Strongman competition winner (or “That Time I Got 31 Deadlift Reps in 90 Seconds)

May 13, 2018

*is this thing on?* It’s been a minute since I blogged about a competition, but now I have something to tell you, so here’s an update. Not bodybuilding or powerlifting: strongman!

I haven’t stepped on a bodybuilding stage since 2016 (no firm plans to do so again, but haven’t “retired” either). But I’m always up for any kind of challenge – the more fun and weird the better.

Strongman definitely fits the bill! Pulling a truck? Flipping a tyre? Deadlifting a car? That’s weird in anyone’s book.

(If you’re not sure which one Strongman is – here’s the handy cheat-sheet I wrote, mostly for the benefit of my Dad).

Last Sunday’s Strongman & Strongwoman comp was hosted by my lovely friend Nikky Ricks at her gym – Waugh Machines – in Ramsgate. Strongman comps are few and far between, and tend to be organised by gyms, so I jumped at the chance to do something relatively local.

I knew the events and weights long in advance but didn’t get the chance to train on the kit (for various reasons). So I showed up with the knowledge that I am strong but… that’s about it.

The thing about Strongman is that nothing is predictable. Yes, there might be a deadlift event and you might love deadlifting. But WHAT will you be deadlifting, exactly? Not a bar with plates, that’s for sure.

Strongman is about full body strength, power, speed, and thinking on your feet.

The comp was split into three groups – men (split by weight) and one open women’s class – with different weights (but the same events) for each. There were four women in total.

Here’s how I got on.

Event 1 – truck pull

When I turned up at the venue, a couple of us ladies asked if we could have a go just to see if we could at least move it. I’ve done vehicle pulls in comps before, but never a sodding massive actual truck. It looked…. huge. Anyway, I managed to pull it across the line. We then realised that it had been loaded up to the advertised men’s weight. So we said sod it, we can do that, so give us that weight and put on extra for the men.

  • 9.7 tonnes over 20 metres for time.
  • Not sure where I came in this (2nd?) but I completed it

Event 2 – log press

This is where you clean (lift) the log from around knee height to chest, then press overhead. If you place the log back down, it’s a no-lift. I had no idea how I’d do with this. I don’t do this move in my regular training, and a log is awkward compared to a barbell.

We started at 30kgs then went up in 5kgs in a knock-out format. I was OK til we got to 45kgs – as I was pressing overhead, the weights slipped off one side, the log tilted, then the weights came off the other side. I was allowed another go, but obviously that had tired me out a bit. Anyway, I got the 45kg on my next go. There were a couple of us still in at this stage. The other lady tried to get 50kgs and didn’t manage. I stepped up, not at all sure that I would. It took two goes (but I didn’t set the log down, so that’s fine). After what felt like a very slow lock-out, I got it.

  • Very chuffed to log press 50kgs
  • And shocked to win this event!


Event 3 – car deadlift max reps in 90 seconds

(Here’s a video)
We didn’t actually get to deadlift the car (the guys did). But we had a 130kg tyre on the car deadlift jack. I’ve no idea what that actually weighs – obviously the angle and lever movement means you’re not actually deadlifting 130kgs. I got to go last in this which was great because it meant I could see what the others did and commit to beating them at all costs. Deadlifting is my favourite, and I would be gutted not to win this event! The lady just before me was banging them out like a machine. I counted 22. Right. 23 or more it was then.

I still had no idea how heavy the thing actually felt, though. I set up, lifted, stumbled back into a more comfy position… and went to a dark place haha! I literally just jammed my feet into the ground, gripped the bar, and refused to stop deadlifting until the 90 seconds was up. It felt… OK. Not that heavy (I reckon it was 100kg-110kg?) But it was a lung-buster. You try deadlifting ANY weight for 90 seconds let alone that. My body felt relatively OK but my heart and lungs were screaming. The referee was in front of me making sure I locked out and came to a deadstop on each rep. At one point I just shut my eyes and carried on lifting. I lost count completely and asked “how many?” “how many!” 27 was the reply. I’d already won but wanted to keep going. Bam bam bam…

  • 31 reps. In 90 seconds. PMSL
  • I won this

Event 4 – farmers walk into tyre flip
(Here’s a video)

I probably should have remembered that the deadlift was only the 3rd of 5 events. I still had this horrorshow to do. Farmers Walk/Carry (55kgs each hand) for 20 metres, drop, turn, and flip a 130kg tyre back for 20 metres. I’ve done a Farmers Carry before (although not this heavy as far as I can remember). But I’ve never done a tyre flip. I’ve tried one or two just in training and always find it so awkward and just horrible. I completed this – the Farmers was OK and at least I didn’t stumble or fall! – but the tyre flip was disgusting. I made a big song and dance of it, with various dramatic squeaks and yelps.

