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The complete guide to strongman training, equipment and competitions

Der vollständige Ratgeber zum Thema Strongman Training, Equipment und Wettkämpfen

After we looked at the basics of the Strongman sport and how to prepare for your first competition in the first part, in this second part of this article I will look at the most important disciplines in Strongman competitions and explain what you need to pay attention to.

The strongman disciplines

Now that you know the basics and how to prepare for a competition, it's time to take a look at some of the most common Strongman disciplines.

Super Yoke / Yoke Walk(

The Yoke Walk is an excellent test of body-wide strength, endurance and willpower. This discipline is completely different from walking with a barbell on your back or with Farmer Walk equipment. This discipline is unique in terms of the balance required for the massive weight on your shoulders while walking. This will challenge your upper, middle and lower back, your quadriceps, your hamstrings, your calves, your core and even your arms and chest. This is also the discipline where I injured myself during my first competition, which is why it has a special place in my heart.

What is a yoke? A yoke in this context is a frame of two upright bars connected to a crossbar that runs across your shoulders. The vertical bars have runners or platforms to keep them stable. Weights are attached to these bars to make the whole apparatus heavier.

The first thing to note about this discipline is that the yoke will be heavy - probably heavier than anything you've ever done deep squats with. For a small competition, expect something in the 250 to 300 kilo range. The crossbar will be around 5 centimeters thick. Although this will cut less than a barbell, keep in mind that it will start to slide more easily, so use chalk.

To perform the yoke walk, place the crossbar at an appropriate height, somewhere in the range of a quarter squat - or as low as you see most people go when doing squats at the gym. You can also place the bar a little higher, but make sure you have at least 7 to 8 centimeters of ground clearance when you stand upright, otherwise you run the risk of the bar touching the ground as you walk and losing your balance.

Try out different hand positions to see what feels the most stable. Please note that I did not say "comfortable" - there is no such thing as comfortable in strongman sports. I prefer to place my hands further out, but many competitive athletes prefer a tighter, slightly more than shoulder-width grip.

Position yourself under the bar, take a deep breath as you would for a squat and lift the bar. If necessary, once you are standing upright, take half a second to find a stable stance. Now walk with small, quick steps as fast as you can to the other side of the course. Try your best to maintain a flat gait. Any sideways movement and any up and down movement will cause the yoke to sway, which can affect your balance, cost you time and possibly even cause injury.

Do your best to take small, shallow breaths, as deep breaths can change your internal pressure and affect your stability.

So this is the yoke walk. This is a fairly easy discipline to learn, but it can be difficult to achieve perfection. At every competition I have been to where the yoke walk has been part of the competition disciplines, I have seen at least one injury to a participant who was not properly prepared.

Here are a few final tips. The Yoke Walk is a discipline where a belt and wrist wraps can be a good choice. Maintain your body tension, stay stable and keep yourself straight. If you have to drop the equipment, do so. Pick it up again as quickly as possible afterwards instead of trying to catch it and risking a hamstring injury. And most importantly of all, enjoy running for a distance with a weight that would crush other men.

Log Clean and Press - Log Clean and Press(

Log Clean and Press is unlike anything you've ever done before - unless, of course, you've never done a Log Clean and Press before. This discipline is a test of your core stability and raw upper body strength. At the end of the day, strong shoulders and triceps will contribute to success. This exercise has nothing to do with pressing a standard barbell or even an axle - so be prepared for the learning curve on this exercise before moving on to significant weights.

There are three primary differences between the log and a traditional barbell:

  • The most obvious difference is the circumference of the log. A 30 centimeter diameter makes your life harder not only with the weight, but also with the fact that you have to push the center of gravity further away from you. This in turn makes balance very difficult and reduces the amount of momentum from your legs that is transferred to the log.
  • The second difference is the lack of pivoting weight holders. This will make it harder for you to get under the bar during the press and make the weight appear heavier during the transfer.
  • Lastly, the parallel grip of the two handles dramatically increases the dynamics required to perform the reposition and also significantly changes the pressing part of the movement.

