Advice to New Strongman Competitors
Advice to New Strongman Competitors
You’ve been training hard, but are you mentally prepared for your Strongman competition? This article is meant to help newer competitors get an idea of what to expect, and should help you conduct yourself like a seasoned athlete, perform your very best, and have a great experience!
“First things first: get your first rep.”
Get the First Rep
Many Strongman events are for as many reps as possible in sixty seconds. You probably have an expectation of how many you’ll get. However, it’s important to remember that training and competition are two very different things. Just think about all the factors: you’re nervous, the equipment is likely different than you’ve used, and you will start to feel tired after a few events.
When it’s your turn to go, don’t think about how many reps you want or how short sixty seconds seems before you start lifting. First things first: get your first rep. Many (most!) athletes rush and fumble their first attempt. It’s a time and energy waster. Think about that one rep, get your down command, and then get into a groove. Haste makes waste, folks!
Listen to Your Judge!
In a contest, you don’t get to lift when you’ve reached the perfect level of readiness. You need to go when the judge tells you to. It’s very common for new competitors to be out of sync with their judges. It’s a shame to see reps or time wasted because athletes have overlooked this aspect of competition. Practice your lifts with start, down, and/or up commands. This bears repeating: Practice with commands.
Down commands: When it comes to commands, most judges are reasonably strict about requiring athletes to lock out reps and demonstrate control. You need to monitor yourself and keep that standard in your head -then your judge will have no doubt. Practice strong lockouts so that you don’t sacrifice your hard-earned reps.
Start commands: It’s seems simple - go when the judge tells you to! But are you braced and focused when the judge tells you to begin, or do you lose precious seconds because you’re unable to start quickly? In most Strongman competitions, the commands are the same; “Athlete take your grip, athlete ready? START or LIFT.” You should be getting tight when the judge asks if you’re ready. Some people recommend a slight head nod to indicate readiness, but I personally think it’s enough if you’re clearly braced and laser-focused straight ahead. Be ready to explode.
Don’t Get Psyched Out When You Hear: “30 seconds left!”
You feel like you’ve given everything and then you hear a judge tell you that you’re only halfway there. It’s hard to not feel a rush of exhaustion and dread in that moment. Take my word for it, it’s an awful thing to hear when you’re nearly dead from that first half. But by the time they tell you and you think you don’t have anything left, you’re now over halfway through and the light at the end of the tunnel is visible. This is when you’ll achieve more than you thought possible. Leave the fear of “30 seconds” to other athletes, dig in deep, and give it all you’ve got. Now, sometimes “30 seconds” means that it’s time to rest for 10 seconds to allow that meter to fill up enough to give you 1 or 2 more reps. But either way, it’s your thirty seconds.
Fight Until the End
Strongman competitions are long, hard days that will leave you mentally, emotionally, and physically drained. You will likely have highs and lows in your performance. You might be intimidated by other athletes. You might doubt yourself, or you might feel on top of the world
Many people say that you should have a short memory from event to event. You bombed one? Move on so that you can do your best in the next event(s). You smashed it? The same thing applies. You need to remember that every event matters equally.
“Nothing is predetermined in Strongman”
This is embarrassing to admit, but at my third contest I was discouraged after placing second in the first two events. My competitive drive vanished because I didn’t perform “perfectly” - I sort of gave up early on because I thought I had fallen short of what I was capable of. What I didn’t yet understand was that real competitors keep their head in the game. Nothing is predetermined in Strongman; sometimes your own goals or self-expectation just don’t matter. You can’t control who wins or how you place just by wanting it. Focus on giving your all; you’ll feel better about your performance, and achieve better results too!
Lastly, the best tip I can give is to have fun! My first Strongman contest was an incredible experience. I had learned enough about these technical details of competing to take it seriously, but I was ignorant of how scoring works and that allowed me to focus on the challenges at hand.
I marveled at the strength and skill of those who placed in the top, I picked up little tips and tricks, I gave pointers and encouragement to others, and I shared my chalk and wrist wraps. I didn’t know what I was capable of and I got such a thrill from performing in front of judges and other athletes. I ended up with a deadlift PR and I placed third in an event that I found terrifying (circus dumbbell). Ultimately you won’t be able to forecast what your personal experience will be, but it’s likely to be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ve ever had!
I’m thrilled you’ve decided to get into this sport; you’ve put in so much work training for your contest and I hope that these tips help you do your best!