Strongman training is about developing true functional strength
– strength that directly transfers to the field or court, improves performance, and enhances traditional strength-training programs. Strongman training is about lifting heavy, awkward objects and developing strength and endurance you never thought possible.
The body moves in three distinct planes of motion: the sagittal plane, which divides the body into left and right halves; the transverse plane, which divides the body into upper and lower halves; and the frontal plane, which divides the body into front and back halves.
Exercises such as squats work in the sagittal plane; movements that involve rotation are working in the transverse plane; and exercises like the overhead shoulder press functions in the frontal plane. Most conventional barbell and dumbbell exercises primarily require force production in only one plane of motion.
Multidirectional sports, however, require force production in multiple planes of motion simultaneously, such as running, twisting, jumping, throwing, catching, kicking, pushing, and pulling. Strongman training is beneficial for athletes because it also requires synchronized force production and stabilization in different planes of motion, which closely resembles how sports are played.
Strongman training develops what is known as functional strength.
Functional strength training involves performing exercises that are closely related to the movement patterns that occur in a sport, with the sole intent of improving athletic performance. Not only does strongman training build strength and muscle, it also develops endurance, power, static strength (e.g. holding onto an opponent in wrestling or MMA), and mental toughness.
Strongman training picks up where traditional barbell and dumbbell exercises leave off. Strongman training enhances traditional lifting-based strength programs by strengthening and developing the body’s stabilizing and linkage systems (i.e. the “core”) more effectively than with barbells and dumbbells alone. Strongman training develops muscles that are difficult to strengthen with traditional strength-training exercises.
Commonly used strongman lifts include pushing & pulling sleds (or cars & trucks!), flipping tractor tires, carrying sand bags, Atlas stones, water-filled kegs, or farmer’s handles, and lifting steel logs. Strongman training is no more inherently dangerous than traditional strength training.
Why is it effective?
What makes this style of training so effective for athletes is the awkward, unbalanced nature of strongman equipment. The continuous shifting and unbalanced nature of strongman equipment provides “dynamic” resistance. This dynamic resistance forces an athlete to constantly make adjustments in body position and muscular tension in order to stabilize or move the object; similar to how an athlete would encounter an opponent in competition.
The dynamic resistance that strongman implements offer provides a better training stimulus than barbells and dumbbells alone. For example, tire flips and Atlas stone carries closely simulate the movements of blocking and tackling. Sled pushes simulate the acceleration phase of a sprint and enhance an athlete’s ability to break and make tackles.
An athlete’s strength-training program should be built around barbell and dumbbell exercises. However, integrating strongman training into their programs provides an athlete with the advantages of both forms of training.
While there are obvious differences between training for football, volleyball, track & field or any other sport, there are benefits of strongman training that are applicable to many sports. Integrating strongman training into an athletes traditional lifting-based program can develop stronger, more powerful athletes with a higher level of conditioning and endurance than standard strength & conditioning approaches.
Contact us today to find out how strongman training can help you perform better.
By Chris Dellasega, MS, CSCS