  • 55kgs each hand Farmers (20m) into 130kg tyre (20m)
  • Not sure where I came in this but completed it

Event 5 – 50kg sandbag over 1.2m yoke for reps

If you’ve never tried to lift a heavy bag of sand off the floor and shove it over something at roughly chest height, let me tell you how it feels. Horrible, frustrating, aggravating, exhausting. A bag of sand does not want to be picked up, held, or manoeuvred. I don’t have a lot to say about this event. I asked how many I needed to beat (3) and I did…. 5. Because that’s the kind of person I am.

  • 5 reps
  • Won this event

All done. I really wasn’t sure if I’d won, because of the timed events. I didn’t know if I’d done enough in those to put me in first place. I thought I was second to be honest, because the lady with the 22 deadlifts had been very quick on the truck pull and carry medley.

Turns out I did win! I reckon there wasn’t much in it, and I know 2nd place lady is up for a rematch next year. Me too!

[Edited to add: since writing this, I’ve been sent the times and placings for each event and I actually won them all (!) But I do reckon it was very close on the timed ones:]

  • Truck pull 46.5 secs 1st
  • Log lift 50kg 1st
  • Car deadlift 31 reps 1st
  • Farmers into tyre flip 1 min 32 secs 1st (<<< longest 92 seconds of my life I might add)
  • Sandbag 5 reps 1st

I’ve put a few videos and photos on my Instagram (in my feed, but also as a Highlight at the top of the page) if you want to look.

Big thanks to Nikky and Paul at Waugh Machines for organising and hosting the comp, and to everyone who helped referee, encourage, motivate etc on the day. It really was a fun day with a fab atmosphere. Deadlifting + getting a suntan – what better way to spend a Sunday!

Have you ever done a Strongman event? Would you?

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist with 14 years experience in writing content and direct response copy for the fitness industry. Get in touch via Facebook, by sending a message here.

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The Conditioning Chronicles: Locker27

July 30, 2012

With 6 weeks to go until my first bodybuilding competition of the year, it’s time to step up the conditioning and get shredded! I’ve called in various favours and asked some people in the biz to blast me, beast me and generally put me through my paces.

First up: Locker27.

Remember when I had a session at Locker27 last year (I blogged about it here)? Locker27 is a fantastic facility in Weybridge, Surrey, which began life two years ago as an academy to coach kids in the technical side of sport, proper movement patterns and the basics of gym work. That’s still where owners Matt and Steve do a lot of their work, but now the Locker offers lots to the regular gym-goers, amateur sportsperson and general public, too: classes, PT, small group training and programmes.

I emailed Steve with the simple plea: “get me lean!”

This is how he rose to the challenge:

First up, warm up and mobilisation work including foam rolling (nobbly foam rollers – nice), hurdle work (for hip mobility), various “crawls” (for shoulder strength, hip mobility, hamstring stretch and general warm up).

Then a bit of pad work/boxing with Alex. Now, I usually really dislike boxing training, I don’t feel I do it properly, I feel unco-ordinated and general like a bit of a dork. I loved the stuff I did with Alex! It was a revelation! Thanks, Alex.

After that, a core and activation circuit: band pulls, Russian twists, band walks and sledgehammer work (ay caramba, I’ll feel those in the morning!)



Then we were on to the first of the circuits Steve had devised: supersets of deadlifts and burpee/chins (which were actually burpee-press up-jump to a chin up, drop and repeat). Steve explained that this is a mini version of a session they do as a group class, and is typical of the kind of structure and content of all their hybrid conditioning sessions. Mixing upper body and lower body, concentrating on movement and the process/outcome – performance training.


