Archive for the ‘strongman’ Category

Building the Perfect Program – Part 1

Monday, July 26th, 2010

In the strength and conditioning world nothing is more likely to ignite a fiery debate than the subject of programming.  Many coaches and athletes have a program or system that they believe is the “best” way to develop speed, strength or endurance.  Crossfit, sheiko, 5×5, Westside, the Bulgarian system, all of these systems have their applications and have proven effective but for a lot of people who try specific systems there are problems with these systems not fitting their schedule or their exact goals.

Over the last 6 years I’ve written hundreds of programs for clients from a wide variety of backgrounds from office workers training 3 days a week to drop a few kilos and improve their health through to military personnel and police training up to 3 sessions a day to achieve special forces selection.

In this article I want to outline the considerations and basic steps that I go through in putting together any program so that next time you need a program you can have a go at putting together a personalized program that takes into account your current fitness level, goals and available time and resources.

Programming Considerations


Before you begin to put together a training program it’s important to determine the desired outcome of the plan.  I won’t spend too much time on goal setting as it’s an area that most people are familiar with but one point I do want to stress is that in order for your plan to be successful your goals need to be fairly simple and they need to be achievable in the time frame you’ve set.  Many people I talk to are making the mistake of chasing too many goals at once and end up achieving nothing.  If you want to get good at several things that’s fine, just break your program up into smaller cycles and emphasise one or two goals at a time and put your other goals in a holding pattern.  If you are working hard on one aspect of fitness you won’t lose much ground on another aspect of fitness!

Time and Resources

This is a critical consideration.  If you want to join the SAS but you work 80 hours a week then chances are your available time is insufficient to achieve your goals.  Decide early on how many days a week you can REALISTICALLY devote to training.  You will save yourself a lot of frustration by planning and executing a solid 3 day week program compared to planning on 6 days a week and missing 3 workouts due to other commitments.

I would recommend a minimum of 3 days a week and a maximum of 6 days a week with a maximum of 15 training sessions for very serious athletes.

As with time, make sure you’ve got access to the right equipment before planning your training.  If you want to get strong you’ll need weights of some description, if you want to become the worlds greatest crossfitter then you are going to need a gym full of rings, rowers and all the other toys needed for the workouts.

Current fitness level, diet and supplementation, age and training age

I’ve lumped these together because they are all major factors in your ability to adapt and recover from training sessions.  Many people get frustrated because they set out to do a program only to burn out .  The problem is that unbeknownst to the athlete the program was originally written for a genetically gifted 25 year old professional athlete on a steady diet of food sleep and steroids!

At this stage of planning it’s important to conduct an honest assessment of how well you are going to recover from your training and take that into account when planning overall volume and intensity.

Putting the plan together

So once you’ve written down the main considerations above it’s time to put together a plan.   Here are the steps I go through when putting together a program.  Note that when planning initially I don’t try to put the program into a weekly schedule, I simply collect all the elements together and arrange them later, often shuffling things around a few times to get the best fit.

Match your goals with primary exercises/workouts

This stage is pretty simple.  If you’ve got a specific goal simply match up that goal with a short list of core exercises.  For example if your goal is to improve your powerlifting performance you would choose squat, bench press and deadlift and if your goal was to improve your aerobic fitness you might choose 3-4 variations of aerobic exercise like long distance runs, intervals, rowing and cycling.

Within your workouts these exercises should be “front loaded”, that is they should appear preferably as the first exercises in a session so that if the session gets cut short you’ve got your important stuff out of the way early.  I like to call these your “A” exercises and in a good program they will account for about 70% of your time and will give you about 80- 90% of your total results.  If you are on very limited time they may be the only exercises you do.

Choose supplementary exercises

Once you’ve got your big basics written down you can add a sprinkle of exercises that complement your core exercises.  This can be stuff like ab work, mobility work or strength exercises to balance out areas that need work to support the primary areas of interest in your program.  For a powerlifter this might be things like seated rows to balance out the shoulder or some conditioning work to keep bodyweight down.  For an endurance athlete this could mean strength work, soft tissue work or stretching.

These “B” exercises are still very important but because of their secondary role you can get away with dropping them occasionally (but you shouldn’t make a habit of it)

Sometimes I even go a step further and add some “C” exercises and workouts that are nice to have but not essential.

So for example a sample exercise grouping for a strongman in the early off season might look like this.

Main goal – Improve deadlift and overhead strength.

“A” exercises


Rack pulls

Military press

Push press

“B” exercises



Kroc Rows


Bench press

Glute Ham Raise

“C” exercises

Kettlebell Swings

Strongman implement work

Conditioning work

Choose set, rep and loading schemes for your primary exercises

Once you’ve got your exercises sorted it’s time to choose your sets, reps and loads for your primary exercises.  This is where the art and science of programming can get a bit tricky as there are a number of effective (and some not so effective) loading patterns you can use.

Initially I suggest using a simple program like 5 sets of 5 with a steady linear progression in weights over 4 – 6 weeks.  You could also adopt a 5-3-1 loading pattern or alternate between sets of 5 and sets of 3.

For endurance programs a simple cycle of long distance, short interval, medium intervals with a linear progression in volume works well.


