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Strongman Article: Strongman Training for Powerlifters

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Strongman Training For Powerlifters

by Ian Driscoll

Coming from a powerlifting background and previous to that, a kid who just wanted to get bigger and stronger for high school sports, strongman training has proved to be the most effective and fun training that I have ever done.

Strongman training is hard, damn hard. However, the benefits are hard to ignore whether your goal is to add slabs of muscle mass, becoming a more explosive athlete or simply put pounds on your gym lifts.

tire axle

Getting Started in Strongman Training

First I’ll start off with a little bit of personal history. My first year of college, I was a hungry 18 year old powerlifter looking to up my game. I had always enjoyed strongman competitions on TV and decided I was going to give it a shot.

I drove two and a half hours to a garage gym known as Jobe’s Steel Jungle every weekend. There I had the opportunity to experience what “Strongman Sunday’s” were all about. Log presses, axle presses, deadlifts (of all varieties), keg loading, stone loading, yoke walks, farmers walks, sandbag carries, and sled pulls are a list in a vague memory of what I have done there.

On these weekends I only did three or four strongman events and I was left exhausted. The two and a half hour drive back was always euphoric. My t-shirt was stained with sweat, tacky, and chalk but the recent memory of strongman training was all that was on my mind.

My Improvement in the Powerlifts from Strongman Training

This weekly strongman training carried over to my powerlifting in a noticeable way. I used to have trouble stabilizing my body under 405 pounds in a squat. I would look like a baby giraffe coming out of the womb. Heavy yoke walks took care of that problem. The yoke walks taught me how to create tension and brace my body. Instead of having a coach tell me abstractly how to create tension and brace the trunk, I threw myself under a heavy yoke, kept my body as upright as possible and I learned exceptionally quick what bracing and creating tension feels like.

I used to have problems double overhand deadlifting anything over 315 pounds. Farmers walks took care of that, something about walking with 260 pounds in each hand for 100 feet will cure most grip problems. My deadlift and squat were suffering from the inability of pushing the hips through. I loaded a stone 20 times in a row, you have no choice but to learn how to use the hips.

Enough about my personal experience; here’s how strongman training can benefit you:

Benefits of Strongman Training

Loaded Triple Extension:
Triple extension is simply the simultaneous extension of the ankles, knees, and hips. Classic barbell lifts such as the squat, deadlift, and power clean demonstrate this.

stone over bar

With strongman implements, one can take it a bit further. Loading an atlas stone to a relatively high platform trying not to let the stone break one’s spine in half or flipping a heavy tractor tire will have one go from a deep squat position through to the tippy toes. With these implements being odd objects, the awkwardness is a nice change of pace and the technique is not as comprehensive as a barbell lift.

There is something primal about flipping an 800 pound tire or loading a 300 pound stone. For powerlifters, we don’t need to go extremely heavy with strongman implements. Just getting out of the gym and doing something exciting that provokes hard work is beneficial. We can argue all day about what is optimal or what’s best for triple extension and to be honest I see a lot more carryover from strongman based triple extension movements to the gym than what the gym brings to strongman.

yoke

Bracing the trunk:
In order to walk with 600 pounds in the hands, 800 pounds on the back, or load something over 300 pounds to a platform it is critical to brace the trunk. It is impossible to do any of these disciplines efficiently without bracing effectively. Yes, one can learn how to brace the trunk very well in a squat, bench press, or deadlift but walking with the weights one can deadlift or squat takes the bracing concept to a whole new level and makes them more efficient when they go back to traditional squatting, bench pressing or deadlifting.

jeddblobwatch

Grip strength:
Bearhug walking with a heavy keg, farmers walks or doing some axle deadlifts will develop that manly handshake and improve upon the ability to lift heavier weights. It is called the law of irradiation, the harder an individual can squeeze something, the more efficiently the chain of muscles can be utilized. Nothing fancy here, just hard, grueling work.

Explosiveness:
Along with loaded triple extension, and bracing the trunk that aid in explosiveness, strongman events are supposed to be done fast. Things are timed in strongman, we need to be as efficient as possible. A classic example of developing explosiveness would be tire flips as fast as possible for 50 feet or cleaning a heavy axle up to the shoulders. Personally, there is a direct correlation to the speed of my power lifts when I add in strongman training.

