Strongman is the sport of giants. Televised contests feature men of enormous size engaged in circus-like feats of strength - lifting cars, pulling trucks, and hoisting stones to platforms. In much of the world, the sport of Strongman is a thriving and revered tradition. In Scandinavia and eastern Europe, the tradition of giants competing in lifting odd objects is a proud one, and Americans are just late to the game.
This is a basic outline for gaining exposure to this awesome sport. This outline is for men AND women, and the only real requirement is that you have some exposure to strength training. If you don't spend any time around barbells or big sweaty people, get yourself to a decent gym immediately!
1. The Shows
Strongman shows run all year, with no set "season." Each show is sanctioned by one of two Federations (NAS or USS,) which cost either $20 or $50 per year in membership fees. Each show is classified at a "level," and those levels help to determine exactly how tough the competition is likely to be. For example - a Level 1 NAS show means that only the top competitors get a bid to Nationals. A Platinum Plus NAS show means that top finishers can earn a pro card, and as such, you're going to see some seriously strong folks battling it out. Show promoters usually list their events during the registration period, so competitors can prep accordingly. Venues are most often gyms where good equipment is available, but sometimes larger venues like big athletic complexes or coliseums work too. Shows combine between four and six events over the course of a day, and events almost always include the following:
3. The Events
-Pressing. No, not benching. We're talking about overhead presses, the old-school strength standard that globo-
gyms and fitness fads have all but eradicated. Competitors might press a dumbbell, a barbell of varying girths, a
log, or even a weighted keg. Sure, there's technique involved in each of these, but you'll want to start with a
good upper-body strength base before worrying about that.
-Deadlifting. Sometimes these events will be as simple as a maximum deadlift, or max reps in a given time span
like sixty seconds. More often, there will be odd variations on the deadlift. You might see axle deadlifts, which
test the grip as well, or an elevated deadlift meant to shorten the full range of motion for each competitor. Car
or truck deadlifts are popular events as well.
-Carry/load. For these events, a variety of odd objects must be moved a specified distance within a limited
amount of time. There are some common variations here, with the carry events often using a yoke, sandbag, farmer's
walk handles, or a keg or husafel (odd shaped) stone. Loading events require a lifted/carried object to be placed
on a platform - that's what you're seeing when the giants toss those huge boulders onto platforms in World's
There are other events as well, but these are the ones you're most likely to encounter, and the ones that every
Strongman competitor should be prepared to see in any given show.
4. Weight Classes / Divisions
Here is some good news for Strongman newbies looking to compete in Strongman but afraid to do battle with the rhino-sized dudes
and ladies you've seen on tv: There is a novice division! Weight classes for novices vary, but the rules essentially limit the division to competitors who haven't won as novices. Once you do win, it's time to move up to the open division, and that's where things get tough. Weight classes for open division women are light/middle/heavy, with the actual limits varying based on the sanctioning federation. For example, USS heavyweights are 165+, while NAS heavyweights are 180+. The same goes for the guys, although of course the numbers are much higher - super heavyweight men start at 300 pounds.
5. Getting Involved
If at all possible, you need a gym and a coach. Like any other sport, Strongman involves its fair share of training protocols, technique, and strategy. Without some guidance, you are going to struggle. If meeting up with like-minded strongpersons isn't possible at all for you, get involved in the community online. Active organizations on FB can help to direct you to events near you, and the community is a friendly one. You'll have no shortage of advice coming your way if you want to compete in Strongman, and some of it may even be helpful!
Join the Strongman community, and compete with giants!