Wild Training is the gym that offers a huge array of training methods to give members the best chance of finding the system that’s right for them.
Founded by James Griffiths – whose CV includes the highest altitude workout ever completed, 1,000 24kg kettlebell snatches in under an hour, and the title of South England’s Strongest Man Under 80kg 2018 – Wild Training Gym is a veritable playground for fitness enthusiasts, and an element of fun is central to Griffiths’ founding ethos.
“Our aim is to at least introduce people to all the systems of training we offer,” he says. “You’re not going to enjoy everything we do – that would be crazy to think – but by showing you everything you are going to find something that properly excites you. That can then be your foundation that gives you a reason to be here.”
One of those systems is Strongman training, which is cardio and of course strength rolled into one.
“While there are some much more modern ideas on pro strongman training systems, traditionally strongman training looked like four workouts a week: deadlift, press, squat and ‘events’,” explains Griffiths.
“The latter being where athletes would practice the more specific events found in competition: Atlas stones, farmer’s carries, loading events and so on.
“Some of my favourite sessions,” Griffiths continues, “are when I mix it all into one mad conditioning workout. Intensity and volume are reduced to fit it into an hour, but it’s an awesome whole-body workout and a great place to get started.
“Once you have spent some time building a solid foundation of strength with these big lifts, I’d recommend getting down to a gym with some proper Strongman equipment, and a decent coach to try some of the less clinical events.”
The Wild Training Strongman Workout
1. Snatch-Grip Deadlift
Rest: 90-120 secs
“The snatch-grip deadlift does three things,” explains Griffiths. “It improves grip, strengthens the upper back and gets you stronger in the pick-up of any deadlift. For me the pick-up was my weakest part of my deadlift, so snatch grip deadlifts were a real game changer.”
- A snatch grip is wide. With an empty Olympic bar, lift the bar to the crease of your hips. Bend over to 45 degrees. Then take your hands out wide enough so you can lock your elbows out, but not so wide the bar slips out from the crease of your hips. This is the width to use for the deadlift.
- You are likely to feel more comfortable with your feet relatively close together with your feet turned out slightly. This should make the lower-than-normal pick-up feel less awkward.
- The snatch grip means you will be lifting from lower, and there will be more stress on your upper back. Learning how to create tension in the shoulders and keeping your back tight from the floor will dramatically improve your deadlift.
- Take a deep breath at the bottom and focus on driving up with your shoulders staying above the bar. Keep the shoulders tight at the top and perform a slow negative to lower the bar back down to the floor. Let the bar rest on the floor before your next rep.
- Remember you are here to improve your pick-up, so tap and goes aren’t going to get you the best results.
2. Push Press Ratchet Negative
Rest: 90-120 secs
“Overhead press is a massive part of Strongman training,” explains Griffiths. “The more you do it, the more you appreciate the whole-body nature of big overhead lifts, and the skill required to balance different shaped kit above you.”
- You can use any kit for this. “I love using a Viking press, but a normal Olympic bar will work in a rack with decent spotter arms,” says Griffiths. Ratchet negatives should be heavy, so the set-up needs to be safe on the limit.
- Perform a push press, using triple extension to drive the weight overhead. Hips, knees and ankles should explode like when you jump to help get the weight overhead.
- Negatives play on the idea of the eccentric phase of any movement being where you can massively increase the stimulus on the muscles for increasing strength and size. Rather than just a slow negative, the ratchet is where you really look to max out the time with the weight.
- From lock-out, lower the weight just one inch. Then press it back out to lock-out. Then lower it two inches before pressing it back out. Then three inches. If the weight is where it should be you won’t get much further than four inches.
- Respect the intensity and hit lower volumes to start. Just 2 sets might be enough.
Rest: 90-120 secs
“For many the squat is the granddaddy of strength,” says Griffiths, “but for me it has never been a key part of my heavy strength training. None of the Strongman competitions I competed in had a squat, so that is another reason I didn’t hit heavy squats.
“Having said that, I love big-rep numbers for my back squats. Can you hit 30 reps while carrying your own bodyweight on your back?”
- Stand under the bar with your feet shoulder-width or slightly wider.
- Position the bar at the top of your back, not on the back of your neck.
- Grip the bar with a wide grip for stability.
- Take a small step back and stabilise yourself.
- Keeping your eyes facing forward, tense up in your core, glutes and quads.
- Squat down until your thighs are parallel with the floor, then drive through your heels to return to standing.
4. Farmer’s Hold
Reps: 20 secs
Rest: 60-90 secs
“I’ll never forget the first time I did the farmer carries,” says Griffiths. “They’re fun, dynamic, grip-intensive and way more challenging on your cardio than you’d ever imagine.
“Replicating Strongman training in a gym that isn’t set up for it isn’t easy, but this farmer hold practice is something I trained for my grip and balance on the pick-up.”
- Use two Olympic bars loaded with bumper plates on a surface suitable from dropping the weights on. The length of the bars will make you really appreciate accuracy in your pick-up technique and grip strength being on point.
- This will feel similar to a hex bar deadlift with your hands closer together. Stand up and lock your hips out.
- The exercise is simple. Hold onto the bars, standing tall throughout for 20 seconds. If you go past 20 seconds, put the weight up. Most farmer carry events are over in less than 20 seconds. Something many people don’t realise about Strongman as a sport is that so many of the events are about speed as well as strength.
- This drill will develop your grip and balance so that if and when you want to start moving with farmer carries, your grip and core strength will be a lot less likely to let you down.
For more on Wild Training and James Griffiths’ all-encompassing fitness philosophy, keep an eye out for the November issue of Men’s Fitness.
Wild Training is based in High Wycombe, but online classes are available. Full-access membership, including gym classes and Wild Live online classes, is £75 per month. Visit wildtraining.co.uk
Photography: Ben Machekanyanga