Just finished my 6th strongman competition, Alan Thrall’s “Back to the Basics” at Untamed Strength. Took 4th out of 14 in the 231 class, having weighed in at 203 in full sweats and eating a donut. Most fun I have had at a contest. Wanted to get some thoughts down. Going to go into a lot of history, if you just want to read about the contest, scroll down to “competition”.
Prior to this competition, I had already met my goal of placing in a comp (Took 2nd out of 7 in January and 1st out of 3 in February) along with qualifying for nationals (reference the first place finish). Additionally, I walk around at about 198, and there was no 200lb class for this contest, so I was competing as a 231. I had no interest in attempting to gain 30lbs for the contest, so this was going to be “just for fun”, which meant that a lot of pressure was off. Ultimately, I signed up for this contest because it had a car deadlift, which has been on my strongman bucketlist ever since I started competing.
Because of the lack of concern of weigh in, I had been a lot more free with my diet leading up to this contest, and honestly I am pretty sick of eating junk. I plan to dial things in a bit more after this, but at least I got the junk food binge out of my system. Additionally, I picked up a slight cold prior to the contest, which was more of an annoyance than anything else. In general though, this was a different experience for me to care so little about my diet prior to a contest. I never “cut weight” to make the 200s, but I do spend about a day or 2 eating a little lighter than normal just to make sure I can walk onto the scale comfortably at 200lbs. This time, I was able to really ease off the breaks and eat big before the contest.
Events for the show were
-200lb log press for reps (clean each rep)
-550lb yoke walk, 100’ (turn at 50’)
-225lb farmer’s walk/heavy frame carry (80’ each way)
-240lb stone over bar
The log I had at home was a 9” dual handle CFF log, and the contest was going to be a 12” log, so I modified the center of my log to be a larger diameter. I may have gone too big with it, but it at least got me to train the mechanics with a larger log. Huge difference trying to press it.
This was a first for me to be able to train the yoke before a show. Normally, I just have to wing it, but I finally broke down and bought a pitbull economy yoke and got to do a few runs with it beforehand. Yoke weight was billed at 550, I worked up to 600 and still moved pretty quickly. Additionally, the economy design of the pitbull yoke gives it a slight wobble to deal with, so my hope was that using a sturdier piece of equipment would make things pan out better for me.
I had farmer’s handles to train with, but no frame, and even then not enough weight plates to perform a good “farmer to frame” medley, so I just stuck with farmer’s walks with a turn. Comp weight was 225 per hand, I trained with 245 per hand. Used straps as well, because grip is never my issue, more footspeed. Honestly didn’t feel like I was moving too fast in training, but the yoke kept improving, so there is that.
I trained car deadlift with 2 barbells jammed in the corner of my power rack. Highest weight I could work up to was 5 plates per side before I ran out of space, so I threw some chains on as well. Hope was that the accommodating resistance would match the weird design of the car deadlift frame.
Did no training for stones whatsoever. Don’t have any stones at home, and though it would’ve been a good idea to at least do some sandbag or keg loading over the yoke, it just wasn’t a big priority for me.
Weighed in at 203 wearing full sweats and eating a donut (as in, I was eating a donut on the scale). Breakfast was 3 bowls of fruity pebbles w/milk and a zero carb Rockstar w/240 mg of caffeine. Was feeling good. Stomach was a little twitchy, but nothing distracting.
Warmed up by cleaning and pressing the empty log twice. It felt so much smoother and better than my ghetto log at home. Also picked up the frame one time, so I could confirm that it sucked. That was it for warm-ups.
Log Clean and Press (clean each rep) 200lbs
Training had gone well for this event, and I had a goal of hitting 6 reps before needing a breather, as that’s what I managed at home. However, once I found out that we could bounce the log off the tires, I changed my gameplan on the spot. Usually a dumb choice, but it paid off. The first clean and press went amazingly smooth. The log I was training with at home was covered in tape, so it stuck to my chest something fierce when trying to clean it. Not having to deal with that made the log fly up. Also, fairly certain I was training with a much larger diameter than 12”, so the press was nothing on this.
Bounced as many reps as I could off the tires. Doing this was awesome, as it made the clean incredibly fast and easy. This in turn meant that I well surpassed my goal of 6, and was able to clean 9 reps without needing a break. I unfortunately ran out of time to press the 9th, but 8 was good enough for second place.
