We interrupt your regularly scheduled lifting program with an urgent message: It’s time to start incorporating strongman training into your routine. 

Don’t worry. This isn’t a major overhaul of your current training protocol. We’re simply swapping out a handful of typical mass-building exercises with movements that are considerably better at developing functional strength, cardiovascular conditioning, and speed—while still building appreciable muscle mass. 

Think about the awesome events performed by the behemoth athletes in the World’s Strongest Man and other strongman competitions you see on ESPN2 at 3 a.m. Heavy-weighted carries, atlas stones, truck pulls, log presses—activities that demand not only brute strength and power but also superior leverage, balance, core stability, a Herculean grip, and even a set of iron lungs. 

Strong Muscular Men pulling big tire with ropes

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“Every bodybuilder and powerlifter I train with strongman lifts has poor lifting endurance when I start with them,” says Hans Pirman, an elite master’s-level strongman competitor, trainer, and owner of Global Strongman Gym in Brooklyn, NY. “Strongman training will increase your cardiovascular capacity instantly. It also greatly improves core strength. Strongman training connects all the dots in your body and exposes all your weaknesses. If you’re doing log presses and you have a weak lower back, upper abs, and hips, they show up. If you do a keg run and your spinal erectors and abs give out, they tell you right away. If you’re doing a one-arm press and your grip strength is poor, it goes right out the window. Strongman is lifting heavy weights really fast—it’s strength plus conditioning.” 

Intrigued yet? Reaping the benefits of strongman training doesn’t mean abandoning your entire routine as you know it. All it takes is the addition of some or all of the following exercises recommended by Pirman and demonstrated by the reigning World’s Strongest Man—6’8″, 434-pound American strongman Brian Shaw. Pirman offers gym-friendly alternatives for each exercise in addition to prescribing when and how to work the lifts into your current training split.