In part two of this article I’ll outline the final steps in putting together a program and provide some worked examples of programs for different goals.

Jim Wendlers 5-3-1 for maximum strength

Monday, November 2nd, 2009
Pulling 240kg in April

Pulling 240kg in April

In my experience the vast majority of athletes are always on the look out for the magic program that is going to boost their performance into the stratosphere while making them 10X sexier to the opposite sex.

They are normally impatient for the performance and sexiness to arrive and try 4, 6, 8 or 12 week super cycles that promise the world but often deliver overtraining, frustration and injury instead of results.

While it may not provide instant results or sexiness (your mileage may vary) Jim Wendlers 5-3-1 system is a definite antidote to the endless skipping through radical plans.

It’s more of the slow cooker approach to strength development and if you’ve got a tiny bit of patience for the first few weeks then you’ll reap some big rewards.

I’ve been using 5-3-1 now for a few months, testing out variations of the program in my own training and want to share some observations so that you can decide if it’s a good option for your training.


Strongman Competition and Workshop

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Two quick updates on Strongman

1. The first Novice comp of the year for NSW will be held on the 4th of April at Sydney Uni. Details can be found on the Sydney Strongman Society Facebook page and you can download the entry form here

2. For those who aren’t quite ready to compete Jonathan Gordon and I will be running a Strongman Workshop from 10am to 1pm on Saturday the 18th of April at Sydney Uni viagra online.

The focus of the workshop will be on teaching the correct lifting techniques for common strongman events such as stones, log, farmers walk, tyre flip and more. Cost is $99 for the three hours and a lot of the profits are going back into new equipment for the strongman group so that we can expand and run more workshops and comps. Email to sign up.

Strongman Training – Some thoughts and a new video

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

Ever since throwing my hat in the ring for this Strongman comp in June I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about strongman training, especially as it relates to guys having a go at their first comp.

So as I progress toward the comp I figure I’ll make some notes about my musings and see how they work out in reality.

This weeks random thoughts

1. 5kg may not seem like a lot but in strongman it can be the difference between easy and impossible! This week I did farmers walks at 100kg (relatively straight forward) 105kg (hard but doable) and 110kg (made it a whole 8 metres!) and had the same experience of axle cleans. 80 for triples and then a bunch of missed attempts at 85kg.

2. Strongman is unforgiving of weaknesses and when you find yours you need to prioritise training. I’ll freely admit that my overhead strength is crap at the moment but in the first weeks of my program I was treating mil press and push press as accessory exercises but now i’ve made the first exercise in each gym session an overhead lift with an additional overhead lift later in the program. No use having a huge deadlift and squat if you are going to fail as soon as the events head above the shoulders.

3. Back off weeks are your friend! Last week I was cranky and sore but a week of lighter workouts has renewed my enthusiasm for training and i’m looking forward to attacking the next few weeks of training.

Anyway here is a video of some farmers walks and stone simulator training. Stay tuned for the next video of some squat and deadlift variations i’m experimenting with in my quest to hit a 230kg / 500lb deadlift before April.

Strongman Training Week 1

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Here is a short video of my first attempt at some event training in the gym. Farmers walks at 100kg weren’t too bad but it’s been a long time since I did any stone loading practice or axle work and consequently my technique was pretty rough and the weights were down.

Anyway, I’ll post more videos of future sessions which will hopefully show some improvements!

Muscle Building and Strongman

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

One of the most common goals I’m asked about is gaining muscle mass and recently this topic has become very close to my heart.

As regular readers will know I’ve just entered a Strongman show in June and despite competing in the “Lightweight” category at 101kg and 179cm tall I’m a good 4kg under the weight limit for the class.

Now from weightlifting I can tell you that the last thing you want to do in a weigh category sport is train and compete so far under a weight limit for two reasons.

1. It’s muscle mass that you are just giving away

2. Some other dude will train all year at 110kg and then squeeze himself down to 105 for the weigh in, rehydrate and effectively you’ll be competing against a 110kg monster.

Therefore I’m aiming to add about 6-8 kg over the next few months so that I can be that guy that lives and trains at 108 – 110kg and then squeezes in under 105 for the comp.

What most people don’t realise is that putting on QUALITY muscle mass for strength sports is not easy. You can’t just eat crap all the time because you’ll put on fat and once you’ve reached a certain level of muscle mass it becomes harder and harder to convince your body of the need for more. Furthermore while you could use bodybuilding techniques the type of muscle you put on is different to the type required for true strength sports.

So stay tuned and in furture posts I’ll be sharing some of my strategies.

Strongman Competition

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

On the 9th of November the first ever Oz Strongman nationals were held in Brisbane.

Originally I had planned on training up and competing but after injuring myself earlier this year I didn’t get back to full training until about august by which time it was a bit late to make a run at the competition.

Instead, contest organiser Chris Andrews asked if I would help referee the comp and I gladly accepted.

The comp was huge success with 28 athletes in 3 weight divisions battling it out across 6 events plus Pro Strongman Warrick Brant putting on some awesome demos.

A full report with pictures will follow shortly but in the meantime if anyone is interested in competing in strongman in 2009 I suggest jumping on to and signing up!