For the average dude watching the World’s Strongest Man competition, strongman training can seem impossible to even try. Hefting boulders? Tossing 50-lb kegs? How does an everyday gym-goer even begin training for those kinds of titanic moves?
But fear not, mere mortal: You can actually integrate some classic strongman exercises into your own workouts, even if you don’t have special equipment. In fact, even if you’re just at your regular gym, you can benefit from strongman training with these classic moves:
1. Hercules Hold
The Hercules Hold (sometimes called the Pillars of Hercules) challenges a competitor to hold handles connected to two huge, teetering stone pillars for as long as they can. It’s more of a test of will than anything else, as American strongman Phil Pfister famously proved in 2001—he distracted himself from the pain of the hold by proclaiming that he would become the strongest man in the world. (It came true five years later.)
But you don’t need to pull a Phil Pfister to try this at home. (Please don’t, actually.) In fact, all you need is a cable crossover machine. Attach handles to the bottom pulleys and lift them straight out from your sides. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Do two or three sets.
2. Farmer’s carry
Called a Farmer’s Walk in World’s Strongest Man competitions, this simplistic (but deceptively difficult) task challenges competitors to heft two heavy, cumbersome objects by the handles and carry them over a distance. (Mariusz Pudzianowski of Poland demonstrated this below in 2009).
Fortunately, you don’t need steel beams to practice this at home. Pick up a set of heavy dumbbells or kettlebells—watch your knees!—set aside a section of the gym where you can walk unimpeded, and do a few laps. This exercise will seriously challenge not only your legs but also your works your core, grip, and traps. Do two to three sets of 30 to 60 seconds each.
3. Strongman deadlift
Deadlifts have always been a staple of powerlifting and strongman competitions—no surprise there. But one interesting wrinkle of the 2009 WSM competition was the Car Deadlift, which challenged competitors to deadlift Mitsubishis with wheelbarrow-style grips, rather than the traditional barbell grip.
Ready to pull off a similar feat? Leave the sedans in the parking lot and use a trap bar or hex bar, which recruits more skeletal muscle—about 90% of it—across your body than any other single lift.
Start with a relatively light load to get accustomed to the proper form, and then work your way up to a challenging weight as you would in a traditional deadlift workout program.