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Although strongman training certainly develops strength and muscle mass, many of the events should be considered interval training. You don’t just flip a tire once, but over a distance that can take more than a minute to complete. In the farmer’s walk, you don’t just take a few steps holding a heavy weight—this is a race for distance, and the weights are extremely heavy. Strongmen have walked 20 meters in less than seven seconds holding 150 kilos (330 pounds) in each hand, and 50 meters holding 160 kilos (352 pounds) in each hand in under 33 seconds—feats that are definitely not aerobic!
And since the duration of any event depends on the conditioning level of the competitor, many of the strongman events are completed within 40–120 seconds. Such training stimulates high levels of growth hormone, which in turn stimulates the greatest amount of fat loss. This is also the type of training protocol recommended in the popular German Body Comp Training program.
If you need a break from your regular training and want to try a challenging method to get you lean fast, give strongman training a shot. Here is a program using strongman equipment available in many gyms (technically, the medicine ball slam is not a strongman exercise, but it is often used by strongmen as part of their training). It is designed to be used twice a week, with at least two days of rest between training sessions.
Keep in mind that these workouts are considered end-stage, as it takes many workouts for most trainees to be able to perform these workouts with significant weights for the distances and rest times prescribed.
You can work up to carrying significant weights for these distances by increasing the number of sets gradually, such as by doing a single set for a first workout and then adding one set per workout until you reach five sets. Another option is to gradually reduce the rest intervals, starting with 120 seconds and gradually reducing that rest time to 60 seconds (by decreasing the time by 15 seconds or so per workout). Specifically, for the standing overhead log press and the medicine ball slam, you could gradually increase the reps, starting with 2–5 reps and increasing 1–2 reps each workout.
For the other exercises that involve moving weight over a distance, you can start with a shorter distance than prescribed and gradually increase how far you move; for example, start with 10 meters on the farmer’s walk and increase that distance 5–10 meters each workout.
Here are a few tips about these exercises: For the backward sled drag, keep your body “quiet” when you perform this exercise, avoiding the temptation to gain momentum by swinging your shoulders. In contrast, for the bear crawl sled drag, you can use your arms to assist you.
For the tire flip, focus on using your legs and hips to lift the weight—don’t try to pull the tire up with your biceps, as this technique could easily cause injury. For the medicine ball slam, lift the ball as you would lift a barbell in a deadlift—as you fatigue, avoid the tendency to round your back and keep your knees straight, as those techniques could easily injure your lower back.
For the farmer’s walk, use a normal walking gait; however, for the prowler, start with short steps, then gradually increase your stride as your momentum increases.