Traditional resistance training protocols are often criticized for not being specific enough to sporting movements. This has lead to the growing popularity in “functional” training that some believe provides superior transfer to sport skills. More recently, incorporating Strongman movements and implements into training has anecdotally been reported to improve physical performance in athletes of various sports. However, there is very little research that has evaluated the effects of Strongman training on sports performance. In addition, it is currently unknown weather this style of training offers further benefits over traditional resistance training. Understanding the effects of Strongman training are important for coaches who may lack access to facilities with traditional equipment. Strongman exercises can be performed outdoors with non-traditional, and often less expensive equipment (tires, sandbags, etc.). Therefore, it may be a more feasible option for strength and conditioning training with sports teams.
Some recent research from the Sports Performance Research Institute of New Zealand published ahead of print in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Coach by Winwood et al. (2014) compared traditional versus Strongman training in a group of 30 adult male Rugby League players. The 30 athletes were divided into either a Strongman group or Traditional group for a 7 week training program during the off-season. Pre and post training, athletes were assessed on body composition, strength, power, speed and change of direction measures. The athletes trained twice per week on non-consecutive days. Programs were matched as closely as possible for load and volume between biomechanically similar movements. Provided the athletes maintained technique, 2% increases in load were added each week. The training programs are detailed in the table below.
Traditional Resistance Training
|Clean and Jerk: 3×5 70%||Log Lift: 3×5 70% of Clean and Jerk 1RM|
|Deadlift: 3×5 80%||Farmers Walk: 3x28m 80% of Deadlift 1RM|
|Military Press: 3×6 80%||Axle Press: 3×6 80% of Military Press 1RM|
|Back Squat: 3×5 85%||Heavy Sled Pull: 3x25m 85% of Back Squat 1RM|
|1 Arm Row: 2×8 30% of Bent Row 1RM||Prowler Pull : 2×16 100% of Bent Row 1RM|
Interestingly, the results showed that both groups similarly improved performance markers (up to 7%). Between group differences were seen in muscle mass, acceleration and 1RM Bent Row in favor of the Strongman group. 1RM squat and deadlift as well as horizontal jump, change of direction and sled push performance was improved a bit more in the Traditional group. This study demonstrates that either forms of training can be used to improve sports performance markers in adult male athletes. However, it is clear that combining methods may be best to derive the full benefits of each style of training.
Winwood, PW., et al. (2014) Strongman versus traditional resistance training effects on muscular function and performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Ahead of Print.