I’ll be one of the first to tell you there are huge benefits to incorporating strongman style movements and events into your training program. But I’ve also pointed out that depending on your goals and level of conditioning there are particular exercises which are inappropriate and more specific to competition than general strength or fitness. Strongman starts with strong, and as that implies, it is helpful to have some basic tenants of strength before going all out with strongman (or strongwoman) training and implements.
Basic Needed Strength Numbers
Most of the movements in strongman are derivatives of powerlifting and weightlifting with the addition of carrying, dragging, and pushing filling the rest. So it’s logical then that you should begin with these movements and a standard barbell before you go complicating things with odd implements and random objects you find on the side of the road. Basic strength standards you should work toward are:
2x bodyweight deadlift (conventional or trap bar)
1.5x bodyweight squat
1x bodyweight bench press
1x bodyweight clean
.75x bodyweight press
Embrace Some “ish”
These standards are merely a point to shoot for before you begin incorporating some of the more awkward strongman events at higher intensities. They are meant to serve as a guideline so you can begin including strongman into your training program safely and effectively. They are not adequate numbers to begin competing in most sanctioned contests unless you are a female athlete or heavyweight. But that’s potentially where a little more “ish” and good judgement should come into play. There are no strongman police to cite you tickets if you begin using implements with good judgement and form before you hit everyone of these marks.
What Strongman Exercises to Start With
You may have a long way to go before you worry about lifting atlas stones and flipping tires, but there are some foundational movements that just about anyone can begin incorporating regardless of strength levels. Your training program should focus on compound lifts from powerlifting, weightlifting, and even bodybuilding, but supplement those big compound lifts with variations of carries, sled dragging and pushing. These movements present very little risk of injury and will do great things to improve your strength and work capacity when trained alongside the big basic compound lifts. Dumbbells work fine for carries, and you can easily make a tire sled for dragging.
Incorporating Strongman Lifts Into Your Personal Training
Take the time to get seriously good at the basic lifts before you complicate things with strongman implements. An excellent barbell clean should come before a continental clean with an axle and great deadlifting should come before grabbing atlas stones of flipping tires. Respect form and strength in the basic lifts and incorporate variations of moving events to round things out. The standards listed above are not an all or none ordeal. If your press is strong but your clean is weak or sloppy, consider utilizing an axle or log out of a rack. As noted for bigger individuals and variations in strength, embrace a bit of “ish” with good judgement and you can safely incorporate exercises as they become appropriate for you. Each standard you reach is a milestone in achievement. Adhere to them and become a strong, healthy, and very functional person.