As covered in my last article, the dynamic effort (DE) session is dedicated to speed. Max effort (ME) is dedicated to huge weights and re-writing the record books every session you train. My approach is a bit different from the traditional Westside approach. Powerlifters must train for a 1 rep max, but strongman may require a 1 rep max, a heavy weight done for numerous reps, or a relatively lighter weight done for time.

Before every session, make sure you do plenty of warming up. My warm up starts on the way to the hall as I crank the heat up in my car. By the time I get out of my car, I am already hot. I then stow my stuff and start walking for about 5 minutes. I then do a series of dynamic stretches (moving while stretching) for both the lower and upper body. We will then do some type of core work along with balance and reactive warm ups.


My basic max effort workout will generally have a squat, dead, and an overhead press. The order depends on what needs the most work and whether I have a show coming up. For the last year, I have started with my press then hit the dead and finished with the squat. We modified the original ME to one that works for strongman. Keeping this in mind we may do a max single, a 5RM, a time limit set (60-90 seconds of work). Whatever we choose we always try for a new PR. Sometimes we may drop a lift (never longer than 1 session) depending on recovery. Since strongman requires more pulling prowess if anything is dropped it is the squat.


Variation and rotation is the key to pressing on ME day. I usually won’t do the same movement two weeks in a row, and I vary the intensities; max single, reps, or reps for time could be used. Here is the 5-week rotation I am using now:

  • Week 1 - Log press with 13-inch log-  work up to new PR for a triple. It would look something like this 210x6,260x3,310x3,340x3...I will wait between 3-5 minutes between the heavier sets…the warm ups are done I go you go style. The log must be cleaned to the chest only on the first rep and then pressed.
  • Week 2- Viking press- Pick a contest weight and go balls out for a set period of time (60-90 seconds)-Perform only 1 set after you are warmed up.
  • Week 3 - Axle (2 3/8 inch) Clean one time (to shoulder) then press: 3 sets of 6-10 reps. Be sure to rest 2-3 min between sets.
  • Week 4 - Band suspended 8-inch log.  For this lift, we will take a medium or a light band and put it looped at the top of the power rack and then attach it to a log. The log weighs 180lbs and the medium tension bands are about 150 so the net weight of the log is now only 30lbs. When you press the bands de-load and the lifter must take the full weight at the top end. This allows us to use huge weights and get used to locking them out. I will work up to a max singles and then go back down for a back off set of 6-10 reps.
  • Week 5 - Seated machine press - 4 sets of 6-10 reps.  This is followed by one all out set of log clean and press with a lighter weight like 240-270. I do this so my delts are smoking and I must concentrate on my technique more.

There are no rules here except you must set a new PR every session. If you are feeling great and you are down for a rep set you can change it to a max.  If you don’t feel great and you don’t feel like you can reach a new one rep PR, do some reps. The combinations here are endless. Since I have totally committed to this type of training I have seen PR’s fall every week for the last 18 months, with a great side effect of bigger shoulders.


For decades I loved the squat but I have come to love the pull from the floor or anywhere else for that matter. In strongman, you must be able to pick up very heavy things (cars, big stones and the like) and the key to success is a strong back and a huge deadlift. In strongman, if a straight bar is used you must go conventional (feet inside hands) and you may or may not be able to use straps. Deadlift variations are as endless as the press. The deadlift rotation is set around 8 weeks with one week being off from the deadlift every 4th week. My current rotation looks like this:

  • Week 1 - 11-inch rack pulls with added band tension. I will do warm up sets and then progress to a new PR.
  • Week 2- Trap bar- deadlift standing on 3 inch box (this gives a much longer pull) work up to a new 3RM.
  • Week 3- Car deadlifts for reps for set time (60-90 seconds).  After an adequate warm-up, do one all out set.
  • Week 4- No deadlift
  • Week 5-Conventional deadlift - work up to new 1RM and then drop weight 20% and hit one all out set .
  • Week 6 -18 inch deadlift – work up to new 3RM.
  • Week 7- Bavarian style dead (from shoestrings) here we could use our apparatus or a straight bar. If we use a straight bar we will use a lot of band tension. I try and use higher reps from like 10-15.
  • Week 8 - No deadlift.

As you can see, you have total control over the variation. My next 8 weeks will look nothing like the above 8 weeks except for the fact that I will pull from the floor at least one time. If you do have a show coming up you can keep the session the same for no more than 3 weeks, but make sure your last session is 2 weeks before the contest.

I take time off every 4 weeks to allow my back to recover. If you recover quickly or are using some type of performance enhancing aid, you may be able to get a way with pulling every week.

Good Mornings are one of the best ways to bring up your deadlift. The Westside guys use them to bring up both the dead and the squat. Unfortunately, for me I have an injury that is aggravated by any type of good mornings so I do not use them in my training (with the exception of bands in my auxiliary sessions). Any type of good morning can be substituted for the deadlift. Generally speaking when our guys use the good morning it will be after they squat and will be rotated every 2 weeks with the deadlift.


I was a squat man for 20 years. I loved to squat and it was the mainstay of my lower body training. Now It has become the movement that is put aside (unless there is a squat event in an upcoming strongman contest ).Our squats on ME day are split between the rack bottom pause squat, regular squat, and the Viking squat. The Viking is an apparatus, but the other two require a bar and we use the Buffalo Bar from IronMind or the Safety Squat bar.   These two types of bars go a long way to saving your shoulders and help with maintaining proper posture during the squat. For you bodybuilder types you will love the Safety Squat bar for its ability to thrash your quads, but be prepared as it will drastically reduce the weight you will be using.

Since we squat after we pull, we tend to do rep training and not as much heavy weight/ low rep work. We generally do 5-12 reps, with the big weights coming on the weeks where we drop the dead. On the weeks we squat first, it will always be to a max triple or maybe even a single. My current rotation looks like this:

  • Week 1 - Rack bottom squat (1 second pause in the bottom of the rack) and these will be done for 3 sets of 6-10 reps. This will give me a bit of volume and the pause not only is assistance work for the dead, but has a great crossover for helping events such as the tire flip and stones. We use the buffalo bar for these.
  • Week 2 - Viking squat – 3 sets of 8-12.  We may pause between reps or just pump the reps out.
  • Week 3 - Safety Squats - 3 sets of 5-8.  These keep you upright and tight.
  • Week 4 - Max squat- we work up to a max triple or single. Here we will wear all our gear- squat suit/wraps/belt. By using the equipment every 4 weeks I feel like you are able to keep the equipment groove.
  • The next week we would just do a different variation and keep moving forward.

In general, we do not use any equipment like squat suits or wraps when we train. We only use it for max squats and when getting ready for a show.  Too many people use their gear too much and do not build enough strength in the stabilizer muscle groups. We do our weight training so that it enhances our strongman. Strongman requires movement and equipment, for the most part, is only good for static events.

Until next time,

Train Hard and God Bless!