On a sunny Sunday morning, myself and Wild Geese Martial Arts Muay Thai coach, Dave Gordon, drove down to Tullamore, Co. Offally to participate in a workshop run by Ireland’s strongest man, James Fennelly.
While both Dave and I are very experienced in many aspects of training, Strongman is something we’d never previously experienced first hand. Sitting in front of the TV with a beer in hand watching these incredible men doesn’t count.
Anyone who’s seen the Strongman shows on the TV will be familiar with some of the incredible events these guys participate in. Events that combine brute strength, power and endurance that would make us mere mortals soil ourselves just thinking about them. No amount of Smith machine squats and lateral raises could prepare you for the rigours of the Atlas stone. Leg curls and crunches are of little use to you when faced with an oversized tyre to be flipped.
Please watch this video and enjoy James giving demonstrations of these lifts:
During the course of the day we were all invited to try out the events after he had demonstrated them. It gives me great pleasure to report that Dave and myself managed to complete most of the lifts.
I’ll admit that Dave is far stronger than myself in the deadlift, which stood to him on the farmers walk, but I locked out that giant 50kg dumbbell before he did.
Of course that merely spurred him on to lock it out overhead.
Of the lifts covered that day, Dave and I have been discussing which of them would transfer best to the training of our clients. remember that the majority of our guys are fighters, either Muay Thai, Kickboxing or MMA competitors. We also have Kettlebell guys and of course average joes, but the fighters form the backbone.
We quickly came to a similar conclusion. The strongman lifts that would best suit a combat athlete are as follows:
This involves lifting a large, unyielding sphere of concrete of the floor, rolling it up the body and loading it onto a platform of whatever height. Unlike a deadlift, which is the gym lift it most resembles, your back is rounded and your balance is being pulled forward the whole time.
Performing the lift reminded me of rolling in the Judo and JuJitsu training. If you are getting tied up in a scramble on the floor, sometimes your best option is to simply stand up with your opponent. The Atlas Stone is that movement.
Now we are not going to start throwing stones round on our lovely matted floor, but we can replicate this using heavy sandbags, which we are currently building and producing a new training manual for.
Dipping low, driving with the legs, powering through with the shoulders and arms, then doing again, and again. This is the tyre flip. It’s also a large part of your wrestling, clinch and takedowns on the mat.
For developing power, aggression and staying power, the tyre flip is a tough one to beat. I can’t imagine any athlete not enjoying or benefiting from this.
We have a truck tyre in Wild Geese that we use for Sledgehammer slams, but it’s far too small for flipping. However, we will definitely be getting ourselves a much, much larger tyre.
Various Walking Drills:
On the day we covered Farmers Walks, Super Yoke and the Cross, all of which challenge the body in very different ways. Whichever one you choose, you will be attempting to cover ground as fast as possible while under load.
The loads shift and move, forcing you to stabilise, your core has to become a solid unit. Your legs are doing what they are designed for but under far greater load, no machine extensions here, your actually carrying yourself forwards.
And of course you have to try and breathe.
The Yoke sits across the shoulders as if you were performing a barbell squat, but the weight is low so it if you’re not tight it pendulums and pulls you off-balance.
The farmers walk, similar in the fact that they move, but this time your hands and traps take a huge punishing as you carry them like suitcases.
The cross was my favorite, this has to be held in a bear hug on the chest, it becomes very difficult to breathe. I enjoyed this as it felt very similar to the rack position in Kettlebell Sport. For a fighter it will help them to stay strong and to breathe with an opponent sitting on their chest.
We’d like to send out a big thanks to Kieran Dooley who organised the event at his excellent Tullamore gym, and of course to James for taking the time out and giving the presentation.
All the best