10 x deadlifts (all at 50kgs) + 2 burpee/chins
8 x deadlifts + 4 burpee/chins
6 x deadlifts + 6 burpee/chins
4 x deadlifts + 8 burpee/chins
2 x deadlifts + 10 burpee/chins
I did that for time and took 05:55 – no idea if that’s good or bad.

After that, we did some work with the prowler, much to my delight! I’ve never had a go on one before and I couldn’t wait. I did:
– 1 length back pedalling (walking backwards)
– 1 length squat to pull
– 1 length “truck pull”
– 1 length pushing the thing
3 round of that, with 50kgs on the prowler

Then (!) for one more thing, I did two rounds of another superset: 150m on the SkiErg (er…. ow!) and pulling the prowler the length of the room via a rope (er…. ow!)

Then I sat down, tried to interview Steve and couldn’t actually write. Seriously, you should see my handwriting, it’s barely legible.

Verdict: beasted!

Thanks Steve and all at Locker27. If you’re in the Weybridge area then lucky you cos you get to go to Locker27 all the time. What’s that? You don’t? Well why not – go!

The Conditioning Chronicles: Locker27 is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


My Olympics: day three, weightlifting

July 30, 2012

In this blog series, I take inspiration from one of the day’s Olympic events. Today: weightlifting.

What a cop out, you might think. After all, I’m a bodybuilder, I lift weights all the time. Ah yes, but actual Olympic “weightlifting” isn’t just lifting a weight up and down. It’s a strict set of lifts, which are highly technical… and none of which are anything I ever do in the gym.

Not one to be perturbed by such small barriers as technical ability, I set about learning how to clean and jerk.

This isn’t something I would attempt to teach myself (I wouldn’t know where to start) but, thankfully, I was due to be at the athletic training facility Locker27 today (on a mission for Muscle & Fitness magazine – all will be revealed) and I asked coach Steve Rudkin if he’d help me with my Olympic blog challenge. Sure, he said. What did I want to do? We decided against judo and realised equestrianism was a no-no because the horses probably wouldn’t fit in the lift up to the gym.

Artistic gymnastics!“, I suggested, spotting a pommel-horse in the corner and a set of rings suspended from the ceiling. Steve looked dubious but kindly hauled the pommel-horse out and manned the camera.



The rings were even less of a success. I have no idea how those guys do any of that stuff.

After a short silence, Steve suggested we try a spot of weightlifting. This was a much better idea, after all, it’s exactly the kind of thing the guys at Locker27 coach athletes to do. I chose to learn the clean and jerk, a kind of combination of a deadlift, clean, front squat and overhead press. Steve coached me right through it, breaking down every bit of every movement and helping me put it all together. We used a very light weight, concentrating on form and technique first and foremost.

I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it at all – it’s always looked so technical, and my co-ordination isn’t up to much! But to my amazement I was able to do it (more or less!) and really enjoyed it. I actually feel like I’ve learned a new skill! Although obviously I have a long way to go before I could call myself a weightlifter. It was great to be coached through the lift, though, and to feel that I’ve learned something.

Here’s a silly video of me doing the clean and press with the staggering, earth-shattering weight of….. 15kgs 🙂 (No, it didn’t feel at all heavy but we were just going through the movement. Please don’t point out flaws in my technique – I’d had about 10 minutes worth of coaching at this point!)

So how do the Olympians do it? Well, our girl Zoe Smith (who’s just 18 years old) broke the British clean and jerk record earlier today, lifting 121kgs…. I’ve no idea what weight I’d actually be able to C&J but it wouldn’t be anywhere remotely approaching that. Props to Zoe – can you even imagine lifting that kind of weight?

How have the London 2012 Olympic Games inspired you today?

My Olympics: day three, weightlifting is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


My Olympics: day two, rowing single sculls

July 29, 2012

In this blog series, I take inspiration from one of the day’s Olympic events. Today: rowing, specifically the women’s single sculls. Not because I have a particular talent in this event, just because I am a) a woman and b) there’s only one of me.

In today’s heats, women raced over the 2000m course (do they call it a course?) at my “local” venue, Dorney rowing lake. I’ve coached there (open-water swimming), I’ve raced there (triathlon, 10km runs) but I’ve never rowed there.

