210kg Snatch, 250kg Clean and Jerk, 920lb raw deadlift, 2,221 raw total, 3rd at 2010 World’s Strongest Man and 19’ 56# weight over bar, quite a list of accomplishments and they all belong to one man, Mikhail “Misha” Koklyaev. Misha is undoubtedly the most well-rounded strength athlete of all-time, the only one who can lay claim to truly World class performances across all 4 of the major strength sports, Weightlifting, Powerlifting, Strongman and Highland Games. Misha is the ultimate strength ATHLETE, he is what I aspire to be athletically.

How would one undertake the daunting task of simultaneously training for 4 unique and challenging sports that people dedicate their entire lives to succeeding at? First let’s look at some of the traits required for success in each sport and please keep in mind that these lists aren’t complete by any means but are my opinion of the most important traits in each…

Weightlifting-Being a great weightlifter requires tremendous technical skill combined with exceptional lower body strength, speed, flexibility, and upper body stability. The overwhelming majority of highly successful weightlifters begin training in their sport at a young age, particularly when compared to their other strength sport comrades. I don’t know the exact age that Misha began training for weightlifting but I’m sure he was young and to achieve the level of success he has across a variety of disciplines it is necessary that weightlifting was his introduction and foundation to training.

Powerlifting-Being a great powerlifter requires above all, great maximal strength throughout the entire body. While technical mastery is of course important, you will find a much greater variances in techniques of top powerlifters than you will great weightlifters.

Strongman-Strongman is like the MMA of strength sports. In the same way that a great MMA fighter must combine high level qualities across a number of varied disciplines, so must the successful strongman possess great maximal, explosive and special strength, solid technique in a number of unique movements and unique among strength sports, a well developed aerobic base.

Highland Games-There have been many great strength athletes who have had crossover success in the highland games and vice versa. A great thrower needs speed, technique/coordination, special strength and maximal strength throughout the entire body.

There are many qualities that are unique to the different sports and a few that overlap, it is these shared qualities that you must focus on developing in your goal is to become a truly well-rounded strength athlete.

Let’s examine the exercises that will have the highest degree of transfer between these unique disciplines…

Squat-When I say squat I am referring to a high bar back squat and front squat, both done to maximum depth. While high bar back squatting may not be your strongest squatting position for powerlifting, it is critical for success in weightlifting and training a low bar squat will interfere with your motor patterns needed to maximize your performance in the snatch and clean. Training the front squat hard will help improve your back squat, deadlift, clean, snatch and strongman movements like log press and atlas stones.

Clean & Jerk and Snatch-There is no other way to get better at these than to practice them and there is no other way to get great at them than to practice them a lot. Training these exercises and their variations from various heights, on blocks and with pauses will of course be necessary to improve your weightlifting, but will also improve your general explosive qualities that you need to succeed in Strongman and Highland Games. Also training these hard will keep you in touch with deadlifting and help you become faster off the floor. Understand, that the first pull of the clean IS NOT a deadlift, deadlifting more will not make a weightlifter of any real qualification better in the clean or snatch-in fact it will actually interfere with their progress. Good weightlifters don’t train the deadlift more than a few sessions per year. With that being said, being a great powerlifter and particularly a great strongman hinges upon being a great deadlifter so it will be necessary to include heavy pulls more frequently than you would if you were just training to be a weightlifter.

Overhead Pressing-Overhead strength is a must for strongman and weightlifting (while it isn’t a press, it is still necessary and the stability it will help create is important), will have great transfer to Highland games (I personally preferred the bench press and variations when I was throwing the shot but overhead/push presses are great too) and improved overhead strength will improve your bench press. The majority of overhead work will need to be done with a barbell, as you will be able to handle the most weight which of course will have the highest transfer to other exercises, but some training with the Log will also be required because as those of you who have ever pressed a log understand, it is a different beast.

Strongman Events-As with the Olympic lifts, there is no other way to improve strongman events but to do them. There are so many different strongman events that trying to train all of them would be futile, so you must train those which appear most often and have the highest degree of transfer. Those events are Yoke, Farmers, Stones, Pressing and Deadlifts, the latter two I have already addressed. The Yoke and Farmers are very similar, essentially if you are good at Yoke and have a good grip/deadlift you will be good at Farmers. Doing as much submaximal training with events (and everything) as possible will be needed as the unstable nature of event training presents such a great load to the CNS and there are so many high intensity stressors in a program of this nature that you must do everything possible to keep your cup from overflowing. For those of you who haven’t read many of my previous articles, legendary sprints coach Charlie Francis likened your CNS to a cup and that every high intensity stressor you present to it (whether training induced like heavy or explosive weights, sprinting, jumping throwing or life induced like illness and emotional stress) fill that cup up to some degree and overflowing this cup means that you are overtrained, which is an arduous process to recover from.

