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Coaches Blog

What Triathletes Can Learn From Strongman Competitions

Updated: Apr 21, 2022

The fact of the matter is that I like a whole bunch of sports. It seems as though this is becoming a series with my previous articles on Hockey, Olympic Weightlifting, and Brazilian Ju-Jitsu. The one I am going to introduce to you today is STRONGMAN.

For anyone who didn't see it, on May 2nd Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson performed a World Record Deadlift with 501 kg. Just amazing.

Strongman is an intriguing sport. It's very viewer-friendly and surprisingly useful for cross-training. Similar to Crossfit, Strongman is a "Functional Movement" sport. In fact, in some circles, Crossfit is called Baby Strongman.

Some people contend that Strongman has been around since people started picking up large, heavy objects, or at least the mid-1800s with Circus strongmen. Circus strongmen, like Heinrich Steinborn and Eugen Sandow, were definitely strong people, but they were performers more than competitors.

Strongman as a sport began in 1977 with the beginning of Strongman competitions that required strength and strategy.

My favorite aspect of Strongman (and the reason I find it incredibly useful for cross-training) is that it involves pulling, pushing, pressing, and/or carrying an object.

As a person that focuses on IRONMAN distance races, I can go swim 4000 meters comfortably, but my shoulder fatigues trying to change a light bulb. There's something wrong with this situation. I realized that while my triathlon muscles are in great shape, my other muscles are very neglected. I "put two and two together" and realized all my little injuries that were beginning to turn chronic were connected to having huge muscle imbalances. So I started doing some functional movement work. Luckily, my gym had a decent amount of Strongman equipment.

It doesn't matter if you are picking up an Atlas Stone (a concrete ball), flipping a Tractor tire, or carrying a 70kg sandbag, the exercise uses different musculature than you're used to. It also forces you to think through the movement.

Having to think through a movement is one of the biggest things endurance athletes (especially on-road athlete) lose because of how repetitive the sport becomes. Our brains and muscles get used to making the same motions over and over, which can be a bad thing over time.

My other favorite aspect of Strongman is that it is inherently spectator friendly. A Strongman competition consists of several events throughout a single, or sometimes, multiple days. No activity takes very long because the athletes are using a massive amount of weight. For the same reason, no single event requires very much space. Most activities can take place in an area the size of 4 standard parking spots. This is great for spectating! The competitors are in view, and there is never a lack of action during an event.

The Strongman sport is growing quickly, thanks to YouTube. Every notable Strongman has a channel, and their training leading up to competition is nearly as exciting as the competition itself. It would be like Chris Hoy (a famous track cyclist) walking you through an interval workout--while doing the exercise.

I personally am a fan of Strongmen Martins Licis, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, and Mateusz Kieliszkowski. Check out any of their Youtube channels. If you're bored and looking for sports to watch, search the Arnold Strongman Classic. They're all great in their own way.


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