5 Steps To Becoming More Productive With Your Strongman Training
It’s Monday evening and you are on your way to the gym to train. You’ve sort of planned out that you’re going to work on pressing but don’t exactly know what exercises you’ll be doing and might throw some curls in at the end for a pump, because why not?. Work was stressful today, you’re hungry, and you don’t really want to be training.
What’s wrong with this picture, besides EVERYTHING?
We all have busy lives and even if training for strongman or any other sport is a priority to you, time is of the essence. If you train more than 3 times per week and you aren’t at the level where your sport is your primary means of income, you shouldn’t be spending hours in the gym each day. The time frame for the majority of productive training sessions is an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes, particularly when you don’t have any upcoming competitions where you need to practice all the events more frequently and intensely.
Being more productive with your training tends to also mean pushing the intensity up another notch, which benefits your strength and endurance by forcing your body to adapt to recover quicker between sets.
Here are the steps you can take to ensure that you are proactive in making your training more productive.
Don’t Just Wing It
The most important thing you can do for improving your productivity in training is not going into that training day blindly. A well thought out and designed plan is the key to being prepared for a productive training session. Whether you’ve hired a coach or designed it yourself, you should know how many sets of what exercises you are striving for. Things don’t always go as planned and maybe you’re injured or recovery was impacted to the point that you can’t perform to the expectations of your training plan, but having the plan in place means you won’t be twiddling your thumbs at the gym and flicking through Instagram to see what other people are lifting today for inspiration and ideas.
As an aside, having a home gym might be the very best productivity “hack," because you don’t have to waste time travelling to the gym and waiting for equipment, although this is not realistic for everyone.
If you find yourself waiting for equipment in the gym often, you’ve done at least one of two things that will negatively impact your training productivity: you’re following the flock and training the same way as everyone else on the same days or you haven’t planned out your training around avoiding the busiest times at the gym. Either or is going to crush your productivity. While you need to focus your training on what works best for you first and foremost, the simplest way to avoid doing the same thing as everyone else is to not train pressing and particularly bench press on Monday. We all know that’s “International Chest Day” and the bench presses will be lined up like the bathroom in a nightclub. Also, try to avoid those peak times at the gym where other lifters are more likely to impede your training plan for the day. This isn't always realistic with work schedules, but try waking up earlier to train before work if it’s the difference that will allow you to avoid the typical 5 P.M. rush at the gym.
Work In Your Warm Up
Don’t waste a bunch of time with your warm-ups by spending a lot of time foam rolling and doing a hundred different stretches. If you’re so sore that you have to start each training day like this, you’re probably doing something wrong by training too hard for you to adequately recover or not doing enough outside of the gym to work on your recovery, whether it be eating more nutritious food, or being active with recovery modalities. Make your other procrastination times more productive and do your foam rolling and stretching while binge-watching Stranger Things. Be ready to get to work when you are at the gym. After a few key stretches or warmup movements like banded distractions and hip circle walks, Start doing your core lift for the day early with a light weight to practice technique and get the blood flowing.
The majority of your training should focus on the core lifts that you have set out for the day. In strongman, there are a lot more options of what we can consider main lifts, so this may often mean that you’ll be focusing heavily on two lifts each day. During the offseason or when competitions are far away and you’re building more strength, you may just be doing one main lift per day in a four or five day per week training plan.
Your main goal with training is to recover and adapt to progress with the specific events you’ll face in competition, so everything you do in the gym should support that goal and not run you into the ground so much that you can’t recover between training sessions.
Because you’re also pushing maximal weights and/or reps with the main lifts, you don’t want to rush this part of training. While your pace should keep the intensity high, you also want to take enough time between sets that you’re ready to give it your all again on the next set.
Some For a Few
Your accessory training shouldn’t be the bulk of your lifting session.
With your training revolving around the main lifts for the day, you should adjust the volume and intensity of accessory lifts accordingly. If you’re training heavier for the day on your main lift, work with lighter accessory weights for more reps. If it’s a volume day for the main lift, train accessories somewhat heavier for fewer reps. Do what you need to in order to progress a little bit with your accessory lifts as well each time you train. It all comes down to balance and being efficient with your time so that you’re not spending hours in the gym needlessly.
The pace of your training during accessory lifts is where you can make up for the time spent doing the main lifts, as you need to take the time to ensure that each set of your core lifts for the day is performed effectively.
While sticking to a general plan for accessory lifts will work best, particularly for targeting weaknesses and becoming a better well-rounded athlete, exercising (pun intended) your creative rights can be used the most with your accessory lifting.
Like Mark Bell says, “doing some for a few” is how to approach accessory lifts. Do what you’ve set out for yourself in your training plan, or mix it up if you’re feeling inspired to train differently on that day. Doing a Crossfit-style WOD or another circuit for your accessories can be a great way to try different exercises and mix up the training stimulus. Circuit training can also help to work on aerobic capacity, which is vital and undervalued by many strongman and strongwoman athletes.
Less Talk, More Rock
For dedicated athletes, this is less of a problem but think for a minute about how many people you see in the gym that spend more time talking and texting than actually doing work. Maybe the gym is their social life and that’s fine, but if there’s work to be done to make progress and get better for your sport of choice, quit flapping your gums and get to work. This is another important reason why it’s best to avoid the rush hours at the gym when it becomes more of a “health club” and less of a place to train seriously.
Make a Plan, Stick to the Plan, and Move Forward Relentlessly
Training for strongman, or working out, in general, may be a top priority in your life but doesn’t need to take up a disproportionate amount of time if you have a busy schedule with a lot of things to take care of each day. Focus your efforts and take a more targeted approach to increase the productivity of your training sessions and you’ll accomplish more with the time you spend training.