Functional training is a term often thrown around in the fitness industry, usually by so called ‘gurus’, standing on a bosu ball on one leg, juggling a heavy weight overhead while reciting the alphabet backwards, or something like that. But when it comes to real world carry over from your training, there is nothing more functional than picking up an awkward heavy object, pulling or pushing something heavy, and moving with full range and good intentions. Think about the grip strength you need to pick up a heavy stone while doing yard work, or even just carry in a full load of groceries with just one trip. Want to work on your grip? Pick up stones or do heavy farmer’s carries.
And while strong(wo)man training often incorporates awkward objects, the implement doesn’t necessarily have to be awkward like a boulder or asymmetrical to be strong(wo)man training; deadlifts and one-arm dumbbell presses, after all, are core strong(wo)man lifts. The main requirement for strong(wo)man training is going heavy, so experience in resistance training and good mobility is essential to do it safely, and highly qualified coach like those here at Absolute are the perfect way to attain that. If you’re lifting an object but it’s light for you, and you can easily perform the exercise for more than 90 to 120 seconds or 10 plus reps, that’s not strong(wo)man. To be true strong(wo)man training, you need to be lifting heavy weights (relative to individual) for short durations, using 80 to 85 percent or more of your one-rep-max weight for low reps or short time intervals.
Great grip strength isn’t the only carry-over to real world application & health and wellbeing. Not even close. In fact you may already be doing some form of it if you have proper programming, including regular strength workouts composed of 1-5 rep sets, as these would be considered strongman sessions. The major difference between that, i.e. barbell lifts and true strong(wo)man training is the use of various real-world implements, which adds an element of fun to a workout too. Let’s be honest, sometimes doing a clean-and-press with a beer keg or a sandbag is more exciting than doing it with a barbell and bumper plates yet again. There’s something very refreshing to breaking training monotony and adding some unique toys to your sessions with new methods.
Strong(wo)man is full of simple, scalable movements that allow you to move relatively large loads quickly. As the name suggests, it is great for getting strong, but strong(wo)man training is great for conditioning too. This type of training targets the first two metabolic pathways: phosphate, which takes the bodies energy store usage to around 20-30 seconds, and glycolytic (anaerobic), 30-60seconds, and all of this leads to improved fitness levels and many long-term health, metabolic and hormonal benefits.
So how do you do strong(wo)man training?
If strong(wo)man training is something you would like to add to your training routine, the next step is figuring out how to implement it. Doing so haphazardly is a great way to get injured and defeat the whole purpose of functional strength training. Just like all other aspects of training, to make the most of it and stay injury free you need to have a plan when incorporating strong(wo)man into your program. Below are a few key things to think about before getting underway:
- Make sure it is well planned by a qualified coach like the team here at Absolute. It is very important before you take on this style of training that you are assessed to ensure your movement capabilities make it safe for you to do so. Take your time to build your quality of movement first.
- Keep time intervals short and rest periods generous. Heavy strong(wo)man exercises should be done as strength workouts, not lung-bursting aerobic sessions. You don’t want to be picking up heavy weights when you’re breathing heavily and unable to control your posture due to fatigue in your respiratory system. You want to keep the lifting parts short and allow near full recovery (2-5 minutes) to minimize the risk of injury.
- Program wisely around strong(wo)man sessions. If you know you’re going to be doing strong(wo)man training try and keep the day before and the day after a lighter load workout, perhaps an aerobic or recovery based session the day after, and for the gym junkies a higher rep lower load hypertrophy type session the day before.
- When the quality of your reps fall away, the workout’s over. The longer rest periods are there to ensure that strength levels stay high and fatigue doesn’t undermine how much weight you can move with quality reps. Once it does, call it a day. cooldown & stretch. Don’t risk injury, the effects will be dropping away anyway as the intensity is lost from the lifts.
With the many benefits, for all aspects of strength, health, fitness and wellbeing, the fun and variety it can add to your training, it truly is a great method to use, whatever your goals. So, come on down to Absolute, get fit, strong & healthy all while playing with some incredibly fun equipment!
Written By Head Performance Coach David Smith