“Traditionally,” explains Griffiths, “Strongman training looked like four workouts a week: deadlift, press, squat and ‘events’, where athletes would practice the more specific events found in competition. These include Atlas stones, farmer’s carries, loading events and so on. Some of my favourite sessions are when I mix it all into one mad conditioning workout. Intensity and volume are reduced to fit it into an hour, but it’s an awesome whole-body workout and a great place to get started.”
1. SNATCH-GRIP DEADLIFT REPS: 10 REST: 90-120 secs SETS: 4
“This move does three things,” explains Griffiths. “It improves grip, strengthens the upper back and gets you stronger in the pick-up of any deadlift. For me, the pick-up was my weakest part, so snatch-grip deadlifts were a real game changer.” A snatch grip is wide. With an empty Olympic bar, lift the bar to the crease of your hips. Bend over to 45 degrees. Then take your hands out wide enough so you can lock your elbows out, but not so wide the bar slips out from the crease of your hips. This is the width to use for the deadlift.
You are likely to feel more comfortable with your feet relatively close together and turned out slightly. This should make the lower-than-normal pick-up feel less awkward.
The snatch grip means you will be lifting from lower, and there will be more stress on your upper back. Learning how to create tension in the shoulders and keeping your back tight from the floor will dramatically improve your deadlift.
Take a deep breath at the bottom and focus on driving up with your shoulders staying above the bar. Keep the shoulders tight at the top and perform a slow negative to lower the bar back down to the floor. Let the bar rest on the floor before your next rep. Remember, you are here to improve your pick-up, so tap and goes aren’t going to get you the best results.
2. PUSH PRESS RATCHET NEGATIVE REPS: 3 REST: 90-120 secs SETS: 4
“Overhead press is a massive part of Strongman training,” explains Griffiths. “The more you do it, the more you appreciate the whole-body nature of big overhead lifts, and the skill required to balance different shaped kit above you.” You can use any kit for this. “I love using a Viking press, but a normal Olympic bar will work in a rack with decent spotter arms,” says Griffiths. Ratchet negatives should be heavy, so the set-up needs to be safe on the limit.
Perform a push press, using triple extension to drive the weight overhead. Hips, knees and ankles should explode upwards to help get the weight overhead.
Negatives play on the idea of the eccentric phase of any movement being where you can massively increase the stimulus on the muscles for increasing strength and size. Rather than just a slow negative, the ratchet is where you really look to max out the time with the weight.
From lock-out, lower the weight just one inch. Then press it back to lock-out. Then lower it two inches before pressing it back out. Then three inches. If the weight is where it should be, you won’t get much further than four inches.
Respect the intensity and hit lower volumes to start. Just 2 sets might be enough.
3. SQUAT REPS: Max REST: 90-120 secs SETS: 3
“For many, the squat is the granddaddy of strength,” says Griffiths, “but for me it has never been a key part of my heavy strength training. None of the Strongman competitions I competed in had a squat, so that’s another reason I didn’t hit heavy squats. Having said that, I love big-rep numbers for my back squats. Can you hit 30 reps while carrying your own bodyweight on your back?”
Stand under the bar with your feet shoulder-width or slightly wider.
Position the bar at the top of your back, not on the back of your neck.
Grip the bar with a wide grip for stability.
Take a small step back and stabilise yourself. Keeping your eyes facing forward, tense up in your core, glutes and quads.
Squat down until your thighs are parallel with the floor, then drive through your heels to return to standing.
4. FARMER’S HOLD REPS: 20 secs REST: 60-90 secs SETS: 4
“I’ll never forget the first time I did farmer’s carries,” says Griffiths. “They’re fun, dynamic, grip-intensive and way more challenging on your cardio than you’d ever imagine. Replicating Strongman training in a gym that isn’t set up for it isn’t easy, but this farmer hold practice is something I trained for my grip and balance on the pick-up.”
Use two Olympic bars loaded with bumper plates on a surface suitable for dropping the weights on. The length of the bars will make you really appreciate accuracy in your pick-up technique and the need for grip strength to be on point.
This will feel similar to a hex bar deadlift, with your hands closer together. Stand up and lock your hips out.
The exercise is simple. Hold onto the bars, standing tall throughout for 20 seconds. If you go past 20 seconds, put the weight up. Most farmer’s carry events are over in less than 20 seconds. Something many people don’t realise about Strongman as a sport is that so many of the events are about speed as well as strength.
This drill will develop your grip and balance, so that if and when you want to start moving with carries, your grip and core strength will be a lot less likely to let you down.