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Powerlifting VS. Strongman For Crossfit Training

When athletes come to Lift Big Eat Big (LBEB) for programming, one of the first things we take in to account is how we can make the most well-rounded strength athlete. This means we want to build an athlete who will not only excel in their sport, but also retain the ability to lead a healthy, productive life outside of their sport. We have found that training Strong(Wo)man style is the most effective way to train these athletes. In Strongman, the end goal is the ability to move extremely heavy loads as quickly as possible, or to perform a maximum amount of reps with heavy weight in 60-90 seconds. Does this sound like Crossfit to you?

After all, there is a reason we call Crossfit “Strongman-lite”. Although Strongman was around decades before Crossfit, many of the same principles still remain. It basically boils down to “pick up this object, move it over there”, and “lift that object as many times as possible in a given time frame.” Because of these similarities, we fail to understand why the majority of Crossfit gyms choose to follow Powerlifting programs to make better Crossfitters. While these programs build excellent powerlifters, we find that they are not optimal programs for this audience. Powerlifters train to perform one rep in a competition, with anywhere from 10-45 minutes in between reps. A Crossfitter will almost never perform this type of workout in a Crossfit competition.

 We feel that gyms use these programs either due to a lack of programming experience, or knowledge of Strongman. At LBEB, we feel that training Crossfitters in a heavy strongman style makes for not only a fast Crossfitter, but also a ridiculously strong Crossfitter regardless of age, sex, or weight. This is because strongmen train to move quickly while under heavy loads which can have tremendous carry over for a Crossfitter. Now, just to clarify, we do not consider something like “30 stones to shoulder” as a Strongman workout simply because with that many reps, the stone would have to be light. This would fall under our definition of a Metcon, not a medley or event training. Instead, we would prescribe movements like heavy yokes or heavy farmer walks. If you can run with an 800lb yoke on your back, or with 300lb farmers in each hand, how hard do you think it will be to move quickly with your own bodyweight? A big yoke will have tremendous carry over to a big squat, but a big squat won’t necessarily have a carry over to a big yoke. We have seen 800lb squatters who couldn’t even walk a 600lb yoke.

Another reason we prescribe true Strongman training for Crossfitters is because Powerlifting programs do not train movements on a horizontal or lateral plain. You will rarely, if ever, see a bench press or back squat in a Crossfit competition, but you will see events that involve walking, running with objects, or using explosive triple extensions to get weights overhead, just like In Strongman. Training walking events is also a superior way to build tendon strength. You will rarely see a Strongman roll ankle or twist a foot simply because the tendons of the body’s structural system are so strong. Olympic lifts form a large base of our programming as well, because we feel that the triple extension on movements like muscle snatches or snatch and clean high pulls have tremendous carry over to Strongman movements like stone loading, log clean and press, and Husafel carries. By adding these Olympic movements, it will also prepare a Crossfitter for the various Olympic movements that are present in other competitive WODs. In order prepare new Crossfitters for the future competitions, we feel that they must prepare themselves accordingly.

At LBEB, we believe that a Strong(wo)man program is much more productive and suitable than Powerlifting regimens for Crossfitters due to the similarities between sports. Basic Powerlifting programs are excellent at what they set out to achieve: to help increase your 1RM, but Strongman and Crossfit require more than that.Test out some of our Strongman programs and see for yourself!


5 thoughts on “Powerlifting VS. Strongman For Crossfit Training

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. nteresting read, thanks.

    I’m no expert but as an avid CrossFitter if I had to guess why CF programs focus mostly on powerlifting its because most people in a CF box are not long time lifters looking to compete in strongman/powerlifting/CF or other similar competitions. Most are there for the actual fitness element and just want to get as fit as possible and have fun doing it.

    I think its really important that people draw a distinction between CrossFit the fitness program vs competitive CrossFit. For the former, a powerlifting program probably makes more sense as a lot of these people have never really lifted heavy before. Thus the goal is to build strength in folks whose idea of lifting heretofore was curling a few light dumbbells or doing exercises on a machine.

    But for competitive CrossFitters who have a good base level of strength, then I think your Strongman approach probably makes more sense.

    Just my own humble thoughts and opinion.

  3. passing this onto my coach! Thanks for the great article.

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  5. Powerlifting is one of the most vital corssfit training and as a head coach of fitness charlotte I know that how vital role it can play for a person if can be done by in a right way. SO thanks 🙂

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