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A Skinny Guy’s First Strongman Competition

It’s been less than twenty-four hours since I snuck into California’s Strongest Man as a 231 competitor. My only goal was to choose my first sanctioned event, prepare sufficiently, and give myself the best chance possible to win.

I took 11th, one spot behind Alan Thrall, which is a trip considering I’ve followed his work online for quite some time. Every competitor was a class act and a damned good strongman.

I figured I’d share my experiences, while they are fresh in my mind because I think the sport of strongman should (and eventually will see) the growth and participation that it deserves.

Plain and simple, there are far more people with the desire to compete than actually throw their name in the ring.

Full disclosure: I trained specifically for a strongman event for eight months leading to this event. Four of those months, I knew which contest I’d compete in and, for the most part, I knew the exact events involved in the show.

My 11th place finish was a 100% effort. I didn’t get “screwed” or unlucky. I competed out of my mind, PRed on every event, and clawed for 11th out of 27. (This won’t be one of those “I did OK, but…” kind of articles.)

Here’s what getting ready for my first strongman event looked like:



This was my first contest and though I’d trained the movements and coached the movements for years proceeding, according to competitive strongman standards I was well under weight and under prepared strength-wise. Plus, it was my first sanctioned event. Over 8 months, I put on six and half pounds to weigh in at a lifetime PR of 226.5lbs on game day.

I had to be bigger to do this. Period.  weigh in

My version of “eating like an asshole” is very different than most average American’s, so take this with a grain of salt. My effort to gain weight was fairly tame. I relied on white rice, tubers, fruit, nut butters, and gallons of raw goat milk to combat some lifelong hard gainer tendencies. It was several months of eating burgers with buns on them and dabbling around pizza and not saying “No” to desert. I couldn’t completely forget my experience with nutrition, no matter how far 231 pounds was away.

Though I could have gained more weight completely falling off the wagon, given a second chance, I wouldn’t do this differently.



Of course, everyone needs to be stronger, but I’d argue that I wasn’t even strong enough to play when I got started on this idea to compete. My training shifted away from the GPP work we do at DEUCE Gym. I took very little GPP classes, and I took on a conjugate method-based strength approach. The first 12 weeks of my training came from Kalle Beck, founder of Starting Strongman, which I think was the perfect shift for me to get serious about what I was trying to do. It felt like basic strength work that included assistance work that was essentially body building with a bit of athletic flavor. Here I did my first biceps curls and shoulder raises.

To be honest, I was embarrassed doing this stuff at the gym.

Then, with a great deal of respect for the work of Westside Barbell, I had to find a way to finagle the conjugate method for strongman. Luckily, someone already took this on. ASC Lightweight Pro, Derek Stone, put together the Refuge Method with this in mind. By this point, I was following through for the first time on a plan towards a given date on the calendar, which I hated because I hate programs and I hate calendars, but to ignore the specific information of having a specific contest on a specific date would be foolish.

training logThe Refuge Method basically followed the conjugate method (max effort upper, max effort lower, dynamic effort upper), but substituted the dynamic lower day for a strongman event day. In hindsight, I feel better with a true dynamic effort lower day.

My training took one more shift after spending time with the world’s most accomplished female powerlifter, Laura Phelps Sweatt, and world champion coach, Shane Sweatt. Getting ‘Westside’ from the source put my focus and direction on another level. It was here that I dropped the Refuge Method to commit to Westside.

The creativity in assistance work quadrupled in my mind. I found ways to diversify and get specific with what my assistance work, which looked like and did things like heavy carries and heavy loading for lower assistance work, for example, instead of what I’d call more “typical” powerlifting assistance exercises.

Keep in mind this is my experience.

I had to be stronger. As I’ll explain later, the skill part of what was coming at California’s Strongest Man wasn’t my focus. Many, many prospective strong people can and should check out programs like The Refuge Method to get moving towards the events, but for me every minute spent not getting stronger was a minute wasted. This isn’t true of every athlete, however.



