Have you recently started a Strongman workout? Are you a longtime Strongman lifter who feels he has hit a wall? Whether you’re a beginner or you’ve reached your strength plateau, there are simple ways to break the mold to ensure you continue getting stronger and faster. Let’s review five ways to 5 ways to improve your strongman workouts, starting with the warmup and moving through training techniques.
WARM UP OPPOSING MUSCLES
It’s no surprise that you need to warm-up the muscle groups that are about to bear the brunt of the workload. For example, if you’re about to perform a barbell row with more than 85% of your one-repetition maximum, you’ll want to first warmup with two sets of the exercise at a lower intensity.
If you’re only focusing only on the muscle group that’s about to crush it, you’re missing a great opportunity to increase performance.
We recommend performing a light warmup set on the opposing muscle group as this may help to increase strength during your primary set. Using the example above, your goal is a heavy-loaded barbell row. Before you do that, perform a very light set of push-ups or dumbbell chest presses. Don’t treat it as a working set; use 40% to 50% of your 1RM and keep the repetitions to 10 or less.
SUIT UP WITH THE RIGHT GEAR
Just like powerlifting, there is a point where you will max out your raw power and performance. Eventually, you’ll need to use a few pieces of fitness gear in order to continue progressing. Or maybe you’ve been out of the Strongman game for years, age has kicked in, and you need some extra help to ensure proper form, execution, and results. No matter your reason, here are several pieces of Strongman gear that we’d recommend having in your arsenal:
Power Belt: This is not your typical weightlifting belt, an elite-quality power belt has a heavy-duty steel lever to ensure optimal compression and support.
Alpha Grips: One of the best ways to increase your grip strength is with thick bar training. However, if you’re not in a gym that has those on hand, you can use Alpha Grips. Wrap them around any barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell to increase your grip strength.
Knee Wraps: If you’re loading up a barbell for squats or deadlifts, you may want to consider using knee wraps. This offers you a form of support and protection when you’re lifting close to your one-repetition maximum.
Lifting Straps: Even those who have insane grip strength may find the bar slipping when enough weight is on it. Lifting straps allow you to bring the muscle in focus to failure; no more stopping short because of your grip.
Power Sled: Who doesn’t want to have an 18-wheeler to pull? Since your backyard or gym isn’t big enough to house a giant truck, the most realistic thing is a power sled. Load up the weight and pretend you’re pulling that truck.
TRY NEGATIVE TRAINING
If you really want to see your strength skyrocket, find two lifting buddies and try negative training. This is where you use 150% to 200% of your one-repetition maximum. For example, if you can only bench press 200 pounds with perfect form one time, that’s your 1RM. With negative training, you would lift 300 to 400 pounds with assistance.
With negative training, you go beyond your 1RM and focus on the eccentric or the negative portion of the lift. What the hell does that mean? There are three phases to every exercise you do:
Concentric: This is when you lift the weight. For example, during a bicep curl, the concentric portion of the lift is when you bring the dumbbell up towards your shoulder.
Isometric: This is the pause of the lift. Using the example above, once the dumbbell reaches your shoulder, you pause to contract the muscle.
Eccentric: This is the lowering of the weight. Continuing with the example, when you lower the dumbbell from your shoulder to the starting position, this is the eccentric portion.
Negative training emphasizes the eccentric or lowering part of the lift, which is a proven way to dramatically increase strength. This is because there is far more tension and muscle activation during the eccentric part of the lift when compared to the concentric.
Greater levels of muscle activation are going to result in better strength and performance. Just be sure to give yourself ample time to rest for sports injury prevention as this method can be tough on connective tissue.
INCREASE INTENSITY WITH RESISTANCE BANDS
Continuing with the point above, another great way to emphasize the eccentric portion of an exercise without using an ungodly amount of weight is with resistance bands. Hear us out:
Resistance bands are unique in that the more they are stretched, the greater the tension becomes. What’s more, they provide a consistent level of tension, especially at the point of lowering the weight. When you attach resistance bands to the barbell or dumbbell you’re using, the exercise will become more intense as you lift the weight with the tension maxing out at the isometric portion.
As you lower the weight, the tension will remain high, forcing a greater degree of muscle activation. Not too bad for a rubber band, huh?
A great way to increase raw power is to use plyometrics. More commonly called jump training, this form of training requires no extra weight. Instead, you’ll be using bodyweight and pure force to complete the exercises. One day per week, use the following exercises in place of a cardio workout:
- Plyometric Push-up: 10
- Jump Squat: 15
- Wall Ball Throw: 10
- Jumping Lunge: 15
- BOSU Burpees: 10
- Sprints: 15 seconds
HOW’S YOUR STRONGMAN TRAINING GOING?
Have you reached a plateau in strength? Which of these tips will you try? Have a video of yourself doing a Strongman workout? Tag us on Instagram!