Mental strength:
What makes strongman appealing to me is the amount of mental strength it takes to endure the events. There have been a couple times I literally thought that I was going to die. Everyone wants to set down a heavy yoke, drop the farmers when their shoulders feel like their being pulled out of socket, let go of an atlas stone when it rips into their forearm, grind through a 15th rep on a deadlift for reps or drop the log when it is crushing their lungs. The intense commitment and desire to plow through these mental barriers is, to me, invaluable.

truck pull

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How to add strongman events to a powerlifting routine?

There are many ways to go about doing this. Here are a couple of examples…

Full Strongman Day:
I suggest replacing a gym day for an event day if one is lucky enough to have access to the implements. For example, you can get your main powerlifting work done during the week, and then do your Strongman Training on Saturday or Sunday.

Strongman Lifts as Accessory Movements:
Another way to add Strongman Training is by using strongman events in place of other accessory movements. For example, after deadlift training one could hit five sets of five on tire flips, instead of straight leg deads. Another example would be an axle clean and press for three sets of five after bench training. An additional example could be three sets of 50 feet on yoke walks after squatting.

The options are limitless, but one must be smart about it. Strongman training has a funny way of leaving the body in a pile of ash if one gets carried away. One event day consisting of three events or substituting a main accessory for a similar strongman event.

Wrapping it Up

In summary, strongman training is great. On the other hand, it is not the end all be all of training. A lot of elite level powerlifters have never touched strongman equipment. For strength athletes, strongmen included, the classic barbell lifts are going to be the priority of a training system. My thoughts and ideas are to give you a few tools you can try out on your own and see if they aid in your strength sport. There is a time and a place for several tools, I am under the impression strongman training is one of those under-utilized tools that has a great carryover to the powerlifts.

-Ian Driscoll-


New Strongman Trainees: Get Your Technique Right with out DVD,
Introduction to Strongman Training. It covers everything you need to know
to perform the most common and beneficial events the right way.
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Beginner Odd Object Training

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Odd Object Training – Intense & Fun Strength Training

Odd Object training, lifting things like atlas stones, kegs, and sandbags is a very rewarding form of training. You get strong in ways that barbells and dumbbells can not provide and it is fun to pick things up that 99% of the population will never do.

Recently, I wanted to start working some odd object training into the routine. Optimally, I would have wanted to lift some atlas stones. But since it had been over a year since I last trained them, I wanted to work Odd Object Training back in slowly.

Instead of jumping right into stones, I opted to do some sandbag lifting and keg lifting. Both of these implements are shaped very similar to stones, and allow you to get used to the body positions of stone lifting and to somewhat practice the stone lifting technique.

The day I did this was also my Overhead Pressing day so I still wanted to do some overhead work. Since I was working with 110-lb Sandbag and a 127-lb Keg, I was able to get plenty of overhead lifting volume in.

Sandbag Training

For the sandbag, I decided I would do full cleans and presses. This would allow my back to get accustomed once again to the round-back position of odd object training, without going as heavy as my lightest stone, 230-lbs.

To stay conservative, I started with just 3 repetitions in my first set, and then added 1 repetition each set. All the while, I was trying to move faster and faster with the clean and the press in order to get a bit of an increase cardiovascular demand.

In the video you will see that I put a Timer in, just to show how quickly or slowly I was moving through the repetitions. Since there was a clean to the shoulder on each repetition, much more muscle was involved than just performing one clean and going for repetitions afterwards.

Here’s the video so you can see how it went.

Keg Lifting

With the Keg I decided to move to just one clean and multiple presses during the set. The clean is much tougher with my Keg because it is only half full of scrap steel and it shifts around quite a bit. I didn’t want to push my luck on my wrist, so 1 clean per set was good enough.

I also tried to perform a Keg Snatch, lifting it from between the legs overhead in one movement. I didn’t quite get it but I did come close. I think next workout I will be able to perform the snatch.

Check out the video:

As you watch the videos, you will see that I definitely have gotten a bit rusty with my Odd Object training. When you don’t do it for a while, you forget the challenge of controlling these implements, especially during the flip-over/catching portion of the Keg and Sandbag clean. After a couple of sets, I was able to knock most of the rust off.

