The best thing about strongman is the ease with which you can train. All you need is some awkward heavy objects and you’re set. You can even do these in your backyard while you do yard work. There is no need for an expensive gym membership or fancy machines, although you can certainly do strongman training in the gym too.
The best strongman exercises require you to hold or move a heavy load over a 30 second – 2 minute period of time. Here’s some of my favorites:
Atlas stone loading
Ground-to-shoulder with a sandbag
Sled pushing or dragging – push from the low bars, drag from the loading pins, pull it with a rope hand-over-hand, etc.
One Arm Dumbbell Push Press (also called a circus dumbbell press)
Farmer’s Walk – can be done one arm at a time for added core training
Carry rocks, cinderblocks, or anything heavy back and forth in your yard
Carry and throw hay bails
Push a wheelbarrow loaded with rocks
Truck pull with a rope
Yoke carry – can be done with a barbell or even with a person, fireman’s carry style
Choose 3-5 of these exercises for each workout. Try to pick a variety of exercises to cover all kinds of different movement patterns like pulling, carrying, pushing, lifting off the ground, explosive movement, etc. Keep rest times minimal for the best fat loss effect. Always move as fast and hard as possible while keeping proper, safe form in mind at all times. Most people won’t be able to keep this pace up for more than 30 minutes, so plan accordingly!
If you’re on the lookout for something new to throw in your workout to kickstart weight loss, look no further than strongman. Strongman training is fun and extremely effective. You can do it practically anywhere and get great results in a surprisingly short period of time. Strongman is exceptionally good for fat loss for a whole bunch of different reasons. In this article, I’ll explain why Strongman works so well and then give you some brutal and effective strongman routines that you can try for yourself either at the gym or at home.
Strongman is Perfect for Fat Loss
Strongman training is made up of intense, heavy interval training. Believe it or not, anaerobic training like this is actually better for burning fat than aerobic endurance training because it forces the body to burn fat as fuel instead of muscle. Anaerobic training also releases growth hormone (HGH) which is a huge part of the body’s fat storage system. Aerobic training, in contrast, burns through the carbohydrates in your bloodstream and then immediately starts eating into your muscle. Aerobic training increases production of cortisol, a stress hormone that leads to fast muscle loss.
Anaerobic interval training works so much better than aerobic training because it forces the metabolism to adapt—in order to sustain the level of intensity needed, your body must burn fat. It also keeps the metabolism raging for 24 hours or more after your workout, which has been shown to have a dramatic effect on fat loss, especially from the belly region. (See Is Aerobic or Anaerobic Training Best for Getting Rid of Belly Fat? by Charles Poliquin)
This means that strongman trainers are burning more fat during their workouts and they actually continue to burn fat for over 24 hours after their workouts are finished! Strongman training increases Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) meaning that you keep on burning fat long after your workout is finished. A 2006 study showed that anaerobic workouts like strongman training produce higher EPOC values than long distance aerobic training because the muscles are forced by the intensity of the effort needed to restore nutrients expended by the cells; in other words they used a ton of energy. This is terrific for fat loss since it means your metabolism is getting jacked up like crazy. Lose fat while eating more, who doesn’t want that!
Another aspect of strongman training that accelerates fat loss is the use of uneven and oddly shaped objects. Typical strongman equipment like sleds, ropes, stones, sand bags, not only makes training exciting, but also makes it harder for you develop a perfectly efficient technique while you lift. While great technical efficiency is great for performance, a less efficient athlete is actually working much harder than an efficient one. This is bad for competition, but terrific for fat loss because of all the calories being burned by this inefficient movement. Efficiency is developed when your Central Nervous System “learns” which muscles should be activated and which ones should be relaxed for the best coordination of effort. However, when the balance point of the odd object you’re lifting is constantly moving around, your nervous system can never quite figure out how to adapt. The efficiency process becomes much harder and you will have to use every muscle in your body just to hold onto the weight. The more muscles you use, the more energy is expended and the more energy expended, the greater the fat loss results.
