When I was a 21-year-old, 175-pound kid relatively new to the world of lifting weights, some friends introduced me to the underground sport known as strongman.
I was intrigued, but I never imagined myself being able to flip tractor tires or pick up cars. I just watched my friends and enjoyed the spectacle.
Despite my initial wariness, I slowly but surely began to infiltrate their weekend training sessions. Before long, I became the smallest person to flip their 700-pound tractor tire.
The moment the tire hit the ground on its other side, I knew that strongman training had become a staple in my life.
Because I love strongman so much, I want to share how awesome it is with the rest of the fitness world.
So, here are some FAQ's about strongman and how you can get involved.
What is strongman?
Reduced to its essential parts, strongman is a sport in which the principle task is to to pick up random heavy objects and move them. Essentially, you move objects of near-maximal weight and are scored by time, reps, or maximum weight lifted. That's really it. Trust me, though, it's fun!
Strongman obviously involves strength, but also requires a great deal of athleticism, skill, and mental toughness. There's nothing else like it.
Is there strongwoman?
Yes! The sport of strongwoman is definitely growing in popularity. The trend of women turning to weights doesn't stop at CrossFit or bodybuilding; if strong is the new sexy, it doesn't get any sexier than this!
Any woman looking to test the strength she's built in the gym should think about looking into local competitions. They're fun, the community is great, and there is no better challenge of pure strength and athleticism.
Do I have to put on a bunch of weight?
I never thought a little guy like me could excel at a sport like strongman.
However, once I built a solid strength base with the barbell, I was fully able to compete in novice-level contests.
In the world of strongman, there are various levels and weight classes, making it a sport that is open to anyone of any size as long as he or she has some gym strength.
For this reason, it doesn't matter if you're male or female, weigh 150 or 350, or are an experienced powerlifter or gym rat. There is a competition out there for you.
How does a strongman competition work?
Every contest is different, but most shows take place over the course of a few hours and include four or five different events. The variation is great because everybody has their own strengths.
The playing field is level and the competition is always interesting and exciting. Most competitions cap registration at 10 or 12 competitors, but larger contests sometimes last two days and include dozens of athletes.
Strongwoman contests typically run alongside the men's shows. The rules are the same but the weights are just a bit lighter and the objects are sometimes slightly modified.
No matter your gender or weight, you have to be strong and prepared for a variety of challenges.
What are some strongman events?
As mentioned earlier, every contest is different. There are dozens of events that could be included in any given competition.
However, there are staple movements that make up the sport of strongman.
These events set strongman apart from other lifting sports. If you've ever seen World's Strongest Man on television, chances are you've seen some of these classic events.
The Atlas stone
This event is sweet and simple: pick up giant, concrete balls and load them onto a platform or over a bar. In some events, you'll load one stone for reps; in others, you'll lift up to five stones that gradually increase in weight.
The tire flip
Tires are becoming more and more common in commercial gyms and CrossFit boxes. They're usually used for conditioning. In strongman, we use giant tractor tires that can sometimes weigh more than 1,000 pounds. The idea for this event is to flip the tire over and over until you reach the finish line.
The car deadlift
Who doesn't want to say they can lift a car? Probably the most uncomplicated strongman event of all, the car deadlift is exactly what it sounds like. You'll do a neutral-grip deadlift of a frame that happens to be attached to a car.
In strongman, the press goes far beyond the dumbbells and barbells you're used to seeing in your gym. The point of these events is to push heavy, awkward objects over your head. Often, you have to pick these objects off the ground before you press them overhead.
The log is an implement that looks like the trunk of a tree. Your task is to pick it up off the ground and put it over your head. This movement is more difficult and more technical than a barbell clean and press because the diameter of the log is so large that the implement sits out in front of your body, creating a unique kind of standing incline neutral-grip push-press.
Otherwise known as the fat bar, an axle is like a barbell, except the diameter of the bar is so big that you can't fully lock your hands all the way around. Its girth makes it awkward to press and even more awkward to pick up and get to your shoulders!
The circus dumbbell
This event has grown in popularity in recent years. The task is to pick up an excessively large dumbbell—usually about three times the size of any dumbbell you'll find in a gym—and press it. You can pick up the implement with two hands, but once you get it to your shoulder, you must press it with one arm.
The moving events are more dynamic than many of the events covered above because you have to cover some ground while you carry heavy objects. These are often crowd favorites because it's fun to watch big guys run!
The super yoke
The yoke is a short squat rack that has a crossbar attached at shoulder height. Weights are attached to the bottom of each upright. To do the event, you get under this implement like you're preparing to squat, but instead of lifting just the bar, you'll lift the entire rack off the ground and walk with it dangling off your traps. A heavy yoke taxes the body more than any other event in strongman.
The farmer's walk
This is my favorite event and is a strongman mainstay. It's also pretty simple: Pick up a weight in each hand— usually two long, large, dumbbell-type implements—and walk with them as quickly as possible to the finish line. You have to be strong and fast!
The sandbag/keg/stone carry
Depending on the event, you'll have to pick up and then carry one of these objects as far as you can and as fast as you can. What makes these objects difficult to carry is their awkward shape and size, and each of them must be carried in a different fashion. It's another extremely taxing event because maximum distance is often the goal.
What if I want to train but not compete?
Just like CrossFit and powerlifting, you don't have to compete in order to enjoy the training aspect of strongman! Strongman training will make you stronger and can help you further your fitness and body composition goals. It's also a ton of fun.
There are strongman communities all over the map, and we love welcoming new people into the fray. To find a training group near you, check out this extensive Strongman Training Map.
For more information about the strongman community and upcoming competitions, check out North American Strongman.