Functional fitness isn’t much of a fad anymore. It’s likely here to stay.
With the growing popularity among people seeking a fast and effective workout, even the larger commercial gyms in the industry have started to accommodate for this shift, adding in functional equipment at every turn.
One striking absence or perhaps a lagging element is the inclusion of odd objects, which are typically reserved for "strongman" training.
Years ago, people looked at Olympic lifting as somewhat out of place and it's unlikely you would have seen guys chalking up and doing snatches at your local health club. But now, bumper plates, high end barbells and lifting platforms are the norm in many gyms throughout the country.
For some reason, the implementation of odd objects has oftentimes been overlooked in a training methodology born out of a need for real world applicability. So why is that?
Maybe it's because you watched the "World's Strongest Man" and you have convinced yourself that this sort of training is reserved for guys who weigh 400 pounds, have 18 syllable names and come from a Nordic country that you couldn't find on a map.
But, as fitness shifts to favor "functional movements" it begs the question, is it more functional to clean and jerk a brand new, perfectly spinning barbell? Or a thicker, non-rotating axle?
Rarely is the average person faced with tasks indicative of lifting a brand new barbell on their favorite lifting platform in $200 specialty shoes and toting a 2" thick leather belt. Most likely, real life tasks present themselves in the form of odd objects - (eg. moving furniture, doing yard work, etc.). This reality points to the fact that strongman training could in fact be more practical when considering everyday application.
It’s difficult to say that one is better than the other, but I do think there is utility and value in each. Utility and value that is typically overlooked when considering odd object and strongman training. Plus, it is a great way to have fun and get strong. Admit it- making it this far into the article means improving strength is important to you on some level.
If you are new to this sort of training routine, I wouldn't suggest you start dragging your car to work or shouldering large stones in your backyard. Without professional guidance, that kind of 0-60 approach could lead to a bad experience and what's worse, leave you vulnerable to injury.
It is possible and in some ways even easy to begin implementing specific principles of strongman training to your workout regiment. This can all be done without spending a fortune on equipment or jeopardizing your health.
The below workout suggestions are great if you’re looking for a gateway into strongman and strength oriented training, with most of this equipment available in a typical gym.
- Three Axle Clean and Jerks every minute on the minute for ten minutes
- Choose a relatively challenging weight, but aim to complete the three reps within 20 seconds, resting the remaining 40 seconds and then back to it!
- 20-1 Calories on a Concept 2 Rower. After each round complete 150ft farmers carry
- A longer workout than the other suggestion, try and complete each carry without any drops. This will be a good test of grip strength, particularly towards the end of the workout. Try and use a weight that will challenge you and if you don't have access to the handles shown in the picture, use kettlebells, dumbbells or even plates.
- 3 Sets of 20 Deadlifts @ 30% of Your Max, Between Each Set Do 5 Weighted Pull-Ups
- This workout is less about generating power than it is about perfecting form. Take your time on the deadlifts, no touch and go's. Reset between every single rep but build explosivity with bar speed on the way up and slowly lower down. On the pull-ups, the easiest way to do this is to trap a dumbbell between your feet and DO NOT KIP.
Have any good strongman workouts or questions? Put them in the comments below and I will be happy to respond.
Ian Jentgen is a fitness professional, serving as a CrossFit Subject Matter Expert (Strongman) and Lead Instructor for the past three years. He has led seminars throughout the US and Canada educating trainers and athletes on the proper techniques and applications of strongman style training. Follow Ian on Instagram