The great height debate; do you have to be tall to Strongman, and what’s in it for the little guy?
It’s a debate that surfaces in strongman internet ‘forums’ so often; the relevance of height in events. I’ve seen everyone from spectators, local athletes; all the way up to top 10 in the world weigh in on the situation, so I figured I’d get in on the conversation. I will begin with posting my stats below, in case they have any relevance to a point of view I might be trying to share (they don’t, the facts are what they are, regardless of whether they suit me or not).
Height – 6 foot flat
Weight – 83kg (depending on weather my local American BBQ restaurant is doing deals that week)
Max stone load – 115kg to 1.2m (100kg to 1.5m, which is better?)
Max squat – so shit it’s not worth talking about
Max DL – Only slightly less shit, depending on the geographical coordinates of a disc in my lumbar spine at the time
Max yoke – 330kg for 10m
Right, now that the internet can judge me fairly, let’s have a look at a topic that has some relevance to the upcoming Arnolds events and is getting a little air time at the moment.
Task oriented events VS points of performance oriented events
What on earth are these things you might ask? Well this is how I personally divide up events seen in strongman. So broad is the spectrum of activities strongmen and women can be expected to be tested on, it’s nice to create a little order.
Task oriented – to me, this is classic strongman. Move heavy thing from point A to point B, lift thing over or onto something, drag it up a hill or down. No one asked if you are 5 foot 5 or 7 feet tall, you get the work done regardless
POP oriented – specific conditions must be met to achieve merit. DB locked out overhead. Hips, knees and shoulders locked out for DL, hip crease travels to or below the line of the knee for squat. Whether you are 5 foot 5 or 7 foot tall, parallel is parallel, lock out is lock out.
Most other sports will be either one or the other, task or POP. Power lifting and Olympic lifting; POP. Long distance running; task. Far fewer sports combine the two. Strongman is one of these, but that is what makes it great, the variety.
Where we seem to be getting caught up is the notion that there should possibly be a balance of events in a competition that suit athletes of both tall and short stature, and that some should be modified to create that balance.
Should task oriented events be made relative to the athlete?
Should a point of performance now be a fixed coordinate in space and time, rather than relative to the athlete?
Literally all that is happening there, is the roles of each event type have been reversed. At this point the argument splits into two sides; tall athletes call for it all to be left alone (stones to 1.2m is great when you are 6 foot 9 and the platform comes up to your thigh) and the shorter athletes call for changes for events to a POP structure, so height is referenced (stone to shoulder rather than fixed height), and even some POP events change to task events more recently (squat to a fixed height, rather than athlete at parallel).
Now I won’t try to list and justify which events suit tall or short athletes, or what could be changed to what, I’ll leave that for the internet. What I will do is pop two examples below and leave it at that.
1 – The first major competition SorS supported was ASM in 2015. Warrick Brant won that competition, comprehensively, despite being the shortest man in the field. Strongman squat, smashed 10 easy reps at 270kg for the win, an event suited to shorter athletes. From memory, he won the overhead medley too, another event traditionally suited to shorter athletes (shorter overall bar path). But he also smashed the Fingal finger, keg toss and stones over bar, all fixed height, task oriented, ‘tall person’ events. How? Skill, technique and brute fucking strength.
2 – Olympic lifting is as points of performance based as a sport can get. So much so that the crazy countries (Russia/China/DPRK) select athletes based on torso to lever length ratios and so on. It’s not historically a tall persons sport. Long torso, short arms/legs is perfect. And yet Lasha Talakhadze recently smashed the all time snatch (220kg!) and total record, at a height of 6 foot 6.
Don’t start playing basketball and ask them to lower the ring height. Life isn’t fair. Use what you do have to your advantage, and work really fucking hard to make up for what you don’t.