Get Yoked

Incorporate strongman training into your program to improve your functional strength.
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Yoke Carry

Yoke-Carry

This exercise is similar to a farmer’s walk, only with a bar resting on the upper traps. The steps should be short and choppy with no knee lockout. A yoke apparatus is recommended, but if you don’t have one available, you can do this lift with a heavy barbell on your back. This changes the exercise, though, because the plates will be up high as opposed to down low. Another barbell option, which will lower the weight somewhat, is a Zercher yoke carry, in which the bar rests in front of you, in the crooks of your bent elbows. An advanced version of this exercise is an overhead yoke carry, in which the bar is at arms’ length above you.

Atlas Stone Lift and Carry

Atlas-Stone-Lift-and-Carry

With the stone sitting on the floor, squat down to pick it up, keeping your hands and elbows in tight to get underneath it and your butt low to maintain a relatively flat back. Holding the stone up against your chest, stand up with it and walk for distance.

Because of the heavy load, your strides should be short and quick, keeping a slight bend in the knees throughout; for joint safety, your knees should never lock out. When you can no longer hold the stone, drop it straight down to the floor, making sure to get your feet out of the way as it falls.

Keg Clean-and-Press

Keg-Clean-and-Press

From a squatted position, grab the top edges of a keg sitting on its side on the floor. Assume the bottom position of an Olympic lift: back flat, butt up. Keeping your hands on the same spot, explode up to standing, cleaning the keg so that it rotates and your hands are on the bottom. From there, press it overhead, using your legs to help, like with a push press.

The keg can be filled with either sand or water. If filled with water, it will slosh side to side, creating a very different type of load than with sand. Keep this in mind, especially if you’re a beginner or coaching beginners.

See AlsoBenefits of Strongman Training

A different keg exercise, the keg throw, involves using an empty keg and, starting from below your waist and with straight arms, throwing it as high as possible in a movement similar to a swing. Just make sure to be out of the way of the falling keg by throwing it slightly behind you and stepping forward on release, if necessary. The keg carry involves holding a heavy keg (weighted with sand or water) in front of your hips and walking with it. You’ll naturally need to use short, choppy steps and lean back slightly because of the awkwardness and size of the keg.

Farmer’s Walk

Farmer's-Walk

This old-school move is simply a matter of walking a given distance while holding very heavy weights at your sides with your arms extended. Keep the steps short and choppy without locking out the knees at any point.

Farmer’s-walk handles are the preferred equipment, but not all gyms have them, so most people do this lift with heavy dumbbells, much heavier than you’d be able to press overhead. Kettlebells can be used, too, but they may not be heavy enough for strong individuals; even a pair of 2-pood kettlebells could be considered light for an advanced CrossFitter doing farmer’s walks.

The one-arm farmer’s walk — aka suitcases, in which one hand holds a heavy weight and the other is empty — is an effective variation for overloading one side, thus making the core work harder to keep the torso upright. To promote balance, walk a distance with the weight in one hand, then walk back with it in the opposite hand.

One-Arm Press

One-Arm-Press

Clean a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand, steady it at your shoulder, then press it straight up overhead. (You won’t clean the weight on every rep — only on the first one of each set.) You should keep a slight bend in the knees throughout, and the nonworking arm can be out to the side to provide balance.

Low rep counts are recommended because of the heavy load; Craig Hysell recommends singles or a 2-3-5 rep scheme with sufficient rest between sets.

Mighty WODs

Try one of these sample WODs, courtesy of CrossFit icon Rob Orlando and his StrongmanWOD.com site.

Yoke Total

50-foot carry of each yoke style in this order: overhead, Zercher, traditional

  • No drops allowed
  • Build up to an unbroken 50-foot carry on each style in the same order
  • Add your highest unbroken carries to generate your score

Tire Flip “Kalsu”

100 tire flips with five burpees EMOM

  • Suggested weight is three times bodyweight
  • Scaling is always an option
  • 30-minute cap

Atlas Stone “Grace”

30 ground-to-overhead with an Atlas stone for time (men: 145 pounds; women: 65 pounds)

  • Squat-clean version is optional

Keg Carry Tabatas

8 rounds of 20-second carries, followed by 10 seconds rest

  • Suggested weight of the keg is bodyweight or more
  • Scaling is always an option
  • Score is total distance covered
  • Unlimited drops allowed

Equipment Finder 

Strongman tools are all around you — in stores, on construction sites, in your garage. And don’t forget, barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells count, too. Where the more distinctive strongman implements are concerned, here’s an abbreviated buyer’s guide that covers gear you can buy and gear you can get for free.

Axles, Stone Molds and Yokes: Many websites have this equipment available for purchase. One of the best is Rob Orlando’s Hybrid Athletics. The average CrossFitter may not have the budget or space to stock up on these items, but box owners often do.

Beer Kegs: Not surprisingly, bars, restaurants and liquor stores have empty kegs lying around all the time. You can typically get a used one for about $20. Fill it with either water or sand for lifting, or keep it empty for keg throws.

Tractor Tires :Junkyards, farms and construction sites are often looking to unload worn or blownout tires rather than pay to have them hauled off. Visit one of these locales to see what free inventory they have.

Trucks: The truck pull is a classic, made-for-TV strongman move, and you can use your own pickup if you have one. “Just make sure to wrap the rope around the chassis, not the bumper,” Craig Hysell says, “because you can tear the bumper off. And make sure someone’s in the driver seat, steering the truck.” Oh, and make sure the thing is in neutral, or it will be really hard to pull.