Get Motivated, Stay Motivated
One of the biggest challenges for fat loss is the motivation required. Strongman trainers are constantly motivated for their workouts because of the challenge and uniqueness of the movements. Every week they train something new and exciting. Not only does this sort of training increase your lean muscle mass, it also develops real-world strength and even helps improve poor posture and joint instability. Strongman training definitely improves mental toughness, as anyone can tell you who has done a heavy sled workout, flipped a tire for high reps, or loaded heavy atlas stones.
This is a regular pushup except you push yourself up so explosively that your hands actually leave the ground at the end of the rep. You should get more powerful every set.
You are now ready to bench with maximum performance.
Close Grip Bench Press – Sets of 5 reps, starting with 45 and adding 20 lb each set, until you get to a weight where you can’t get all 5 reps, even when you strain as hard as possible. Make sure you have a spotter!
Grab the bar with your hands just touching the smooth center portion of the bar. Lower the bar all the way down to your chest. This exercise will help you with your weak point at the top of the bench press.
Flat Dumbbell Press – 4 sets of 6-10 reps, Pick a weight where you can just barely get all 10 reps. Try your hardest to get at least 8 reps every set.
Dumbbell Tate Press – 4 sets of 8-12 reps, Pick a weight where you can just barely get all 12 reps. Try your hardest to get at least 10 reps every set.
This exercise is going to help you especially, so focus hard on it!
Dumbbell Front Raise – 4 sets of 10-15 reps, Pick a weight where you can just barely get all 15 reps. Try your hardest to get at least 12 reps every set.
Speed Bench Press – After warming up, do 8 sets of 3 reps starting with 45. Add 5-10 lb each set.
Lift as FAST as you can, but only if you can use perfect technique. This is not a time to get sloppy, in fact you should use this time to practice great bench technique! Remember, FAST and perfect.
Dumbbell Row – 4 sets of 6-10 reps, Pick a weight where you can just barely get all 10 reps. Try your hardest to get at least 8 reps every set.
Lat Pulldown – 4 sets of 8-12 reps, Pick a weight where you can just barely get all 12 reps. Try your hardest to get at least 10 reps every set.
Hammer Curl – 4 sets of 10-15 reps, Pick a weight where you can just barely get all 15 reps. Try your hardest to get at least 12 reps every set.
This exercise is actually key to getting a big bench, especially for people like you who have trouble locking out their bench press reps. Hammer curls train the brachialis muscle in addition to the biceps, this often over-looked muscle is key to driving force through the elbow joint into the bar.
Face pull – 4 sets of 20 reps, Pick a fairly light weight and pump out the reps. This is critical for keeping your shoulders in balance. We’re putting a lot of stress on our shoulders with the bench press, so it’s important to keep the shoulders strong and injury-free. A healthy, balanced shoulder is a strong shoulder, so don’t skip the face pulls!
Note: This workout is for intermediate lifters who have maxed out their beginner gains from a basic linear progression program. Beginners would get better results from a program such as Starting Strength or the Greyskull Linear Progression.
Squeeze the bar as hard as you can from the moment you unrack the bar until you finish the lift. This causes all your muscles to contract harder through the irradiation principle.
Squeeze your shoulder blades together. This shortens the range of motion allowing you to lift more, it’s safer for your shoulders, and it increases the activation of the pecs.
Take a big breath of air into your chest before you unrack the bar. This will keep you stable on the bench.
Make sure the bar is at the base of your hand, right above your wrist. If the bar is high up in your hand, you will lose strength. Don’t let your hand flop backwards and never use a thumbless grip. It’s dangerous and you won’t lift as much.
Twist your hands against the bar like you’re trying to snap it in half. Your hands won’t actually move, but this will still cause stabilizing muscles in your shoulders to contract, giving your more strength.
