Experts Explain How to Get a Body Like a Strongman Competitor

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Not everyone who wants to lift weights and bulk up wants to look like a bodybuilder.

There’s another look that plenty of men — and women! — covet, and it’s equally as impressive and even more functional. All without the need to endlessly diet and lose fat for a chiseled six pack.

It’s the strongman competitor physique!

It’s a desirable body to have — you’ll be the biggest, toughest person in every room, and you’ll have a ton of athletic stamina and brute strength.

So how can you get a body like a strongman?

Photo by happymillerman/Flickr

To get a body like a strongman, you’ll have to eat a ton of calories while building outstanding strength on key lifts like the squat and deadlift. Once you have a foundation of strength and muscle, complete the look by doing lots of carrying exercises that develop your core and grip strength.

It’ll take years to look anything like a pro strongman competitor, but this is probably one of the most fun training styles around!

Let’s take a look at how you can get started.


What Are the Hallmarks of the “Strongman Physique”?

The strongman physique can vary quite a lot. 

Search “strongman” on Google Images and you’ll see a wide variety of men.

Some are ripped, some have a large gut, and some have a “dad bod” with lots of obvious muscle, and a light layer of fat covering their abs.

However, a few things are true about almost all strongmen’s bodies. They have:

  • Huge arms and shoulders
  • Broad backs
  • Wide, strong hips
  • Large pecks and abs (hidden under fat or not)
  • Tree trunk legs
  • Extremely strong hands and forearms

Personal trainer TJ Mentus talks us through why their bodies are built this way: 

“Strongmen have thick and wide upper back muscles as this is necessary to be able to pick up the weights that they do.

“Next, they have large hip muscles and thighs to be able to move the weight after they pick it up.

“And finally, their forearms are rather large due to needing the ability to grab and hold onto heavy objects.”

They may look big and powerful, but a lot of people think strongman aren’t particularly mobile or athletic. But they’re wrong!

For example, they lift, pull, and push strangely shaped objects such as stones, vehicles, and sandbags.

This means a strongman’s body is highly coordinated and able to master and endure tricky movements. 

Lastly, strongmen do a lot of carrying exercises, such as carrying sandbags.

This means they have sturdy wrists, and hands. These areas and their forearms have brute strength as well as endurance.


5 Training Tips for a Strongman Body

Looking like a pro strongman won’t be a short journey. If you’re a beginner, it will take years and years to develop the foundation of strength and muscle you need to pull off the look.

TJ Mentus has provided lots of tips to help you on your journey.

1. Eat A Lot

The best thing about the strongman body type is that it doesn’t require you to cut down to extremely low levels of body fat.

Anyone can start their strongman-physique journey without going on a weight loss journey first. You don’t need to be lean.

Bulk is your friend!

In fact, TJ recommends consuming way more calories than your body burns every day. He says, “A good goal would be 1,000 calories more.”

This helps you grow your muscles at the highest possible clip.

You can figure out how many calories you burn in a day by using an online calorie calculator

From there, you can start making changes in your diet.

TJ recommends getting these extra calories from “whole foods like rice, potatoes, meat, fruits and vegetables.”

These foods are the best for you, and they help produce a lot of energy quickly.

You’ll need that energy while you’re training hard each day. The carbs in the rice and potatoes will give you a particular boost.

2. Consume Extra Protein

All those calories won’t help if you’re not getting plenty of muscle-fueling protein.

Protein provides a ton of energy, and it helps keep you feeling full and fueled during your workout.

However, the best part of protein is what it does for your muscles.

You tear your muscles when you work out. They’re only microtears, but they need to be repaired before your muscles can grow.

Protein helps these microtears heal. It essentially bridges the gap that the tear caused, and that makes your muscles larger over time.

So, pack that protein in!

TJ recommends consuming at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. 

If you don’t want to rely on protein shakes and bars, then you can also look to eggs, chicken, and lean meat like steak for your protein fix.

