When we speak of GPP (General Physical Preparedness), the first thing that comes to my mind is “functional” exercise. The farmer’s carry is the epitome of functional exercise. Every single person who goes shopping, especially for groceries, performs farmer’s carries. It is a very simple exercise: you pick up some really heavy objects and you walk with with them. Yet as simple as the exercise is, the benefits are substantial. Amongst the benefits are HUGE increase in grip strength and midline stabilization. No other exercise targets the grips more than the Farmer’s Carry. An athlete is often limited in the weight of many of their lifts by their grip strength. The handles used, often times allow us to load our bodies with more weight than we could deadlift, because of the height at which the handles are set. At the beginning of the carry, you are at greater mechanical advantage compared to that of a traditional deadlift. All of the flexor and extensor muscles of the forearm are engaged in order to pick that weight up. The Farmer’s carry is also great for developing core strength and improve midline stabilization. Once you stand with that weight and begin to walk, almost every single muscle in the body works together in order stabilize the body. It helps teach optimal alignment of the body, where you can maximize movement efficiency.
The sandbag front squat is one of the most effective strength exercises yet one of the most under utilized exercises. The sandbag front can be performed many ways. The most common is the “bear hug” version of the sandbag front squat. This involves lapping the sand bag and wrapping your arms around the sand bag. The benefits of performing the sandbag front squat include increased strength in the posterior chain. The sandbag front squat serves as a great corrective exercise for those who struggle with a barbell front squat. A barbell front squat requires a tremendous amount of thoracic, shoulder and hip mobility. The sandbag allows for weight to be front-loaded while keeping the shoulders in a neutral position. The sandbag will increase midline stabilization and help athletes in keeping an upright/vertical torso while performing a front loaded squat. This exercise also helps athletes with keeping their weight on their heels and tracking the knees to the outside and over the center of the foot.
The atlas stone “Ground-to-Shoulder(GTS)” is another foundational movement of Strongman 101. The GTS is similar to the log in the mechanics of movement, but is a much more awkward in shape. The GTS is performed by deadlifting the atlas stone into a lap position, coiling the hips, and then violently extending the hips, causing the stone to roll up the body and on to the shoulder. During the GTS, the entire posterior muscular chain(glutes, hamstrings, back, and calves) is fires to allow the body to go into “quadruple extension”, or extension of the ankles, knees, hips, and back. On top of explosive power development, training with an atlas stone will also help develop one of the most ignored components of training, grip strength. Often times, are failed because our grips give out on us. Simply picking up a stone will develope a tremendous amount of grip strength as you have to “squeeze” the stone as it is brought to the lap position.
The Log Clean and Press is a great exercise for those looking to increase strength and power in the lower, mid-, and upper body. The hips are “coiled” then violently extended so that the log rolls up the torso into a front rack position. The energy is transferred from the glutes and hamstrings at the hip, through the mid-section as the log is cleaned. The large diameter of the log changes the center of gravity so that the majority of weight is shifted further in front of the body, compared to that of a traditional barbell front rack. This shift in the center of gravity increases midline stabilization and thus increased core strength. The log also teaches us to have a “perfect” vertical dip position. The knees are tracked to the outside and over the center of the foot, so that the chest remains in a vertical position in order to keep the log over the frontal plane and maximize efficiency during the press. The neutral grip within the log keeps the shoulders safe and makes it easier for anybody who suffers from poor shoulder mobility or pain during traditional barbell presses.