Strongman Training For The Gym

(Image credit: Unknown)

Walk it out

“The farmer’s walk works every muscle you have, but especially your traps, core, arms and grip,” says Emil Hodzovic, strongman competitor and trainer. “It’s a fat burner if you keep the intensity high, or a strength workout if you go heavy.”

In the gym “Just grab the heaviest dumbbells your gym has and walk them 10-20m at a time,” says Hodzovic. ”With custom bars, bodyweight in each hand is the aim, but you’ll need to go lighter with dumbbells.”

Push on through

“Sled pushing will tax your legs and conditioning, whether you’re going heavy or just fast,” says Skorpions Gym founder James Adamson. “Four to five all-out pushes with 90 seconds’ rest in between will do it.”

In the gym “If you haven’t got a metal sled or a prowler, just put a couple of heavy plates on a towel and push them along the floor,” says Adamson. “You’ll need to get lower to the ground, which will make the move feel a lot tougher.”

Sort your overheads

Strongmen build their upper bodies with more than just barbells: logs, axles, metal blocks and the fat-handled, 78kg Inch dumbbell all make different demands on shoulder and pec strength.

In the gym “Mimic log pressing by doing neutral-grip dumbbell presses, with palms facing towards each other,” says Hodzovic. “Incline benching also helps.” For the Inch press, grab a single DB and get it overhead with a burst of leg drive.

Load up for strength

The Atlas Stones are the signature strongman event for a reason. Lifting, carrying and loading heavy weights onto a platform takes technique, skill and strength.

In the gym “Stone lifting is tough without the real thing,” says Adamson. “But train your hamstrings for the initial pick-up with stiff-leg deadlifts, your quads for loading with front squats, and your grip by either holding some stacked bumper plates or heavy dumbbell flyes.”

Catch a few heavy Zs

“Zercher carries are the strongman answer to doing endless curls,” says Adamson. “You’re getting a ton of time under tension for your arms, and loading up with weights heavy enough to tax your core and legs.”

In the gym Strongmen do Zerchers with a custom-made yoke, but an EZ-bar will do fine: load it up, carry it in the crook of your arms, and wrap a towel around the middle if things get uncomfortable. Three to four sets of 20m make a great finisher.

Give abs day the finger

Fingal’s Fingers is like ground-level caber tossing: increasingly heavy logs, hinged at one end, that are flipped over for time. Yes, this one’s tricky in the gym – but it’s a stern test of core strength and explosiveness.

In the gym “Set up a barbell in a landmine attachment and load up one end,” says Adamson. “Pull it off the ground with both hands, catch it in a half-squat, and ‘walk’ your hands up the bar until it’s overhead.” Even 50kg is impressive.

Strongman Terry Hollands’ Training Tips

The former UK’s strongest man and Bodypower Expo ambassador Terry Hollands explains how to fit strongman-style training for super-strength into your busy schedule.

Hit the big lifts

“The main lifts I focus on in the gym are the overhead pressdeadlift and back squat,” says Hollands. “I’ll usually have a day for each.” You should do the same – doing one big lift each day enables you to focus all your attention on it. You could substitute the bench for the overhead press but the latter will give your core a tougher workout.” 

Add events

“For events, I focus on the things that come up frequently – farmer’s walk, some sort of sled push or pull and a loaded carry,” says Hollands. You can manage most of these in a gym. For the farmer’s walk or carries, simply pick up the heaviest dumbbells you can handle and walk with them for five sets of 30m. For the sled push, a weight plate on a towel can work well if you have the floor space. 

Change your reps

Doing the same rep scheme every week won’t get you the best results. “My programme is 12 weeks long,” says Hollands. “I’ll start doing three sets of 12 for my main move, then bring the reps down and the weights up until I’m doing three sets of two in my final week.” This builds both strength and endurance. 

Be adaptable

At any level of training you’ll have off days, whether its because of illness, stress or a hangover. “Don’t beat yourself up,” says Hollands. “Be ready to have a lighter day if you’re in bad shape. One bad workout isn’t the end of the world.” 


Your gym doesn’t have Atlas stones? No problem. “An easy way to make your own training kit is to get a duffel bag from an army surplus shop and fill it with sand,” says Hollands. “This can mimic a loaded carry or even a stone.” 

Double Up

Once you’ve got the hang of the moves, try combining them in a single workout. “I often do light events training as part of a weights session, so I might do Atlas stones on the same day as my deadlifting because it all works my back and legs,” says Hollands. Caution: don’t overdo it.