Strength athletics (Strongman competitions)

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Strength athletics, also known as “Strongman competitions”, is a sport in which athletes compete in non-standard strength exercises. The most popular competition exercises include; Atlas stones, farmers walk, axle press and the car flip.
Unlike bodybuilding, the athletes’ appearance does not affect the result of the competition.

Strength athletics performances are rather a spectacular show; this is because the rules in these competitions are set by the show organizers themselves. The base of competitions in strength athletics is represented by strength exercises, and these exercises can change, so the athletes never know what the organizers have prepared for them. This is the whole essence of the spectacularity of such performances. The athlete must be ready for any exercise. Most athletes in the strength athletics are weightlifters, bodybuilders, powerlifters, and wrestlers, who have achieved significant results in their sport. But strength athletics is a different sport and athletes must be well trained in strength athletic exercises to succeed within these competitions.

There are no exercise machines or barbells, here athletes need both the endurance of a wrestler and the strength of a weightlifter as well as other qualities to succeed in this sport.

More than two hundred strength athletics exercises have been compiled by Dr. Edmunds Douglas and his colleagues. Now, 6-8 exercises from this list are used in current performance programs.


The history of the development of federations and firms began in the 1970s. The Strongman concept was developed in 1977 by the Scottish Ink David Webster.

In 1995, David Webster and his colleague Dr. Douglas Edmunds founded the IFSA – International Federation of Strongest Athletes. IFSA is located in Glasgow, Scotland.

After financial disagreements within the federation, changing the name of strategic partners and presidents, the federation has become the current IFSA Strongman.

Another notable company in the world of strongman sports is the TWI and WCE alliance called the WSM Super Series, the most prestigious contest since 1977, the World’s Strongest Man. The union began to work in 2005, after another change of the name of the IFSA company and non-partnership cooperation on the part of the IFSA management. A good team of strongmen like Bill Kazmayer, David Webster, Sven Carlsen, Odd Hogan, Colin Bryce, along with good TV coverage, keeps this Super Series and WSM one of the highlights of the strongman sport.

Today Strongman is a sport that is developing in two directions; a sport and the brightest sports power show. Strongman is evolving rapidly, engaging more athletes every day and attracting the attention of a growing number of viewers.

Strongman muscle building tips

Strongmen avoid exercise machines, trying to do as much exercise with free weights as possible. This is essential for helping to build the real strength which they are so famous for.

By training not only strength but also balance, they gain major control over their body. This allows them to do each rep more efficiently, and get so much more from each workout.

Exercise with bodyweight

If you can lift a barbell, but at the same time do not control your own body weight, then you lose part of your overall potential to achieve your maximum results from this exercise being performed. Strongmen know this, and therefore they train not only with huge weights but also with their bodyweight (while sometimes combining such training types together).

When you put load on many of the smaller stabilizing muscles, you are also working on the main muscles involved within the exercise. Training all of these muscles are essential, as you need your smaller muscles groups to support you and help to hold your stance while you lift, push or pull the excessive weight load.

Isometric exercises

This athletic training consists of such unusual exercises such as; the car flip, a Hercules hold or moving something that usually simply cannot be moved. To be good at such exercises, you need to include more isometric exercises within your workout.

The benefit of isometric exercise is that it develops muscle endurance, which ultimately allows you to do more reps in your regular sets. This will allow you to develop muscles more efficiently. Isometric exercises are also very important to incorporate into your routine, so that you have the strength to hold yourself in position for these kind of exercises.


The main secret of success lies in the stability and consistency of the training process. It is impossible to achieve a visible result if you work out only when you feel like it. The mood may change, but the discipline remains.

An excellent athlete does not miss a week of training and the best ones do not miss a day of training. Routine is key on the path to success. Remember “use it or lose it!”.

Round your back

Traditionally, it is known that during squats and other exercises, your back should be kept perfectly straight. If you bend your back and do not support your spine while lifting heavy, this can be very traumatic and lead to injury. This is true, but this rule is applied for those people who are not used to lifting heavy and intensive amounts of weight. If your back is trained well and can support vast amounts of weight, then slightly rounding your back can make it easier to breathe during exercises. This is only relevant for the highly experienced lifters who do not suffer with any back issues. Feel your body and your capabilities, making sure that this adjustment is right for you.

