Top 5 Max Effort Lifts for Strongman: Upper Body
By CJ Murphy, MFS
This is the second installment in the Top 5 series and discusses upper body max effort exercises. As with the lower body lifts, you need to decide whether you do high, low, or timed reps.
Here they are in no particular order:
Axle, fat bar, or log clean and press
Lifting a weight from the ground and up over your head is a staple in Strongman contests. It is also a true strength builder. It doesn’t really matter if you use a log or a bar. Just clean it and throw it overhead.
Banded log press
The banded log press is one of our favorite dynamic exercises for Strongman. It builds and teaches speed in the overhead press and helps teach you to “get under the weight.” Getting under the weight is what allows you to press much more than you could do normally. Olympic lifters call it a “double knee bend.” You can call it a tuna sandwich—just learn to do it.
Power clean/power snatch
This might sound like a repeat of the axle, fat bar, or log clean and press, but it is not. Power clean/power snatches are a little different in that they are a more “fluid” athletic movement. This is because you will use a bar that has revolving sleeves (an Olympic bar). Cleaning a non-revolving bar, such as an axle or log, is more of a brute strength type of movement. Using an Olympic bar allows you to do it in a much more dynamic way. Do yourself a favor and get a good Olympic lifting bar for these. Get strong on gym lifts, as they will help your Strongman events.
Incline bench press (no picture available)
The incline press is a great choice for athletes because it is much less technical than a powerlifting style flat bench. We feel that it builds strength and has a better carryover to Strongman events.
Bosu ball one-arm lateral raise
Just kidding on this one. I only wanted to see if you were paying attention. What I really meant was….
Dumbbell overhead presses
You can do these standing or seated. We prefer to do them standing because Strongman events are not done seated. But mix it up. Do some standing and some seated. Just go heavy. Try mixing in alternating presses too.
There you have it—our top five max effort lifts for upper body movements. I’m sure that you have your own favorites so just find what works for you and get strong. I’d like to hear what some of you readers use and have success with so click the “Article Discussion” button or shoot me an email.
Don’t curl in the power rack or I’ll kill you,
CJ Murphy, MFS
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Top 5 Max Effort Lifts for Strongman—Lower Body
By CJ Murphy, MFS
This is the first in a two-part series on our favorite max effort exercises for strongman. This article will focus on those lifts for the lower body while the second one will focus on the upper body.
One thing to keep in mind is that strongman requires different types of strength so vary your reps. Sometimes you will keep them low, 1–3, and sometimes they will be higher, 3–5. You might also want to pick a weight and do a maximum amount of reps for a predetermined amount of time (60–75 seconds). These choices will be made by you and based on your weaknesses and any upcoming contests. For example, if you have a contest coming up with a Viking Squat for max reps, doing box squats for a 1 RM might not be the most beneficial exercise to choose.
Here are our top five in no particular order:
Safety bar box squats
As a reader of this site, the benefits of this exercise should be well known. Safety squat bar box squats are a top choice for all athletes.
The Zercher squat has a tremendous carryover to many strongman events, especially things like the Conan’s Wheel and Husafeld Stones.
One-arm farmer’s walk deadlift (suitcase deadlift)
This exercise not only works grip and the posterior chain but also your torso like almost nothing else. For a real treat, try a 2-inch farmer’s walk handle.
Many strongman events incorporate some sort of pull from the ground so the rack pull (pin pull) fits the bill. Vary the height that you will pull from as you will pull from different heights at contests. You might see an 18” deadlift or an axle deadlift with big tires on the axle. Try to mimic your events in training.
Suspended good mornings
Bill Starr once said, “Nothing makes you strong like good mornings.” Or something to that effect and I agree. The suspended good mornings build raw strength from a dead stop. The fact that you are starting at the bottom of the lift makes it much harder than a traditional good morning. Hang those chains from your power rack and get strong!
There are many other max effort exercises to choose from, but we feel these are the best. Find out what works for you.
Train hard, lift heavy stuff, and get strong!
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