Learn How to Program for Strength With Laurence Shahlaei and Mitchell Hooper 

On April 7, 2024, the reigning World’s Strongest Man (WSM) champion Mitchell Hooper published a video on his YouTube channel wherein he discusses the intricacies of programming for maximum strength with his strength coach, 2016 Europe’s Strongest Man champion Laurence Shahlaei.

Hooper and Shahlaei discuss the following topics:

Finding the Right Coach

Science vs. Experience: Striking a Balance


Scientific Principles to Get Stronger

Energy System

Neurological Training

Check out the video below:

[Related: Martins Licis and Mateusz Kieliszkowski Withdraw From the 2024 World’s Strongest Man]

Finding the Right Coach

There is an abundance of fitness content available on the internet. Hooper underscores the importance of finding the right coach to help cut through noise and create a personalized program that maximizes results.

Hooper believes that for a top-level athlete, a good coach is more about the individual than the programming.

Science vs. Experience: Striking a Balance

While exercise science research is booming, Shahlaei suggests data doesn’t always translate perfectly to strongman training. Experience in the sport is important, and findings in strength research might not directly apply to the unique demands of strongman competition.

“In strongman competitions, even the deadlift varies. The type of deadlift varies based on the bar, height, equipment, and the surface,” said Shahlaei. “Compare this to powerlifting, where you’re always on a perfectly flat platform using the same equipment under the same circumstances each time.”

Adaptability is Key

Shahlaei stresses adaptability in strongman competitions, where implements and competition surfaces vary significantly. Athletes must be prepared to adjust their approach based on the specific demands of each competition.

Despite focusing on advanced programming, Hooper and Shahlaei spend little time discussing technique. Athletes are competent at the more elite levels, so the focus shifts to finding what feels most comfortable and effective for their bodies.

Shahlaei’s Programming

Shahlaei divides Hooper’s training program into four or five weekly sessions, each focusing on a specific area. The duo doesn’t prioritize one-rep max (1RM) training, as strongman competitions demand athletes to perform consistently over multiple days.

As Hooper’s coach, Shahlaei prioritizes keeping him injury-free and ensuring he arrives at each competition in the best possible shape.

Hooper’s Guide To Finding a Coach

Hooper recommends asking the following questions before choosing a coach:

Do they have experience?

Do you enjoy talking to the person?

[Related: The 2024 World’s Strongest Man Events Revealed]

Scientific Principles For Getting Stronger

Hooper recommends programming workouts around the following strength-building principles:

Energy System

“[Regarding] energy systems, we are not just training for strength. Competitive strongman is not powerlifting,” said Hooper. “Some strongman events last over 60 seconds. We have competitions that last for five days.”

The four main energy systems that strongman competitors should train include:

Maximum Force: Produce the most force possible in a single effort.

Maximum Power: Generate explosive movements.

HypertrophyBuilding muscle mass, which contributes to overall strength.

Muscular Endurance: Sustain force output over extended periods.

“You’ve got to be obsessed with training the energy system that will cause you the most difficulty,” said Hooper. “Omit training what you are best at and focus on weaknesses to be the best well-rounded athlete you can be.” 

Neurological Training

Neurological training involves training the nervous system and brain to communicate with the muscles more efficiently. Hooper explains that neurological fatigue is a higher risk factor than muscular fatigue.

Breaking down muscle tissue might take two to four days to recover. However, recovering from neurological fatigue and sympathetic overload can take an extended period and vary for each individual. 

As you get stronger, you need to lower training intensity.

Hooper will attempt his first WSM title defense in Myrtle Beach, SC, May 1-5, 2024. Former two-time champion Tom Stoltman and 2020 winner Oleksii Novikov pose the most formidable challenge to his reign.

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