Going into this competition has been quite the experience for me because I’ve never done a strongman show. I ran through a lot of ideas in my head and tried out a couple, but I ultimately came back to using the Cube Method with a strongman tilt. I did this because the Cube method allows me to recover adequately, while still allowing for heavy lifting. The focus of the program is based off a simple three week wave where each lift gets a workout developing explosiveness, raw strength and a rep/pump workout. A Cube program has three waves and a deload week, so my training split looks something like this.
Week 1 Explosive Squat, Overhead Repetition, Heavy Deadlifts, Light Event
Week 2 Heavy Squat, Explosive Overhead, Repetition Deadlifts, Heavy Event
Week 3 Repetition Squat, Heavy Overhead, Explosive Deadlifts, Heavy Event
Then I would repeat those waves two more times, going a little bit heavier (5-10%) each wave. The reason I chose this style for strongman is because strongman requires all three of those abilities, but they are impossible to train at the same time, at least in the same workout. Along with this, the event day is the one that really counts, so being recovered enough to go hard on my heavy event days is of utmost importance.
When I started training for this show I was running a conjugate styled program for strongman, but I was lacking an event day that allowed me to get adequate practice in. Also I didn’t really have a need for variations going into the competition and there are only so many ways I could make the log press different without losing carry over.
As a general guideline for assistance work, just don’t be stupid. If you think that doing curls is going to improve your squat then think again. I’ll provide a list of exercises that I know have carryover for my lifts and you can try them out if you want to.
Disclaimer: assistance work is for assistance! If you think you can do these and not the main exercise and still increase the lift then you would be sadly mistaken. Don’t major in the minors here folks.
- Any version of a squat that isn’t low bar with sleeves such as high bar, SSB, Front Squat, Cambered Bar etc. I’ve found that box squatting is not a very good option for RAW power lifters, and because I didn’t have very much time to test out different variations I cannot vouch for it’s effectiveness in relationship to strongman.
- Lunges or Bulgarian Split Squats- Some people think unilateral work is useless, but I disagree especially in regards to strongman. When you’re loading up a heavy yoke and walking with it, you can bet your socks that you’ll find out which leg is weaker. Doing unilateral work can combat this, along with boosting your squat if used correctly.
- GHRs and Good Mornings- I think everyone in the strength game has heard that they should do these odd looking movements to help boost their numbers and there’s a reason. They work. Albeit, they have worked better for my deadlift than my squat, but I have still seen improvement in my squat doing these.
- Leg press, Hack Squat, pretty much any machine- They increase muscle size and increased muscle size allows for greater strength potential. Other than that they don’t have a whole lot of carry over, sorry.
Log Press- These are based off research and a little experience with the log. Ask someone with more experience for better movements, but this is what research has dug up.
- Z-Press- This one is actually a really cool exercise that I found on breakingmuscle.com. It’s essentially a seated pin-press set up right below your chin. It’s great for developing static strength and getting a serious shoulder pump. Look up a video, be prepared to suck at it then roll up in a ball and cry. The real credibility for this exercise is that that Zydrunas Savickas (4 time world strongest man and one of the best overhead pressers in history) uses this exercise, and he’s pressed damn near 500 pounds overhead.
- Overhead Pressing with Dumbbells, Barbells, small children- This is the same idea as using different squats to get better at squatting.
- Floor Press- It seems odd that bench presses would be so far up the list for log press, but once you think about it the floor press makes sense. The floor press will help you drive lockout because of the massive triceps recruitment it requires. If you’ve ever locked out a true 1RM on a log you know how much your triceps are involved. If you haven’t locked out a log, then go try it and then floor press. Try different variations on grips, weight and rep ranges to see what works best for you. I like to do three week waves with a 3×5, 4×5 and 5×5 at the same weight.
- Incline- Yes another bench. Take a look at the position of a high level lifters back while log pressing. Yeah the amount of curve is insane right? Take another look at it, does it resemble an unsupported incline? Oh it does? Okay cool so incline has a place. While having a 400 pound incline won’t equate to a 400 pound log press, you’ll find that you have more pop off your chest at the top position.
- Front squats- Oh yes, the bane of every lifters existence. You can’t breath, you’re uncomfortable, you feel like everything wants to explode. How in the hell do front squats carry over to overhead pressing a log? Well my friend, if you can front squat a high efficiency vehicle then a log will start feel a lot lighter and less intimidating on your shoulders. Along with this, the front squat trains the upper back stabilizers very well, which is important if you don’t want to fold like a lawn chain under a heavy log.
- Deadlift Variations- I’m a broken record. Deficit deads, rack pulls and snatch grip pulls. You should do a lot of damn work on the deadlift and when you’re done with that pick one of these to do more work with.
- GHR and hamstring work- Your posterior chain is important and this exercise will light it up like a mother.
- Lowerback work- Duh, you use your lower back when you lift, so train it. Reverse Hypers, hyperextensions and good mornings.
- Upper Back work- I think that the importance in training the lats for deadlifting has been over done a little bit, but never the less having a strong upper back does correlate to a higher deadlift, assuming that you have done the work necessary on your hamstrings and erectors.
- Weighted Carries- Oh the pain of a farmers walk. Lungs bursting, eyes bulging, heavy breathing. It sounds like the beginning to the next famous boy band song, but it’ll light up everything in your body like 4/20. Just do them. If you can’t move with weight in your hands then we need to talk.
Okay there you have it! My favorite exercises to increase the Squat, Log Press and Deadlift.
If you have any questions regarding the specifics of my program, want help with your own or just want to say hi shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time,
Drink beer, love life and lift heavy