Two questions are often raised to me about strongman training: “When should I use these workouts? And why should I use them? Coaches, parents and athletes themselves are asking these questions. My answer is simple; it works! But before knowing why it works, you have to know how it works?

            Using strongman in sport is all about timing:  You don’t do strongman from day 1. Assess a structural balance for upper body and lower body first and correct all flaws before starting you’re strongman phase, this is critical to the success. Once the athlete is well balanced, you can start doing strongman workout. In this article, I will talk about my own hockey players and I will give you a summer sample. You train athletes with strongman in order to make them better for their sport not to make them strongman.

            Our season start June 1st and end September the 15th . It gives us 20 weeks of work (for hockey players, assuming they’ve been training with us for many years). The first week is a testing week for the athletes. They are tested on many points: structural balance, 1 RM lifts, 40-yards dash, flexibility etc. Then the next 2 weeks serve to correct injuries, muscle imbalances and do structural work. Only after this phase, which we call phase A, we can start the progression for the season. Note that the athletes come to the gym 4 times a week during this phase.


Week 1 to 3: evaluation/ accumulation

Week 4to 7: Hypertrophy

Week 8: deload

Week 9 to 11: accumulation

Week 12: deload

Week 13 to 17 : intensification

Week 16: deload

Week 17 to 20: intensification

This is a general overview of the season. One must understand that there are some modifications during the training season. So what does this mean?. Below are some definitions of the term we often use in training.

1-Structural balance: to correct muscles imbalance and weakness. 4 workouts/week

2-Hyperthrophy: to gain muscle mass. 5 workouts a week

3-Deload:  to work @ 40-50% of your 1 RM(max repetition) doing lite work but keep working with the major exercise like squat dead lift bench press.

4-Power: to move a heavy weight as fast as possible the power is precisely defined as the time rate of doing work.

5- Force =Mass x Acceleration.

6-Speed:  the skills and abilities needed to achieve high movement velocities in layman’s terms: to be as fast as possible for a movement but   with less weight.

We start using strongman between week 9th and 11th   (remember that if done too early in the season, it may result in overtraining and would increase the risks of injuries) and from once a week, we move to twice a week at week 13th until the end of the summer training, remember that strongman training is very demanding on the nervous system so doing more than twice a week is too much (so we think) We tried many options during the previous seasons and we have been able to demonstrate that twice a week is enough.  We work with push /pull technique: Day 1 is all pulling/lifting strongman exercises like sled pull forward and backward, kettlebell throw, farmers walk and day 2 is pushing/lifting exercises such as tire flip, prowler push, Chinese walk.

Make sure you have at least 48 hours before doing the next strongman session, timing is very important so make sure you give enough rest to athletes. Better rest= better results. Here is week sample of week 13th.

Having a great foundation is a must before starting any type of conditioning program, more so when it comes to strongman training. Structural balance is your best ally when it comes to injury prevention and will reward you in many ways. Alternating between your lifting/pulling/pushing days is the best way to maximize recovery without overtaxing the nervous system which will bring you faster results. In addition, to avoid adaptation, we recommend that you change your programs every 3 weeks. Keep in mind that you need adaptation, but too much of it can do more harm than good.

Here is an example:

Week 1 to 3:

Day 1: Prowler push high handle, farmer walk,

Day 2: Olympic lifts session , kettlebell throw

Day 3: Sled pull backward, sled pull forward

Week 4 to 7:

Day 1: Prowler push high handle 10 yard come back low handle, super yolk walk

Day 2: Olympic lifts session (rock lift and farmer’s walk)

Day 3: Tire flips for time

One must use his imagination and keep in mind that different kinds of devices are available for the ultimate results. If you plan to use strongman for training and getting your athletes to perform at a higher level not only you must periodize  the training   but the diet  too . You can train all you want but if you indulge in burger and fries and soda you’ll never get the results you should have.  In order to be the best you can be food must be monitor for ultimate results, and YES YOU HAVE TO TAKE SUPPLEMENTS all the food you’ll eat will make it for everything you lose in a session.

You could have the greatest and fastest car in the world. Feed it with cheap oil, cheap gas and no regular tune ups, the motor and some pieces will degrade and some problems may surface sooner than later. You should see your body the same way. If you think you could run and perform on nutritionally cheap foods, you are making a big mistake. Everything you eat has a major impact on your health, it could be immediate or on the long term.

The high demand strongman training on the nervous system and muscular system must be supported with proper nutrition and recuperation. Eating well before and after the workout is essential, but it would be like looking at the world through a straw. Recuperation doesn’t just happen an hour after the workout. Eating well throughout the day is good, but eating well all week long is a must to make sure you have proper rest and enough energy for your everyday tasks and the following workouts.

Let’s start with protein. The staple of one’s eating habits. Did you know that the first 30grams of protein goes towards detoxification purposes in your body? So being a vegan is not such a good idea anymore. Protein is the building block to gain strength and useful lean muscle mass, for strength, quickness, and power.  The rule of thumb is that you should consume at least 1.5 gram of protein per pound of lean muscle mass. The trick is to eat small but frequent meals throughout the day to make sure that your digestion is up to par, and that you consume adequate protein and a good source of carbohydrates.

This leads me to the next nutrient, carbohydrates. Not too many people know this, but carbohydrates are NOT essential for our body, it can get his energy from protein and fat[i]. The choice of carbs is the key, eating low glycemic index carbs with every meal is essential to get all the necessary micro nutrients for joints, ligaments, and some thousands chemical interactions in the body. Green veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, celery and so on will do wonders and are unlimited, eat them often and you’ll feel energized, oxygenized, and full of life.

Then there is fat. Do not cut down fat! It is a major source of energy. When it comes to fat you have to think quality, not quantity. As you cut down on carbs while keeping a good source of essential fatty acids, you turn on the fat burning genes instead of the fat storing scheme.

A great pre-workout meal should consist of lean red meat which is easier and faster to digest, more so in the morning workouts, some nuts and low glycemic fruits such as berries to give you long lasting and stable blood sugar all the way through your intense training session.

Unfortunately, eating properly just doesn’t cut it anymore. Stress of everyday life, lack of sleep, overtraining, improper digestion, and so on makes it difficult to eat or even get close to what we need as micro-nutrients. Since strongman training is considered very hard, your body and nervous system will need support to recuperate from those hard training sessions. Besides the base support such as a good multivitamin and mineral, fish oils and maybe some additional magnesium, one could need some pre-workout boosters. To recover faster it is possible to add some specific amino acids to your post workout shakes to help lessen delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Adding Glycine, which lowers cortisol, and glutamine to your post workout shake decreases recuperation time.

Everything you do is essential for your greatest performances. Eating, sleeping, resting, supplements and hydration are some of the key elements for great success in your respective sports and a healthy lifestyle as well. Knowing how, when and where to apply them is easy and is the distinction between success and stagnation. Every aspects of strongman training will be covered in this action packed seminar and you’ll have hands on experience on the how, what, when and where you can fit this type of training into your program design or for some of your athletes. Hope to see you there.

Yours in strength,

Eric Falstrault & Steve Dubé

[i] Is dietary carbohydrate essential for human nutrition? Eric C Westman , Department of Medicine Duke University Medical Center Suite 200-B Wing Box 50, 2200 West Main Street Durham, NC 27705 Email: ewestman@duke.edu, American journal of clinical nutrition.