As a professional fitness coach, I've had clients ask if adding strongman exercises into their daily routines is possible.
In my 9+ years of experience, I've seen strongman competitors relying on a diverse range of movements to prepare for their sport.
You push, drag, carry, lift, or hold the item for however long or far it is required.
If you wish to get started in the activity, the first thing that you must understand is what movements constitute strongman training.
In this article, I will provide my research and expertise on the best strongman workouts to add to your daily routine.
- Strongman is an intense event in which contestants must do different acts of beastly strength. The strongman lifts differ from standard powerlifting or weightlifting motions and might vary from event to event.
- Strongman exercises include atlas stone lifts, push presses, tire flips, kettlebell swings, zercher squats, and axle deadlifts.
- According to research from the National Institutes of Health, the significance of time under tension is crucial for muscle growth.
- Based on my experience, incorporating strongman exercises into a fitness routine can significantly enhance overall physical resilience and performance.
The Best Strongman Exercises
Below are some of the best strongman exercises:
1. Push Press
Strongmen devote much time to lifting heavy weights overhead by throwing or pressing.
While strong shoulders are necessary for Strongman, knowing how to activate your legs to lift the weight is even more vital.
Overhead exercises should be simple if you know how to execute a decent push press.
You may perform the close-grip bench press if the push press isn't feasible.
How to perform:
- Begin in the same front-rack stance as the front squat, with your wrists and shoulders aligned and a shoulder-width grip.
- Maintain an erect upper body as you dive down 4 to 6 inches, forcing your knees past your toes.
- While pressing the barbell above, drive your torso through the barbell using your quadriceps and glutes.
- Lower the barbell gradually to the starting position, reset, and repeat as many reps as you can.
2. Atlas Stone Lifts
The Atlas stone, a quintessential strongman implement, is deceptively simple yet challenging to lift.
In my coaching practice, emphasizing injury prevention through proper warm-ups and integrating rehabilitation exercises is key to safely mastering such exercises.
Its unique design lacks handles or provisions for lifting straps, adding to its difficulty.
How to perform:
- Stand with both feet wide apart and sit the stone between the legs.
- Crouch down and put your hands beneath the stone to begin. Grab the stone with both hands and press them into it.
- Push your hips down and draw the atlas stone into your torso, aiming for your groin and placing the stone on your thighs. Ensure you hunch the lower back since a curved back is required to raise the stone effectively in this exercise.
- Adjust your hold in a sitting position with the stone on your lap so that both hands grasp the stone from above rather than below. This keeps the stone from spinning away from you in the following phase.
- As you rise, push your hips up and forward, then move the stone up your torso.
- Lift the stone and set it on the level of your choice. Use a spotter to assist you in stabilizing the weight.
- Return the stone to its starting position by rolling it onto a thick carpet.
- Repeat for reps.
3. Tire Flip
Strongman exercises, especially the tire flip require mental fortitude and psychological preparation to overcome the intense physical demands.
Correctly executed, a tire flip works the same muscles as a deadlift, with the added challenge of forward, pressing movements unique to strongman.
To begin the flip, engage your back, glutes, and hamstrings.
When the tire is set to be pushed over, you will exercise your triceps, chest, and biceps.
How to perform:
- Begin with your hips and feet shoulder-width apart. Crouch down and drive your hips back, maintaining your back flat and your core firm.
- Take note of your hands. As you underhand grip the tire, be sure your arms are on the treads. Placing them between treads may result in finger crushing or a twisted bicep.
- Take-off requires a lot of power. Push against the floor with your legs to bring the tire to chest height. As it lands on your chest, swiftly switch to an overhand hold and push it over till it falls on the other side.
- Repeat for reps.
4. Kettlebell Swing
Kettlebell swings develop the hip and low back muscles for powerful hinging actions.
This contrasts with other strength sports like powerlifting, where the focus is more on standardized lifts, highlighting the unique demands of strongman training in terms of endurance and functional strength.
"Your hips provide strength for carrying stones onto high levels or hurling kegs past high bars in strongman training. Because the swing is dynamic, it also aids with everyday activities like running and jumping."
- Jennifer Mathe, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist
The kettlebell swing utilizes your upper back and core for stability while the posterior hip muscles (glutes and hamstrings) move the weight.
It's a quick, intense workout that complements slower, more static exercises.
You can find more kettlebell back exercises in this article.
How to perform:
- Overhand, grasp the kettlebell handle with both hands.
- Bend at the hips and press your butts back until your body is almost level with the ground.
- Swing your load between your feet and in front of you, clenching your glutes and snapping sharply upright.
- Maintain straight arms and utilize your hips to drive the kettlebell to eye level.
- Try not to "squat" your swing by bending your knees too much. Remember to hinge at the belly button.
- Repeat the move for reps.
5. Thick Dumbbell Press
The thick dumbbell press is comparable to the standard military overhead press, but the distinction is in the thickness of the bar.
The thick dumbbell press may assist in increasing upper-body power and strength, with an emphasis on the shoulders.
The thickness of the bar will boost grip strength, and you'll see an advancement in all other workouts, particularly those where the grip appears to fail first, like the weighted pull-up and deadlift.
In strongman training, grip strength is crucial for excelling in strongman competitions, where exercises like the bench press engage the same muscles and test your overall strength.
How to perform:
- Tighten your core while holding a pair of heavy bar dumbbells and maintain your chest elevated.
- Swing the dumbbells into place by bending the knees slightly, raising the shoulders, and lifting off the floor as you snap the weights up. The dumbbells should be parallel to the ground.
- Before you start, engage the core and ground yourself.
- Ensure the palms are facing forward as you press the dumbbells straight up.
- Pause at the peak of the exercise before gradually lowering the dumbbells to the starting position.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps.
