As I moved the contents of my New York City apartment into a U-Haul truck without the aide of a moving company, something occurred to me: the last two years of Strongman training were for this moment.
Farmer carries had gotten my muscles strong enough to tote oversized duffels. Sandbag and keg carries had prepared me to carry heavy boxes. Hoisting atlas stones meant I could easily take a case of books from the floor to a truck bed at shoulder-height.
Perhaps my sport needs a new tagline. Strongman: Rendering Moving Companies Obsolete.
For most, the word “Strongman” conjures memories of watching impossibly large men hoisting concrete boulders, lifting car axles and pulling airplanes on ESPN at 2am. Maybe you hoped one day to try out one of those events but more likely, it seemed far out of the realm of consideration. Did you know there’s an entire weight class in the sport of strongman for women under 130lbs? Or that there’s finally a World’s Strongest Woman competition?
“Strength makes life easy, and that’s a human trait, not a gender trait,” explains Dain Wallis, Canadian Strongman Champion. “Strongman is incredibly fun and very demanding, it makes you feel like you can do anything.”
As a longtime runner for whom “lifting” was generally limited to taking a pint of beer from the table to my face at the end of a 10K, becoming a strongman athlete is not something I expected to embrace. But in the last two years, I’ve learned to love what a strong body can do. To feign frustration when someone asks me to move a couch when really, I’m kind of flattered. To be proud when I can see muscle definition and to be confident that there’s nothing I can’t accomplish. So to prove that strongman really is for everyone, I brought Well TO Do’s co-founder Eme to a training session with Wallis at Fortis Fitness in Leslieville.
As we pressed an axle overhead, carried a heavy yoke, and bear-hugged sandbags, Wallis broke down the mechanics of strongman events for us, namely the importance of engaging everyone’s favorite muscle group: the core.
“Core is a big buzz-word these days, but if you lack core strength, you simply aren’t strong,” he explained. “Strongman is a sport of being placed under great load, so if you can’t brace solidly through your core, you won’t be able to move the weight.”
Scroll down to see how we fared with farmer carries, atlas stones, and more.
The Axle Clean & Press:
Taking the barbell clean & press up a notch, this movement uses a bar that’s thicker and more difficult to wrap your hands around. As the weight gets heavier, the clean gets harder and strongmen will rely on the continental clean in which the first movement hoists the barbell onto their belly before bringing it up to the shoulders for the press.
Of all of the sideshow-like events of strongman, this has to be the best spectacle. A comedically oversized metal dumbbell is hoisted with one hand overhead. The history of the event differs depending who you ask but in its piece on Strongman champion Brian Shaw, The New Yorker references the story of British Strongman Thomas Inch who, in the early twentieth century, offered a prize of more than $20K (in today’s currency) if anyone could lift his 172lb dumbbell with a handle “as thick as a tin can” off the floor with one hand.
If you’re looking to train functional fitness, look no further than the farmer carry, an event that mirrors carrying your groceries and toting your luggage through the airport, and challenges ever muscle in your body.
Sandbag Carry / Keg Carry:
The sport of strongman is loosely defined as picking things up and putting them back down in the same place, walking with them and putting them down somewhere else, or putting them over a bar. The sandbag and keg are implements used all three ways. We took both for a walk and let Wallis show us how an overhead keg press is done.
One of the most recognizable strongman events, this one generally involves picking up huge round boulders and putting them over a bar or onto a platform. At Fortis, we have the new Stone of Steel, a plate-loadable metal stone which takes the degree of difficulty up several notches.
Fortis Fitness is located at: 11 Carlaw Avenue.
Connect with Dain Wallis at Move Daily.