Strongman Rob Kearney and CrossFitters Mat Fraser and Mal O’Brien Get After It in Overhead Workout
The strongman and two elite CrossFitters had a meeting of the minds when it comes to overhead strength.
While many strength sports have vital distinctions regarding strength and muscle demands, nutrition, and competitive standards, sometimes it can pay to learn from others in the sphere. That’s a lesson four-time World’s Strongest Man competitor Rob Kearney, five-time Fittest Man on Earth® (2016-2020) Mat Fraser, and 2021 CrossFit Rookie of the Year Mal O’Brien appeared to take to heart recently.
On July 4, 2022, Fraser shared a video on his YouTube channel where he, O’Brien, and Kearney had a joint training session. The routine was centered around Kearney first teaching the log lift technique to Fraser and O’Brien. Then, he had the duo continue to tackle their arms and shoulders with heavy dumbbell presses.
Notably, Kearney was recently hired by Fraser’s training company, HWPO (Hard Work Pays Off) as the leader of their new strength program “HWPO Strong.” In a dedicated program throughout the week, Kearney will use his wealth of strongman knowledge to help participants build their strength and conditioning on training days throughout the week. This news would partly explain Kearney’s involvement with Fraser and O’Brien.
As for the log lift, Kearney knows a thing or two about successful technique. In 2019, during the annual World Log Lift Championships, Kearney captured the then-American Record log lift of 213.6 kilograms (471 pounds). Similarly, the strongman once demonstrated he has the strength to properly lift 215-pound dumbbells with one arm in a February 2020 training session with Brian Shaw.
If anyone’s qualified to teach a refresher on both the log lift and circus dumbbell press to two elite athletes like Fraser and O’Brien — whose CrossFit backgrounds veer differently — it’s Kearney.
The trio’s session took place in the since-retired Fraser’s home gym. Fraser is currently training O’Brien for the 2022 CrossFit Games on August 3-7, 2022, in Madison, WI. While the CrossFit Games don’t necessarily feature strongman events specifically, there can be a lot of overhead movements in events that require proper training and technique. There weren’t many overhead movements in the 2021 Individual CrossFit Games aside from some dumbbell overhead squats and a one-rep max snatch.
Since that could always change for this year’s edition, this time with Kearney could help O’Brien prepare for that by polishing up her overhead prowess. Overall, the trio’s training session seems to be an excellent demonstration of what athletes from different disciplines can learn from one another.
After Fraser asks Kearney to provide a walkthrough of the log lift technique, the strongman breaks it down into three segments — the pick, the clean, and the press.
The pick is when an athlete deadlifts the log to their hips for the “lap position,” or where the athlete can rest their weight before exploding it for a roll to a front rack position on their chest. That roll from the hips to the chest is the clean. Kearney says the proper clean technique is to keep the elbows high while the back is fully engaged, allowing the log to stay tight to the body.
Finally, there’s the familiar press. For a proper overhead lockout that involves the lower body, the athlete must slightly dip their legs to press the log from that front rack position. Fraser first practiced the log lift with an empty log that weighed 90 pounds; Kearney critiqued his lower elbow positioning that could throw him off balance with higher weight.
In terms of numbers for the trio, Fraser eventually completed a 104-kilogram (230-pound) log press for two separate reps. Meanwhile, Kearney decided to rep out 158.7 kilograms (350 pounds), and O’Brien locked out a successful 72.6-kilogram (160-pound) split-jerk with the log.
Heavy Dumbbell Press
Like the last exercise, Kearney breaks down the heavy dumbbell press technique into segments. First, there’s the clean, where the athlete has to get the dumbbell to the rack position on their deltoids. Then, with the elbow high, a lot of the jerk movement upward is more about getting under the dumbbell rather than trying to press it up. Like the log lift, this requires the athlete to have a measure of leg power rather than solely relying on the shoulders.
Fraser kept his energy on proper technique for the dumbbell press. It didn’t take long for the CrossFit great to understand the rack position and start finishing clean reps. When O’Brien was up, she seemed uncertain about how to finish the dumbbell press at first. Once she understood how the dip could help generate force from the opposite leg, she likewise began to complete some reps.
At the time of this writing, the CrossFit organization has not revealed the workouts for the 2022 CrossFit Games. If there are any strongman-like, overhead events in Madison, WI, O’Brien might have the edge over her peers thanks to Kearney’s guidance.
Featured image: HWPO Mat Fraser on YouTube