By: J.V. Askem

Great for cardio and brute strength training.

Recently Yoke racing in strongman contests has necessitated that serious competitors in this sport get their own yokes to train with. Why you might ask? Isn't just being a good squatter good enough? Well, my answer to that is, "not likely"! The fact is, I've seen 900 to 1000 lb. squatters who have been soundly beaten by 600 to 700 lb squatters in the same race. So, if you want to get good with the yoke, you must practice it.

Also, another question that sometimes comes up, from on lookers who really don't understand why this contraption is used! That is, "wouldn't just a barbell suffice"? Well, the answer to that is a definite "no"! The main reason for using a yoke to carry heavy weights is "safety".

By keeping the load close to the ground, the weights will hit the ground first, if the carrier happens to loose his footing. I shudder at the thought of a guy dropping 700 to 800 lbs on himself, and that could easily happen when walking at top speed with the weights up high.

The basic design of all yokes is the same! A horizontal cross bar that supports two vertical loads on each side of the carrier. However, certain things about design should be considered. First, it's always better to have some adjustments on your yoke, for both height and the amount of weight. Many yokes that I've seen are a fixed weight, and that could be a problem if several athletes of different sizes want to train with it.

Recently I designed a couple of yokes, and on their design I wanted weight and height adjustment capabilities. I found the most efficient design was something that I could use with my cable/ bar plate holders. So, I purposely made up two, identical to each other, for racing purposes. This way we can race two contestants side by side, which is much better for the crowds who come to watch a contest.

By using 2" schedule 80 pipe for strength I found that the size was perfect to telescope over two of my plate holders. I then drilled several sets of holes for height adjustments. For added weight and additional strength, I beefed up the cross bar by sliding extra solid steel round stock inside. All total, unloaded, each yoke weighs about 110 lbs.

Now, I don't recommend converting an Olympic barbell into a yoke! From what I've seen of such yokes, they are not as practical. The main problem is the barbell's high tensile strength steel, and the thinness, which causes the yoke to bob up and down with a heavy load. It's better the have a cross bar that is thick enough so it won't bend.

Why walk if you can run? Well, if the weights feel light enough, and you're so inclined, go ahead and run. However, for your own safety it's always best to keep both feet in contact with the ground. A quick shuffle of the feet seems to work very well on this! Example: At the 1999 Beauty and the Beast I watched Samoa's Joe Onosai soundly beat a field of contestants with that very quick foot shuffle style. Also I might add that two of the contestants that Joe beat were World Strongest Man contest winners.

I've heard this evaluation by some critics of strongman contests. However, until I see the likes of a Carl Lewis, or a Michael Johnson come out, and go head to head with the likes of a Joe Onosai, or an Odd Haugen, with an 800 lb yoke, I can not believe the fore mentioned statement as fact.

All the best with your training. JVA