How 3 World’s Strongest Man Winners Train for the Bag Toss

Shaw, Licis, and Bjornsson have their own methods for getting better.

Unless you either have been hiding under a rock or don’t follow strongman, you probably know by now that the Arnold Strongman USA contest in Santa Monica, California is coming up. That event is the last qualifying event before the 2020 Arnold Strongman Classic in Columbus, Ohio.

One of the events in the Santa Monica event is the bag toss. Competitors will take a variety of weighted sandbags and attempt to toss them over a pole that will be set 15 feet in the air. This event is also believed to be a part of the ASC in March but that hasn’t been confirmed. So it makes sense that the athletes competing prepare for the event.

2019 World’s Strongest Man Martins Licis and four-time WSM Champion Brian Shaw are both competing in the Santa Monica event. Hafthor Bjornsson is the defending Arnold Strongman Classic champion and will defend his title in March. They all have been training for this event as well as others and fans have been able to enjoy watching along on YouTube. If you’ve been watching then you’ve seen that they have their own methods to prepare for the contest. Future strongmen or fellow competitors might benefit from watching and applying these practices to their own training.

Martins Licis

Licis has been setting up his pole in the parking lot of his gym, The Training Hall. His apparatus is connected bars placed inside of a movable rack. At 6’3”, Licis isn’t one of the taller competitors in the field which means his arms aren’t as long as Shaw’s or Bjornsson’s. Those inches of difference means he has to generate more force and perfect his tossing to get the bags over the top.

He also has been recovering from nerve damage and an injury that has affected his right arm. He has been working with a coach on mastering the technique and slowly working with progressively heavier bags to maintain that form. Aside from mastering tossing one bag, he also tosses heavier bags to see if the extra weight affects his previous injuries.

Brian Shaw

Shaw has been training in Colorado in his own training facility and has his own setup for the bag toss. He has poles in the ground with a beam attached to ropes so he can adjust the height if he needs to. Between Shaw’s height of 6’8” and his experience in events similar to this, he has no issues with technique. So instead his focus is on speed and being able to recover enough between tosses to prepare for the next one in as little time as possible.

In one video on his “Shaw Strength” channel, Shaw is seen warming up with a lighter bag making sure he feels comfortable with the form and is prepared before he starts his rounds with all the bags. Once he is ready, he performs tosses for time just as he would in the contest itself. Once he misses, he stops and re-assesses how he did. Shaw has said that he has completed a 95 pound toss in the past but it wasn’t for speed and after four other tosses which is what he will need to do in Santa Monica.

Hafthor Bjornsson

As for the reigning champion, Bjornsson had recently taken time off but is now back in full training mode in order to defend his ASC title. The 6’9” Icelandic strongman has slowly been gaining weight and getting stronger at a calculated pace, and that method has also been practiced with the bag toss.

The reigning champion actually doesn’t need a beam setup. His training takes place within the walls of his gym in Iceland which is two stories. Bjornsson sets the bag up at the first floor and tosses it up over the rail of the second floor directly above him. A training partner, sometimes his father, retrieves the bag and drops it back over the rail to the first floor again.
Another factor to consider is Bjornsson trains inside a climate controlled environment whereas Licis and Shaw train outside. Weather isn’t supposed to be an issue in Santa Monica but Bjornsson can train whether it’s raining, snowing, or there are any other weather related issues. Shaw and Licis don’t have that advantage.

Bjornsson has yet another advantage over the other two men. He is only training for one event whereas Shaw and Licis has to prepare for two so there is no rush or pressure on him to be ready for another couple of months.

Which champion’s methods do you think will be the most successful?

Featured Image: Thor Bjornsson on YouTube

Roger Lockridge

Roger Lockridge

Roger "Rock" Lockridge has been writing professionally for 10 years and has been training for 20. His work in the fitness industry has been seen in numerous outlets and has been a part of coverage for several events including the Mr. Olympia, Arnold Classic, the CrossFit Games, and the Olympics. He's also shared his own personal success story in several interviews and articles. Lockridge lives in West Virginia with his wife and son.

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