Kalle was judging for my lane, and he was very quick with the down command, which was awesome, and something I learned to look for. My 8th rep looked touchy, but he gave it to me, so that was awesome.
Things that went well: Very short transition time between clean and press. Something I’ve been working on.
Thinks I could improve: Looked like some random stalls for no reason I could really determine. Lost my balance once or twice, which cost me some time.
All in all, this was the event I was the most surprised by. I figured I would go middle of the pack, tied for 2nd out of 14 was awesome.
This was the event I was looking forward to the most. I also had zero frame of reference for how I would do. Everyone says it’s nothing like a deadlift at all, and though I did the deadlift simulator, I had never touched a car before.
The number to beat when I was up was 28 reps, and it was set by the guy who took first in the log, so I figured that was a high number. I chalked up, set my straps, put on my super heavy duty knee sleeves got ready, and just embraced the suck.
No technique whatsoever here, just standing up as many times as I could and gutting it out. Once I hit 25 and heard I had 30 seconds left, it dawned on me that I might be pretty decent at this. Unfortunately, I also had the thought that, since I was so far ahead, I probably didn’t need to kill myself, and that I should just go for 35 for pride.
I got 35, and crushed the previous number, but one other competitor managed 37 to bump me into second. However, no one else came close to my number, so I take solace in that. Lesson learned: I will never not give 100% on an event.
What WAS awesome though was that, due to my second place on the first 2 events, I was now first overall in my weight class. I did NOT expect that to happen after having given up so much weight. Pretty awesome.
550lb yoke, 100’ (50’ each way)
Finally broke down and bought a yoke to train with, and it paid off. It was taking me 40ish seconds to make my runs back home, but it was with a more shaky yoke and a slightly further distance.
Not a whole lot to write about here. Sturdier yoke felt smoother. Once I started thinking “fast feet”, things moved better. Big takeaway is that I can’t try to autopilot movement events like I do static ones. I need to be thinking the whole time “quick feet”. You can actually see when I start thinking it in the video, as my foot speed changes pretty radically.
Only other thing I’d change is my transition at the turn. Took too long setting back up, and it’s time I could’ve spent moving. Took 7th overall in this event with a time of about 20 seconds, but I was a second away from the next placing, and first was only 14 seconds. This is huge for me, as prior to this I was taking around 40-50 seconds in competition at this distance. Marked improvement. After this event, I had dropped to third overall. Still placing way outside my weight class, very happy with that.
225lb farmers/heavy frame carry, 80’ each way
Another event I wasn’t too psyched about, but willing to give me all. Did zero training with a frame, only used farmers with a turn, and that’s with straps, because I want to watch the world burn.
Everyone was getting psyched out over the frame. Don’t get me wrong, it sucked; the pick up was like a snatch grip pick, and it had zero knurling, but you can’t let the equipment beat you. I just figured I’d deal with it when I got there.
Same as the yoke, I need to think “fast feet” from the start. I did better this time at least, and you can see it in the video. Also, I tucked a small block of chalk in my elbow sleeve in case I would need it for the frame, but when I got there and grabbed it, I felt fine, so I just moved as quick as I could. A lot of folks were dropping it, which was good for me, as even though I had a slolwish run, I had zero errors.
Finished with a time of around 29 seconds, which was good for 6th place, keeping me in third place overall. 4th place was 1.5 points behind me, so it was going to come down to stones if I wanted to place.
240lb stone over 52’ bar
I never train stones, so my gameplan here was just to give it my all.
4th place got 11 reps, so that was what I wanted. At 5’9, the bar was high, but nothing you can do. I tried to one motion it as much as I could, and was actually on pace to make 11, but a missed pick up on the third rep and a lot of hang time on the 8th killed me. Got 9 over the bar, and wiffed on the 10th. Happy with it all things considered, but a little bittersweet knowing I might’ve been able to place.
This was the most fun I ever had in a contest. Alan Thrall put on a great show, the volunteers were awesome, and judging was fair. At this point, I tired of eating so much garbage, and want to clean up my diet a bit. If this means dropping weight, I’m fine with that, but bodycomp is less the concern. It’s more about less fast food, more veggies, etc.
Trainingwise, speed is still my weakness, but it’s getting to be less so. Going to keep the yoke in rotation, as it will be in my next contest, and do some farmers for speed on occasion.
Also, shout out to Luis, a reader of the blog, who I met at the competition. You had some balls for stepping up into the open class on your first contest dude. Look forward to seeing you in the future.