How and why you should recreate Strongman events inside your local gym.
By Eddie Avakoff, owner of Metroflex LBC
It’s not a popular sport, but it should be. Strongman (otherwise known as World’s Strongest Man or WSM) blends strength and conditioning like no other. Take the thrill of heavy lifting and mix it with the excitement of a flat-out sprint, then put giant athletes inside an apocalyptic landscape full of junk, and you have Strongman.
There are a lot of functional training programs out there, but how can anything be more functional than lifting large awkward objects and carrying them around? If CrossFit calls itself “functional,” then consider Strongman its badass grandfather (who’s ashamed of his grandson for being such a hipster d-bag).
Strongman is certainly more functional than powerlifting, especially in regards to the object being lifted. Think about how easy it is to pick up a barbell: It has a 28 mm knurled grip, which is perfect for the human hand; the load is completely balanced and symmetrical; and a good bar has ball bearing that allows the bar to oscillate. Now look at the objects used in Strongman: Barrels and Atlas stones have no handles, logs are 10 feet long (compared to seven feet for an Olympic bar) and have set handles, and there is pulling a truck, which is like nothing inside a gym. This is R.W.S.—Real. World. Shit.
The idea of using physics (although still relevant takes a backseat to work capacity in the case of Strongman versus powerlifting), no longer does one only have to deadlift weight, but now one has to deadlift the weight and walk around with it.
So if Strongman is such a badass functional sport, then why isn’t it more popular in the gym? Most gyms don’t have the room to store logs, truck tires, and yokes. Even if they did, how many members would have the strength to use them? And that’s the problem. Strongman is a sport that’s unattainable to the masses.
Now unless you’re a member of one of my hardcore gyms: Metroflex Gym LBC or Kratos Gym OC, the idea of flipping tires or carrying farmer’s walk implements might seem like something you’d only find on a Sunday morning episode of World’s Strongest Man. However, a lot of these movements can be recreated in your local commercial gym.
Don’t take the equipment for simply what it’s worth. Think outside the box and try using the equipment in an original and unique way. If it gets you tired, then something must be working.
There are two main differences separating a log press from a typical push-press: 1) the log requires a hammer grip, and 2) the log presents a lot more instability due to its size. To recreate this feeling, try two different press movements: The first is a heavy standing barbell push-press. Performing this at near-maximal weight will build your overhead threshold. The next movement is standing dumbbell presses using a hammer grip. The dumbbells offer a lot less stability than a typical barbell. Additionally, the hammer grip works a different part of your shoulders than a traditional barbell push-press grip.
There are a few ways one can recreate this popular event. First is by loading up two barbells with equal weight (for instance, a 270-pound farmer’s walk is 135 on each barbell, 45s on each side). Then position yourself in between both barbells as you would farmer’s carries and proceed with the exercise. Be warned that the extended length of the barbell versus the shortened arm of a traditional farmer’s carry will dramatically effect the balance and difficulty of this event.
The other way to test one’s grip is to pinch two weights together in one hand (usually between your thumb and the other four fingers). This doesn’t take much weight at all, as pinching even two 25-pounds plates together can be excruciating.
The easiest way to recreate this movement is just by taking two heavy dumbbells and carrying them around the gym (at a designated distance). If possible, add some Fat Gripz attachments to the dumbbells for added grip strength.
This event is a test of hip extension. And although we can’t toss an actual keg inside the gym, we can certainly test one’s hip extension the same way. Take a kettlebell (and I mean a heavy one) and perform explosive swings. Or better yet, use a 100-pound dumbbell as the kettlebell. Remember, the key to this movement is violent hip extension.
Attach your car or truck to a long rope or chain and pull it. That simple. For added weight, put things in the vehicle, like people. Note: Someone should be in the vehicle anyways to stop it while in motion at the end of an event. A rolling car in neutral will not stop itself. Don’t win a Darwin Award on this exercise.
Car Deadlift and Tire Flip
A car deadlift requires the lifter to pull slightly up and backward (almost at a negative five-degree angle). This leverages the weight of the car and deadlift platform to travel directly down into and through the heels. (In a car deadlift, the entire object is not being lifted off the ground, but rather just one side.)