Can mod­i­fied strongman train­ing pro­vide the key to get­ting ripped? Ben Ince flips some tyres to find out

Men's Fitness - - Contents -

Can strongman get you lean?


trong­men don’t top many ‘body types you’d love to have’ lists. Zy­drunas ‘Big Z’ Sav­ickas wouldn’t look out of place play­ing pro­fes­sional darts, for in­stance, and even Hafthór Björns­son (AKA the Moun­tain from Game Of Thrones) looks like he prob­a­bly gets out of breath climb­ing the stairs. So, even if strongman-style kit such as sleds and tyres is be­com­ing more popular and ac­ces­si­ble at gyms around the UK – my lo­cal Fit­ness First in­cluded – is it re­ally worth do­ing?

‘You don’t need to have the physique or strength of a strongman to get the benefits of train­ing like one,’ says coach Luke Cham­ber­lain, as I ar­rive for my first ‘mod­i­fied’ strongman ses­sion. ‘Ap­pear­ances can be de­cep­tive. Pro­fes­sional strongmen eat up to 10,000 calo­ries a day to add mass and coun­ter­bal­ance the enor­mous weights they lift, but if you take diet out of the equa­tion, a lot of the more un­usual events they do can be repli­cated in a gym and mod­i­fied to help achieve huge im­prove­ments in physique and ath­letic per­for­mance.’ Good news.


Af­ter some mo­bil­ity-based warm-up drills, Cham­ber­lain rolls out an 80kg gym-spe­cific ‘tyre’ – com­plete with han­dles. ‘You’re go­ing to flip the tyre down the length of this track, then dead­lift it by the han­dles and carry it back,’ he says, which seems rea­son­able enough. ‘You’ll do that con­tin­u­ously for one minute, rest for a minute, and re­peat four times,’ he adds with a smile. Ouch.

Flip­ping the tyre turns out to be eas­ier than car­ry­ing it, but that’s not say­ing much, and within 30 sec­onds I’m sweat­ing and breath­ing hard. The com­bi­na­tion of full­body strength, power and en­durance re­quired to pick up the tyre and re­peat­edly carry it the length of the track is ex­haust­ing. By the end I have no choice but to ditch the tyre and col­lapse on the floor in a heap.

Next is the sled. Elite strongmen can pull trucks weigh­ing up to 40 tonnes, which makes the 80kg on the sled seem puny. But it’s more than my body­weight, and af­ter a few lengths of the track my legs are seiz­ing up while the har­ness bites into my shoul­ders.

Af­ter five bru­tal one-minute rounds – punc­tu­ated with one-minute rest pe­ri­ods – I fin­ish with five rounds of clean and press­ing with a ViPR, which, Cham­ber­lain ex­plains, repli­cates the strongman-style log press. It’s a wel­come break from forc­ing my­self up and down the track, but I soon start to strug­gle, and it’s a huge re­lief when the ses­sion ends.


‘A one-to-one work-to-rest ra­tio is cru­cial for max­imis­ing the fat-burning, mus­cle-build­ing pow­ers of strongman ex­er­cises,’ ex­plains Cham­ber­lain when my shak­ing and dizzi­ness has sub­sided. ‘Work­ing for a minute at max­i­mum ca­pac­ity pro­duces large amounts of lac­tic acid, es­pe­cially with big com­pound ex­er­cises like th­ese. The body re­sponds by

It’s not quite a truck, but the loaded sled proves a for­mi­da­ble load for Ben

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