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Beginners Guide To Integrating Strongman Events With Ollie Clarke

March 07, 2023


My name is Ollie Clarke, I am a team Cerberus athlete, full time strongman & powerlifting coach & top level strongman competitor. I began my lifting career at 11 years old, training to become a powerlifter. By 13 years old I competed in my first few competitions and broke a number of British records. By 15 years old I was the world drug free powerlifting champion for 15-16 year olds. I also broke all of the World, European and British records for the squat, bench, deadlift & total in the 100kg weight class. 

I then began the sport of strongman & was addicted ever since. My first big win was under 23 UK strongest man at 19 years old, then becoming the youngest man to compete on Chanel 5 UKs strongest man open. I have since dropped into the u105 weight class whilst I progress in my strongman career, and this year aim to win Britain’s & Europe's strongest man U105kg, as well as podium at Worlds. 

In this blog we will discuss how to integrate strongman events into your training programme, what I believe are the most important events to train for & how to train for them.

Strongman / woman training 

Strongman / strongwoman is one of the fastest growing sports & is gaining more and more popularity by the day. It’s also an amazing way for everyone to train and get in great shape whilst having fun. But for new comers, these “massive rocks” “giant boulders” & individuals running with cars can look a bit daunting & can be a minefield to figure out where to start. 

Most important events 

There is a huge range and variety in events for strongman & woman. It would be impossible to train all of them, all of the time. You’ll find that in strongman, although a lot of the events can look very different - they’re actually very similar to each other, and use identical muscles. So if you have access to limited kit, you’re not necessary missing out. 

For example - sandbag loading and stone loading - very similar. 

If we break the events down into TYPES of events, then it becomes easier for us to select exercises to train and inter-grate into a program.   

Compound lifts 

The most important lifts to focus on, in regards to gaining strength, and a great physique - is the compounds. For strongman / woman training, generally we’ll be focusing on a squat, deadlift, log / overhead press & potentially some bench press variation. 

The compound lifts are what build your static strength. Therefore, in simple terms, if we have a stronger deadlift - we have a stronger back & hamstrings, and so (if we master technique) a strongman event that has emphasis on back & hamstring power will be improved. Eg - atlas stones. 

These lifts are the basis of all your events. 

A basic & easy way for a beginner to structure their program would be to pick 4 training days per week. With the first exercises being one of those compound lifts previously mentioned. 

E.g - Mon - squat focussed, Tuesday - bench / pressing focussed, Thursday - deadlift focussed & Saturday log / overhead press. 

Moving events

Being able to move with weights is one of the most important aspects of strongman training. I would say that the two main moving events, and most common in terms of availability in gyms for beginners - would be the yoke & the farmers walk. 

Most gyms will now have a strip to do runs, with a yoke and farmers implement. The key differences between the two (other than the obvious look of them), is that yoke goes across your back and is more legs and back focussed, whereas farmers are generally lighter and involve a big element of grip. 

I would focus on getting stronger, faster & most importantly - technically efficient at these two events if you’re looking to add some strongman training to your program. 

The nature of them, involving a lot of cardio and movement, makes them fun exercises to burn fat and build muscle. Nobody wants to be staring at a treadmill! 

I like to add these, either after the compound lifts are finished, before the accessories, if you have them available at your everyday gym. Or perhaps a set event day for them on the weekend. 

Conditioning / loading events

Similar to the events like yoke and farmers, there are also a lot of loading and high paced conditioning events in strongman. One of the most common is sandbag runs. Very readily available in most gyms, and can come in a various array of sizes. 

Sandbag work is great for newbies, as it teaches a lot about control and stability (with the sand having a mind of its own and wanting to move around). They’re also great as there are so many variations of exercises and events which you can use them for - sandbag runs, sandbag loading, sandbag over yoke, sandbag to shoulder, etc. 

This will add another fun element to strongman training, as you can spice up the ways you chose to lift and train with the implement. These are good to add at the end of sessions, as your “cardio” element. Or again, on a weekend event day.  

Accessory work

You can have specific event / lift accessory work & also “bodybuilding style accessories”.  By these I mean exercises like bicep curls, lat pull downs etc. What most beginners will be implementing into their program already. These come after the compounds. The purpose of these will be hypertrophy (as well as improving certain lifts). 

Keep them in keeping and specific to the work you’re doing that day. For example if it’s a deadlift focussed day - maybe you add in some rows, pull downs, curls - rather than incline dumbbell press for example! 

Now grab yourself some Cerberus supports to keep you nice and safe, work practicing those events! If you have any questions or are hitting some walls, feel free to DM me on Instagram @coach_ollieclarke 

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