Translating Clean Strength to Dirty Strength

At FF, our strength training revolves around doing the basics.  Doing them frequently, and doing them well.  The basic barbell exercises, when done properly, create more strength than any other method of strength training. This is "clean" strength.

By "clean" strength I mean strength trained in a specific movement- i.e., squat, horizontal push, horizontal pull, vertical push/pull, hinge movement, etc.  Basic movements done perfectly.  Excellent for overall strength, mobility, resilience, lean muscle growth, and so on.

Now.  At a certain point the strength you develop here will have to be used in the real world.  And this is where it gets dirty.  If you're a firefighter, you will find suddenly that you need to take that strength from benching, rowing, etc. and translate it into a very solid sledgehammer swing.  If a fat fireman can breach a door or wall before you can, simply because he's throwing his weight into the swing better than you are, what good was all that lifting?

Bulgarian Bag Training

Bulgarian Bag Training

For a soldier, when it comes to your combatives training, suppose you are paired off against some farmboy redneck with the unnatural strength that comes from spending much of your life throwing hay bales?  If you can't translate your barbell strength to grappling strength, what good was it?

Brooks Kubik of "Dinosaur Training" talks about this all the time.  Mr Kubik endorses basic barbell training above all else, but he also recommends throwing in "odd object" lifting, whether stones, sandbags, kegs, etc.  

There are several ways to translate your "clean" strength developed with the barbel and translate it into "dirty" strength.  Having said that, these are not the best ways to BUILD strength- the barbell is still king.  Just "translate"- that is, take the strength you have already built and turn it into a stronger sledgehammer swing, a stronger buddy drag, fireman carry, a stronger escape from the guard position, etc.  Here are just a few tried and true methods that can be a nice addition to your training:

  1. The Sandbag: Sandbag carries, whether over the shoulder or bear-hug style, sandbag cleans, presses.  Above all, sand bag get-ups.  We recommend building these with an army-surplus duffel and some wood pellets from a hardware store.  Cheap, durable, and ready to help you build great work capacity as well as hone your core strength, what Rob Shaul calls the "combat chassis" (from your knees to your shoulders).  If you're too lazy to make your own bag, check out some pre-made ones from Rogue.
  2. Bulgarian Bag- look it up.  Funny looking, but another cheap, down and dirty way to build rotational strength, gorilla grip and more durable shoulders.  Here's a cheap, easy DIY way.  
  3. Atlas Stones: Some guys use atlas stones.  These are hard-core, cheap to make (see molds to build as many as you want from Rogue here) BUT a word of caution here.  Atlas stones cannot be lifted without some rounding of the back.  If you're worried about popping a disc, don't use atlas stones.  ALSO see Husafell stones, an alternative, which depending on how high you lift it from, may be an easier way to keep a straight back.
  4. Any other stone.  The scottish highland games keep it real- pick up a big rock and throw it.  Brute strength in every sense of the word.  
  5. Sledgehammer training.  Whether a plain old sledgehammer against a tire or stump, one of the "Thor's Hammers" from StrongerGrip, or a "Slater's Slammer" from Rogue, you can't beat training for this movement by actually using this movement.  
  6. Hammer throw: Grab one of these cheap hammer throw straps by spud, and train a real, heavy, and ancient strength sport.  Rotational, core strength, and again that "combat chassis" are heavily involved here.  And cheap.  
Posted on August 16, 2014 .