Hear from …destination member and veteran strongman competitor Diego Diaz on how to prep for your first strongman competition.
Hey, I’m Diego! If you’re interested in entering a strongman competition, you need to take the right steps to prepare yourself. During my time as a strongman competitor I’ve picked up some valuable experiences that I’d like to share. I can’t expect you to listen to me if you don’t know my qualifications, though.
I’ve been competing in strongman events since 2014, and I have four competitions under my belt. Through my experience training and preparing for these competitions I’ve learned a lot about the training process and seen my share of successes and failures. These five tips sum up what I’ve learned and should help guide you through training.
1. Find a Coach with Strongman Experience
This was one of the first mistakes I made, so I wanted to make it the first suggestion on this list. I worked with a strength coach before my first competition. Even though he was completely professional, he didn’t have enough knowledge of strongman to help me prepare for the unique demands of the competition. Strongman requires knowledge of many unique skills and techniques that aren’t present in weightlifting and bodybuilding. Find a coach or mentor who knows the ins and outs of strongman so you can put together a proper training schedule. Even if you’re the strongest guy in the room, strongman is about correctly applying your strength, and a poorly prepared competitor will never have a good time.
2. Choose the Right Competition
Not every competition is appropriate for beginners. That’s not a knock on your strength, and I’m not saying you need to wait until you’re stronger! Some competitions just have certain niche events that you just may not be able to train properly for. Most gyms don’t have a full array of strongman equipment, and it can be dangerous to try the atlas stones or the log press without training in a controlled environment. Competing in a competition that you don’t have the resources to prepare for can increase your risk of injury. Obviously there’s some risk of injury in any competition, but setting yourself up for failure is never acceptable.
3. Devote Time to Specific Strongman Events
Don’t neglect your regular training, but set aside time specifically prepare for strongman events. Once you find a competition you want to enter, study the listed events; learn about the different weights, the right techniques, and the specific rules. You don’t need to place in a competition in order to have a successful showing. Commit to perfect technique and self-improvement and results will come with time.
4. Make a Plan and Stick to It
So you’ve found a coach, found a competition, and decided how you want to train. Now stick to that plan! Training for strongman is about discipline and consistency. Gunning for a personal record every workout is a recipe for disaster, especially in this kind of event. Patience is probably the most important part of getting the best results competition day. It’s a bit like training for a marathon; you never run 26 miles in training. Each workout should be tailored to building you up, not hitting your ceiling. If your plan, hypothetically, has you performing the deadlift on a given day at 395 pounds, don’t move up to 405 because you feel up to it or you want to look like the strongest guy in the gym. Strongman training has a cumulative effect, and rushing the schedule can put unnecessary stress on your body and negatively impact future workouts.
5. Recovery and Stretching: DO IT
In all of my experiences I’ve never found an event capable of wrecking your joints and central nervous system quite like strongman. Even if you do everything correctly, your body will take a lot of wear and tear during your strongman career, and staying healthy requires constant vigilance. The best way to prevent injury is by taking recovery seriously.
Develop a proper warm-up and post-workout stretch routine. These are just as important as the workouts themselves, and are a core part of your training. Your body is not designed to handle this type of beating day in and day out. As you get stronger, your muscles get tighter – but this can be managed with proper stretching. Work on your mobility, and take advantage of your improved flexibility to improve your lifting technique. You don’t have to become a yoga master or anything – that’s too much. The goal is to always feel comfortable in training and competition. Know how to pace yourself and know when to stop. If you don’t stretch religiously you may wake up feeling like your shoulders are glued to your ears.
Never forget to have fun. After all the training and blood and sweat, strongman is about lifting hilariously heavy things, and that’s a blast. With the proper mindset and a lot of hard work, you’ll find success in strongman and continue the cycle of giving back to new competitors. See you at the next meet!