Strongman for Athletes

Implement Training for Improved Athletic Performance: An Integrated Approach

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You need to know right away that our athletes at the US Air
Force Academy don't train as if they're preparing for a strongman
competition. The concept of training specificity makes it clear
there are few similarities between competing in a strongman
competition and competing as a football, basketball, or hockey
athlete.

We emphasize the use of barbells and dumbbells, performing a
variety of multiple-joint closed kinetic chain exercises in the
training programs of our athletes, with a major priority placed on
performance of the weightlifting movements (e.g., cleans, jerks,
snatches, and associated training exercises).

However, just as strength and conditioning coaches borrow from
the sports of powerlifting and weightlifting when designing
programs for their athletes, we can also borrow from activities
associated with strongman training. The thing to remember is to
take those aspects of strongman training, powerlifting, or
weightlifting that can be successfully applied to the sport that
youÕre preparing for and disregard the rest.

This is the approach we've taken at the Air Force Academy with
the training programs of our athletes. Just as our athletes perform
cleans and snatches (like a weightlifter) and squats and bench
presses (like a powerlifter) they also flip tires and lift various
water and sand filled implements (like a strongman competitor) as a
way to improve athletic performance. This mixture of training
provides the best pathway to improving athletic
performance.

Want an inside peek at how we do it? Read on.

Implements We Use and Why

Below is a list of the implements we integrate into the training
programs of our athletes and an explanation of why we chose to use
these specific implements.

Truck/Tractor Tires

We emphasize performance of the weightlifting movements with our
athletes, primarily as a way to enhance lower body power
capabilities. The explosive triple extension of the ankle, knee,
and hip required to perform these exercises transfers well to a
variety of movements seen in athletics. This same explosive triple
extension occurs when flipping a tire, with some added benefits.

First, the movement involves a combination of vertical and
horizontal forces because the tire is moving both upward and
forward, rather than the strictly vertical movement involved in
cleans, jerks, and snatches. Think of an offensive lineman
exploding out of his stance to block an opponent or a hockey
athlete delivering a check. You can now understand the advantage of
the horizontal movement required when flipping a tire as compared
to the strictly vertical movement when performing the weightlifting
movements.

Secondly, you donÕt have to catch the tire after you flip
it, unlike the clean, jerk, and snatch that all involve a catching
phase. While there are benefits to performing this catching phase,
being able to focus completely on the explosion phase of the
exercise without having a catch phase is also advantageous.

As a result, on the days our athletes perform dumbbell cleans
they're allowed to substitute one or more of their dumbbell sets
with a tire flip. Those athletes who are injured and can't catch
the bar or dumbbells because of an injury to the back, shoulder,
elbow, or wrist are also encouraged to flip the tire if they can do
it pain free.

We have five tires in our facility at the Academy. The tires
were at a truck tire repair shop ready to be taken to the dump and
were free for the asking. They range in weight from 275 to 400
pounds. They've been modified so that the athletes can load
additional weight in the center of the tire. This allows them to
adjust the weight based on their individual strength levels rather
than having to choose from just five different
weights.

Kegs

We have kegs ranging from 30 pounds up to 260 pounds. The kegs,
like the tires, were donated to us. Although there's currently no
research that I'm aware of to support the value of water filled
implements, it makes sense that training with a dynamic resistance
(i.e., the water is moving inside the keg during the exercise)
provides certain advantages that a more traditional static
resistance (barbell, dumbbell, or machine) can't provide.

For example, many athletes encounter active resistances in the
form of an opponent rather than a static resistance during
competition. Because of this, it would seem that athletes who
supplement their training with dynamic resistance exercises would
be better prepared to meet the challenges encountered during
competition as compared to athletes who only trained using static
resistances.

We perform a variety of exercises with the kegs. Nearly every
exercise that's performed with a barbell or dumbbell can also be
performed with a keg (excluding the weightlifting movements). That
means we perform lower body exercises such as squats, lunges, and
straight leg deadlifts, and upper body exercises such as bench,
incline, and bent rows with the kegs.

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In addition to the kegs, we also make use of water filled logs
and dumbbells in our training programs. These are specialty items
we had built for us.