For those who are new to this kind of training, you will want to approach it somewhat how I did. Even after the ow volume of work that I did, I was still sore in the middle back the next day. This is most likely due to the fact that I have been using so many conventional training implements (barbells, dumbbells) that my back is not used to stabilizing against such a dynamic load.

But that is actually the whole idea with Odd Object Training. It makes your body work harder than with regular equipment, so it helps you develop even more as an athlete or strength enthusiast.

Naturally, when you first start out with Odd Object Training, you’ll want to start out light and gradually move up as you get used to the demands of the Odd Objects. A good starter weight for most gals is about 50-lbs and for guys, about 80-lbs. That kind of weight with these bulky implements with give you a good introduction.

If you are interested in learning more about Odd Object Training, make sure you sign up for my newsletter, because more information will be coming your way.

If you have any questions on Odd Object Training, be sure to leave them below.

All the best in your training.

Jedd


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Updates: New Things Coming Your Way

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

DIESELS,

There’s been a lot of stuff going on recently.

My dedication to bringing you the absolute best information for your training needs has never been higher.

Let me bring you up to date of just some of the things I have in the works…

1. How to Make Atlas Stones

I got together with Steve Slater from SlatersHardware.com and StrongmanStuff.com a few months back and we shot the complete DVD on how to make the best Atlas Stones.

That DVD should be ready this week. I have been running into some technical issues, but I am working through them.

If you have a set of molds and want to make better stones, or if you are thinking about getting some, stay tuned, because we left no stone unturned during the shooting of this DVD. Steve has made more stones than anyone else in the world and he is going to show you exactly how he makes the world’s best atlas stones.

2. Hub Lifting Mania

The Workout of the Month at The Grip Authority is uploaded and the members are digging it.

You can join The Grip Authority here for just $7.

I’ve got tons of awesome features on that site. If it’s grip or feats of strength related, then it is on TheGripAuthority.com.

3. Flexibility / Mobility Update

I have really been working hard on my stretching, ROM work, and soft tissue efforts the last couple weeks and my pecs and shoulders are starting to feel much better.

I also got the Horse Liniment that I mentioned in a newsletter last week. It is called “Absorbine Veterinary Liniment.”

I will report back to you about it, but I do have to warn you that it says right on the bottle “for livestock only,” so I am not going to tell you to go out and get it.

4. Grip Training for Track and Field

At a recent seminar, I met Matt Ellis from PrimalATC.com, who works with Track and Field Athletes. Matt and I decided to get together and shoot a DVD on Grip Training for Track and Field Athletes.

I never joined the Track team in High School because I was a baseball player, but Grip Strength is very important for Shotput, Javelin, Discus, Pole Vault, and even the Sprinters in the starting blocks. Plus, as it turns out, there are plenty of hand, finger, and wrist injuries that take place in Track, especially for the throwers.

We put together a DVD of drills that Track Coaches can do with their athletes to strengthen and bulletproof their lower arms.

Stay tuned for that. One of Matt’s colleagues is working to find a video editor to get that product ready, because I am working on another product already for you guys…

5. Next Project – ACL Tear Prevention

Tomorrow, I will start aggressively on completing a DVD I shot with Jerry Shreck from Bucknell University, on ACL Tear Prevention.

ACL Tears are a career threatening injury for nearly all athletes, and the statistics for college athletes are pretty eye-opening, but Jerry has been using a conditioning progression for several years with his athletes and it has been very effective in preventing them with his athletes.

Goal to release that DVD to all of you animals is 2nd week of June. Keep your eyes open…

As you can tell DIESELS, it has been a hot-bed of productivity around here the last few weeks.

I am dedicated to bringing the DIESEL UNIVERSE the information you all need to excel, whether you like to rip, bend, and twist things or if you dominate more conventional sports.

You are in the right place.

If you want to stay up to dat on the developments about these upcoming products and features, make sure you are signed up for the daily updates here at the site:

All the best in your training,

Jedd



Diesel Stone Lifting Chronicles – Part 1

Saturday, April 21st, 2012


Although that thing looks like a toilet, the stamps says “Stone Lifting.”

