Strongman: More Than Big Weights

 San Diego personal trainer & strongman, Brian Tabor, performing 650# yoke walk.

San Diego personal trainer & strongman, Brian Tabor, performing 650# yoke walk.

I’m not your typical strongman. I compete in a category often referred to as the “little fellas.” My fellow competitors and I have to weigh in at a weight of 175# or less. We’re not exactly the gargantuans you see on ESPN. But if you are fortunate enough to witness one of our competitions you see some amazing ant-like feats of strength. If you have ever thought you were too small, too “normal” sized, or too average to compete in strongman or train like one, this story is for you.

Starting Out

I never thought of myself as amazingly strong, I ran hurdles in track and field and liked to lift weights. But I loved watching World’s Strongest Man on ESPN. I always thought strongman training looked fun, but I was really only able to clean, press, deadlift, and carry dumbells for farmers walks in the facility I trained at. I spent a lot of time doing the usual bodybuilding stuff, but I often gravitated back to the trap bar. Then one weekend I was invited to train with Donnie (awesome strongman) and Kristin Rhodes (currently World’s Strongest Woman). I thought it sounded like a lot of fun and maybe I could learn something. But little did I know that weekend would change my life and even the way I perceive myself.

 My first Atlas Stone Load at bodyweight of about 165#

My first Atlas Stone Load at bodyweight of about 165#

I felt pretty intimidated when I first arrived, but was only met with positive attitudes, jokes, and simple instruction with each new movement. I was taught to continental clean and press, struggled with everyone else’s warm ups on farmers walks, and actually loaded a 305# stone my first day with some sticky fun stuff called tacky. Kristin told me I would do big things, and I didn’t really believe her. But I had so much fun I was excited to see if she might be right.

A Positive Competitive Community

My first contests I entered, I weighed about 170# with clothes on. There wasn’t even a weight class for my size all the time, so I usually competed with people weighing up to 230#. I never took first, but I always felt like I had won some pride. Here I was doing things and lifting stuff alongside people with 50-60# on me. For the most part, I only received positive remarks and encouragement from my new competition and training partners. And I was getting stronger and better each and every time!

A Mental Change

I was excited to train again and I began to see myself as a strong person. I began to not consider so much what weights were appropriate for me, but what always what was the next weight up. I built more muscle, but I spent less time worried about how I looked and more time enjoying what I could do.

Fast forward a few years. I’ve had some bumps and bruises, a few torn callouses. I’ve been a National Strongman Champion weighing 175#. I qualified to compete with the best in the world at the same weight. There are more and more opportunities to compete and train strongman than there were before. The great supportive community of strength athletes continues to grow. And I continue to find confidence by focusing on the things I can do, and I’m humbled when I work on the things I excel less at.

Strongman Training for Everyone

Strongman or strongwoman training is an incredible way to bring about physical and mental change. Loaded carries and the variety of implements and events you can train will develop your ability to utilize your strength outside the gym setting and without a barbell. The incredible intensity can change your physique and build mental strength.

If you like to pick things up and put them down, if you like crossfit, if you like powerlifting, if you like weightlifting, if you’ve gotten bored with treadmills and weight machines, if you want some seriously functional strength, or if you wanna have some fun training with positive people, if you want to be and feel STRONG, you should start training for strongman. Google your area and find a gym with strongmen, powerlifters, crossfitters, whatever gets you started. I’m in San Diego and you’ll be seeing more and more of me in this area. Whether you compete or not doesn’t necessarily matter. All that matters is building your own strength and finding confidence in the things your body can do!

 Brian Tabor, San Diego Personal Trainer and 2010 Strongman National Champion, with Kristin Rhodes and Donnie Rhodes.

Brian Tabor, San Diego Personal Trainer and 2010 Strongman National Champion, with Kristin Rhodes and Donnie Rhodes.

I am incredibly grateful to the Rhodes, all of my other training partners, all of the other <175 strongman competitors, North American Strongman, and everyone that’s supported me. Strongman has given me goals, a community, shaped my identity, and simply made me Strong.

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