Trainer’s Corner

Strongman Training for the Ladies

Many women shy away from strength training because they’re afraid of getting “bulky.” That’s not you though. You kick some serious butt in the weight room and it shows. You lift heavy, you push past your limits and your body has changed to become leaner, tighter, faster and healthier. You understand the benefits of strength training and your body and mind love you for it.

You might be getting a little bored, though. No matter how much you love squats, deadlifts, chin-ups, push-ups and lunges, sometimes you need to spice it up. I love sticking to the basics; it’s the foundation of my own personal training and the training sessions with my clients. I’m not advocating trying a different trick every week or straying from what works, I just want to give you some new tools that you can add to your arsenal of highly effective exercises.

The best way to structure these exercises are either as a metabolic circuit at the end of a training session or as a metabolic and conditioning day standing alone. Strongman training is a great way to engage new muscles, ramp up your conditioning, allow your body to move in different planes and movement patterns, improve mental toughness and give your mind a new challenge.

Strongman training exercises are not perfect. Form can often be determined by different body types, and sometimes you just have to dig in and get the movement done. This is not to say that you want to perform these with bad form; you just have to push your mind and your body to do the work. The movements can be awkward and this creates new challenges for the body and allows you to work muscles that traditional strength movements often can’t accomplish.

There are many strongman exercises that you can choose from and most of the time the choices will depend on the type of equipment or space that you have at your facility. I want to give you some of the most basic movements here:

The tire flip is one of the coolest exercises, and these will make you feel like a total rock star when you do them. If you have some outdoor space this is the best option, and you can get tires free from any tire company looking to get rid of the old stock.

When you flip the tire, you’re engaging every single muscle in your body and it provides a great conditioning effect along the way. These can be done for speed with a lighter tire or for power and strength with a heavy tire. Here are the major form points on a tire flip:

• Set your lower body into a dead lift position and place your chest directly on the tire
• Place your hands under the tire with an underhand grip
• Drive your hips and use your lower body to propel the tire up
• As you get the tire about halfway up, switch your grip so your fingers face you (front squat grip)
• As the tire is flipping over, drive your knee under to get it the rest of the way over and continue to pump your legs until the tire lands flat
• Reset your lower body and abs and repeat for the prescribed reps

Go for sets of 2 flips all the way up to 10 flips with a lighter tire.

Farmer’s Walk
The farmer’s walk is a great challenge for the upper body, core and cardiovascular system. This movement also builds hip, knee and ankle stability. If you have access to farmer’s walk handles, that’s great because you can really crank up the amount of weight that you use. If you don’t have the handles, simply use heavy dumbbells or kettlebells.

Farmers Walk Technique Tips:

• Squat down to pick up the weights then pull your shoulders back and pinch them together
• Tighten your abs and squeeze every muscle in your upper body
• Use a distance of 40-100 yards and walk briskly to that point then make a tight turn and briskly walk back
• Repeat this for anywhere from 3-6 sets depending on your training set up for that day

“Keg” Toss
The keg toss is an explosive movement using the lower body. Setting up a keg properly can be a bit of a pain (if you have one, that’s great) so you can use a medicine ball or kettlebell in its place. Be sure to use the kettlebell either outside or on turf only. Here are the technique points of the keg (medicine ball, kettlebell) toss:

• Start in a tight deadlift position with the weight hanging between your knees (similar to a swing)
• Explode through your hips and tighten your abs and throw the weight over your head for both distance and height
• Walk to the weight and repeat, or simply line up multiple balls or bells to complete the repetitions
• Perform anywhere from 2-6 reps depending on the amount of weight you have

The Prowler is hands down the best conditioning tool that you can use. It smokes your lower body and your cardiovascular system like nothing else. If you don’t have a Prowler you can use a small sled or a tire. Find a space (pavement, turf, grass) at least 40 yards long. Here are your technique tips:

• Load up the appropriate weight on the Prowler and hold the tops of the handles
• Keep your arms straight and drive your bodyweight into the Prowler and start sprinting
• Be sure to keep your arms straight and use your lower body power to move the weight as fast as possible
• Repeat for either one push down or a down and back push. Anywhere from 3-8 sets will get a nice amount of work

As I mentioned above, you can use these as metabolic exercises to finish a strength training session or they can be used together in a circuit as a conditioning day. Here’s an example of that:

Complete 4-5 Rounds of the Following:

• Tire Flips x 6 reps
• Farmer’s Walk x 80 yards
• Keg Toss x 5 reps
• Prowler Sprint (high handles down then low handles back) x 40 yards each way

Give these exercises a try and enjoy the physical and mental change that they give you. Plus you’ll feel totally bad ass, so that’s an added bonus!

Callie Durbrow

Callie Durbrow is the owner of Durbrow Performance Training and the author of Strong and Sexy in 25 Minutes.

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