Event one was sixty seconds max reps on the axel clean and press (clean once). I pressed the axel nine times (250lbs) and missed two reps. My PR coming in was six, and I wanted seven on game day. As someone with zero experience with team sports, the energy was insane. So, much so that I PR’ed by three reps and my field of vision was like looking through a straw at the judge’s eyes.

Event two was the keg toss and it was the most fun I’ve had competing in fitness. I was the first in the weight class to clear all five kegs. There was zero fatigue here. It was all show. keg toss

The farmer’s carry was miserable. We had a minute to cover two hundred feet (250lbs each hand with a turn), but I overachieved here, too, making it about 190 feet before running out of time. I had one drop before the finish and had some poor time awareness, which put trying to race the clock to get to line as time expired.

The medley was brutal. Fifty feet with a 240lb sandbag and six tire flips (700lbs) was fast and light for me, but the 50’ sled drag to finish was the most terrible feeling I’ve experienced anywhere, ever. At this point, I was first in the event and the first to finish the sled, which gave everyone trouble, including myself, mostly because of traction issues and how the sled stuck on the surface.

sled drag

The last event was a stone series with five stones from ~250lbs to 365lbs, which we all thought leading up to the event the final stone was 330lbs. In preparation, I consulted with incredible SoCal Strongman and strongman coach, Julien Pineau. He helped me more than anyone for this event. I went to his place to play with tacky for the first time and big ass stones for the first time. I loaded his 340 pound stone, which gave me the utmost confidence to finish the series (thinking the last stone was going to be 330). As a tall guy, I hoped to surprise some people here. DSC01780

When they announced the last stone being 365, I just figured it was going to have to be a PR day. And, somewhat to my surprise, it was! Loading that last stone was a thrill I haven’t felt since rounding the bases after putting one out of the yard. Wow! Eight months, condensed into 10 seconds is a rush.




As an outsider coming in, I don’t think the event organizers knew what to expect from me, which I’d consider an advantage. The event included it’s fair share of playful heckling from the PA. I also benefited from an incredible majority rule-type presence in the crowd. Event organizer, Scott Brengel, was sure to mention that I won ‘Most Loved by the Crowd,’ which doesn’t get you a free steak, by the way.

You’d have to win to earn that prize.

The competitive strongman community is a unique one. Much like jujitsu, CrossFit, powerlifting, and any other specific discipline, there’s camaraderie and passion abound. I do feel like if they knew I competed in the 2011 CrossFit Games, however, I could have been burned at the stake, but that’s neither here nor there.

I had a few tips that the vibe would be pretty pro-strongman, and pretty anti-anything else strength and conditioning related, so I held my cards close. I chose to be the “ex-professional baseball player” then instead. There were probably half a dozen announcements that “you wouldn’t get this strong in a CrossFit gym” over the PA.


One key take away was that though this wasn’t strongman at the highest level that, in general, the movement was far from excellent. Trying to communicate this without sounding pompous, I was shocked to receive comments from competitors and event coordinators saying, “you move so well” and “you have amazing technique,” considering this was my first show.

I’d venture to say virtually every 231 was as strong or stronger than me, some just under performed based on what looked like a premium placed on strength and some lack of value placed in the skill element. Before the strongman community reads that like this newbie thinks he has strongman figured out, let me be the first to stop you. That’s not the case. I’m the first to tell you I’m a student of this game. However, if there are more reps to be had with better movement, they should be had. Period.

At the end of the day, many reps were left on the table this weekend for a ton of competitors, including athletes that still out placed me.

Surely, there were some technical studs this weekend in the women’s event, the lightweights, and the heavy weights. I can say fully, however, that this event wasn’t a clinic on movement.



I would do this 1000 times over. This won’t be my last competition. In addition, I’d encourage anyone who’s had any itch to compete to do it, especially women.

These events need to be inclusive in order to grow. When strongman can be both legit and open to new people, ignorant people, and weak people, the sky is the limit. A show like California’s Strongest Man should be in a place that attracts dozens of vendors, charges admission, and is packed with sponsored athletes. And, I think this is all possible without losing the element of it being “for the love of the game.”

