Strongman Training for Beginners

My mate in Australia, Shannon Green (owner of Warrior Performance – website and Facebook fan page), competes in strongman with his mates Stuart and Shane. They are all great guys. Shannon is a real sharp guy and has spent a lot of time studying many different aspects of physical performance. He has made, collected, or bought the majority of the implements he would need for strongman training, and I asked him to throw together some information on how to train for it.

Check out this video from when Tom and I visited Shannon’s training dungeon.

This first post pertains to what strongman is and what some basic requirements are. A second post will put it all together into a programming template.

What A Strongman Competition Consists Of
At a bare minimum each strongman competition will contain an event from the following categories:
Walking Event — yoke, farmers, frame, stone/keg carry, Dinnie stones
Pressing event — log, axle, bar, keg, monster dumbbell, Viking press, stone/block pressing
Hip extension event — tire flips and deadlift variations (car, axle, bar, etc.)
Loading (over a bar or to a platform) — Atlas stones, Hussafel stone, natural stones, kegs, sand bags, barrels

There will more than likely be more than one of these events in a competition: yoke and farmers, tire flip and deadlift, sometimes two pressing events or two loading events. In some competitions there will be dragging/pushing events (but they aren’t as common as the others) and can include sleds, prowlers, trucks, tires, and frames.

Shannon’s Minimum Requirements
Shannon believes that there trainees should achieve some minimum strength standards before training with implements. This will validate a baseline of strength and injury prevention for a new strongman trainee. The requirements are as follows:

Squat 1.5 x body weight (BW)
Deadlift 2 x BW double overhand without straps (remember that strongman is a heavy grip sport)
Power Clean 1 x BW
Push-Press 1 x BW
Bench Press 1 x BW
Shannon says, “This is the bare minimum; it’s what I call table tennis strength — the minimum strength you need to to compete in table tennis.” Grins.

How To Start Event Training
Now that the strength requirements are met, here are some options on how to start training the events with the appropriate implements.

Option 1 — Regularly meet up with a strongman club. This way you can get coached on technique and train with strongmen/women who are stronger than you; it’ll step your game up. There are strongman clubs all over, so just Google search (Shan suggests trolling Facebook); if you can’t find one, start asking around. Most strongman guys will know each other and can point you in the right direction. Shannon says, “Don’t be afraid to travel. I used to travel 1.5 hours each way on Saturday to do my event training when I first started and I know guys that traveled farther than that. If this is too hard, then pull your skirt up!”

Option 2 — If time is an issue, go once every two or three weeks to train the implements and spend the rest of your time at the gym under the bar getting stronger.

Option 3 — Buy or make the equipment yourself. This can be quite expensive and you’ll need a place to store it. Shannon says, “If this is what you want to do, I suggest buying one piece of equipment and mastering it before adding another to your arsenal.” It’ll space out your purchases too.

Which Events Should You Focus On First?
Shannon suggests starting with farmer’s walks first (he just calls them “farmahs” in his Aussie accent). Next get a log for pressing movements. Tires are a great third option if you have the space; they shouldn’t cost you any money. Look for industrial tire yards (places that deal with tractors and earth moving equipment); they have to pay to have their tires removed so if you pick it up, it saves them some money.

Shannon says, “I’d start with a 200 to 300kg tire. This will help bring up your grip and back for stone lifting — we don’t let anyone in our gym lift stones until they are good at tire flipping.”

The next purchase should be a stone mold (Slater’s Hardware sells them). Shannon says, “Make the lightest stone you can from a 16-18″ mold and practice the technique. Once you can comfortably rep that one, make a bigger one.”

The next purchase would be a yoke, but it’s not necessary to buy unless you’re serious. Shannon says, “You can walk up and down the street with a barbell on your back. I know guys who have done this and never used a yoke until comp time. The beauty is that you can’t put it down. Pick it up out of the squat stands, walk away, and then walk it back.”

Shannon’s Message
“If you want to compete, then don’t get worked up about what the events are in each comp. It’s really not important since they carry over to each other. The deadlift will help your tire flip and vice versa — the same goes for the walking and pressing events. Strongman is a whole body sport and the goal is to be strong as fuck all over. You just need to rock up to a comp, pick up some weird shaped objects, scream and yell to summon Odin and Thor. Then when you’re done, throw a couple of chicks on each shoulder and go eat steaks and get stuck in a meat coma.”

Thanks for the input, Shan. The next post will put everything together into a strongman training template. We’ll also do some stuff on grip work and any other topics you guys are interested in. Also, Shannon, please tell Johnson I miss him:

Johnson, the most badass Australian bulldog

28 thoughts on “Strongman Training for Beginners

  1. I am interested in Strong Man stuff but I don’t know when I would cut off my current training for it. It does seem like a sport you can do later in life though as you continue to get stronger. Am I wrong?

  2. Great Article! Excellent strongman primer for beginners.

    I also must post a link to the Ontario Strongman page. It has excellent resources and is often recommended to beginners as a good source of information. It is dated but the material is still relevant

    Additionally, beginners can find a wealth of information at the Marunde Muscle forums

    It is probably the most active strongman forum on the net and many top level professional strongman post here.


  3. What a sport.

    I didn’t have a couple of those “table tennis” standards down when I started, but it didn’t matter. Log, axle and circus DB “presses” are more jerks than anything else.

    I’ve also noticed footwear is super important. Flat shoes for DL events, shoes with a heel for loading events, good basketball shoes for carrying stuff, etc…

  4. Damn, 2xBW is a hardcore deadlift for double overhand, assuming it is non-hook-grip. My grip has a long way to go to be able to handle that! I’m looking forward to the discussion about training for strongman.

  5. Great stuff. I gravitated more toward powerlifting as I began lifting mostly because I’m shorter (5 9) and felt I could be more successful in powerlifting but I’ve always been fascinated by strongman. I think I’ve seen the 2009 Worlds Strongest Man from Malta about a million times. A little part of me died inside when ESPN2 switched that out for the crossfit games.

  6. Basically, I was stating that strongman stuff seems like a sport somebody can pick up in later years (I am thinking mid to late 30s). I was asking if that statement was correct. The reason being, if it is, I can just pursue it after I do some young men sports.

  7. nobodystopsdblob,

    Its been my experience that strongman is pretty rough on the body, certainly more than powerlifting. Hell, in the two years i’ve been around it, I’ve seen multiple torn biceps (including one professional tear his bicep), couple ACL tears, and even one finger that nearly was severed.

    I think its similar to american football: Its a sport where the younger guys thrive at the professional ranks, yet everyone can still enjoy it at the appropriate level.

    So I guess the answer to your question is, yes, anyone can enjoy the sport and compete in it, but if you are an older Gent then cards are stacked against you competitively

  8. Dope post – good motivation to drive the hour to train with other dudes and proper equipment instead of spending so much time carrying sandbags and stones in the basement.

  9. @Shannon – well played.

    Seriously, though – for grip strength, do you typically work grip independently or does it tend to get strong enough just by committing to doing the PL and SM lifts?

  10. @ Brian – I dont personally, i found doing extra grip work did nothing for me, but know of other people it has worked for… the biggest things that improved my grip were – D.O.H deadlifting, Power Cleans with the Axle, tyre flipping and farmers… for deadlifting we warm up d.o.h till we cant grip the bar, then hook grip till we cant grip anymore, then mix the grip :)

  11. @ Chriss2004 – mate everyone has different prefernces for foot were, but mine are – oly shoes for overheads, rock climbing shoes for truck pulling, socks for deadlifting & asics sneakers for my loading and walking events… some people wear work boots and or boxing boots aswell

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