I'm relatively new to the sport of strongman, this September will be a year. I got my start after I met Shane Rickman last summer. We were both working in bars in downtown Detroit, and we quickly became friends. For a few months of us talking about our love of lifting, he finally convinced me to come by his house and train with the Dynamic Strength Crew. I didn't have any preconceived notions, and didn't want to get in my own head and get intimidated. The things he and his crew were doing were somewhat foreign to me at the time. I had seen his pictures and videos; yet never done then myself. Never once did he tell me that I couldn't do it, which is one of the main reasons I'm proud he’s my coach. Always just said “pick that shit up.” The first event I ever tried was the farmers walk. We walked them in the street in front of his house in livonia. Someone was always waking nearby looking out for cars. I can only imagine the thoughts that went through the passerby’s heads. A bunch of muscular, bearded men waking the streets with big purple farmers handles. I struggled to pick it up at first, and walking with it was different, but I caught on relatively quick after a few tries.
The next thing I tried that same day was the yoke. I still love the yoke to this day. There is nothing like it, getting it off the ground and walking with that monster on your back. I was hooked at that point. I didn't care my traps and body were bruised the next day, battle wounds. Ever since I began, I have had some kind of bruise, and don't even notice anyone. Shane’s been a great coach, always so patient. Making me laugh in those moments I feel my mind muscle connection is weak, and my body is betraying me. If there's anything I can say is find a coach you like and respect. You'll spend a lot of time with them, they'll know you better than you know yourself.
My first show that I competed in was a show that Shane put on, to benefit the Yon family. It was Beyon strong: strong woman challenge. The events were the log press, yoke, farmers walk, sandbag loading/tire medley. I didn't do well in that show, and I tried not to get too down on myself, as it was my first show. I just had an incentive to work much harder for the next one.
On June 6th, 2015, I competed in US Strongman Battle at Team BSS. This was my second competition I had participated in. The events were circus dumbbell for reps/60 seconds, atlas stones series, Max overhead, car deadlift, and the truck-pull. Shawn Schumaker hosted it at his gym, Team BSS in Boardman Ohio.
After choosing this show, Shane and I would decide on a game plan. I would show up to our gym, P80 in Redford Michigan, and he would ask what I wanted to work on for the evening. Once he approved, he would tell me how many reps he wanted to see, and at what percent of my max. To anyone getting ready for a competition, a word of advice: train those events as accurately as they would be on competition day. For those who don't have a circus dumbbell: put a fat grip on a dumbbell to mimic the grip of the actual one. If there is an Atlas stone series, make sure that the height of the platform/bar you're loading in training is the same as it is in the show, if not higher for better results. Also, time yourself. If your gym doesn't have a car deadlift, Kalle Beck has one on starting strongman.com, which is what we used. I was fortunate to practice the actual truck pull during my training, so if you're able to find a harness, try it out. Ironmind.com makes a good one.
During the day I would practice at my home gym, Royal oak gym with my strength coach, Derek Charlebois. I can't emphasize enough that outside of the main 3 lifts, strengthen your accessory muscles. Doing so will only help you, and prevent any possible injuries. If front squats aren’t a part of your program; do yourself a favor and incorporate them. The form used in these will have a massive carryover into strongman events. As well as take the time to work on your overhead pressing. It is rare to see a show that doesn't have a log, axel, or overhead press event.
The show started with Max overhead press, minimum opener of 85lbs for lightweight, middleweight women and novice. Heavyweight women was 125, lightweight/middleweight men opened with 200lbs, and heavyweight men with 240lbs. I failed my first attempt, and utilized the full 60 seconds to try and lock it out. Overhead is my weakest event, so I was really trying not to take it so hard. Since US Strongman founder, Willie Wessels was in attendance (and competing) the max overhead event was for the national record. In the middleweight category, Julianne Broadbent set the record at 255lbs. In the lightweight men's category, Mike Cerbus took the record with an impressive 395. He then did 400lbs after just for fun. In the heavyweight mens, Zach Pike got 390lbs.
The 2nd event was the circus dumbbell. This thing was massive! Very intimidating, despite looking patriotic in red white and blue. This dumbbell looked NOTHING like I had practiced, even with a fat grip. Lightweight women novice had to press 50lbs for max reps in 60 seconds. Lw novice men=100lbs, hw novice men=120, Lw masters=120, hw masters=150, lww=70, Mww=80lbs, hww=100lbs, lwm=120, mwm=150lbs, hwm=170lbs. All novice lightweight zeroed on this event, myself included. Due to it’s large size, I was unable to flare my elbow out and rest it on my trap. In addition to strength, this event demands a great deal of balance and technique.
The 3rd event was the car deadlift. For lightweight women, there wasn't an actual car, but a tire. This event was for max reps/60 seconds. While the men finished their circus dumbbell event, I went and warmed up and to get a feel for how it would be. This felt much heavier than the simulator, and as a result I began to mentally panic. As the other women in my class warmed up, we all threw out suggestions to help one another. “Bring your feet more forward, pretend you're doing a leg press, shift your weight this way.” I really love the camaraderie that show day brings! Mike Johnston helped me strap up, and mentally focus so I could get the weight off the ground. I ended up getting 7 reps out of the car deadlift, not too bad. I thought I had only 4, I must have blacked out and deadlifted in a haze.
The 4th event was the truck pull. 100 feet pull/60 second time limit. I felt the most confident with this event. It really helps to put on rock climbing shoes, or work boots. You really want to maximize your grip and traction. I did this event in under 30 seconds. When it was done I looked at Shawn and said “ohh, that's it? I'm done? Alright then “ Surprisingly easy. All the weight classes breezed through this event and had a blast!
The last event was the stone series. Lw womens novice were to load 4 stones at 75, 100, 125, and 150lbs to a platform in 60 seconds. I also felt confident with this event, atlas stones are my favorite. I got the first stone easy, didn't even lap it. Just a fluid motion in under 7 seconds. I struggled with the next one, which I attribute to not being explosive enough, nerves and my feet being too far away from the platform.
In this sport it is so easy to get discouraged at times. When you look at what your fellow competitor is doing, or how they got one more rep than you, or beat you by 1.47 seconds, you can get into your own head and psych yourself out. You'll start to doubt yourself, and ultimately your performance will suffer. When I started to get down on myself, I messaged one of my mentors, Steve Barkley to shift my mental focus. He told me that the only way to learn is to go out and do shows, and learn new techniques from other people. He reminded me that I can't expect to learn and progress from winning. He then reminded me of what Shane had said to me earlier that morning that “it's you against the weights” not anyone else. Keep hitting p.r’s and you'll be successful. It's not about winning or your ego, but the experience.
You'll only do yourself favor by making friends with others in this sport, and seeking out mentors. Be humble, and ask for help if you need it. At times a fresh perspective can do wonders for your confidence and mental state. Your fellow strongman community wants to help you, and see you succeed. Look at who is successful in your town, shoot them a message on facebook and pick their brains if you have questions. A final piece of advice I can give anyone interested in strongman, or a competition is to not overthink things. Just go out there and have fun, you'll surprise yourself. Who knows, maybe you'll find yourself in love with a new sport, and quite possibly down the line find yourself being someone's mentor and inspiration to someone starting out.