Feeding the Mammoth

Aside from the typical, “How much can you bench?” question—and yes, even as a strongman I get asked this quite often—the one thing most people want to know about me is how much I eat. After all, my weight has climbed over the past few years to 440 pounds.

Before I get into specifics of what and how much I eat, it’s probably best for me to address the whole weight issue in the first place. Why, for instance, is it so important for me to carry so much weight to be successful as a strongman? Well, if you look around at the top names in the business—Zydrunas Savickas, Mike Jenkins, and Thor Bjornsson, among others—the one quality most of us share is tremendous size. Height is a signifi cant factor because it makes certain events (such as the stone lift) easier to accomplish.

Body mass is obviously critical because you are handling huge weights in every event. There’s always the point of diminishing returns, of course, where you gain excess pounds that don’t lead to increased strength. Many bodybuilders I’ve talked to experience this in the off-season. They want to get huge so they can train heavier, but getting sloppy fat isn’t the goal!

The same goes with strongmen. We are always balancing our weight gain with the cardiovascular and muscular endurance needed for the high repetition or carry events. After all, gaining pounds of muscle mass helps with the deadlift, but it might not help with the timber carry or farmer’s walk if you get too sloppy.

When I played college basketball, I weighed about 270 pounds at the start of the pre-season camp and was down to about 250 by the end of the season. I was the same height then (6'8"), but obviously much thinner. I’ve always been strong since I was a kid, but it was only when I started to seriously push myself in the gym after college that I realized my potential in strongman. But I also realized that I needed to add some serious size in order to maximize my lifting power.

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When I started competing, I probably weighed about 340. The more I trained, the more I ate. And the bigger I got, the stronger and more successful I became! For instance, at the 2010 MHP Arnold Strongman Classic, I weighed 415 pounds and placed fifth. A year later, I was tipping the scales at about 435 and I came up with the big win. Now I’m not saying that I performed better because I was heavier, but I did pull a heavier deadlift and post a better time on the timber carry. So I was definitely more muscular and stronger.

So, back to the original two questions: First, I don’t do wide-grip benches to save my shoulders, but I do 500 pounds for 4–6 reps in the close-grip form. I never max out, though. And as for what I eat, it consists of several meals a day, spaced two hours apart. It sometimes feels like I’m constantly eating, so advance meal preparation is important. I also utilize a host of MHP supplements each day, including Power Pak Pudding for a quick protein fix and my new favorite muscle builder, MYO-X. This myostatin inhibitor has helped me a great deal with recovery from my biceps surgery, as well as the rehab for my current nerve injury. For more information, check out my diet above! – FLEX

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