6. Zercher Squat
The Zercher squat is a type of squat that helps promote upper back endurance, thoracic spine stability, and quadriceps and glute growth.
Although having no apparent relationship to competitive lifts such as the snatch and back squat, many individuals can gain from the unique stress that Zercher squats impose on the body.
See also our other strongman back workout routine here.
How to perform:
- Set up the bar at hip level in the squat rack, squat down, and position the barbell in the elbow crooks.
- Stand up and lock your arms together for further strength and stability if necessary.
- Squat low with an erect body and knuckles upward in a broader than typical squat position.
- Squat up and push through the floor, keeping your chest high.
- Reset and repeat, taking care to maintain a proper upright posture.
7. Sled Push
During contests, strongmen push (and pull) almost everything they can think of, from loaded sleds to Mack trucks.
Pushing a heavy item by sheer force of willpower (and a lot of leg strength) is essential to the sport - the sled push is an excellent choice for this, and it's available at most gyms nowadays.
How to perform:
- You'll need a weighted sled and plenty of room to drive it.
- Put several weight plates onto the sled (start lighter) and grasp the handles.
- Tilt over at the midsection and spike one foot behind as if you were going to race off the blocks during a track meet.
- Drive your front leg into the floor to propel the sled ahead.
- Stay low and keep a straight line across your elbows, wrists, hips, and shoulders for optimum leverage.
- Keep your arms tight and your shoulders taut.
8. Axle Deadlift
As a strongman exerciser, you must be comfortable dealing with practically anything, from extra-long barbells to pulling truckload tires to operating with extra-thick steel logs.
With a wide variety of barbells comes the necessity of practicing your grip.
The axle barbell, which is noticeably thicker than the standard barbell, is unrivaled in this category.
To utilize an axle bar, you don't have to modify your deadlift form; your grip is the only thing you might have to adjust.
The barbell is too thick for a hook grip and could be difficult to grasp with a mixed arm posture.
How to perform:
- Take a standard deadlift position with your feet beneath your hips.
- Bend at the hips, press your butt backward, and drop down until you can reach the bar.
- Wrap your hands tightly around the axle and "pull" yourself into place with the bar.
- Deadlift like you typically would from here.
- You may have difficulty working with the axle if you habitually break your pulls off the floor in a quick or jerky action.
- You can lose your hold if you're used to strapping on and tearing a regular bar off the ground.
- To begin, take things slowly and deliberately.
9. Log Lift
The log lift, akin to the log clean and press, mirrors the barbell overhead press but employs a log. This strongman exercise, similar to Olympic shoulder workouts, enhances size, strength, power, and force.
From my coaching experience, it demands an overhand grip and activates forearm muscles, crucial for propelling the hips forward in lifting heavy weights.
This makes it an effective strength training exercise, typically performed with a shoulder-width stance.
How to perform:
- Begin by standing in front of the log.
- Grab the handles and start cleaning the log. As you bend down to begin the clean, lift the log as high as possible, bringing it into the chest.
- Lift it through the knees and hips to finish the clean.
- Push the head back and look up, forming a shelf on the chest for the log to rest on.
- Start the press by sinking, gently flexing the knees, and then reversing the action. This push press will provide enough momentum to propel the log vertically. Proceed by extending your elbows and pressing the log over your head.
- While pressing the log, face forward and thrust your head through each repetition.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps. Try to regulate the log's descent as it drops to the floor.
Equally important to your stongman workouts is a good nutritional strategy. The best diet for a strongman is high-calorie, rich in proteins, carbs, and fats to fuel these intense workouts and aid recovery.
Benefits of Strongman Training
"Strongman training will quickly boost your cardiovascular endurance. It also enhances core strength significantly."
- Hans Pirman, Master's-level Strongman Competitor
Strongman exercises are a fantastic training program that everyone should do.
Below are a few of the reasons why you should try it.
Your athleticism will improve
Strongman athletes are remarkably athletic. Moving is an essential activity component, and you will improve your athleticism.
You also must consider that these guys weighing 350 pounds or more are moving quickly. Consider maintaining a more subtle body while implementing their program.
You become stronger
Strongman training uniquely enhances strength beyond conventional methods.
My experience as a fitness coach has shown that the unconventional nature of strongman exercises, like lifting irregular objects, challenges the body differently, leading to greater strength gains.
Not only do these exercises improve overall muscle strength, but they also significantly boost grip strength. Research from the National Library of Medicine confirms that strongman training is as effective as traditional resistance workouts in building strength .
Pushing through training plateaus
Plateaus are common in fitness. They often occur due to repetitive exercise routines, as noted by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health .
Introducing new stimuli, like the varied movements in strongman training, can reignite progress by challenging your body in unfamiliar ways, enhancing adaptability.
Boosting bone density and muscle
Research from the National Institutes of Health highlights the importance of time under tension for muscle growth .
In my coaching experience, strongman workouts, often involving high-rep exercises like carries and sled pulls, effectively build muscle.
These exercises maintain constant muscle tension, crucial for muscular development, regardless of the lifting distance.
What Workouts Do Strongman Do?
Strongman competitions perform six basic exercises: wide grip lat pull-downs, prowler pushes, deadlifts, heavy kettlebell swings, tire flips, and atlas stone lifts.
How Do You Build Strongman Strength?
You build strongman strength by carrying heavy objects, pushing and pulling, practicing lifts frequently, and combining cardio and strength training.
How Do Strongmen Get So Big?
Strongman training emphasizes using the entire body at once, necessitating a synchronized effort of determination and muscle to stress the body. As an adaptive reaction to the intense stimulation of the whole body, odd object training like truck pull induces massive muscle development equally over the body.
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