WSBB Blog: Building General Endurance for Strongman
No matter the strength sport, there is always a level of general endurance needed to train and compete at a high level. The strength sport that requires the highest level of general endurance is the sport of Strongman. As a strongman competitor, you have to use multiple energy systems regularly to accomplish the tasks required by the sport.
Whether you have to run a medley moving heavy objects over a distance as fast as possible or repping out deadlifts attempting to post the highest total reps lifted, your level of general endurance will dictate the level of success you have as a strongman competitor. Understanding this, we know that it is essential to program exercises that contribute specifically to enhancing general endurance. Below, we will cover a few of the most efficient ways to improve your general endurance and take your strongman capabilities to the next level.
High Rep Squats / Deadlifts / Goodmornings / Presses
One of the simplest and most effective ways to improve general endurance as a strongman is through high to ultra-high rep lifts. When training Conjugate style, you will have two max effort training days per week, one for the lower body the other for the upper body. The approach here is simple: after you have finished up your main training exercise of the day, you will do a few down sets using lighter weights for higher rep counts.
What this means is that after you have finished your primary exercise, you will drop the weight down to 70-80% barbell weight and lift a few high rep sets. At Westside, we either lift a specific rep count or lift each set to failure. Keep in mind, for most, it will be more optimal to lift the weight for an exact rep count, preferably between 15-20 reps. This is because a less experienced lifter can get themselves into trouble training to failure, considering they do not have the training IQ and understanding of self necessary to realize if they are putting themselves at risk for injury or not.
An efficient way to train multiple energy systems simultaneously is through the use of medley-style exercises. The additional benefit of medley exercises is the level of customization they allow. If you have an issue with stones, you can set up a stone medley and perform multiple runs to improve your stone lifts along with your general endurance. If your grip is an issue, you can perform a farmer's walk, sandbag carry, or frame carry medley to improve grip strength and endurance while improving general endurance.
As you can see, medley exercises can be made as specific or general as necessary, making them a great option to improve multiple skills at once. The key to success with medley training is to make sure you are not doing too much at once. Understand that you will become increasingly fatigued throughout the training session, so be sure to include exercises that can be executed appropriately while in a fatigued state. If you include exercises that require a high level of precision to perform, you run the risk of making a mistake while fatigued, which could lead to injury. Keep the work general, focus on yoke walks, frame carries, farmers carries, sandbag carries, stone carries, sled pushes, sled drags, truck pull, etc.
Cardiovascular Endurance Specific Exercises
The final way to improve your general endurance and your health is through the use of exercises that specifically focus on cardiovascular endurance. As we all know, strength athletes have no problem eating as many calories as possible while lifting the heaviest weights they can, often neglecting their cardiovascular endurance. Fortunately, making improvements in cardiovascular endurance is easy to accomplish.
For heavier individuals, we recommend starting with a simple walk. Begin with a short 10-15 minute walk, eventually working up to 30 minutes to one hour. For athletes with a higher level of general fitness and endurance, we recommend biking, swimming, and hiking. Biking and swimming are the exercises we recommend most, considering the low impact these exercises have on the joints. Keep your training times and distances under control; the goal is to improve cardiovascular and general endurance without interrupting typical recovery timelines.
For more information regarding the Conjugate Method and the training of strongman athletes, please visit the Westside Barbell Blog. Additionally, visit the Conjugate Club to access the Westside Barbell Training Library featuring strongman-specific programming.