Lessons in Strongman Training

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I had the opportunity to attend a strongman training workshop, at Santa Cruz Strength, the previous weekend and wanted to share with you some of the training tips I learned while doing it.

It was put on by Clay Edgin who has been involved in the strongman sport for about 10 years. He’s also quite the grip guy. I had heard of him but never had the chance to meet him before so I jumped at the opportunity.

Clay Edgin

Clay Edgin, Strongman and Grip Athlete

Competitive strongman, like the kind you see on ESPN, is not something I regularly practice. Its quite different from oldtime strongman feats although great strength in needed in both.

Of all the stuff in physical culture I have to say I spend probably the least amount of time in the things that involve the most competition, Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting and strongman. That being said, I’ve done some of it all. Strongman requires specialized equipment for most of the events, which is another reason I don’t regularly do it because I don’t have the proper tools. I’ve got to practice a couple of them before and I’ve learned some of the technique, specifically from this Intro to Strongman DVD by Jedd Johnson and Steve Slater which is a great resource.

Competitive strongman is a big mans sport. The light class is usually 230 and under, though in some competitions they have lighter classes. This has stopped me from pursuing this further. But I enjoy competition so if I come across one with a weight class I fit better in than I will do it.

In this workshop we covered technique for five different lifts common in strongman.

Log Clean and Press

Lifting a log is quite different than a barbell. Because of the mass of the thing you must use different technique. It involves pulling the bar up like a deadlift, squating down with it then clean/rolling it up to the chest. From here you can do any sort of press, push press or jerk to get it overhead.

One of the most helpful tips for me was in the handle placement. You want to have them facing away from your body at the start. Once you’re in the squat position they should be parallel to the floor, with your elbows up high.

I lifted 175. Couldn’t quite get the 195 overhead at that point.

Yoke Walk

As I mentioned this was my first ever attempt at the Yoke Walk. Its quite unstable. The key is to keep your legs close together as you walk. If you can, speed up, but don’t allow the weight to swing you.

I managed a 495 yoke walk of about 20 yards which was pretty tough for me.

Farmers Walk

Since I spend much more time dead lifting than squatting, not to mention my work on grip specifically, I knew I’d perform better here than in the yoke walk.This is a simple event. All you do is pick up two objects, one in each hand, and walk for distance. This is a great test of hand strength.

The tough part is turning around. With the farmer’s walk handles, when you turn they turn and will keep turning unless you stop them. One of the big lessons here was when to start turning them the opposite way, which is earlier in your turn than you’d expect.

The other big tip was to pick up one end of the bar at a time, followed by the other. This way you’re not deadlifting the whole weight all at once. It makes it much easier.

With 225 lbs. in each hand I covered a distance of about 40 yards with a turn in the middle.

Truck Pull

Although I’ve pulled vehicles before by my hair, I really haven’t done much harness pulling. We didn’t pull a truck but instead a weighted sled that was quite tough. Here was the first time I had done a pull with a rope to assist in doing so.

Once you’re strapped into the harness you lean far forward, to the point of almost falling. Like in the other moves, short choppy steps to start is best. Also you want to keep them fairly close to each other in width so you don’t end up all over the place.

The sled we pulled had over 600 lbs. on it for a distance of about 20 yards.

Atlas Stones

Lifting stones is one of the classic strongman stunts. The atlas stones are round and are loaded up onto a platform.

You wrap your arms around the diameter of the stone. Doing a round back deadlift you lift it up and set in in your lap. From here you’ll reposition your arms over the top of the stone. To get up to a higher platform you need to squat lower. You stand up supporting the stone, leaning back and place it on the platform.

They only had a couple stones on hand, so the heaviest one I got to lift was 204 lbs.


All in all it was a fun session over a couple hours. I was quite hungry afterwards!

I’m always happy to get to work with things I don’t often do when it comes to training. Technique is important and getting to practice the with the tools there can‘t be beat. They mentioned there may be an upcoming strongman contest in town so if the weight classes work for me I will be there.

I’ll try to get Clay on a future podcast interview as it would be fun to discuss strongman and grip training with him more.

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