Chase Karnes graduated from Murray State University with a Bachelors degree in Exercise Science. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. His philosophy is simple: He believes that whether you're an elite athlete, soccer mom, or family doctor you should have access to the most recent developments in exercise, health and nutrition science.

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  • Q&A – So You Want to Compete in Strongman?

    Posted at 2:45 pm in Fitness by admin | 2 Comments »

    A few weeks back I had a guy ask me a question about preparing his client for his first strongman competition in Jason Ferruggia’s Renegade Inner Circle. Below is his question and my answer. Maybe you can pick up a thing or two from it that will help your own or your clients training.



    I have 5 weeks to prep a client for his first strongman competition.

    Here’s a little background information on the situation…

    We’ve been working together for 8 weeks now. During that time he has dropped 4″ off his waist and perfected his technique on the big lifts. This guy is tall and strong by nature. He was moving big weights before but form was crappy so we had to go back to basics, start light and gradually work his way up.

    Normally, I don’t encourage the pursuit of two contradictory goals at the same time (fat loss vs. strongman comp) but I gave him my permission for entering a meet since he’s driven as hell on doing one and I thought that even though he won’t be at his all-time strongest going in while cutting, at least he’ll gain a ton of experience for later competitions. Plus, it sounds like a lot of fun so who am I to say no?

    So my questions for Jason, Chase or any other guys with experience regarding strongman competitions are…

    1. I read your recent interview on Mike Robertson’s site where he laid out a program like this:

    Day 1 – Upper body
    Day 2 – Lower body
    Day 3 – Strongman event day

    In my opinion, this client will still benefit more from full-body sessions. Also, I expect him to drop another 2″ during the next 5 weeks, so keeping those two variables in mind, my setup would look like this:

    Monday – Squat, bench + assistance
    Tuesday – Brisk walking or rope jumping
    Wednesday – Deadlift, military + assistance
    Thursday – Hill sprints
    Friday – Brisk walking or rope jumping
    Saturday – Strongman event day (farmer’s walks, log & press, car pull, tire flip, Atlas stones or whatever events will be taking place in the comp; I’ll know this at the end of the week)
    Sunday – Off

    Would you change anything in the program?

    2. How do you tweak the overall volume/intensity going into the meet, say for the last week or so prior to it?

    Switch to maintenance mode by cutting the volume in half, and performing only fast and explosive reps at around 70% of 1RM?

    Would you recommend full rest for the last couple of days or light workouts instead?

    3. Nutrition – do you carb up in the last 1-2 days leading into the comp? What about during the actual event day, how would you schedule meals and snacks for optimal performance?

    Thank you for the advice!”



    My response:


    First thing I’d recommend is putting the fat loss goal on the back burner for the next 5 weeks. Dieting and training for a competition is rough and I wouldn’t recommend it – especially for ones first competition. I’d bump his calories up just a bit to maintenance for the time being. And depending on how long he’s been dieting this may be a good thing in terms of leptin levels, thyroid hormones, etc. once the competition is over. Just my thoughts on that.

    1. I’ve personally used (and used with clients) a full body routine that works very well for strongman also.

    My two other favorite splits are:

    Monday: Lower
    Tuesday: Upper
    Wednesday: Off
    Thursday: Full
    Friday: Off
    Saturday: Events
    Sunday: Conditioning (if needed)

    Monday: Full
    Tuesday: Off
    Wednesday: Full
    Thursday: Conditioning (if needed)
    Friday: Off
    Saturday: Events
    Sunday: Off

    “Monday – Squat, bench + assistance
    Tuesday – Brisk walking or rope jumping
    Wednesday – Deadlift, military + assistance
    Thursday – Hill sprints
    Friday – Brisk walking or rope jumping
    Saturday – Strongman event day (farmer’s walks, log & press, car pull, tire flip, Atlas stones or whatever events will be taking place in the comp; I’ll know this at the end of the week)
    Sunday – Off”

    Overall your plan looks pretty good. I’d recommend dropping the hill sprints and making the walk just a leisure pace. I’d keep a close eye on volume for squats/deads as event day is pretty taxing. Working up to a top end set would be fine, but no back off sets or multiple work sets. I’ve found with strongman that training the events themselves take care of most conditioning that is needed. You only need to be conditioned enough to complete the event with as many reps as you can or as fast as you can or with as much weight as you can. Being over conditioned doesn’t help and the conditioning work cuts into your recovery. Most strongman events are 60 seconds or less.

    2. I recommend taking a full 7-10 days off from training completely before a competition – with 10 being ideal. Sometimes I will do something similar to Smitty’s deload workout ( on Sunday/Tuesday leading up to a Saturday competition.

    I ramp intensity and weight up as the competition approaches while cutting back on volume.

    One mistake people make is doing multiple sets of events while preparing for a competition. Let’s say it’s log press, yoke/farmers medley, car deadlift, truck pull and stone over bar. You don’t want to do multiple work sets of any of these. You’ll want to hit one hard set and done. And all warm ups should also be technique work.

    Another mistake guys make is as a competition approaches they start “testing” their lifts. They forget what’s built that strength to begin with. Save the testing for competition day.

    3. Since I normally cut weight I carb up the night beforehand and have no issues. You could carb up two days, but I think one is enough.

    I follow the Renegade Diet, but modify things a bit on competition day.

    The night before a competition I eat 400-500 grams of carbs.

    The day of a competition I normally eat breakfast about 3 hours before events are scheduled to start. Since it’s usually out of town and I’m staying in a hotel I go to Waffle House, Denny’s, etc. I’ll get steak, eggs, toast and hash browns. I eat until I’m comfortably full. I also drink on a mixture of 50% water/50% Coconut water with a pinch of salt or sometimes 50% water/50% Gatorade with a pinch of salt.

    During the day I don’t eat much, but I’ll have some small granola bars or a few Snickers bars on hand. I’ve tried drinking protein shakes with carbs added, etc. but that never settles very well. I’ve found a small granola bar or Snickers bar is just enough between events if I need something. I also drink 1 1/2 to 2 gallons of fluid on competition day.

    One more thing – my recovery “secret” – After I train events on “event day” Saturdays an afternoon Epsom salt bath for about 30 minutes while listening to the “Brain Wave” iPhone app, followed by a nap works wonders for recovery.

    Hopefully that helps out some. If you have any more questions just let me know.


    Any questions? Comments? Let me know below.


    2 Responses to “Q&A – So You Want to Compete in Strongman?”

    1. […] So You Want to Compete in Strongman? by Chase Karnes […]

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