There are so many fads/trends in the fitness industry right now. Some have merit and others not so much. From CrossFit, which has blown up in the last 10 years, to bodybuilding/physique to obstacle course races there are endless styles of training that people are adding to their current fitness routine. All of them challenge you both mentally and physically. I have never trained in any of these styles but in the summer of 2012 I came across a sport I had heard of but never tried. Strongman. This sport is, in my mind, the best strength sport out there. I do not want to knock the other sports such as powerlifting or Olympic weight lifting because both of those sports require an incredible amount of strength and coordination but the diverse nature of strongman requires strength and endurance that doesn’t compare to the other sports. Most gyms do not have strongman equipment and you would have to find a specialized gym or purchase equipment for yourself to train with but you can train certain movements at any fitness center or average gym. I’ll outline 3 movements that you can train at any gym and how they can and will benefit you.
1. Deadlift. The deadlift is the purest test of static strength. Training this movement will develop all the muscles of your posterior chain as well as abdominals and grip strength. All of which most people lack and why they suffer from poor posture. There are so many different option on implements to deadlift such as barbell, trap bar, kettlebell or axle bar. The different bars will train varying range of motions and test your grip in different ways. In our daily lives we are having to pick things up off the floor yet most people will suffer a back injury due to using poor lifting technique. When you learn how to properly hinge at the hip, which is the movement pattern of the deadlift, you’ll be able to properly engage the muscles needed in order to reduce the stress on the back thus reducing injury risk.
2. Overhead Press. Pressing a weight overhead is a true test of upper body strength. Much more than the bench press due to the fact that you do not have a bench to drive your back in to and push the weight away. If you go to any commercial gym on a Monday you’ll see all the benches being used by guys bench pressing. I’m not knocking the lift because I utilize it for improving both my overhead press as well as my clients press but most people do not utilize the overhead press for numerous reasons including being weak at the lift, lack of mobility or just not knowing how great of a lift it is. By standing and pressing the bar overhead you have to engage your lower body, abs and back to brace while your upper body presses the weight overhead. As I stated earlier, lacking shoulder mobility is a primary reason people do not perform the overhead press. Due to poor posture (especially in the thoracic spine) many people suffer from poor shoulder mobility. Some simple shoulder and thoracic spine mobility drills and strengthening exercises will address these issues and get you the healthy shoulders you need and allow you to overhead press. There are various implements to press such as barbells, strongman logs, multi-grip bars, dumbbells or kettlebells. Rotate the implement from week to week to become well rounded or focus on your weakest press and drill that until you become proficient at it. Either way, press more to press more.
The next lift/movement requires incredible strength and being able to move with weight.
3. Farmers/Weighted Walks. How often throughout the day do you find yourself carrying things in your hands? Pretty often. Groceries from the car to the house would be a perfect example. There are many other instances but we often find ourselves carrying objects and using poor technique. Slouching while carrying heavy items in our hands is going to wreak havoc on your spine and leave you injured or in pain. By walking tall (chest up, shoulders back, glutes engaged) you will be able to carry the weight safely and it’ll be considerably easier. Weighted carries strengthen the muscles from the feet all the way up to the neck and challenge your grip strength. Grip strength has been associated with longer lifespan so pick up some kettlebells, dumbbells, farmers walk handles or a trap bar and take a walk. Shorter carries with heavier weights or longer carries with lighter to moderate weights will test both your grip strength and endurance so mix up how you do the carries and also what you carry. Not everything we carry is going to be equal so doing uneven loaded carries will teach you how to brace your core to avoid twisting or rotation while under load.
These three lifts/movements aren’t going to turn you in to a true strongman but adding in strongman movements will definitely improve your overall strength and ability to do your activities of daily living. Learn how to hinge, learn how to press overhead and how to walk with weight and you’ll be feeling stronger and more confident in your self.