Max Pippa | Babies & Barbells |

Written by: Max Pippa.

Babies & Barbells

Since this is my first blog post, I figured I would introduce myself to help break the ice. My name is Max. I am a First Lieutenant in the US Army, stationed in Anchorage, Alaska. By the way, if you ever get the chance to visit Alaska, don’t hesitate. Being surrounded by mountains, wildlife, and glacier fed lakes is extremely humbling. There is also no state income tax….if you are considering moving to a tax friendly state. I am an infantry officer serving as an executive officer of a forward support company. If you are familiar with the Army, you will know that this is very different from what I am used to as an infantryman. I can say that I have a newfound respect for soft skill MOSs and that the soldiers I work with in the FSC have pleasantly surprised me with their professionalism and work ethic.

My wife and I recently had a baby boy, who we named Cassius. That kid is something else. He is still figuring us out, as we are him. So far we have been able to get into a routine where he sleeps a few hours at a time each night, but I fear we may run into problems this summer with the long daylight hours (Alaskan summer perk: daylight is around 18-20 hours). My wife has been handling way more than her fair share of the baby responsibilities, which allows me to train in my time off work. She is my support system that gives me the opportunity to have the time to sit down and write this blog post, so I owe her a lot.

What I Am Training For & Why

It is funny how my training philosophy and interests have come full circle. I originally got into strongman in the summer of 2006, and competed actively for four years. I took time off of training and competing in strongman while I was finishing college and beginning my military career so I could focus on getting in running shape. Getting in shape for the military was no easy feat for me and continues to be an area of training that I have to focus on in order to maintain a decent APFT two mile time.

I am currently training for the Clash for Cash strongman contest in Memphis, TN. I have another two contests picked out that I will do this summer, as long as I do not get deployed to Afghanistan (a couple hundred people from my battalion are deploying and I might not get to go, if I stay in the forward support company).

I originally got into strongman because I was on track to be a shitty powerlifter, as I just didn’t have very good top end strength (and still don’t!). I started training for strongman with a group of guys in St. Louis, MO, and I got hooked. I fell in love with the training because it felt like it was “real world strength” I guess. It is hard to say that knowing I have never had to move a 700lb yoke in the real world, but the people that have given strongman training a shot know what I mean. There is something primal and brutal about picking up something heavy on your back and having to walk 80ft with it, or bear hugging a 300lb stone and loading it onto a platform that is as high as your chest. I’m getting fired up just writing about training!

How I Train

I am currently training my gym lifts three times a week, doing conditioning via running or prowler pushing two to three times a week, and training strongman events once a week.

For my gym lifting, I currently have a love affair with full body training. I will typically do some sort of jumping, one upper body lift, one lower body lift, and some assistance work that will be supplementary to the lifts I hit that day.

For example:

  • Warm up (5-10 minutes of mobility work and calisthenics, nothing too fancy)
  • Broad Jumps – 5×3
  • Deadlift – work up to a top set of 8-10
  • Military Press – Work up to a top set of 6-8, then drop 10% and do 3×5 for back off work.
  • Assistance work – weighted dips 3×10-12, good mornings 3×10-12, and weighted pull ups 3×10-12 done as a circuit or individually, depending on time.
  • Static stretch for 10-15 minutes.

Nothing really sexy or exciting. I know. I found that when I started moving back toward full body training, I was able to balance the higher frequency that I wanted with an adequate amount of volume and intensity. For some reason, I just enjoy training this way a lot more than doing upper/lower splits.

As far as conditioning is concerned, I have to balance the demands of strongman with middle and long distance running. I do this by rotating prowler work between 20-45 seconds with short and middle distance intervals for my conditioning days.

For example:

  • Warm up
  • Agility/Mobility warm up – walking lunges, high knees, A skips, carioca, lateral shuffle etc.
  • Prowler – 10 x 30 sec of work, 3 minutes rest


  • Run – 4 x 800m, walk 400m for recovery. 80-90% effort on each repeat.
  • Cool down – re run the dynamic warm up with a shorter distance and slower tempo, then static stretch the hips and hamstrings for 10-15 minutes.

Again, nothing earth shattering or exciting. Just plain, simple work. I guess my philosophy on conditioning is about the same as any other aspect of life: don’t make it any more complicated than it has to be. The more intricate and complicated a plan is, the more likely it will fail, in my experience. Simpler is always better. For example, few things will make a bigger impact on the body than squatting heavy sets of 5 or doing 400m sprints. I am able to maintain a decent two mile time, by Army standards, for a guy who is 5’9, 215-220lb, and not a natural runner by focusing on 400m, 800m, and 1600m repeats. Let’s just say I am not going to be a threat at the local 5k race, but I can hold my own for being an infantry officer and still being a gym rat.

For event training, I maintain a pretty simple approach: focus on my weakest one or two events first, then work technique and have fun with the rest of the session. I will typically train three events on Saturday. While in-season, I will follow a plan to gradually increase weight/distance/or decrease times on my two or three events that need the most work.  Off season training usually consists of focusing on events that are traditionally my weakest (yoke, front carries, and overhead events).


Thanks for giving this blog post a read. I look forward to posting more often with a few random thoughts on my own training and what I am doing specifically to prepare for my next contest.


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