The Vinny Jones Zone

Strongman 101 - Part One: Training & Steroids Posted on 29 Jan 10:37 , 1 comment

This will cover what you need to get into strongman training and planning your training. The second part will cover what you need at the competition. The third will cover some useful tips I've picked up along the way.


So, you want to get into strongman? Good. Go to a gym. Train. Eat. Train more. Change your programme several times a month. Carry on with bodybuilder training anyway because you wanna look “hench2. Sign up to a novice comp. Lift a 60kg log for 65 reps. Put “strongman” in the middle of your facebook profile name. Create an athlete page. Tell everyone that you are a strongman.


Now if you’re actually serious this is my advice. It’s not the “end of” or “final say”. It’s just advice. And Part One is based on the top 3 things I get asked… where to train, what programme to follow and do I need to take steroids.

1. Find a strongman gym.

Nothing prepares you for strongman lifts quite like actually doing the lifts. No mechanic will ever be a good gynaecologist despite the latter being just as messy, dark and mysterious. You might fiddle around for a while but until you’ve plunged your hand into the filth, nothing prepares you (the filth being a tub of tacky of course… what else did you think I was on about?)

The pain and sheer awkwardness of handling some equipment is going to give you a big shock. I have seen many a bodybuilder give up strongman training/competing simply because nothing smears fake tan quite like a stone run. And no-one looks good in speedos with a prolapse.But a strongman gym is likely to have people who train strongman. So win win over a franchised rent a chain.



2.Pick a programme and stick to it for a while

Advice from Mark Rippetoe is right on the money… Everything works. Nothing works forever. Some things work better than others.

This doesn’t mean persist with a routine that is killing you week by week because you’ll never retain enough enthusiasm to make it last. But at the same time, while a 12 rep system has its place... it’s not with a 185kg stone as an end of session finisher.

I’d recommend keeping it simple if you’re a new guy. Learning some basic lifts first like squatting, overhead pressing, deadlifting and learn how your body reacts to training 3 times per week as a minimum.

If you’re overweight, lose some chub and just concentrate on getting your reps in each week with a slight increase in weight and you’ll be amazed what 3-6 months can do. The 5x5 routine is decent enough for this very basic start and add in some grip work and simply learn how your body responds. Throwing yourself straight into a lot of strongman work can break you before you've even had chance to squat your own bodyweight. Get a good base of strength over 6 months then crack on. 

If you’re underweight and have quads like Macaulay Culkin’s wrists then I advise you to eat lots of meat, spaghetti, drink egg whites and go back to being breastfeed.

Consistency is the key (for both training and breastmilk). Rocking up whenever you feel like it and curling in the squat rack is cool. So long as it’s your own squat rack. In your own garage. Preferably in a very distant land far, far away.

If you want to make a commitment to strongman and a commitment to yourself, find a strongman gym and find a programme that suits the harshness of the exercises.

Many recommend a modified version of the Cube Method which was written by Josh Thigpen, a 2 x WSM athlete. Just bear in mind he did not get to WSM by following the Cube Method. And not only that, but he doesn’t even follow his own plan. And he doesn’t do strongman anymore. So who can ya trust eh?

If you want a living breathing strongman focused programme, I recommend hiring the services of Graham Hicks or John Clark. I recommend, even more, finding a way to train with those guys on a regular basis.


 3. Steroids

This is going to be hard for some of you to understand but it will save you some heartbreak further down the line. Performance Enhancing Drugs are rife. Some of your heroes are using steroids to train and compete. Some of your heroes are so injured, so much in pain, that they will use a cocktail of painkillers to mask it just to keep going. Some of your old heroes are now no longer alive potentially because of what they have done. To reach the top of the game and STAY there people will be using some form of assistance and mostly without the services of a medical professional.

If you use ibuprofen to relieve inflammation of your muscles so that you can train again the next day then guess what? You’re using a performance enhancer. If you use caffeine, EPH, aspirin, muscle rubs, hot water bottles, a Thai happy ending massage then guess what? You’re using a performance enhancer. Anything, in my mind, which increases your performance over and above the perceived limit of what you would be able to achieve WITHOUT that crutch is, for me, a performance enhancer.

With this I go back to the Rippetoe quote and I will, on this occasion, bastardize it.

All performance enhancers have the potential to work. Some performance enhancers work better than others. Not all performance enhancers work forever.

