Starting Strong(wo)man: Leave Your Ego at the Door

Article written By Alanna Casey

I was inspired to write this article after training this weekend. I trained with some awesome guys out of Dominate Your Game (DYG), in Las Vegas. It’s great training with them and I’m lucky to have their support. On the weekends that I don’t train at DYG, I train at Callie and (LBEB athlete) Nick Best’s house. Nick has generously allowed a few beginner strongmen to train with him. So, I’m usually around someone with more experience than myself AND I’m usually around someone who has just started strongman. The biggest “mistake” that I see at training is when a beginner allows his ego to get the best of him.

Just about every weekend, I see a beginner strongman trying to lift more weight that he is ready for. Well, many times I don’t “see” it because I refuse to watch. Sometimes Callie will step in and say, “No, you’re not ready for the weight; you’re going to use the lighter stone.” When that happens, I breathe a sigh of relief.

I could go on and on about how lifting weight you’re not ready for could lead to injuries and ultimately end your strongman career early (which is true). Instead, I will argue that training with weight that is too heavy for you is not the most effective way to get better at strongman events.

Strongman is more than just strength. A lot of technique goes into the sport. For example, on yoke there are several different ways or positions that you could balance the yoke on your back. There are different places you could put your hands. There are different ways you can position your feet on the pick. In order to be a great yoker, you need to find the positioning that allows your body to most efficiently move the yoke. So, you need to experiment with positioning on your pick and find the best placement for you.

Once you have discovered that position/movement, every yoke should be performed exactly the same. You should know exactly how the yoke is going to swing when you pick it up and be able to anticipate and respond to that swing to level it out. If you haven’t figure out the fastest way to move with 400 lbs on your back, what makes you think that you will magically be able to move efficiently with 700 lbs on your back? Before you move your weight, you need to master your movement with lighter weight.

A sign that you are moving up your weight to quickly is when every pick is different, when every step you are readjusting. Spend the time with lighter weight and master your form. Master your efficiency. Leave your ego at the door. Because sure, you may be able to pick an 800lb yoke and take 10 shitty steps with it but, that’s not going to win you a contest. That’s going to make you practice bad habits.

I admit, I am guilty of allowing my ego to get the better of me sometimes. It’s easy to do. Say you’re training with your friends and you want to show off or “prove” yourself. F*** that. You don’t need to prove yourself to anyone. Work with weight you can handle. Film yourself. Watch video of other athletes who you think have mastered a movement (and do your homework on that one because many athletes claim to have mastered a movement when in reality they are just being obnoxious). Compare your movement to those who are real masters. More than likely you will find different professionals who are masters of one movement. For example, Nick Best is a master of the yoke and Husafel carry events, Dimitar Savatinov is a master presser, Kimberly Ann Baum is the best stone loader I’ve ever met and, Mia Winters is an amazing deadlifter. Find those who are masters at the event you are working on and study their form.

Another thing to consider is finding those who have a similar body type to you. Different bone structure (levers) means different movements. Be sure to find someone whose levers are comparable to your own. Watch them over and over and over again. Play their movement in slow motion. Engrain into your brain the movement you want to emulate. Most importantly, leave your ego at the door. Work with weight that will improve you as an athlete. Training hard is important, but equally important is training smart.

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