I followed a recent thread over at Performance Menu about the idea of using strongman training as a type of GPP instead of Crossfit brand of GPP. The contention of the poster, quoting a Marine, was that some strongman training might be more suitable to what soldiers do regularly in the field.
I posed this question to pro strongman competitor, Scott Brengel who responded in this guest post.
Strongman training as a form of GPP PT for military types
By Scott Brengel
Part of this topic reminds me of the old argument of training high school and college athletes to be proficient at combine testing rather than the skills that would be most relevant on the gridiron. In this case it all boils down to personal preference and circumstance.
Military basic training is first and foremost a right of passage layered in decades of tradition. Although it may not be the most optimal program for preparing a recruit for the exact demands of the job, it is a proven effective means for getting hundreds of potential soldiers – “salty or “lean and mean”. When dealing with large numbers, you can never expect to have the most advantageous training protocol – it’s just not realistic from a practicality standpoint.
So what do you do? It all depends whether you are about to enter basic training or if the soldier is already on active duty and only has to maintain a reasonable or minimal level of fitness with reasonable or minimal requirements and testing.
If we are talking about a new recruit, the most sensible thing to do is what most factory type athletic training centers do with their football athletes. That is to simply keep it simple and gear their training for the tests applicable to their combine scores. So for the potential soldiers, I would definitely gear my training towards more of a circuit-type scheme both lactic capacity and aerobic in nature, using exercises geared more towards muscular endurance – crossfit does fit the mold here.
If the individual is a career soldier, and is only subject to periodical testing – then I think there is a lot of room for using different training modalities to attain a more balanced conditioning program. A fellow pro strongman that I compete with is in the Air Force and he must adhere to some fairly strict guidelines within his high-level unit. This really impedes his ability to train more effectively for strongman. However, he still manages to keep both levels of training at a high level while maintaining the 34 inch waist requirement (if I recall correctly). I also believe that he is at the top of the list on scoring within these tests, which are mostly geared towards muscular endurance and aerobic endurance. So it is possible to incorporate strength training and maintain a high level of aerobic endurance. He is (Farmer’s) walking proof of that.
So if you are a military operator and you want to mix things up and have more of a well-rounded conditioning program and add in some training to mix in some alactic power, alactic capacity, lactic power and lactic capacity, there are many things you can do that are strongman related. There are many ways to train these events, but I will give you a just a few basic ones to keep it simple and brief.
1) Tire flip for reps (1 to 5 reps) for alactic power or alactic capacity.
2) Tire flip for distance or time (conditioning for lactic capacity) – the weight of the tire should be challenging. If you truly do this correctly, you should not be standing after you are done. The great thing about the tire is that it is all concentric action and will not cause much in terms of muscular breakdown or DOMS. But as a pro strongman, I believe this is the best single event for GPP.
3) Tire Flip and Drag (chain or sled) for lactic capacity– usually done for 50-100 ft each segment. This event will really test your mental fortitude if the weights are challenging and you push hard through the entire medley.
4) Sandbag/keg/stone pick up, carry and load. You can adjust this for any of the 4 anaerobic energy systems. You can simply load the object or you can pick them up, carry them and load them onto a platform or the back of a pick-up truck. Pick a weight that is challenging to pick off the ground, carry it 0-50ft and load it to a platform from 40-54 inches. Use between 1 to 6 objects. Weights will all depend on the size and strength of the individual. If you have average relative strength, 50-100% of your body weight will do. If you have a high degree of relative strength, strive to use bags equal to or up to 135% of your bodyweight.
Scott Brengel, C.S.C.S.
“Sports Specific Training for the Modern Day Gladiator”
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