Strongman Programming

Shannon Green of Warrior Performance in Australia has a thick accent. My mate Tom says, “I live here and sometimes I don’t know what he’s saying.” But the words that come out of his mouth are top notch, and he can make you a strongman. His favorite hobby is competing in strongman competitions (he also makes good coffee, but that’s neither here nor there). We did a post on how to train for strongman as a beginner, and today’s post is a sequel in that it discusses programming for someone that has transitioned into primarily training for an event.

Shannon is quick to point out that there’s no best way to train for strongman and that most guys will figure out their own unique template that they’ve adapted to. They know their body and figure out what works for them, and that’s why Shannon considers establishing “table tennis strength” important before doing heavy event training. By getting strong, the trainee will have a good understanding of how their body adapts to stress as well as experience with lifting and training. Heavy events are progressions or variants of different strength lifts, but their dynamic nature demands experience, balance, and connective tissue strength.

Shan with the yoke

After transitioning into event training (as discussed in the first post), Shannon suggests develop a base with the event activities. As with any new activity, take it easy with the events at first and develop the technique first while progressing them slowly. Meanwhile, continue getting stronger in the gym. Below are two programming template examples.

Shan’s Template

This first program template is Shannon’s program he personally uses. Training the events can be very taxing, so Shannon prefers more recovery days (although they have guys who train 4 to 5 days a week). It’s three training days a week with two in the weight room, and it’s six days that rotate every six weeks. As far as loading, Shannon says, “You can use 5/3/1, Texas Method, Westside, or whatever tickles your pickle. They all work. I use a bastardized Westside/531. I do speed work 60-70%, reps with 80 to 85% (sometimes around comp weight, sometimes to improve my max reps in a time limit), and I go for 1-3RMs to get new PB’s.” Lifts that are separated by a slash indicates he does the first one in the first week and the second in the second week.

Day 1
Back Squat/Front Squat
Good Morning/Deadlift
GHR/Calve Raise

Power Clean/Power Snatch
Front Squat/Back Squat
Maybe some curls if I could be bothered

Day 3 – Event Training
Back Squat/Front Squat
Walking Event – Farmers/Yoke
Pressing Event – Log/Axle/Monster DB
Hip Extension & Loading – Stones/Tyre flip/Strongman Deadlift (Bar, axle, car, generally from 18-19” height)
Accessory – Reverse hyper/45* Back extension

“Every 4-5 weeks we will drag or push something – sled/truck. Event training is rotated all the time, I do take time off from event training and just do barbell work as well.” Note that Shannon’s Day 2 is kind of like a light day after his heavier day on Day 1. Then he seems to have more rest after the event training day because he says it’s pretty taxing.

Template #2

“Another way to do it is to train the events as max effort spread across the week and just use barbell work as accessory.” Note: ME = Max effort, DE = Dynamic effort
ME Upper (Log, axle, DB, Viking press)
Accessory: Bench, lats, tris

DE Lower (Box squats, speed pulls, or speed stones without tacky)
Accessory: Reverse hyper, GHR

DE Upper (Dynamic log press with bands)
Accessory: Lats, tris, rotator cuff

ME Lower (Yoke, farmer’s, deads, dragging, stones with tacky)
Accessory: Reverse hyper

This particular template has a good distribution throughout the week and includes more event training. It would probably suit a guy who has built up significant strength in the conventional lifts (e.g. a guy like Chris) and needs to apply it to the specificity of strongman events. It’s almost like a skill or conditioning phase where the strength is used for a specific grouping of events.

Above are just two types of options for a programming template. Remember that it will always vary on the individual, their strength adaptation, what equipment they have available, how experienced they are in the events, and how close they are to an actual competition. I asked Shannon what events he considers the most physically stressful and whether he would put them at the beginning or end of the training session:

This will be individual. For me, the yoke is most stressful, but a lot of guys find stones really hard at first. Stones require tacky if you want to go heavy, so they are generally at the end of a workout, but they generally come last in a comp. But strongman doesn’t have a fixed structure, so I think it’s good to mix it up occasionally since on the day thing may change. Use an Army or Marine mentality and be prepared for the worst-case scenario, oorah!

26 thoughts on “Strongman Programming

  1. Awesome stuff. I’ve been watching the 2011 WSM heats on youtube the past couple days.

    Unrelated question: I’m in the market for weightlifting shoes. Should I just go with the standard .75 heal or has anyone tried these from Adidas ( Some are claiming they are based on the old Rogue Rip shoes. They have a .60 heal which seems better for me since I’d like to deadlift in them but some have said the heal gives a little.

  2. Thanks for this Justin. I have been planning on following something almost exactly like the 3 day template he uses, good to see I wasn’t crazy to think it would work.

  3. I use 5/3/1. with appropriate events mixed in. Axle Dl, stones and farmers on DL day. Yoke and Conans on squat day. I’ll mix up my press events on bench and OHP day.

    It is a nice mix, and you can play around with reps and such when you need to. I won’t push my rep max on days I need to go harder on events, and vice versa.

  4. @bodhi

    I’ve got a pair and I’m happy with ’em. Pretty comfortable for lifting shoes. They do tilt you forward a little bit if you use them to deadlift, though.

  5. I’m thinking about ordering some shoes to only use for deadlifting. I’ve got Adidas Ironworks III that I use for squatting but I don’t really like the heal for deadlifting. I’ve tried chucks but I don’t like them so much either. Does anyoen use wrestling shoes? Can you recommend a good/cheap shoe for deadlifting without a heal? I train deadlifts barefoot but USAPL requries some type of shoe.

  6. I think I lose some power from the cushioning. Maybe that’s ridiculous but it definitely don’t feel as comfortable with them on. I used them at last year’s meet and found them acceptable but when I tried wearing them last week it felt really off. I just came across these things: I tried lifting in my LL Bean slippers that I wear to get the mail etc but they’re so wide that I couldn’t get lined up right.

  7. I deadlift in VS lifting shoes. I use them for all my lifts. I’ve never had a problem and have had definitely had some great PRs in them.

    Justin, do flat vs. oly shoes make a huge difference in the deadlift? (musculature, form, etc.)

  8. BB work during the week to bring up your weaknesses that are prevent on event day, usually Saturdays or Sundays.

    Most guys run 531, or a 5×5, or sometimes a varied program.

    I’m really trying to get my overhead up and have been focusing more on pressing during the week, then my squats or deads(which aren’t high, but more than enough to sustain a good finish at most shows).

  9. Pingback: 70s Big Strongman Programming Post

  10. I do most of my lifting in wrestling shoes. They are fine. I squat in Chucks though.

    My next lifting shoes will be Metal Squat/Deadlift shoes. They are the polar opposite of these Nike/Adidas homo-erotic oly shoes. Meaning they are powerlifting shoes.

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  12. When you first transition the TM to include strongman would you need to revert it back to basic?

    I’m currently at 4 days/week (Volume, assistance, light, and intensity).

    Theres obviously many ways to do it but which way would maximize recovery so results can still be seen on ID?

    1.drop assistance day and add events to intensity day? assistance day to ‘events day’?
    3.drop assistance day and add events day after intensity day?

    The TM is great. Powerlifting is great. However, the functional carryover of strongman is too valuable to ignore any longer

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