Short and Painful Workouts

The stats were staggering to me. In order to compete with the guys at the Southern California Strongman competition in Huntington Beach next year, I was going to have to triple, and in some cases quadruple my strength. I had tried just packing on mass before (see The Muscle Gain Experiment.)

Along with roughly 20 pounds of fat, I put on some muscle, particularly in my legs, ass, triceps and chest. But my strength gains hit a plateau after about 2 months. My body shut down. I was immobile, heavy and now burnt out. If this strongman thing was going to happen, I needed a new strategy, one that included more recovery, better nutrition and serious flexibility work. This task is made all the more daunting by the age factor. At 39, this is supposed to be an uphill battle. Not that I believe it. I feel great.

To give you an idea of what types of weights I will have to lift, check out the list below:

Light weights, 201-230 (hopefully that will be me!)

Farmer’s Walk: w/ 230# in each hand. I currently fatigue quickly with 55 pound dumbbells afters about 90 feet.

Overhead Press Medley: To be honest, this frightens me; a little bit. The medley is a keg press, axle press, log press, and if you can do those, a 130-150# circus dumbbells. You know, those old strongman db’s loaded with lead shot or something. But that isn’t the part that’s scary. The lightweights will have be pressing between 200 and 230 lbs. on each of the implements. Currently I think I can press 135#…

There is also the tire flip and the keg toss, which I’ve never done. However, these events seem as much about technique as they are about strength and power.

Atlas Stones: What strongman contest would be complete without lifting heavy stones? If you have read this blog at all in the past, you might know that I thinks big heavy rocks are the best thing since twist-off caps on a beer bottle. (Read:system-shock-workout-with-rocks) Still, the heaviest I’ve lifted is just over 130#. Hardly a dent when you consider the lightweights at Huntington have to try and lift stones from 240-350#. No worries, the stones I have are getting pretty light, so this will be interesting.

You may be asking why? Why the hell would you start training for an elite strongman competition? The easy answer is because life is for living. As Dave Tate once said, “…there’s nothing like lifting heavy shit.” Or something like that. In other words, I like it. Plus, I’m not getting any younger. The time is now.

There is another reason, as well. My kids. I want to conquer some mountains while I’m still young enough to do it as an example to my kids. Persevere, work hard, believe in yourself and you really can accomplish amazing things.

For purposes of keeping track of my progress, I’ll be closing these strongman posts with a recap of my workouts and nutrition. So:

Day 1 (yesterday)

After warm-up,
Squats: 65#x12 (easy,) 115#x8-10, 165# x 2 and “,” x3. Finished off with bodyweight squats. (*Note: these are tough numbers to accept, but hopefully just the result of not having practiced the squat for a long time.)

Deadlifts: (close and wide grip, medium stance,) 135#x10 (easy,)155#x8, 205×3, 225×1 (I had to double check my addition on this, since a year ago I could do about 310#, but damn, the numbers don’t lie.)

Suspended BB Rows: I’ve hung some chains from the garage ceiling, so instead of pulling the bar from the ground for bent over rows, I’m pulling it toward me suspended from the chains. More like a machine, but it takes the strain off the exhausted lower body and let’s me work on what it’s intended for, my lats.
135#x~12, 155#x~8, 175#x6-8.


This was a quick workout, which is just the way I wanted it. In fact, this week’s theme could be called ‘short and painful.’ After warming up doing my tae kwon do forms, I jumped right into the standing military press:

Bar x~12, 65#x8-10, 85#x6-10, 95#x4,5-6, bar only cool down. Was going to seek my max today, but I wasn’t feeling it. Nursing my neck after previous workout.

Leaning Suspended BB Chest Press: I don’t have a bench, don’t want one. So I suspended the BB from the chains around chest level and I step forward until I get tension. What I learned today is that there is heavier eccentric work for the lats on this exercise than on the regular bench press. Ouch. Results:

165#x5; 185×6; 205×6; then I pyramided back down with ~ the same reps. Each set included a few reps of close grip pressing as well. That was it. Total lifting time? About 14 minutes.

Check out the video below to see what competitors are up against. We’ll see you next time!

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