Sandbags

We had our sandbags made for us in-house, and they can be made
relatively inexpensively. While not to the same degree as the water
filled implements, the sandbags do provide a dynamic resistance
because the sand moves within the bag during training.

Exercises such as squats, lunges, good mornings, bench, and
shoulder presses can be performed with the sandbags and adds
variety to the training program. Our sandbags range from 75 up to
200 pounds and provide a unique challenge to our athletes. A couple
of sandbag exercises are shown below.

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Example Program

It needs to be made clear that our programs are built around
barbells and dumbbells. As shown below, we blend implement training
into our programs so that our athletes get the advantages of both
forms of training.

To help you better understand the workouts, the following list
provides explanation of the abbreviations:

TB: Total body exercise. This is one of the weightlifting style
movements or related training exercises.

CL: Core lift. This is a multi-joint exercise such as a
squat.

AL: Auxiliary lift. This is a single joint exercise such as a
biceps curl.

TL: Timed lift. A time component is placed on the set and rep
scheme to adjust the emphasis from how much weight can be lifted to
how quickly the weight can be lifted.

DB: Dumbbell.

WT: Weighted. The exercise is performed with an external
resistance to provide added intensity.

MR: Manual resistance. The exercise uses a partner as the form
of resistance.

MB: Medicine ball

Alt: Alternating. The exercise is performed alternating legs or
alternating arms (depending on the exercise being
performed).

DB/Tire Squat Clean: On the days our athletes perform dumbbell
hang squat cleans, we provide them the opportunity to perform a
tire flip. This tire flip is performed with a movement similar to
the pull sequence seen during a clean.

POWER CYCLE 1

DEFENSIVE BACKS

DATES: June 9-July 6

CYCLE: Power 1

GOAL: Increases in muscle power, because of the positive
relationship between muscle power and performance.

LENGTH: 4 weeks

INTENSITY: On total body exercises, select a resistance that
allows completion of the full number of required repetitions on the
first set only prior to increasing resistance. On timed exercises,
reduce the resistance as necessary to maintain the desired speed of
movement each set.

PACE: Total body lifts performed explosively. Timed lifts
performed at a pace that allows completion of the required number
of repetitions in the specified time period.

REST: Three minutes between total body exercises, 2:30 between
all other sets and exercises.

SETS/REPS:

June 9-June 15: TB=5x3, [email protected] sec (1.5)

June 16-June 22: TB=5x2, [email protected] sec (1.2)

June 23-June 29: TB=5x3, [email protected] sec (1.5)

June 30-July 6: TB=5x2, [email protected] sec (1.2)

MONDAY/FRIDAY MONDAY FRIDAY MONDAY FRIDAY

TOTAL BODY

       

Hang Split Alt Foot Snatch TB

5x3

5x2

5x3

5x2

WT Lifted (On Command)

       
         

Split Alt Foot Jerk TB

5x3

5x2

5x3

5x2

WT Lifted

       
         

LOWER BODY

       

Squats CL

1x5

1x3

1x5

1x3

WT Lift

       
         

Squats TL

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

WT Lifted

       
         

Keg/Log Pivot Lunges TL

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

WT Lifted (Total)

       
         

TRUNK

       

MB Off Center Rotate Throw

3x10

3x10

3x10

3x10

WT Lifted

       
         

MB Chop Throws

3x10

3x10

3x10

3x10

WT Lifted

       
         

UPPER BACK

       

MR Up-Right Row

2x8

2x8

2x8

2x8

Reps  (1-Leg/Eyes Closed)

       
         

NECK

       

MR Flex/Ext

2x8

2x8

2x8

2x8

Reps Completed

       

Summary

While there are obvious differences between training for a
strongman competition and training to improve athletic performance,
there are facets of strongman training that are applicable to
training many types of athletes. As a strength and conditioning
coach, you need to take advantage of a variety of training methods
if those methods can provide an advantage to the performance
capabilities of your athletes.

Allen Hedrick, MA, CSCS*D is the head strength and conditioning coach at Colorado State University Pueblo. Coach Hendrick is also a published author, public speaker, and was selected as NSCA Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year (2003).