BACKGROUND: The sport of strongman is becoming increasingly popular, catering for females, lightweight, and Masters competitors, with strongman exercises also being used by strength and conditioning coaches for a range of athletic groups. Thus, a systematic review was conducted to examine researchers' current understanding of the biomechanics of strongman exercises, with a view to improve strongman athlete performance, provide biomechanical evidence supporting the transferability of strongman exercises to strength and conditioning/rehabilitation programs, and identify gaps in the current knowledge of the biomechanics of strongman exercises.
METHODS: A two-level search term strategy was used to search five databases for studies relevant to strongman exercises and biomechanics.
RESULTS: Eleven articles adherent to the inclusion criteria were returned from the search. The studies provided preliminary biomechanical analysis of various strongman exercises including the key biomechanical performance determinants of the farmer's walk, heavy sled pull, and tire flip. Higher performing athletes in the farmer's walk and heavy sled pull were characterized by a greater stride length and stride rate and reduced ground contact time, while higher performing athletes in the tire flip were characterized by a reduced second pull phase time when compared with lower performing athletes. Qualitative comparison of carrying/walking, pulling and static lifting strongman, traditional weight training exercises (TWTE), and common everyday activities (CEA), like loaded carriage and resisted sprinting, were discussed to further researchers' understanding of the determinants of various strongman exercises and their applications to strength and conditioning practice. A lack of basic quantitative biomechanical data of the yoke walk, unilateral load carriage, vehicle pull, atlas stone lift and tire flip, and biomechanical performance determinants of the log lift were identified.
CONCLUSIONS: This review has demonstrated the likely applicability and benefit of current and future strongman exercise biomechanics research to strongman athletes and coaches, strength and conditioning coaches considering using strongman exercises in a training program, and tactical operators (e.g., military, army) and other manual labor occupations. Future research may provide a greater understanding of the biomechanical determinants of performance, potential training adaptations, and risks expected when performing and/or incorporating strongman exercises into strength and conditioning or injury rehabilitation programs.