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Does Strongman Training Boost Fat Loss?

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When you’re wanting to drop body fat and improve the way you look, you’ve got to choose a training program that will be challenging, but also one that will keep you interested and motivated.

There are so many different ways for you to test your body and push it to the next level though, that sometimes it’s difficult to know just which method will get the best results.

The bottom line is that everyone wants to be lean and athletic but yet so few want to really push their body to the limit. This is where strongman training comes in. 

In this article we’ll tell you why you should be adding this method of training to your fat loss program. Read on find out why this under-utilized approach may be the best training you’re not already doing…


What is Strongman Training?

There’s been a real shift in competitive strongman over the last few years. Previously, the typical image of a strongman athlete was an overweight, massively muscular guy who could pull huge weights – but any sniff of conditioning or cardio and they’d be left in a giant heap on the floor gasping for breath.

Fast forward a few years and the new breed of strength competitors are leaner, muscular and many have a body composition that is more vascular, striated and at times not too dissimilar to a bodybuilder.

Athletes complete in a series of physical tests to see who can lift the most weight, complete the most reps or travel the furthest distance, dependent on the individual event included.

Whilst no two strength events are the same, there are a number of tests that follow similar movements – these tend to include deadlifts, presses, carries and pulls.

The best thing about this type of training is its simplicity. Even without specialized equipment, you can bring aspects of strength training to your fat loss program. The core lifting patterns mirror much of what goes on in commercial gyms so they are easy to fit in to normal training programs. They also have a high crossover to sport and day-to-day movements too so can improve all-round athleticism.


tyre-flipping-strongman

Key Point: Strongman training challenges strength, endurance and overall muscle fitness – this can lead to big changes in body composition.


What are The Benefits of Strongman Training?

Strongman training is essentially a mixture of dynamic and static exercises or tests that challenge your body in different ways. As the name suggests, all of the exercises test your strength, but they also challenge your cardio, flexibility and endurance too.

Pulling, pushing and squatting are the foundation movements for many sports, so by taking part in this type of training you’ll get a high crossover to sports performance – you’ll be faster, more powerful and have better stability and balance.

In fact, a study by Winwood et al published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research [1] found that when 30 rugby players either took part in strongman training or traditional weight training, the former boosted strength, muscle mass and acceleration performance more. Not only that, horizontal jump, deadlift and squat strength testing and agility also improved in comparison to traditional weightlifting.

Lastly, this type of training provides a massive stimulus for fat loss. Because of the type and intensity of the exercises, the sport is largely anaerobic. This means that you burn a significant amount of calories whilst training and have to work hard after the session to restore lost energy supplies – leading to a massive increase in metabolism for anything up to 24-hours post- workout. This process is often referred to as the ‘afterburn effect’ or o give it its proper name, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).


woman-sled-drag

Key Point: By undertaking this type of training on a regular basis you can expect to drop body fat, gain muscle, boost your strength and power your endurance through the roof.


What Are The Best Strongman Exercises to Get You Started?

As with any new sport, there can always be a bit of fear when getting started, particularly strongman training where to movements appear quite specialist at first glance.

Before we go any further though, it’s worth mentioning that we’re not suggesting that you take up competition, or that you start pushing your car uphill for an added calorie boost. Many gyms still aren’t even kitted out for some of the more specific competitions, so the idea is to keep it simple to begin with.

Here’s out top 5 strongman movements for boosting your fat burning:

#1. Loaded Carries

Often referred to as the ‘farmer’s walk’. The beauty of this one is you can use pretty much any piece of kit and get the desired effect. If you’re spoiled for choice we’d say use a trap bar – but dumbbells, barbells, sandbags or kettlebells work just as well.

Loaded carries couldn’t be simpler. Choose a heavy weight that’s around 75-80% of your maximum deadlift and walk with it as far as you can – you can carry it across your chest or even over head but we’d suggest carrying by your sides to begin with. Sounds easy, but this is one brutal conditioning exercise. 

To integrate it into your program aim for a 40-50 foot walk in one go. Rest for 60 seconds and go again. Repeat until you can’t do any more. 

#2. Axle Bar Deadlift

This deadlift is the king of strength training. To challenge you even more though we want you to train using a thicker bar. Thick bar training gives you a vice like grip that will transfer quickly to other pulling movements like rope pulls, rows and pull-ups, giving you a respectably strong and lean physique.

A good way to build in some thick bar strongman training would be to choose 80% of your maximum deadlift and complete as many reps as you can in one minute. 

#3. Tire Flips

Rewind a few years and you’d never find a tire in a commercial gym – but nowadays they are pretty much commonplace. At first glance this exercise appears to be similar to the deadlift – but the way the load and levers are distributed makes it a completely different exercise altogether.

This full body workout not only challenges your strength, but your core stability, skill and technique too. Completing multiple reps will also give you a high calorie, fat burning workout.

Much of success with this exercise is in the technique. A powerful hip drive whilst up close to the tire is key – don’t curl with the arms as the tire will be too heavy. You can use your knee to assist you in transferring the tire past waist height in anticipation of a big push to complete the rep.

It’s common with this exercise to aim for a set distance and time yourself. That way you add a competitive element that pushes you to work hard. There’s also an incentive in that the harder you push the tire, the less reps you’ll need to complete, so this also helps you to work hard.

#4. Circus Press

When you think about old school strongman events you’ll probably think of this one exercise – taking a dumbbell from the floor and pressing it overhead using only one arm. An amazing test of strength, skill and balance.

To complete this lift you need to straddle the dumbbell and using one arm you’ll deadlift it up into a rack position – it should sit on top of the shoulder, as close to the head as possible. After a brief pause you’ll dip down into a quarter squat and powerfully extend the knees, hips, shoulders and elbows so that you catch the bell in a locked out arm position. Return and repeat.

This one is often done as a rep maximum but you can reduce the weight to around 70-80% and complete 5 reps per side for an added fat burning effect if you prefer.

#5. Sled Pull

The sled pull taxes your grip, as well as your back, arm and leg strength – it is a great full body workout and introduction to strongman training.

It’s actually a pretty easy exercise to complete – it’s as simple as dragging a heavy object towards you over a set distance as quick as you can. As with many events though, if you master the technique you can really improve your times – and this means learning to simultaneously use your legs and arms to distribute the workload evenly.

Many gyms have sleds now for general conditioning, all you have to do is attach a chain or rope to it and away you go. If not, you can simply attach a rope around a couple of weight plates and it’ll do just as good a job.


Summary

Strongman training uses a variety of strength and conditioning events that not only boost strength and muscle mass, but improve fitness and body composition too.

Studies have shown that this method of training can be superior in many aspects of physical conditioning when compared to traditional weight training.

Based around carries, pulls, presses and squat movements, these skill-based exercises are not for beginners, but if you take the time to learn the movements and load them up appropriately, you’ll really start to see a difference in your physique.


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References

  1. Winwood, PW et al. Strongman vs. traditional resistance training effects on muscular function and performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2015; 29(2): 429-39


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