To compete in a strongman competition takes more than just pure physical prowess and power.
It also involves incredible mental toughness, fierce will and unshakable confidence in your abilities to undertake what most would deem superhuman feats.
“There is an element of pain involved like no other sport,” explains local strongman competitor, Jimmy McCurry. “It’s not only pushing your muscles, grip, skin and blood pressure to its absolute limit, but you push mental barriers farther than you ever thought possible.
“As a strongman, you have to shut off pain sensors briefly and just get to work.”
He adds, “There is a kind of mental fortitude that kicks in when taking a 350-pound stone from the ground to your chest on a platform after having just loaded four lighter, but still heavy stones onto the same platform. With every stone, you lose a little more strength, wind and skin.”
To the uninitiated, a strongman competition is designed to test all aspects of strength, including static, grip and explosive strength, speed, endurance and conditioning.
Strongman events typically involve a variety of implements such as large stones, truck tires, makeshift barbells for overhead pressing, bars connected to cars for dead lift, squat types of exercises and beer kegs, trucks or other large machinery that are lifted and moved from one point to another. Though participating in a strongman competition is not for everyone, spectating at these events has proven to be very popular.
At the recent “Kings of Krush Strongman Competition” in Sequim, people showed up from all over the area to watch men and women titans undergo tests of their strength.
McCurry, one of the competitors, placed third in his weight class.
A personal trainer at both Personalized Health and Fitness in Woodinville and the Harbor Square Athletic Club in Edmonds, McCurry entered the show for the experience and the challenge.
Prior to “Kings of Krush,” he had only competed in one other strongman competition.
“While at Western Washington University, I competed in ‘Western’s Strongest Man’ in 2011 and placed third out of four people in my weight class,” he says. “I also competed in bodybuilding in 2010, which as most strongman competitors will tell you is not even close to the same thing.”
The Woodinville man, a 2007 WHS grad, studied kinesiology while at Western and after graduating with a degree in the field, he became nationally certified as a strength and conditioning specialist.
“I initially became a personal trainer for selfish reasons,” explains McCurry. “I wanted to learn the best way to train myself for bodybuilding and strength. I loved being in the gym so I had to figure out a way I could be in the gym all day long.”
He adds, “I was first introduced to strength training through my wrestling coach, Ryan Hitzemann, and that’s when it all changed for me. I became stronger, leaner and better than I had even been at wrestling and I attributed that to my strength training. I wanted to figure out how to get better at it and becoming a personal trainer just made sense.”
McCurry notes that he derives great pleasure from being a trainer. He enjoys the personal relationships he builds with his clients.
“I really get to know someone, in and out, as they get to know me through the intimate, challenging endeavorthat it is to change someone’s body,” he explains. “It brings me so much joy when I hear from successful clients from years ago and they are still on the right track and they say something like, ‘if it wasn’t for you …’ – that just makes me feel so good.”
A back injury prevented McCurry from pursuing any competitions for over a year, but once it was healed and he was able to work through his posture issues, he decided it was time to get back into training for a strongman show.
“This type of event is fun for me because I get to be primal and yell and scream and show off my strength in a way that’s also fun for people to watch,” explains McCurry. “It’s also a way to see how I stack up in the world of strength and to see how strong I really am. And I love the structure that it brings to my life.”
The Woodinville man started his training regimen nine weeks prior to the “Kings of Krush” competition, working out at Seattle Strength and Power with another local strongman, Pete Marcoff.
“In training for a strongman, you have to get comfortable with the implements,” says McCurry. “For the ‘Kings of Krush,’ there was a 231-pound axle press for reps, a 700-pound Conan’s Wheel, 750-pound tire flips, 500-pound deadlift for reps and a stone loading series where the lightest stone is 240 pounds and the heaviest is 350 pounds.”
In order to prepare for these activities, McCurry spent two days a week training with weights to work on pulling and overhead pressing movements, along with the deadlift.
He then allocated another two days to split up the events and train for each one specifically.
“The hardest part about training is to make sure you’re not training too hard all the time,” he notes. “You have to take a break sometimes and if you do, you’ll realize that you’ll be stronger for it.”
The local man also dieted for several months in advance of the show. He normally weighs about 250 pounds and in order to compete in the middle weight class (231.5 pounds), he had to lose a considerable amount of weight.
For McCurry, the most challenging event was the axle press, which he had expected going into the show.
“You have to lift a two-inch thick bar loaded with 231 pounds from the ground overhead as many times as possible in a minute,” he explains. “I thought I might be able to do two to three reps, but I only completed one. I almost completed three more, but I just couldn’t lock out the axle.”
Ironically, McCurry’s best event – the Conan’s Wheel –was the one he had practiced the least.
What surprised him most was the pace of the show.
He comments that it was fast, especially the transitions between the events, but he admits this made the experience much more exciting.
Although he did not do well enough at the show to qualify for Nationals in October, the local man was satisfied with his performance. He felt he was as well prepared as he could have been considering the fact he had only seriously trained for two months.
“I realize I have a ton of work to do over the next year if I want to be a national caliber competitor,” adds McCurry. “I know I need to train with implements much sooner and keep them in my program all year, as well as train more volume and a little less intensity.”
In the coming year, McCurry hopefully plans to enter more competitions, while working on gaining admittance into a graduate program for physical therapy.
He says, “I would love to one day own and operate my own rehab and training facility that work off of each other so that there is a place for everyone, from the elderly to the hard core strongman.”