How to Shoulder a Barbell Like an Old-Time Strongman

The article was last modified: 11-06-2016, 01:22 AM by mikey .

How to Shoulder a Barbell Like an Old-Time Strongman

by Mikey

In this article I will explain how to shoulder a barbell like an old time strongman. You might think that it’s impossible because you’ve never done it before but believe me, it isn’t difficult at all!

I’ll show you step by step how to do it. Then after you’re finished with this article, you can go out there and start doing some heavy lifting. I guarantee your arms will get bigger and stronger than ever before!

You probably have heard about old timers that could bench press over 500 pounds or squat over 600 pounds. These are legends, not real world examples of strength training achievements. A legend is something that happened long ago, not something that’s possible today.

That being said, if you want to become a legendary strongman, then you need to follow these simple steps. If you follow them carefully and diligently, then they’ll definitely make your life easier when it comes to getting big and strong.

What Is An Old Time Strongman?

Let’s start by explaining what an old time strongman actually is. An old-time strongman was someone who was…well….just that! They were very strong and could handle a tremendous amount of weight on various exercises.

Most people confuse these old time strongmen with professional weightlifters or bodybuilders but they’re not the same thing at all.

If you were on a deserted island and could only pick three exercises to train with, what would they be?

We’ll get into that later but for now, let’s focus on old-time strongmen.

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The catchphrase “old time strongman” can apply to anybody who was considered strong during their heyday. Some of them, like Louis Cyr, were world famous. Others, like the ones in old circus sideshows, were just known in a very limited geographical area.

No matter what type of strongman you’re talking about, they all had one thing in common and that’s the ability to lift massive amounts of weight overhead.

What Is The Overhead Lifts?

The overhead lift is a combination of several different strength moves. It can be broken down into a few different categories. For the purpose of this article we’ll focus on four of them:

Presses – The bench press, military press, and the incline press are all considered to be presses. Any time you’re pushing weight up above your head with your arms is considered a press.

Lifts – Anytime you’re lifting weight with one hand and supporting it with the other, such as with a dumbbell swing or with a barbell curl is considered a lift.

Pushes – Anytime you’re pushing weight directly in front of your body, such as when bench pressing or when doing a pushup is considered a push.

Grips – Anytime you’re holding weight and not supporting it directly over your body is considered a grip. This would include most types of lifting holds such as the Chin-up or the barbell grip.

Old Time Strongmen Exercises

Now that you have a better understanding of what an old time strongman actually was, let’s talk about some of the exercises that they did. We’re going to use the four categories we discussed earlier as a guideline.

The Overhead Lifts

The Presses

Bench Press – The bench press is the king of all upper body exercises. If you could bench 500 pounds and run a mile in under 5 minutes, you’d have a physique that most people would kill for. Unfortunately, most weight rooms have stripped this exercise of any real value. Most people don’t know how to bench press properly.

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At any rate, the bench press is all about pushing a bar straight up over your face while lying back on a bench. The bar should never touch your chest at any time during the exercise.

Military Press – The military press is also known as the “overhead press” and is one of the most valuable exercises for building strength and size in the upper body. This exercise is dangerous for those who don’t know how to do it properly, but when done with correct form, can strengthen the entire shoulder girdle and build some massive traps and front deltoids.

Incline Press – The incline press is similar to the military press except that you’re lying back at an incline. By doing this you’re shortening the range of motion of the exercise and putting yourself at a mechanical disadvantage. Most people will compensate for this by using their legs to push the weight up, however, if you focus and keep your legs still, this can be a very effective exercise for the upper body.

Pullovers – The pullover is one of those old time strongman exercises that most people don’t do anymore. Most would be better off if they did since it’s a great exercise for stretching and strengthening the pectorals. It’s also a very safe exercise for the shoulder joint.

Bent Over Rows – While not as popular as the bench press, the bent over row is still an important exercise for building a thick, powerful back. This exercise can be performed with dumbbells, a barbell or with a specialty bar. Most people bend over to perform this exercise; however, some people (especially powerlifters) prefer to bend their knees.

