Now before I even write this I know for sure that this article is going to leave a lot of powerlifters butt hurt. One thing to remember is that I write this speaking from my own experience of my own lifting and of coaching lifters who go back and forth between powerlifting and strongman. So here it goes…
I don’t think its any secret to anyone that my sport of choice is strongman, there are many reasons for this (as well as loving the sport), such as quality of life for me and being an athlete with the ability to turn his hand to anything.
Quality of life: Anytime I’ve put my sole focus into powerlifting it makes me feel very lethargic and lazy, so unfit that I cant run across a road or walk up a flight of stairs without getting out of breath. Thats not everyone but in my case it makes me feel very unhealthy and not very useful. We all know people living like this and it just makes no sense to me, for an extra 5% on your total is it really worth living like this? For me that’s going to be a straight up NO!
Being an athlete: I want to be able to do anything I want at any given time like jump in and do a crossfit competition which I recently did and came 5th out of 12 without training for it. Being a 105kg strongman i’m obviously not that big or heavy (well not in comparison to some of the top heavyweights like Eddie Hall or Zydrunas Savikas who walk around at over 180kg) and I keep on top of my conditioning which keeps me feeling fit and in shape for this even though I haven’t trained specifically for it. For me being able to do this is important because I want to to be an athlete not just another strong guy who can’t do anything but lift weights.
Anyway enough about me and why I do it, and onto why I believe you should train more like a strongman rather than a powerlifter…
How many guy’s out there do you know of that compete only in powerlifting at a very high level that could come across to the same level of strongman and do very well if not dominate within 8 weeks of deciding to give it a crack? I’d say not so many!
Now the flip side of this, How many guy’s out there do you know of that compete only in strongman at a very high level that could come across to the same level of powerlifting and do very well if not dominate within 8 weeks? I’d say there’s a shit ton!
A classic example of this is Laurence Shahlaei who competes at a very high level in strongman but also competes at a very high level in powerlifting even though he doesn’t train for powerlifting, he trains for strongman. In the last year Laurence has won Europe’s Strongest Man, UK’s Strongest Man and broke the All-Time British total record very easily while competing just for fun, looking like he could even break the 1000kg barrier if he really wanted to!
Anyone currently following Hafþór Björnsson (Thor) will see great evidence of what i’m talking about, over the last while Thor has shifted his focus from strongman to raw powerlifting which has seen him squat 440kg pretty easily, bench 227.5kg for double’s and pull 380kg deadlift for a strapless double, 400kg for a triple after some double’s (with straps, but lets be real grip isn’t an issue for Thor). In his instagram he comments that he might compete and the numbers he’ll be aiming for if he does will be 455/260/425 adding up to a 1140kg total equalling Andrey Malanichev’s All-Time total record, not bad for someone that’s only shifted their training focus to powerlifting 6-7 weeks ago.
Looking deeper into this, lets compare worlds strongest man Eddie Hall and the strongest powerlifter alive, the legendary Andrey Malanichev. Give Eddie 8 Weeks and I believe he would dominate most powerlifting meets if not even beat Andrey, give Andrey 8 weeks and he wouldn’t come close in Eddie’s world, I don’t think many top level powerlifters would.
Even at local or national level take a real look around and ask yourself could the strongest man or woman in your country do well in a national powerlifting meet and could the strongest powerlifter in your country do as well in strongman, 9/10 its probably going to be a no, that the powerlifter cant step right into strongman and do near as well as the strongman jumping into a powerlifting meet.
Looking at one of my own Athletes Ayshea Ullah who competed in a strongman competition (Winter Wreckage) that she won last December and the sole focus of her training was strongman/woman. Fast forward 10 weeks with an 8 week comp prep and she became the strongest ever raw female powerlifter in Irish history setting the All-Time heaviest raw squat, deadlift and total record. Now Ayshea had originally started lifting as a powerlifter but her transition to strongman has undeniably made her a better powerlifter.
I could keep going with examples of this all day long, but the facts are the facts, the powerlifter cant step into the strongman’s world as easily as the strongman could step into the powerlifters and the powerlifter is in most case very limited in comparison to what they can do as far as athletic endeavors outside of powerlifting.
Why strongman training helps your powerlifting training and why even if you don’t like the sport using it as a tool can help
Ok so of course we’re going to have the argument that strongman training is not specific enough to powerlifting if that is your sport of choice and I agree but i’m not saying you should train strongman right up until you compete, I recommend and its what I do with all my lifters that 6-8 weeks out from your powerlifting meet when your beginning to peak you cut out your strongman training but all the time outside of that you should be doing at a minimum farmers walks, sled drags and front loaded carries after lower body training or as conditioning on a separate day. Although I don’t make our powerlifters do it due to the compression it can create there’s also a good argument for training heavy super yolk runs, lets just say you squat 215kg and you can run 15m with 280kg on your back, surely the next time you compete in powerlifting and go to unrack a 220kg pb squat it will feel pretty damn light on your back?
You can add tons of muscle, grip strength, general strength and work capacity training these movements as well as becoming a more agile and conditioned athlete which tends to make life a bit easier than being a over weight slob that cant move because they in reality are to lazy to go out and do some moving.
The increase in general strength will transfer to your powerlifting for fairly obvious reasons, the increased work capacity will allow you to do more work and be able to recover from it faster in your powerlifting training.
I’ve also noticed that strongmen going into powerlifting don’t seem to be very fatigued when it comes to the deadlifts at the end of the day where I often see a lot of powerlifters fading away, this I believe is largely down to their work capacity. It could also be down to the fact that it would be quite normal to have done a heavy farmers walk, truck pull and overhead for reps (or any combination of other events) before having to do a max deadlift which anyone that has competed in both sports will tell you is a far greater task to take on than 3 squats and 3 presses before you deadlift.
For the recreational lifter who just wants to train to be a better version of themselves and have no interest in competing in anything ask yourself this. Do I want to train like a powerlifter, be statically strong but about as functional as a potato? Do I want to train like a bodybuilder and basically be an ornament that isn’t strong or functional? (Fairly useless as far as i’m concerned) or Do I want to train like a strongman and be big, strong, conditioned and fairly fucking functional? 10/10 its always going to be strongman for me!
Strongman training will just make you a better athlete in every way possible!
Author: Matty Costello (17/11/17)