Considerations for a Successful Strongman Offseason
Getting Back On Track
Seasonal strongman is an interesting part of the sport, as it affects different locales to varying degrees. Because strongman typically takes place outside, we rely heavily on the weather to permit us to compete. The southern states in the U.S., for example, can allow for competitions to take place year-round (also the organizations are much larger and can access more indoor venues), whereas here in Canada the strongman offseason is a much more pervasive reality.
After a competition, it can be tough to get yourself back on track, especially when it comes to the end of the season. Without an impending goal in place, a competition date looming overhead, the motivation to make progress can be lacking.
What follows are some strategies and considerations that you can take to keep you going strong and to make the most of the offseason.
Focus on Other Goals
And I don't mean trying to become a competitive eater unless that's really your thing, in which case I encourage you to eat up.
Even with training at the centre of your life and list of goals you can still focus on other projects in the offseason. Lifting and strongman might be a huge part of your life, but you shouldn’t let it dictate your every waking moment. The offseason can be a great time to unwind from living and breathing strongman to focus on other experiences and other goals. If you’re feeling physically and mentally drained from a long and arduous competition season, keep training, but let it simmer down into just maintaining or deloading for a little while and work on whatever else you want to that’s piqued your curiosity or been left unattended to because of training. You can work on home improvement projects, get out and travel, write, read, do other things to experience more.
Maybe you have grandiose plans to one day be world’s strongest man, but realistically, strongman is not going to make you any money in your lifetime. Don’t let this sport chew you up and spit you out and have nothing to show for it in your life when it’s done. Attack other goals with as much vigour as you do strongman so that you aren’t left feeling lost when you’re past your prime. Even with a full-time job and training every day, there are still more than 50 hours in a week after subtracting for sleep, so learn what else drives you in the offseason so that you can fill those hours with more fulfilling projects and adventures.
Try Out a New Program or Training Style
There are many great coaches online and training programs that are cost-effective ways of trying out something new that will get you towards your goals for the next year. Connect to someone who’s methodology you can relate to and follow their training program or hire them for coaching for a few months to get you off to the right track for next season.
Don’t be afraid to switch things up with training. We beat our bodies up throughout the year, so it can be a nice change of pace to try out some different training styles and feel refreshed.
As the competition season ended for me this year, I started my offseason with 5 weeks of higher volume training - more hypertrophy style - with lighter weights to unload and recover from the heavy strongman training I did all summer.
Highland Games champion Matt Vincent just released a new program called Destroyer that is a great bridging program in the offseason to change up the pace and get you primed again for another strong and successful season. I have no affiliation with Matt, but he’s a lifter I look up to and his YouTube channel is on-point, so I would highly recommend checking out his content and his program if you want some direction from an experienced and accomplished athlete. Click here to check out the Destroyer program.
Look Towards Future Competitions and Long-Term Goals
Always be making progress and always be moving forward. Reflect on what you did this year and then set your goals for next year based on the competitions you want to qualify for or compete in next year. The greatest satisfaction comes from pushing yourself to compete in shows that are above your current skill level. You can mitigate the risk in doing so by making sure that you are well-prepared with your offseason training. Competitions usually come around at the same time each year and even if the events aren’t the same, you’ll be able to look at the difficulty of the weights used historically to extrapolate what you should strive towards to be competitive in the upcoming year.
I have found that the intense motivation that comes with having a competition in sight diminishes during the offseason and it can be hard to see on a day-to-day basis why you’re in the gym pushing yourself to the limit without a deadline in sight. Of course, with training still being a top priority, you’ll probably still get into the gym and do some work, but if you can relate, some days you’ll cut it short when you know you should do more work. While this may seem counterintuitive to the first point on focusing on other goals, I don’t actually consider them to be mutually exclusive, because the offseason is the best chance you get to make leaps and bounds forward in progress and that typically revolves around being able to focus on bench (or more importantly, overhead), squat, and deadlift to make significant progress on those always important lifts. Once the competition season starts up again you’ll usually be making much smaller jumps in progress as for the most part, each competition disrupts the training cycle structure. This still takes up less time in the gym and compared to long strongman event specific training days, it’s usually a more modest-length training session.
Even if you continue to include event-specific training in the offseason, the sessions will likely take up less time and not be as intense as if you were preparing for a competition, so you’ll still have lots of extra spare time to do other interesting things.
A Successful Offseason
Take some or all of these considerations and run with them to make progress and see yourself through a successful offseason. Remember that while strongman, or whatever your strength sport may be, is a huge part of your life, it shouldn’t be the be all and end all of what identifies you. Enjoy yourself this offseason, try out a new training methodology or program, and work towards new challenges and you’ll be a better athlete and overall person when you come out the other side.