Dips – The dip is an exercise that can isolate the chest muscles. It’s not as effective as the bench press; however, it is still a great exercise for building powerful pectorals. The dip can be performed with two arms or with one arm at a time. Most people are stronger with one arm at a time; however, this can put more strain on the shoulders.

Squats – The squat is a basic leg strengthening exercise that almost everyone can do. With or without weight. If you want to learn how to squat properly, then read this article. There are a couple different styles of squatting.

There is the “high bar” back squat and the “low bar” back squat. The low bar back squat is what most old time strongmen used since the bar sat lower on the neck and it placed more of the stress on the quads and less on the lower back.

Once you’ve mastered these exercises, you will be ready to either specialize or move on to the power exercises. The power exercises are a lot more taxing on the CNS and they require a longer recovery period (at least three days). The best way to do these is to pick one power exercise and perform it first in your workout when you’re strongest, then do your other exercises afterwards. You’ll find that if you try to do too many of these at one time, your form will begin to suffer and you can get injured.

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You’ll also notice that there are no curl exercises in this section. This is because if you’re serious about building your arms up, then you need to focus on the big lifts like the bench press, squat, deadlift and bent over rows. The bicep isn’t a muscle that is used for any of these exercises. The only thing that really works the bicep is when you’re doing curls.

Most people think that by doing curls, they are going to have big arms, but this isn’t necessarily true. If your goal is to have big arms, then you need to focus on exercises that work the triceps and the chest.

Later on, you can get a chinning bar and start doing some chinups and pullups. Most people think that they just do more bicep work, but the back is just as important.

As for nutrition, you don’t need to worry about it yet, but I will tell you that too many bodybuilders eat way too much and if you’re reading this article, you probably are too. Don’t be afraid of eating, but don’t overdo it. One thing I will mention is to begin drinking a lot of milk (3-4 quarts) each day. I know most people are lactose intolerant these days, but in the old days, they drank a lot of milk.

It’s cheap, convenient and it’s packed with the nutrients that you need. However, if you can’t drink milk, then there’s no reason to force yourself.

2. When should

I change from general strength training to specialized training and what should I focus on?

Okay, so you’ve been reading a lot of information about how the old time strongmen trained and how they built up incredible strength and power. You want to be able to do what they did, but you don’t want to get too bulky, because you’re either playing a sport or performing in some theatrical group and you don’t want to look like a bodybuilder.

Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. You’re never going to get as big as a professional bodybuilder no matter how hard you train because they do things that you aren’t going to do. Most male bodybuilders take steroids and other drugs and most female bodybuilders take hormones and have personal trainers who know how to get them ready for competitions. Unless you have the money to support your new training habits, then you’re not going to get anywhere close.

However, you can still build a tremendous amount of strength, endurance and power. You’ll never look like Dorian Yates, but you can come pretty close. Of course being as big and bulky as Dorian is probably not what you’re looking for either.

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to give you an exact schedule to follow so you get the most out of your body without overdoing it or getting too big.

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We’ll start off with a simple program to get you going.

First, let’s go back to high school and remember how you played all those sports?

I know, I know, you were the worst one on the team, but that doesn’t matter because all of those sports had one thing in common and that was cardiovascular training. In fact, they’re probably the reason you didn’t grow as fast as the other kids in your class.

You may have been slow and clumsy, but you had endurance which is a good thing because that means it’s easy for you to improve.

So, the first thing you need to do is begin walking at a fast pace for one hour a day. This can either be all at once or divided throughout the day. Right now, just concentrate on getting in that one hour. This isn’t about speed; it’s about putting in the time.

After you get used to that, then you increase it to two hours per day.

When two hours becomes easy, you pick up the pace just a bit so it feels like you’re working a little harder. Of course you don’t need to go full out, but you want to push yourself. If you find that two hours is too much, then just work your way up to it. There’s no magic number here, so take it easy and work your way up.

