Here's what you need to know...

  1. Want to build real "functional" strength? Train strongman style once per week.
  2. The empty-keg toss will make you explosive and powerful. Just get an empty keg at a liquor store or get a full one and empty it yourself.
  3. The tire flip will tax your entire body.
  4. The farmer's walk will increase your core strength, grip strength, traps, delts, arms, and abs. Do the zigzag version to get even more out of it.
  5. The backward sled drag will nail your quads while the tug-of-war will pump your biceps and demand total body strength.

The events aren't normal. Flipping over a car, bending a steel bar over your head, dragging a 600-pound anchor, and carrying a giant stone on your shoulders aren't everyday occurrences.

Yet the abnormality of these events is the reason this type of training is perfect for mainstream athletes and hardcore lifters – not just strongmen. And the beauty of strongman training is that there's no one way to perform the challenges. You usually end up improvising.

Things won't go according to plan. The tire doesn't always flip over the same way. The sled doesn't always glide easily over the surface. The implements you hold for farmers-walks don't remain stationary as you zigzag through your course.

The awkwardness of these events builds true functional strength. They strengthen muscles that are nearly impossible to strengthen with traditional weight training.

There are many strongman "exercises" to choose from and they all work. The problem with some of them is they're just not practical because the implements are hard to find. And athletes often don't know how to incorporate this type of training into their existing programs.

Here's a guide to the most practical challenges, advice on getting the implements, and a once-a-week workout.

Empty Keg Toss

Athlete Keg Toss

The keg toss will improve explosive hip extension and posterior chain strength.

After a general warm-up, use the keg toss as your first event. The keg toss acts as a final warm-up exercise and it also excites the nervous system for the more grueling events to follow.

It's very easy to obtain an empty keg. Go to a liquor store and either buy a keg you'll have to empty, or ask if you can have one of their empties. Most will just look at you funny and give you the keg. Some may charge you a few bucks for them. It's that simple.

Tire Flip

Tire Flip

This is a classic strongman event. I can't think of a single muscle in your body that this exercise doesn't strengthen! I also can't think of an athlete who wouldn't benefit from this exercise.

It's easier to obtain a tire than most people think, and you can't beat the price: they're free! Check your local phone book for the nearest tire company in your area.

Tire companies are pretty common; they're just usually not located in recognizable parts of your town. Call the company and tell them you're willing to take some tires off of their hands. They love for people to come and take used tires away from them.

They usually have to pay to get rid of their old tires, so you're doing these people a favor.

Farmer's Walk

Farmer's Walk

The farmer's walk improves muscular endurance, anaerobic capacity, grip strength and your upper back, trap and oblique strength. It's also great for building hip, knee, and ankle stability.

You can carry any awkward object or just use the heaviest pair of plates or dumbbells you can find.

Do the zigzag farmer's walk. Get six cones and set up one cone every ten yards. Place the first cone at the starting line and off-set each cone to the left or right from the previous cone. This creates a zigzag path which requires a high-level of oblique and core strength.

If you want to use more than plates or dumbbells, look online for the proper implements. They'll be well worth the money.

Backward Sled Drag

Sled Drag

If you do a ton of posterior chain work in the weight room, choose the backward sled drag as your strongman event. No other exercise crushes your quads like the backward sled drag.

Simply face your sled, grab the rope, turn your toes slightly outward and walk backwards using short, quick steps. Purchase a sled online or drag anything heavy. You could even wrap a rope around your tractor tire and drag it.


Tug Of War

The tug-of-war training will be one of the most competitive and fun events you'll do. Get together with friends, break up into teams, or do one-on-one competitions. The competitive nature in everyone really comes out with the tug-of-war.

This event also acts as "vanity" work as your biceps will get one hell of a pump!

Try to get a rope that's thick enough so your hands don't get completely ripped apart. I've seen thick ropes sold in various hardware stores, boating stores, as well as any store where scaffolding equipment is sold.

There are hundreds of variations that'll work. Perform it late in the week so that it won't take away from your workouts performed earlier.

Strongman training can be your max-effort lower body strength day. Just don't perform any max-effort lower body training in the weight room during the weeks you use this training. Instead do dynamic-effort box squats with sub-maximal weights, posterior chain work, and abs for your other lower body work during this period.

  1. Overhead Keg Toss Do 5 tosses, rest one minute between tosses.
  2. Tire Flip Do 3 sets of 5 flips, rest 3-4 minutes between sets, or 3 sets of 30 seconds, rest 3-4 minutes between sets.
    Or try a timed-set variation and do as many tire flips as possible in the given timeframe.
  3. Zigzag Farmer's Walk Do 3 sets of 50 yards around cones. Rest 3-4 minutes between sets.
  4. Backward Sled Drag Do 2 sets of 40-50 yards. Rest one minute between sets. This is a great finisher on any lifting day.
  5. Tug-of-War The tug-of-war separates the men from the boys. By the end of this workout, most people are exhausted. Do a two-out-of-three or three-out-of-five series to finish your workout. Rest one minute between each "war."
Joe DeFranco is an elite strength coach with the remarkable ability to improve strength, speed, power, mobility, agility, and sport-specific endurance. His clients includes NFL players from all 32 teams, MLB and NBA players, WWE superstars, UFC fighters, Olympic athletes, and high school and college All-Americans. Follow Joe DeFranco on Twitter