Do more warmup sets, but don’t do as many reps in the sets. A good warmup should never fatigue you; it should amp you up to lift big weights! For example, if your max bench is 275, a good warmup would look like this: 45 x 10, 95 x 10, 135 x 6, 165 x 3, 195 x 3, 225 x 2, 245 x 1, 265 x 1, 285 x 1 (10 lb more than your max!)
Squeeze your abs and glutes while you lift, this allows force to transfer through your body better.
Dig your feet into the floor and drive with them like you’re doing a leg extension against the floor. Believe it or not, this can add quite a bit to your bench press.
Imagine that your are pushing yourself down into the bench, instead of pushing the bar up off your chest. This tricks your brain and often makes the bench press feel way stronger.
Lower the bar down to your nipples or slightly below. Lowering the bar high up on your chest is bad for your shoulders and is much weaker.
Every day, millions of people pack gyms all across the world trying to build up their bodies. Depressingly, most of them look exactly the same year after year, completely failing to build any muscle despite thousands of wasted hours. Does this mean that building muscle is a mysterious process, only possible for a few rare genetic freaks? Not at all! Gaining muscle is simple, as long as you follow a few simple rules.
Before you can understand the first rule of muscle, you need to know a few things about the muscles themselves. All your muscles are made up of thousands of long fibers that contract to move your body. These fibers are slightly torn when you lift heavy weights. Your body doesn’t like having weakened, torn muscles, so it immediately goes to work rebuilding these fibers to be capable of handling that weight without being torn again. The result is a slightly bigger and stronger muscle. What most gym-goers don’t realize is that the cycle of tearing and rebuilding can be performed over and over again, until your muscles are as big as they can get.
After the muscle has rebuilt itself, the weight you lifted in your first workout will no longer overload the fibers. To continue making muscle gains, you must use slightly more weight in your next workout. If you keep using the same amount of weight, your muscles will have no reason to grow. You should progressively increase the overload to your muscle fibers every time you work out. While other forms of exercise, such as calisthenics or running, can also cause muscle fibers to tear, lifting weights is the most efficient way to constantly increase muscular overload. You can always add another 5 pounds of weight in your next workout and cause the growth process to occur again; it’s less simple with other forms of exercise.
For the rebuilding process to occur, the body must have the nutrients it needs to make new muscle fibers. For body tissue to grow, it needs more food to provide energy, so you need to eat significantly more than you are used to. Because muscles are primarily made up of protein, most of this extra food should be high in protein, such as meat, milk, or peanut butter. If you tear your muscle fibers with heavy weights and then fail to give your body the nutrition it needs, you will start to lose the muscle you already have.
Most muscle regeneration occurs during sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, you will have less muscle growth. When you start lifting heavier weights, you will probably find you need more sleep. This is your body telling you it needs time to build the muscles you want.
There are three rules for building muscle. First, progressively increase muscle fiber overload by lifting slightly more weight in every workout. Second, eat much more than you are eating right now, preferably healthy, high-protein food for best results. Finally, get enough sleep to give your body time to build muscle. As long as your workout program and diet respect the three rules, you will build muscle.
The wrong protein powder and a sensitive stomach just don’t mix. If you’re on a high protein diet but suffer from stomach problems after consuming protein, you’ll need to switch to a protein source your body handles well. That probably means no more whey protein. The best protein powders for sensitive stomachs are dairy-free, gluten-free, hypoallergenic, and use only high quality, pure ingredients. The following protein powders meet all of these requirements. Below the list, we’ve provided detailed information about each category. We also dive into the science behind protein digestion and include some tips for improving your ability to digest protein – that means less bloating and gas, and more nutrients being used by your body.
How lactose-intolerant people can prevent gas from protein shakes
Let’s look at the main reasons people have stomach distress from protein powder. One of the most common causes is lactose intolerance. Whey protein, the most popular form of protein powder, is a dairy product and therefore it contains large amounts of lactose. Unfortunately, many people (actually the majority of the earth’s population) just cannot digest lactose very well. Lactose intolerant people get symptoms such as bloating, cramping, gas, and nausea after consuming lactose. Sound familiar? Some individuals even get acne from lactose. Even if you can handle small amounts of lactose, chances are you will not do very well with big doses of it every day, like you’re getting from your protein shake. For lactose-intolerant people, we’ve made a list of whey protein alternatives.
