Dept SLUG Extreme Fitness The Strongman Muscle Plan
Christopher Cuomo trains with Joe Do wdell at Peak Performance, NYC.
rate monitors to gauge how hard they’re working. “Accurate biofeedback is critical,” he tells
me. “You need to push yourself to gain the
metabolic benefit.” But you also need adequate
recovery between sets, he adds, or the quality
of your work will suffer. He likes to see his
clients push their heart rate above 75 percent
of their max during each circuit. At that pace,
catching your breath is increasingly difficult;
you can’t hold a conversation that requires mul-tisyllabic responses. He likes to see your rate
drop below 100 beats a minute between sets.
A trained athlete can recover in 30 seconds,
while an unfit guy will need several minutes.
DISTURB THE PEACE The circuit is six exercises performed for 30 seconds each, back-to-back, followed by a rest. It creates what Dowdell
calls “metabolic disturbance.” You take your
body out of its comfort zone, forcing your muscles—and the cardiorespiratory system that
supplies them with fuel and oxygen— to adjust.
That adjustment continues for hours after you
leave the gym, which can boost your workout’s
caloric burn by more than a third.
TRAIN TOTAL BODY, BUT EMPHASIZE LEGS
Dowdell often drops the “e-word”—efficiency.
His workouts are about reaping the results
quickly. That’s why I’m doing almost every
exercise on my feet. Your body’s biggest mus-
cles are below the waist, and by focusing on
them, Dowdell guarantees that you do the
most work possible every session. Again and
again I’m surprised when I see how many ways
he’s found to make simple exercises more
challenging. The best example is the squat
with a 40-pound slosh pipe. The water in the
10-foot pipe flows from side to side, forcing
me to use my core, shoulders, and arms to stay
stabilized while my legs pump out the reps.
EXTEND YOUR LIMITS People perceive exertion differently, although a little throw-up
in your mouth says intensity in any language.
Dowdell takes the guesswork (and vomit risk)
out of it by having his clients strap on heart-
CUSTOMIZE YOUR CIRCUIT The knock on
metabolic circuits is that you won’t see huge
increases in muscle size the way you would
with workouts that focus on isolating individual muscle groups. Dowdell admits that,
but notes that because you shed fat, the muscle you have looks better, if not necessarily
bigger. That’s why Fiddy and Gerard sweat
with him. But he also customizes circuits
to suit a client’s goals. Someone who wants
jacked arms or a wider back will do shorter
sets with heavier weights. I wanted a stronger
core, so Dowdell put me on my knees to work
the battling ropes. Without my legs to help
generate the wave, my core had to work even
harder, and I was gassed after 20 seconds.
By the end of our session, I’d done more work
in less time than ever before in the gym,
leaving with pumped-up muscles, a pounding
pulse, and a whole new appreciation for what
my body can do in 45 minutes or less. j
CIRCUIT MAXIMUS Do each exercise for 30 seconds, and then move to the next one. When you complete all
six, rest until your breathing returns to normal. Do a total of 4 sets. If your gym lacks strongman hardware, you
can approximate the workout using a circuit of the exercises we chose for their similarity to Joe Dowdell’s moves.
1 Prowler Push
Load the Prowler with a
weight that’s challenging, and maintain a
steady pace for 15 yards.
Turn and repeat.
Sprint Set the
treadmill incline at 7
to 10 degrees and the
speed to zero so that
you’re powering it
manually. Place your
hands against the front
handles and run hard
for 30 seconds.
2 Rope Pull
Attach a weighted sled
to a 50-foot length of
2-inch-thick rope. Unfurl
the rope and assume an
athletic stance. Then
pull the sled toward
you, hand over hand, as
quickly as possible.
3 Sandbag Carry
Lift a heavy sandbag
(mine weighed 85
pounds) and hold
it against your chest
with both arms. Walk
for 30 seconds.
Grab a very heavy
dumbbell, hold it at
your side, and walk
for 15 seconds. Switch
hands and repeat.
4 Slosh Pipe
Hold a slosh pipe at
resting it against your
clavicles. Push your
hips back and squat
until your thighs are
parallel to the floor.
5 Medicine Ball
Hold the ball at waist
height and stand side-to-side with a partner
who’s 5 yards away.
Rotate, pass the ball,
and catch his return
pass. Turn to your other
side and pass it back.
6 Rope Wave
Grab the end of a rope
in each hand and kneel.
Make waves by lifting
and lowering your arms
as fast as you can.
Rowing Adjust the
resistance on a rowing
machine to an extremely
that is, one that kicks
your ass in 30 seconds.
Squat Hold a kettlebell overhead with one
hand. Do squats for
15 seconds. S witch
hands and repeat for
another 15 seconds.
Medicine Ball Wall
Throw Stand perpendicular to a wall 5 yards
a way. Rotate, throw the
ball against it, catch,
switch sides, and repeat.
As you lower your body,
swing your right leg
forward and touch your
knee to your right
elbow. Reverse the
move as you push back
up. On your next rep,
switch sides: left knee
to left elbow. —C.C.