Beyond strongman, the biggest take away here was sticking your neck out there to say you’re going to do something and following through. I learned a great deal along the way that I couldn’t have without the commitment to the plan. I’d venture to say that many folks around me paid attention to and that’s the kind of example we should be to each other, and that has nothing to do with strongman competitions and everything to do with who you are.

I want to thank California’s Strongest Man, Scott Brengal, Casey Garrison, and everyone else that made this show possible. I’ll remember it forever and I’m lucky to have such a well-run, timely show be my first experience in competitive strongman.

The DEUCE gym family showed up big! I loved everything about this event, but the only part that made me nervous was the droves of people that were coming down to watch me. It felt like a birthday party and I’m not big on parties for myself, but you guys all saved my ass. Thank you and I love you all.


The last thank you efforts go out to Julien Pineau, who gave his wisdom and time to help me above and beyond. Also, I wouldn’t be in this position without Rob Orlando. He inspired me to get into this. Now, I’m lucky enough to call him a co-worker and friend. Few, if any, have helped put more hands on atlas stones that him and I’ll have you back eight days a week, brother. The biggest thanks for to my beautiful girlfriend, Lindsey, who offered her love and support. As a bonus, I did not say no to her world-class chiropractic care.




Logan Gelbrich



Is Missing the Main Move Missing the Point?

When I think of what goes on in most corporate gyms, all the stereotypical thoughts of guys doing curls in the squat rack and copious amounts of “core” comes to mind. These are, after all, the behaviors that haters of corporate fitness hate, right?

With the growth of CrossFit, also came the growth of hate for accessory work like triceps exercises, the lat pull down, and other corporate gym staples. As the functional fitness industry pendulum swings away from a more staunch constantly varied, high intensity, functional-movements-only mind set to include more tried and true accessory work, I began to wonder:

Did we ever hate the accessory stuff? Or, were we just irked that men and women were throwing out the main move?

After all, when you include a main move, (deadlift, squat, press, clean, snatch, etc) and train like a typical corporate gym rat, isn’t that shockingly close to how a weightlifter or a powerlifter would train?

The reason I bring this up is because the “hater” side of fitness is my least favorite. If you’re going to fly the CrossFit flag, rock on! I’d just hope that we could look at ”globo gym” life as something closer to something we all universally respect than you might first think.

Keep working hard, everyone!


Logan Gelbrich



pinky up original nutritionals

A Telling Question

A while back I posed an interesting question on social media to spur some thinking. The question asked:

“Is there a difference between a sedentary life and choosing to train/ eat with intent for a year only to quit to return to a sedentary life?”

I’m less concerned with the “right answer” and more concerned with what kind of thoughts the question would evoke. Numerous men and women chimed in with their respective opinions. Some held a hard line that “something is better than nothing,” while others started to express concern that over the course of an entire lifetime, three hundred and sixty-five days is virtually nothing.

Returning back to the moment, I think most men and women would agree that committing to training hard and eating clean for a full year seems like a hell of a journey. It seems like a journey that is nothing to be scoffed at. Yet, the question I asked earlier seems to disarm this year long “commitment.” In the end, if we can’t get on board to a lifestyle of performance-minded training and nutrition practices, our flash-in-the-pan efforts (bootcamps, diets, juice fasts, short sided training interests, etc) don’t hold any merit.

My call to action here is a mind shift away from the often faulty quest for the perfect training program or the perfect supplement, and get on board with a lifestyle that’s in it for the long haul. If you can’t repeat your daily efforts almost indefinitely, considerable changes aren’t possible anyway.


Logan Gelbrich


jimmy bike

Potent Variance

Any average gym bro can tell you about “muscle confusion” and “mixing it up.” In addition, there’s no shortage of folks plateauing in the fitness training. The most troubling thought for me as a coach is that there are motivated, actionable individuals out there that are spinning their wheels with bad information.

If the strongest athletes in the world (at Westside Barbell) have taught us anything, isn’t it variance? If the fittest men and fittest women on Earth (CrossFit Games Champions) have taught us anything, isn’t it variance?