The first time I touched Atlas Stones was in my first ever strongman competition in 2003 at Total Performance Sports. Prior to that we used Kegs in our training in order to assimilate the stone lifting technique.

Ever since that first competition, I have loved Stone Lifting. It became something I would do on a nearly weekly basis every year from the time the weather broke in April until the time the weather got too cold to train outside in the Fall every year. And then sometimes, we’d just train inside.

I was seeing some pretty good success both in training with the atlas stones and in competition, many times winning the event at the strongman contests I was competing in.

Then, around 2006, all my buddies seemed to have lost interest in doing strongman, so if I was going to train, I was going to be alone doing it. Training alone is cool and all, but it’s even cooler with buddies challenging one another and talking some serious trash.

If I remember right, I peaked on atlas stones with a lift of a 405-lb stone in the Summer of 2007, but then I didn’t really train them again until the Fall of 2009. And that was the last time I trained them…

Lately, the stones have been calling my name. Each time I walk past them, I would think to myself, “The next time it’s nice out during training time, I’m coming out here and lifting some stones.

I got down to the gym the other day – it was a day for Axle work, back, and some other stuff. I went through my normal routine of systematic warm-up, then on to Axle, and then my Grip Training.

But when it came time to train back, I was like, “SCREW IT – I’m going outside to lift those stones – that will be my back workout today.”


DIESELS, I can’t even describe in words how fun it was to get out on the stones again
. It brought back so many memories of training with my friends, listening to loud music, talking smack to everyone, strongman comps, and barbecuing steaks.

I got the whole stone lifting session on film, so you will see it below.

I have no idea what the first three stones in the video weigh. They were marked at one time, but weather and the passing of time wore those chicken scratches off long ago. So, I arranged them by size and went to work.

Questions on Stone Lifting

In the comments section of the video, I received some questions, so what I thought I’d do is paste them below and answer them for you guys. Here are the first couple…

Do you ever shoulder the stones Jedd?

Sure – shouldering is a good drill to do with Atlas Stones. I like shouldering because it requires more hip explosion and is a faster movement. When you explode with hips, you are able to propel the stone upwards and create more momentum. Then, if you are quick and agile with your hands, you can usually place the stone up on top of your shoulder with just two or three quick movements of the hands.

We cover Atlas Stone Shouldering in our DVD, Stone Lifting Fundamentals, as a way to replicate the explosive qualities of the Olympic Lifts using an odd object instead of the regular bar.

I didn’t do any shouldering in this particular workout, simply because it had been so long since the last time I trained stones. I wanted to stick with the basic techniques on this occasion, but I definitely will do some shouldering soon.

Doesn’t stone lifting go against the rules of deadlifting when it comes to not rounding your back?

Yes, Stone lifting does differ from deadlifting as far as the back angle is concerned. In deadlifting, most people will tell you to avoid rounding, and I would agree with them when deadlifting. However, stone lifting is a bit different.

First off, it is almost impossible to lift a stone without modifying your back angle to a degree. This is because you have to reach your hands way down to the ground. In the deadlift, you are not reaching down that far, so it is much easier to avoid the rounding.

Second, the shape of the stone forces you to take a different grip on it. As you’ll see, the hands and forearms go down along the sides of the stone and you pick it up by both flexing the wrist to brace beneath the stone, and by clamping in with the chest, to compress with the upper arms onto the sides of the stone. This requires a forward torso angle in order to accomplish.

If you keep your torso upright while lifting stones, I think it would put a great deal of pressure on the bicep attachments, and could cause a tear.

Third, when lifting stones, most people incorporate a transitional phase in the lift where the stone is propped on the lap while a re-grip is taking place. The reason this is important to this discussion is because it may seem like a round back is being used from the point of lift-off to the point of loading (high chest), but this is slightly misleading, because while re-gripping the stone, you can also re-position your lumbar spine for a more straight to lordotic curve, which is safer on the back.

Everyone is always stressing good form and not rounding the back while deadlifting. How do you feel about that when stone lifting is the complete opposite?

Because Stone Lifting is, without a doubt, much different from deadlifting, I think it is best to work your way up slowly in stone weight, volume of stone work, and speed of stone work.

