Stefanie is a top level American Strongwoman who has been in the sport for many years. She recently won the 2013 Strongwoman Nationals for the LW division, and was nice enough to answer some questions for us. Check out the interview below:
1. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Stefanie. Can you tell us a little about your athletic history, before you started Strongwoman?
Hi, Brandon! Thanks for having me. I’ve been athletic all my life. I started off playing softball, soccer, and swimming, up until high school, then played volleyball, track, basketball, and even cheerleading. Once I got to college, I joined the swim team. This is where I was first introduced to the weight room. I was hooked, instantly. I should also mention that I danced for over 20 years. I did ballet, tap, jazz, modern, and flamenco. In 2007, I was introduced to Strongman, and, of course, that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.
2. It is amazing to see how many strength athletes get to the top, many of them using different training styles. How do you think becoming a top-level Strongwoman has changed your outlook on the vast array of different training styles currently available?
Well, this just goes to show that there is no right way or wrong way. Each athlete must find a program that works for him or her. The key is consistency. If you stick to a good program and believe in it, you’ll get results. I see, too often, people losing patience or getting frustrated with their program and changing it before they even give it a chance. What ends up happening is that they get no results at all, and then, they don’t perform well come showtime.
Although I’ve been doing Strongman since ’07, I only began following a real training program about two years ago. Is it a coincidence that my strength has improved dramatically and that I’ve won most of my competitions in that time? I don’t think so. I used to go to the gym and do random workouts and max out all the time, never really progressing, and I put on mediocre performances at shows. I think this is the mistake that people who aren’t following a well-designed program make, and their performance suffers because of it. It can also cause lots of injuries and frustration.
3. I hear you have competed against Alanna Casey in the past. How was that experience? Are you both as competitive with each other as it seems?
I competed against Alanna at her very first Strongwoman competition back in 2010, and at The Arnold in 2012 and 2013. It’s amazing how far she has come since her first competition. It’s funny, because whenever we talk about that competition, she always says how in awe she was at my strength for my size, and that I was an inspiration to her. Now, the tables have turned, and she has become a motivator for me. She makes me work harder and inspires me to get as strong as possible.
I can’t speak for her, but I don’t view her as my competition, because I don’t view anyone as my competition. When I compete, I go to do my best and not to compare myself to anyone else. This may sound like a bunch of BS to some, but this way of thinking has helped me actually become a more levelheaded competitor. It takes my focus off others and puts it on myself, relieving tons of pressure and clearing my head. This is how I won Nationals in 2013.
4. We don’t hear too much about the role of kettlebells in our sport, how do you think your experience as a kettlebell instructor has helped you as a competitor?
I can honestly say that kettlebell training has taught me more about body awareness than anything else I’ve ever done before. I learned to use my muscles in concert – I could lift so much more weight, because I was using my whole body to lift rather than isolating particular muscle groups. I learned to press with my lats, create tension throughout my entire body, and fire from my glutes. A kettlebell is also a fantastic conditioning tool. You can get a killer conditioning workout in five minutes. That’s about all the cardio I can take!
5. What are some of your favorite lifts or assistance lifts for building overall strength, besides the obvious ones?
Z presses! I love Z presses. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love overhead pressing. The Z press has helped my overhead press go way up. I also love front squats. This lift has helped my log press and stone loading in a big way. And I love Pendlay rows and GHR’s – gotta have that strong backside!
6. Where do you see yourself as a competitor in the next five years?
I chose to sit this year out. I need to fix my metabolism and focus on my strength. All the weight cuts and dieting I’ve done have really messed me up. I’ll be spending this year getting strong, of course, and getting myself to a comfortable weight that I can maintain. No more weight cuts or diets for me. I want to compete at my natural weight and not have to cut into a weight class. I’ve gotten a lot stronger in the last year, and with that came a lot more muscle and a lot more bodyweight. I’ll be working on this with Trevor Kashey. Trevor’s nutrition, in combination with strength programming by Mike Mastell, I think will make me a force to be reckoned with in the middleweight class in 2015! I’ve already won Nationals for the lightweight division, and I see no point in competing there again. In addition, I want to get a Powerlifting meet under my belt at some point. But I think in five years, I’ll be doing more coaching than competing. I’m a lot older than most people think I am.
7. For some athletes, the contents of their gym bag is a reflection of their personality. What are some must-haves in your gym bag?
I keep it very simple: my Rogue floss, my EliteFTS wrist wraps, my Nike Romaleos, my APT belt, and my LiftingLarge.com training log – that’s it!
8. What are some pieces of advice you have for athletes who may be interested in competing in strength sports, but don’t know where to start?
Do your research and seek out a coach who has an extensive background in the sport. Ask the top competitors who their coaches are. The coach doesn’t necessarily have to compete, but he or she should have experience in successfully coaching others. If you’re interested in a particular coach, talk to the athletes who have worked with that coach. How have they improved with that particular coach?
Five things you may not know about me:
1. I believe that mayonnaise is the condiment of the Devil.
2. I could eat pizza all day, every day.
3. I speak Italian.
4. I spell my name with an F, not a PH
5. After I won Nationals, American Ninja Warrior contacted me to be on the show. I told them I didn’t have time, but the real reason was that I’m terribly afraid of heights!
Stefanie Tropea is the 2013 North American Strongman Lightweight Women’s National Champion. She currently co-owns the National record for Axle Clean and Press Away with 11 reps in 60 seconds with 135lbs. She competed at The Arnold World Championships in 2012 and 2013, earning 8th and 11th places, respectively. Stefanie is the owner of Punch Kettlebell Gym of Norwalk Connecticut, and works with beginner to elite athletes. She is a graduate of Manhattanville College and earned her Masters in Human Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport. In addition to training the members of her gym, Stefanie also coaches athletes online in training and nutrition, working with beginners to three-time National Champions. You can contact Stefanie at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you’ll find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/stefanie.tropea, and at Instagram@strongwomanstef.