By Tom Hibbert
Success leaves clues, and Charles Poliquin is one of the most well-known strength coaches alongside arguably being the most successful. With this in mind, I utilized his concept of predictor lifts to develop my own for the sport of Strongman.
The concept is simple: Improve your predictor lifts and in turn, this will improve your performance and success in your chosen sport.
After a lot of research and data collecting, I found that the 3 main predictor lifts in Strongman are: Deadlift (100%), Olympic Style Back Squat (90%), Log Clean & Push Press (50%+)
The percentages in brackets denote the ratio between the lifts, with the deadlift being the ‘master’ lift at 100%. So if you deadlift 300kg, your log needs to be 150kg+.
Why these 3 lifts?
More often than not, you will see a deadlift in a competition, either for reps or for maximum. I can guarantee if you don’t see a deadlift, you’ll still be bending down and picking something up off the floor in a competition.
If you have a strong deadlift, you have a strong lower back. If you have a strong lower back, this creates a radiation effect to the rest of the body, making you strong everywhere. Overcoming inertia is constant in Strongman events and overcoming a deadlift is important to your success.
*Note: For this ratio you must use your raw conventional stance 1RM (Straps allowed)
Olympic Style Back Squat
The Olympic style back squat is chosen as opposed to a powerlifting style due to more transferability to the events and overall qualities needed for the athlete.
Consider the need for leg drive in overhead events; this will come from an upright torso with the Vastus Medialis Oblique (VMO) providing the leg drive. The knees will certainly go over and past the toes. Do your knees do this with a hip dominant powerlifting squat? No.
Consider the need to be quick whilst carrying a sandbag and free running between implements, or with a yoke on your back. Again, the need for a strong Olympic style squat transfers greatly.
Moreover, the need for healthy joints is of paramount to avoid injuries. Training through a full range of movement is going to better serve you in this respect also. I’m not saying don’t use a powerlifting style squat, but consider where your weaknesses lie and why you might be doing one or the other.
*Note: Execution of the lift is high bar & raw (neoprenes only), hamstrings cover calves fully in bottom position. None of this just about get to parallel shit. Leave a stain on the floor.
Log Clean & Push Press
The log is preferred to determine overhead strength as there will always be an overhead event in Strongman contests. There are other overhead lifts, but the log is more popular with event organizers, and the trunk/core stimulus is greater with a log as opposed to a barbell or axle. To say that a strong core is of paramount importance in Strongman is an understatement.
The press must be a push press, not a jerk, to be applicable to the ratios. Only training a jerk and not building sufficient pressing and push pressing strength will limit you, especially when a Viking press shows up and you no rep consistently for 60 seconds.
So there you have it. The 3 main lifts that you need to identify where you are, which will in turn show what you need to work on. The golden principle is a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. So keeping the lifts in balance with each other is of utmost importance.
I completely agree with those that message me saying there is much more to Strongman than just bringing up these three lifts. I do indeed have many other lifts and data that correlate with these, but this is beyond the scope of this article.
Tom owns a private strength and conditioning facility in the UK (Winning Health Solutions) as well as a Personal Trainer/Strength Coach Education business (Winning Performance). He is a two time national Strongman Champion at u90kg.
Not only has he proved he can take a Strongman from novice to the international stage, most notably with Aaron Page, he has taken other seasoned Strongmen from obscurity to the same level, like Lee Forbister. With this success he has started to work with Slovenia’s Strongest Man & WSM competitor Matjaz Belsak.
Feel free to direct further questions to him: [email protected]