Medleys for Conditioning

TAGS: medley, aerobic, strongman, murphy, conditioning, strength

I’m known as the Strongman guy around here because I own a Strongman/Powerlifting gym, and Dave and Jim like to make fun of me for it. It makes them feel good to laugh at me. Anyway, strongman training can be adapted to athletic training in many ways. In this article, we’ll look at how to improve our athletes’ level of conditioning through the use of strongman events. We will look specifically at the use of medleys for this purpose.

What is a medley?

A medley is simply two or more events strung together, much like a superset, or a circuit. In a strongman contest, everyone dreads the medley because they are so difficult. You need to have the ability to exert massive amounts of force repeatedly, have great torso and grip strength, and superior cardiovascular conditioning. The medley is the last event in a contest too. This is where you can tell who trained, and who didn’t.

The last event is always hard, but this makes it brutal. Conditioning is usually the biggest factor in this event, and that is why we will discuss how to use this for sports training.

The medley can be set up to train specific aspects of strength, or general aspects. What I mean by this is that you can tailor them to your athletes needs. They can be set you to focus on anaerobic threshold training, explosiveness, grip strength, torso strength, or combinations of all aspects of strength and fitness.

What events can we use?

Many Strongman events transfer well to sports, and many don’t. The best events to use for athletes are as follows: flipping Sandbag lifts/carries Atlas stones Super Yoke Farmers walk Sled dragging Yoke zercher carries Heavy medicine ball throws Keg lifting

We’ll talk about how to set these medleys up in a few minutes. Right now, you need to decide what exactly is your goal? I’ve met so many “strength coaches” who don’t know what their goals for their athletes’ are. So before you start any kind of medleys (or any kind of training) make sure you have a concrete goal in mind.

What are you to trying to condition the athlete for? Let’s use a boxer as an example. Boxers work in two or three minute rounds with one minute of rest (round time depends on pro/am classes). During the round, the boxer repeatedly explodes with flurries of punches, and takes a few seconds of “Active rest” by clinching or breaking away. At this time the boxers heart rate gets sky high, most guys are sucking wind by the time the round bell rings, and they are getting back to the stool. This is not usually because they worked their asses off, it’s usually because their coach had them doing long, slow distance training. Our job is to make sure they can exert maximum effort during the round (not run for ten miles at a relaxed pace), the heart rate goes through the roof when they do this, so the second half of our job is to get the heart rate as close to the resting rate as possible during the one minute rest. So many people miss this it is amazing. Old school coaches usually train the wrong energy pathway (oxidative/aerobic). Medley training is an outstanding way to get them to achieve the goal I outlined. This idea can be applied to all sports, it does not matter which, you just need to know how long your athlete works for, how hard they need to work, and how much time they have to get their heart rate back to normal before they go again. It’s really pretty simple.

How to set up a medley

I’ll list some sample medleys and what they can be used for in this section.

General conditioning/Torso strength

This is great for all sports

Events used: sand bag clean and bear hug carry, Atlas stone carry and sled drag.

    • Set up a heavy sandbag, heavy depends on your athletes age/weight.
    • For high school athletes under 175 pounds try 75-100 pound bag
    • Over 175, try 125-150 pounds
    • College athletes/adults under 175 pounds, try 125-150 pounds
    • College athletes/adults over 175, try 150-175 pounds
    • Set up two atlas stones next to the sandbags, weights will vary here as well, high school athletes will be in the 115-200 pound range, college/adults will be in the 200-240 range.
    • Put the sled 75 feet away from the stones and sandbags.
    • This drill will use three to four athletes going back to back, two to three times each.
    • On the coaches command, the first athlete will clean and press the sandbag to his chest, and bear hug it as he runs to load it on the sled, when he gets to the sled, he will sprint back to get the stones, and load the one at a time as fast as possible. Once loaded the athlete will drag the sled back to the starting point where he got the sandbags, and stones from.
    • The other athletes will then set up the medley again as fast as possible, and the next one goes. Repeat this until everyone has been through two times.
    • Each athlete should complete the course in less than 75 seconds the first time.
    • If this is done properly, athletes will get 50-75 seconds of hard work, with 2-3 minutes of active rest during the reset times.
        • Keg filled with water or sand (this adds instability and forces the athlete to keep the torso tight while lifting). The goal is to clean the keg to the shoulder, and put it back down to the ground under control. If they athlete can’t clean it to the shoulder, take out some water or sand. It is too difficult to estimate how much weight is in the keg because of the different size kegs. Just get a keg and figure it out.
        • Farmers Walk handles-Begin with half bodyweight in each hand, regardless of age, or level, this is not as challenging as it sounds. For example, a 200 pound athlete will use 100 pounds each hand to start with. Athletes will quickly adapt to the Farmers Walk, resist the temptation to go too heavy on these, it is better to increase the distance with a moderate weight. Remember, you are using these for conditioning the athlete, not to prep them for Strongman contests.
        • Super Yoke set up 50 feet from Farmers handles loaded to 1 ½ times bodyweight.
        • On the coaches command, the athlete will clean and shoulder the keg as many times as possible in 30 seconds, and then pick up the Farmers Walk handles, and move as fast as possible to the Super Yoke, then take the yoke for a ride back the 50 feet to the starting point.
        • The yoke, and Farmers Walk build tremendous strength in the ankle, knee, and hip when used properly. The Farmers Walk also builds grip strength. These two attributes are very important in stick and racquet sports.

      We will continue on in later articles with more sample templates for you to use. I always like to say that what you have read is a template, a guideline. It is not the Holy Grail of strength and conditioning. Use your imagination, and try some combinations of your own.When creating your own conditioning drills, keep the guidelines I listed in mind, what is your athletes’ goal, how long is the sport, or play, and train the correct energy pathway. Good luck, and good training.

This medley is much more difficult than it sounds and is best used at the end of a training session. Try and make it like a contest for bragging rights. High school kids love bragging rights.

Torso/Ankle/grip strength


Events used: farmers walk, super yoke and kegs

For this medley you will set up the following:

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