Periodization Training for Strongman

Train Heavy with Brian Shaw
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I was once asked during a post-strongman contest interview how I train for very specialized events like the log lift or timber carry. Interestingly enough, my answer was not especially enlightening: “Well, every Saturday heading into an event,” I answered in full candor, “I press heavy logs overhead or I carry a half-ton platform over a prescribed distance—exactly as I need to do for the contest!”

In truth, my weight workouts in the gym don’t change as much as my actual strongman preparation. Every competition is different, so I need to build a powerful strength base that can then be tailored for each event based on the events they announce will be contested. For instance, the World’s Strongest Man strength events are announced only a few weeks before the contest. Obviously, their goal is to prove who’s the strongest man on the planet no matter what the task at hand. So I have to be prepared to alter my training to be ready for whatever they throw at me.

Nonetheless, my weight training also changes to a certain degree based on the time of year, the proximity to contests, and what particular strengths I’m trying to improve. To keep myself powerful, but still able to recover properly, I utilize modified conjugated periodization to guide my training. This is a method of training in which a lifter trains for maximum effort, speed, and repetition all at the same time, so you improve in all areas of strength. This means I train as heavy as possible for the various lifts according to the planned task at hand, which could be speed, high or low repetitions, maximum single lifts, or holds for time. Through using this method I am able to stay strong year-round and train my body to be well prepared for any competition. I am able to incorporate maximum effort, dynamic power speed work, and various repetition training.

I build my training around the major multijoint exercises during the week, so I will squat on Monday (along with a variety of other lower-body exercises), overhead press on Tuesday (in addition to chest work), and do deadlift training on Thursday (along with other back movements). On the weekend—usually Saturday—is when I will do basic strongman event training. But as I begin to train specifically for a contest, I will throw in more event training during the week instead of concentrating so much on normal gym training.

As such, I will incorporate the required specific events such as stone lifting and one-arm circus dumbbell pressing leading up to a contest, and modify my gym training if I can so as to improve my specific strength to be better at the events. I normally cycle my training for around 12–16 weeks leading up to a big contest. As the contest gets closer, I will do more and more actual event training and cut back on much of the non-specific regular gym training. This type of ongoing periodized training helps me to be fresh and ready when the contest date arrives.

After a big contest, I will normally follow four to six weeks of lighter basic training to let
my body heal and give myself
a mental break, as well. Quite often, recovering mentally is equally as important as physically recovering. This is critical to avoid burnout, especially because strongman competition requires such powerful mental focus to succeed. (Trust me, when you are carrying a 1,000-pound timber apparatus up a steep ramp as fast as you can, the difference between finishing strong and dropping the platform mid-way is all in your head!)

My MHP supplement program does not change much year-round. I will, however, use more Up Your MASS weight gainer leading up to a big contest as my training gets more intense. The reason for this is I need the extra calories to help my body recover from training. Other than that, I use and trust all of the MHP supplements—including the new MYO-X myostatin inhibitor, X-FIT Trainer pre-workout and T-Bomb II test booster—to keep my body at a peak performance level year-round.

In closing, I’d like to invite FLEX readers to ask me questions for possible future “Only the Strong” columns. Please “like” the MHP Facebook page at facebook.com /teamMHP and then post your training, supplement, or strongman questions to me there. Stay strong!

 

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