Bryan Neese's Pre-Competition Strongman Training Routine!

This is the routine I have been using for my pre-season training. This program is designed to build overall strength and mass! Learn the exact program that I used in route to winning the IFSA US Championship in 1999!
This is the routine I have been using for my pre-season training. Generally the competition season for professional events runs May through October. This program is designed to build overall strength and mass. In addition to this routine, which covers 4 days per week in the gym I will also train specific events once per week.

Write down every set of every workout in a training log or notebook. Not only is this information invaluable for the next workout, but it also serves as a record throughout your training career of your progress.

Day 1

Leg strength is vitally important to strength related events. I put legs first in my rotation to make sure they are fresh. I do three basic exercises for legs - Pause squats, hack squats and leg curls. These exercises mimic the movements I will do in strength events. The pause squats give me overall explosive strength, the hack squats help me with stone lifting, and the leg curls help in pulling events. I also do calf and arm exercises and the stair stepper for 10 minutes on my leg day.

BARBELL PAUSE SQUATS - view exercise

5 warm up sets of 10-5 reps and then do 3 work sets of your top weight with all out intensity. Try for 5 reps with each set. When you can get 5 reps for all 3 sets go up 10 pounds. On pause squats set the pins in the rack slightly below parallel. Take the bar down to the pins and pause for 1 second then explode up. Do not bounce off the pins. Rest the weight on the pins for a full stop before you come up. This really builds explosion out of the hole.

HACK SQUATS - view exercise

You are already warmed up so do one set with about 3/4 of your top weight. Keep the reps at 8-5 for this set. Next go up to your work weight and do 3 sets of 5 reps. Again when you get all 3 sets for 5 reps go up 10 pounds. Take these all of the way down to the bottom of the machine. These will not do you any good if you do not. Your knees cannot hurt any worse than mine on this exercise. Explode out of the hole and keep your head up. This exercise is great for stone lifting and tire flipping, but more on that at a later date.

LEG CURLS - view exercise

3 sets of 10 reps with maximum weight should finish off a good leg day. Not a lot of reps or sets, but if each one is done with all out maximum effort it should make you sore for the next 3-4 days.


I do standing and seated. 3 sets each for 10-20 reps. Calf training will increase your squat and your speed. Do not neglect this part of your training.

ABDOMINALS - view exercises

With each workout I choose an Ab exercise and train to failure for 3 sets. Abdominal training is a must for a good squat and it can help prevent back problems.

BICEP CURLS - view exercise

Proper arm strength is essential to prevent injuries in athletic competition. I choose one biceps and one triceps exercise per workout. For biceps on this day I do alternating dumbbell curls. I do four sets and keep my repetitions at 8-10.

TRICEP PUSHDOWNS - view exercise

For triceps today I do triceps pushdowns for 4 sets and 8-10 repetitions. Strict form is essential on both arm exercises. I want to work the arm muscle only during these exercises.


10 minutes - Choose a level appropriate to your cardiovascular ability. This really burns the legs and increases the blood flow. In strength related athletics good cardiovascular ability is a priority.

Print Neese's Day 1 Pre-Competition Workout HERE!

Day 2

My chest routine is a little different than most people's chest routines, but this routine is designed to prepare me for strength competition. This routine will also work well for athletes involved in sports like football and wrestling or those interested in overall explosive strength.


I use a 2&3/8 inch thick bar for my bench presses. A thick bar involves more of the chest and deltoid muscles than a conventional bar. I do 3-5 warm-up sets and the 5 sets of 5 reps with my maximum weight. When I can complete the 5 reps for 5 sets I move up 10 pounds. Remember that both Rome and your strength cannot be built up in one day. It may take 2-3 weeks (for you; Rome took longer!) to be ready for the 10-pound increase and then another 2-3 for the next increase. Train as hard as you can every set of every workout and over a period of 6 months to a year you will see considerable progress.


I do log presses in a power rack on a 65-degree incline. I begin with the log on my chest and do my repetitions. Put the safety pins or bars in the rack slightly below your chest so you can return the log to the pins or bars when your set is finished. Because this is an event used frequently in strength competitions I do five sets and work the reps between 10-3.

When those sets are done I set the log to a weight that will be used in my next competition and do as many repetitions as I can for my 6th and last set.

BICEP CURLS - view exercise

I do 4 sets of hammer curls for 8-10 reps as heavy as I can. Heavy hammer curls help prevent arm injuries.

TRICEP CURLS - view exercise

I do 4 sets of close grip bench presses. 8-10 reps with as much weight as I can handle while maintaining good form.


3 sets leg raises until failure


1 mile as fast as possible. I try to cut my time each workout. Sometimes it is only a few seconds but it is something.

