Strongman: strength and conditioning practices, and the inter-relationships between strength, anthropometrics and performance
Winwood, Paul William
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The sport of strongman is relatively new hence specific research investigating this sport is currently very limited. Elite strongman competitors can pull trucks weighing over 20 tonnes, yet no evidence exists in the scientific literature detailing how these men train to tolerate the physiological stresses accompanied with such high loading. Furthermore, little information exists in the scientific literature as to what determinants contribute to successful strongman performance. The exploratory and experimental studies in this thesis sought to describe the strength and conditioning practices employed by strongman competitors, and to determine the inter-relationships between anthropometrics and maximal isoinertial strength to strongman performance. In study one, 167 strongman competitors completed a 65-item online survey. The findings demonstrated that strongman competitors incorporate a variety of strength and conditioning practices that are focused on increasing muscular size, and the development of maximal strength and power into their conditioning preparation. The farmers walk, log press and stones were the most commonly performed strongman exercises used in a general strongman training session by the survey respondents. The survey revealed that strongman competitors vary their training and periodically alter training variables (i.e. sets, reps, loads) during different stages of their training. The type of events (i.e. maximum effort or reps event) in a competition can determine loading strategies, and competitors determine the most efficacious training protocols for each event. Study two established that body structure and common gym based exercise strength are meaningfully related to strongman performance in novice strongman athletes. Twenty-three semi-professional rugby union players with some strongman training experience (22.0 ± 2.4 yr, 102.6 ± 10.8 kg, 184.6 ± 6.5 cm) were assessed for anthropometry (height, body composition, and girth measurements), maximal isoinertial performance (bench press, squat, deadlift and power clean), and strongman performance (tyre flip, log clean and press, truck pull and farmers walk). The magnitudes of the relationships were interpreted using Pearson correlation coefficients, which had uncertainty (90% confidence limits) of ~ ±0.37. The highest relationship observed was between system force (body mass + 1RM squat) and overall strongman performance (r = 0.87). Clear moderate to very large relationships existed between all strongman events and the squat (r = 0.61-0.85), indicating the importance of maximal squat strength to successful strongman performance. Flexed arm and calf girth demonstrated the strongest interrelationships of all anthropometric measures with overall strongman performance (r = 0.79 and 0.70 respectively). This thesis provides the first evidence of how athletes train for the sport of strongman and what anthropometric and maximal strength variables may be most important in the sport of strongman. Strongman competitors and strength and conditioning coaches can use the data from the training practices study as a review of strength and conditioning practices and as a possible source of new ideas to diversify and improve their training practices. The correlation data can be used to help guide programming, which can be used to help maximise the transfer of training to strongman performance and therefore improve training efficiency.