I’ve wrapped up training with the Strongman focused training template created by the Australian Strength Coach aka Sebastien Oreb. The template was created for the World’s Strongest Man, Hafþór ‘The Mountain’ Björnsson in preparation for the World’s Strongest Man competition. The program is available here.
- I paid for the program and am not receiving any compensation for writing this review.
- I only completed 10 out of the 12 weeks
- I had to do a fair amount of exercise substitutions due to my garage gym equipment setup
Exercise Selection: 7/10
Template Structure: 4/10
The program normally costs USD$40, I was able to purchase it on sale for $20. When you sign up, you receive a link to download all the necessary information, which includes a short bio and instructional document as well as a pretty basic spreadsheet. The formatting of the spreadsheet did not allow for any historical data to be entered or tracked.
As you can see from the screenshot below, the spreadsheet doesn’t allow you to enter in the weights for different sets you used for any exercise. Because there’s only one cell per week, if the weight changes across the sets, the cell won’t nicely accommodate multiple numbers. Its main purpose is to list the prescribed weights you should be using for the movements, which is based on your body weight and latest one rep maxes.
The limitation of this is that you need to have a separate notebook to keep track of the weights that you actually use. Something to keep in mind for logging workouts virtually, as it doesn’t allow for historical data analysis to be performed on the training.
I found the spreadsheet to be lacking any analytical information, other program templates have tonnage, estimated one rep max calculators, graphs, while not completely necessary, I find to be quite interesting and useful to look over. There is not an easy way to track fatigue or allow for adjustments to be made in subsequent workouts if weights are missed. I missed weights on several weeks, I just had to use my own experience on the adjusted weights to select for the following weeks. Not truly knowing if I am getting the right level of stress to the specific movement.
Although I did enjoy running the program, it was not my favorite to run. The exercise selection was upper body dominant and lacked any direct ab or arm work. As ‘unnecessary’ as these movements are, there is an enjoyment factor to performing the ‘bro lifts’ and by completely ignoring them I felt the program didn’t address key weak points – namely the midsection/ab musculature. Because the program is only four days, I was able to fit in some cardio, arms and abs once a week.
The reason I stopped the program two weeks short, is because the final phase of the program became super specific to strongman events. My garage gym has limited equipment and I found myself making so many substitutions that I wasn’t really performing the template anymore. For those that have access to a strongman gym or strongman equipment will find the final phase great, because it utilizes things such as atlas stones, yokes, logs etc. Without having access to these tools, the program’s last phase is almost useless. On some days I had to substitute out all of the exercises.
It drove up my bench press & overhead press numbers. The one exercise which is performed for the full 12 weeks is the bench press in a regular competition style, the volume & intensity are the only variables. There was a lot of pressing varieties, including inclines, paused, dumbbell work. The programs I have run in the past, haven’t been this press intensive, with more energy being spent on squat and deadlift varieties. The first two phases (eight weeks) could be used as a press dominant template. It only drove up my press by 10lbs and my bench by 5lbs, but I took those a big win as they’re two lifts that I have struggled with for quite a while. Whilst not completely ignoring squats and deadlifts, the program helps to minimize the decay of strength in the two movements.
One of Oreb’s big training philosophies is to train antagonist muscle groups to drive up the bench press. Short of bench pressing more to help bench press, he encourages the build up of the back and rotator cuffs as accessory movements. Every bench press & overhead press day included some sort of row or pulldown/up variety. There is a lot of upper body pulling (and pressing) movements, which lead to roughly 2:3 push:pull ratio of upper body movements over the course of the week. This has probably been the second biggest contributing factor (after pressing more) to my increases in pressing abilities. Not only do I feel that my pressing got stronger, I feel an overall increase in back strength.
I think it helped increase work capacity, due to the non-single rep nature of the training template as well as the introduction of supersets. It was definitely a good change up for my body’s energy systems to have slightly shorter breaks and included some instances of shortness of breath. This would potentially make up for the lack of any prescribed cardio or GPP (General Physical Preparedness) days or recommendations.
The workouts only took anywhere from 50-90 minutes to complete. The sessions could have gone by quicker if I stuck closer to the rest periods. So the program itself takes up four days and a maximum of 90 minutes, this is a great template for those that don’t have an insane amount of time to dedicate to the gym.
