What to Do As A Novice Strongman — Writing Your Own Program

TAGS: assistance lift, practice with events, recovery work, weak point training, training template, cj murphy, novice strongman, events, accessory work, program design, mobility, flexibility, strongman, bodybuilding, conditioning, deadlift, squat

COACH

Last week I went on a rant about why you need to practice a lot. This week I’ll give you some ideas on how to go about it.

When we begin our quest towards being a strongman you must have the desire and drive to be great at it. You also must be strong and constantly trying to get stronger. You need familiarity with the events and how to do them. You also need something I did not mention last week: an obnoxiously high level of conditioning.

A good friend of mine, Harvard Professor and highly ranked USAPL lifter Professor Lauren Cohen, (who has won several strongman events) said to me years ago that strongman should really be called fastman.

He meant that you needed to be strong, but you also needed to be able to move fast with heavy weights in order to beat the competition. This is in contrast to powerlifting where you only need to be the strongest; your conditioning level is not as important as your limit strength.

He was right.

You need to be able to go balls out with heavy weights for 60 to 90 seconds. This requires a high level of conditioning. With this in mind, let’s look at a sample training template for a beginner. There are a number of things you will need: basic barbell lifts, accessory work to bring up your weaknesses, practice with the events (remember the quote last week), conditioning, flexibility, mobility, and recovery work.


RECENT: What to Do As A Novice Strongman — Practice and Training Implements


That’s a tall order. Let's look at some ideas on how to build your own template.

Day 1

1. Squat. Wave in work at sets of 1-3 heavy, sets of 5, and high rep work. Figure out where you need work. Are you strong and able to squat double body weight for doubles? Good. Maybe you need to do some high rep work to build what it takes to make it through a 90-second event. Are you barely able to squat bodyweight for a single?Perhaps you need to build your limit strength.

2. Assistance Lift. I like to do a deadlift variant next. This goes back to practice. Hitting a deadlift variant will build different strength and will give you more practice than deadlifting only once a week.

You could also swap in an Olympic weightlifting lift here or a variant to build speed and technique on the events that require you to pick a weight off the ground and explode up to the chest or overhead with it. All forms of cleans and snatches work great here, such as:

  • Clean/Snatch Pulls
  • Power Clean/Snatch
  • Pulls from Blocks

Nikita Durnecv Olympic Weightlifting at Total Performance Sports in Everett Mass

3. Events. Pick an event and do it focusing on technique.

I suggest doing lower-body dominant events like Farmer's Walks, Super Yoke, Atlas Stones, and others.

TPS Rich Yoke

4. Accessory Work. All forms of lower body work are fine here to build your squat and deadlift. Think of stuff like GHR’s, RDL’s, kettlebell swings, all forms of lunges and step ups, and anything else that falls into a similar category.

5. Abs, Abs, Abs. Work them hard and often.

6. Finisher. Add in something to build your conditioning. Maybe some Prowler work, some sled dragging, a bodyweight circuit — who knows. Get creative.

7. Recovery. Get some recovery tools like Acumobility products, trigger point products, and foam rollers. Use them.

Day 2

1. Press-A-Palooza. Pick something and press it. Use the same guidelines as the squat. If you are struggling with overhead exercises, figure out where you need work. Is it limit strength or strength endurance? Work the one you suck at more, but still work both over the training cycle. I suggest that your first press is either a strict press with a barbell or a push press/push jerk.

2. Pressing. Again. This is where you’ll add in the event. Toss in a log or an axle and clean and press, clean and jerk, or clean and push press. Use weight you can work technique with and get better at the event.

3. Upper Accessory Work. Think back! Do pull-ups, rows, and shrugs. Get your back strong and do tons of volume.

4. Another Event. I like tire flips on overhead day. It has always worked well for me and combined my conditioning and event work. Work on technique and speed!

Bobs Tire

5. Assistance. Think arms, delts and bodybuilding. Do it circuit style to get a little more conditioning in. Don’t skimp on the biceps. They tear off a lot in strongman, so get them strong.

6. Recovery.

Day 3

1. Deadlift. Pick a deadlift variant and kill it. Again, use the same thought process as the squat. Can you pull double bodyweight? No? Better get strong(er). Can you pull double bodyweight but gas out after three reps? Better get strong(er) with heavy weights. Strongman isn’t just about one rep maxes. You frequently see very heavy deadlift events for max time or max reps.

2. Olympic Stuff. Here is another chance to build speed! Yeah, I know a lot of coaches say to do this first, but a lot of people do well performing them second. You’re not training for a weightlifting event, so this does not have to be your primary focus. Use this as a chance to build explosive power. It will carry over to your events.


WATCH: Finding Strength: Total Performance Sports


3. Events. There are about 15 billion event variations: max time, max reps, one-rep maxes, medleys, and more. I think this is a great time to add in a medley. Pick a few events you didn’t do during the week and pair them up. Here are a few ideas:

  • Tire flip to sandbag carry to sled drag
  • Atlas stone carry to heavy Prowler sprint to super yoke
  • Farmer's walk to super yoke to sled drag
  • Any combination of the above

Day 4

Today is bodybuilding. Do a bunch of accessory exercises and get a pump. You can do them supersetted, circuit style, or PHA style to really burn fat and improve conditioning. PHA is a great way to get your heart rate up and get a lot of work done in a small amount of time.

Here’s an example:

Do the following movements as a circuit 4 times, 10 reps each, with 90 seconds rest between circuits.

  • Pullups
  • Walking Lunges
  • Ab Wheel
  • Dumbell Bench

Then do the same with these:

  • GHR
  • Dips
  • Kettlebell Swings
  • GHR Situps

There you have it. Use these ideas to build your own training program.

We see many Strongman athletes doing three days of gym work and one long day of events. That is fine, too. If you don’t have access to strongman implements that may be your only option. If you do have access to implements every day, I think more practice with them is better.

These ideas I have given you are not gospel. They are ideas on how to get better, faster, and be your best.

Now I have to go and practice my bass.

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