Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How to get into strongman

If you are interested in getting into strongman this is the post for you.

When I started strongman it was a little bit more difficult to get into, I was lucky enough to be taking under the wing of a pro strongman, Grant Higa. The steps that I took where as follows: 
1. Seek out a contest 
2. Sign up (I was just going to show up with no training and do my best) 

I suppose that is what it came to around 2006. Now that there is much more interest, there is much more information. The best way to get started (in my opinion) would be to 
1. Sign up for a contest (~12 weeks away)
2. Grab on to an experienced athlete training for that contest 
3. Start learning 

Today there are many ways to go about getting involved in strongman but I do believe one of the most effective sites for strongman networking is Kalle Beck has done a fantastic job compiling contest footage, a list of gyms that are strongman friendly, and training logs from some top athletes (although it is lacking the #1 LW pro ;) ) All and all it is a HUGE advantage to have someone in the community that has worked this hard to bring not only information to the forefront of the community, but availability. It is a beautiful thing to see the sport that you love grow, so I must send a personal thank you out to Kalle for all of his hard work. 

Sidenote: Kalle also co-hosts "American Strongman Radio" 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

How to pick a coach

This topic is ignored all too often. With the growing popularity of strongman (and the fact that no expert or pro has come out and spoke about this) I felt I must speak out and address the proper way to pick a coach.

Before narrowing the scope of this article to just strongman, I want to let it be known that this is applicable to all sports. If you are picking a coach for powerlifting, olympic lifting, baseball, football, wrestling, or any sport, you should ask yourself a series very important questions.

1. Has this coach been where I want to be?
2. Is this coach qualified?
3. How long has this coach been in the sport?
4. Does this coach have any successful athletes?
5. Is the coaching style conducive to your character?
6. Does your coach care?
7. Is this coach an effective communicator?

I will tackle these questions one by one so you can see the importance of each question.

1. Has this coach been where I want to be?
With a coach that has been "there" before they will know how to get "there" again, this is an important quality because all of the communication, qualifications, experience, etc means nothing if they do not know how to get you to your goals in the first place. 

2. Is this coach qualified?
For some sports the term "qualified" is clear and concise (USAW cert, Lvl 1 CF cert., etc), but it should not be forgotten that the term "qualified" is a convention set to a somewhat low standard. The qualified that I am talking about is a little bit more selective and specific. My qualified refers to the coaches level of knowledge. This is really a question to clarify that the coach knows what they are doing. There are some freaks that are just good with no real reason, and conversely there are individuals who possess the skills and knowledge to be a great coach who have not done so well in competition. It should be noted that these individuals are far and few between and are the exception to question #1.

3. How long has this coach been in the sport?
Obviously if your coach was just introduced to the sport and is talking about how they know everything about it, odds are that you know about as much as that coach. It is important that a coach has been in the sport for quite a while and seen not only what works, but more importantly what does NOT work. Athletes are individuals and a good coach knows this, a good coach also knows that different programming works with different athletes, a cookie cutter program is the most obvious sign of a novice coach.

4. Does the coach have any successful athletes?
I want you to read my question again... Recognize that I did not say "athlete" I said "athletes." Anyone can come across a driven, knowledgeable, gifted athlete and make them into a champion, those individuals can not be stopped from being great. To do that more than once tells you that there is proof in the pudding. Coaches that are good, have good athletes. This may not be what they started with but it is the end result of effective coaching, athletes who perform well.

5. Is the coaching style conducive to your character?
Within the coaching world there are several different styles of coaching, in fact there are too many to list. Just for a qualitative understanding of this topic we can talk about two opposing styles, positive and negative reinforcement. The positive coach will always be uplifting, giving encouragement through positive reinforcement . Lifting their athletes up after a poor performance or a disappointing workout. Some athletes really need this, but other athletes need more of a foot in the ass approach.
A negative coach (not to be confused with a poor coach) will see you perform poorly or have a poor lift within your training and get in your face. They will get you riled up and if it is an effective technique for you this will encourage a stronger performance, but this is where individuality begins to play a role. Some people cannot handle the hardass (negative) coaching style and conversely others would not be motivated by the encouraging (positive) coaching style. Like many things in life, to get what you want you must first know what you want.

6. Does your coach care?
A good coach cares not only about winning but about the individual. This may seem self-evident to the individuals who have had a coach who cares, but for those who have not had the experience I will do my best to elaborate. When a coach cares it comes through, the athlete can feel it. This bond will form in both ways, you will care for your coach and your coach will care for you. To fail to do your best truly feels like you let down not only yourself, but your coach. For the coach it is no longer about a job, and for the individual it is no longer about performing for you, it is about representing yourself and your coach. This subject strikes me very personally. While I was in high school I met my wrestling coach Chris Feist. I can say without a shadow of a doubt he change my life. Even 8 years later, I can recall all of my teammates, the way that it felt to step on the mat, the way it felt not just wrestling for myself but to wrestling for what felt like family, if that feeling is present with a coach then the chemistry is right.

