Choose your next comp carefully, Leonidas, it may be your last as a lightweight. – Choosing your Strongman comps effectively.

Posted by Mason Dannatt on

Nooooo, of course it won’t be your last, I just couldn’t help sneaking a 300 quote in ;)

Once upon a time, when our sport was a much smaller and more exclusive version of its current self, the opportunities to compete were few and far between, and the spectrum of competition level was narrow. Novice competition was almost unheard of, and it was hard to know where to start and for that matter where it all ended (other than at world strongest man of course).

If you have seen the calendar for state level competitions we have released recently, you will know this is no longer the case. There are opportunities to compete at all levels, from first timers to the sport, right through to the strongest in the country and beyond. But herein lies a problem, how many times a year can your poor body hold up to the brutality of a strongman competition (and prep for)? It’s now nearly impossible to compete in every competition in your state (let alone the country), so some time should be spent thinking about your goals, as well as your skill and strength level, to choose what you tackle in a calendar year (or more as often it will overlap into the following year). We have put some suggestions together here that may help you, with some things you may not have considered as an athlete, that we have as organisers.

Novice competition

The critical step into full scale comps, now offered by many gyms and promoters around the country, has been a blessing for the sport. No longer do you have to walk into your first heavy-ass comp, looking like Thor, just to not zero. These comps have created a vital stepping stone for many athletes to try the sport out, and in most cases take their training further and onto bigger things.

How many times should you do a novice comp? This depends a bit on how you do, and how heavy/challenging the novice comp was that you did. If you podiumed, crushed all the weights and could have done a 6th event; probably time to jump up to the big league. If you were mid to lower pack and the weights were challenging for you, by all means choose a few more to allow you to compete while building base strength.

Are you a seasoned athlete that has taken some time off, or have recovered from injury, but would be challenged by ‘standard’ weights at that time? You should probably give it a miss. It’s a novice comp, not a ‘get back on the podium after rehab’ comp. There are others you can sign up for

Stand alone, fun competitions

Not every comp needs to be a firm footing on the path to greatness. One of the things I love about strongman is the ‘show up and test your strength on random heavy stuff’ aspect. Compete for fun, where a qualifying spot isn’t always on the line, maybe jump up a division so you don’t have to cut weight. If you see a comp described, and you think, that’s got some cool kit, cool location, that looks sick! Do it. Don’t do all of them, pick one or two tops,  that ideally don’t clash with other events that you may be aiming for too. And if it does, maybe don’t go into it with the mindset of ‘I must win this’ and tailor your prep towards the fun comp compared to a bigger goal, if training for both is unreasonable.

Eg – Game of Stones, Whisky and Weights, Coco’s Big 3

Arnolds –

Ok, jumping ahead a little here, as we will work our way backwards to the qualifiers. Most in Australia would consider the Arnold Amateur Champs the pinnacle event for weight class based competition. It’s always the coolest, biggest, heaviest show (I know, I’m biased), and the best athletes are always there to throw down. With the introduction of the National Champs at Fitfest as a stepping stone, our goal is to continue to raise the level of competition at this event. Our hope for competitors that can reach this level, is that their goal should be being competitive here, not just making it. The event is already considered one of the broadest and heaviest AM comps in the world, and we hope people aim to get here and thrive, rather than just survive.

The comp itself has ties to international competition, and we plan to broaden this moving forward, but one realisation I have had while being grounded for 14 months is ‘why not make our pinnacle event world class, and let the others come here??’ Why think small and place our top event at the bottom of the world pile? We plan to continue to push the level up on all fronts for the weight-class divisions (and the pro event as well obviously), and let the world come to us.

If you plan to get here, plan to get here and win! You might not, but don’t settle for a t shirt and a sore back on event 1.

Fitfest National Championships –

The new kid on the block! And the missing link in the path we have been searching for, and through the unlikely provider (COVID) have found. A full scale, expo style comp for competitors to aim for, without the barrier of world-class events weights being in the way. That being said, it ain’t a novice comp by any stretch. We have just spent a lot of time and head scratching, thinking up events that can widen the field of competitor that can compete and be competitive (not zero multiple events), and yet the strongest will still win.

Depending on your level of experience and strength, maybe this will be your goal for the next few years, while you make a push towards an Arnolds appearance. Go shoulder to shoulder with one, 3 or event 9 other fellow competitors at a time and throw down in front of hundreds of jealous gym bro’s, what’s not to like??

