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Training Strongman Anywhere – Part 2

This is Part 2 of our “Training Strongman Anywhere” series. We’ll cover considerations and training recommendations for specific strongman lifts/implements. If you missed Part 1 – Foundational Lifts and Movement Patterns for Strongman – you can click here to read it.

When training strongman in any environment, it’s important to consider the exact muscles, movement patterns, and skills required for each individual event. Start by understanding the demands of an event. Then you can put together movements that will carry over to that event, even if you don’t have access to the specific strongman implements.

We’ll start by breaking down 3 of the most common strongman implements/movements – stones and loading events, carries, and presses – so you can train them in nearly any gym setup.


Atlas stones – and other objects like kegs and sandbags – are generally loaded onto a platform or over a bar. The demands for each are fairly similar:

  • Upper Back Strength: This is critical for the initial pick off the floor and keeping the stone close to your body as you load it.
  • Lower Back Strength: Loading events challenge both flexion and extension at very heavy loads. Neither is an ideal weight-bearing position (remember that neutral spine is best for this!), so it’s important to train lower back strength so it’s prepared for the demands of weighted flexion and extension.
  • Overall Back Endurance: Your back will be under tension for an extended period of time while you exert your full body at a max effort, so it’s important to be able to stay tight and stable to grind out those longer, heavier attempts.
  • Leg Strength: Every part of a load involves leg strength starting from the pick off the floor and then standing up with power.
  • Explosive Hip Drive: Powerful hip extension is the difference between a successful lift and a missed attempt, especially at max weights or at the end of a timed set.

You can cover those bases by training the following movements, all of which can be done at most gyms with a barbell and regular plates or dumbbells:

  • Heavy Rows (back strength)
  • Higher-Rep Rows, ideally with pauses at the top (back endurance)
  • Weighted hinge patterns, like back extensions, RDLs, and good mornings (back strength and endurance, leg strength, hips/glutes)
  • Front Squats (leg strength, upper back strength, practice standing up with weight on the front of your body)
  • Power Cleans (hip drive)
  • Heavy Russian kettlebell swings (hip drive, back endurance)

In strongman we carry all kinds of heavy odd objects. There are lots of variables here (such as grip requirements on farmer carry vs. pick mechanics for sandbag). But here is what almost all carries need in order to be successful:

  • Core Stability: A stable trunk is essential for a safe and efficient carry.
  • Hip Strength and Stability: With strongman weights, the hips are under a tremendous load – while moving! – so it’s important to keep them strong and healthy.
  • Knee and Ankle Stability: If your knees or ankles buckle, the whole carry falls apart. At best it’s wobbly and inefficient. At worst you’re risking injury.
  • Speed: This one is pretty obvious… Run fast. Win event.
  • Back Strength: Your back will be needed to pick something up, and then it’ll be under constant tension through the entire carry.
  • Leg Strength and Endurance: Stronger legs run faster and farther.
  • Grip: Whether your fingers are wrapped around a farmer handle or your whole hand is pressing into a heavy stone or sandbang, good grip is key to a good carry.

You can cover those bases by training the following movements, all of which can be done at most gyms with a barbell and regular plates or dumbbells:

  • Farmer Carries with Any Object (direct carry work, grip)
  • Barbell Suitcase Carries or Marches (core stability, shoulder stability, direct carry work, grip)
  • Rows and Lat Pull-downs (back strength, grip)
  • Planks, Hanging Leg Raises, and Static Core Holds (core stability)
  • Single-Leg Movements (leg strength, knee/ankle stability, hip strength)
  • Squats (leg strength, lower body stability, speed)
  • Sprints or other Interval Training (speed, endurance/cardio)

Almost every single strongman competition has some kind of overhead pressing event. Usually it’s at least a moderately odd object (like an axle or log) and sometimes it’s a very odd object (like a block or natural stone). 

Press training has 2 categories: strength and skill.

In the strength department, we want to train:

  • Shoulder Strength: Stronger shoulders press more weight and more reps.
  • Shoulder Stability: You’ll need to lock the weight out overhead and hold it stable until a judge gives you a “down” command. Also, strongman implements are often awkward and off-balance, so stability helps keep things under control and helps save reps that don’t go quite as planned.
  • Shoulder Endurance: This is especially relevant for max rep events. The burn is real.
  • Core Stability: You can only stabilize something overhead with your shoulders if you have a solid base to work from.
  • Power: Leg drive (power!) gets weight off your shoulders and over your head (where it belongs).

You can cover those bases by training the following movements, all of which can be done at most gyms with a barbell and regular plates or dumbbells:

  • Barbell overhead presses (see “skill department” below)
  • Single-arm movements like DB presses, landmine presses, and Z-Presses (shoulder stability and strength)
  • Movement pattern training like YTIs (shoulder stability and endurance)
  • Weighted front rack holds or carries (core stability)
  • Planks or other static core holds (core stability)
  • Box Jumps (power)

In the skill department, we want to make sure we’re covering all our bases. Strongman events usually ask you to lift a max amount of weight for a single rep, or a max number of reps (generally in 60 seconds) at a specified weight. In order to do that, we need to train a mix of:

  • Strict Presses: for overall static strength and endurance
  • Push Presses: for more dynamic strength and ability to lift more weight
  • Power/Split Jerks: to lift (for most people) the max amount of weight overhead and most efficiently

By following the above outline – and using it as a starting point – you’ll become reasonably well-rounded for strongman events without ever touching a strongman implement. Of course, there is no substitute for using the real thing, but this will get you pretty darn close!


The biggest things that people skip are definitely core stability, shoulder stability, and dynamic movement. Especially if you’re coming from a static sport (like powerlifting), it’s super important to add overhead presses and lots of dynamic movement to your training. Cardio intervals are super helpful in adjusting to the cardio demands of strongman. In terms of stability, you should spend a solid amount of time training the small stabilizing muscles in your shoulders, and pay attention to ankles and knees. Those are the weak links that are most likely to cause pain and injury when you try to run around with heavy odd objects or chuck them over your head.


In our next post, we’ll go over the bare bones essential equipment for training strongman and how to get started (almost) anywhere with a strongman program. Stay tuned!

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