Too often I hear people say, "Oh well Kai Greene does this, (hafthor bjornsonn) the guy who plays the mountain from game of thrones trains like that..."The addage of, everyone's body is different is known but not quite understood.
For strongman so much of the joy and challenge in competing and training is that the contest is never the same. Sure there is a carry and overhead, deadlifting is always crucial, event work is also a given. A log, axle, and giant dumbbell are different. Clean and press away, max weight, clean and press each rep are all different. Cylinder farmer and frame are different. Not to mention the events themselves will likely never be the exact same for any 2 contests our entire careers.
We seldom ask the correct questions for proper training, and as all of us are strength athletes and many of us are trainers it seems quite a shame.
Having just completed a 220# ILSM state final victory I wanted to take a look at specifics for what I did and why it is about my training and not just a magazine article for millions of people to read and replicate.
First off the events of Log max weight, 275 lb farmers walk 50 feet down and back, 500 lb tire flip, and a keg load 190,220, 260, 300. 10 feet from about a 4 foor platform. I wanted to figure out why my stability is poor in a farmers and the pickup/ repick is so hard, why I cannot transition between reps on tire and keg more quickly, and why does my right shoulder have trouble locking out.
My shoulder mobility on the right side is worse than on the left. Roughly late may while training for nationals I was at my peak. My mobility was good enough to do muscle ups, hammer press 150 lb dbs on a flat bench, and pound out 250lb log reps. From being involved in lifting so long I am developing tendonitis in my right shoulder. Prior to gaining my current level of knowledge I rarely did or knew any shoulder mobility exercises. Breaking it down our shoulder can rotate internally and externally, it can adduct and abduct, it can do combinations simultaneously. Think of writing the alphabet with a 2lb weight plate. When your shoulder changes direction it hits different aspects of this with different rotator cuff activation. This is one of 8 techniques I mixed in recently to gain improved mobility. I managed to win log at state with a supraspinatis impingement caused by an inflamed bursa. The next two weeks I must rest from pec and shoulder work. The tendonitis at the pec-anterior delt insertion point causes poor pec and deltoid activation causing an overload on the triceps, biceps, and forearm which are now chronically tight. Ice, heat, biofreeze, and anti inflamattories for 2 weeks with mobility work is unfortunately what must be done for the inflammation to go down. Pressing hundreds of pounds twice per week will never let it heal. My stability issue is a symptom of poor mobility so doing shoulder stability exercises would not only not help, it would make it worse.
Farmer walk seemed like most people could not maintain good posture. My goal was a smooth pickup, quick feet, reset, and repeat without a drop. Farmers walk is used by athletes often because we gain stability and power in a split stance. A stance replicated in numerous sports. For core work I always use an oblique exercise, something focusing on rectus abdominis, and a rotarty or anti torque exercise. Unless I do event training or work past 85% of my 1 rep max on an overhead, deadlift, or squat I begin my with core then lift. Hip mobility was critical too but too difficult to explain in a short time. Having your feet externally rotated, leaning out with what I call sassy hip, having chronically tight hamstrings, or hip pain are indicators of hip issues.
This was the first time my lower back did not hurt, despite cleaning a 295 lb log, missing the press, farmer walking 275 a hand, keg loading, and tire flipping. My abs and core feel well worked as they should but I know I used proper technique in each event, my core activated and was strong enough to support. We use core in EVERY event.
I worked with a nutritionist to determine what my body needs and when. Why this food is for breakfast and this food before a workout and this food immediately after. The diet is for a 29 year old 213 lb lean strongman looking to gain 12 more lbs. Diet has a progression as does training and too often people skip the foundational steps. With weight classes I feel there is no reason to not be in the best shape possible, I also like to keep an aesthetically pleasing body for my wife.
Despite being a trainer at one of the premiere spa and fitness centers in Downer's Grove, we lack bumper plates, strongman equipment, and any of the more high tech sports performance equipment. When possible I find a place to train events at on a Sunday once or twice a month. Otherwise I am looking for weaknesses and strengthening movement patterns in order to mimic an event. My favorite place to do this is Score Sports Center in Willow Springs. The staff and equipment are world class and have been instrumental in helping me define weaknesses, and build appropriate movement patterns to simulate various events. Watching a former collegiate track athlete do agility drills made it blindingly obvious why my transitions are so poor. I made these drills part of my cardio and conditioning several times per week after my lifts and it paid off big time for the first three kegs, the tire flip, and the farmer walk. I found an interesting way to mimic the stone and keg load movements with barbells, but don't want to share all my secrets ;) I have even refreshed my interest in martial arts and dancing seeing how and why they improve movement. Finishing the contest first at my weight class and even tying overall with the champion a weight class higher showed me my training was spot on.
I dropped the final keg and lost precious time. I have to reverse my grip (like going right handed to left handed) for the keg when i go heavy. My right foot still slightly externally rotates and my right glute gets tight requiring trigger point more often. All this will be broken down and fixed while training for nationals in June. The fingal fingers are actually an event on my strongman bucket list. I am excited for the challenge as I finished 14th of 23. Few people I know win a national title their first shot. I intend to come back this year smarter and stronger than ever. I have been blessed by the people who have come into my life in the past year as it has had a profoundly positive influence on me. I'd like to close by giving a special thanks to my wife, family and friends for their constant support. They believe i have the potential to accomplish feats even greater than my own imagining. Surrounding yourself people like this is an amazing asset. The goal is to eventually win 220 nationals. The dream is to one day win 231 worlds.