||By: Chris Mavromatis
Greetings and a Happy New
Year from all of us at Mavrocat Productions, Inc. Hope it is your strongest
This month I will
go into the rest (Week 1 Monday and Wednesday being in Octobers issue)
of the training routine that I am using to get back into competition shape.
If you will remember my training schedule goes Week 1, Monday is Legs,
Calves, and various Zercher lifts; Wednesday is Chest and Shoulders; Friday
is Deadlifts, Low Back and Upper Back; and Sunday is Biceps and Triceps.
Week 2 is broken down Monday is Rocks, Logs and Sandbags; Wednesday is
Harness Pulling, Arm over Arm pulling and Tire Flipping and Friday is Super
Yoke, various object drags and various holds for time. During both weeks,
I am still performing the Farmers Walk (in the style described in the October
issue) between 3 to 5 days a week in the morning. On to the specifics:
Week 1 Friday
is composed of the following exercises: Either (meaning I alternate them
each week) standard deadlifts from the floor or hands at side deadlifts
from the floor, deadlifts from the rack, heavy reverse hyperextensions
or seated good mornings, 2 to 3 different varieties of rowing, one heavy
I will start off
with one plate on each side and keeping adding plates on the deadlift and
finish with a 2 to 3 rep max. Do I pull conventional or sumo-style? If
you have been following my thinking over the months, then you have to know
it is conventional. Sumo is a waste of time for Strongman, actually essentially
pointless. But Chris, aren't there times when you go to pick something
up and your stance is wider than a conventional deadlift (like rocks or
tires)? Yes there are and that is what the Zerchers on Monday are for.
Pull Conventially, end of story.
While I am a fan
of high rep squats, if you are already doing those I wouldnít incorporate
high rep deadlifts very often because there isnít much point. Deadlifts
are your core exercise for overall power and ability to pick up heavy things,
so go heavy and for reps of 3 to 8. I usually go with 5ís. You tend to
know that what you can pull for 5, you can pull about 50lbs more for a
single (at least this has been my experience) and so 5ís are a good gauge
for when you are going into a competition, although I will cycle down to
triples and double in the final weeks (if, of course, I know there is a
deadlift in that competition otherwise I will stay with 5ís). I am not
going to go into detail as to the best way to deadlift for power (there
are other authors here, who could probably do that more eloquently), I
will simply say that they are quite important.
As I said above,
on one week I will pull from the floor with a regular bar and the next
week I will pull using a special bar (I got through a company in a bodybuilding
magazine, I believe it is HomeGym Warehouse or something) that has handles
on both sides of you and is not completely closed in (like a Trap bar).
The sides are straight and there is a back bar that connects them altogether.
Hard to describe really, but you definitely donít need the same bar just
one that has handle on the side. The one thing that I do like about this
bar, as opposed to a Trap Bar, is that the handles are 3 inches above the
weight sleeves. This means that your hands are 9 inches above the floor,
as opposed to the ~6 inches of a standard bar. This gives it a good feel
and more closely approximates the lifting of the back of a car. It is also
not like a rack deadlift, because it is not that high. I have found that
I can use about 100lbs more on this pull, then on a standard pull and this
makes for a good gauge as to my progress on a standard pull.
The utility of
having the hands at the sides comes from the fact that many implements
in Strongman are designed so that you have to pick up the implement with
handles at your sides and also from the fact that it changes the leverage
of the lift and shocks the muscle and forces new growth and strength. I
find it a great way to progress on my standard deadlift and it keeps me
from getting stale. Again sets of 5ís. Whichever type of deadlift I am
doing, I will then go to rack deadlifts. I will do 4 progressively heavier
sets, ending with a double or triple. I will either actually do standard
bar deadlifts off of a rack or use the handles to the side bar and put
it on boxes. I either pull from at the knee or even higher (sometimes making
it a lockout of sorts). The last set should always be at least 100lbs heavier
than your last pull from the floor set, sometimes 150lbs heavier.
To isolate more
the lumbars and erectors, I then throw in 3 sets of either hyperextensions
or seated good mornings with reps in the 8 to 12 range. Reverse hypers
are really great and if your gym doesnít have one, try to get them to get
one. It is very restorative to the back and hits the erectors and opens
them up and gets blood to them (as opposed to the crushing they get from
squatting et al). Seated Good Mornings are fantastic, but go slow with
them and really watch your form. Never do singles with good mornings, there
is both no point and it is too dangerous. I will not really go into the
benefits of doing them and having a strong lower back and erectors, because
it should be obvious.
To put it simply
we will do almost every type of rowing you have heard of, and some that
I am quite sure you havenít. Basics are barbell and dumbbell rowing, seated
and T-bar machine rowing and heavy pulldowns to the front (pulldowns to
the back do not hit the lats and rhomboids as hard and is not worth the
risk to the shoulders). The key once again, is to have different exercises
to do each week. Constantly getting stronger on everything is easiest,
when you are constantly doing different things. One exercise that I will
let you in on, (and this is probably the best information in this article)
and I can virtually guarantee you have not heard anywhere else, is what
I call arm over arm rowing.
