In the past,
the pioneers of strength, like George Hackenschmidt, and other classic
strongmen and wrestlers, were built like machines and were able
to move serious weight and do feats of strength that left you thinking,
focus on the part of these performers was strength, while the appearance
of their body came secondary.
on strengthening their legs, back, and grip first and by using complex,
ground based movements, the size of their shoulders, arms, and chest
followed right along.
didn’t try to build a V-shape torso with flared lats and a
wasp-like waist. He built a thick back, a thick core, and could
support tremendous amounts of weight in movements like the squat
it’s different. Most of the weight training that goes on in
the gym today is not nearly as focused on the development of strength.
Now, the focus is mostly on aesthetics – perfectly proportioned
biceps and calves, a broad chest, and big biceps.
You can bet
the Sandows of the day didn’t care about the peak on their
biceps. The Hackenschmidts of the era weren’t worried about
a big pump in their chest.
the lines, there was a shift from being strong to looking good.
Much of this shift can be blamed on the overwhelming presence of
bodybuilding literature at the newsstand.
For me, however,
when it comes to a rewarding experience in the gym, bodybuilding
falls short. I am more interested in building strength. In fact,
much of my training revolves around doing what the oldtime strongmen
considered “feats of strength.”
I want to share
with you all what I feel are the best feats of strength to perform
in order to build a strong back, powerful body, and an impressive
Without a doubt,
one the best pure feats of strength is lifting something from the
floor and up overhead. I don’t care if it’s a barbell,
a dumbbell, a stone, or a beer keg filled with sand and water, there
is just something about getting the object to arm’s length
overhead that means you are truly strong. To do this requires practically
all the musculature in the body from the ground to the hands. If
your back is weak, the object won’t make it off the ground.
If your legs are weak, they will crumble beneath the load as you
try to push it up overhead. And if your mind is weak, you can get
halted at any point along the way.
The best thing
about overhead lifting is that you are getting up out of a seated
position and performing the lift on your feet. This type of lifting
requires more talent and athleticism than the seated variations
which in turn makes you more of an athlete and more of a man.
of my overhead lifting is done with a log. I have competed in many
Strongman competitions and the Log was always one of my favorite
events, whether it was for max weight or for repetitions. Not only
does it build your overhead strength, but also makes your lower
back stable, as well as the grip.
I love Keg
Lifting also, because kegs are so unstable. While you can hold a
barbell or dumbbell pretty easily, the keg has a dynamic center
of gravity that you have to compete with along with the fact it
is so heavy and bulky.
Lifting and Carrying
It is one thing
to lift something heavy off the ground. It’s another thing
altogether to pick it up and then carry it.
This is the
primary difference between the sport of powerlifting and the sport
of strongman. In the sport of powerlifting, the lifts that are executed
are the bench press, the deadlift, and the squat. While tremendous
weights are lifted in these three disciplines, all that takes place
is the lifting and lowering of the weights. In many strongman competitions,
however, the objective is to lift and then move heavy and bulky
items such as stones, farmer’s walk implements, yokes, and
sandbags. This is often done at high rates of speed as well. The
athletes in strongman competitions have to be extremely strong,
and be able to move nimbly over the course to be successful.
objects, just like overhead lifting, requires the recruitment of
every muscle in the body. With each step, tremors course through
the body, requiring you to re-adjust and stay on track. The joints
have to be strong and stable in order to keep from buckling with
each stride, all while keeping your breathing under load. Carrying
objects is a great way to train, and it can be done in the gym or
in a parking lot or field. The most important thing is not where
it is done, but that it actually gets done.
Walk is a basic strongman event. You just pick up the farmers and
take off. My farmers were made by a friend from scrap industrial
pieces. He made the handles extra thick so it is more taxing on
the grip and the handles are extra high, which causes swing. You
have to be ready to stroll with these things.