Moving forward (this first year will be an exception while everyone has been starved of an expo level comp), we aim to have the very top level of competitors competing at other events around the country (and the world again, one day) rather than here, to allow for a super competitive competition at the top of the field. This also frees them up to come along and make guest appearances, jump on the mic, or guest judge wink wink, nudge nudge.

With 200+ spots available, and 5 progressive and challenging events, if you are close to, or not yet at Arnolds level, but love competing and want to keep moving forward, this is what you are shooting for!



Arnolds/Fitfest qualifiers

Alright, we have talked about where you are going, now, how do you get there? Well that will be at one of the qualifiers we have set up around the country.

In a normal year (not this one) – The winner of one of our qualifiers will go straight to Arnolds. They will need to win their category, and not zero any events (pending a catastrophe eg. No one can pull a truck in the whole class etc). First second and third will qualify for FitFest champs (with a possible 4th if the Arnolds qualified athlete chooses to skip Fitfest). There will be more leniency on failing events for the Fitfest qual spots, as we have a minimum standard we hold the qualifiers to, in order to challenge the Arnolds level athletes.

This year in particular, the only Arnolds 2022 spots available will be at Fitfest podium, due to honouring over 100 pre qualified athletes from previous years.

Right, so that’s what you have to do to get there, so what is the best plan to maximise your chance of a spot? The easy answer is ‘do every comp til you get one’. But with many qualifiers being held either simultaneously, or very close together, doing everything is not possible. So here is a plan, which we are working with promotors to be able to facilitate.

Choose the comp that is closest to you first; that’s obvious, then you don’t have to travel, pay for flights etc. If you see the competitor line up and shit yourself, then you will want to pick a second, (or possibly a 3rd) comp to do as well. Any more and you will be busted up. Either pick something that is far enough apart on the calendar that you can prep for one, then the other. Or pick something that is close enough, and events are similar enough that you can prep for both simultaneously. We are working with promotors to make this possible in many cases (Vics -> Tas for example), and once we begin the full year fresh, we plan to do this even more so.

Also things to consider when picking which two or three from a list of 11 or 12; do the events look cool? Do they have cool comp tee’s and trophies? Is it somewhere you have wanted to travel to before? Can you get some mates to come with you and make a trip out of it? Is there a good steak house near by (most important)?

Once you have chosen your comps, consider this; you qualify at the first of 3. Yay! Good on you, Ill see you in November. But before you pull out of the next two, consider the impact that can have on the promoter of the next comp. They may have added a whole extra day to cater for more people, then they don’t show up. They may have trophies/tees made, then no one to fill the category last minute. Small competition fields is (in my opinion) the death of the sport. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but where possible, if you sign up (and you’ve already paid!) show up. Maybe ask if you can jump up a weight class and challenge yourself (and not have to weigh in). Or lose the ‘I must win’ mentality and just show up and throw down. Use it for comp experience. God knows you probably need it (we all do, nothing personal. Especially after a year off!)

With lots to pick from, choose only as many qualifiers as you need to, but remember to enjoy the comp for what it is, and not just focus on the qualifying ‘carrot’.


Australia’s Strongest Invitational series

Ooo, the big one, the top of the top. As you have seen, we are broadening the opportunities to compete at this invite-only level, to multiple shows in a year, against national and international competition. Generally, we are highly limited on how many athletes we can take to a show, so we are truly looking for the best.

Invitations to this top-tier series of comps, including Australia's strongest man and woman remain at our discretion. Generally, winners of open divisions in mens and womens at qualifying comps, as well as opens podiums at Arnolds and winners of lighter weight divisions at Arnolds are looked at closely. We hold the right to grant invitations to stand out performances that don’t necessarily win an event (but might be half a point behind the winner in a hard fought, heavy comp for example), as well as overlook event winners if sufficient competition wasn’t present or weights weren’t sufficiently heavy enough. We can also grant stand alone invitations to athletes from other sports, depending on their capability and interest (you know, if Matt Fraser, Lasha Talakhadze, Tia Clair Toomey or Brock Lesnar wanted to have a go)

This top tier level of competition runs along side the Arnold level, where if you can make it, you should truly want to be competitive with the rest of the field, not just there to make up numbers.

So that pretty much sums up the full comp structure for the Australia’s Strongest competition series and some one off events. I of course realise there is another whole structure/federation in place here in Australia, as well as many other competitions we aren’t directly involved in. Without a full understanding of how their comps run I’m in no position to comment or advise, but it doesn’t change the summary of above;

Be smart with how often you compete. Choose competitions you want to do, not just where they can get you. Be patient, understand that competing at the top level here is now almost the same as being at the top level in the world, so take your time to get there, don’t try to short cut it, and enjoy the process.

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