Whey protein allergy symptoms
Even if you aren’t lactose intolerant, you may be suffering from a whey allergy. Some people have such a bad allergic reaction to whey that they actually get a rash. Your allergy may not be this bad, but if your stomach feels upset after a whey protein shake, you should consider the possibility you’re allergic to whey. Here are some common symptoms of a whey protein allergy:
Bloating and gas within an hour of consuming whey
Stomachache and even diarrhea after consuming whey
Stuffed up nose (in conjunction with the other symptoms)
Excessive mucous in the throat after consuming whey
Sometimes coughing and sneezing will occur if the reaction passes to the lungs
Skin rash, for some people.
Gluten-free protein powder
People with gluten allergies have to avoid protein powders with wheat ingredients, which most cheap protein powders contain. You may not realize that you are gluten-sensitive, but it could be the cause of your upset stomach from protein powder.
Stomachache and bloating after consuming gluten
Diarrhea or constipation
For some people, headaches and brain fog can also occur
Sometimes a skin rash as well
High quality protein powders made from pure ingredients only will typically be gluten-free. Cheaper brands often use filler ingredients, and often contain some amount of wheat – and therefore gluten.
Pure, natural, and hypoallergenic: These are the keys
If you aren’t lactose or gluten-intolerant but still have trouble digesting protein powder, you’re probably allergic to the highly-processed filler ingredients that are typically mixed into cheap protein powders. Unethical companies “spike” their protein powders with low quality, factory ingredients designed to trick lab tests to show a higher percentage of protein than the powder really contains. (You can read more detailed information about this at Jim Stoppani’s site here and you can see the results of a detailed lab test for protein spiking here.) Since your body isn’t really designed to digest these artificial ingredients, some of the protein powder goes undigested in your body, which causes gas, bloating, or worse. You can avoid this by using pure protein powders with no added ingredients besides the protein source.
Artificial flavoring and digestive problems
One of the biggest culprits for sensitive stomachs are artificial flavors composed of sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols are a type of chemical used as an artificial sweetener in many protein powders. They actually contain neither sugar nor alcohol, contrary to what you would expect. Nonetheless, they are not very good for you, and some people have a very bad reaction to them taking the form of stomach pain and nausea. Sugar alcohols are considered more healthy than regular sugar since they do not fully digest and therefore do not increase your blood sugar as high as sugar does. Unfortunately, this also means that they can cause great digestive distress since they are not fully absorbed by the small intestine and cannot be completely removed by the body without a lot of trouble. Your best bet is to just buy unsweetened protein powder and add something natural to it like cocoa for the taste.
Hypoallergenic protein powders are free from all ingredients that can cause allergic reactions, which is why we always recommend them to anyone with digestive symptoms after drinking protein supplements. Generally, the purer and higher quality the protein source, the better for those of us with gastrointestinal issues.
Probiotics: Essential for digestion
If you are confident that your stomach problems with protein powder aren’t stemming from a food allergy or intolerance, then it’s possible that you are suffering from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). The key to managing your IBS and still getting an adequate protein intake is to consume probiotics alongside the protein. There are colonies of beneficial bacteria in your gut, which are essential for digesting protein properly. Scientific studies have found that IBS sufferers have less of these beneficial bacteria than a healthy person. (Source: Probiotic Therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome.) Probiotics are a source of these beneficial bacteria – adding them to your protein powder can be just the ticket for smoother, pain-free digestion. Although you can buy probiotic supplements, by far the best source of probiotics is unpasteurized sauerkraut or kimchi.
