I’m sure you’ve all read the latest article on the popular muscle building sites about how to develop a fuller, thicker back with “these 2 NEW maximal hypertrophy igniting muscle shocking lifts!” The title lures you in, but when you get inside, you find a small man doing technical movements that make little sense and use little weight. They aren’t making him any thicker, and they aren’t likely to add slabs of lean mass to you either.
So if these fancy exercises won’t build a bear of a man, what will? Hard work, heavy weight, and lots of it. In future parts of these series, I’ll go over some programming and progression ideas on how to incorporate heavy loads into your training, but in this first installment I want to focus on some very basic, but very powerful, ideas.
If you are looking to get big and strong, then there is no better way than to incorporate strongman training into your routine. Now, this doesn’t mean abandoning standard barbell and dumbbell work, but rather means integrating some of the methodologies and loading parameters of these volatile strength athletes.
Training work builds muscle thickness
So you want to get thick and muscular. It’s time to do some work. Take a look at carpenter’s and farmer’s hands and arms and backs. They are larger than the average person, thicker, stronger, heavier in those areas from years of constant use. The same principles will apply to you in your journey, though we will do our best to speed it up significantly. But there can be no real gain without hard, consistent work.
Now is the time to move out of your comfort zone. You’re going to get out of the air conditioned gym, away from the nice padded seats and fancy oiled machines, and train like an animal. For men, this is going to give you a strong, thick, powerful look. Women shouldn’t shy away from this however. For women, it will you a fitter look as well, making you look less frail and more healthy, fuller in all the right areas.
It is time to throw away the myth of a workout lasting more than 45 minutes being catabolic. While in general you should be able to get plenty of work in within about an hour, some of these training sessions are going to take longer. My events days typically take 4 hours to complete.
You are going to focus on 4 movements, warming up and pushing as hard as you can for each. You will have an clean and press variation, a weighted carry, a pull or drag, and a load. Using these four movement patterns, you will not only increase the size of your easily visible muscles, but also the size and thickness of all the supporting muscles as well, giving you a much more powerful look.
Heavy weight builds muscle thickness
If you’re looking to build a physique like Brad Pitt in fight club, carry on with light weight and low calorie diet. However, the truth of the matter is that light weight isn’t going to get you far in the journey to get massive. If you want to add mass and get thick, its time to load the bar.
You may hear of enormous bodybuilders doing light weight and high reps for hypertrophy, but consider this. They are often using weight that is light to THEM, not a novice lifter. An excellent example of this would be Tom Platz squatting 500 for 23 reps. Most people can’t hit a 500 single, let alone 20+ reps with it. Heavy weight and repetitions build massive size and strength.
Heavy weight is going to force your body to adapt and grow in order to meet the demands being placed on it. Using a progressively heavier weight will continue the adaptation. Awkward, heavily loaded movement patterns are going to force stabilizing muscles in the core and back to grow, adding to overall thickness and power.
Using strongman training for thickness
Strongman incorporates heavy loads and natural movement patterns. While there is no doubt that an impressive physique can be built with barbells only, strongman training can break up the monotony and develop areas that would not normally be worked. Your back will blow up, your core will harden and thicken, and your forearms will grow from the demands on your grip.
Another benefit is the conditioning aspect of events training. This will, with proper diet, assist in stripping away excess fat so that the muscle you build is obvious and lead to better overall health. A healthy body fat percentage and the muscle mass obtained from heavy, consistent training will lead to a strong, thick, powerful looking body.
That does it for this first part of Strongman Training for Thickness. In the next articles in this series, I will cover specific lifts to begin using and how to incorporate them.