Throwing and Jumping-If you are going to be a great strength athlete you have to be explosive and if you are going to be a great thrower, you have to throw. Throwing (both specific, ie. Actual HG events and general, ie. Medball and other weighted throws) will not only help build the general explosive qualities needed for weightlifting, powerlifting and strongman it will also build the specific skills needed to excel in HG. The usual Highland Games competition consists of 2 stone throws, 2 weight for distance throws, 2 hammer throws, weight over bar and caber toss. While this wouldn’t hold true for a high level competitor in just the Highland Games, it is in the interest of this program to put most of your attention towards the stones (the majority toward the light stone), weights for distances (the majority toward the light weight) and hammers (the majority toward the light hammer) because the WOB is the most general of the throws and frankly, who really trains the caber. The focus towards the lighter weights is done to develop speed/technique and rely upon your strength developed in the weightroom to handle the heavier weights and to avoid beating your body up as much. Jumps both upper and lower body varieties are a great general explosiveness builder and will have transfer to all of these activities.

Now that we have laid out the various means that we will utilize to tackle the complex and daunting task of being highly competitive across all the major strength sports. Lets look at how these pieces could fit together into a 3 week training cycle…

 

Week 1 Week 2 Week 3
Monday
1-Box Pushups-4×2 1-Box Pushups-5×2 1-Box Pushups-6×2
2-Strict Press-55/60/65/70/75%x5 2-Jerk from Blocks/Rack-85%x2 EMOM for 15 min 2-Push Press-Up to 3-5rm
3-Closegrip Bench-3×10-12 3-Closegrip Bench-3×8-10 3-Closegrip Bench-3×6-8
4-Neutral Grip Chinups-5×6-8 4-Neutral Grip Chinups-5×8-10 4-Neutral Grip Chinups-5×10-12
5-Accessory Work for Upper Back, Shoulders and Triceps 5-Accessory Work for Upper Back, Shoulders and Triceps 5-Accessory Work for Upper Back, Shoulders and Triceps
6-Aerobic Work on Bike or In Pool-2×6 rounds x30-40 seconds 6-Aerobic Work on Bike or In Pool-2×8 rounds x30-40 seconds 6-Aerobic Work on Bike or In Pool-2×10 rounds x30-40 seconds
Wednesday
1-Box Jumps-5×5 1-Box Jumps-5×4 1-Box Jumps-5×3
2-Open Stone Throw x10 2-Light Weight for Distance x10 2-Light Hammer Throw x10
3-OHB, Scoop, Rotational MB Throws x10 each 3-OHB, Scoop, Rotational MB Throws x8 each 3-OHB, Scoop, Rotational MB Throws x6 each
4-Clean (Hang + 2 Fulls)-5×3 at 75-85% 4-Clean (Hang + Full)-4×2 at 80-90% 4-Clean-Up to 1-3rm
5-Snatch from Hip-8×3 at 70-80% 5-Snatch from Hip-6×3 at 75-85% 6-Deadlift-Up to Heavy 1-3
6-Squat-60/65/70/75/80%x3 6-Squat-65/70/75/80/85%x2 6-Squat-70×5, 75×4, 80×3, 85×2, 90%x1, Add Reverse Bands for 2-3×1
7-Yoke-Making 50 pound jumps, go as far as possible in 10 seconds, when you fail to go 50’ you are done, 1 min b/t sets 7-Atlas Stones-Moderate weight stone over bar x2, EMOM for 10 min, one motion if possible 7-Farmers Walk-Making 30 pound jumps, go as far as possible in 10 seconds, when you fail to go 50’ you are done, start 30# heavier than previous session, 1 min b/t sets
8-Weighted Ab Work 8-Weighted Ab Work 8-Weighted Ab Work
Friday
1-Box Pushups-4×2 1-Box Pushups-5×2 1-Box Pushups-6×2
2-Log Clean and Press-70%x8x2 2-Giant DB Press-Up to heavy set of 3-5 3-Log Press from Rack-Up to heavy set of 1-3
3-Incline DB Press-2×12 3-Incline DB Press-2×10 3-Incline DB Press-2×8
4-Heavy Rowing (Either Chest Supported or DB)-5×12-15 4-Heavy Rowing (Either Chest Supported or DB)-5×10-12 4-Heavy Rowing (Either Chest Supported or DB)-5×8-10
5-Accessory Work for Upper Back, Shoulders and Triceps 5-Accessory Work for Upper Back, Shoulders and Triceps 5-Accessory Work for Upper Back, Shoulders and Triceps
6-Aerobic Work on Bike or In Pool-2×6 rounds x30-40 seconds 6-Aerobic Work on Bike or In Pool-2×8 rounds x30-40 seconds 6-Aerobic Work on Bike or In Pool-2×10 rounds x30-40 seconds
Saturday
1-Box Jumps-3×5 1-Box Jumps-3×4 1-Box Jumps-3×3
2-Light Hammer Throw x10 2-Open Stone Throw x8 2-Light Weight for Distance x8
3-OHB, Scoop, Rotatonal MB Throws x10 each 3-OHB, Scoop, Rotational MB Throws x8 3-OHB, Scoop, Rotationals MB Throws x6
4-Snatch-85%x1 EMOM x15 min 4-Snatch-92.5%x1 EMOM x10 min 4-Snatch-Up to 1rm
5-Clean from High Blocks-6×3 at 70-80% 5-Deadlift from 4” Blocks-Up to 3×3 5-Clean from High Blocks-5×3 at 75-85%
6-Front Squat-60/70/80%x5 6-Front Squat-65/75/85%x3 6-Front Squat-65×5, 75×3, 85%x1
7-Farmers Walks-Making 30 pound jumps, go as far as possible in 10 seconds, when you fail to go 50’ you are done, 1 min b/t sets 7-Yoke-Making 50 pound jumps, go as far as possible in 10 seconds, when you fail to go 50’ you are done, start 50# heavier than previous time, 1 min b/t sets 7-Atlas Stones-Heavy weight stone over bar x1, EMOM for 10 min, one motion if possible
8-Weighted Abs 8-Weighted Abs 8-Weighted Abs

