A Lumberjacks body: Strong, Fast, Dynamic and Functional. I explore into the world of Lumber Jacks and look at their training methods.
I am certainly someone that likes to try new things and experiment with different training methods, so when I recently saw there was a Lumberjack World International Championships happening in Hayward, Wisconsin (US), it instantly caught my eye. The further I looked into what a Lumberjack did in terms of training, the more interesting it became for me and it was obvious at first sight that this way of life could be heavily related to health and fitness.
We are aware that a Lumberjack is associated with the demolition of trees, and they are mostly seen in Canada, United States , New Zealand, Australia and parts of Europe. The modern lumberjack can be found in a competitive culture due to the history that has stayed with the term 'lumberjack'. These competitions are put on to recognise the history of lumberjacks and to keep the tradition alive. The most prestige competition being the Lumberjack World International Championships in Hayward, which began in 1960 and is now one of the largest spectator gatherers of the sport bringing in over 12,000 on an annual basis. The event has been featured on all major network television stations, Yahoo! Sports, Travel Channel, ESPN, and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Hayward isn't the only place to hold events however, British Columbia in Canada and Tupper Lake in New York also hold competitions. In the UK we are possibly not aware of this culture, and how it has been a tradition to celebrate it every year for the last 50 years. As it isn't something we are familiar with, we aren't aware of how the exercises performed in the championships can be linked to fitness. Now we know the background of a Lumberjack and how popular it is in many countries, let's look into the exercises performed at the championships and how they can be linked to exercises you can perform in your daily fitness routine.
The championships consist of events for both males and females and all require extraordinary core strength, balance and flare. There are more than 100 competitors who gather in Hayward to compete in 21 different events, including running across rolling logs, wood chopping, axe throwing and climbing 90ft trees with a free fall once you reach the top. The competitors not only have a love for the sport and the day itself. They are also battling for the $50,000 prize money that is up for grabs for the winner. As there are 21 different events, I have picked my 'Top 6' events that can be turned into a fitness exercise you can use in your routine. You could even do what I propose in doing, and that is having my very own 'Lumberjack training day'. We have all heard of, 'Train like a Spartan'. Well, Greek warrior, meet forestry core expert and train like a Lumberjack.
In my fitness opinion, most of the exercises they perform requires a huge amount of core strength and technique. The word 'core' is associated with the mid drift and the muscles around the abdomen that support our skeletal structure. The core is mostly made up of fast twitch muscle fibers and the best way to work these are by doing heavy, hard and explosive bouts of exercise.
The exercises the Lumberjacks perform that are going to be on the Lumberjack training plan are as follows; Standing chop, Single Buck, Springboard, 60/90feet climb, Log rolling and the Axe Throw. These are events they will enter at the championships and are my top 6 exercises that will focus on you gaining a functional and strong core.
For each exercise perform 10-15 repetitions of 3-4 sets keeping the weight suitable for you to feel it just enough towards the end of each set. Don't be afraid to increase the weight if you feel you can do more.
Let's start with the first exercise; The standing chop. When the lumberjack performs this exercise he will be swinging an axe to chop through a log of wood. We will be replicating this exercise through our own version of a 'woodchop' using a cable. Set up a cable with a handle at either above head, shoulder or ankle height. Position yourself so that your feet are shoulder width apart, pull the cable from hip to hip and use only your core to do so. This exercise depending on where you start with the cable will work the upper, mid and lower part of your core.
The second exercise is developed from a lumberjack performing a single buck. During the single buck event, the lumberjack is constantly holding a split lunge, therefore you will perform split lunges. Hold some dumbbells too if you want to increase the load. To engage the core further, you can hold just one dumbbell and lunge with the same leg you are holding the dumbbell with, this will place more emphasis on the other side of your core.
The third exercise is the springboard. A Lumberjack will perform standing chops in order to fit a springboard into the log, then jump up on the springboard to start chopping again. To replicate this, you will perform lunges with a twist holding a dumbbell or medicine ball if you can. Once you have completed your set of lunges you will then perform a jump squat to replicate the jump a lumberjack will do to hop onto his springboard.
Fourth exercise is the climb. Lumberjacks will climb 60 and 90 feet trees and then free fall. As they need to be fast and dynamic you will perform a jump squat. Perform the jump squat either on a flat surface or on a bosu. To increase this exercise and make it even harder, try using a dumbbell or medicine ball also.
The fifth exercise is log rolling. If you haven't seen a Lumberjack log roll, you definitely need to check this out. So these logs are in water and are constantly moving, they run along them, and sometimes there is someone else on the log that will try to knock you off your balance. So a perfect way to build ultra core strength is performing squats on a bosu using a medicine ball that you place by your ankles to increase core stability during the squat movement. To increase this exercise further, if you are working out with a partner, you could have your training partner throw the ball to you and catch it again, whilst you are in the squat movement. This will improve your core strength even more.
The sixth and final exercise is axe throwing. Lumberjacks will stand and perform a single throw using a double handed grip. Your final exercise will be an overhead medicine ball thrown against the wall. Plant your feet shoulder width apart and be sure only use your arms to throw the ball, (no bending or cheating using your legs).
So there you have it, your very own 'How to train like a Lumberjack' guide. Make sure with all the exercises you are performing a good technique and not rushing your exercises. This is a great workout that will focus on your core strength. When you are strong in your core, you will be stronger in many different exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench press etc. These compound exercises are great for fat burn and you can find out more about this in my other article Want to change? I suggest you go 'compound'.