Sunday, April 26, 2015

Massachusetts Strongest Man...improving with improvisation

Disgraceful to myself that I got so nervous about my latest strongman competition.  I had so little implement training time for this and it flat-out made me nervous.  I allowed my previous, luxuriously-outfitted gym to lull me into thinking that without implement time, I was going to bomb on this heavier Massachusetts Strongest Man Competition.  I was so tense that I needed some lower back work by the much-appreciated chiropractor on site at the competition. 

I didn't have a log and I hadn't touched a log in over a year.  I had no car deadlift set-up or a 500 lbs frame.   I do have sandbags, some kegs, a fire hydrant and just prior to the comp I scored an anchor chain.  With no place inside to train these and a winter that just didn't want let go of the ice all over my driveway,  it would seem that I was kind of screwed. 

Bullshit.  Such thinking was never part of my mindset prior to all of this and I was determined to not let it become that way again for this training cycle.  I'd just have to get creative, like I always have.  So what did I do and how did it call come out?  I'll elaborate...

The Log Press
Of all of the events I'd have to do, this was probably the most difficult to improvise for.  The log is technical and there isn't a great direct substitute.  Overhead pressing in my training environment is even more fraught with issues since I have a low-ceiling basement that only really allows the use of my kettlebells over standing overhead training.  I did do some overhead work outside before my driveway turned to pure ice and the frequent sub-zero temperatures made my fingers go numb. 

So, heavy, double kettlebell pressing was the only play I had.  I'd clean them and push-press away, doing heavy sets of 2-5 reps for as many sets as I could or had time for.  Then, I'd strip off some weight in ten lbs increments and do three sets of strict presses, taking off 10 lbs each set. 


My previous best on a log was 180 lbs, over a year ago when I was fresh off physical therapy restrictions but was training the log a couple of times per week.  I managed only one rep with 200 lbs.  This felt more like a technique issue since the one rep felt weirdly easy when I got it.  I didn't attempt more because my knee made one of those disturbing pop noises and I elected to stop since I still had a whole competition to complete.   Sixth place, but no zero.

The Car Deadlift
Without a doubt, this was by biggest success in spite of having no car deadlift frame to use.  Back in Tampa, I discovered that a barbell hack squat was very similar to a car deadlift.  So similar that I'm downright shocked that practically nobody uses them to train for it.  I guess it's a sign of the blind hegemony of modified powerlifting routines that dominate strongman programming.  Dumb shits. 
video

I think the reason why this so closely resembles the car deadlift lies in the fact that to successfully hack squat, you have to move your hips very quickly forward so the barbell doesn't smash into your hamstrings or your ass as you hoist it upwards.   That's the exact, same hip movement in the car deadlift. 

This was supposed to be a heavy car lift.  Unfortunately, the frame wasn't set up properly and it turned into a rep festival.  I took third place in this event, getting credited with 38 reps.  Carryover at its finest. 

Keg Carry and Chain Drag
I was disappointed with this one more than any other event.  I had the most implement time with this event and I didn't place well at all.  I had to run 50' with a 200 lbs keg and then grab the anchor chain and run 50' backwards.
video

This is what I was preparing for:  550 lbs drag here!
 

I planned this out pretty well.  Since I have stupid-long arms, I was going to use my knee to push the keg high up on my chest and grab it on both sides.  In practice runs, it worked beautifully.  I rigged up a tire sled with 150 lbs of chain to drag it by before I got my anchor chain.  Once I got my anchor chain, which weighed around 550 lbs, I figured out that I could go two seconds faster if I grabbed both ends of the chain and dragged. 

So, I figured I'd have this one sewn up. 

The disgruntled face of dashed plans...

I was the third slowest time.  The keg we ran with had a bizarre, two inch bulged rim that ran around the middle of the keg.  I didn't want to chance dropping the keg since It was obviously wider than my practice one.  The anchor chain was easily 200 lbs lighter and had a cut-off link at one end that wouldn't allow me to grab both ends.  So, this turned more into a test of foot speed than how much weight I could drag. 

Dude, where's the other 200 lbs?
500 lbs Frame Hold
I don't want to say that I have great grip strength, but I certainly have enough to do strongman.  That was definitely something I had going for me when I started the sport.  I thought I had placed worse than I really had on this one.  I got 31.3 seconds, coming in 4th for this event. 

When it comes to grip work, I've gotten to the point where I'd rather just throw in a grip element into my training movements where it doesn't hinder the progress of the overall set too much.  So, I high rep-deadlifted, hack squatted, rowed, and curled with my axle mostly.  Often times, I'd hold reps on my hacks and my deads for as long as possible.   I did a lot of rope climbing too.  So, while I beat myself up a bit for not holding longer, in the end I didn't do too bad on this one at all. 

Odd Object Load
This is another event that went pretty well for me too.  Initially, we were supposed to pick up, carry, and load a fire hydrant, a 200 lbs sandbag, a 200 lbs keg, and a 240 lbs atlas stone onto a 54" platform.  On the day of the show, the carry was eliminated (to save time) and a field stone was substituted for the hydrant (much to my chagrin). 

I do this kind of stuff all the time, both for work and for fun.  Plus, I also do a lot of Zercher Lifting to strengthen the muscles I'd use to load stuff.  Another mystery to me is why not that many strongmen throw in stiff-legged deadlift work into their training since so much of what we do involves getting shit off the ground in a stiff-legged fashion. 
video

While I took 4th in this event, I had some of the cleanest lifts.  Except for dropping the stone because I didn't get myself situated dead-center of the stone, I had the some of the technically-sound lifting in the show, it seemed.   The sandbag was left loose and that gave a lot of people fits.  Another fun part for others was the rule that the keg had to be stood up.  Neither bothered me. 

So, overall, I had  a weak event (the log) and a disappointing event (keg and chain) but the events I placed high were pretty well executed and I took 5th place out of 9.  As I got to the end of the competition, I realized that at 5'10" and 205 lbs, I was probably the smallest guy in this novice class.   The winner was 6'5" and 300 lbs.  Fittingly enough, he looks a little bit like Thor Bjornson.  

What I was happy with was this show was heavier than my first and I got no zeros.  I successfully strengthened up my lower body and also put on about 20 lbs since October.  At this point, I'm looking to do Granite State Strongest Man at the end of July as a Middleweight.  At this point, I think I'm done with being a novice and losing events for no other reason than I'm undersized.  I'd like to bump my weight up to 215ish lbs in the meantime.  I tried to get to this weight for this competition but the soreness from training and growing was just becoming a pain in the ass.  Clearly, bulking up should be done when I'm not in the middle of contest preparation. 

In the end, I had a ton of fun and I managed to progress despite being limited by the quantity of the gear I have.  That's been a goal of mine long before I took up the sport.  The affirmation that I can still do so is gratifying. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but, but, but ... What about your six pack? Seriously, good work. Whiffet