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Acute Physiological Responses to Strongman Training Compared to Traditional Strength Training

Harris, Nigel K.; Woulfe, Colm J.; Wood, Matthew R.; Dulson, Deborah K.; Gluchowski, Ashley K.; Keogh, Justin B.

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: May 2016 - Volume 30 - Issue 5 - p 1397–1408
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001217
Original Research

Abstract: Harris, NK, Woulfe, CJ, Wood, MR, Dulson, DK, Gluchowski, AK, and Keogh, JB. Acute physiological responses to strongman training compared to traditional strength training. J Strength Cond Res 30(5): 1397–1408, 2016—Strongman training (ST) has become an increasingly popular modality, but data on physiological responses are limited. This study sought to determine physiological responses to an ST session compared to a traditional strength exercise training (RST) session. Ten healthy men (23.6 ± 27.5 years, 85.8 ± 10.3 kg) volunteered in a crossover design, where all participants performed an ST session, an RST session, and a resting session within 7 days apart. The ST consisted of sled drag, farmer's walk, 1 arm dumbbell clean and press, and tire flip at loads eliciting approximately 30 seconds of near maximal effort per set. The RST consisted of squat, deadlift, bench press, and power clean, progressing to 75% of 1 repetition maximum. Sessions were equated for approximate total set duration. Blood lactate and salivary testosterone were recorded immediately before and after training sessions. Heart rate, caloric expenditure, and substrate utilization were measured throughout the resting session, both training protocols and for 80 minutes after training sessions. Analyses were conducted to determine differences in physiological responses within and between protocols. No significant changes in testosterone occurred at any time point for either session. Lactate increased significantly immediately after both sessions. Heart rate, caloric expenditure, and substrate utilization were all elevated significantly during ST and RST. Heart rate and fat expenditure were significantly elevated compared to resting in both sessions' recovery periods; calorie and carbohydrate expenditures were not. Compared to RST, ST represents an equivalent physiological stimulus on key parameters indicative of potential training-induced adaptive responses. Such adaptations could conceivably include cardiovascular conditioning.

1Auckland University of Technology, Human Potential Centre, Auckland, New Zealand;

2Auckland University of Technology, Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand (SPRINZ), Auckland, New Zealand;

3Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine, Bond University, Gold Coast, Australia; and

4Cluster for Health Improvement, Faculty of Science, Health, Education and Engineering, University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia

Address correspondence to Nigel K. Harris,

Copyright © 2016 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.