 

Now this is just one option to consider when trying to train for this variety of disciplines and is just a snapshot during a small part of the more complex training year. You must take into account your own abilities, strengths, weaknesses and training background. For example someone who’s history in in throwing and Olympic lifting may need to spend more time on their strongman events and powerlifts, while a powerlifter may need to do more mobility work and focus more on their weightlifting and throwing. The possibilities of this type of program are endless, but hopefully it got your wheels turning about the exciting challenge of trying to be a true strength athlete who is capable of performing well in any discipline put in front of them.

Chad Wesley Smith is the founder and head physical preparation coach at Juggernaut Training Systems. Chad has a diverse athletic background, winning two national championships in the shot put, setting the American Record in the squat (905 in the 308 class, raw w/ wraps) and most recently winning the 2012 North American Strongman championship, where he earned his pro card.
In addition to his athletic exploits, Chad has helped over 50 athletes earn Division 1 athletic scholarships since 2009 and worked with many NFL Players and Olympians. Chad is the author of The Juggernaut Method and The Juggernaut Method 2.0.
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Chad Wesley Smith

Chad Wesley Smith is the founder and head physical preparation coach at Juggernaut Training Systems. Chad has a diverse athletic background, winning two national championships in the shot put, setting the American Record in the squat (905 in the 308 class, raw w/ wraps) and most recently winning the 2012 North American Strongman championship, where he earned his pro card. In addition to his athletic exploits, Chad has helped over 50 athletes earn Division 1 athletic scholarships since 2009 and worked with many NFL Players and Olympians. Chad is the author of The Juggernaut Method and The Juggernaut Method 2.0.

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  • Casey

    Can you elaborate on volumae considerations at all? For example, over three weeks, your box jump are reducing volume, but your box pushups are increasing volume.I see some of the more obvious examples, as intensity increases, volume decreases, but what is the rationale behind the others without prescribed intensities? (Just another example, chinup volume increases, but DB incline press decreases).

    Any clarification would be greatly appreciated!

    • Chad Smith

      Those could go either way. If box pushup volume increases, it means that the box height stays constant. If box jump volume decreases, it means that the box height is increasing weekly. Chinups are tricky to program without context, if you are doing only bodyweight reps then volume must increase weekly, if you are doing them weighted/with increasing weight, then volume would decrease weekly. As I said, this is just a snapshot of what part of the training process could look like, but isn’t a specific part of the year or geared towards a specific athlete.

      • Casey

        Makes sense, just wanted to see how much I was over-thinking. Thanks for the reply!

  • Alex Mendis

    You wrote ” Deadlift from 4” Blocks-Up to 3×3″ does that mean I lift the bar off 4″ blocks, or I stand on blocks ? Im pretty sure it means I lift off 4″ blocks, but I wanted to make sure I undestood you correctly. Since this seems like a fun program to try for awhile, I want to follow what you wrote for awhile and then make adjustments to fit my weaknesses.

    • Chad Smith

      Correct, bar is elevated 4″

  • Mateusz Kwiatkowski

    that’s really good article, i, for example want to do some basic oly lifts along my powerlifting. So that helped a bit on where to put them and how can i implement it all into one piece. But this configuration would be nice to see.

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  • Kasper Ellefsen

    Would including Juggernaut Method training in such a template be a straight forward process, or would you have re-evaluate the other exercises with regards to volume?

    My next training cycle will be greatly inspired by this program, with some alterations to suit the equipment I have available. In addition the highland games work will more or less be entirely cut due to not having the equipment or the facilities to do them. I will however include a lot of the gymnastics training I’m already doing.

    All in all it’s yet another fantastic article!

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  • Andy

    Would there be any way that I could set this up for a long duration? For instance, would I insert a lighter “deload” weak and continuously train this way?

    I would greatly appreciate a response.

    • Chad Smith

      This style of training could always be done by manipulating the intensity/volume and proportions of exercises, of course deloading will be necessary as well.

      • Andy

        I will definitely think about doing this.

        Thank you very much!