This year’s World’s Strongest Man Competition final was held in China – with competitors self-funding themselves to enter into the extreme event which sees men dragging double decker buses behind them, and hurling rocks over their heads.
It’s one thing to be strong, but quite another to compete at a level where you are lifting these kinds of weights. In order to be in the running for a strongman, you need to be training at the gym an extraordinary amount, and eating huge quantities - between 5,000 and 8,000kcal every day.
The strains put on a strongman’s body are so intense, you often see them heavily strapped to try and support their knees and spine, and it’s a sport that takes some serious dedication.
So what do you need to know before taking on the challenge of a strong man? Well first things first, you’re going to have to start eating like one.
Protein is essential for anyone aspiring to get those huge biceps, as it’s the building block for driving muscle growth. For every pound of bodyweight you need to be eating at least one gram of protein each day, more if you can. If lifting extremely heavy weights protein becomes absolutely critical for protecting your body. Muscles fibres are under extreme pressure and they will need more recovery than you would if you were lifting average weights. The recovery process ensures muscle growth occurs, and protein is essential in this. So if you’re weighing 200 pounds, you need to be eating around 300 grams of protein a day. The best sources of protein include meat like beef and poultry, fish and dairy, and of course eggs. Whey, casein and protein powders also help get a higher level of protein into your body.
Carbohydrates and fat are equally as important to build you up to strongman stamina.
It’s thought that you should be packing away around two-three grams of carbohydrate per pound of bodyweight every day, while carb-loading up to four grams per pound the day before a competition. Carbohydrates give you a source of slow release energy which means you’ll have the stamina to make those ridiculously heavy lifts. Carbohydrates include foods such as rice, potatoes and pasta.
Most dieters out there would try and steer clear of fats, but both healthy unsaturated and saturated fats are really important for those strongmen out there. Research has discovered that in athletes who take on more fat, testosterone levels are higher than in those with a lower fat diet. Testosterone helps maintain muscle strength and mass, and is therefore key to survival of the strongest men. Good fats can be found in fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna, and olive oil, avocados and nuts all provide great levels of healthy fats. Your total calorie intake should be around 30 per cent fat.
Of course it’s not just about eating lots – to be a strongman you have to work out hard. And there are certain specific events for strongmen that most people would struggle with. These include the deadlift, lifting extreme weights, squats, push presses and so forth. In-gym training is crucial to get your weights up, and some offer boot camps to really work you hard on different disciplines. Time at the gym is never time badly spent, but you need to remember that by putting your body under the types of strain with lifting heavy weights, it needs far longer to recover, so you have to factor that in to your training. Taking part in events is of course the most important part, as this gives you the training you need to see how it all works, pick up tips from other competitors and give yourself a bench mark which you can work with.
Most strongmen self fund their own way to competitions, through a passion for their sport, which has quite a unique and cult following.
The competitions themselves can be quite glamorous, especially at world level, taking place on beautiful beaches with blue skies and sunshine. What goes on behind the scenes however is a whole host of dedicated competitors who have to watch meticulously what they eat, put aside all their time at the gym and travelling to competitions and risking injury by tackling ridiculous weights and feats of endurance.
Before you try out on the strongman path, ask if it’s really for you. Make sure you are physically fit and healthy enough before you start lifting any kind of weights and have a full check up before launching into a training programme fit for a strongman. Injuries sustained by strongmen have been serious, and the strain taken on by the heart and internal organs is great. But if it’s what you want to do, and you’re dedicated to the cause, then the rewards can be great and you’ll be able to lift heavier than any other man you know.