To perform the log clean and press, grasp the handles inside the log firmly and pull the log towards your waist. Bend your knees and pull the log towards your abdomen, keeping your elbows high and out. Then perform an explosive movement from the legs and lift the shoulders to support the rolling movement of the log towards your chest. Try not to curl the log unless you are enjoying the thought of bicep surgery.

Once the log is in place on your upper chest, lean back and take a breath. Bend your knees slightly and perform a sweeping press with support from your legs if needed, but keep in mind that the center of gravity is in front of you, which means you won't get as much help from your legs. Once the log has passed your head, move underneath it to gain stability and hyperextend your arms.

Depending on the competition, you may only need to move the log up once and then perform several repetitions of overhead presses, or you may need to repeat the transfer movement with each repetition. If you perform presses on repetitions after one repetition, catch the log with your chest and push it up until you reach the point of muscle failure. If you have to reposition the log with every repetition, lower it in a controlled manner, as the competition organizers will resent you if you drop it from full height.

Like many disciplines in strongman competitions, the log clean and press is a good candidate for supportive equipment and chalk. Treat your hands, chest and shoulders with chalk to prevent slipping. Use a weightlifting belt for better core stability and wrist wraps. Depending on the rules of the competition, elbow wraps may be allowed, but this is not the case in all competitions, so check the rules before using such wraps.

Axle Clean and Press - Moving and pressing with an axle(

Let's start at the very beginning for those who don't know much about Axle Clean and Press or the axle itself. The axle is a nasty bar that is about 5 centimeters thick and usually has no knurling. The whole purpose of this bar is to make it hard for you to grip. Some guys, like Mark Felix, have such big hands that the grip is no problem, but for the rest of us, this bar presents a whole new level of difficulty.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the axle doesn't have a pivoting pulley mount, which makes exercises where you have to move under the bar for a transfer and press movement much more difficult.

I am assuming at this point that you already have experience with repositioning and pressing with a normal bar. If the weight is light enough, then take the bar, reposition the weight and push it up. Be warned that the weight will feel much heavier due to the diameter of the bar. If it is too heavy, reposition it in the traditional way by continental repositioning.

The continental transfer involves pulling the bar up to the upper abdomen where it pauses briefly before finishing the movement to the shoulders. An over/under grip is often used for this to achieve a sufficiently good hold and move the bar as far up as possible. This is the grip I will use at this point.

To perform the continental transfer, grab the axle with an over/under grip. Pull it up quickly and perform a shoulder lift movement. Depending on the organizer, you may be able to support the bar briefly on your belt. However, this is not allowed in many competitions, so familiarize yourself with the rules beforehand. If you are unable to place the bar on your belt, you must generate enough speed and momentum to be able to place the bar on your stomach. Don't have a stomach? Get one. I recommend pizza, chicken wings and lots of fried chicken.

Once the bar is on your belt, take a moment to collect yourself. Get on your knees and explode upwards, keeping your hands in an over/under grip and let the bar land as high on your abs as possible. From here, continue as normal for both execution styles.

You will probably need to lean back slightly to catch the bar with your upper abs. Quickly switch to a pure overhand grip (this is where an abdominal is helpful to keep the bar in place), grab the bar and pull it as hard as you can towards you rather than upwards. Now continue the transferring movement up to your shoulders. If you need to move the bar up bit by bit in short bursts, that's fine - do whatever it takes to get it to your shoulders. As a side note, it may help to rub chalk on your chest and shoulders to prevent the bar from slipping.

From here you can push the bar up, thrust, or whatever is necessary.

Conan's Wheel(

This might be one of the manliest sounding disciplines in strongman. It's also definitely one of the most likely to make you cry like a little girl. The idea is simple. Hold a 7.5 centimeter thick bar with a Zercher grip and run in circles for as long as you can. Performing this exercise is one of the most painful things you will ever experience aside from excreting a kidney stone.

The Conans Wheel equipment basically consists of a long bar connected to a wheel or something similar, which will allow you to walk in a large circle. The bar will be connected to some kind of basket or platform which will be loaded with weights. You will be forced to bend your knees to take the bar in your arms and then walk in a circle until you can't do any more. Be very careful with this discipline - I've seen more hernias (in the sense of lifting a hernia) and lower back injuries with this than any other discipline. For heavyweight lifters, the weights I've seen ranged from 200 to 260 kilos.