And I still haven’t. I conducted today Olympic challenge on the rowing machine at the gym.

Earlier today, Korea’s Yeji Kim posted the fasted time for the heats (07:50:64). Girlfriend’s only 17 years old! The slowest time of the day in this event was 08:12:83. In the men’s race, the fastest time was 7:00:19 whilst plucky old Hammadou Djibo Issaka had the crowds on their feet as they cheered him across the line, last by quite a stretch, in 8:39:66. (Watch a vid here.)

Would I manage to beat Djibo Issaka’s time? Would I even beat 10 minutes? I had absolutely no idea. I do use the rowing machine quite a lot but tend to do intervals, tabatas or just a set amount of time. I really don’t ever take any notice of how far I go. I also have no idea what’s good, what’s rubbish and what’s “OMG get this girl out of the gym and into the 2016 single scull squad!”

I donned my cap (just about the only bit of kit I’ve got in common with actual rowers) and got to it.

Hm. This isn’t so bad! A bit huffy-and-puffy but it’s only 2000m! Surely I can do this.

Gosh. This is going on a bit.

Dum dee dum. Wish I’d worn my earphones.

36spm. Is that good? Is it like swimming where the slower your stroke rate, the faster you go? Or should I be pulling as fast as I can?

Hooray! 500m gone! Oh… also quite a few minutes gone. God this could be embarrassing.

I really am quite warm now. My face is really red.

Oh look, 7 minutes have passed. I’ve done 1510m. If I was in the men’s race, the winner would have crossed the line and I’d still be 3/4 of the way down Dorney.

Right, come on Nicola, pick up the pace. This really isn’t that far.

I can’t wait for this to be over.

10 minutes is approaching, oh no, come on….

Hooray! 2000m!

2000m in 9:07. Haha!

Verdict: hot, sweaty, deceptively hard, legs very wobbly after. British Rowing unlikely to be ringing me up any time soon.

How have the London 2012 Olympic Games inspired you today?

My Olympics: day two, rowing single sculls is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


20 minute cardio

April 13, 2012

This morning’s cardio session was just 20 minutes long (well, 30 if you count five minutes warm up and five minutes walking on the treadmill after). Want to try it? Here’s how it went down:

What you need
One staircase (sturdy) with area at the top
One kettlebell, two dumbbells (or two kettlebells of the same weight)
A bleepy stop watch (or a friend with a watch)

What you do
60-seconds: running up and down the stairs (careful – mind you if I can do this and not fall on my face then I’m sure you can too)
60-seconds: exercise (see below)

Do this pairing five times (all the exercises), then have a 60-second rest. Then go again.

a) kettlebell swings
b) squats (I did goblet squats)
c) press ups
d) walking lunges (with the two DBs or two KBs)
e) burpees (HATE)

Total work time: 20 minutes.

Done, and done.

Needless to say, because you’re not working for very long, you need to work very hard. Max effort on the runs up the stairs, gently does it (active recovery) on the way down, max effort on all the exercises. Yes, even the burpees, sorry. You can, of course, change the exercises to suit your ability, your needs and your sport. Enjoy! 🙂

20 minute cardio is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


29 reasons to lift weights (audience participation post)

February 29, 2012

Happy Feb 29th! In honour of this extra added bonus day of the year, I thought I’d come up with 29 reasons to lift weights.

It’s a bit of audience participation: you get to fill the leap-year inspired bonus spot with the top reason of your own. 🙂

