Strongman’s Tough Love Is Too Powerful to Ignore

There are a million corny quotes about failure and it being a powerful teaching tool. Words on paper, however, don’t quite pack the punch of the real life damn-I-just-failed kind of failure.
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There are a million corny quotes about failure and it being a powerful teaching tool. Words on paper, however, don’t quite pack the punch of the real life damn-I-just-failed kind of failure.

I’ve found that using strongman tools introduces failure as a potent teaching tool. It’s so potent, in fact, that I think it’s too important to ignore for nearly any basic strength and conditioning program.

Imagine this scenario. For a multitude of performance reasons (power, strength, hip extension, etc.) part of today’s training includes the power clean. Your job is to shoulder the load from the ground. In scenario number one, you’ve got a barbell. In scenario number two, you have a log (or any other strongman implement — sandbag, keg, stone, etc.)

In scenario number one, we’ll see (hopefully) a good starting position, explosive execution, and a good finishing position. The lift will move a large load a relatively long distance quickly. The athlete will learn some body tension, power, hip extension, etc. My question for you, however, is how much tension, hip extension and power, will we see from the athlete?

Wouldn’t you agree that you can make the barbell lift with less-than-ideal tension, hip extension and power? I would agree, because I do it all the time.

Let’s glance at scenario number two with the strongman tool. Strongman tools infuse one’s training with adversity, amongst other things, because of the odd shape and size of the load. The log, for example, is frustratingly larger in diameter. Surely, a 155-pound power clean with a barbell feels much more manageable than a log clean of the same weight.

The size and awkward nature of the log makes racking the load at the shoulder a longer, slower, more difficult process. This is where we see failure creep in where one would otherwise be successful with a barbell, for example.

Sure, I can make lifts with a log without optimal hip extension, turn over, strength and speed, but I’d argue that you surely can’t get away with nearly as much as you could with a barbell. This, my friends, is fitness gold.

Is there really a better motivator than failure to illicit some improvement in execution? If I made the lift with the barbell in scenario one without really reaching hip extension, for example, I’d be far less motivated to change my behavior no matter how much my coach cued me to do so, because I made the lift. Not reaching full hip extension with the log, however, results in a missed lift, I had better improve my movement or fall victim to the seemingly higher consequences of training with a strongman tool. I personally like missing lifts and dislike missing lifts. What about you?

Logan Gelbrich
@functionalcoach
Founder – ORIGINAL Nutritionals & DEUCE Gym