(Here are some ideas for getting more protein without adding a ton of extra calories to your diet, and some insanely high protein meal ideas.)

3. Do Squats and Deadlifts

Now, let’s examine your workout.

The best thing you can do as a beginner is build a foundation of strength on two main exercises:

Squats and deadlifts.

These are power-building, full-body lifts that develop explosiveness and general strength like no other.

They also help you put on mass.

It will take a lot of training to build this base. A good initial goal is to work your way up to a 315 squat and a 405 deadlift.

(Pro strongmen, of course, are much, much stronger than that. But if you can hit these numbers, you’ll be well on your way.)

TJ suggests switching up your workout to work on both power and hypertrophy, or muscle-building.

One day you should aim to lift a mildly challenging weight as many times as possible.

Do as many reps as you can across as many sets as you can handle, then rest.

The following day, challenge yourself further.

Do 10 or more reps with the heaviest weight you can physically lift. That will help your nervous system acclimate to the heavier weight.

Alternating between these workouts will ensure that you’re training your body to build endurance as well as strength, so your endurance and brute strength should increase alongside each other as you work out.

Both squats and deadlifts also require great technique and coordination, so you’ll be developing your athleticism along the way.

4. Perform Tons of Carries

You may have heard of the farmer’s walk or farmer’s carry.

This is where you pick up hefty dumbbells or kettlebells and walk with them. You have to keep your arms straight while doing so.

The exercise has you walk a designated distance before you can put the weights down.

It’s an excellent full-body exercise that develops fantastic grip strength and core strength, and it’s a key component of training like a strongman.

You can raise and lower the weight limit as needed with your training.

Playing with variations of this exercise is perfect for your strongman training. You can carry the weights overhead, or you can carry them from the rack position.

Both dumbbells and kettlebells work well. Kettlebells carry their weight low, so they’re more true to the bags that a strongman would carry. 

However, dumbbells can be tricker to hold, as they don’t have that easy-grip handle, so they’re great for grip strength.

You can even switch it up and carry sandbags or large bags of flour instead.

This is more like what a strongman would do in a real competition.

Strongmen carry these hefty sandbags in a bearhug pose while walking, so be sure to do that, too.

Frequent heavy carries are a huge part of developing the strongman physique. Carry dumbbells, kettlebells, loaded hex bars, sandbags, and any other awkward and heavy object you can find.

You endurance will skyrocket, you’ll develop a rock solid core, and your forearms and grip will rival that of a rock climber.

5. Work On Your Upper Back

Finally, you need a broad back and solid shoulders to get your strongman body, and you can grow these areas by doing pull-ups and bent rows.

These exercises will be excellent compliments to your deadlift back training.

Any exercise on the pull-up bar is good for this, but there’s a little trick you can use while doing pull-ups that’ll also help you with your carries.

You need excellent grip strength for performing carries, so work on it while working on your upper back.

Use a thick pull-up bar to challenge your grip while also working your back and biceps.

If you can’t find a thick pull-up bar, a soccer goalpost (like those bolted to the ground in parks and local soccer fields) works well.

You can also hook a towel over the pullup bar and grip the towel while you perform the exercise, instead of the bar.

On top of the pullups, rowing is an underrated activity for developing a broad, strong back and shoulders.

It also helps tighten up your core and glutes. So, hit the rowing machine as a warmup every so often.

Finally, any variation of a heavy bent over row, Pendlay row, T bar row, and more will thicken up those traps and upper back muscles.

Tons of rowing and pulling variations, in addition to deadlifting, will help you get the broad and powerful back of a strongman.


Wrapping Up

The tips above are simple on paper, but they’re tough to put into practice!

You’ll really have to challenge yourself and work your body to its limits.

It will take years and years of training to look like a strongman – it takes a long, long time to build enough strength and muscle to pull off the look.

So you better get started!

The end result is one to be desired. You’ll end up with a body that’s strong and highly coordinated, and you’ll be the biggest, toughest person in every room you walk into.

For more physique guides, check out:

Hope this helps!

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