November is a time of transition for strongman in Canada, as the weather changes and the opportunities and venues available for competing drop like the falling leaves around us. Hence, most of us are forced into some sort of offseason.
For strongman in general, I believe that even if you have the ability to go somewhere to compete every month of the year, you should take some time at some point in the year to have an “offseason." Not only will this allow you to give your body some much needed R&R from the tremendous strain of our sport, but will also give you a chance to work on improving any lagging lifts and build additional muscle where it is most needed to strengthen your defenses against injury and breakdown next season. No matter if you look at it as the end of this season or the start of next season, let's take a look at what the options are and what you should do during the offseason to come back better than ever the next time you compete.
The offseason is the only time throughout the year that you’ll truly be able to allow your body to recover from a long season of strongman competitions. If your goal in the sport, and life after competition, is longevity then you need to give your body a chance to recover when possible and heal minor injuries that can later worsen. Your nervous system, as well as mental state, can also use the rest during this time. Competing with intensity takes a lot of will power and is draining to mental energy for even the most driven and determined of lifters. Take some extended time to train lighter and with higher reps so that when you start preparing for the next season you’ll feel as good as new and not already run into the ground.
Get two birds stoned at once and allow your body to recover while also working on building more muscle. While strongman training typically builds muscle better than strictly powerlifting does, when you are intensely focused on performing your best in an upcoming competition, hypertrophy specific work will fall by the wayside as you’re giving all you go to improving the specific events you need to perform in. The offseason is the best time to relax away from the super-heavy weights and bone-crushing exercises to build some bigger muscles. Bigger muscles do have the potential to become stronger muscles and allow you to move up to higher weight classes depending on your size as well. So make the most of your rest time now to come back bigger and better next year.
Put in the work to also correct any glaring deficits in your strengths or muscles of yours that are susceptible to injury. This will vary from person to person and you know better than anyone else what this is for you specifically.
Target Your Training
It took me until this year to learn how important and effective this point is if you want to maximize your results in a microcycle and ultimately make greater progress towards your long-term goals in strength and size. Focus hard on no more than two body parts / strengths at a time for 4-6 weeks. For example, hamstring and pec hypertrophy, or a single prime movement like overhead pressing, squats, or deadlifts. Hit it hard and let everything else be maintained. This will also work great for while you are trying to build some muscle during this post-season phase, you also want to allow your nervous system some much needed R&R. For more on setting up your training in micro-cycles focusing on a few targets or weak points at a time, check out more on it here.
Part of the offseason letting the reins loose, not entirely, but a little bit so that you can get inspired and discover new avenues that might work better for you. Some ways that you can accomplish this:
- Read some new books on nutrition, training, or competitive mindset (athlete biographies work great for this one). Implement something new you learned from each book you read.
- Some books I recommend:
- If you’re not into books as much try finding new Youtube channels to learn from. Or listen to podcasts on your commute to work or while doing cardio (the offseason is also a great time to work on your cardiovascular health and improve performance).
- Try a new training method or diet while your goals aren’t so stringent.
Compete in Powerlifting to Keep the Competitive Spirit
Many strongmen and strongwomen are driven so intensely by the competitive spirit that they prefer to compete in other strength sports in the offseason instead of taking an actual offseason. This is typically accomplished through competing in powerlifting meets and sometimes weightlifting competitions. Competing in powerlifting can also be a great task to accomplish in the offseason for newer athletes or those who find their progress stalling when they don’t have an impending competition deadline to make improvements by.
If you choose to continue competing in some manner during the offseason it is still ideal to find time to fit in 1-2 months of hypertrophy specific work to give your body and mind an extended break from near-maximal lifting, as mentioned above.
Time to Get to Work
I’m sure all of you are as determined as I am to make improvements this offseason and start the new season better than ever, so it’s time to get after it.
All the best and leave a comment below on what you’re going to do to change things up this offseason.