Once you’re at four hours a day, you start to mix in some interval training. This means that you’re going to speed up for intervals of time and then slow down for intervals of time. For instance, you could walk for two minutes, then jog for one minute, then walk for two minutes, then jog for one minute and so on. This keeps your heart rate elevated the entire time and improves your cardiovascular fitness as well as giving your legs a little bit of a workout.

It also wouldn’t hurt to carry a weight in your backpack. It should be light enough that you can still walk with it, but heavy enough that it’s a little challenging. As you get stronger, you increase the weight.

The last thing you need to do is a resistance workout. This is the most important part of your training because this where you’ll pack on the muscle. I know, we said this wasn’t a bodybuilding program, but a little muscle never hurt anyone.

And if lifting a few weights is going to make you stronger and look a little better without exposing you to the dangers of boxing or wrestling, then why not?

Before we begin, I have two warnings:

First, you need to pay close attention to your recovery periods. What I mean is, after you work a muscle group, you need to give it time to rest before working it again. If you don’t you can seriously damage your muscles or joints. If you’re new to this, I would recommend at least a full day of rest before working a muscle group again.

Second, for the love of all that is good and holy, listen to your body! If something hurts, does not feel right or just plain doesn’t feel right, then stop and don’t do it again until you can talk to someone who knows what they’re doing or read up on it more. If you’re injured, you’re out of luck.

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So with those two warnings out of the way, let’s begin.

-3 days per week-

Warm-up: Warm up your joints by rotating your arms and twisting your body. After five minutes or so, move on to light jogging and then dynamic stretching (moving individual muscles through their full range of motion).

Light Cardio: Anything from hiking to biking to a fast paced walk to jogging for 30-60 minutes is great. This will vary depending on the exercise you choose, so read up and find what you like.

Weights: Pick an exercise for all of the major muscle groups. Some good examples are: Bench Press, Lat Pulldown, Leg Press, Barbell Row, Dumbbell Side Bend and more. Again, there are countless exercises you can do, so read up and find what you like. Here is a list of some good exercises to get you started.

Just a quick note: You do not need to perform these in a gym. Many exercises can be performed with your own body weight (like chin-ups) or with tools you can find around the house (kettlebells, water jugs, etc).

Take rest days seriously! These workouts are intense and will wear your muscles down quickly without giving them time to rebuild stronger. If you don’t rest, you won’t get stronger and will most likely get injured. Again, listen to your body and take days off as needed.

I highly recommend finding an activity that helps you wind down from the stress of the day. Whether it’s yoga, reading or meditation, take a few minutes to yourself to relax. You’ll feel better afterwards.

I wish you the best of luck on your journey!

Mike the Gamer

20 Weeks Out:

It’s been a long four years.

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The past few years in college have been more of a personal struggle than a struggle for grades. I’m not going to lie and say that I had super easy classes, because that certainly wasn’t the case, but I was able to handle my classes with relative ease.

My struggles were with finding a career. I changed my major three different times, each one seeming less and less promising. I couldn’t find anything that I really wanted to do with my life.

I tried everything from being a teacher to being an accountant. None of it felt right, so after much complaining, I finally got my parents to let me drop out and go back to school for video game design.

At first, it was exciting. I threw myself into my schoolwork and did well in my classes. I had finally found something that I thought that I could see myself doing for a living, but as time went on I started getting bored.

I was doing well in my classes and checking the box to graduate, but I wasn’t learning anything. The classes were so broad and shallow that I felt like I should have learned this stuff in high school.

There were some really cool professors and some pretty interesting classes, but it felt more like a popularity contest to see who could get the best grades, rather than actually LEARNING.

I quickly realized that the gaming companies didn’t care whether or not you had a degree in game design, they only cared if you could show that you had the talent to be a great video game designer.

So here I am 20 weeks until I get my bachelor’s degree in game design and ready to move on with my life. To be honest, I’m really scared. I’ve been in school since I was seven years old. Through grade school, high school, two years of college and now finally a bachelor’s degree.

I have no idea what I’m going to do next. I’m not too proud to go get a job at McDonald’s, but I’m just worried that I won’t be able to find something that I’ll be able to do for more than a year.