It was a fun and novel template that broke up the typical powerlifting style training I normally do. There was a lack of squat and deadlift specificity (namely in relation to not performing a regular back squat or conventional deadlift for the first eight weeks of the program), with what I would consider accessory movements, being performed as the main movement for the day. One of the phases had the SSB squat as the main squat, whilst not performing any regular back squats. I don’t have any shoulder issues that create problems with my conventional squat, so I personally can’t see the need to completely remove the back squat in place of the SSB squat.
Not the best template for those who workout in a gym with limited equipment. Keep in mind that this is a strongman focused program, so does require strongman implements (obviously), this includes yokes, atlas stones, axel barbells, weighted frame. Apart from the strongman specific tools, the program also requires some machines, dumbbells and some specialty barbells (Safety Squat Barbell, hex barbell). If you don’t have access to this variety of equipment, I would recommend looking for a different template that matches your access to equipment.
This is simply because with the amount of substitutions you’ll be making, are you really running the program? The point at which you start swapping in and out movements, I would argue that you’re reducing the effectiveness of the program. A template is not only the prescription of weights and volume, but also the variety and combinations of exercises prescribed. Each movement drives a specific adaptation and by substituting out exercises, even with somewhat similar movements, you might be missing out on a certain development the program is trying to drive or increasing fatigue in a muscle group that is already being taxed to a certain level with the other movements.
Another feature lacking from the template was any recommendations or prescriptions for cardio or GPP. I’m sure this is due to the specific outcomes for the program, but it is one aspect I thought could have been included for those not training to be the World’s Strongest Man. I added in a once weekly cardio session, involving under 30 minutes of rowing at a pace I could keep a conversation, which I don’t think affected my performance in the program.
The biggest ‘problem’ with the template, was that it was created for a specific person for a specific sport. It doesn’t sound like it’s a general population template for general strength. In reading this you may be thinking, ‘duh genius, it’s literally called Thor’s Power Program’ and on the front page first line description states: “Thor’s Power Program is the exact program that Hafthor Julius Bjornsson followed to win the World’s Strongest Man Competition in 2018.”. So I can’t fault the program for being what it is – Bjornsson won the 2018 WSM. Clearly, the program worked for Bjornssen.
What’s more interesting about the program, is the strategy and theory behind the programming. For those that want to learn more about programming and strongman this is a great template to download. Not only are you able to find the exact weights that Bjornsson used in his lead up to the WSM 2018, they include an information packet about the thinking behind the exercise selection, as well as the needs and requirements of Bjornsson.
As a template for the general population to follow to increase general strength and be active, I wouldn’t recommend this template. If you compete in strongman, I think this would be a great template. For those want to learn about programming and training philosophy, I would also recommend getting this template as a learning tool, as it not only comes with the program & spreadsheet, but a history of the athletes as well as the mindset behind the programming.
My bodyweight when I started the program was 202lbs and upon finishing I weighed 207lbs.
After 10 weeks with the program, my one rep working weights are as follows:
Squat: 455lbs -> 445lbs
Bench Press: 295lbs -> 305lbs
Deadlift: 485lbs -> 485lbs
Overhead Press: 195lbs -> 205lbs
Two things to note, these are not impressive lifts by any means, so take that as a sign of my skill level when taking this review into account. These are also not true maxes, since they are weights used in my garage gym, not all performed in one day and not in any form of competitive setting.
From a straight powerlifting point of view, this obviously isn’t a great program to run. Like with anything training related, choose your goals and pick the program to help achieve those goals. As an off-season break in training, I would recommend using the first two phases (eight weeks) as a fun two months to recuperate and do different movements.
Ultimately, to judge this template on its ability to improve your performance in the big three powerlifts (squat, bench, deadlift) would be unfair. It would be like giving a Ferrari a 0/10 because of its lack of offroading capabilities. As a general strength template for those who want some direction for 12 weeks, I can see it being helpful, as well as a fun template. Are there better templates out there? Definitely. As a standalone template to improve general levels of strength and give the user a framework by which to follow in order to drive up weights, you could do worse.
The negatives of the template all stem from its specificity, it is not a great template for everybody, because it wasn’t created for everybody. This template was created for one person, for one competition. Unless you share the same circumstances, then this template isn’t ideal, compared with a template created with a wider audience in mind.
For $20, this is a great template to pick up as an eight week template and a solid lesson in programming, technique and load selection.