Some performance enhancers are illegal. You will need to check with your governing bodies and your fictional god to find out which ones are banned. There really is no consistency across sports for the large part. In general, I will state that narcotics will be banned everywhere due to their status and if you do have a problem I recommend contacting Paul Smith at Ironworks Gym in Birmingham who has come through the other side.

My general rule is this: if it’s not banned, it’s not cheating.

Steroids are used by guys competing in novice comps right up to WSM. Don’t believe, in general, about what people tell you about their use. I have met too many liars and in any event just because someone uses x, y and doesn’t mean its right for you. Do your research. But don’t try to denigrate the achievements of any person stepping up to compete at any level with PED assistance or not. It’s hard to compete and so long as the people you compete with are doing everything within the law and spirit of the competition you don’t really have the right to judge them. The same goes the other way. Save your hate for the cheats.

If you do want more info, join the Strongman PED Research Group on Facebook for no nonsense advice based upon scientific studies and genuine stories/insights.

As for whether you NEED steroids or not. Well no-one can tell you how your own body feels. Not everyone will be suited for them and there are plenty of strong guys making the choice not to use anything and are doing extremely well in certain competitions. I do have a theory that an average guy with passion, drive, hard work and luck can overcome a good athlete who is using something. But I also believe that at some levels there will be an obvious gulf in class between the people who are good athletes, use gear and those who are good but don't use. And I believe that gulf in class is quite wide.

But for novice/intermediate comps? Of course you don't NEED to use. No-one needs to use anything at all. Just know that with all the will in the world, the gulf in class will be evident the higher up the ladder you go. But no, you don't need anything. But if you want to be the BEST then yes, you do. To compete with the best, you need to use something. This guy tried and failed...


As for what to use, well the advice from someone like Jim Wendler is to save your money on ridiculous mass gainers overloaded with sugar or spending a fortune on the latest bulking fad. Just use a gram of test. In my opinion this is sound GENERAL advice. It is NOT medical advice. But it is the truth and most guys who use will be on that kind of dose as a bare minimum.

Nandrolone is favoured by many (erroneously called Deca in most quarters due to the popular ester that Nandrolone is bind to - an ester is a compound effectively which determines the rate as to which the active ingredient is released into the body) as it can offer some positive joint benefits and increase muscle mass. Trenbolone is another but it's never been approved for human use. It will mess up your cardiovascular system with fluid going onto the lungs to some extent. But it will cut fat as an added bonus and if you're looking to stay within a certain weight class the benefits are potentially there along with using Stanozolol). Boldenone is favoured by many US powerlifters and it appears, anecdotally at least, that staying on a conservative dose (300-600mg per week) over 25 years is feasible.

Next in line are some orals but I never recommend these because at the end of the day health is all that matters because no-one, no less at novice to intermediate level, wants to be relying on the state for hand-outs or struggling to put food into their kid's mouths. So do your research before making any decisions. This is on you. Just don't be like this guy...


Costs are going to vary. And I don't really feel the need to look at this in much detail. All I will say is make sure your priorities are in order first. Don't miss a rent payment to buy a bottle of test. It's REALLY not worth it. Many of the guys on big doses at the top end of sport in general are sponsored by their countries on national level drug programmes (mainly in the Far East and Eastern bloc). You can't compete for that level of infrastructure and you're likely to be looking at using underground labs for your gear. So try and be safe and again I stress... RESEARCH!!!

Bear in mind this, the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 allows the use of various drugs under Class C classification. This allows the use of products without a prescription and they do not have to be in medicinal form. This means you can purchase, quite legally, all manner of performance enhancers. What you cannot do is use a website based in a foreign country to import them. And you cannot sell, distribute, give away, loan, inject or otherwise supply ANY class C drug. You can however, again quite legally, is visit a foreign country and import performance enhancers for personal use. Just bear in mind there are many fakes out there and you're likely to get stung. Quite literally. Fancy some cheap growth hormone from Egypt. Properly packaged. Pfizer branded no less? For only £40 for 100iu which will last about 30 days? (normal price at least £150). Ah, the "Pharmacist" at the "Pharmacy" is simply selling pure acid. No joke. Again, do your research before you visit anywhere. They love to scam the strength community out there.

So that's all I'll write here about that topic. If you want to know more, you know where to start looking (the Facebook page above).

Part two to follow…