From this weeks New Yorker, “The Strongest Man in the World” is a wonderful story(and also doesn’t require a subscription to read). Following the giant strongman Brian Shaw as he prepares for and competes in the strongman category at the Arnold Classic (amazingly the largest sporting event in the world with more competing athletes than the Olympics), Burkhard Bilger reveals the human underbelly of the worlds strongest men. Unlike weightlifters strongmen have neither weight categories nor scientific tests of strength, rather these massive giants (many weighing in at over 300 pounds) throw beer kegs up high, dead-lift 1100 pounds, and walk like ducks carrying anvils between their legs.
Everyday life for strongmen doesn’t sound like much fun. They tend to earn little money from the competitions (the largest 1st place prize in any competition is about $45,000), rely on meager sponsorship deals to pay for their training equipment, and work jobs to make ends meet. Everyday they’re expected to eat more food than I can eat in an entire week: for example Brian Shaw eats 10 eggs and several pounds of bacon for breakfast each day, has meals every two hours through the day, and between meals sucks down 1200 calorie protein shakes. They eat so that their bodies can act as counterweights to the massive weights they lift and heave. Further, strongmen often have to take steroids (and also deal with the emasculating side effects) to remain competitive They train every day and the weights they train and compete with are often heavy enough to rip skin off of their bodies. Brian Shaw was so large that he can’t fit into a Hummer and gets around in a modified pick-up truck, which he can’t buckle himself into because his arms are too bulky to reach the belt. Finally, injuries in strongmen competitions are very common. It all just sounds terrible.
I guess I should be glad that I’m a puny pipsqueak