I’ve thought about the Army and being a soldier, but I don’t think I’m quite brave enough to do something like that. Nor do I want to be in another large group like a corporation either.

I suppose it doesn’t matter right now anyway. Right now, the only thing I need to be concerned about is graduating in another four months. I suppose after that, I can worry about finding a job.

I’ve got enough saved from all the jobs I had in high school and college that I could probably live for a while if I needed to. So as long as nothing goes horribly wrong, life is going to be great!

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We’ll see.

The Future

It’s been three years since I got my degree. Life has been good, but not great. I’ve had a few jobs here and there, but nothing permanent or that I’ve been interested in doing for the rest of my life.

I’ve found that the job market is tougher than I thought it would be. It’s a little disheartening at times, but I’m not going to let it get me down too much.

I’m currently still living at home with my parents, but only because I choose to, not because I need to. I suppose I’m just staying here temporarily while I figure out what I want to do.

I suppose the main thing that’s kept me going is Veronica. She’s been there for me through everything and I have a strong feeling that I’ll be with her for a very long time.

Lately though, I’ve been thinking about my future and where I see myself in five or ten years. The problem is, I can’t see myself in that future.

I mean I can somewhat see myself with Veronica in that future, but only if she chooses to be with me. If she were to ask me where I saw myself in five or ten years, I don’t think I could give her an answer.

That’s a pretty scary thought to me and one of the reasons why I’ve been losing a little bit of motivation lately.

I really wish I could see myself doing something in the future. I tried to think about what I wanted to do, but it just didn’t feel right. It felt like I was trying to be someone else and not even liking what I was pretending to be.

The only thing that I can think of is gaming. I love to play video games and I used to create video games when I was younger, but I don’t see that as a future for me.

I feel like I would be wasting my time if that’s all I did with my life. I want to do more than survive; I want to succeed.

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There has to be something out there that I’m good at and love to do without having to pretend to be someone that I’m not.

Well, until I figure out what that is, I guess I’ll just keep on keeping on.

I’m twenty-five now and still living at home. Not much has changed since the last time I wrote, but I guess I should explain what’s been going on.

I’m still not sure what I want to do for a career and it’s been causing me a lot of stress lately. Mom and dad have been very supportive and have tried to help since I’m still living here. I’m very grateful for everything they’ve done, but the problem is me. I can’t seem to figure out what I like.

I tried a few different things, but ended up going back to school to get another degree in computer science. It’s a pretty solid degree and it seemed interesting at the time, but after a year of school, I have to say I hate it.

I don’t hate learning, I just hated the subjects they were teaching me. All of the courses seemed to be very dry and extremely unrelated to what I wanted to do. I ended up changing my degree to Game Design, which seemed a lot more fun, but it’s the same thing. After three years, I’m still not done with school and I feel like I’ve wasted so much time and money.

I still live at home and I have no idea what I want to do with my life.

Sometimes, I feel like this is all a nightmare and I’m going to wake up ready to tackle the world.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

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This morning when I woke up, I felt really down. I don’t know why, but for some reason yesterday was one of those days.

After getting ready for the day, I went downstairs to eat breakfast and watch some TV.

“Hey honey, you’re up early,” mom said.

“Didn’t sleep well,” I replied while turning on the TV.

I tried to change the channel, but nothing was on.

“We need new batteries for this remote,” mom said adjusting the antenna.

The TV suddenly got a lot of static and then it turned off.

“Ah, crap,”

Sources & references used in this article:

More Training Articles by E Troy –

Optimum Fitness: How to Use Your Muscles as Peripheral Hearts to Achieve Optimum Muscular and Aerobic Fitness by GH Miller Jr – 2001 –

Louis Cyr and Charles Sampson: archetypes of vaudevillian strongmen by J BuckĀ – Iron Game History, 1998 –

Search Results for: klein by D Mitchell –

Muscletown USA: Bob Hoffman and the manly culture of York Barbell by JD Fair – 1999 –