I received a great question the other day and figured you’d like to hear the answer as well.
I’ve been researching and looking through everything I can find on Old Time Strongmen (Sandow, Saxon, etc) and I haven’t found this information yet.
How did they train all these attributes? I’ve only heard bits and pieced. Lift heavy as practice is the common one. However, with handbalancing, how did they factor all that in? It’s a bit baffling.
The reason I ask because you are always honest, knowledgeable and accessible.
Also, I have a children’s fitness program I’m running here in Louisville called Handstanding Around. Your materials that I’ve bought have come in handy. Someday I’ll have you out here to show off your skills.
Yours in fitness,
Its something I’ve looked into as well. The first thing you need to realize is they all didn’t train the same way. As today, each person was doing his own thing. There wasn’t just one system.
I know Saxon and his brothers pretty much trained all day. Like a circus performer or gymnast. Really just practicing the moves when they weren’t on the road.
A lot of the guys who were good at hand balancing had a background of it. Started doing it as a kid and later did weightlifting and everything else. When you have acrobatic ability it doesn’t take that much effort to keep up the skills. Its just that building up that skill can take more time.
Sig Klein for example liked to include freestanding handstand presses and tiger bends in his workouts. You can read a great story about this in Brooks Kubiks new book, Legacy of Iron can be found here.
For more skill related training the more time you spend the better you’ll be. Then for really building strength a basic program is all you need. But you have to find balance in the two.
For the most part, many of the strongman had basic strength training programs. Using that as a base you can build up any other attributes you want and need.
And there are many ways you can do it. The skills training can be a part of your workout. Or it can be separate.
Personally, I usually practice hand balancing and other acrobatic moves by themselves. But feats of strength are mixed in with more basic strength training exercises.
I hope that helps you. And I’m sure I’ll talk more on this subject another day.
P.S. One thing that blurs the line between skill practice and strength training is kettlebell juggling. Find out how to get started with this fun training with The Definitive Guide to Kettlebell Juggling.