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Strongman Tips



VIP Strength Advisor
Sep 15, 2010
IF YOU CAN'T TWIST THE TOP OFF A JAR OF SALSA FOR your girlfriend, she's not going to give a damn what your max bench is. In fact, she may begin to wonder if you've been going to the gym at all. (Either way, you'll have some explaining to do.) When you lift weights, people expect you to be strong, but functional strength--the ability to put your muscle to use in athletic and everyday tasks--requires more muscle activity and effort than most conventional gym exercises can offer.

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In other words, working out with the same old weights and exercises can leave you with a body that's all "show" and no "go." The solution: strongman training--like the kind you see on ESPN's World's Strongest Man competition. We talked to three strongman experts to bring you five exercises that you can do at home to increase your functional strength, burn fat, and improve your ability to lift bigger weights in the gym. Consider this: When you get to the point where you can lift Atlas stones and monster-truck tires, barbells and dumbbells are a piece of cake.


YOU NEED: Two objects of equal weight with handles. Heavy dumbbells, weight plates, or buckets filled with sand or water work great.

HOW TO DO IT: "Simple," says Mark Philippi, MF's "Strongman" adviser and former two-time finalist in the World's Strongest Man contest. "Just pick up the weights, one in each hand, and walk briskly, as far as you can in one direction until you have to set them down." To protect your back, keep good posture (your shoulders pulled back and your head as upright as possible). That's one set. Do 1-3 sets, resting 5-10 minutes between each set.

GREAT FOR: Your legs, core, and grip. After a few weeks of farmer's walks, you'll find that your ability to hold on to the bar during chinups and deadlifts has greatly improved, allowing you to perform more reps.


YOU NEED: Stones of various shapes and sizes (but none so small that you can handle them with one hand) and a retention wall or solid surface that's about chest-high. (You'll need room to stack several stones.) If you want the perfectly smooth Atlas stones you see strongmen lift on TV, you can mold your own with materials available at

HOW TO DO IT: "Lift as many stones onto the platform as you can in the shortest time," says Philippi. "When you can lift all the stones quickly, find bigger ones" Again, protect your back by keeping it naturally arched, and focus on using your legs, not your arms, as you lift.

GREAT FOR: All your deadlifting muscles--your legs, lower back, and forearms--which will help improve your performance at almost any other lift or activity.


YOU NEED: A large tractor tire (200 to 300 pounds),available at any garage or tire depot center that deals with trucks and tractors. (BTW: They're free.)

HOW TO DO IT: Lay the tire flat on the ground and crouch close behind it, arching your back as much as possible. Grab the underside of the tire underhand and explode upward. When you're almost standing, put your knee under the tire to hold it as you shift your hand position--placing your hands against the side of the tire--and explosively push it over. That's one rep. For a steady-rolling fat-loss workout, "Do drop sets," says Larry Jusdanis, C.S.C.S., a Canadian strongman training expert. Here's how they're done: Perform eight total reps, rest one minute, then do seven reps and rest 55 seconds. Continue dropping the number of reps by one and the rest periods by five seconds until you're down to just one rep after 30 seconds rest.

GREAT FOR: Your entire "posterior chain"--your lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves and nearly every pushing muscle in your body, including your chests and triceps. The power you develop will translate to a better bench press in no time.


YOU NEED: A 6- to 12-pound sledgehammer and a tractor tire.

HOW TO DO IT: Stand a foot or so away from the tire and hold the hammer with both hands--since you're a beginner, choke up on it. Raise the hammer over your head, bending your wrists at the top so it lowers behind you and its head rests in the small of your back. (Your body should be fully extended, your abs stretched.) Now explosively swing the hammer downward, onto the tire, bending your knees as you follow through. Warning: You must have a strong grip and precise aim--you don't want the hammer to land to the left or the right or worse, bounce up into your skull. When the hammer bounces to about a foot above the tire, resist the rebound and hold the hammer in place for a one-second pause. That's one rep. "Do as many reps as you can in a minute, then rest 60 seconds," says Jusdanis. That's one set. Perform 4-10 total sets, changing your hand position on the hammer each set to activate different muscles.

GREAT FOR: Core power--this move trains your abs and lower back to stabilize and balance your body quickly, an advantage in any sport. It also hits your abs through their entire range of motion.