Growing up, I saw a lot of grayscale pictures of really burly men – often with a fancy 'tache – but it wasn’t until I started getting into fitness that I learned those men were known as strongmen, and often performed in circus acts displaying feats of strength in the 1800s. Pics like this right? Sure you've seen 'em!
Nowadays, strongmen refer to people that compete in strength athletics where they lift massive rocks, tow a huge vehicle behind them, or do such other displays of crazy raw strength. Strongman exercises are great for cardio, grip, and core strength – they’re also fun to do, and according to The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, significantly increase your testosterone levels right afterward... that's a good thing!
So, what kind of exercises are we talking about? Here are a few great strongman exercises you can try:
This is pretty straightforward. Simply mgrab a pair of heavy dumbbells and walk briskly as far as you can go. Keep your chest out and back straight. Challenge yourself and use the heaviest weights you can handle and go for a short run, or use lighter (well not too light) weights and go for a long run. This will really fire up the muscles in your core, upper back, and forearms.
Use a keg, sandbag, or a detached heavy boxing bag filled with sand, cement, or water (liquids for the keg only).
Grab the top with your dominant hand, and the bottom with your other hand. Pull it up to your chest and lean back with it against your chest and stomach, and run as fast as you can while making sure your hips stay forward of your shoulders.
This is a full-body strength workout and great for your core.
Also pretty straightforward – I mean, you’ll literally be flipping tires! You’ll need at least a 350-pound tire (work your way up 650) that should come up at least to your knees when it’s flat on the ground.
Crouch behind it, feet and hips shoulder-width apart. Grip it with your arms outside shoulder-width, and make sure as you underhand grip the tire that your hands are on the treads and not on the space between the treads so as to avoid hyperextending your fingers (or tearing your biceps). Keep your back flat, your butt down, and your core engaged – and go! This is an explosive lift, so drive your chest into the tire through your hips.
Try to extend your hips, knees, and your ankles all at the same time. As the tire goes up, jump closer and switch your hands to the sides and push it over, raising a knee to help push it up and forward.
Tire flipping really works your hamstrings, glutes, back, and is a great strength and endurance builder!
Old-timey strongmen were also huge fans of using thick bars to get a lot of forearm muscle mass, and while a lot of us still do today, it’s not always easy to find thick dumbbells or thick handles in your average gym equipment. Check out our Grenadier Grips for an easy workaround and use it on dumbbells, bars, pull-up rigs, and cable attachments in any gym.
Whether doing these exercises in a gym or in the great outdoors, don’t forget to wear protective gear and accessories like lifting belts, and gloves, wraps, sleeves, and straps to get proper support and to avoid injury – and needless to say, to also look super cool while doing it!