Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced strongman athlete, it’s impossible to have the exact equipment at home that you’ll use in competition. One of the joys in the sport of strongman is that the events change each time, and you’ll never know how the equipment may differ from your own. But even without all the same implements, it’s possible to be prepared for competition.
The events in strongman fall under four categories of movement: push, pull, carry, and load. Some of the equipment you need is hard to simulate without the exact items used in the events, so I consider these to be staples for your training. Other equipment falls under the “nice to have” category and may not be as common in competitions. These events can be simulated by training these four movements with other equipment.
This category includes any event where the weight ends up overhead. The implement starts on the ground, so you’re really doing a clean and press. Strongman has many implements for the clean and press, including the log, axle, circus dumbbell, and keg.
In my opinion, the log is one of the more beneficial implements to have in training. It’s a specific movement that is hard to get a feel for with other equipment, and it’s also a common event to strongman, so train it often. The keg to overhead is a similar movement to the log. If you have a competition coming up with keg events, make sure to find one to get a feel for it ahead of time.
To get used to a wide grip that you’ll use on the axle, you can buy Fat Gripz and attach them to a barbell. Fat Gripz can also be used to train the circus dumbbell. Just attach them to any dumbbell to practice the single arm press.
The log is one of the most beneficial implements to have on hand in training. Simulating it with other equipment is difficult.
This is where you’ll find the rope pulls (performed with a truck or other implement) and deadlifts. My strongman career has only included two rope pulls, so I don’t consider training them to be a huge necessity. Rope pulls do require some technique training, so if you have a competition coming up that includes them, make sure to try them at least once. You can use a heavy sled or prowler to simulate the implement. Load it up, keep your feet stationary, and practice your arm over arm.
You’ll see the deadlift at almost every competition in some form: tire deadlift, deficit, rack pulls, reps for time, or max weight. Train them all. This is where you’ll want to make sure to have an axle. It changes the deadlift by moving the weight in front of you a bit more due to the diameter of the bar. The Fat Gripz would come in handy if you can’t get an axle, but it doesn’t allow the weight to be in the correct spot. Axles aren’t expensive, but a welding friend could come in handy.
The axle challenges your grip and technique due to its width. This should be a common feature of your training.
There are many possibilities for a carry event, but the most common are the yoke, farmer’s walks, and medleys which can include sandbags and kegs. Farmer’s walks are going to be present in almost every competition, and handles are easy to obtain, so I consider them a definite must. I also think the yoke is an implement you don’t want to be without.
Both of these events tend to be heavy. If your body hasn’t performed under a heavy load, you’re not going to be ready in competition. If you’re new to strongman, your body needs to get used to moving under these heavy weights. Grab a barbell, load it to a moderate weight, attach heavy kettlebells with bands on each side, and walk 60-100ft with the barbell on your back. This will get you used to carrying weight that shifts with each step. The equipment used for carry medleys varies, but you can practice by picking up heavy, awkward objects and going 60-100ft as fast as possible with them.
Whether you use a sandbag, keg, or Husafell stone, make sure it’s large enough. You can even do a Zercher carry with your yoke, or use a barbell with the kettlebells. Get uncomfortable. It should be hard to breathe. When the training is hard, you’ll be ready for anything (but stay safe!).
There is nothing comfortable about a heavy loaded carry. Get used to it.
Loading events involve taking an implement and putting it up onto a platform or over a bar. Sometimes you’ll carry the implement a distance, or other times you’ll pick it up in front of the platform to load it. The following implements are used for loading:
- Sandbags: Cheap and small enough to store easily. Sandbags run about $70.00, and at a home improvement store $10.00 will get you 100lb of sand. Load it up!
- Kegs: Kegs can be found on Craigslist or online. I’d anticipate $100.00 per keg. Load these with sand also.
- Stones: Stones are great to have, but they take up a lot of room and can be more expensive because you have to buy the stone mold kit and there is an art to pouring the concrete. If you have a competition coming up with stones as an event, just make sure to get your hands on them a few times beforehand.
The triple extension for loading is key for all the implements associated with this event. To work your triple extension, use the end of an old barbell or make something similar out of piping. Load it with a few plates and secure them with a band. Practice picking up the weight from the floor through triple extension to get it as high on your chest as possible. Repeat. A lot. You can even lift slam balls over your shoulder to help practice this technique, as long as they’re heavy enough. Work that triple extension and get used to moving fast while carrying the weight in front of you.
Basic Equipment for Your Strongman Foundation
These are the implements I find are essential to have on hand for your strongman training:
- Farmers carry handles
I only scratched the surface of events, but gave you a general idea of the equipment a strongman athlete needs in order to be ready for competition. Be sure to train each of the four movement categories. Get stronger, feel uncomfortable. Welcome to strongman.
More Strategies for Strongman Success:
- The 6 Main Types of Strongman Events (and How to Train for Them in the Gym)
- An Introduction to Implement Training: Get Strong Like a Strongman
- 4 Needless Mistakes You’re Making in Strongman Training
- New on Breaking Muscle Today
Photos courtesy of Erika Drinkard.