10 Facts about Strongman Training

“Lift Heavy Things Often”

is what I learned this past Saturday when I attended the CrossFit Strongman Instructor Certification course hosted by CrossFit and Hybrid Athletics at CrossFit BWI in Maryland, VA.

7-hour agenda that changed my lifting world.
7-hour agenda that changed my lifting world.

I had no idea that seven hours would change my life. 

I am in love with strongman training. 

So here’s the deal. In a nutshell, this is what happened:

  • IMG_1239Seminar Staff Member and Coach at Hybrid Athletcis, Tim Burke, introduced the course, explained what “Strongman” is, and then got right down to business.
  • We learned how to properly flip tires, pick up stones, hoist kegs, carry yokes, walk with farmer carries, and clean and press logs.
  • We got to test our brute strength.
  • We learned how to program strongman elements into workouts.

And in a larger nutshell, this is what I really learned:

  • Presses with logs, kegs, and even stones are better than barbell presses for people who have shoulder problems–like ME!!
  • A yoke carry is a true test overall body strength.

    Moving 400 pounds on the Yoke.
    Moving 400 pounds on the Yoke.
  • There’s an actual technique to flipping a tire. And tires will rip a lot of skin right off your shoulders.

    Digging in and getting set!
    Digging in and getting set!
  • Hip thrusting is more important than ever in Strongman training.

    Yes, the butt does come up first.
    Yes, the butt does come up first.
  • Kettlebell swings are STILL one of the most amazing conditioning workouts–especially heavy Russian swings for posterior chain development.
  • Atlas stones will cut and bruise you–big time. And you should NEVER wear earrings when attempting to put a stone on your shoulder. :/

  • 50 pounds of water…in a keg…is way heavier than you think it should be.

    Functional fitness? I think so.
    Functional fitness? I think so.
  • Grip training is imminent if you want to walk with weight in your hands.
  • Your arms–forearms, biceps, triceps, wrists–will SCREAM at you. A lot.

    I hurt all over. But good God did I have a BLAST>
    I hurt all over. But good God did I have a BLAST!
  • Your hunger will be insatiable after lifting and walking with 400 pounds on your back.

But being and feeling STRONG is so, freakin’ badass.

For the first time since I started lifting, I feel like I found my niche in the strength training world. You know from all my posts that I love, love, LOVE to lift heavy. Heck, Strong Figure exists because I love to lift, and I love to eat. In my past I’ve followed bodybuilding plans (I am not a fan of the super strict eating here), I’ve been involved with CrossFit for years, and I’m currently following Jim Wendler’s newest lifting plan for powerlifters. I wish I could do more OLY lifting but my shoulders won’t let me snatch very often. I’ve always thought kettlebells to be a certain specialty area of mine, and anerobic conditioning is my wheelhouse.

These movements are natural, innate, and hard-wired! Why aren’t we all training like this? Even with shoulder injuries, I felt GREAT training this way!

So after this weekend? I want to be a STRONGWOMAN. I want to take all that I’ve ever done with all of my training and coaching and put it to the best use possible. I want to train with yokes and stones, kegs and logs. And I want to help others do the same. In fact, one thing I learned this past weekend is that strongman training is innate, natural, and we are born with the proper movement patterns for lifting big. We should ALL be moving heavy sh*t!! And I cannot wait to make it my life to lift big, and help more people–women especially!–do the same!

Here, let these pics and videos speak for themselves. This is the most fun I’ve had with weights in very, long time.

Here, instructors help CrossFit Level 1 coach learn how to use his body to properly get under the tire in order to position himself for a perfect flip. One cool thing that I learned this weekend was that you could pretty much move all objects with either one or two moves. This is a big two-move flip!

EJ (from my box back home) also went with me to this training. Here, EJ works on his positioning under the 650 pounder.

The coolest thing about the training was learning how to successfully workout with really heavy stuff! Here’s a partner workout in which one person flips for 30 seconds and then jumps on the tire for 30 seconds. You can perform for a certain number of rounds, or minutes, etc. There are more options here than not!

