10 Ways Strongman Training Improves Athleticism
Strengthcrew.com is a great site for information on strength training. I recently had this article accepted on their site.
Ten Ways Strongman Training Improves Athleticism
By: Rick Howard, M.Ed, CSCS, *D, USAW
The best definition for athleticism I have seen comes from Vern Gambetta: Athleticism is the ability to execute athletic movements at optimum speed with precision, style and grace in the context of the sport or activity. The interrelated components of athleticism include strength, explosive coordination, energy, flexibility, and endurance. Strongman training can be used to improve these qualities in a linear training model either during general physical preparation (off-season training) for athletes of other sports, as sport-specific training (late off-season to early pre-season), or as strongman-specific training. Strongman training has also been incorporated into non-linear models and conjugate training (such as Westside). Whichever way strongman training is implemented, athleticism is enhanced– here are 10 ways:
- Develops horizontal force production. Most sports occur while moving and require horizontal force production in order to move, while many traditional strength training exercises, such as squats and bench presses, move through a specific bar path vertically.
- Carrying vs. lifting. Carrying exercises (sometimes referred to as dynamic resistance) challenge core stabilization differently than lifting exercises do, and better match the unpredictable external forces of contact sports, in particular.
- Imperfection training. In order to avoid injury (but often can lead to injury), exercises are often prescribed either on machines or familiar exercises with perfect technical execution. Effective injury prevention techniques include learning how to miss a lift and imperfection training, which Mel Siff refers to as “the capability of coping with unexpected and sub-optimal conditions.” These techniques better prepare athletes for potentially harmful situations. Strongman training is a great way to train the effects of shifting of sand, fluid, or buckshot to stabilize an object.
- Complement to traditional strength training. No question, powerlifting and Olympic lifts are the foundation of strength training programs, but strongman training provides an excellent application of many of these lifts as well as alternative methods for developing fitness attributes.
- Improves all strength attributes. Strongman training can improve speed-strength, strength-speed, maximum strength, hypertrophy, and strength-endurance. Programs can be written that are strongman-only training or strongman exercises infused into more traditional strength training programs.
- Sport-specific movement. Triple extension (hips, knees, and ankles) is a requisite for explosiveness seen in many sports and strongman exercises such as atlas stones require coordinated triple extension. Grip strength, holding (such as with sandbags), and releasing of objects all factor into sport-specific movements and enhanced athleticism.
- Adds variety to training program. This is especially valuable for those of us who have been training for many years and for those who have gotten stale following a structured linear program. For me, strongman training has reinvigorated my overall training plan and focus.
- Improves anaerobic endurance. By manipulating training variables, such as completing as many reps as possible in prescribed time period, increasing distance covered or increasing weight within prescribed distance, and shortening rest periods can lead to not only improvements in strength-endurance but also anaerobic work capacity, both of which contribute to delayed onset of fatigue.
- Isometric contractions revisited: static hold training. Most exercise routines include concentric (muscle shortens) and eccentric (muscle lengthens) muscle actions. Strongman has “reintroduced” the strength benefits of isometric (muscle length does not change) exercises. Strongman challenges the muscles isometrically when athletes attempt to hold extremely heavy objects for extended periods of time, such as farmers walk and sandbags. Increased isometric strength contributes to overall improvements in strength.
- Establishes teamwork and camaraderie. The strongman community is stronger than any individual lifter. Competitors celebrate each other’s success, use success to breed more success, and cultivate an environment where no excuses, maximum effort training is expected. That’s what teamwork is all about.
While modern strongman competitions date back to 1977 and individual feats of strength go back much further, contemporary methods of strongman training continue to evolve. Use these 10 reasons (and others not listed here) to continue to improve strength and athleticism for yourself and your strength crew.
Gambetta, V. Athleticism. Retrieved from http://www.performbetter.com.
Verkhoshansky, Y. and Siff, M. Supertraining (6th ed.) Ultimate Athlete Concepts, 2009. P. 466-467.
Zemke, B. and Wright, G. The use of strongman type implements and training to increase sport performance in collegiate athletics. Strength Cond J 33: 1-7, 2011.