I am switching it up a little this week.
One, I usually write on Thursdays but with the impending Snowpocalypse coming tomorrow, I’ll be stuck in a plow truck all day tomorrow and won’t have a chance to get it done then.
Yup, I’ll be plowing all day, and not the fun kind.


I’ve been writing about Powerlifting a LOT and some of our Strongman competitors are feeling like I left them, so…….

I got this question directed to me on the Q&A yesterday and thought it would be a great topic:

Strongman Programming Close to a Competition


Strongman Programming Close to a Competition: Trust the Taper


Hello Murph (C.J. Murphy), elitefts Coach,
My current program has mainly barbell movements with some strongman events completed about once or twice a week after lifting.
I'm assuming that at some point closer to the competition I should start to switch that and put the event training in the beginning and use the barbell lifts as a supplement.
Is the correct?
About how far out should my focus switch over the events? Thanks.

There are so many questions here that I can ask (and did) to give him a better answer.
Without knowing his answers yet, let’s cover two scenarios:


  • 1. The Newjack
  • 2. The Veteran

I am not going to write a whole program for you, rather, I’ll give you stuff to ponder and make your own decisions.
Strongman programming close to a competition for the Newjack is not too different than for a veteran.

I consider the Newjack anyone who competes in the Novice division.
It’s your first show, or your second.

NOTE: If you’ve done more than two shows in Novice, step it up and go Open. You’ll get better faster.

Most newbies don’t have a ton of experience with the events or can’t lift the Open class weights.
So, with that in mind, you need to objectively evaluate your situation.

Strongman Programming Close to a Competition: Trust the Taper


Where do you need the most work?


  • Limit strength (for heavy events)
  • Conditioning (for max time events)
  • Skill/Technique (all events)

These are your Big Three attributes to review.

You’ll also need to consider your regular programming and access to implements.
Some people have limited access to implements and need to travel to use them. Not so much now as 8 or 10 years ago, but it is still a factor.
These people generally train events once a week or so.
Do you have regular access to implements and train them each session?

I prefer this for Strongman athletes unless you are months away from a contest and are working on bringing up your squat, deadlift or press.
So, in either situation I suggest trying your best to do events at least twice a week blended into your barbell based training. Preferably every session.

You’ll also need to consider where you need the most work in general.

Let’s say you weigh 200 pounds and have a 550 squat and a 600 pull.
You’re pretty strong.

Maybe the events should take precedence earlier in your training.

Strongman Programming Close to a Competition: Trust the Taper

On the other hand, same guy, same weight but with a 300 pound squat and a 365 deadlift.
You need to get stronger.

What’s the best way to get stronger on basic lifts?
Follow a good program to build your basic lifts.
Do the events after.
Anyway, you get the idea.

So, for the Newjack who is doing a show, I will make the following suggestions:

Start decreasing your barbell/accessory work about 6 weeks out.

Don’t stop squatting, pulling and pressing.

Just knock it back.
Replace it with events.
Focus on the ones you need the most work on.
Look at the specific events in your show and just do those.
Under contest conditions mostly.
Not contest weights, unless you can’t get one rep with the contest weight.
If that is the case, work hard to get one so you don’t zero on an event.

You aren’t going to get too much stronger 6 weeks out from a show, but you can get a hell of a lot better on the events.

Strongman Programming Close to a Competition: Trust the Taper
You can also shave a lot of time off events such as:


  • Farmers/Yoke
  • Stones
  • Any event that goes for time.

This will occur due to you getting more skill at it.
Repetition builds skill.
Practice the events.

Really taper down about 2-3 weeks from the show, but keep your conditioning work up.

I am a huge fan of taking 6-10 days off before a Strongman show.

The norm now in Powerlifting seems to be to lift right up to the meet.

At least around here.
A lot of Strongman athletes are doing this too.


  • The thing is you need to rest so your Type 2 fibers can regenerate.
  • Your Type 2 muscle fibers are the EXPLOSIVE ones.
  • They need rest to recover.
  • You need ALL OF THEM FOR A SHOW!

You will not lose strength by resting for a few days.
You’ll gain it.
You may lose some conditioning, so keep getting your heart rate up.

Drop all training about 2-3 days out.
Rest, do some mobility, play bass, shoot guns, watch some t.v.
Don’t train.

Now, let’s look at the veteran competitor and Strongman Programming Close to a Competition.

If you have done a few shows, you should know where you are at and what you need to do.
But, here are a few ideas for you.

It’s been a while since I did a Strongman show (not this decade).
But, here is what I liked to do:

Start your barbell taper about 5 weeks out.
Switch to mostly events then.
I was always ok with the events and was not worried about zeroing, so I tried to improve my times or get more reps.
The best way for me was to use submax weights.

250 log for reps.
You can get 4 in 60 seconds.
Why burn yourself out trying to fight 250 every set?
Knock the weight back and smash more reps.
Maybe 225-235.
Move it fast.
Work on the drop under.

Of course this is only one example for an event, but it holds true for all of them.

Strongman Programming Close to a Competition: Trust the Taper
When you are 3 weeks out, you can hit each event once at contest weights to get a feel.
2 weeks out start to taper and keep your conditioning work up.

If you normally do 5 sets of an event, do 2.

Get a volume deload done, not an intensity deload.

A week out, I suggest not training at all except some light conditioning like Sled dragging and some mobility.
Rest, get a massage, eat, hydrate.

Then on contest day SFW!

Lemme know what you all think and if you have more questions on this subject.
Share the shit out of this too!

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