7. Is this coach an effective communicator?
Being an effective communicator is just as important as having the knowledge in the subject that you teach. Someone who has all the knowledge but none of the skills to convey the ideas is effectively useless, like a car without gas. I do not have a direct test to determine if a coach is an effective communicator however, this is something that becomes self-evident after working with someone for a short period of time. I will give you a few additional questions you may find useful for determining if a coach is an effective communicator:

A) Are they articulate?
I am not talking about them using big words, I'm asking if they are using words that help you to understand.

B) Do they convey ideas quickly and clearly?
When I teach I go through the technique three times with students and then watch them go through on their own, I am not claiming this is the best method, but sometimes quick and clear does not mean "just once." People can only process so much at once, the real question is "Are the students getting better?"

C) Do they sound confident in what they're talking about?
A coach should be confident in what they are teaching, if you have evaluated your coach correctly this far, you will not need to worry about them teaching you cookie cutter crap out of muscle and fitness or like "strongman for fat loss"
---> Do not listen to this kind of crap.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cutting weight (for a contest)

For those of us that “cut weight” we know it can suck but for those of us who don’t know what “cutting weight” means, let me give you the run down.

            Cutting weight refers to dropping as much weight as possible as close to the weigh ins of the contest as possible and then gaining that weight back before the contest actually starts. This can come in handy for events that favor a heavier individual or for someone who simply can not walk around at the contest weight but it is my strong opinion that it is far better to walk around at contest weight than to “cut” to make weight.

            Now that everyone is on the same page I will go over how I like to cut weight. It is my personal philosophy that cutting weight is something that needs to be done quick and dirty. It needs to take as little time as possible and therefore I NEVER CUT OVER NIGHT. If I am to do a cut I will wake up early and do my cut then, for my last contest that I cut in I woke up at 3am to cut, who cares, all you have to do it cut weight, survive, weigh in, rehydrate, THEN refuel. This means after weigh ins it is FAR more important to drink before eating! I am not sure CAPS LOCK is giving enough emphasis on that so read this paragraph a second time.

            LEAD UP TO THE CUT

I personally water and sodium load. I follow a simple process. We will pretend weigh ins are on a Friday (which is most often the case).

I take the 16 hrs before weigh ins and I don’t consume anything, NO WATER (sometimes I will do a BCAA, this should be mid day thursday). The 24 hrs before that you are on double water and ZERO sodium (mid day Wed-mid day Thursday). 48 hr prior to that I do double water double sodium (Monday- mid day wed). That is really it. Eat how you eat.

Oh it is so fun so I will get right to it!

IMPORTANT- Always have a spotter for cutting,  yes that means someone might see you naked or it might mean someone will see you in your swim trunks, it don’t matter to me how you roll. You will most likely feel faint before the cut is over, don’t drown.

-Make a bath as hot as you can handle.
-Lay in the bath with all but your face under the water, stay in for up to 15 minutes.
-Get out of the bath and sit in the room with the bath in it (hot room) for an equal amount of time that you were in the bath for.
-OPTIONAL-You may spend 5-15 min in a cooler room if you need to cool off but odds are you will feel faint so suck it up and get it over with.
-repeat until down to weight
-Check weight every other round on your “hot room” phase.

Once you make weight you should only be at weight for a few hours MAX, I like to only be at weight for less than an hour. If you cut the night before and stay dry than you are dehydrating your muscles and tendons, ligaments, organs, stuff you don’t want to dehydrate. 

Remember one thing though, you don't have to cut to be good, it is far better to walk around at your competition weight then have to drop water for it. Make sure to subscribe!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Strongman, how most people approach and how to get better, faster.

In the last two articles I went over common misconceptions and common personalities/goals of strongmen. So now that I have kind of showed everyone what NOT to do, the next place to go is, how DO you get better? Is there a quick way to get better? Lucky for everyone I have been down this road and there is a quick way, there is a better way, but SURPRISE, it is NOT going to be fun (unless you are sadistic like me ;) ).

When I began strongman I was a natural, I was very talented in the sport with only one or two weaknesses, tire and pressing. I figured I could dodge those events and make up points somewhere else, WRONG! When you have a weakness you have two things that need to happen as soon as possible.

1. Do contests that you have weaknesses in.
2. Train your weaknesses often and first.

Now if neither one of these sounds fun, it is because neither option is any fun. But they are effective! I entered my first contest and there was an axle clean and press and a tire flip. I did well in all the other events but I missed out on a lot of points from these events. I did not press the axle for a single rep, and the tire was flipped maybe 4 times in 60 seconds. So what did I do to get better? I busted my butt! I let my embarrassment fuel my workouts.

I began training presses at the beginning of my week to ensure that my legs would be fresh and ready for any ‘leg drive’ that was necessary for big overhead pressing. Within a year my presses and primarily my jerks had came along quite well! My tire still suffered but I was able to avoid major work on my tire til about a year later after a tire flip event cost me the first “(2007-2008?)Washington’s Strongest Apple” title.