Digest the best, discard the rest
For many people, large doses of protein are simply too much to digest properly. In order to fully digest protein, your body creates stomach acid, primarily out of hydrochloric acid. There needs to be enough of this stomach acid in order to use a digestive enzyme called Pepsin. Pepsin is what your digestive system uses to turn the complex chemical structure of protein into simple building blocks that can be fully absorbed by your body. You can use the Heidelberg Test to diagnose if this digestion process is working properly. If you are having issues we strongly advise adding probiotics to your food as mentioned earlier. You can also use a protein powder like IntestiCleanse with digestive enzymes included, which gives the stomach the necessary ability to digest the amino acids in the protein.
Combining foods for better digestion
Combining your protein powder with a whole food source can also help you digest it better. Foods high in fat tend to digest slower, making them the best choice if you go this route. Peanut butter makes a perfect addition to protein powder in our experience!
Mix it up!
Finally, if you are mixing your protein powder with milk, the source of your stomach issues might not be the protein powder at all. It might actually be the lactose content of the milk that you are reacting to, especially if you are lactose-intolerant. Try goat’s milk instead; it contains a significantly lower amount of lactose than cow milk. Strange as it sounds, lots of people have been finding that replacing cow milk with goat’s milk actually helps their digestion a lot!
Your protein powder is making your acne problem worse; it turns out that you are probably right. More and more people (and not just teenagers and bodybuilders) are starting to have the frustrating experience of choosing between an acne-free face and their health and strength. Fortunately, you don’t have to make this choice. There are a few simple solutions for protein acne that don’t involve throwing out all your protein powder or starting horrible acne treatments like accutane. Below we have listed several brands and compared them on qualities relevant for acne-prone skin. For more detailed information, continue reading after the chart.
The biggest reason that everyone is getting acne from their protein powder is this: Major protein companies are using shockingly low quality ingredients in their factories. Unfortunately, over the last few years it’s becoming clear that many manufacturers are in the business of cutting costs by slashing the purity of their ingredients. This not only affects the amount of actual protein in the powder (that’s right, it’s very possible that you are getting cheated out of protein. Check this list of powders to see if you’re wasting money on counterfeit protein) but this unethical behavior also affects your health in general, and that includes skin health too. If you’re putting something in your body, it should be as pure and close to nature as possible, not some lead-filled, GMO sludge from China! The more natural a product, the less impurities and chemicals it contains. Unnatural ingredients like this absolutely increase your acne. (And by the way, the more natural protein you get, the better it’s gonna taste.)
You are going to pay more for a premium product, but trust us, it really is worth it. When it comes to your health, always get the best. That’s a rule to live by. Just browse around for protein powders and see what you can find. Two good things to search for are “GMO-free” and “grass-fed” and you’re pretty much guaranteed to find a pure, natural product.
Whey Too Much Lactose
Ingesting impure, unnatural ingredients isn’t the only culprit for those with acne-prone skin though. A pretty large number of people find themselves still suffering with acne, even when they cut out all the low quality, unhealthy, factory processed food from their lives. For these people, it’s very likely that whey protein itself is causing their acne. There’s two big reasons for this. Number one: Whey is a dairy product, and dairy is a big no-no for a lot of people with acne due to the lactose content. Some people can digest lactose perfectly well, other people (probably the majority of people) really can’t, and this inability to fully digest the lactose shows up as acne. The other reason that acne prone people should avoid whey protein is related to hormones, IGF-1 in particular. In addition to containing lactose, whey is also well-known for increasing IGF-1 production in your body. IGF-1 is a naturally occurring hormone, a form of insulin which causes muscle growth among other things. This is actually a big part of the reason why whey is so good for bodybuilding and strength training. Unfortunately, this is also the downside to whey for victims of acne. Recent studies have found that the IGF-1 which whey protein increases is also clearly linked to acne. (See below) This negative of IGF-1 doesn’t bite everyone, but if you’re one of the unlucky ones, then watch out! For still unknown reasons, it appears that women are significantly more likely to suffer from this annoying effect of IGF-1.
