Q&A Tuesday: How Do I Incorporate Strongman Training Into My Program?

by Chris on July 12, 2011

Ok, I’ll be honest: this post doesn’t necessarily have to be related only to strongman training. I get asked this all the time but sometimes it’s how to incorporate kettlebells or sandbags or the TRX or bodyweight training. Fortunately the answer to all of these questions is really simple:

It’s all movement.

For some reason people seem to feel that if they are using a particular method or implement that they can only use that specific method or implement. But that’s just not the case. A good, well-rounded program will incorporate the best aspects of a method and discard the rest. Am I going to stop squatting just because I wanted to throw some more bodyweight movements into my training? Hell no.


Bodyweight squats only go so far.

I’m sure that this all or none mentality has ruined a lot of fitness programs and will continue to do so in the future.

So back to the question that started it all: how can you incorporate strongman, kettlebells, sandbags, bodyweight, etc. into your program? The first thing you need to do is look at movements. Identifying where a particular movement or implement fits into your routine is step one. Once you do that it’s as simple as plugging it in where it belongs. For me, I focus on the following major movement patterns:

  • Horizontal pushing
  • Horizontal pulling
  • Vertical pushing
  • Vertical pulling
  • Lower body knee dominant or lower body push
  • Lower body hip dominant or lower body pull

Now let’s look at some basic movements that fit into those categories:

  • Horizontal pushing – bench press and pushup variations
  • Horizontal pulling – rows
  • Vertical pushing – overhead pressing
  • Vertical pulling – pullups/chinups and variations
  • Lower body knee dominant or lower body push – squatting movements, lunges
  • Lower body hip dominant or lower body pull – deadlift variations

Ok simple right? Those are just some very broad categories and examples but they are a good place to start. Those are your primary movement patterns that will help dictate how and where you can plug different training methods into your program. So let’s put it all together now. We want to put strongman, kettlebells, sandbags and bodyweight into our program. Well, the easiest way to start is by plugging those various movements into the above categories.

  • Horizontal pushing – Weighted pushups, band resisted pushups, one arm pushups, bench pressing with a log or axle, kettlebell floor presses, explosive chest presses with a sled, suspended pushups
  • Horizontal pulling – recline rows on a bar or TRX, kettlebell rows/renegade rows, hand-over-hand sled pulling, explosive sled pulling, rows with a sandbag, bodyweight levers
  • Vertical pushing – Log or axle pressing, kettlebell press & jerk variations, overhead pressing with a keg or sandbag, handstand pushups
  • Vertical pulling – weighted pullups, one arm pullup progressions, muscle ups
  • Lower body knee dominant or lower body push – sled pushing, one legged squat variations, walking lunges, zercher/bearhug/front squatting with a sandbag, kettlebell front squats/goblet squats, lunges with sandbags/kettlebells
  • Lower body hip dominant or lower body pull – axle deadlifting, tire flipping, sled pulling, truck/vehicle pulling, sandbag cleans/snatches, kettlebell swings/snatches, glute ham raises, TRX leg curls, sandbag deadlifts

I could probably name a ton more exercises using the various training methods mentioned but for brevity’s sake I cut them short. Hopefully the list I gave was good enough for you to get the idea on how to fit them into your program. No? Ok fine I’ll give you some examples.

Here is a full week of training that combines strongman, kettlebells, sandbags, bodyweight and traditional training methods as an example.


A. Axle deadlift 5 sets of 5

B1. Suspended pushups on rings or TRX – 3 sets of 10

B2. Renegade rows with kettlebells – 3 sets of 12

C1. Walking lunges with sandbag on one shoulder- 3 sets of 50 feet

C2. Plank hold – 3 sets of max time


A. Barbell front squat – 3 sets of 6-8

B1. Log press – 4 sets of 6-8

B2. Weighted pullups – 4 sets of 6-8 or Muscleups 3 sets of 5

C1. TRX Leg curl – 5 sets of 10-15

C2. Band pull apart – 100 reps

Finisher – Farmer’s walk


A. Tire flip – 2 sets of max flips in 1 minute

B1. Chest press with sled – 4 sets of 50 feet

B2. Row with sled – 4 sets of 50 feet

C1.Kettlebell windmill – 3 sets of 10

C2. EZ Bar Curl – 3 sets of 10

C3. Incline close grip bench press with axle – 3 sets of 10

Boom. There are 3 workouts that use a little bit of everything to build muscle and strength. Obviously I just came up with those off the top of my head and the way you utilize these methods will vary depending on your program goals. If your goal is to compete in a strongman contest you might use more strongman implements (particularly the ones that are being used in that contest). If you want to master the one arm pushup you will probably have more progressions for that and so on. The point here is that you don’t have to use only kettlebells (despite what some would have you believe) or only strongman equipment or only bodyweight.

Remember, it’s all movement. Now get out there and do some work.

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