Applied Strongman Training
“Strongman Training” is not a new form of exercise. In fact, quite the opposite is true. If you trace strength and conditioning back to its inception you might find that lifting, pushing, pulling and walking with heavy objects has always been a part of physical conditioning. At PTS we use many different implements that mimic some of the movements currently known as “Strongman Training.” In this article, we will discuss three different types of Strongman exercises and their benefits.
The sled and prowler are probably the most commonly recognized pieces of Strongman Training equipment. This is likely due to their versatility. The benefits of the sled are far reaching and when applied appropriately can be used for everything from injury rehabilitation and structural balance to athletic development and body composition improvement. Moving the sled is a very low impact movement that does not create a high level of shear force on a person’s joints. It can therefore be used to increase strength in the lower body musculature without running the risk of further damaging injured joints. Moreover, while doing sled training a person only has the ability to move the sled using what physiologists call a concentric muscle action. This type of muscle action produces the least amount of muscle damage, as compared to eccentric and isometric contractions, and as such will decrease the potential to delayed onset muscle soreness.
Another benefit to sled training is that when applied with the appropriate loading parameters it can cause a significant increase in the production of lactic acid from the working muscles. That increase in lactic acid has been proven to have a positive impact on body composition. When applied correctly sled training has been proven to be one of the most effective tools for dropping body fat!
From an athletic standpoint, the main function of sled training is based upon the development of sport specific energy systems. Energy systems are the ways your body uses fuel to produce work. Depending on the duration and the intensity of activity, the energy system used can change from the anaerobic alactic power system (commonly used in explosive sports like the 100m dash) to the anaerobic lactic systems and even the aerobic capacity system. When we train an athlete, we will mimic the energy system that is used in their respective sport using the sleds. For instance, if we are training a hockey player that has an ‘on ice’ shift of about 45 seconds and then has 2 minutes before they go out for another ‘on ice’ shift, we would have the athlete push the sled for 45 seconds and then rest for 2 minutes before pushing it for another 45 seconds. We would typically have the athlete repeat that cycle 4-6 times (the typical amount of shifts a hockey player goes through in a period) and have the athlete complete 3 total ‘periods’ of 4-6 shifts with about 6 minutes rest in between each ‘period.’ This helps improve the athlete’s work capacity within the given energy system (a complete hockey game for example) that is dominant in their sport. This training gives them the ability to produce a great amount of force in an efficient manor for a longer period of time.
PTS has two tires, one that weighs 300lbs and the other is about 800lbs. We have two primary exercises that we use the tires for, tire flips and tire fights. The tire flip is performed exactly as it sounds. While the tire is lying flat on the ground the athlete squats down and places their hands under the tire’s treads. The athlete then proceeds to lift one side off the ground and push it over onto the other side. This movement is a very effective way to transfer strength that has been gained with traditional strength exercises like squats, deadlifts and chest presses into more functional strength.
We use tire fights with our athletes that need to be able to resist force from an opponent. For this exercise, we will have two athletes working at once, each standing on opposite sides of the tire, facing one another. Each athlete has their hands on the tire throughout the entire set and the purpose is for each athlete to try and push the tire over on the other and mimic battling their opponents on the field with various movements and motor patterns.
The Farmer’s Carry is composed of two cambered bars that have Olympic size weight sleeves on either side. The exercise is to walk while holding onto both bars for a pre-designated distance. This exercise has been proven to improve grip strength, ankle stability, low back strength, quadratus lumborum strength and coordination as well as overall work capacity. We use this exercise with many of our athletes, but it is particularly effective at improving performance in sports that require a strong grip while performing other tasks, such as in wrestling, martial arts and other grappling sports.
This article just touches on the many functions of Strongman Training. For a creative strength coach/trainee the possibilities of exercise variability are endless. For more information on Strongman Training and how it can help you reach your fitness and athletic goals contact a PTS strength coach.