The first way to teach people how to lift a stone is the two-move in which you bring the stone to your lap. This is a faster method of lifting the stone right from the ground to your shoulder. There are two ways to do this as I demo here. The first way I start with my butt a little higher and go right into a big hip thrust to move the weight. The second, I start a little lower, lift my butt to generate power, and swing my hips through to move the stone up. It’s pretty awkward at first…but I can’t wait to keep trying!

Atlas Stone Tabatas! With this workout you obviously want to use a lighter stone. I used the 75 pounder and really banged up my shoulder. I also knocked my head into the stone a few times and scuffed up my ear. That’s where the “remove your earrings” comment comes from. BUT I did get 6 cleans in one of my 20 second rounds. That left me completely breathless. Two minutes of Tabata stones and I was done-for. How freakin’ awesome is that?

This might be the coolest thing I’ve ever done. This keg has enough water inside to make the entire thing weigh 50 pounds. 50 pounds sounds kind of easy…but not with the weight constantly shifting around! You know how it feels when you start using a kettlebell for the first time? Times that by about 15.

If the keg wasn’t my favorite, moving the yoke was. I can’t remember the weight on this carry, but it was either in the high 200s or lower 300s. I freaking loved this. It’s like all the squatting I’ve ever done just paid off right there.

There is nothing pretty about this attempt. Seriously. But I carried 400 pounds and that’s all that matters to me! #Happy #feelingtough

Only two other girls attended the course. Here, Holly also moves the 400 pound yoke!

I really wanted to test my strength. Since I don’t have access to yokes or these sweet farmer’s carry bars, I asked what a good test of strength was. The staff said about 3 times body weight for the yoke and then body weight on EACH of the bars for the carries. We tried 130 on each bar–and after a little help getting the bars up, my grip just failed me. The staff had a lot of patience with me on Saturday wanting to try so many lifts so many times!!

The last thing we learned was the log clean and press. EJ makes it look super easy!

I was worried about my shoulders, but because of the handles on the log, they honestly felt great!

I tried a little bit heavier weight but by the end of the day, my arms were just WAY TOO TIRED. After all, I was trying to “PROTECT THE BICEPS!”

I made sure to protect my already bad biceps...no matter what!!
I made sure to protect my already bad biceps…no matter what!!

I saved you the best for last:

Two gyms are side-by-side. One is run by FUN instructors and coaches who do FUN things. The other is run by a dick. Guess whose gym wins? NOT the dick. Now, let's have some FUN people!
Two gyms are side-by-side. One is run by FUN instructors and coaches who do FUN things. The other is run by a dick. Guess whose gym wins? Now, let’s have some FUN people!

Do you love lifting heavy things often? Do you incorporate Strongman into your “constantly varied” routine? Do you have any questions for Steph? Let us know in the comments section.

2014 CrossFit Strongman Training Cert. Glen Burnie, MD
2014 CrossFit Strongman Training Cert. Glen Burnie, MD


  1. Joel Hudson says

    Awesome read, I did the same strongman course a few months back with Rob Orlando & learnt a truck load

    • Stephanie Walker says

      That’s awesome, Joel! I cannot believe how much I learned and how valuable it is for my overall lifting! I cannot wait to train more and try competing!!

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Thanks Michele!!! I had a blast at this training and can’t wait to train more just like this! I’m glad you think I’m an inspiration–that means so much. Most days, I’m just trying to earn some ice cream! LOL!!

  2. michael keller says

    I am 55 and have had shoulder reconstruction on both shoulders as well as both wrists operated on. Would this be a good class for someone like me?

    • Erik WalkerErik Walker says

      Hi Michael, I think this could potentially be a great class. I have a torn in my left shoulder and some pretty bad rotator cuff issues in my right. General weight training is really bothersome on my shoulders the majority of the day. My wrists are really tight too..not flexible hardly at all and that causes some pain as well. Though I haven’t had any surgeries, strongman training is easier on these joints because of the way you hold the weights. It’s a lot easier on your shoulders to press something with your palms facing in vs palms forward, like you would with a barbell. The logs, kegs, stones, even heavy dumbbells are easier to press from this position. I would definitely start easy but strongman training is a very natural style for your body to be in and I think above anything else, you should definitely consider it!!

  3. Michael Keller says

    Thank you, I think I will attend the class at CFME in late August. I love lifting heavy stuff and even at my age enjoy it. Anything to make me stronger. Again thank you for your quick response.