Strongman Training for Sports Performance

The job of a strength and conditioning coach can be a huge endeavour. There are many different training methods and philosophies out there. Ask ten different successful strength coaches which approach is best for a particular sport and you will likely get ten different answers. At Adrenaline our training philosophy is simple. A strong athlete is a superior athlete. My specialty is building strong, powerful, well conditioned, bulletproof athletes. To do this I integrate lessons from a variety of disciplines such as track and field, powerlifting, weightlifting, and strongman.

Strongman exercises can be a game changer in a coaches tool box if incorporated properly into a traditional strength program. With the right programming and coaching they can be effectively applied to almost any sport. Three of my favorite strongman movements are loaded carries, sled drags/pushes, and tire flips.

The effectiveness of loaded carries lies in its simplicity. You pick something up and move with it from point A to point B. This is a great exercise for young athletes as it requires little coaching. Loaded carries are an excellent way to strengthen the arms, grip, core, upper back, and legs with one exercise.

There are numerous variations of loaded carries. Farmer walks, yoke carries, and front carries are among the most popular. Farmer walks are known as the king of carries. Pickup two Dumbbells, kettle bells, or farmer walk implements if you are lucky enough to own them. With one in each hand walk with them. The yoke carry is similar to the farmers walk except the weight is carried on the upper back instead of in the hands. Front carries are performed with an awkward object like a sandbag or a keg. The object is picked up from the ground and carried out in front of you against your body.

Sled drags/pushes are another great exercise because of its simplicity. Nothing builds work capacity in the legs like pushing a heavy sled. Push a sled forward to target the hips, hamstrings, quads, and calves. Drag a sled backwards to target only the quads. Backwards drags are an excellent non traditional option for a leg assistance exercise if you already do a ton of weight room posterior chain exercises.

The tire flip are one of the most iconic strongman exercises. If performed properly it's an excellent exercise that incorporates explosive triple extension. The key with a tire flip is to drive your upper body both forward and upward into the tire using your hips and legs with one powerful movement.

Strongman exercises should never replace traditional compound strength exercises (squats, presses, deadlifts, and rows) Instead they should be incorporated into an athletes training program. Not only are they extremely effective at bridging the gap between weight room strength and on field power, they can reintroduce fun and competitiveness into a stale program. Training can sometimes get dull and boring for athletes that train year round. Nothing brings out competition in the weight room than going head to head in a strongman event.

Derek Becker, CSCS