Q&A with Swedens Strongest Man and 2X WSM Finalist: Johannes Arsjo (2016)

Q&A with Swedens Strongest Man and 2X WSM Finalist: Johannes Arsjo (2016)

Q&A with Swedens Strongest Man and 2X WSM Finalist: Johannes Arsjo

Johannes Arsjo

On Fitworld exposed, we like to talk a lot about how you need to bring up your shoulders with vertical presses if you are trying to get that enhanced look and strongman competitors hands down have some of the biggest and strongest shoulders on the planet. They exemplify how you don’t need a massive chest to look big either. They may not be the leanest athletes, but who cares? As far as sheer size and raw strength is concerned they are unmatched and in my opinion they are the most entertaining athletes to watch.

This is why when you are trying to get good at anything you want to study the people who have mastered the craft that you desire if you really want to excel!

Today we have a special guest who goes by the name of Johannes Arsjo. He was Swedens strongest man from 2009-2015, Scandinavia’s strongest man from 2012-2013, he won 2nd at Europes Strongest man in 2014 and he is a 2 time WSM finalist so as you can see his career is going very well up to date.

So without further ado, lets get into it!


What made you want to start competing in Strongman, how old were you when you started and did you play any sports before? What do you feel differentiates the strongmen from other athletes?

My brother set me up for my amateur show and when I went there I finished third place. I thought to myself, hey this was fun. I played ice hockey, football and tennis when I was younger too.


What are some of your goals for this year as far as lifts are concerned?

Honestly I don’t have any goals concerning any big lifts really, I just want to place well at the big shows and then I will be happy.

How many days are you currently training per week and how long are the sessions usually lasting?

I am currently training 4 Days per week and the sessions are around 2-3 hours long.


How many days per week do you soft tissue work with foam rolling, lacrosse ball work along with stretching? Also how long do you usually do it for?

I do soft tissue work once every 2nd week.


What is an underrated technique tip on the strict press that most people overlook that helped out your press by a lot?

Everybody has to find their own technique so its really to put my finger on it because we are all made differently.


Do you incorporate Z Presses into your program and if you do then what benefit have you gotten from them exactly? If you do incorporate them then at what height do you usually set the pins and why? Also tell us some common Z press mistakes that you tend to typically see? 

I am sorry, I don’t know what Z presses are.

Do you ever incorporate shoulder pressing rack lockouts (standing or seated) in order to increase your top half vertical pressing strength strength?

No, I always do the full movement and then I just change the weight along with numbers of repetitions.


What are your top 3 favourite direct tricep exercises to do in order to help improve your lockout for your vertical pressing variations? What rep range do you also work with in these tricep exercises and how many direct tricep exercises do you typically include in your program when you are really trying to bring up your press? Also how essential is direct tricep work for building your overhead press?

I only have one and it is actually the pushdown. Usually I do it after my overhead pressing is done for usually 3 sets very close to failure each set for about 10-12 reps.


Strongman competitors do a lot of One Arm DB shoulder push presses, what are some tricks/tips/cheats that you could give the viewers on how to use more weight on this exercise? A lot of people underestimate the weight that they could use on this lift because if you use your whole body properly while having your technique dialed in then you could move a lot more weight.

You said it yourself, the biggest trick is to jump up the weight with your body and not to try to press it so much because its an power movement.

How many days per week will you do vertical pressing variations when trying to improve your vertical pressing strength? 

I only do my presses once per week.


Here is more of a bodybuilder question, whats your take on doing the behind the neck press for building bigger shoulders? Do you think that it is really that essential for bigger delts? Also do you find that they have a good carryover to strict press and what grip width do you usually use if you do them? Also how low do you usually bring the bar on behind the neck presses?

I have actually never tried to press anything from behind my neck so I can’t really give you an answer there.


How much can you Military press x 1 vs Bench press x 1?

In the strict military press I can maybe do 170kg and in the normal bench press I can do maybe 200kg.

We all know that low reps are important for getting stronger, but so are high reps as well. What is the highest rep range that you ever go to for vertical presses and why?

The most that I will ever go would be 10 reps because I just feel like more than that will not be helping me with what I am trying to accomplish.


Direct rotator cuff work is a controversial topic in the lifting world because some people say that its not necessary if you are doing a lot of work overhead while others say that they can’t do an upper body session without doing it, do you incorporate any? 

No I never incorporate any direct rotator cuff work into my training.


Crucifix holds are a staple exercise in strongman events, do you find that they help your OHP strength and improve your side delt muscle development? Also what is the heaviest that you have ever done on crucifix holds and for how much time?

The crucifix hold isn’t a good strength measure when it comes to the upper body strength at all. Its more just about if you got it or you don’t and how you can lock yourself into certain angles.

What exercises do you do for direct rear delt work and do you ever do any direct neck work? Also do you see any benefits in doing your direct rear delt work in a cheating motion or do you like to keep your reps smooth and controlled for the most part?

80% of my shoulder work is only consisting of pressing and I never train my neck directly.

Strongmen need really strong lower backs to have a longer career especially with all of the stress they put it through with all of the vertical presses and deadlifts. How heavy do you go on direct lower back training, what rep ranges and exercises do you like to do on average?

When I deadlift I usually never go lower than 2 reps and never higher than 6 reps. On the direct lower back work I will work in a higher rep range such as 8+

Thank you for your time! If you want to see more of Johannes Arsjo then you could check him out at:


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