Strongman is getting more popular in the recreational world of fitness. It is now much easier to gain access to the same implements that are used in local strongman competitions. This is great for the sport and great for anyone that wants to give it a try.
Many powerlifters and bodybuilders are switching over and giving strongman a chance. When transitioning over to strongman-style training, I think a few things get forgotten: the importance of speed and agility.
The biggest challenge in strongman is moving with weight. You are not just lifting the weight up and down, you have to lift it up and then run with it. This can be especially challenging to someone that has focused on powerlifting or bodybuilding.
I feel adding in some aspects of athletic training can really take your strongman training to the next level. You also have to get your body used to moving again. In many events you will have to sprint from object to object.
For example, a contest may have a keg carry and load medley. In this event you will have to pick up the keg, run 50 feet, put it on a platform and then sprint back to the next keg. The difference between winning and losing could be your ability to sprint faster than the next competitor.
Most strongman training routines focus on maximal strength and strength endurance. These are the most important aspects in strongman, but how can you further improve your event times?
Adding in speed and agility training
I feel that adding in specific speed and agility training on off days is a key to making you more competitive at your next competition. Speed and agility training will also force you to move in directions that you are not used to. In strongman you will be put in many awkward situations. Being agile can also help to keep you injury free.
In my training program, I am hitting gym lifts 3 times a week and also doing 1 day of event training and 2-3 days of speed and agility work. The speed work also helps with my conditioning, and will also be very useful for the average strongman trainee.
These workouts can be kept simple. The key is to keep them short so they do not hinder recovery. Speed and agility work will help to get blood flowing and speed up recovery.
Many people do not have access to a sled on their off days from the gym. In this case a good alternative is hill sprints.
Sleds and hill sprints for speed
There are many different ways to train for speed. My favorite is sprints with a sled. If I am feeling at all sore or tired, I will do them very light. I add only 25-50 pounds to the sled and focus on keeping good running form.
There is no need to do these at an all out pace. Staying within the 70 to 90 percent range will prevent any injuries. I typically do 6-10 sprints once I am warmed up. I keep them from about 30 to 50 yards in length. At the end of speed workouts, I may do one longer sprint of up to 100 yards.
Many people do not have access to a sled on their off days from the gym. In this case a good alternative is hill sprints. These are another favorite of mine. You can do these the same way that you would perform sled sprints, although the length of your sprint will be limited by the length of the hill.
There are many ways to manipulate the intensity of speed workouts. You can alter the length of the sprint or alter your rest periods. I also like to backwards sprint, but be careful not to fall over.
Training agility with an agility ladder
In my opinion, agility work is a great way to improve recovery. It really helps me to get loosened up without causing any further soreness in my muscles.
The best way to train agility is with an agility ladder. If you do not have an agility ladder, you can draw one with chalk. It works just as well.
I try to hit various drills for about 15-20 minutes after a warm up. Make sure to do drills forward and back along with lateral drills. If you are not sure what an agility ladder is or need ideas on what to do with the ladder, type agility ladder into Youtube; there will be more videos than you can ever watch.
I like to do agility work the day before events, it is a way for me to get loosened up without doing too much. The agility ladder will really help to improve foot speed, and this has significantly improved my times in farmers carries and yoke walks. Having quick feet will also help you get out of the way of a falling atlas stone after a failed attempt, very important.
Cone drills for speed and agility
One final way to train for speed and agility is to do some athletic drills with cones. You can do shuttle runs, or the four cones drill (sprint forward, shuffle, backwards sprint, shuffle the opposite direction, repeat). The key in all of these training sessions are to keep moving, and get your body using to moving in all different directions.
My favorite part of doing speed and agility drills is that I get to be outside. It helps to break up the monotony of going to the gym 6 days a week. For me, speed and agility drills have helped many events and I feel they speed up my recovery.
Sample training program
Bringing it all together, here is a sample template of what my training sessions will look like during the week.
- Monday - Bench Press
- Tuesday - Squats/Deads
- Wednesday - Sprints
- Thursday - Overhead Press
- Friday - Agility drills
- Saturday - Events
- Sunday - Off or very light sprints, more of a focus on conditioning and recovery.