Strongman, Powerlifting, Crossfit, Weightlifting, OH MY!

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Article written by Alanna Casey

I am always curious to hear about another athlete’s training program. When I start to hear how an athlete does strongman and Crossfit and Zumba and Olympic lifting and shot-put and the high jump, I always raise an eyebrow.  Now, I’m exaggerating on this list of activities but, you get my point.
I have gotten the question before: can I do strongman and Crossfit? My answer: well sure, if you want to be average at both. Truly, my answer goes back to what your personal goals are. For the purpose of this article I will be operating under the assumption that an athlete wants to be her absolute best at strongman.

Does Crossfit have carry over to strongman? Yes. Does powerlifting have carry over to strongman? Absolutely. Does Olympic lifting have carry over to strongman? Yes. That said, if you want to become your absolute best at strongman, then your focus must be on strongman style training. These other sports are tools that can be used to further you in strongman/strongwoman but, that it is.

Ranked in order of carry over to strongman:

Powerlifting

A powerlifting routine can and should be at the core of strongman training. You’re number one goal in strongman should be maximal strength. A powerlifting routine will help you achieve that. When I train for strongman, I always train squat/bench/deadlift/overhead press, with overhead press taking precedence over bench press. I keep these main lifts on a linear progressive program (gradually increasing my weight while decreasing total reps). These movements are at the core of my programing and develop my overall strength base. 

   Olympic lifting (Weightlifting)

 Particular aspects of Olympic lifting do carry over to strongman. Specifically the overhead jerk and the power clean. I incorporate these movements into my training about once a week. That is it. The main focus of Olympic lifting is creating power. Power is the movement a certain amount of weight in the shortest time. Therefore, events like a maximum effort log or max effort atlas stone have a direct carry over from Olympic lifting.

So, if you want to become a champion strongman should you care about what your max snatch is? No. However, you can incorporate snatches into your warm up before atlas stones. Practicing your power clean will help train your muscles on explosively. But again, Olympic lifting is a tool, not a main focus to strongman.

  Crossfit

Crossfit is a tool that can be used to develop your conditioning. It should be used minimally. To me, that means 5-7 minutes 2 times a week at the conclusion of my training.

Look at serious Crossfit athlete. They all look similar. They are lean and ripped and relatively lightweight. Now, look at serious strongmen or strongwoman. They are most likely thicker, and do not have shredded abs. However, a top level strongwoman will be stronger than a top level Crossfitter. Meaning, they can move a larger amount to weight, one time. Now, take that same strongwoman and tell her to complete a Crossfit workout and she will fizzle out after about 5 minutes or less. This is because both athletes have trained their bodies to be most efficient in very different things. If you want to be your strongest, you cannot focus on Crossfit like a Crossfitter does. If you want to be your “fittest”, you cannot focus on strongman like a strongman does.  

If you want to be your absolute best at strongman, limit your Crossfit training to 5% or less of your total gym time. Crossfit can be a conditioning tool for you but, learn when you need to put that tool back down. For example, when you’re building a house, a hammer is very useful. But, you also need to know when to put anyway the hammer and get out your power tools.

Remember, if you want to be the best in strongman, STRONGMAN is the sport that must get 90% of your attention. That means that your powerlifting regiment is tailored to your next strongman contest. That means that your conditioning matters but, only up to about 3 minutes of maximal exertion.
It is IMPOSSIBLE to be your absolute best at three different sports. If your goal is to be your best at one particular sport, then THAT is the sport you must focus on. Anytime you are training for two different sports or competitions, you are sacrificing your abilities in both.

It is wise to pull from other sports such as Olympic lifting and Crossfit BUT, it must be very calculated. You must examine those other sports and analyze which aspects of that sister sport will help you in your main sport. If certain aspects won’t contribute to you becoming a champion in your main sport, then do not do them. Prioritize. All of your gym time should be calculated and with a specific purpose in mind.

  • Spot on article! Thank you.

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • Don’t be a jerk and spam comment threads, Telli.

    Incidentally, we’re an equipment startup in Seattle that’s gearing up to offer strength & conditioning gear for lifting and crossfit, check us out on warcrywod.com…

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist TELLI STARTED IT

  • I’m convinced. At least after the Crossfit Open is over. I’ve been waffling about dedicating myself completely to Strongman, and this is the final push I need. Thanks!

  • It’s a breath of fresh air to read an article where the public is educated by someone who does their homework as opposed to bashing something because they dont like it or because they arent good at it. You are an exceptional writer and I really enjoy reading your articles. Keep up the good work!

  • Ian

    Hey y’all, love the site and the articles are really insightful. I’ve beeen on the crossfit wagon for about 3 years now and am excited to change it up. I’m currently on your 4 week mass gain program and it’s kicking my ass. That being said, my main sport isn’t actually Crossfit or lifting, it’s mountaineering. What are your thoughts (if any) on using an oxygen deprivation mask during weight training (see http://www.trainingmask.com)? Is it beneficial or detrimental to strength gains due to the decreased profusion?

  • I am a CrossFit coach (with the CF Powerlifting certificate as well). This was a great article. I am glad you gave an honest assessment of how CrossFit can enable or hinder an individual’s goals. CrossFit is great for a lot of things, but not everything. I have always said the best exercise program is the one you will stick with. Accomplishing your personal goals is a great motivator to sticking with a program. You are also right that strongman has a lot of benefits for the CrossFitter which is why I love this site and I check it out often. Keep up the good work.