By:  Chris Mavromatis  

This month I will present multiple ways for one to improve upon ones performance in the first 5 of the 10 areas that I  detailed last month. To recap for those who missed last months article, I had specified that there are 10 attributes that I feel are necessary for excelling as a strongman and they are: 

1) Muscular and Aerobic Conditioning
2) Absolute and Repetitive Strength
3) Explosive Strength
4) Agility 
5) Grip Strength 
6) Ability to move effectively with weight 
7) Complete Range Strength 
8) Courage 
9) Ability to accept varied and intense pain 
10) Fighting Ability

 I will present as many different types of  training for each individual attribute as I can, so that you  will be able to find something that you can utilize that fits your style of training. Next month I will detail the final 5 attributes and in June I will attempt to filter all this information into some specific training schedules and show how someone could fit my ideas into his training. So on to each attribute that I feel is important to excellence in Strongman one by one. 

     1.  When I state that strongmen should have well developed aerobic capacity, I do not mean that they should be able to run a marathon. The cardiac output that occurs in Strongman is much more similar in analogy to a sprint. The muscular endurance required for excellence in strongman is not like a 100k bike race or a 5 mile rowing competition, it is more like a 30 rep squatting session. The above two facts have a big impact on the types of training that are important for successful conditioning in Strongman. One should not waste his training time running multiple mile distances or getting on the step machine for an hour. These types of exercises while not being bad for your overall health are not very productive training for aspiring strongmen. Your aerobic and neuromuscular system has to be built up to handle and thrive on short bursts of extremely intense, short duration work-output. The kind of demands made on your system from carrying 150 lb weights for 300 feet or producing maximum effort for 60 seconds in a back to back tug-of-war are what strongmen need to work to handle well. You can pace yourself to a point in certain exercises (say Farmers Walk) but every second there are significant demands on the system from the weights that you are using and one must be up to task condition wise. Exercises that I feel are very valuable in producing the level of aerobic conditioning that I am talking about are Farmers Walk, high rep squatting and deadlifting, Safety squat bar yoke walking, high rep lunge-squatting, rock carrying, wind sprints, sprinting stairs while weighted, barrel loading, weighted backpack sprinting,  and a personal favorite running while dragging sandbags behind you. If you can sprint 300 feet while holding onto a pair of 100 lb dumbbells without feeling winded, you are of a high level of aerobic conditioning. Exercises that I feel help produce a high muscular endurance threshold are incorporating high (12-50) rep work on all your exercises including all strongman feats (rocks, barrels etc.). Certainly as the next paragraph will attest, one should not exclusively utilize high rep work, but it should be a percentage of the work done. I would say any exercise that you do, you should in some way incorporate both low/one rep max work and higher rep work to condition the nervous system to that type of work. It is true that a 700 lb bencher will be able to perform many reps at 315 lbs, but he will be able to do more reps, recover faster and have better capillary response when he incorporates high rep work into his training.  
     2. Absolute strength is something that I will not really touch on much here, I leave that to the Powerlifting, Olympic Lifting and other max strength specialists. Both they and you know good training schedules to achieve tremendous absolute strength in lifts. What I will emphasize about this type of strength training is one should start to think about absolute strength in broader terms. The squat, deadlift, bench, snatch and clean and jerk are all great lifts, and develop tremendous overall usable power. I am not about to say that one should not include these lifts in his routine. He should. What one should not do in training for Strongman is dedicate himself exclusively to attaining higher maxes in those lifts. Start to think a little bit like a bodybuilder in terms of developing all muscle groups and their potential corresponding power. Should one be concerned about his max curl or bent over row? Absolutely! Should one be concerned about his max overhead barrel lift and max 2 1/2 handled dumbbell hold time? Absolutely! Start to believe and start to train with the knowledge that in Strongman any  strength is helpful, no strength will hurt and all strength is necessary. 


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