Why is it that
some mediocre deadlifters and rowers are good arm over arm pullers, while
some top-flight deadlifters and rowers (meaning 400lbs + for reps on bent
over rows) are not great arm over arm pullers? It is grip; because gripping
the boating rope they use in arm over arm pulling is a unique strength.
So I devised doing rows with that rope. So simple, yet can make such profound
improvements in both your overall grip and your arm over arm performance.
What I did was I tied a short (6 to 12 inches) of the 1.5 inch hempen rope
that I have for my arm over arm pull to both arm a barbell and my rowing
machines. Now I am both improving my grip and gaining great lat and rhomboid
strength, while unquestionably improving my arm over arm ability. The easiest
way to get the rope to attach well to the bar or machine is to have a rope
company put a strong loop into it, so that it goes on and off easy. I cannot
tell you how much this has helped my pulling and is an advantage that now
you too know about. I must say that I was a little hesitant about writing
about this exercise, because now everyone will have this advantage too,
One rep shrugging
is not worthwhile, as it is almost impossible to know if you are shrugging
or not when the weight is so heavy that you can only barely do one rep.
That (and the fact that the traps respond better to higher reps) is the
reason that we do between 6 to 12 reps on the shrugs. Once again using
all different types of bars, dumbells and etc. We do 4 sets and get progressively
heavier. One of the bet ways to shrug (that some have attributed to Lee
Haney) is to have the bar or dumbbell behind you. You pick up the barbell
off the rack behind you and shrug that way. It does seem to hit the traps
more efficiently and creates a strong sense of balance. We always end each
set with a maximum time hold in the top position.
Week 1 Sunday is
Biceps and Triceps. I have never done more than 9 sets for either body
part, and see no reason too. Get in, destroy them and get out and let them
rest. They are little muscle groups, so they can be over worked. Generally
we will do 3 sets of three different exercises for both muscle groups or
one very heavy basic exercise for 4 to 5 sets followed by one lighter exercise
for 3 sets.
For Biceps, I prefer
heavy wide grip EZ curl bar curls, followed by heavy slightly cheating
hammer curls, and finishing with (another piece of very useful information
for this month) across the chest hammer curls. This exercise is by far
the most important for your biceps because it very well may save you from
tearing a bicep. Where do strength athletes overwhelmingly tear their biceps?
The elbow... as opposed to at the upper tie-in. If you hammer curl across
your torso ending at the opposite shoulder (this is the description of
the exercise) it strengthens the tendon that attaches the lower bicep.
To describe this exercise again, you start with the dumbells at your sides
with a hammer grip and alternately curl them (close to your body) across
your stomach past your pec and ending at your shoulder. It feels different
then other curls (you don't feel it over your whole bicep) because it is
working it differently. We always finish biceps with this exercise, it
is that important. It is a big favorite of Magnus ver and he has never
torn his bicep. With the last exercise being one that we always do, we
will change the first two over workouts to keep the biceps fresh and work
them from different angles.
way to hit them is with sliding curls. If you have never heard of these
before, you hold a straight bar (or possibly and EZ curl bar, but it just
doesnít seem to work as well) and start in the same position as if you
are going to normally curl it (at your thighs), but instead of arcing out
and up... you pull your elbows back and slide the bar up your torso 'til
you can go no higher. This really hits the belly of the bicep and will
develop good starting power. Do I do my curls strict or cheating? I like
to think it is in between, not using the whole body to leverage it up but
exploding with it none the less. There really are few times in Strongman
where you have to be strict about your pulling/curling.
Triceps are so
important, because of their central role in pressing, that we work them
very hard. We do the meat and potatoes triceps exercises like EZ curl bar
skull crushers, two handed dumbbell French presses and rope (once again
using the rope) pushdowns. One very good exercise that you might not know
about is where you lie on the floor and take a dumbbell and do skull crushers
to the floor (in other words behind the head and stopping at the floor).
You can use more weight than the standard dumbbell skull crusher because
it is a limited range of motion, but it really helps the lockout in the
press because the hardest part for the triceps is to get past that mid
range of the press. A very good exercise. We also like the isolation of
doing one arm work, such as one arm pressdowns. Even the seemingly bodybuilding
exercise of kickbacks can be useful if done heavy enough, because of their
ability to hit the inner tricep.
I think going through
an arm workout pretty fast is important too, because of the need to get
the arms used to the buildup and removal of lactic acid, that you will
notice quite strongly in your first Strongman competition. That and the
fact that the muscles of the upper arm recover quickly between sets.
That is it for this month, next month I will
go into Week 2 of the Training Schedule. Thanks and as always best of luck
in your training!
Chris Mavromatis has a double B.S. in Neuropsychology and International
Economics from Indiana University-Bloomington. He lived and Sweden and
Belgium for 2 years and attended and learned from many strongman championships
all over Europe. He has competed in Regional Strongman competitions in
Belgium and Denmark. He has contacts and knowledge from numerous strongmen
over Europe and North America. He produced the premier strongman
competition "The Strongest Man Alive Contest" in St. Louis, MO on November
7th and 8th , 1998. Results of this contest can be viewed at http://www.strongestmanalive.com
Reproduction of this article, in whole or part, for
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Copyright © 1999 Chris Mavromatis.