If the lactose content in whey protein is causing your acne, you don’t actually have to stop taking whey protein. All you need to do is use whey isolate instead of whey concentrate. These are both types of whey protein, but whey isolate has no lactose in it. Whey concentrate, the more common (and cheaper) form of whey protein, is chock-full of lactose. Whey isolate protein powder can be harder to find in stores, but it’s pretty easy to find online. We advise that those who suffer from chronic acne use a zero carb protein powder. Carbohydrates increase IGF-1 production, which we discussed above as a culprit for acne. Not many people realize that their protein powder probably contains quite a few grams of carbs, and even fewer people realize that this could be causing them to get acne! (it could be causing them to fail to lose fat, but that’s another story) So if you want less acne, buy zero carb whey isolate protein powder.
You’ve Got Options
Unfortunately, for some people, zero carb whey isolate just isn’t enough. If you find that you are one of these people and whey itself is causing your acne, then you need to try a different sort of protein. Fortunately, there are actually a ton of different sources used to make protein powder. Whey protein powder is by far the most popular, but this is only because it’s cheapest to produce. There are plenty of other types of protein powder that work just as well as whey. For acne though, we recommend you avoid any protein powder made with corn, wheat, or gluten. Just check the ingredients list for these three. Even if you don’t have a definite problem with these ingredients, it’s better to stay on the safe side here. A lot of people find that their immune systems can’t handle these common allergens very well. You may have been eating corn on the cob for years without realizing that it was responsible for your acne. It sounds silly, but it’s actually very possible!
Bro, This Shake is Egg-cellent
Egg protein is frequently recommended as an alternative to whey protein. It’s your best bet if you are very sensitive and break out easily, but still want an animal protein source. While it’s not unheard of to have an egg allergy (which can manifest as acne), it’s a lot more common to be allergic to whey. We advise that you experiment with your protein powder. Keep going down the line, choosing more and more hypoallergenic protein sources. Each time you change to a different protein powder, use it for a few weeks and see if effects your acne. Alternatively, you could skip all that and just choose the sure-thing, the near-guaranteed acne-free protein powder. Keep reading for that!
Hormones and Acne
It would be best to avoid soy protein if you get acne, since the phytoestrogen content of this protein source is well known to alter your natural hormone levels. Unstable, spiking hormones wreak havoc on those of us who get acne, as any teenager can tell you! However, if you still have your heart set on soy protein, you should choose soy isolate to minimize the potential damage to your skin. Soy isolate has the least phytoestrogen content of all soy proteins. You should know that there are a lot of other plant-based protein options available these days however.
Planting Your Flag Against Acne
If you still find yourself having acne trouble from protein powder, even after eliminating whey, soy, gluten, corn, wheat, and egg, then you should select a plant-based protein source such as pea protein, hemp protein, or rice protein. It is extremely rare to have any sort of allergic reaction, including acne, from these protein powders. Just make sure to avoid soy.
Of all these powders, the one most often recommended by severely acne-prone people is pea protein powder. Pea protein is virtually guaranteed to not give you acne, since it is almost completely hypoallergenic. This is why most people with bad protein related acne typically recommend pea protein powder as the best to avoid breakouts.
Clear Skin and a High Protein Diet – Yes It IS Possible!
Finding a protein powder that won’t cause you to get acne can be a seriously frustrating issue to face, especially if you are a teenager or someone just getting into fitness, but it really doesn’t have to be. All you need to do is identify the true source of your protein acne, and then choose a type of protein powder that doesn’t contain your banned ingredient! We hope that this guide will help you do just that. Keep in mind as well that you are not alone here. Getting acne from protein powder has actually become quite a common problem in the last few years. There are quite a few manufacturers out there producing lower quality protein with impure ingredients and for those of us prone to acne, this can spell disaster for our sensitive immune systems. You may have to spend a little more than you did in the past to get a high quality product for yourself, but we think you’ll agree that it’s worth it. Clear skin and a healthy body always are!
For more information about the link between IGF-1 and acne, take a look at this study.