For instance, beginners at Stone Lifting should start out with very light stones, and perhaps even start with an abbreviated range of motion and then gradually work toward pulling the stone from the ground or floor. This will enable the beginner stone lifter to slowly get used to the forces and positions involved in stone lifting, which they most likely have never done with a great deal of resistance before. It will help them develop proper technique as well.

If there is any question as to proper stone lifting technique, then I suggest you pick up our DVD, Stone Lifting Fundamentals, which will show you exactly how to begin doing stone lifting with proper form.

It’s a good practice for beginners or people who have not lifted stones in quite some time to limit the volume of stone work they do. I, for instance, knew that I hadn’t done this in a long time, so I didn’t do a lot of volume with the lighter stones. I mainly used them to ready my body, mind, and CNS for the heavier stones. By limiting the volume, you are able to keep your form tight from the beginning to the end of the workout. Doing too much volume too soon in the stone lifting workout could wear out the postural muscles in the back, and then put you at risk for poor form near the end of the stone workout.

As far as the risk of hurting the back, sure, there is a chance. However, there is also a chance to hurt your back in the deadlift as well. I can tell you this, I have never hurt my back by lifting atlas stones. I have, however, hurt my back on many occasions performing the deadlift.

I did notice, while watching my footage after lifting the stones, that my hips are a bit tight to really get where I want to at the beginning of the stone pull. I like to get a little lower with the hips on the initial pull, which helps me to keep my lower back straighter.

I hope this has been helpful. There were some more questions in the comments section of the video – I have not forgotten about them – I just don’t want to overload anyone with new information, so expect another installment of questions to come along here soon.

If you like info on Strongman Training, make sure to subscribe for my Strongman Training Updates in the form below.

All the best in your training,

Jedd


Start Your Journey in Stone Lifting Today.
Pick up the Stone Lifting Fundamentals DVD Below.


Guest Post from Steve Slater – Atlas Stone Training

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Beginner Atlas Stone Lifting Information

Atlas Stone lifting is something many get excited about and for good reason. The thought of lifting an object that is not meant to be lifted, absent the advantages of holes, handles, crevices, or edges would excite even the strongest individuals in the world. Propelling a perfectly round heavy Atlas Stone either to your shoulder or on to a barrel can be extremely rewarding, especially if it is a personal record.

Pre-Requisites to Stone Lifting

What I’m going to share are beginning techniques related to strongman Atlas Stone lifting. Notice, I emphasize the word “strongman” not “weakman” because this is about max effort. If you’re not familiar with max effort training with iron then you really aren’t ready for attempting max effort stone lifting. Atlas Stones are not designed to be lifted, barbells and dumbbells are.

This being said, you, the novice, should progress at lifting weights first. This way when you do start stone lifting you will go in ready with the needed foundation both physically and mentally.

At times lifters come to visit me at our Slater Strength Club and want me to instruct them on lifting Atlas Stones. I never assume that because a man is not massively developed that he has not spent time weight training. I always ask “How long have you been training?” If the answer isn’t definitive, or doesn’t directly address the question, and the answer is along the lines of, “Ahh a few months or something like that.”

I then tell them that they’re not ready for such a challenge so “Let’s do some deadlifts.” I take this route as not to spoil what will be a good thing by lifting stones too early.

I always suggest that beginners weight train until they develop a good base then attempt the challenge of stone lifting. My first rule of thumb is this: if your deadlift is not yet 160 kg or 350 lbs then continue to weight train progressively and build up your basic strength.

The New Stone Lifter’s First Stone


BEGINNERS: Click the image above to check out the Stone Lifting Fundamentals DVD

Once your basic strength is there, I suggest picking a 16″ atlas stone for starters. This stone should weigh around 170-180 lbs and is an optimal size for developing motor skills and technique. If you choose a lighter one it should only be for warm ups if you’re doing traditional Atlas Stone lifting.

Warm-up for Stones

For warm ups I prefer band exercises for the biceps and back. I also include roller work massage such as Self Myo-Fascial Release (SMR) that targets the back, biceps, glutes and hamstrings. After that I will move into light stones. This will get me warmed up and ready to lift safely.