Lifting weights…

1. Builds lean mass, which is healthy, metabolically active, and looks good.
2. Will make you look better than if you don’t lift weights.
3. Helps build a stable, injury-free structure (so you’ll be able to get up out of a chair in old age without going “oof”)
4. Makes you feel awesome (at the time, afterwards, or both!)
5. Turns you into a bona-fide badass.
6. Can transform your physique, whether you feel you’re overweight, carrying too much fat, too skinny or not shapely enough for your liking.
7. Teaches you new things (not something we encounter often as adults)
8. Helps you reach sport and fitness goals, whether that’s to compete in bodybuilding or get better at endurance or team sports.
9. Helps you learn about how your own body works and what its limits are (or aren’t!)
10. Might surprise you: you’re capable of a lot, you know!
11. Is sociable: there are a lot of local folk down at the gym and they’re there most days. They’re nice!
12. Enables you set goals… then smash them to bits.
13. Cranks up your metabolism so you can enjoy more of the food you like.
14. Gives you an excuse to buy new gym kit, clothing and gadgets.
15. Improves your posture.
16. Gives you a pert round booteh, smaller waist, perkier “pecs”.
17. Boosts testosterone, giving you more energy and focus.
18. Helps you sleep better.
19. Gives you an incredible sense of achievement.
20. Builds and enforces mental toughness which you can carry over into other areas of your life.
21. Proves to you just how strong you are – not just in the gym.
22. Helps with body composition (in other words, gives you a helping hand in the battle against excess body fat)
23. Improves self-esteem (you just lifted *how much*? Look at you!)
24. Shakes up your training routine.
25. Has been proven to help offset diabetes, arthritis and osteoporosis.
26. Makes your clothes fit better (as well as making you look better without them on).
27. Gives you a great conversation starter (“This is Sarah, she likes making her own jam, and this is Amanda, she likes deadlifting her own bodyweight…”)
28. Gives you a quick-blast option for raising the heart rate, burning calories and blasting body fat, even when time is tight.

And 29….what’s your reason for lifting weights? Let me know in the comments!

29 reasons to lift weights (audience participation post) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


Setting benchmarks and measuring improvement

November 20, 2011

Today, I decided to deviate from my usual training programmes in order to see just how heavy I can lift. It’s not the ideal time to do it, since I’ve been lifting heavy all week and have only just started a new set of training programmes, but… well… I got the idea in my head! Oh, and my husband could come to the gym with me today, so I knew I’d have a dedicated spotter. I usually train by myself, no spotter, no company, no motivation. I had to grasp this opportunity!

In my opinion, all training must be progressive. Unless you progress, you can’t expect much when it comes to visible improvements in size, balance and symmetry or performance improvements in speed, pace or power. Today, I wanted to test some of my lifts, to give me some benchmarks as I work hard through the rest of my off-season.

(Sorry, no piccies: I did take my phone with me, with the intention of taking photos of the fully-loaded bar and of me looking triumphant. But I kept forgetting, and by the time I remembered, we’d unloaded the bar and moved on.)

Is it sad that I got a bit excited about wearing the gym’s weightlifting belt? I’ve never worn one before and it made me feel a bit badass. My off-season “bulk” means I can now fit into it, although I think I’ll need to ask Santa for one of my very own, as I was already on the last set notch on the belt, and I intend on getting this waist down quite a bit thankyouverymuch! 😉 I’m thinking matching weightlifting belt and gloves…. maybe in a nice colour… anyway! Onto the lifts:

Here’s how it went down. Please don’t laugh if you think these are rubbish, remember this was my first try at anything like this, and I wasn’t rested.

DEADLIFTS – 65kgs (for 12), 90kgs (for 4), 100kgs (for 1) – yay! This felt great. I’m sure I can go heavier! I was grateful for the belt mind you. I ❤ deadlifts so much.
BENCHPRESS – 45kgs (for 7), 60kgs (failed), 55kgs (for 1), 57.5kgs (for 1) This is a PB by a long way, since I don’t usually have a spotter… but I’m already itching to go heavier.
SQUAT – 57.5kgs (for 10), 100kgs (for 4, but with a dreadful range of motion, 100kgs (for 1 – I tried a wider stance to see if I could go lower, but couldn’t), 85kgs (for 1 – still nothing like as low as I think I should be going) Part of me thinks I’d get more satisfaction from squatting lower, and with better form, even at a much lighter weight than I would from setting a 1RM on squats.
SEATED DB SHOULDER PRESS – with 2x18kgs (for 5), with 2x22kgs (for 2), with 2x24kgs (for 2). Husband says he thinks I can go heavier and thinks I should be trying to do sets of 4 or 5 reps with those 24kgs(?!)
BENTOVER ROW – 45kgs (for 10), 75kgs (totally failed – husband was convinced I’d be able to do this), 65kgs (for 1, although I tried the “1” 3 times as I wasn’t happy with the range of motion/depth on any of them)

What else should I have tried?

And how often do you think I should revisit these lifts to retest my 1RM?

Setting benchmarks and measuring improvement is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


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