Maximize your strength training routine by cutting out these time wasters.Read article
Size is very important for being successful in competition. By putting on both muscle mass and overall body weight, the strongman is better able to handle the implements and poundages required to compete and win. For instance, if a particular competition calls for hoisting stones, strength is only one of the attributes needed to lift these concrete spheres of the ground. Possessing massive forearms, immense pectorals and thick, powerful abdominals are required to grasp the stone, tuck it into the torso, and hoist it upward after getting it of the ground.
The first thing to remember is that normally, hypertrophy of muscle tissue happens when you use a rep range of 8–12 reps. This is typically accomplished via a combination of single and multijoint movements with very specific movement patterns (i.e., “bodybuilding” workouts). But because muscle hypertrophy isn’t the main goal of a strongman competitor, I have to alter this methodology to meet the needs of my rather unique sport.
I normally focus on a main big multijoint movement to build strength first in my workouts, such as the squat, deadlift, overhead press, etc. For example, for the squat my preferred rep range is 3–6 reps. This total is far below typically strict hypertrophy training. It stresses connective tissue much more than traditional training, while still forcing anabolic muscular growth because of the sheer amount of stress that the muscles need to overcome.
Lower-rep training allows the strongman lifter to bulk up the major muscle groups and stabilize the joints sufficiently to be able to handle the tasks of his sport. In addition, the concentration on multijoint movements improves the ability to perform well in competition through a variety of different required strongman events.
The reliance on “big” exercises is not, however, the sole basis of my strongman training. After I finish my major strength movement for the day, I always do accessory work to complement the multijoint exercise that I completed first. This is probably not much different from the average powerlifter or common bodybuilder in the off-season. What follows below is my basic mass-building schedule.
LEG DAY: Squats and leg press (major multijoint exercises at 3–6 reps per set after a couple of warmups), followed by glute/ hamstring raises, stepups, leg extensions, leg curls, etc. (in the 8–12 rep range).
BACK DAY: Deadlifts (major multijoint exercises at 3–6 reps per set after a couple of warmups), followed by good mornings, back extensions, pulldowns, rows, shrugs, etc. (in the 8–12 rep range).
SHOULDERS AND CHEST DAY: Overhead press, incline press, and close-grip bench press (major multijoint exercises at 3–6 reps per set after a couple of warmups), followed by chest flyes, triceps work, etc. (in the 8–12 rep range).
It should be noted, however, that some type of cycling is necessary when using extremely heavy weights such as the above. You can’t do the same weights and same exercises over and over throughout the year without getting stale or hitting a plateau, or worse, injuring yourself. That’s why I integrate actual contest exercises such as the stone lifts and the farmer’s walk into my weekly program (typically on Saturday) heading into a specific competition. Then I back down to very basic training with lower weights and higher reps in the first few weeks after a contest to help speed recovery.
One particular training modality that I will incorporate is called escalating density training or EDT. It is a great way to pack a lot of training volume in a short amount of time. Here’s how it works: You pick two different exercises and set a clock for 8–12 minutes. Do five reps of each exercise and then immediately start again. The goal is to get through as many sets as possible in the allotted time. This type of training is great because it allows you to use a heavier weight that you might not be able to handle for 12 reps, but you can actually do more total reps in the time period by using sets of five.
The higher volume keeps the muscles under hypertrophic stress, thereby inducing faster growth. It is also challenging if you keep track of what you did on a certain workout so that when you do it again you should try to beat what you did in the previous exact work- out. This is a great way to push yourself and is just one example of an alternative program that can help you gain mass fast.
The two final pieces of the mass-building puzzle are, of course, caloric intake and nutritional supplementation. Nutritional products are key to any hardcore athlete as long as you have your diet down first. Remember, supplements should supplement your diet, not replace the food you should be eating. But they can add the 15% difference needed to grow faster, be stronger, and perform at the top of your game. MHP’s MYO-X myostatin inhibitor helps speed muscle growth naturally through a totally different pathway and was instrumental in helping me bounce back from my biceps surgery following the Arnold Classic. Since I suffered a nerve injury at the World’s Strongest Man, I’ve continued to use MYO-X to help me build mass faster even when I couldn’t train at top capacity.
My other two favorites are Up Your Mass, which is a very “clean” weight gainer, and Activite Sport, an enzyme-loaded multivitamin. Along with 46 grams of sustained release protein, Up Your Mass contains complex carbs from oats and barley (not tons of sugar), so it helps me pack in lots of calories without making me fat. And it tastes great! Activite provides vitamins and minerals, plus it contains the patented interactive food optimizer Anabolase, which is made up of three digestive enhancers: Aminogen, to help digest protein; Carbogen, which enhances carb and sugar digestion; and Lipolase, to boost fatty acid absorption. With these two supplements, I can pack in more lean calories and get the most out of my meals!