Ever wonder what some of the strongest men in the world do for their training? In this episode of8WeeksOut TV, we haves special guest Zack McCarley, a six-time national champion in sport of Strong Man and reigning America’s Strongest Man.
Meet Zack McCarley
What does training look like for America’s Strongest Man?
Surprisingly, Zack McCarley doesn’t just train for Strong Man; he has competed in wrestling at the national collegiate level and in power lifting.
He’s been a relatively top level power lifter, but hasn’t invested a lot of time in that sport, and this year, after his wrestling season he’ll be doing some CrossFit competitions as well to see how he measures up.
Focusing on being an athlete more than just a Strong Man, power lifter, wrestler, Zack enjoys the whole aspect of being athletic and having a healthy lifestyle.
Transitioning between these different focuses of requires some finesse in his programming…
Carry-Over Between Zack’s Sports
Going from Strong Man to the wrestling mat will clearly place a higher demand on aerobic conditioning with more training being done on the mat then in the gym.
There is some carry-over from sport to sport, with increases in strength and power on one side, and a much larger working capacity on the other. However, Zack properly trains them both separately in the appropriate time.
Managing those energy systems is key, for example, although he most likely will be the strongest wrestler in his weight class, if not managed well, he could be left exhausted and gasping for air before the match has finished the first period.
Zack’s Ace to Explosive Power Development
Zack is known for being so fast and explosive in the world of strongman, so let’s take a look at what he does to train that skill…
Zack uses box jumps as a staple of his training. Having integrated them in and out of his training over the years, he does however use some less common variations than most people use:
Staying primarily within two variations, Zack demonstrates his version of box jumps from both the seated and standing position. His equipment is basic: for his set-up, Zack uses a bench in front of a relatively low platform which could be another bench or a low box.
The key to Zack’s box jump, whether seated or standing, is to not re-bend the knees and lift his legs toward his torso.
He will instead keep his legs fairly stiff and straight after triple extending for the take-off, and allow just enough flexion at the knee to land comfortably.
The idea is to get good at jumping higher by developing more power in the lower extremities, not to jump onto something higher simply because you become more efficient at tucking your legs up higher toward your chest to get onto a higher surface.
When doing his seated variation, Zack will rock back in his seated position on the bench to lift his feet. With his lower extremities still in a position of flexion, he’ll rock forward to contact the ground with his feet, and begin the jump.
Because Zack’s variation of the box jumps rely on keeping the legs extended and fairly stiff, he recommends using a box that you can clear with two or three inches of clearance.
Why This Style of Jumping?
The biggest reason why Zack uses this style of box jumps is when you start getting good at box jumps you start needing taller boxes…
You find that you need a platform that’s 36 inches, and then a platform that’s 40 inches, and 45, then maybe 50 inches.
If you travel at all, you don’t always find things that are that tall to jump on (or at least that the gym owner will allow you to jump on). So convenience is an issue.
Another reason is simply safety: watching someone stack hundreds of pounds in bumper plates and then miss a jump is less than comforting. Generally, people don’t want to work out near someone that might knock a stack of plates over and injure themselves and/or others.
Programming the Box Jumps
Zack will typically stick around sets of three to six reps, which is determined by when you stop generating as much power; you will to stop getting as much height in your jump.
If he finds it harder to get on top of the box, then he’ll just back off and use a lower box, or decrease the sets and reps.
In the Strong Man season, Zack would use box jumps maybe twice a week, but in the wrestling season he likes to use them closer to four times a week.
Zack doesn’t necessarily hit the box jumps hard every time. Instead he emphasizes the importance of consistency in coming back and doing the same thing, and then eventually working to a higher and higher box, and increasing volume.
If you look back at the 8weeksout videos with Bondarchuck, he talked about the role of consistency in just doing the same exercises over and over again. The box jump is an exercise you can do a lot more volume than with a Death Jump or a more intense jumping exercise.
This is especially true if you are careful and step off the box instead of jumping back off, which will make the demands on your body much more taxing.
What’s Next for the 6-Time National Champion?
Zack is still recovering from an injury last March, but as he mentioned before, he is in the middle of his collegiate wrestling season right now, but will return to competing in strongman in mid-March when the season is over.
Zack is a BioForce Athlete, and we’re going to have more information about his programming, show how HRV is working over-time with his training, and make sure to keep you updated on his progress. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube by searching Zack McCarley, or Pro Strongman Zack McCarley.