The following is a personal account of when I won the Maryland Strongest Man contest, my transition from competition to performing strongman, and my thoughts on what it means to be a strongman or strongwoman.
I competed from 2003-2008. I did every strongman competition that was held in Maryland during that time and most of the grip contests in PA.
Back then there was 4 weight classes in strongman. There was no women’s division (there was no interest), no novice division (you were either strong or you bombed), no teens, masters or anything else.
There was a pro and an amateur circuit (I’m talking about amateur), but the weights we used at the Maryland strongman were on par with that of what was being used at the World’s Strongest Man competition at the time. (Of course, the pros did it better.)
I competed in the mid-heavyweight class (under 265) and almost always weighed 245-250lb
In 2007 the events were:
- Log Clean & Press (260)
- Farmers Walk / Tire flip medley (300/850)
- Yoke Walk (850)
- Atlas Stones (260-360)
- Conan’s Wheel (650)
I competed against my brother in law, Jason Dayberry, and my future intern / friend / physical therapist, Tom Bruns. There were others in our weight class I’m sure but I only remember the podium finishers.
“The greatest half point victory in strongman!”
I beat my brother in law by .5 a point!!! Jason took second place. It actually came down to the last event, the Conan’s Wheel, where I beat him by just a couple yards. That made for good smack talk at family dinners for a few years until he became the 2015 Maryland Strongman.
Tom was 19 at the time and crazy ass man child. He came in third place. Tom was strong then and he’s even stronger today! Still crazy too, but smarter and more socialized now. Tom went on to win the 2017 Maryland Strongest and he’s also our in house physical therapist that you’ll find at the gym on Strongman Saturday.
After my win I kinda lost interest. I had qualified for nationals but I knew that taking it to that next level was going to change the cost:benefit ratio.
You’re now looking at travel expenses, increased competition fees, not to mention the toll it takes on your body to compete at high level strength sports.
In addition to that, I was, and always have been, a natural athlete. You’re chances of making it as a top strongman without steroids is next to zero.
It just isn’t worth it.
I knew it was time to hang it up when I didn’t train for the 2008 Maryland Strongman contest, but still competed. I never liked it when people competed in a contest they didn’t train for and when I found myself doing it, I quit.
That’s when I started doing strongman performances.
Feats of Strength
I got back to my “roots” with grip training and focused more on feats of strength like tearing phonebooks and decks of cards. I started bending steel, got certified on the Red Nail and began creating Iron Bonsai – hand bent steel sculpture.
I flew to Texas and trained with Grandmaster Strongman Dennis Rogers and did his Old Time Strongman University workshop. I joined Toast Masters and worked on my public speaking. I started doing free shows at schools, churches and health expos.
And when I felt I had a good show – world class feats of strength and a motivational speech – I began charging for it.
Now I do strongman shows where I juggle barbells and give talks about the benefits of strength training. I must say, it’s a pretty cool gig!
I especially love hearing about how I inspired kids (adults, too) to start working out.
So that’s the gist of my background as a strongman, both competitive in Maryland and performing, but you don’t have to do those things to train strongman.
What it means to be a strongman
Strongman is more of an attitude and a practice, than it is a competition or performance.
By the way, for semantic purposes, the sport is called “Strongman” but there are plenty of strongwomen competitive or not.
Strong IS the pronoun.
Strong is the verb, the adjective and the objective.
It’s the goal, and it’s a worthy pursuit.
As we say in StrongFirst, “strength has a greater meaning”
I couldn’t begin to tell you all of the ways training for physical strength has made me stronger mentally, emotionally and even spiritually. What we do in the gym can (and should) carry over to the real world. In more ways than one…
When you challenge yourself physically, a host of benefit comes not from trying to look good, but to BE good. And then to be better!
Better every day. Stronger than yesterday. Be strong. Live strong.
That’s what being a strongman is all about.
Real World Training
Of course it helps to train with odd objects, too. Technique is developed relatively easily with implements that were made to be lifted (i.e. precision engineered barbells), but things in the “real world” do not have a standard technique.
There is no authority on what constitutes a “good lift” when you have to move your couch or pick up your sleeping child up off of the floor.
If you get the job done without getting hurt, it’s a good lift!
Standard kettlebell / barbell / dumbbell lifts will get you most of the way there, but they don’t recruit stabilizer muscles the way a sandbag would. Calisthenics and bodyweight exercises are great, but they don’t challenge your grip the way a thick bar does. Pilates might work your core, but not the way a beer keg pressed overhead will, and we can all admit that pilates is not as cool as lifting beer kegs 🙂
The point is that things you encounter in life will challenge you in ways a bit differently than the way you are challenged in the gym. That’s why its good to use some unconventional means of training.
I’m a former winner of the Maryland Strongest Man contest, but I do not think I’m the strongest man in Maryland then or now. I’m just one of the few who showed up to compete that day. I am however probably the strongest man in Maryland for the feats that I perform in my shows.
Regardless of title, I am a man who promotes being strong in all aspects of life. My journey in becoming physically stronger made me stronger everywhere else. It taught me discipline, work ethic, consistency and goal setting; which resulted in freedom, clarity of purpose, persistence and confidence.
You need not be a competitive or performing strongman to benefit from these things.
You just need to train.
PS – if you have not yet checked out our Strongman Saturday classes, you should! We currently have two 90-min sessions and both classes are very beginner friendly. To check availability and register, go here – https://bkc.sites.zenplanner.com/calendar.cfm