Happy New Year everyone! We have another 365 days for us to get better and reach our goals and ambitions. This year, I am preparing for Alabama’s Strongest 10. Last year, I participated in that event, and while I don’t think I did too shabby, I want to do much better and maybe even find myself on the podium. Alabama’s Strongest attracts some real heavy hitters.The competition is fierce, and there is no room for slackers. To prepare for it, I made some pretty drastic changes to my training regiment. For the longest time, I was running my own version of the famous 5/3/1 program. For quite some time, I was able to make progress, but it was time for me to train like someone who is going to compete in strongman. Now, I am running a program that is inspired by Josh Thigpen’s Cube Method for Strongman. I modified certain things to satisfy how I want to train and what I am trying to accomplish right now. The program I am running is built using borrowed philosophies from many people. I took ideas that i liked from various accomplished athletes and made my own
Right now, I am in the “offseason.” The competition I am competing in is not until August, and I don’t even know what the events will be. I am sort of training to train for strongman by just getting generally stronger and conditioning better. My program is broken down into four week blocks, each week is broken into four sessions. Each day will have a primary exercise with accessory exercises that support it, and the session is finished off with ten to fifteen minutes of hard conditioning. Day one is squat day, day two is overhead press day, day three is deadlift day and day four is for bench pressing, rowing and technical work on strongman lifts. Days one through three are the main strength and power development days while day four is more for hypertrophy. For those first three days, I will have one day dedicated to speed work, one day dedicated to repetitions and one day dedicated to heavy lifting. Next week, they will alternate. By the end of three weeks, every main movement (squat, overhead press, deadlift) will have had a speed day, a repetitions day and a heavy. Day four doesn’t really change much; it’s a pretty linear progression. I use that day to practice my bench press because I want to, I do a lot of rowing to help build my back and do technical work on strongman lifts. Week four is a de-load week. A block will look like the following:
Intensity percentages and rep scheme - Speed: 60% (6 x 3) - Repetitions: 70% (1 x 8 pyramid*) - Heavy 85% (3 x 3) The percentages are based off of one rep maxes of the overhead press, squat and deadlift using a barbell. The progression is more linear. Add ten pounds to squat and deadlift; add five pounds to the overhead squat press every block.
*I like to use a pyramid set on my repetition day. I will start with the bar and do sets of 8 until I get to the working set then slowly take the weight back off until I’m back to a bare bar.
The Main Movements
For each training session, there will be a main movement. They will be one squat, overhead press and deadlift. The variation of each movement will also constantly change. One week I might do a high bar squat, and the next I might do a box squat. One week I could do an axle bar press, and the next week I could do a swiss bar press. Instead of being super specific and sticking with conventional barbell lifts, the idea is to be stronger in the movement. There is nothing specific about strongman. The events change constantly. So why would I train any differently? Does it really matter how strong my deadlift is with a straight bar? Does it really matter how much I can squat with a straight bar? What matters is getting stronger in those movements. I am not a powerlifter, so I shouldn’t train like one. Now, the exercise selection needs to be appropriate for what I’m doing. For example, I would not do a front squat on my heavy day at 85% of my back squat max. I am very conscious of what exercises I pick going into each day. Sometimes, I don’t even know what I’m going to do until I get to the gym. It really all depends on what my mood is. Now, this might sound like I’m slacking, but hear me out. Instead of going through the motions and forcing myself to stick to an exercise I may not want to do, I pick an exercise I want to do and give it maximum effort. As long as the exercise fits the movement of the day, and I can progress with the reps and intensity, then I’m doing what I set out to do.
The accessories are always done in giant sets. I find that this carries over well to strongman shows, as much of what we do is a combination of endurance and strength. Having my accessories in giant set format keeps me moving weight for longer. It is also efficient. I get through my accessories faster. The accessories will reflect what my main movement for the days is and what the intensity for the day is. Repetitions day will have a lot of isolation exercises and be done in five giant sets. Speed day will have exercises that focus on building power and be done in four giant sets. The heavy day will have exercise meant for building brute strength and be done in three giant sets. The accessories change week to week, but they remain the same block to block. They are also often the same exercise, just a different variation based on the intensity. For example, I like to have some form of squatting as an accessory on my deadlift day. On repetition day, I like to do hack squats. On speed day, I’ll have a moderately heavy front squat. On my heavy deadlift day, I’ll have a heavy goblet squat. They are all squats, but variations of the squat.
What I do for conditioning changes all the time as I get bored with conditioning very easily. As long as I’m pushing myself as hard as I can, I’m doing what I want to do. I like to use the prowler a lot. It’s very easy to use and difficult to hurt yourself using one. An example of what I might do is sprint with the prowler to the end of the turf, do ten pushups, sprint back, do ten body weight squats and repeat that cycle for ten minutes or so as fast as I can. It doesn’t need to be complicated to be effective, but high effort is necessary.
My philosophy behind this program is to maintain a high level of variation because strongman has a high level of variation in and of itself. Like I said, there is nothing consistent about strongman from one competition to the next. If I was a powerlifter or a weightlifter, this approach would probably not work well. Those are sports with very specific objectives. Strongman competitions have different rules and objectives based on what the promoter wants to do, and the promoter can change their mind at any moment. To me, it seems a bit silly to be overly strict in terms of what I train. As long as I am able to move more weight and move better consistently over time, then I am on the right path. Now, once I know what the events will be, then I can be much more specific. I’m not sure my approach will work, but experimenting with different styles is how you learn. As long as I maintain a high degree of effort in everything that I do, then I think it will work fine. There are more details to my program that I am leaving out, but I think this gives you an idea of what I am doing. I will know soon enough whether or not what I’m doing will work.
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“No one cares about your trophies. Show me your scars.”