T Nation

Developing Speed and Athleticism in Strongman Loaded Carries


#1

I’ve asked a lot of people for help on this, but have not been able to make much headway at all on the issue.

Some background: I’m a pretty high level strongman competitor. I just took 7th at USS nationals in the lightweight category, and I’ll be 1 of 20 competitors at World’s this year, in September. As a 181 competitor, I’ve squatted 550+, deadlifted 600+, and overhead pressed 270 with an axle and a log. I’ve loaded 340 lbs stones. Basically, I can crush a lot of static events. But for some reason, my loaded carries are absolute garbage, specifically the yoke, farmers, frame carries, and conan’s wheel. Front carries tend to be alright for me, like kegs and sandbags. But I see guys with 400ish squats nearly jogging with 600 lbs yokes, while I can barely take a few steps with it, and I have no idea why. I feel like I’m walking in mud. I feel absurdly unstable with weighs that should be very manageable, given my static numbers.

At World’s, there is a farmers walk with 315 per hand. I’m almost certainly going to take last in it, unless some one gets injured. I doubt I could take more than a few steps with it. Basically, I’m at a point where I absolutely have to figure out this issue to improve in the sport.

One other thing of note, that I believe is likely related. I shake pretty violently on deadlifts and OHP. Even when the weights are submaximal it tends to happen. I have to believe that whatever instability creates this issue is likely related to my carry issue.

Thoughts?


#2

If you haven’t already, @Alpha would be a good person to ask too. His video (below) has him doing a couple of loaded carries at nationals (310lbs per hand farmer’s walks).


#3

Speed in moving events is a difficult aspect to improve. And it seems like you have additional issues, meaning, the ability to complete the run. I usually can complete the runs even with heavy weights, my speed suffers with moderate weights.

So you’re weak/unstable/etc. in what I’d call “single leg support”,as your static lifts are solid… how are you at lunges and single-leg movements in general? Often times I hear you should be able to handle over 50% of your two-legged exercise weight… but I’m not one of those guys. I certainly can’t lunge with more the half my squat.

Do you lose the implements forward? Or Laterally? I’m assuming you’ve had other people review your technique… but sometimes you have to find the right position for you. Case in point, I’m much better moving the yoke with a narrow foot placement… I don’t have the giant hips that many guys do, and move as much side to side as I do forward, with too wide of a stance.

If you have a strong back, you may tend to lean forward while moving… which may feel comfortable, but you’re basically decelerating your movement with each step. You’ll see a lot of good yoke/farmers guys have their hips under the yoke upright, and forward (of their shoulders) with the farmers… i.e. keeping your shoulders upright and pinned back, so they never get ahead of your hips & knees…


#4

I’m not an expert in strongman but from what I know of it, here are some recommendations.

  1. The obvious things are to strengthen your grip and core. When moving fast the weight will like oscillate more which can more easily loosen the grip. If the core is weak, it will magnify the oscillation.

  2. Strengthen tibialis anterior and calves. These are neglected, especially tibialis, but they can make a significant difference in stability during fast movements.

  3. Work on short to long. This is an approach common in sprinting. Work on speed over short distances then work on maintaining that speed over gradually longer distances.

For example during the first phase you can train over a distance of 30 feet. You have two sessions, one session where you go for maximum speed with moderate weights and in the second you go heavy.

In phase 2 you go up to 50 feet. Once again one light/speed day and one heavy day. Ideally try to keep the same weights as you did during phase 1.

Third phase would use a distance of 80 feet still with a speed day and a heavy day. Here you might need to lower the weights slightly, but try to keep them as close as possible to the original loads.

In the last phase you move to 100 feet (which is often the competition distance), still with the same approach


#5

I appreciate your reply! I know you aren’t, but I knew you’d worked with strength athletes before, and I’ve always liked your general training philosophies. You’ve always prioritized maintaining/improving athleticism while putting on muscle.

so grip is never an issue for me, fortunately. I don’t ever drop implements, I just can’t move fast with them. Even when my brain is saying ‘take faster steps’, my legs just won’t do it.

I considered this at one time, but never actually put in the work to make this happen. Since I’ve essentially never done any dedicated lower leg work, this could certainly be the culprit. I’ll put in some work there.

I like this.

so using this approach, would you be carrying twice per week? Or would you allow for more time between carry sessions?


#6

I train with a brutally strong guy but he’s slow. About the only difference between him carrying a 500lbs yoke and a 950lbs one is the amount of redness in his face. He says nothing is going to make him quicker. That said, others disagree;

Chad Wesley Smith is very fast with carries and his approach was to set a 9 sec clock. Keep adding weight until he couldn’t hit 9 seconds. Then try increase the weight you can do in that time over your training block. He also did a lot of jump training.

I also like Josh Thigpen’s approach which is to have days dedicated to foot speed. This is through ladder and cone work - which aligns to what Thib was saying for strengthening lower leg muscles. There is also sprint work but I didn’t get that much out of it. The cool part of this type of training is the stuff is cheap and you can knock it over quickly at home.

Anyway, if you’re like me you’ll trip over yourself all the time to begin with this stuff and over a month it will click at some point.

He also does some jump rope to warm up but YMMV.

@Alpha has talked about animal crawls on his youtube channel for this purpose as well.


#7

Twice per week, especially since the speed sessions are submaximal


#8

Lot of guys stick to the clock… not increasing weight unless you finish in ‘x’ time. I’ve also met a lot of speedsters who claim never going over 70% of contest weight and just hauling ass in training. I’ve found my form is too different with that kind of weight differential… haven’t figured out the sweet spot, but fast at 70% doesn’t correlate for me.

There’s other little tricks like starting with a slightly offset foot stance to hit your stride more naturally on the first step, practicing your starts/picks, acceleration, etc. But if the top end speed isn’t there, it’s a tough one to correct/improve.