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In the April issue of M&F (on sale now), we featured 2014 Highland Games World Champion, Matt Vincent, as our Extreme Fitness athlete and we’ve got more from the 6’0,” 265-pound former collegiate thrower. Vincent is a professional athlete in the Highland Games, a Scottish cultural event that dates back to the 11th century.
Offering grandiose festivities like bagpipes and dancing competitions in addition to food and drink vendors, a Highland Games competition is the place to be for anyone looking to have a good time outdoors. In the Highland Games, athletes compete in eight or nine throwing events — aiming for distance, height, or accuracy.
To prepare for events such as the caber toss, which entails throwing a 120-pound telephone pole end over end so that it lands in a 12 o’clock position, and the weight over the bar-throwing a 56-pound weight for height-one needs to do more than move a barbell.
“Highland Games is a combination of balance, speed, strength, and technique,” says Vincent. “It’s more of a test of athleticism than most sports.”
Vincent travels the world for 20 weeks a year to participate in the Games, doing event training followed by weightlifting three to fours days per week during the season. He carries the sport’s apparatuses in his truck so that when he’s home, he’ll throw in a field or park.
“I’ll start my season in April and I won’t finish up until the end of September, so I need to be my best toward the end of September,” Vincent says. “To ramp up my training I use a block periodization approach. Throughout the season I start throwing more, and I start focusing less on weights.”
This year, Vincent is one of 12 top-ranked competitors in the 2015 Highland Games World Championships, which will take place in Bressuire, France on June 13th and 14th. In his quest to repeat as champion, he’ll deal with a lesser-known Highland Games problem that seems quite bothersome.
“In the weight throw, you use a hook grip on the handle (thumb locked against bar), so you really smash your thumb pretty good,” Vincent says. “Throughout the course of the season I will lose my thumbnail three or four times. My thumbnail basically looks like I smashed it with a sledgehammer.”
Since entering the Games in 2008, Vincent has seen his fair share of in-contest accidents.
“The caber is really dangerous because amateurs don’t know how to get away from it,” Vincent says. “I’ve seen people get hit by stones and hammers, break legs while running with the caber, and one guy get hit with a stone in the head.”
If you think you’re ready to don the mandatory kilt and long socks, Vincent has one recommendation.
“Find a group and start throwing with them because spending extra time in the weight room isn’t going to translate to the field.”
Matt Vincent is the author of the training manual Strength Lab: Explosive Power and Maximum Strength for Athletes. driftalifta.com