A peek inside my training, part 2: Peaking for Strongman!

Peek, peaking…um… yay for homophones!

In part one of my “peek inside” training posts, I described my program leading up to California’s Strongest Woman. It mainly involved a lot of CrossFit and metabolic conditioning, since at the time that’s what I wanted to be focusing on. Once I felt the fervor, the energy, the femme RAGE of Strongman and saw how fucking awesome these women are, I knew I was ready to get bigger, badasser, and stronger.

I was ready to join the Big Back Ranks!

For about six weeks after qualifying for Master’s Nationals, I had four days per week to train (and sometimes only three) due to my life schedule. At that point, I was doing hypertrophy sets of safety squat bar, deadlift, incline bench, front squat, and press, all of which hovered in the 4×12 rep range at around 60-70% of a maximal effort lift. Plus, because I am an old lady who has been doing kipping pull ups and handstand push ups before she was strong enough do them strictly, I needed to do a lot of shoulder rehabilitation. I would (and still) do lots of sets of banded work, including external rotations and pulls and such. My coach also programmed bodybuilding movements for my back, shoulders, hamstrings and glutes. Strongman is a very back-centric sport, so if you look at people who compete, you’ll probably see their lats and delts before you know what color their eyes are.

This part of the program was tiring and kind of boring, but I saw results very quickly. My body was putting on mass and putting me out of my pants (yeah pants stopped fitting for a bit). This mass was going to be used as a basis for my strength.

In June, summer hit and I was no longer taking classes, so I could increase my program to five days on and two days off. Thus began my strength cycle and my peaking for Master’s Nationals. I got to play with the implements more, including log twice a week, stones and sandbags once a week, sled pulls, and I finally got strong enough to do legless rope climbs. That kicked ass, actually.

Strength cycles are usually in the 4×6-8 rep range and 70-85 percentile of your max lifts (sometimes up to 90%). For me, it includes a lot of supersets of front squat and press, deadlifts, and working on my grip strength.

I’m just now beginning another part of my peaking phase, which will have me playing with more implements, including yoke and the axle, as a part of my programming. I will still be getting stronger and the weights will be getting heavier. We’re also adding in a sixth day of conditioning with my best friend the assault bike, and sled pushes and drags and whatnot. Now that I’m getting stronger, I need to have the speed and engine to move loads quickly.

I also need to get my mind on board. The mental part of heavy lifting is one of the HEAVIEST elements for me. If I can lift the weight, I need to move quickly with it, rather than my default processing time of “Okey, picked it up, cool, how does it feel, are you okay, do you need anything, like a glass of water, or does it remind you of your childhood,” etc. Therapist brain is hard to shut off sometimes 🙂

I’m told there will be no max effort attempts until contest (though I hope I get to measure at least once beforehand), so I won’t really know how my numbers are doing and whether they’re going up, but it’s safe to say the lifts that felt hard before are feeling easier, I’m recovering better, and I can see my back spreading like moss in the forest. So far, that’s pretty good feedback.

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“The log is trying to kill you. Don’t let it.”

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