T Nation

Strongman or Powerlifting

So obviously there will be some bias to strongman over here but I’m trying to figure out whether I would like to compete in PL or SM and join SPF or NAS. So I’ve got a few questions that I’d like to ask and figure out which I may be able to excel at and enjoy the most.

I like the aspect of being more versatile with strongman. Instead of 3 static events, there are many. Also, the deadlift is my bread and butter lift and it seems that will correlate to many events more. Also, I’m 6’1, 210 and in my very little experience watching strongman it seems being taller may be of benefit in some events. My grip isn’t the strongest, though, but I’ve also never trained it directly. I’ve never dropped a deadlift or anything but then again I’m pulling just over 500.

My only problem is that I’m in PT school. I’m looking at close to $100,000 in debt between me and my wife and I don’t have access to most of the implements. The gym at school is free and is a pretty decent gym but doesn’t have any strongman equipment. I’m thinking I will buy a elitefts stone trainer to be able to work on something close to stones. Hopefully getting efficient at an Oly C&P will help a little bit but I may be able to find some money sometime to get an axle. There is a gym that is 45 minutes away that has a log. Maybe I can make it there once a month or once every 6 weeks.

So what are some opinions? Obviously to be the top of your potential you need the implements and people with experience around you but I don’t have that at my disposal. But can I make due and still improve a fair amount performing DL, F Squat, Z Squat, OH Press, etc…?

You will not win a strongman event that contains events you have not practiced. That’s just how it goes. Train for what you want, and if that’s not possible, train for what you can. You can train for strongman in a commercial gym, but not to the extent you would if you had the implements.

As for picking a sport: Strongmen can do well in powerlifting simply by peaking for a 1RM competition over a few weeks. A powerlifter would need several months to build skill in the events and in endurance/cardio to compete in Strongman, and even then, their C&J and stone lifting wouldn’t be sufficient. It takes years to develop proficiency in things, Strongman included. The difference is that Strongman have to deadlift and press, but powerlifters don’t have to log press or lift stones.

Note: Powerlifting is a specialized form of weightlifting, whereas Strongman has its roots in nordic tradition and focuses on many aspects of physical development. No specialization occurred in its creation. So powerlifting and strongman are hardly comparable as they are on different levels of specificity. Weightlifting and strongman, possibly.

Well the way I look at it and when I look at numbers in the 220 class of PL I won’t be winning big comps either. As with most people in these sports I think its the competition and making ourselves better than yesterday that drive us. The various different aspects of physical development in strongman is what drives me to want to train for it the best I can.

And I’m also thinking that, as you said, changing gears to a raw powerlifting comp shouldn’t be too hard if I’ve been training strongman. How close is plates with the stone trainer to training with actual stones? Or loading up a heavy barbell compared to a yoke? Or oly C&J to log C&J? Obviously not the same but I would think there should be some carryover

I personally take a slightly different approach to Strongman in that I train in a more powerlifting way than a lot of current strongman do. I train using a Conjugate Method modified West-Side if you will and ONLY train events once a month. I drive roughly 4 hours every 4-5 weeks to train with the GA Crew and we focus on events that are coming up.

I believe that if you can spend a few hours with lighter weights on event days starting out and really hammering technique you can then focus more on just getting stronger. Event days in my opinion are used to hone technique in… yes I go heavy on event days and do try to break PR’s every chance I get but, what I have noticed is the more often I train events the worse I am at them ( strength speaking ).

So what I recommend if you want to compete in strongman but, don’t have access all the time to implements is this.

  1. Get on NAS find the president for you state give him a call and see if he knows of a team close by that you could go out and train with once a month. Bad thing about this is that by close I mean anything around 4 hours away is close. If so focus on learning technique while your there then go back to your gym and get stronger. If you have good technique and your gym lifts are increasing than you’re going to improve in the events.

  2. Every week you need to be hitting overhead in the gym a lot of guys focus on the bench so much and yeah sure benching is all fine an dandy but, overhead needs to be trained twice a week in my opinion. Since you’re not doing events every single you should have a heavy overhead day focusing on Strict Presses and Push Presses. The second day of the week should be a speed or technique day focusing on the Overhead Jerk and Push Press really emphasizing leg drive as you would with axle or log.

  3. Squat and Deadlift as you normally would for max strength. Obviously there is more to Strongman than a max Deadlift or Squat but, at the same time the heavy you can Squat and Deadlift the easier most things are going to come to you in Strongman.

  4. MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT TRAIN YOUR DAMN CORE. Every single week from front to back side to side and through and through. Atleast twice a week you should be hitting heavy GHR, Hyper Extensions,Reverse Hypers, Good Mornings, Suitcase Carries, Sit Ups, Hip Thrust, Heavy Planks and the list goes on ( obviously not all of them ). Don’t puss out and over look this stuff. For someone wanting to be good at events without being able to train them very much this is crucial. Imagine the muscle used in a 700+ yoke walk in your core and posterior Chain… its insane. If you don’t have access to the equipment to train the stabilizers for the yoke, farmers, and carries or dont have the Stones or Sand Bags to be training the Hip pop and Power you need to be loading and carrying these implements you have to make damn sure you are doing your best to mimic them in the gym.

Alright, I train conjugate right now so I’m thinking this may be the way to go. Hopefully after I graduate I can get some implements. Has anyone ever made an axle using piping from Home Depot or Lowe’s? Seems to me like it could be done. I’m probably going to make one Upper day a strict press day with possible some moderate push press after and then the next day, heavy jerks and push presses.

In your opinion, what are the most challenging events to train for and improve on without having the proper equipment? Maybe for the first few comps I’ll just avoid ones that have events that I rarely train. I think I’ll probably start out with HOpe for the HOlidays V in St. Louis which is a max deadlift and max press and thats it. Should make an easier transition.

The two hardest to mimic without the implements are hands down the Atlas stones and the Log Clean. A axle can easily be made with some steel pipe and two rolls of duck tape believe it or not will cost 25-30 dollars at most. You can make a chain yoke and farmers for well under 60 dollar’s as well.

As a powerlifter that is trying to get into strongman, I believe training strongman will not only make me better at strongman, it will also help with my powerlifting lifts. Any strongman can do well in powerlifting whereas a powerlifter would probably not do well in strongman.

i used to drive 1 hour each way on Saturdays to get to a bud’s house who had ALL the strongman implements plus a full scale powerlifting gym in his basement.
I did that for several years even.
check strongman boards for a group that trains near you and commit.
until then get as strong as you can with powerlifting, so when you do find the implements it’s only a matter of getting familiar and accustomed to the event.


in his day kazmaier won strongman without practicing for the events . was he exception i dont know . things are more specialised today .

[quote]winston43 wrote:
in his day kazmaier won strongman without practicing for the events . was he exception i dont know . things are more specialised today .[/quote]

could be that in those early years of the sport a really exceptional lifter could get away with winning without even training for specs, just because the other competitors were so far behind him.
I don’t imagine us ever seeing that again.

[quote]sumabeast wrote:

[quote]winston43 wrote:
in his day kazmaier won strongman without practicing for the events . was he exception i dont know . things are more specialised today .[/quote]

could be that in those early years of the sport a really exceptional lifter could get away with winning without even training for specs, just because the other competitors were so far behind him.
I don’t imagine us ever seeing that again.[/quote]

I think the issue is more that in the early days of Bill Kazmaier, nobody practiced the events. That was the original idea of strongman, as I understand it. Introduce events that no one is done to take the technique element out of it and make it all about strength. Of course, then it becomes a question of developing technique on the fly as well as being really strong. Bill Kazmaier did both.