensity to get massive success. You must train hard, go near or to failure and do things that stimulate the central nervous system. I will give you a basic three day guide that should have you back in your car in less than an hour from the moment you start your session.

A true warm up:

Instead of spending 20 minutes on the bike, rolling on the foam, and doing whatever else people do to get in the proper mode you will start with the following five minute warm up for each session:

  • One set of maximum push-ups. Hit the floor and go for broke every time. This will increase blood flow into the entire upper body and prepare you for the press exercises. Then rest one minute.
  • Next you will perform one set of 30 Kettlebell swings. Use perfect form and a weight that causes you to use the hips and back where you begin to feel a “pump” but not lose form. If you don’t have access to a KB you can substitute goblet squats with a dumbbell in the same rep range.
  • Last and most importantly is to do a front carry for one straight minute with a moderately lightweight. (75 or so for women 150 or so for men). Move fast and try and cover as much distance as you can. You will use every muscle in the body, increase the core temperature and heart rate.

Properly performed and completed in just five minutes, this warm up will set the tone for your intense and brief session.

Michael Gill Strongman
Michael Gill Strongman

The two gym workouts

During the week you will do two fairly standard style workouts (reserve strongman sessions for the third day). The workouts follow a three week cycle where you simply keep repeating them after you finish the three weeks. Week one you will perform eight repetitions of the exercise, week two calls for five repetitions and week three has three reps. These are your work sets. You will do a few lighter sets to get to your work weight that we don’t count, they are just there to get the feel for your work. You will do two and yes only two work sets of each exercise in the prescribed rep range.

Day one exercises:

  • Clean and press (log, axel, bar or dumbbell)
  • Back squats
  • Stiff leg deadlifts
  • Pull ups (use weight if necessary)

Day two exercises:

  • Front squats
  • High incline chest press (dumbbell or bar)
  • Bent over row
  • Trap bar deadlifts

The events

While slightly more complicated, you just need to be smart about what choices you make here. You simply need to pick the events you need to work on for either an upcoming meet or to conquer your sticking points. Here though, you are only going to do one work set per event. This must be a great, full out work set that uses proper form even with max effort. Run every Saturday like a contest and work up to your contest weights. If you are working to a contest maximum cycle your reps over three weeks going from three the first, two the second and one on the third, then repeat with slightly heavier weights the next three week cycle. If you have a distance event or movement for repetitions, run the weights for time over a three week cycle with 85% the first week, 90% the second, and 95% the third. Like above you will start the process again with the first week. I recommend doing the contest events you are preparing for, for a total of nine weeks, and a rest week the days leading up to the event.  An example follows:

  • Log for reps
  • Farmers for set distance
  • Car deadlift for reps
  • Tire flip for distance
  • Five stone load series.

It’s easy to see how to program your movements and you can measure your progress each week. The bonus is, for a minimum time commitment you can see near maximal gains in the sport. For most people, a program like this even makes the sport more enjoyable because you have time to spend with the family and are not battling the soreness from daily training. Enjoy this speed training even as a break from your regular programing when you have a few busy weeks at work or are on vacation but can’t get in all your sessions. Either way, I’m sure you will find some benefits to minimalism.

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.