Print Neese's Day 2 Pre-Competition Workout HERE!

Day 3


I stand on a 6-inch platform to do my deadlifts. I like to take the bar off the top of my boots. I do regular deadlift style but the extra strength required to take the weight out of the hole can really help generate power in strength events and sports. I like to do 5-6 sets with the last 2 being my heaviest work sets. I keep my reps at 5.


Set the plates of your 2-inch bar on the 6-inch blocks. Take the bar and place it in the crooks of your bend arms. Use your legs and back to lift the weight up to a standing position. Do 5-6 sets of 10-5 reps. These will really help any type of loading events and competitive deadlifts.

POWER CLEANS - view exercise

Again I like to use the thick 2 and 2 3/8 inch bar for this exercise. I do 4 sets consisting of 3-5 reps with the heaviest weight I can, but I strive to maintain proper form in the clean.


Today I use incline sit ups - 3 sets to failure

BICEPS - view exercise

Today for biceps I do 4 sets barbell curls using a 2 or 2 3/8 inch bar. Not only does this train the biceps but it also does a great job working your grip.

TRICEPS - view exercise

Rope push downs are used today. At the bottom of the movement put a little extra squeeze in the triceps. 4 sets 8-10 reps


My legs are really fried by now so I only do 5 minutes on the machine, but I take it 2 levels up from what I use on the leg day. It is less time but it is more intense. Five minutes never went so slow.

Print Neese's Day 3 Pre-Competition Workout HERE!

Day 4

In this workout I concentrate on building shoulder strength and explosive power from my legs. Most strength sports require some type of explosive overhead pressing movement. It may not be with a standard barbell, it may be a sandbag, an opponent, a stone, a log or some other type of object. I start this workout with standing log presses and then progress to hammer curls with the log. After that I do front presses with a thick bar, and finish with triceps and abdominal training.


I place my log on pins outside the power rack about shoulder height. I then lift the log off and hold it on my upper chest. When I begin to press I look up at the ceiling and continue to look up until my elbows are locked out. As I start the pressing movement I quickly dip my legs. I go down low enough so I can feel my rear end and my quad muscles come into play. You do not go down into a squat stance; it is a short dip and then explode out of the hole. As I begin to come back up I begin to press the bar. You should have momentum built up by now and this should help lock the weight out on every repetition. When I have locked out the log I bring my eyes back forward and lower the log to my chest to prepare for the next repetition. I like 3-5 warm-up sets followed by 3 sets of 5 repetitions with my heaviest work weight for that session followed by 1 all out repetition set of a weight that is 75-80% of the 3 max work sets.


This is a great forearm/biceps tie-in exercise. It will also help anyone entering a strength contest that has a log clean and press event. It is also great for football players to strengthen their ability to get up under their opponent's pads and move them in a certain direction during a play. On the log curl start with the log resting on your thighs in a standing position.

Next curl the log up until it touches your chin or rest on the upper part of your chest. Do the first 3 sets of 5-10 repetitions using mainly biceps and forearm strength. Follow this up to 2 sets of 3-5 repetitions with a heavier weight that requires some body movement to get the log into position.


For this movement set the thick bar (either a 2-inch bar or a 2 3/8-inch bar) outside of the power rack at standing chest level. Front press the bar for 3 sets of 5 with your maximum weight. You have warmed up enough that you should be able to go directly to your 3 sets of 5 repetitions. After your 3rd set drop down to a weight that is about 75-80% of your maximum for the previous 3 sets. Take this weight and press it for as many reps as you can in 90 seconds.

TRICEP PUSHDOWNS - view exercise

4 sets of 10 repetitions


100 repetitions as quickly as possible on the abdominal machine.


I have a sled hooked up to a chain and handle that allows weight to be added or removed depending on the desired exercise. On this day I pull the sled backward for maximum distance for 4 sets. Each set lasts as long as the sled keeps moving. I then rest for 2-3 minutes and do my next set. As your leg endurance and strength increases you can add more weight. This exercise is a must for all sports. It increases leg strength and endurance tremendously. If you have never tried this exercise try it and you will be hooked the first time. This program is intense, but effective. If you use it you must use plenty of Pro 55 HDT protein, HDT creatine, and HDT Glutamine for recovery and growth.

Print Neese's Day 4 Pre-Competition Workout HERE!


I know that some of the equipment mentioned may be new to some of you. Steel logs, thick bars, farmers walk equipment etc. is not hard to get and it is an essential part of a well-rounded true power program. If you would like information about this type of equipment please e-mail me at

In The Future

My next training articles will deal with using the steel log and farmers walk implements for a fantastic strength and conditioning program.

Your friend in strength,