How I Prepared for My First Strongman Contest

The last thing most 37 year old men think of doing is starting to compete in strength sports. Especially those comGary Cook - 275 Pound Stone - Click to See Enlargementing from where I was at the time. Nearly 4 years previously I had been in bad car wreck that had left me unable to put weight on my right foot for a year and shattered my right arm. The Doctor told me to forget about being strong again. Hard for a former US Marine who loved lifting weights. In the following years I grew from a “big guy” to massively obese. By the end of 1999 I had had enough. In October I decided that fat was no longer going to rule my life and went back into the gym.

By May 2000 I had lost about 70 pounds and had dramatically improved my strength (proving my doctor wrong). A good friend (Jeff Bach) who trained in Strongman invited me to come train with him and his workout partners. I thought it might be fun so I accepted, never thinking it would become an obsession. The first week I was happy to carry a 100 lb. keg, pull a 300 lb. sled, do 120 pound farmers and clean & press the log. I also was extremely happy to flip the 600 pound tire a couple of times, never realizing that the other guys had helped me a bit. The following day I felt as sore as I had ever felt in my life. It was great. I was hooked after that first training session.

I continued my assistance training at the gym but Strongman became the day I looked forward to most. At first I overtrained, trying to fit in my normal 5 days a week lifting into the week and still do Strongman on Saturdays. Advice from my training partners convinced me to cut back the number of days I lifted and drop some of the bodybuilding routines that weren’t helping Strongman performance anyway. First to go was the benchpress. Now I love to bench but it was beginning to cause me rotator cuff trouble, partially due to injuries from my accident, and that was affecting my other pressing routines. I found I didn’t need to do calf exercises anymore either. My calves were huge from the Strongman training. I also stopped concentration curls and “preachers” in favor of hammer and barbell curls.

I began concentrating on more core movements. I have to admit that I wasn’t squatting hardly at all before starting Strongman and hadn’t done a clean since I was in the Marines. These routines that had not been a strong part of my workouts became it’s center. Here is an example of a typical weeks workout.

Gary Cook - Farmers - Click to See Enlargement

Saturday – Strongman events training.
Sunday – Rest or maybe some light aerobics like walking or yard work.
Monday – Back/legs. Usually I will warm up and stretch and then start with clean & press, then squat, followed by stiff leg deadlifts, sumo deadlifts and finally leg presses. It sounds grueling but I don’t go heavy in each routine. Usually 2 are picked to go heavy in that week and the others are kept light (no more than 80% of max.).
Tuesday – Aerobics. Exercise bike, walking, swimming or sometimes a combination of the 3. Sometimes I do a little wind training too.
Wednesday – Arms/shoulders/grip. I like to do light farmers carries (100 lbs.) and then do arms and shoulders. Hammer curls, barbell curls, incline bench, military press, overhead triceps extensions, triceps pushdowns and lateral arm raises. Then I finish with another light farmers (120 lbs this time).
Thursdays I do wind training. I warm up with a bit of time on the bike then I push my truck around the parking lot. Pushing with my arms straight and stiff in front of me then push it my back. I do 2 ³sets² of each. Then I go for a walk.
Friday is my rest day for Strongman the next day.

This is all subject to change depending on how I feel after Strongman or what events we did that Saturday but it is a fairly typical week.

I am really fortunate to have the workout partners that I have. All are very experienced guys that are glad to share their knowledge. They also have most of the implements a person would ever see in a competition.

When it was decided that some of us would be competing in an upcoming competition we naturally focused on the events that we expected would be there. The listed events were as follows: First a 600 lbs. tire flip (80 ft.), the carry and drag – 2/200 lbs. kegs (40 ft.) then drag a 600 lb keg back across the finish line, one armed dumbbell clean and press (3 times for best lift), the farmers carry (200 lbs. 60 ft. then 180° turn and back) and finally the medley, 5 implements  loaded onto a platform (200 lb. anchor and chain, 200 lb. keg, 170 lb. round stone, 200 lb. log and a 275 lb. odd shaped stone). I wish I could take credit for our training strategy but it was really designed by those with more experience (as it should be). I also watched tapes of Strongman competitions to study the way the pros accomplished the events.

Every week we did 3 of the events plus 2 others not in the contest in order to train but not burn out on the events. We trained intensely resting very little between events. This, we felt, gave us an advantage if we had a longer rest between them on contest day. The week before the contest we trained lightly and assistance training was cut down considerably too. By contest day I was practically itching to move some poundage.

I had a bit of trouble finishing events during our training, especially the tire (I never actually finished it within the 90 second limit). On contest day my main goal was to finish each event and the contest as a whole. Nothing more. Nothing less. I knew that setting my sights on winning wasn¹t a reasonable goal and trying to win might cost me the main goal I had set for myself.

The contest began and I tackled the tire. I paced myself well and actually finished the event in 1 minute 14 seconds. The carry and drag event off well too. This was a major turning point. I was no longer as nervous. I knew that if I could finish the first 2 events I could finish the contest as they were the most exhausting. I did well at all the other events and actually made personal records in each event.

Gary Cook - Medley - Click to See Enlargement

Finishing that contest was as great a feeling as any I had ever had. Now it is off to bigger and better things. I still have a long way to go. I have more fat to lose, muscle to build and I need to work on my speed. Next time I don¹t want to just finish a competition. I want to win one!

By Gary Cook



About the author: Gary Cook has worked as a bouncer, a bartender, and has held many other types of jobs. He is a former US Marine who has lifted weights most of his life, studied marshal arts and is an avid reader. His hobbies include Strongman training, Harley Davidson motorcycles, science fiction, vegetable gardening and chess. After a devastating a auto accident in 1996 he ballooned up to over 500 pounds and has since put himself on a strict high protein/reduced fat diet and includes lots of vegetables. He currently resides in Missouri and works as a salesman. His long term goals are to continue to lose fat, compete in more strength competitions and to help others with their fitness goals.

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