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The latest news, videos and workouts from the Escape Fitness Team.
A year with atlas stones, logs and beer kegs
Strength training was picked as number four in the trends to watch out for in 2016 by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). What used to be fairly niche and specialist is now mainstream, with gym members of all ages and sizes going for big lifts.
Now something even more specialist is finding its way into the mainstream: strongman training. Gone are the days when this was just for the very strongest types. And no longer is our only exposure to it on TV competitions. Now there are strongman competitions springing up everywhere.
So why are more and more people turning to strongman training? And what does it take to get ready for competitions? We didn’t have to go far to find out: one of the Escape team dedicated 2016 to his strongman journey.
Going big in 2016
Among those who have taken the step from strength training to strongman training Escape’s Head of Product Integration, Ritchie Januszek. As well as being passionate about great product design, Ritchie has a big passion for big lifts. He has been into lifting weights for a long time and used the typical powerlifting movements to develop his strength and conditioning. But at the start of 2016 he decided that experimenting with some unorthodox methods of strength training would offer a new challenge. Strongman training seemed the natural choice.
“I train seriously on strongman workouts three days a week,” Ritchie says. “I spend two days a week on the main strongman lifts: the deadlift, squat and bench press. The third day is focused on specific events that feature in strongman competitions. Adapting my training regime wasn’t the only change I made - I have had to take on more calories too.”
As the year went by, Ritchie built muscle mass and he has seen a continual improvement since starting the training in January. “I’m stronger and more muscular than ever,” he says.
With almost a year of dedication behind him, Ritchie entered his first strongman competition in October. Definition Gym in Peterborough was the venue and Ritchie’s commitment paid off: he was placed first in the novice category. Another member of the Escape team, Darren Fox, got a great second place in the intermediate category.
Why strongman training is winning fans everywhere
This type of training is not just for your ‘typical’ strongman; people of all types are getting involved and that includes women of course. Movements and trends like ‘strong not skinny’ show the diversity across health and fitness, and prove that strength has mass appeal.
Strongman training is something that almost anyone can do. The same training methods are applicable for everyone, from beginners to the big lifters. So it’s something that can be very inclusive, with people across demographic groups working out together. It can also be very social, with a strong sense of camaraderie among those taking part.
We asked Ritchie to pick out his top five benefits of strongman training, and this is what he told us:
- The training isn’t just made up of sagittal plane lifts: it’s multi-planar, with complex movements that are great for developing every aspect of total body strength, especially your core! Many people spend a lot of time on weight machines in the gym: that’s OK in small doses, but there’s a lot to be said for getting up on your feet and moving some weight.
- You burn calories even at rest after the training. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn, helping you to stay leaner – with no need for the treadmill!
- People tend to get really motivated and more engaged as they see their body change and their max lifts increase, and strongman training will certainly do that! This has been a year-long journey for me so far, and the continual changes have kept me motivated.
- It makes your whole body strong – not just for the specific competition events but in daily life too.
- You also build muscle mass and improve bone density (and you’ll be glad you did as you get older).
Ritchie also says: “To do well at strongman events you need to develop your core first. You can’t just focus on growing individual muscle groups and think you’ll do well. You need to build a strong foundation and that’s a great thing to do for any form of fitness.
“I see strongman training as the ultimate form of functional training. The movements in strongman training feel more natural and functional than the classic Olympic lifts. It’s not just about lifting – there’s walking, carrying and so on. So you build strength all over your body, including areas that were weak, to get a more balanced body.”
Three strongman events that can be run in any gym
To finish up, here are three strongman-style exercises that can be tried by anyone looking to try this style of training out for the first time…
Walk (or run!) for 20 metres carrying whatever’s available. Go for 3-5 items, such as Sandbags, GRIPRs, TIYRs (or regular tractor tyres if that’s all you have available), dumbbells, weight plates, beer kegs, anvils, heavy chains…anything will do as long as the weight is appropriate for the user.
Move each item one at a time from point A to point B against the clock. The winner is the person who moves all five items in least time.
The cool thing here is that’s it’s not just the weight of the items that has an effect. It’s anything that influences how hard they are to carry, such as their shape and texture. So mix things up with a variety of items.
Another great challenge is the tyre flip using an Escape TIYR (or tractor tyre). This is a great challenge for anyone and has the bonus of being a good way to get people into deadlifting for the first time, as the technique is easier to teach that Olympic lifting.
There are two ways to set up this challenge. First, you can see how many flips people can perform in a set time (one minute, 90 seconds or two minutes are all good options). Alternatively, do a race against the clock over a set distance: the ultimate is the 100 metres challenge that we filmed earlier this year:
Farmers walk with a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells
Few gyms have the Atlas stone that’s the signature strongman tool, but a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells both make a good alternative. This can be done against the clock, such as a challenge to see how many ten-metre walks can be done in a minute or two.
This is an awesome challenge to test strength, stamina, core stability, coordination and mental toughness – all things that you need to compete in a strongman competition.
Are you running strongman training in your club?
If you like the idea of introducing strongman training to your club, get in touch and see how we can help with our huge and varied range of functional training equipment:
UK: +44 (0)1733 313 535
USA: +1 (614)-706-4462
Germany: +49 (0)2921 590 10 70