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Arden Cogar, Jr. never does cardio.
He doesn’t have to. At 5’10”, 275 pounds, the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS lumberjack athlete says he’s in the best physical shape of his life at 44 years old.
“Anyone who watches me cut an underhand log in 25 seconds knows I don’t need cardio,” says Cogar, one of STIHL TIMBERSPORTS’ premier athletes. “My coach in 2007 said ‘Why waste your time on a treadmill or running, when you can save that energy to condition yourself for events?’”
He competes in the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series, which features the top lumberjack athletes in the world competing in six events that test their skills in chopping wood with axes, and sawing through wood blocks with heavy chainsaws. Sure beats your normal day of picking stuff up and putting it down.
Cogar is currently training for the U.S. Championships in June, which he won in 2012, and earned second place in in 2013. But what kind of training goes into artfully dissecting lumber?
Cogar and his fellow lumberjack athletes go through rigorous training regimens, mixed in with actual event training, to prepare themselves for grueling competition. The best athletes train year round and ramp things up about six weeks before the competition, making this time the peak time for hardcore training.
Cogar, who is a former bodybuilder, has a strict workout regimen that features powerful Olympic lifts throughout the week, and a day dedicated strictly to practicing events he’ll compete in. He, and other athletes like Chris Bradshaw – a 6’2”, 310-pound hulk and one of the biggest athletes on the Series – believe the focus needed for heavy strength training is similar to the focus needed to succeed on the Series.
That’s not the only way to be successful though. David Moses, a West Coast athlete, is 5’11” and 255 pounds but doesn’t use the traditional gym workout to train. Since 2011, Moses has used a modified CrossFit workout to prepare for the Series. Moses was a fourth place finisher at the Championships last year.
The workouts these athletes endure are much different than the ones a prototypical athlete goes through. Muscle & Fitness caught up with Cogar and Moses in separate interviews to discuss how they train and prepare for one of the most athletically taxing events in the world.
M&F: How long have you been training for STIHL TIMBERSPORTS?
Cogar: I’ve been competing in the Series since 1987 and actively involved in strength training since 1985.
Moses: I’ve been a lumberjack athlete for about 15 years.
M&F: What’s your typical workout look like?
Cogar: The way I view a timbersports athlete, we have one body to deliver the axe and one body to deliver the saw. When I strength train, it’s all total body. I begin all of my workouts with a dynamic or speed movement such as a snatch or clean and jerk. Then I’ll do an overhead strength exercise followed by a squat. Then I’ll pull something from the floor. It’s all a progression of those four movement patterns. I’m very deliberate and obsessive-compulsive about my training planning. I will prioritize my training by having a heavy (weight) week, a light week, then a medium week. It allows me to get the rest I need, and my event training is the same way.
Moses: Back in 2011, I started doing CrossFit and that next season, I won five out of six events. But my workouts now are very body specific for each day. There are lots of thrusters and a lot of the Olympic lifts and their variations (clean and squat, clean and jerk). I do a lot of pull-ups, lunges and box jumping, too, and jog with weights on my head. They’re 90-150 minute workouts, and there’s a lot of conditioning, endurance and reps involved.
M&F: How often are you training?
Cogar: Since we’re close to the Championships, it’s typically 2-3 event training sessions a week. During the off-season, I’ll strength train five days a week, and event train only one day. The sessions last about an hour. I also practice yoga, self myofascial release (SMR) and Tai Chi daily.
Moses: I start going in November and go three days a week. I’ll do that until 45 days out, as I can’t do CrossFit and event training at the same time. When I begin the event training, I do a lot of air squats, jogging, biking and jump roping, as well as practicing the individual events.
M&F: How much weight are you using on your key lifts?
Cogar: For the Olympic lifts, I work up to 250 pounds. Squats can range up to 500 pounds. Overhead presses? That usually varies but goes up to 400 pounds. My deadlift can get up to 800 pounds-plus. During Championship training, I typically do 3-5 reps for three sets per exercise. In the off-season, the sets can be as many as 10 reps.
Moses: I honestly couldn’t tell you. I’ve never been a “maximum” person. To me, I’m not doing it to be a professional bencher or squatter. I’m doing it for my sport.
M&F: What’s your diet like?
Cogar: I take in 3,500-3,800 calories per day. I eat clean, raw foods, and my diet is very Paleo. Timbersports is a very physically demanding sport and for you to get the most out of your training sessions, you need to be properly fueled.
Moses: My diet changed quite a bit when I started CrossFit. I don’t typically have junk food and cut back on eating at fast food restaurants. I completely cut out soda and cut back on sugars. I eat more fruits and vegetables and leaner meats when I’m competing.
M&F: How quickly did you progress? How long did it take for you to reach competitor level?
Cogar: I trained as a bodybuilder for many years but didn’t understand how to train like an athlete until my mid-30s. I went away from the “muscles for show,” and focused on “muscles for go.” My timbersports performance has improved exponentially. In 2005-06, I incorporated Olympic lifts and found out how important that was for my overall athleticism.
Moses: I think it was the overall conditioning. I’ve been more physically fit from head to toe than I have in quite a few years. CrossFit has helped me tremendously for competing for timbersports, especially exercises like the wall ball toss, the ball slam, pull-ups and box jumps. The overall hardcore conditioning routine of it has helped me with my single bucking and my springboards, which are the two most physically demanding events we have. Prior to doing CrossFit, the sawing events would’ve had me spent for the rest of the day. Now, give me a short break and I’m ready to go.
>> For more on the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Championships, visit http://www.stihlusa.com/stihl-timbersports/.
To see Cogar in action and hear his training tips – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwMry2KVJE8