So You Want To Be Strong: Strongman Training from Tim Hull

by Chris on July 19, 2010

*Below is a guest post from my friend Tim Hull. Some of you may know Tim as the Strength Doctor. Tim has recently been training for his first strongman competition and shares some of his experiences and training tips with us in this article. It’s an excellent writeup, so check it out.*

Whether if you are a powerlifter, MMA star, or some other competitive athlete, I would bet that part of your goal is to become stronger. And if it’s not, it should be!

So how do you go about getting stronger?

Are you following some bodybuilding program, a powerlifting cycle, or heaven forbid jumping from one program to the next, trying to find the next big thing. Hopefully you are at least using some good old fashioned compound movements.

OK, don’t get me wrong, I am not here to debate what the best approach is for you and who is the strongest. What I am here to do is tell you about my experience so far with strongman training and why I think you should start incorporating it into your workouts.

So What Is Strongman Training?

When most people think of strongman, they say things like your one of those crazy guys on TV pulling semis and lifting stones on walls. It’s true we do some crazy stuff, but it is also very fun as well. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea and definitely don’t want you to be intimidated. Strongman training is something everyone can do. Those guys on TV are pros and the very top of the sport.

You’re not going to go out and pull an airplane your first day training or even in your first competition. Many experts will tell you that you should build a strong base strength before trying to compete in strongman events. This means being strong in the big lifts like deadlift, squat, and bench. If you’re not including these lifts in your training right now, you should be. They are the foundation to any strong body.

You don’t have to be a strength monster or wanting to compete to make use of all the strongman implements. These pieces of equipment can be incorporated into your current training program to add variety and to build strength quicker. The first month that I started training for strongman, I gained 10 pounds of mostly muscle. It is amazing how much the training taxes your system.

OK, so what about that cool stuff? You know tires, stones, and kegs..O my!

I was just about to get to that.

Incorporating Strongman into Your Training

The best way to start is to get some of the least expensive of the strongman equipment. This would include tires, kegs, and an axle. I will talk about each one individually and then give a sample workout program to inspire you.

Tires: tires are great for power and conditioning. You can flip the tires end over end to build strength, explosive power and stamina. Another idea is to tie a thick rope on the tire and pull it. You can sit down and hand over hand pull it towards you or you could pull it like a sled building your leg strength more.  Even though it’s not a strongman event, you could also hit the tire with a sledge hammer to build your conditioning.

The great thing about tires is that they are usually free. If you call around to your local tire places, you can usually find one that has large used semi or tractor tires that would work well.  It costs these places to get rid of or store these used tires so they are more than happy to give them to you.

Kegs: Another great strength and conditioning tool. Kegs can be easily found and are relatively cheap. The average keg goes for around $20. You can fill the keg with water or sand. You can also adjust how much you fill the keg, depending on how heavy you want to go.  Several of the things you can do are: throws, carries, clean and press, and rows. Pretty much your imagination is you only limitation when coming up with exercise ideas.

Axle: The axle is also called a “fat bar” it is basically a larger version of the Olympic bar you are probably using now.  The average axle is about 2 inches in diameter, though I have seen more extreme ones that are bigger. This is great to add difficulty to your current lifts, such as deadlifts, overhead press, rows, etc.. Using these bars will help build your grip strength tremendously.

There are expensive axles that you can buy from the manufactures, but you don’t have to. As with the rest of the equipment I have mentioned, there is a cheaper way. You can make your own from a piece of galvanized pipe bought at Home Depot. You can do a Google search for instructions on how to build one or there is a post I did on my website that shows you how.

Now there are many other pieces of equipment you can use, but this list should give you a good inexpensive start. Once you decide you like strongman training and get the bug for it, then I would bet you’ll start accumulating additional equipment like farmers handles, logs, and stones, just to name a few.

Well let’s look at an example of a possible training routine:

This routine hits the entire body every workout. You can set it up to have upper and lower body days if you prefer. Again make it your own and geared toward your weaknesses and training preferences. Some competitors will workout 2-3 days per week using powerlifting or bodybuilding routines and then have an event day on Saturday, where they do a hand full of strongman events. The choice is yours!

Day 1 –

  1. Log or Axle overhead press
  2. Famers Walk (with farmers handles or heavy dumbbells)
  3. Close grip bench
  4. Rows

Day 2 –

  1. Squats
  2. Tire Flips
  3. Straight Leg Deadlifts (for variety try using the keg for this)
  4. Shrugs with axle bar

Day 3 –

  1. Deadlift
  2. Log or Axle incline press
  3. Clean and Press ( could use log or axle here as well)
  4. Keg Carry (carry 30 ft or more)

So I hope you liked this little look into strongman training and that you will give it a try. I would bet once you try it, you’ll love it and notice excellent gains, no matter what sport your in.

Tim Hull ( is a well respected author, physical therapy professional, massage therapist, trainer, and strongman. He created the Thera-strength program ( to dramatically increase human performance with “High Intensity, Functional Cross-Training”.


Doug July 20, 2010 at 12:07 am

Great stuff. Always like to throw this type of training in the in mix. Keep up the good work

Sgt. George A Perez ret. April 5, 2012 at 8:56 am

I’ve been working with Chris going on six weeks now and I have never been stronger! I like to say thanks to Chris for all his help. And to those of you might who need help, I definitely recommend Chris Smith as your Trainer, or should I say Drill Sergeant Hooah!

Chris April 5, 2012 at 10:20 am

Thanks George.

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