They do it in the NFL, UFC, MLB and in college programs across the country. Still, a good chunk of the functional fitness world leaves out Strongman-style training in their programming. And that’s a mistake.
“It’s a lot more athletic than weightlifting or powerlifting where you are static, staying in one spot with calibrated plates and a barbell,” said Starting Strongman founder Kalle Beck. “You often have to move with weight and there’s such a variation of different elements.
“It’s really the most similar [strength sport] to CrossFit, which a lot of [Strongman] purists hate if you say that. If you look at it objectively, it’s true. It’s similar to CrossFit in that it can be pretty much anything and everything, but it’s shorter and heavier.”
All you need is a good look at the CrossFit Games in recent years –with pig flips and sandbags– to see the correlation. Still not convinced?
Here are a few big reasons to shake things up and try Strongman.
You will see some serious body changes, quickly.
The very nature of Strongman, moving heavy loads in short bursts, is a serious workout. You aren’t doing a lift and sitting down or resting in between attempts or doing 100 air pushups and air squats. You’re working heavy and fast and that can give you some serious results and make other workouts seem that much lighter.
“It’s a way to possibly see your body change much quicker,” said Pro Strongman Bryan Barrett, who coaches Kaitlin Burgess, among others. “You are using the majority of the muscles in your body so you are putting in more work than an average gym workout or bench press, squat, or deadlift. You may see your body change faster in that sense.”
You’ll fill some training gaps.
The barbell is great, but many Strongman moves —like the sled pull— don’t have a negative/eccentric portion, meaning your body can recover quicker.
Heavy carries work your grip and core strength, two often undertrained components in CrossFit and many strength programs. Plus, it gets you moving in different directions and different ways to counteract a lot of the lifting and CrossFit monotony. (Bonus points if you can work in some unilateral work.)
You’ll look like a total badass.
Most people don’t know if there’s 400 or 800 pounds on a bar (what color are those plates, again?) but they know how heavy a keg is. What looks cooler, a bar with a few 45’s overhead or a huge wooden log? The whole reason Strongman competition was invented was to make strength visually appealing so anyone can relate to it.
Think about it: you can tell your non-lifting friends that you PR’ed your snatch or you can tell them that you flipped a 500-lb. tire or pressed a keg overhead. What gets more reaction? That’s not the main point, of course, but Strongman stuff does look really badass. (And think of all the cool-looking social media pictures.)
You can compete. Right now.
A few years ago if you wanted to try Strongman, you’d have to train until you got strong enough to be able to compete in the three or four events that went on per year.
Now, there’s a novice division—which is often the most popular— and at least one Strongman competition going on per month.
“Maybe 10 years ago when you looked at it, you could say, ‘I can’t do Strongman, I’m not big enough or I’m a female.’ In America for sure, that stigma is lifted,” Barrett said. “If you are a female now in Strongman there’s three [weight] classes and each class has two sub-classes. Whether you are 120 pounds or 200 pounds, there’s a class for you. And the same thing on the men’s side.”
It’s an easy way to disguise cardio.
With all of that heavy gripping, dragging, pushing and pulling, it doesn’t take long for the heavy breathing to start. Strongman hammers the first two metabolic pathways: phosphagen (up to 30 seconds) and glycolysis (intervals up to a minute or two).
Of course, if you’re a CrossFit athlete you’ll still need longer aerobic work. But loading up a sled for five rounds of a 60-second max drag has a serious fatigue factor. And it’s a fun way to shake up your conditioning.
You’re out of your comfort zone.
When was the last time you were really, really proud of accomplishing something easy? We get the most satisfaction out of challenging what our body can do and doing things others (or ourselves) doubt.
“If someone wants to get into Strongman it’s going to be a little weird at first, a little uncomfortable,” Barrett said. “They are going to meet a lot of new people. It’s just stepping out of your comfort zone. Most things you want to really do require time and effort and being uncomfortable.”
Interested in getting started? The easiest way to learn is to find a Strongman coach or competitor willing to show you how to do the movements correctly. You can also find a Strongman gym near you.