My first strongwoman training session was terrifying. At the beginning of our session my coach, Michael, revealed the weights for the events in my competition in just nine weeks. I seriously contemplated running out of the gym, while he took pleasure in the look on my face. These are my events (everything is for max reps in 75 seconds):
-120kg (265 lbs) deadlift
-50kg (110 lbs) log press
-Truck pull (weight unknown)
-80kg (176 lbs) atlas stone over 48 inch bar
-Keg toss (weight unknown)
*This event hasn’t been confirmed yet. It’s common that one of the events will change on the day. Considering that this comp unusually has neither a farmer’s walk or yoke event, our money is on one of those sneaking in so I will be training both of those events as well.
I hope your reaction was the same as mine when you read those weights: holy shit. At that moment, my deadlift PR was 100kg – and I most certainly had not hit it for reps – and I’d only pressed the 35kg log. Remember my excitement when I got the 60kg stone up? HA. Those weights seem like peanuts now.
When I started spluttering and doubting, Mike told me to shut up and just get through the workout first.
We started with deadlifts. I did a few warm up sets from 50-80kg, and then Mike said: “OK, one rep at 90, one rep at 100, two reps at 105, and 110 next week.”
HA. I surprisingly hit 105kg for one rep, but there was no way it was going up for two. I had no time to celebrate my PR as I’m already panicking about increasing it next week.
I’m allowed to wear a deadlift (powerlifting) suit, so he wants me to buy one ASAP so I can get used to it. He estimates that it will add between 5-10kg to my max. I need all the help I can get!
Right after hitting 105, he had me do max reps in 75 seconds at 90kg. My back was already fried so I only got seven reps. I was very annoyed at myself for that, considering I hit six consecutively during my regular training last week.
We then moved on to the log press. I wished I was still using the yellow log! I just practiced cleaning the 40kg log. I was hopeless in the beginning. The yellow log only has a 10 inch diameter, and this new one has a 14 inch diameter, which makes it about 10 times more uncomfortable and difficult. When you get it on your chest, it literally feels like it’s crushing you to death. The log I’ll be using on competition day is thankfully 12 inches.
It took me a few attempts before I could even clean the damn thing. I can’t even imagine being able to press that log, let alone one which is 10kg heavier. Once I managed to get my elbows up, we practiced holding it for as long as possible.
I then went out to the street to practice the atlas stones. Why I thought it would be a good idea to do this in shorts I have no idea! My legs are completely jacked up, and my forearms actually started bleeding on the spot. Fun times. I will get to use something called tacky, which is basically wax, on my arms to help them stick. I have to shave my arms beforehand or else the hair rips off with every rep.
I was SO exhausted by this point. We only practiced with the 45kg stone. My ballet training has come back to bite me in the ass! I want to keep my back perfectly straight for every exercise, which means that I’m straightening my legs first and then trying to get the stone up to my shoulders by doing a good morning! Not a good look. I need to work on rounding my back, and using my upper back instead of my lower back to lift the weight.
We finished up with explosive bent over rows. Again, I had to practice rounding my upper back. Mike kept having to remind me that this isn’t bodybuilding, and that it’s okay to cheat the weight. From the floor, I pulled the bar to my stomach while trying to keep my back horizontal. I dropped the bar between every rep, removing the eccentric portion of the lift and making a hell of a lot of noise in the process.
By then I was toast. Mike wanted to do more but it had already been 90 minutes and I was exhausted. As if the workout wasn’t hard enough, it was stinking hot and my gym doesn’t have air con. I have seriously never sweat so much in my life.
We sat down afterwards and I wanted to cry (thankfully, I saved it until I got home!). Mike asked me why I looked so worried. Isn’t it obvious – I have a hell of a lot of work to do in the next nine weeks!! I can maybe pull off the deadlifts, but my upper body strength has always sucked. Why don’t they have a lower-body only strongwoman competition?!
He, and everyone else in my gym, seems to think I can do it. Mike says that it’s good to have fear, as it will drive me and occupy my mind constantly. I will never skip a training session or eat off-plan if I know what is at stake and how much I have to push myself in the next two months.
Mike wants me to train four days a week in the gym, with one additional day outside practicing events. I’m going to practice the log press in every session but one, focusing on different aspects (eg one day just pressing, one day just cleaning it). I’m going to deadlift twice a week and include lots of rack pulls and deficit deads.
He said I can practice atlas stones and the keg toss almost every day, as they are not as intense. Yeah, right, tell that to my back! I have no idea when or how I’m going to practice the truck pull. I don’t even want to think about it!
My natural instinct is to quit and tell myself I can’t do it. As far as starting competitions go, it really doesn’t get any harder than this. This comp is the qualifier for the Arnold, so the weights are heavier than normal.
A part of me wants to just stop and train for a later date, but if everyone thinks I can do it, I just need to get on with it and give it my best shot. Even if I only get one rep out at most of these events, it’s better than nothing. Mike’s goal is for me to place middle of the pack for the deadlift and log press, and win the more athletic events. I like his optimism!
I do worry that I don’t have enough time, especially considering I have two weeks with no gym access in August. Although these lifts are new to me and I seem to progress quickly with them, it’s not like I just started lifting last week and can make ridiculous newbie gains. I think it is absolutely crazy that I’ve gone from potentially never lifting again to preparing for an almost 2x bodyweight deadlift in less than six months, and a part of me worries that I’m pushing myself too much too soon.
Another part of me tells myself to shut the F up. This is a strongwoman competition, for God’s sake! It’s not supposed to be easy or everyone would do it. Mike wants me to hit it hard for the next 2-3 weeks before making any decisions about what I can and cannot do.
Finally, a quick note on my last post: I knew I was going to get comments/criticism about cutting weight. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as moving up a weight class, as this is the only class for this competition! The good news is a lot of women will be cutting weight for it as well (as most are between 72-75kg), so we are all in the same boat. Given that my training intensity and frequency is about to increase, I’m confident I can lose 3kg naturally and manipulate the last 1-2kg. We get to weigh in 24 hours before the comp, so I can stuff myself silly afterwards. That’s not to say this will be easy, as my natural instinct is to eat like a pig after every session.
I know I’m probably boring you all with my incessant strongman chatter, so I promise you a more interesting post is coming soon!