Some of the most popular questions I get asked involve how to get started competing in Strong(wo)man and rightly so, making the decision to compete can be a big step for most and with it comes nerves and a lot of questions. This article will answer these questions to hopefully help you not only find the right competition but to help you feel more confident in the process so all you then need to worry about is training hard for the big day.
Which competition do I choose?
There are events nearly every weekend and all over the UK so finding one within a suitable distance shouldn't be too difficult. I would recommend doing a bit of research into who is organising the competition, which you can do via the organisers website or social media pages or just asking in Strong(wo)man groups. As with all sports some have a better reputation than others and sometimes you might just like the vibe or presence of one organiser over another.
Price isn't really an issue in the respect that most competitions are of similar price, usually averaging around £30. They can be as little as £10 for charity based events or as high as £60 for weekends events held at expo’s but don’t forget to factor in petrol and potential overnight stays. These prices will more than likely include a tshirt and if you are lucky enough to place a trophy to proudly display on your mantle.
One of the most important factors is giving yourself enough time to train for the events. For example, is the competition for fun and a one off thing, if so you can maybe pick a comp that is nearer in the future and just concentrate on being safe and having a great time. You may however be a little more serious and be wanting to compete to win or be somewhere near the top, in which case you need to give yourself ample time to learn, train and deload ready for the day. One of key aspects of preparation is making sure you give yourself enough time to learn the techniques for whichever equipment is being used in the comp. You may not have easy access to items such as farmers handles, yoke or atlas stones so allowing yourself time to find a gym or buy/build the equipment you need will be very beneficial.
Which category should I enter?
These are the categories you will have to choose from:
Ability based (non gender specific)
Most people will choose between either a first timers or novice for their first competition. You will be amongst similar people, all new to the sport and all nervous. The weights in these categories are not overly heavy so even if you are relatively new to lifting with some solid training you should be able to do most of the events.
If however you are transitioning from another sport such as powerlifting and already have a good foundation of strength the novice weights may seem a little light, in which case I highly recommend either looking for an intermediates category or going straight into your weight class. The atmosphere is still incredibly friendly and supportive and you will be able to push yourself that much harder as you will be competing against people of a similar standard.
There is also the option of an ability based competition and this is open to everyone regardless of sex or gender identification. There are still categories but these are determined purely on the weight of the events and not whether you are male or female.
What events are in a competition?
There is pretty much guaranteed to be a deadlift event of some kind, either with a standard olympic barbell or an axle bar. An overhead press with a log or barbell will also be part of the competition along with some kind of carrying event. These are Strong(wo)man staples and and make up the fundamentals of the sport, other events such as Atlas Stones, Conan’s Wheel, Fingal’s Fingers, Hercules Hold or Car Pull etc will be at certain competitions but that is down to what equipment the organisers have access too. Train hard for deadlifts, overhead and moving events and you will have a good foundation for the majority of the events and these can be done in most gyms. There plenty of gyms around the country with Strong(wo)man specific kit so I would highly recommend popping along to one or two to train with the kit and get used to movements.
Before my very first competition I bought a tug of war rope to so I could simulate a car pull and bought several bags of builders sand along with rubble bags and gorilla tape so I could make some sandbags to practice the moving event. Don't be afraid to get creative as there a loads of DIY solutions, groups and forums out there to help you figure out how to train.
How do I enter and how do I pay?
The majority of competitions require you to simply pay your fee through PayPal or BACS and give them your name and t-shirt size to confirm entry. This has been the case now for years and about as formal as it gets with most events. It's always a good idea to message the organisers beforehand though to check there are spaces available. Entry information is usually stated on the Facebook event page or on the organisers website.
How do I know if I’m strong enough to start competing?
This question will probably be the hardest for you to answer as it’s a very personal thing and relies a lot on your own confidence and self belief. If you are looking at the weights for a specific competition and they seem out of reach right now that doesn’t mean they will be when the day comes around. A lot of strength can be gained in a short amount of time especially if you’re new to lifting and besides even if you were to zero one or two of the events it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you trained hard and had the guts to turn up and try in the first place.
The best thing to do now is to go and have a look at some competitions, study the events and weights and see if any grab your attention. If you find one you like the look of, discuss it with your coach if you have one, ask yourself if you have enough time to train, message the organiser to see if they have spaces available and if you answer yes to these questions then go for it, you have nothing to lose!