To perform this exercise, you should grip the bar as far in as possible - there is no need to run a longer distance than necessary as this does not count extra. Take a deep breath and bend your knees as if you were going to perform a Zercher squat. Place your forearms under the bar and pull your forearms back towards you so that the bar is directly above your elbows. Then stand up. If you are still in one piece, then you are holding yourself well.

Now start to run quickly and evenly. Keep your back tense and upright, and maybe even lean backwards a little if you can. Keep your hands as high up as possible so that you can walk until the massive muscles in your legs and upper back give up - and not your puny biceps.

Take small, quick breaths, but be careful not to hyperventilate. This discipline is all about total distance, so a moderate and steady pace is the best choice. Right about now you'll probably want to give up. Let it go - you've only run three steps. Keep your legs moving and don't stop until you're physically exhausted.

This discipline is exceptionally hard on your core and hamstrings, so protect them as much as possible. I recommend a weightlifting belt, but you will need to turn it backwards so that you are not able to rest the bar on the buckle. I also recommend rubbing chalk on your arms and abdomen to get as much grip as possible.

This is not a technical discipline, but it is brutally difficult. The best way to prepare for this exercise is to either use the actual equipment or perform Zercher Walks with a yoke. If neither is available to you, you can perform Zercher squats with a traditional barbell, which you can wrap a towel around to reduce the abrasions and bruising from the heavy weight.

Tire Flip(

This is a pretty solid discipline. You have a big tire, probably in the 300 kilo weight range. You flip the tire as many times as possible. Done. Next discipline. Okay, okay, I'll give you a little bit more information. There's probably more technique involved in this discipline than you might think. I'm going to explain setup, grip and every part of the actual movement. At the end, I'll give you some ideas on where you can get your own tire - maybe even for free.

A word of caution. It's very easy to injure yourself with a tire. This is not a deadlift, it's not a fancy triple extension with a twist and it's not a curl movement. So don't even try to do this exercise like this. Curl a 300 kilo tire and you'll probably tear your biceps.

I've seen a number of different types of tire flips. Some were for distance, some were for reps and all were timed. If you need to cover as much distance as possible, then the push at the highest point can make all the difference. This is a little less important when it comes to completing as many reps as possible, but can still ruin your time if you don't push centered and the tire bobs and rolls when it hits the ground. I'll cover the basics first and then look at the differences in technique between the two variations.

Start with a hip-width stance - which is always the most comfortable and at least 30 to 45 centimetres away from the tire. Go down towards the tire with a squat movement and press your shoulders against the tire. If possible, use a wider than shoulder-width grip with your fingers firmly under the tread. Depending on the tire, tall athletes like myself may have trouble getting far enough down to push the shoulders against the tire, but do your best.

Now that you're in the starting position, push your legs down and back, keeping your back straight and under tension and your arms straight. And I'll say it again - try to curl this thing and you'll tear something. When you're about to fully straighten your legs, continue leaning against the tire and start pushing it forward with your chest and hips. You may need to use one knee for support as you move forward.

Use a single continuous motion to push against the tire as it straightens. Be careful to only apply pressure against the center of the tire or it may start to roll, costing you valuable time and pride. There's not much more embarrassing than trying to get the tire to stop while it's wobbling on the ground so you can grab it again.

Some people will chalk themselves before the tire flip or work with their upper body exposed to get better traction. I would recommend chalk, but can't say much about doing it bare-chested. I think this would pull out my chest hair and I like my fur.

I promised you I would talk about the difference between tire flips on reps and at distance. There's not a big change here in terms of technique, but there are differences. When you do tire flips reps on reps, you don't have to worry about pushing the tire as far as you can in the upright position. Just move it down quickly and stably.

When it comes to tire flips at a distance, watch the others. I've watched a tire have to be flipped a second time because it came to rest 5 centimeters before the finish line, ruining the athlete's time.

The best thing you can do to get better at tire flips is to do tire flips. To do this, you need a big tire. And unless that tire weighs well over 200 kilos, it won't really help you.

If you are looking for such a tire, check out stores that sell equipment for farmers or contact a tire dealer. If you're lucky, you can get an old tractor tire or something similar for free, as this saves the dealer from having to charge you for disposal.