Don’t be afraid of taking a long rest between sets

When training, we often rest for the shortest amount of time possible, this allows us to maximise our training intensity. But if your goal is to build maximum muscle and strength, then reconsider these views. A 5-minute rest is a good option for such training, as this allows your muscles to slightly recharge between sets and gives you that extra added push needed to be able to power through your intensive last few reps. This will help you to achieve the maximum muscle gain along with the added endurance benefits.

Start with light weights

When training to become a strongman, the thought of lifting light weights would not usually cross your mind. You may be thinking that if you want to be able to lift heavy, then why not start lifting as heavy as possible? Starting off by lifting light weights allows you to practice your technique and to warm up before the main exercises. This meaning you will be able to push harder and lift more weight during the most crucial points.

Real strongman exercise

Most gyms do not have the necessary equipment to train like a strong man. However, there is one exercise you can do even at home. This is the Farmers Walk. This exercise is very good at strengthening the back, shoulders and grip strength.

Take two heavy dumbbells, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and start walking. Walk as far as you can while holding the heavy load, take a brief rest and repeat. This basic exercise is good to put at the end of your workout, this is because the Farmers Walk works most, to all of the muscles in the body. This basic exercise can take your workouts to the next level.

Strongman nutrition

Strongmen that take part in these contests are huge. Height is the most important parameter in strength sports. Taller guys usually do better with some exercises, in particular with Atlas stones.

Mass is the next critical success factor. Of course, the pounds gained does not mean an increase in strength. Bodybuilders who gain weight in the offseason know first-hand about this. They strive to get bigger in order to lift heavier weights, but nobody wants to gain fat along with their muscle gain.

Strongmen have the same goal. They need to delicately balance weight gain and muscular endurance to be able to gain the most strength possible. Although for strongmen, this balance can be very difficult due to the amount of calories needed for their intense workouts. As a strongman, if you gain more than you need to, this can become a positive in some cases such as, there is a chance to successfully perform better in the Deadlift. But if you gain too much, this can become an issue for some exercises such as The Farmers Walk.

In strength athletics, frequent meals are recommended. When lifting super heavy weight and in need of serious repair, it is better for your body to have surplus calories at hand, than to be in a calorie deficit state (where your body has nothing to use for repair). In addition to regular meals, you can take various supplements, such as fast proteins. A myostatin inhibitor helps a lot during the rehabilitation period.

The greatest strongmen of all time

Becca Swanson (Age 44)

The only female representative in strength athletics, is currently the only woman ever to squat 854 pounds (equipped), the only woman to bench press 600 pounds (equipped with bench shirt), and the only woman to deadlift 694 pounds (equipped).

She has also competed in strongwoman contests since 2002. She is currently the strongest woman on Earth.

Eddie Hall (Age 30)

This British strongman can easily lift a person like a rag doll. He was recognized as the World’s Strongest Man in 2017 and so far is the only person capable of lifting 500 kg. The previous record mark was 465 kg and was also set by Eddie Hall.

However, due to health problems, Eddie Hall announced his intention to retire from the World’s Strongest Man and return to lower-weight competitions.

Yuko Ahola (Age 47)

This Finnish athlete set a world record for the Hercules hold. During this exercise, the strongman needs to hold handles connected to two huge, teetering stone pillars for as long as possible. Yuko Ahola was able to hold the pillars weighing 197 kg for 45.7 seconds.

Yuko Ahola also set a world record in the Atlas Stones exercise, which was 215 kg. During this competition, a round stone or concrete ball must not only be raised but also thrown over a rack at a certain height or placed on a special pedestal.

Leaving his heroic career, Yuko tried his hand in Hollywood. He has appeared in films such as Invincible, Kingdom of Heaven, Vikings, and War of the Dead. He is also one of the organizers and judges of the World’s Strongest Man contest.

Hafthor Björnsson (Age 29) – The strongest man in the world

If you’ve watched Game of Thrones, one of the most popular TV series in the world, you probably remember Gregor Clegane, nicknamed “The Mountain That Rides”. It was played by Icelander Hafthor Björnsson.

He has competed in the World’s Strongest Man every year since 2011, but in 2018 it was the first time he won in first place.

Happy Hafthor Björnsson posted a photo on his social media networks, in which he stands on the top step of the pedestal.

The athlete and actor, whose weight reaches 200 kg and is 206 cm in height, is the first person to have won the Arnold Strongman Classic, Europe’s Strongest Man and World’s Strongest Man in the same year.