There are those out there that want to be known for their 3 lifts and powerlifting total, and those that want to be revered as the biggest guy in the room with a 6 pack, this is not for them. This is for those that are looking to be as powerful, capable, strong, fast, conditioned, and badass as possible. People who want to be on the top of the food chain. Military, Law Enforcement, first responders, hell even weekend warriors and middle aged dads. This is a hybrid of a few methods you already know of, and it’s about not specializing in any one of them.
You may know CrossFit for its ability to make women strong, and men super lean. It does an amazing job at getting people doing what the world deems as functional movements, but often people get sucked up into the world of being the fastest at burpees and who can do the coolest ninja skills tricks on the rings and from a handstand. Don’t get me wrong, that’s some high skill talent, but for those looking to be all around animals, I think there needs to be an element of raw primitive strength in there.
Enter CrossFit Strongman. Yes, I’m talking about that same strongman show you watch on ESPN where the giants of Europe strap on a Volkswagen and race across a parking lot. I’m not saying you must be of Viking ancestry to be badass, (it helps), but there’s a lot we gain by training like them.
We’re talking odd objects. In a world of the perfectly balanced barbell with well-oiled collars and the fanciest multicolored bumper plates, you either make the snatch or you don’t. When it’s a duffel bag filled with loose sand flopping around reminding you of that night you carried your drunk buddy home in college, you’re going to have to fight and wrestle with that thing in some unconventional ways to get it to your shoulder. The strength built in that struggle, that’s primal, that’s bad ass.
CrossFit strongman takes the idea that you’re trying to be as efficient as possible, move large loads long distances in short times, adds in an element of primal “you gotta man up and get shit done” in the mix, and suddenly, you’re finishing a training session dirty, maybe a little scraped up, but feeling like you can take on the world.
So, what does it look like?
To be good at strongman, you should probably be strong. The best ways to get strong, tried and true, are the big 3 powerlifts, the squat, bench, and deadlift. Only with strongman, the overhead press has a seat at the table as well. You don’t have to focus on them like the dudes that sport singlets and sniff ammonia packets, but they should show up almost every week in what we call a periodized progression. This means you should be lifting a little more every session than you did the last time. Whether it’s a 5-rep max for the day, 5 sets of 5, or some percentage based program you pulled off the internet, spend 20-30 minutes 4 times a week on the 4 lifts.
Since we’re talking strongman, a great piece of equipment to throw in here would be the axle. A bar that holds standard plates but is much thicker in diameter that makes the lift much more awkward, and trains the grip. Don’t be afraid to substitute this bar at any point for the 4 main lifts.
You should also be including some movements that make you more explosive and powerful. From Olympic lifting, we have the power clean and the power snatch. (Go ahead with the jokes, I said snatch).
These should be done much like the main lifts where you work to lift a bit more every session, but the volume is a bit different, focus on multiple sets of 5 or less at challenging weights.
From bodybuilding, there should be something in there that helps stimulate muscle growth from what we call hypertrophy. Think, small muscle group, high reps, to failure.
And finally, we have CrossFit. Constantly varied, high intensity, functional. If we add heavy, we have the perfect recipe for building a bad ass. Take any CrossFit style workout and substitute an odd object lift such as farmers carries, sandbags, tires, stones, a yoke, log, or circus dumbbell, knock the reps down for the heavier equipment, and you have conditioning. Get after it.
Here’s an example on how to throw it all together:
Power Clean: 4 sets of 3
Squat: Work to a 5-rep max for the day
Row 2k Meters
Every 2 minutes, hop off the rower and hit a 100ft farmers carry as heavy as possible that keeps you moving. Gold standard: Bodyweight per hand
Push Press: Work to a 5 Rep Max for the day
100 Dips, every break, perform 10 Heavy Russian kb Swings
4 rounds of 12 Hammer curls and 12 side raises with dumbbells
Active recovery: 30 Min EMOM alternate the Bike, and a jump rope, working for 30 seconds and resting for 30 seconds
Deadlift: Work up to a 5-rep max for the day
Stone to Shoulder
Finisher: 100 empty bar curls and 100 band pull aparts break them up as needed
Power Snatch: 4 Sets of 3 at a challenging weight
Bench: work up to a 5-rep max for the day
30 Ground to overhead reps with the log, use 135 pounds
3 Rounds of max effort pushups and max strict toes to bar
This is a sample of how to structure your week, it can be moved around to fit your week, but a simple 4 day a week plan hitting the major lifts and implementing strongman into CrossFit based workouts will leave you looking for a rest day here and there.
If you’re looking to compete at powerlifting or CrossFit or even Strongman, I recommend looking for a program and a good coach to help you specialize, this style of training is meant to make you brutally strong, lean, and jacked.
Coupled with solid nutrition, comprised of animals and vegetables with plenty of good carb sources like rice, oats, sweet potatoes, and fruit, you can expect to be on your way to being what many people refer to as farmer strong, old man strong, or flat out, bad ass.