Truck pulling(

The harnessed truck pull is one of the most famous strongman disciplines. Few things are as awe-inspiring as watching a single man pull a heavy truck. Here's what to expect when you try it yourself for the first time.

In truck pulling, you are fitted with a kind of harness that runs across your shoulders and chest. This harness will be connected to a truck or something similar and you will walk forward against the harness to move the truck. You will probably have a thick rope tied to a solid object in front of you that you can use to pull yourself forward with your arms and back. For a smaller competition, you can expect something like a tractor without a trailer or a fire truck. The bigger the competition, the bigger the truck.

This discipline is 60% brute force and 40% technique. You will need a huge push from your legs to get the truck moving, but without the right technique, your movement will quickly slow down. Do your best to stay low in the harness with your chest parallel to the ground rather than upright. This will allow you to use the rope more to your advantage as you pull yourself forward.

Once you have overcome the initial inertia of the truck, you should move forward with small steady steps to keep the truck moving. Try not to take too big steps - you should be in a good leverage position with each step. As you push forward with your legs, you should pull hard on the rope to keep yourself in position and moving.

If at any point you lose momentum, the truck will slow down quickly and you will have to expend enormous amounts of energy to get it moving again. Always move straight forward and do your best to avoid moving sideways as your legs tire, as this would just be wasted effort.

For this discipline, I would recommend rubbing chalk on your hands and wearing shoes with perfect grip. I have seen a lot of people wearing chucks for this discipline and finding it very difficult to maintain any traction. Climbing shoes are a great choice for this discipline, but a pair of hiking boots with a good tread can also work.

Sled Drags - Weight Sled Pulling(

Sled dragging is one of the fundamentals of the strongman sport. This discipline will challenge your grip, back, quadriceps and calves along with the rest of your body. As this discipline is often the second part of a medley, you don't have the luxury of performing this discipline in a fresh, rested state - so train accordingly.

The idea of pulling a heavy weight sled from point A to point B doesn't sound like a lot of trouble. However, this discipline does require some technique - in addition to the brute strength and endurance required.

Sled pulling falls into a general category of pulling in terms of discipline. You may have to pull an anchor attached to a heavy chain or a large barge through the water or something else that falls into this general movement pattern. The setup is simple. Grab the pole, chain or rope tightly and go backwards as fast as you can. Up to this point, the whole thing sounds pretty simple. And it would be, if it weren't for our friends friction and inertia.

To overcome inertia, you will probably have to lean back and pull on the sled. However, this can be difficult if you don't keep the rope or chain taut, because by the time you've recovered and are ready to move on, the sled will have come to a stop.

The key is to lean back and start walking at the beginning. Once the sled is moving, you should not stop. Take quick, small steps and pick up as much speed as possible. This is not a discipline where you should hold back and the more speed you build up, the better. But don't sacrifice balance for the sake of speed. If you lose your balance, you will lose all your momentum and a significant amount of pride.

Recommended equipment for this discipline would be chalk on your hands and shoes that have excellent grip. Some may like a belt, but I prefer not to use one for this discipline as it doesn't do much for me. There is not much equipment to help you with this discipline, but once you get the sled moving you should find a good tempo and pull continuously.

Auto deadlift(

The deadlift is a strongman classic. You can find this discipline everywhere from local competitions to international competitions. There are some variations to this discipline when it comes to the type of car that is used and this can make a significant difference to the areas that are stressed the most during this discipline.

Before we cover the specifics based on the different types of equipment, I want to cover the basics. The bar will usually be quite a bit higher than the traditional deadlift - probably somewhere in the 45 centimeter range. In most local competitions, you'll have a weight of around 300 kilos in your hands. You will take your stance, grab the bar and straighten up until your legs are extended. After receiving the signal to lower, you will lower the weight in a controlled manner and wait for the appropriate command to raise the bar again.

Depending on what is available, you will perform this discipline with one of two types of bars. The first is a traditional straight bar attached to the equipment on which the car rests. This may be the more familiar option for you, but it will throw you off in the sense that the bar will not swing towards or away from you as it does in the traditional deadlift. As the bar is attached directly to the equipment, it will move on its own plane - not yours. With this information in mind, no further adjustments are necessary.

