Strongman Programming for Max Reps Events

TAGS: 12 week plan, Max Reps Events, strongman programming, contest weight, matt mills, strongman nationals, log press, periodization, strength

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When it comes to programming for strong(wo)man, a big question that always comes up is if you should train at contest weight or if you are strong enough above contest weight. The answer, as usual when it comes to programming, is that it depends. There are a lot of factors that come into play when it comes to strongman, and with five or more completely different events, finding the best approach can get tricky.

Every contest is different and sometimes you only have a few weeks to prepare for a show, but for the sake of this article, I’m going to assume you have around 12 weeks to prepare. When it comes to training for a max event, which usually comes down to a press or deadlift, the training won’t be much different than training for powerlifting. However, many times there will be a max press and then a deadlift for maximum reps in a minute, and vice versa. I’m going to outline a program for an event that is max reps for a weight that is out of your reach for the time being. Also, for those of you looking for help while training for a max event, check out Chase Karnes' article about using 5/3/1.


MORE: 5/3/1 for Strongman


As I’m preparing for Strongman Nationals in a few weeks, I’ve been faced with this question many times. If the event is extremely heavy start slow. By this, I mean, to begin with lighter weights and build up each week. I’ve too many times seen competitors just go to contest weight immediately “to test it out.” This a great way to get burnt out, injured and mentally beaten. Anyone who has competed for a while knows you need to be mentally tough to succeed. Failing miserably, over and over, will only make you doubt yourself.

Take the log press for example.

Start the first week with high reps (sets of 10), and do three sets all at the same weight. You should be completely gassed after, but do not miss a single rep. This is the time to build your confidence and strength. As Clint Darden said, "Be the tortoise, not the hare."

Week 2 increase the weight slightly and do the same weight for three sets of eight (3x8). Strength is also a skill that needs to be practiced. These first few weeks should be done with absolutely perfect form. I’m not saying you can’t grind out a rep as you get tired on the last set, but don’t put yourself in bad form to risk injury.

Week 3 increase the weight slightly and perform three sets of six reps (3x6). Again, no missing reps, and you should be feeling stronger and more efficient each week.

Week 4 bump the weight up again, and now you can work up to a heavy set of five. Give your body a rest from the volume and now see what you can hit. But, I can’t say this enough: do not miss a rep. I would much rather have my clients save a rep in the tank than go all out. Save a little — trust me, you still have plenty of time. Now we have a four-week cycle we can work with and increase our weights slightly each week.

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Here is what I would recommend for a 12-week plan:

  • Week 1 — 3 x 10, 230 pounds
  • Week 2 — 3 x 8, 240 pounds
  • Week 3 — 3 x 6, 250 pounds
  • Week 4 — 1 x 5, 270 pounds
  • Week 5 — 3 x 10, 235 pounds (this week should feel much easier than the first week)
  • Week 6 — 3 x 8, 245 pounds
  • Week 7 — 3 x 6, 255 pounds
  • Week 8 — 1 x 3, 290 pounds (hopefully this will be close to competition weight)
  • Week 9 — 3 x 8, 250 pounds (we skipped 10 this week, as it is three weeks out from competition)
  • Week 10 — Work up to a max rep set at or near contest weight, getting at least two reps
  • Week 11 — 3 x 5, 240 pounds (beginning of deload)
  • Week 12— Week before competition, no lifting

As you can see, this is nothing complicated here. Just simple periodization that most people know but ignore anyway. Don’t let your ego get in the way here and make you think you have to go heavy all the time so you can post on Instagram. Look at any of the best lifters in both powerlifting and strong(wo)man that have been around for a long time. They rotate reps and don’t always go heavy. Week 11 is a very important time to go light and is another place I see competitors make a huge mistake. You are not going to get any stronger at this point. Just keep things light and focus on technique. All you can really do by going heavy here is get hurt, which I have seen so many times it frustrates me. You put in 10 hard weeks of training. Let your body rest and recover, and I promise you will feel amazing on contest day.

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