Further Preparation: Tape and Tacky – Yes or No?

I like to tape my forearms, using athletic tape though some use duct tape. If you want, shave your forearms to keep the tape from slipping. The tape will grip your skin much better if the hair is removed and the addition of a pre-spray on your forearms will provide for good adhesion.

I like Rugby Spray Wax by Trimona as a pre-spray, available on StrongmanStuff.com. I flex my forearm and then tape it, starting just below the elbow and working my way to my wrist. Once it is taped I relax my forearm and then pat down and smooth the tape to my skin. Flexing the forearm prior to taping will prevent the tape from being too tight and If done correctly, the tape will stick well.

I learned from Team Boss Strongman’s Rick Freitag to tape the forearms not so much to help the grip but to cut off the signal of pain. If you are in pain them the mind is fighting the pain and not focusing on the lift.

Apply tacky or handball wax (pine resin) to get a better grip. Personally I like PR Champions Blend Tacky because it is made in Ohio and I’m from Ohio. It is a very good general weather tacky but most other tacky works well too. I apply some on my hands, fingers and forearms and at times onto my chest, especially during competitions. This helps to keep the stone from spinning off of the chest.

When you first start stone lifting apply a slight amount just to get a feel for it as you will learn quickly how much you like to use. I do believe the use of tacky can reduce the strain on soft tissue.

Safety Points for Beginner Stone Lifters

As for lifting the stones, there are some basic precautions to be concerned with for the safety of the lifter and those in the vicinity of the stones.

It goes without saying that new lifters should always consult a health care provider prior to starting any exercise program. Especially since stone lifting differs so greatly from other forms of resistance training, it just makes sense to make sure your doctor okay’s that you give it a try.

You may choose to lift it over a large diameter bar that is fixed so it will not spin. For example, we lift the stone over an adjustable strongman yoke bar. We also use solid platforms made out of wood. You can fasten wood pallets on top of each other, and then fasten plywood to the front or around all sides. There is a great wood platform on StrongmanStuff.com. We sometimes use whiskey barrels or oil drums, but if you do use a barrel be sure to avoid pinching your fingers on the lip!



Steve MacDonald, WR Stone Lift Over Bar
That is Steve Slater kneeling near the platform, on the left

Whatever you choose to lift the stone onto or over, either a large non rotating bar or a platform, make sure that it is stable. With all platforms please use caution making sure the back side of the platform is braced. This will insure platform stablility so it should not tip if the stone hits it. Once you’re more experienced and stronger you can work on shouldering the stones.

At Slater Strength Club all novice lifters are forbidden to twist with the stone during the lift. The risk of injury far outweighs any benefits.

Once you get the stone to the tip of the platform you may begin to struggle to place it on the top. During the struggle to get past the “tip point”, avoid pausing in that vulnerable position for more than a few seconds and no matter how difficult the struggle to complete the lift, do not twist in order to get the stone to the top of the platform.

You may be tempted to do this but this potentially dangerous maneuver should be avoided. Additional strength and experience will get you past this critical point in the lift. Atlas Stone lifting with a grouped series of stones is less about struggling at the top but rather an example of utilizing one’s strength with precision.

Don’t practice struggling at the top, practice a precise finish. A precise and fast finish wins competitions. As with any lift there are some risks, but the benefits of safe stone lifting far outweigh the risks.

Time to Lift Some Stones

I hope that this information helps you make the move into Atlas Stone lifting so you can continue to make great strength gains and appreciate this awesome raw form of training.

Stone lifting makes you seriously strong, ruggedly strong, and for lack of a better expression, “animal strong.” Simply stated, if a good stone lifter puts his hands on a man of above average size, even one flailing and squirming to resist, he could place him on his shoulders, run with him and squeeze the crap out of him in seconds! He could probably even press him over his head and toss him high or far. That is stone lifter strength and as stone lifter Bill Crawford says “stone lifting makes you strong in ways that only stones can.”

Steve Slater
Slater’s Hardware
StrongmanStuff.com


Further Atlas Stone and Strongman Training Information

For more information on Stone Lifting, check out Stone Lifting Fundamentals.

To learn about even more about Strongman Training, check out Introduction to Strongman Training.