Have you ever played against a team full of farmers? Or against a team full of guys who do manual work all day?

I bet it sucked.

They all hit like buses and were solid as a tank yeah?

You want to know how they ended up like that? Do you want to be like that?

Here’s how.

These guys are going something different to most rugby players. They’re lifting stuff all day every day. Not just that they’re lifting stuff in different directions from awkward positions all day every day.

Which of you has tried to throw a hay bale onto the back of a tractor? It’s not heavy but it’s awkward as all hell. Now imagine you had to do that all day from 5 in the morning to 5 at night. That’s a ton of awkward movements.

Or from personal experience, who’s tried carrying armfuls of steel bars across a site and then laying concrete by hand? That is a whole lot of time bracing and moving (if you’ve ever had to lay concrete and spread in by hand you’ll know that your core and back takes a pounding).

Apparently I should have used this to carry steel bars.
Apparently I should have used this to carry steel bars.

Now bro, I’m not telling you to go get job like those because , well, frankly it’s hard work and we can recreate the similar training effect in the gym.

If we do it right that is!

So let’s look at the the differences between exercises in the gym that make you gym strong and then the aspects of this farm boy training that’s making these lads badasses.

(WARNING: There is some bio-mechanics here!)

First we need to go over some really basic bio-mechanics. The further away an object is from your centre of gravity the harder is it to lift. That’s it bio-mechanics done.

Not only that, the greater challenge there is on you core because instead of being a straight up and down force (like when a weight is straight over your centre of gravity, think squats) the weight is pulling you towards it (think when you get your squat really wrong and almost fall forward and that’s a really small increase in lever length or if you want a less dangerous example grab a 10kg DB and hold it out in front of you at arms length).

In practice what does this mean for us?

First, that if we want to train at a maximal weight (say for limit strength, think 1RM) then we need to keep the weight as close to our centre of gravity as possible and thus as short a moment arm as possible. This mostly means really good technique and working to make sure the bar path is good.

That’s how to get gym strong, we already know that hey?

Second if we’re interested in dealing with with awkward loads, resisting outside forces on our body and building that farm boy strength (You know bud, just like if you’re trying hold hold onto or wrestle the ball off someone, ride out a tackle, hold up a try scoring and, well, pretty much any situation you can think of in rugby) then we need to get used to dealing with objects which are either away from our centre of gravity (holding or wrestling) or that are trying to move us (tackles, mauls, rucks) then we need to change the way we’re lifting.

Pig Carry

You probably want to know how hey.

We need to work with understanding that, as noted above, that the best way to build limit strength, that is how much weight you can lift for a single repetition, is to lift a stable weight straight up and down.

So what I’m going to outline below is not suitable for maximal effort work and should be restricted to repetitive (5 to 15 rep), sub-maximal (3 to 30+ rep) and maybe occasionally dynamic effort (2 to 5 rep)lifting.

Getting Farmer Strong

  • Lift standing up!

  • Make whatever your liftings centre of gravity further away from yours.

    • Use these

      • Kegs

      • Logs

      • Stones

      • Cambered bars

      • Partner

  • Make whatever you’re lifting pull you around

    • Attached bands to what you’re and attached them to a rack in one direction

    • Have a partner randomly pull on bands that are attached to what you’re lifting

    • Add an element of instability to the object

      • Hand bands with KB’s attached to them to what you’re lifting

  • Lift while resisting something pushing or pulling you

    • Wrap a band around somewhere on your body and have a partner try and pull you in all different directions

  • Get some reps in!

    • Build you some muscular endurance on the stabilising muscles.

So guys these add in a bunch of variations to your training that you can try out individually or combined together (although preferably not all at once) to spice things up.

And if all else fails I know that there are farmers out there looking for a hand see if you can trade work for meat ha.