I have completed my third strongman competition, a level II NAS comp in Reno. I placed around 6 of 11 competitors, which was not where I was hoping to end up. It was an excellent opportunity to learn some lessons and grow in the sport.
I woke up exactly at 196.0, which I called from 2 months out when I started cutting which. I was pretty proud of that, and was able to eat and drink well before I got to the weigh in, and then really up the cals before the contest.
Event 1: 200lb Axle Clean and Press (Clean once and press away).
I was excited when I saw this event, because the clean has always been the weak point in my clean and press, so with a chance to clean only once, I thought I was in a good place. I had trained my push press for the 6 weeks before the comp, and finally managed to make some breakthroughs in technique. Going into this, I had hit 11 reps frequently in training, with one day where I managed 13, and honestly thought 14 was going to come my way. I did not train my axle clean at all, since I only had to do it once, and doing it training tends to torque my left wrist.
When I cleaned the weight at the comp, I saw stars for a second which took me a little while to clean before I could start pressing. Pulled a real amateur move on the first rep and dropped it before I got the “down” command, but the judge was cool and gave me the rep anyway. During the comp, my focus was gone for the push press technique, but upon reviewing the video, I actually was getting some decent leg drive, so I am proud of that. That said, once I hit 10 reps, I was done, and approaching that point I kept feeling like I was going to vomit. Upon review, I think the elevation change was the biggest factor, as I went from sea level to 4400 feet, and even at sea level my cardio seemed to be what kept going out in the push press. I’m going to keep that lift in the rotation now, and have mapped out my training already, but in all, this event didn’t go as well as I wanted, but it wasn’t terrible. I ended up taking 4th or 5th out of 11.
Event 2: 500lb 16” tire deadlift for reps
This should have been my event, and is where I am most disappointed in my performance. I am certain I had the highest deadlift in the 200lb class based on my performance versus others, and after watching everyone before me struggle through this event, I knew that I needed to move fast to make the most of my ability, because it wasn’t going to be a question of IF I could make it for the full 60 seconds, but just how many reps I could get in at that time. I noticed when I was setting up that the outer knurling of the bar was much closer to the center than bars I normally used, and so I set my grip out a bit wider than the edge of the knurling, but still close, like my stance.
Every time I would complete a rep, the tires would bounce the bar laterally. I was trying to move fast, so instead of setting up for each new rep, I just pulled the weight where it landed. I was strong enough that I could pull the reps even with the bar well off center, and was starting to look like a lawn sprinkler, since my feet stayed planted and my torso would rotate with the bar. We had an “up” command that we needed to wait on, and to me it seemed like the judge kept talking before each “up” command, which was just burning precious seconds, so I kept tuning out everything except for the words “up”. In most cases, it was form advice or encouragement being offered, and I didn’t really want either. Well, this bit me in the ass, because at one point he was telling me that my knee was now outside my right hand due to how the bar landed, and he wasn’t going to give me an up command until I fixed it. I waited for about 12 seconds before I realized I just wasn’t going to get an up command until I listened to him, and even then it took me a while to figure out what he was talking about. I was way too in the zone.
Once I figured it out and addressed things, I was behind the 8 ball. I only had 6 reps in and about 20 seconds left, so I cranked out about 10 of the fastest reps I ever managed. I should have easily gotten the win on this one, as I wasn’t even experiencing fatigue after rep 16, but instead ended up taking 3rd behind one guy who got 20 reps and one who got 17. This was a real heart breaker, and on top of things, because I pulled so fast and sloppy for those last 10 reps, I tore a callus off on my left ring finger. With the next 3 events being farmers, a truck pull and stones, I hung up my hopes of placing and decided I was just in this for fun and experience.
Event 3: 230lb 2” farmers per hand, 80’ course
Filled my callus with hand santizier and super glue and got ready for this event. My hands were a second skin of super glue, and I couldn’t get chalk to stick to them, but ultimately my downfall was grabbing the implements like an idiot. All through out my training, I used a thumbless grip where I choked way up on the front of the implement and it worked fine. On comp day, I grabbed the farmers with a full grip, in the hopes of keeping my callus safe. Made it a few feet, re-opened the callus, said f**k it, grabbed it the way I knew worked, and actually made it with some decent speed. Still finished around 8th due to the initial drop, but the recovery was decent. Training paid off, was just an idiot.
Event 4: Semi-truck towing a pickup truck pull, 75’
Filled my callus with hand sanitizer and superglue again. Never did this before, and trained by PUSHING my minivan up a hill, so really had no experience. Had the right shoes at least, which really paid off. Upon video review, I was too upright and my feet were all over the place, but I at least finished the course. I know I wasn’t dead last, but placing wasn’t great. Re-opened the callus at the end.
Event 5: 240lb Atlas stone over 52” bar
Last time I did stones was a year ago, but it went really well, so I came into this WAY too confident. Goal was to one shot every stone and really make up some points here. Tried out my new Spartan sleeves, which is also a really dumb move to try new equipment in a comp, and I paid the price for it. Went to grab the stone, it was way slicker than my previous one, and it ripped the sleeves right off my forearm. I now had almost no tacky aside from whatever was on the stone and what was on my hands. Thankfully, Robert Oberst was recording my video and gave me some great tips on what to do in this situation, which was get my hands under the stone and work from there. When I COULD pick up the stone, I could one shot it, but it was just a disaster. Mechanical failure paired with non functioning hands and just a crummy day, and at the end, I opened up a new callus on a finger tip along with the one on my ring finger.
The biggest thing I could have had going for me was either a coach or at least a team mate. Basically, if I had a voice I was specifically listening for in the second event, I could have fixed the issue within the span of 1 rep versus 5 or 6, and having someone with experience/access for the truck pull and stones would have given me a better placing. I also learned to just be at peace with the stone hickies I get without the sleeves, because it’s a question of minor inconvenience versus performance. If I DO use the sleeves again, I’m going to zip tie them rather than use laces, as I saw someone else use that strategy and it seemed successful. Push press is coming along though, and my deadlift is still a boon. I am also happy that I was still able to complete the contest after ripping open my hand, and will be training again in the near future with just a few minor adjustments to account for it.
I am contemplating doing another powerlifting meet before my next strongman comp, just to see how well my total has improved since my last one, but I am not at all done with strongman. I am still enjoying every contest.