Memoirs of a Strongman

Article written by Matt Falk

In just a couple weeks, I will be celebrating my one year anniversary as a Strongman competitor at Washington’s Strongest Apple (if you live in WA, you should probably come out), and wanted to take a moment to reflect over a few things I’ve learned as a competitor and strength athlete in the last 365 days. So, take a seat and hold on to your compression shorts, it’s about to get inspirational.

Become Unbeatable

I’m sure most of you are wondering, how is that possible? I’m not talking about competition wins, although those aren’t too shabby either. I’m talking about the development of an unbeatable mentality. I can’t even begin to count the amount of times people have asked me “what is/are the best supplement(s)”? The best supplement available is a relentless and tenacious work ethic. This mentality can’t be sold or consumed in pill or powder form; it’s all on you. As we all know, your actual training is only a partial component of the big picture. Train harder, eat more, eat better, and make recovery/mobility your two best friends. Outworking your competition doesn’t mean lifting until failure every workout. It means developing an around the clock, 24/7 approach to your success as an athlete. Your “normal” life doesn’t have to come to a screeching halt. That would be unhealthy. However, there are plenty of sacrifices that have to be made along the way, and if you are unwilling to skip your happy hour to get your squats in, then just throw in the towel now. You’re going nowhere fast.

As a side note, I would like to say that the whole “train smarter, not harder” adage that is thrown around the fitness community is in most cases, a total bunch of bull. First, you need to identify what constitutes “training smart”. Seriously, what does this mean? Hard work and a few extra sets will ALWAYS beat the person who spends their free time reading a thousand research articles, lifting blogs, and trying to finesse and tweak their program to perfection. Train logically, but always train harder. A bit off topic, but there are those who believe that training PR’s don’t matter? Hmmm… yeah, no. PR’s in the gym are every bit as important to your success as numbers in competition. They may not go in the record book or earn you a trophy, but they will certainly boost your confidence, provide you with a solid indicator of where you’re at, and provide a small reward for the blood, sweat, and tears you have shed along the way. I’m not just talking about 1RM’s either. Smoking a new deadlift triple or even executing a set with better and more efficient form should be viewed as a victory. Celebrate yourself, feel accomplished, and then move on. Intensity seems to be a component that a large percentage of our society has allowed to atrophy over time, like their twiggy legs. Find it, harness it, use it.

Drop Your Guard

Pretty self-explanatory and certainly nothing new, but drop your guard for a minute and keep reading. Not only is an inflated ego unbearably difficult to tolerate, it makes you an idiot and less of an athlete.

Strongman and CrossFit are a bit different than PL and Weightlifting in the sense that the weights and events are predetermined. Because many Strongman competitions do not have a novice division you have one choice, compete in open class. It’s do or die. Last year, at my first competition, the yoke weight was just under 800 pounds. I picked it up, almost blacked out, and made it a grand total of ten feet before I was seeing the lights closing in at the end of the tunnel. I did not finish or zeroed over half of the events. This last weekend, the yoke weight was almost identical and I completed it with one of the fastest times, winning several events and winning my weight class. A year of total dedication goes a long way. Strength sports are grueling, and if you can’t handle being knocked in the dirt while getting your wings, you should pick up knitting.

Next point. Unless you are a multiple time world champion in your respective sport, chances are it would behoove you to seek out the advice of a better athlete. If your press sucks (like mine), find someone who used to suck, is now a press god, and ask for help. Yeah, HELP, scary word to many. I will never understand why you would continue to train week in and week out, while blatantly disregarding all of the amazing resources surrounding you. Social media, as angering and pointless as forum threads may get sometimes (thanks trolls), has been an integral component of unifying strength athletes around the world. The ability to converse with people at the top of their game has never been easier. Hence, your excuses become null and void. Becoming a sponge of information does not make you weak. I would argue it does the exact opposite. It is however, your responsibility to deem what information is worthwhile, and what should have been taken out back to the pasture and shot dead.

There are assholes everywhere, but there are fewer of them in the strength world. People can recognize their shaky beginnings and are more often than not flattered by the request for advice. If coaching is their profession, compensate them accordingly (good advice is not always free, read: don’t be cheap). Just ask, it won’t kill you.

Set Attainable Goals

Once again, nothing new here, but I’m still always surprised when trainees or athletes I work with want 200 pounds on all their lifts, tomorow. This is a giant pitfall. You WILL lose this battle. Sure, setting big, long-term goals is awesome and a necessary source of inspiration, but you need short-term goals first. “I want to win Strongman Nationals”, cool story. You need to qualify first, meaning you need to win a local show, meaning you need to get better at your weak events, meaning you need to develop a plan. If you set yourself up for failure from the start, you will never feel good about your performance. Expect a lot from yourself, but if you aren’t a freak of nature and can’t consistently add 10 pounds to each lift per month, don’t sweat it. Most of us can’t. Look through your training logs (I assume you are doing your homework…), and figure out what these goals should be, based upon your history.

Make the necessary changes, adapt, and become successful. A success is what you dictate it to be. Nobody can tell you otherwise. Keep your head down and as Dubya once stated, “stay the course”.

I’m far from the best, the strongest, or the most conditioned. But, I am a very hard worker, and while being a hard worker does not guarantee a win, a win is always achieved through hard work. Strength cannot be cheated by a bad call, you can’t blame the refs, you can only blame you. Lift weights, eat meat, and play your music loud. It’s pretty simple.

Get Some.


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