The tire story for me is very much the same, and out of anyone I know, the tire WAS my LEAST favorite event. There was nothing I liked about the tire, we did not get along to say the least. And again for about a year straight, every Saturday, 6am, first event was the tire flip. And a year later I returned to “(2008-2009?)Washington’s Strongest Apple” and I faced a field that had one year prior CRUSHED me at the tire flip and I flipped until I could not flip anymore. The end result was a First place in the tire flip, beating Breck Gault (I do not think he had ever been beaten in a tire flip in contest) and a first place in the contest.

Sidenote- I will never forget when Breck approached me after the event and told me I had won the tire flip, he was so happy for me it was crazy, just one of the many moments that will be in my mind forever.

The point I am getting at is simple, if you want uncommon results then put in uncommon work. You will never get better at an event you do not practice or devote yourself to.

This approach should not be confined to strongman but to life in general, constantly push your comfort zone and challenge yourself!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Three types of strongmen (attitudes)

To better articulate the standpoint I am coming from these are personalities that all levels of strongman display, even many professional strongmen maintain a fun attitude.

-For fun (enjoy the sport, can still be competitive but are polite, compete with honor)
These guys are 95%+ of the strongman community, it is my opinion that they have it figured out, they do strongman because it is fun. They like to have a good time and are almost ALWAYS friendly to newcomers. When I say always, I mean always, I mean most guys would give you their shirt off their back if you asked for it (literally seen this happen and the shirt was used as a tacky rag, dude knew about it and was 100% for it). Always willing to lend a hand in technique or training and really like to help someone with the common interest of strongman.

-For serious ( “Win at all costs” mentality)
These guys are really far and few between, this may be due to the lack of money in the sport of strongman or the fact that most of the fun in strongman is through the social networks it builds, a real “brothers in arms” kind of mentality that (unfortunately) these guys missed the memo on. Now I understand being serious about winning but if you are not enough of a man to shake someone’s hand and congratulate them when they whoop your ass then I want nothing to do with you. I even once heard a story of some guy (really poor at stones) trying to lift a stone before the event began and realizing he could not lift it so he went back to his bag and coated himself in baby powder (a very slick substance) and proceeded to “try to pick the stone up” again. What a toolbag, if anyone sees this guy please, drop kick him in the testicles for me.

These guys are the transient strongmen, drifting from one sport to another, trying it for a few weeks then not coming around for a few months, then back again like they never left. These guys are often very cool and always a lot of fun because there are a million things to talk about with them.

I am sure I could think of a few other personality types in strongman but honestly over 90% of the people in strongman are cool to EVERYONE. There is no major divide from the amateurs to the professionals; at one time every pro was an amateur.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Strongman misconceptions

There are a few misconceptions about strongman. First thing that needs to be understood about strongman “the strongest man/woman always wins.” It is the person that does the best on the given events, now lets get into an extreme example. Imagine a farmers walk, Usain Bolt vs. Magnus Samuelson, but the weight in each hand is 100lbs/45.2Kg. I would place my money on Mr. Bolt. He is a fast man and with that weight I think he could move faster than Samuelson, now strength helps someone to win contests and events but in MOST circumstance it will be the person who completes the course or does the most reps in a given time wins the event. Only a small portion of the time, events are for a max, in which case the Strongest man does prevail. Be aware that it is often the man who does more reps or does an event fastest that wins, not the strongest.

“Bigger is better.”
WRONG!- I have beaten countless “bigger” men and it was not because I was strongest, it was because I was a better strongman. If you are serious about the sport then get serious about the events, tire, log, yoke, farmers, stones to start… Hussafelt, truck pulls, and everything you can think of to finish.

“I can get away with one or two weaknesses.”
WRONG!- No matter the level (but especially at a large National event) a bomb in an event (0 points) will take you out of contention for the contest.

“I can become a great pro simply by picking the shows I enter and earn a pro card that way”
WRONG!- I will keep this short a concise, since there are only a few pro shows a year this means if you do happen to be picky and have a bunch of weaknesses in your line up then you are going to get KILLED at EVERY pro show, consistency is king.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mindset "Fail forward"

Mindset is pivotal in life, you can let failures crush you and keep you down permanently or you can let them drive you. This mindset really is not hard once you see that each failure is building toward a new success. I see and hear about people being really down about an injury. But every injury tells you something new about how your body is reacting to the stress that is being placed on it. Now sometimes, in the circumstance of an injury, that event can tell you that you need to back off training a certain way, or it can tell you that more recovery time is needed. In either circumstance the injury is giving you positive feedback not only on how to train your training/recovery cycle but showing you how far your body can be pushed. In order to be your best you must always push those limits, but you must also respect those limits. There are two good indication of if you are really pushing your limits, one being PRs and two being occasional failure.

With this information do not go wild and think everyone should fail everyday, there are structure and goals needed in any successful training regime. But if you are not failing, you are not pushing hard enough. Remember, failure is not a negative thing, you must think of every fail as a “fail forward.”