The second type of equipment uses two parallel handles, so instead of the traditional handle, you will use a parallel handle. This will be more reminiscent of trap bar deadlifts, but this equipment will also move on its own path - and not yours. Be careful not to position yourself so that your feet are in the way and the handles can fall on your feet as you lower. Another problem can be the extreme muscle soreness in the leg flexors that this variation can cause. For me at least, this grip reduces the involvement of the quadriceps in the execution of the movement and I end up feeling like my hamstrings have been shredded.

Keep in mind that this discipline is about performing as many repetitions as possible in a limited amount of time, so make sure you pace yourself correctly. Don't jerk the weight or move it hastily, but perform as many consistent and clean reps as possible. If things start to get hairy, remember that this is strongman, not powerlifting. It doesn't matter how you move the weight up, as long as you move it up somehow. Avoid snatching and pulling for as long as you can as this will waste energy - however, it can be effective when it comes to forcing a few extra reps.

This is a discipline where the right supporting equipment can help you a lot. In strongman, there is no distinction between raw and assisted. There is nothing glorious about competing without equipment and losing. Familiarize yourself with the rules, but in many cases you are allowed to wear a belt, knee wraps, wrist wraps and a deadlift suit. This is also a good time to take off your shoes or switch to deadlift slippers.

Here are a few final thoughts on training for this discipline. Traditional deadlifts are an obvious choice and rack pulls from mid-shin height can help you get more accustomed to a heavy weight from the height you'll be moving it from in a strongman competition.

I can also highly recommend training trap bar deadlifts if you have access to neutral grip equipment as this mimics the movement best. You may have to get creative for this as most trap bars in commercial gyms will not hold more than 5 heavy weight plates per side, which is completely inadequate.

I'm not going to make any specific recommendations at this point as I don't want people complaining to me afterwards when they've been kicked out of their gym for trying any of this, but if you care enough, you'll find a way to increase the weight.

Farmers Walk(

On the surface, this discipline may look simple. You take a special bar in each hand and walk with it. Nothing special, right? Yes, pretty much. But I don't think this is an easy discipline. I'll go through step by step where things can go wrong and how you can train for this discipline.

The Farmers Walk isn't just about brute strength - it's just as much about speed and stability. To be honest, this applies to most of the strongman sport. Being statically strong is not enough. You need to be fast, strong, stable and in good shape.

At the beginning of this discipline, you are between two bars that are generally between 10 and 15 centimeters thick and loaded with weights at both ends. There are handles on the bars that allow you to get a good grip in a fairly high position. I can't speak for all competitions, but in the competitions I've experienced, the weight was in the region of 100 kilos per hand. This is not overwhelmingly heavy, but it can still be tricky to hold such a weight if you are not used to it.

Before you get into the starting position, you should rub your hands with chalk. A good grip is very important in this discipline and you definitely don't want the weight to slip out of your hands.

Okay, you are in the starting position and your hands are rubbed with chalk. Grip the handles firmly and lift the weights. If you are doing this for the first time, I would recommend that you stand up completely until your legs are stretched and only then start the forward movement, as these things are heavy and unwieldy. Otherwise, you should try out what works best for you during training. Then move to the other side of the field as quickly as possible with short, quick steps and short, quick breaths to maintain a stable posture.

Depending on the course, the exercise may be finished at the other end of the field, or you may have to put the weights down and pick them up again, or you may have to hold them in your hands while you turn around and run back. If it is one of the first two variations, then you will have an easier time. The third variation is a little trickier. As you turn around, the weights will swing away from you and if you have already changed direction, they will continue to swing in the direction of the turn. Inertia is a bitch. Do your best to stay tight and keep moving. It can help if you slow down and walk another loop before the turn, but practice this several times first if possible.

As far as training goes, using the actual equipment is by far the best way. Dumbbells are not nearly the same. They will bang against your thighs, are usually far too light and don't swing nearly enough. However, if these are all you have, they're not a terribly bad option either. You can also consider using a heavy sandbag or something similar to train your grip. This discipline is less about unbridled strength and more about grip strength and endurance.


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