T Nation

Strongman Competition In Commercial Gym


I work as a personal trainer at a commercial gym (Crunch) in downtown San Francisco. As any of you who work or have worked in a commercial gym know...it's got it's limitations. You are bound by the equipment at hand. Your recommendations for equipment go as far as whats on the corporate list (i.e. tubing from Big 5, med-balls up to 12 lbs., power bars just heavy enough to do pinkie finger curls with, etc.) If you want a glute ham raise or rubber bumper plates for O-lifting, then your time will be better spent waiting for the second coming of Christ. At least we have one power rack, but I might as well piss on it and mark my territory to keep the other trainers from doing Bosu ball squats in it.

However, to quote Plato, "Necessity is the mother of invention."
I recently had the idea to hold a little in-house strongman competition. Now, to tell you the truth I actually have a small "stash" of equipment I keep in the trainer's office. My stash includes kettlebells from 16kg-40kg, power rings, a safety squat bar, chains, and some other necessities. So between the equipment in my stash and regular commercial gym equipment, I was able to put together a series of events for this strongman competition that somewhat resembled events held in the World's Strongest Man competition. Of course I had to tone it down a bit....I'm dealing with average gym members who love bench pressing and e-z bar curls, but couldn't squat or deadlift to save their own lives.

Anyway, when the event rolled it only drew a group of 5 competitors, but when the competition was in full swing we had a crowd of about 10 watching and it sounded more like 30 with all the screaming and cheering (especially for the 155 lb. guy who took almost a full minute to drag 400 lbs. hooked up to a three tier plate holder across the gym).

Also, if anyone has any ideas for events or exercises that could be done in strongman style, then I'd love to trade ideas with you.


Great idea man.

The first 2 events that come to mind are a leg press load (kinda, sort of, almost like loading the stones) and a crucifix hold.

For the leg press load: Load a full plate tree's worth of 45-pound plates onto both pegs of the leg press machine. (Yes, I totally stole this idea form Waterbury's GPP article, but it still sounds awesome). I'd make this a timed event. Something like 15 or 20 plates in the shortest time.

For the crucifix hold: you may need to rig up some sort of way to monitor that the arms are held at a certain height, straight out to the sides. Can be done with DBs (either the same weight for all competitors, or something like 5% of the competitor's bodyweight each time). You could also try to use single handles on both low cables on the pulley stacks.

For a twist, maybe a "cable crossover peak contraction" for max time. From the high cables, start the competitors at the midpoint of a crossover (hands touching, at waist height). Keeps hands together for time.

Best of luck, man. Also, I'd see if the gym management wanted to offer slightly discounted personal training sessions for the competitors who register to compete. I suggested that at the last gym I worked at, when they had a bench contest. They loved the idea, but the contest fell through for other reasons.


Thanks for the crucifix ideas. I did use the leg press, but I used it in place of the squat event where they incrementally load the basket with kegs after each rep. For safety I used a spotting pin in the leg press and had each competitor bring the weight to the pin, pause, then press back up. After each rep we had a trainer on each side of the leg press load up another 45 lb. plate. Then I took the total weight versus the time in case two people both max at 16 plates, then the person with the faster time won.
Instead of the overhead press for reps with a barbell (due to safety for untrained people) we used a 24kg kettlebell and counted the max reps in 60 seconds (switching hands was allowed). Any more ideas would be great.