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, car flip.

Unlike bodybuilding, athletes’ appearance does not affect the result of the competition.

Strength athletics performances are rather a spectacular show since the rules in such 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 have good training in strength athletics exercises to succeed.

There are no exercise machines and barbells, here athletes need both the endurance of a wrestler and the strength of a weightlifter and other qualities.

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 performance programs.


The history of the development of federations and firms began in the 70s of the last century. 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 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, and good TV distribution keeps the Super Series and WSM one of the highlights of the strongman sport.

Today Strongman is a sports show developing in two directions: a sport and a 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 building the real strength which they are so famous for.

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

Exercise with bodyweight

If you can lift a barbell, but at the same time do not control your own body, then you lose part of your potential. Strong men know this, and therefore they train not only with huge weights but also with bodyweight (and sometimes combining such training).

When you load a lot of small, stabilizing muscles, you are also working on the main muscles involved in the exercise.

Isometric exercises

Athletic training consists of such unusual exercises as car flip or a Hercules hold or moving something that simply cannot be moved. To be good at such exercises, you need to include more isometric exercises in 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, which will allow you to develop muscles more efficiently.


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 changes, but the discipline remains.

An excellent athlete does not miss a week of training, the best one does not miss a day.

Round your back

Traditionally, it is believed that the back during squats and other exercises should be kept perfectly straight while rounding can be traumatic. This is true if your back muscles are lagging behind. If your back is trained, rounding it will make it easier to breathe during exercise. Feel your body and your capabilities.

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

We often rest between sets for the shortest possible time. If your goal is to build maximum muscle and strength, then reconsider your views. 5-minute rest is a good option for such training.

Start with light weights

Light weights allow you to practice your technique and to warm up before the main exercises.

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.

Take two heavy dumbbells, squeeze your shoulder blades, and start walking. This basic exercise is good to put at the end of the workout because it loads all the muscles in the body and takes the workout to the next level.

Strongman nutrition

Strongmen taking part in the contests are huge. Height is the most important parameter in strength sports. Taller guys 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 firsthand about this. They strive to get bigger in order to lift heavier weights, but nobody wants to gain fat.

Strongmen have the same goal. They need to delicately balance weight gain and muscular endurance. If you gain more than you need to, then there is a chance to successfully perform in the deadlift, but you can screw up, for example, on a farmers walk.

In strength athletics, frequent meals are recommended. In addition to regular meals, you can take various supplements, such as fast proteins. A myostatin inhibitor helps a lot during the rehabilitation period.

Greatest strongmen of all time

Becca Swanson (44)

The only female representative in strength athletics. She 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 (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, Hall announced his intention to retire from the World’s Strongest Man and return to lower-weight competitions.

Yuko Ahola (47 years old)

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. Ahola was able to hold the pillars weighing 197 kg for 45.7 seconds.

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

Leaving his heroic career, Yuko tried his hand at cinema. 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 (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 the first place.

Happy Björnsson posted a photo on his social 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.


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