Variance in training serves a multitude of purposes, but I’ll distill it down to two key ones. First and foremost, variance builds a broad base. Even for specific athletes, like powerlifters, variance allows them to build strength in different positions, which, even in their very basic three movement sport, has deviations in bar path and its own elements of adversity. Being strong in a multitude of ranges not only helps these athletes “win” in areas of deviation, it keeps them safe in them.

Second, variance in training keeps the athlete marching forward in training. If a cyclist, for example, trained only by way of riding his/her bike, there’s a point where time in the saddle is detrimental to output than, say, any of training. If “more is better,” the most optimal way to gain more volume and more intensity can be accommodated with variance. The same cyclist, for example, could still train strength, speed, and even cardio off the bike to push forward where fatigue may limit performance with an approach that says “more bike!”

Variance, by definition, comes in many different shapes and approaches. I selfishly like variance in training, too, because it allows for ultimate creativity. Change the equipment, the load, the time working, the range of motion, and any one of a hundred other variables to continue advancing your performance, athletes.


Logan Gelbrich


Listen: WODcast Podcast

If you aren’t yet an avid listener of the WODcast Podcast, you probably haven’t heard. We’ve teamed up with the boys that bring the WODcast Podcast to help bring the show to listeners ears each week. For the last month we’ve supported Scott, Armen, Eddie, and the crew create fun, engaging fitness conversation with some amazing guests.

Much like everything else we do as a brand, this relationship was forged out of real life practice. Our core business, for example, is Omega 3 because fish oil was the biggest staple other than food in our performance-oriented lifestyle. Real life obsessions with coconut butter, coffee, and fats led to the creation of Coco Java Nut Butter. In that way, our knack for good podcast knowledge bombs made this new partnership with the WODcast Podcast a no brainer.

If you’ve never listened to the show, you can catch a new episode each week here. Or, you can get caught up on past episodes featuring folks like Annie Thorisdottir, John Welbourn, and Sam Briggs.

Pinky up!


Logan Gelbrich


tire flip

NORCAL: Learn Strongman This Weekend!

If you’re in the greater Bay Area this weekend, consider an educational opportunity to take the CrossFit Strongman seminar with co-founder, Logan Gelbrich. The one day course is this Saturday February 28th from 9AM to 4:30PM at Diablo CrossFit.

During this one day seminar, you’ll get exposed to the strongman implements including the tire, farmers handles, yoke, atlas stones, and keg. The seminar will include discussion about implementing strongman movements into a general physical preparedness (GPP) program and athletes of all abilities are welcome.

Interested? Enroll here:


Logan Gelbrich


Please welcome veteran, adaptive athlete, and semi-pro movie quoter, @jimmster66, to #TeamORIGINAL!


Team ORIGINAL: James Sides

Inspiring people do amazing things. Incredibly inspiring people do amazing things when there’s no reason they should be able to accomplish such things. James Sides is incredibly inspiring.

Jimmy is a spent twelve years in the Marine Corps serving multiple tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In July of 2012, Jimmy was injured by an improvised explosive device, which resulted in the lost of his right arm from the elbow down and vision in his left eye. Screen Shot 2015-02-21 at 4.46.22 PM

Jimmy is now an athlete on the US Para Snowboard Team. He’s currently ranked 9th in the world. Training and nutrition give him a chance to do the improbable a little better each day. Jimmy utilizes a hybrid of traditional strength and conditioning and CrossFit to perform better on the mountain.

As a young athlete, we couldn’t be more excited for Jimmy’s future and can’t wait to see it all unfold. Please welcome, Jimmy Sides, to Team ORIGINAL.


Logan Gelbrich


juan g fitness

Using Skill to Access Key Reps

The thing we must not forget in strength and conditioning is that the goal is the result. No real athlete or rational high performance human being wants to train for the sake of training. We train to come out on the other end differently.

With that, a low skill athlete may look at high skill movements like the one legged squat, the clean, the split jerk, the snatch, the muscle up, and so on as “party tricks” that in and of themselves aren’t important enough to pursue. They, after all, aren’t just trying to be the best at exercise, right?

Well, maybe not.

Skill gives access. How do you recreate the speed and power of a bodyweight and a half clean? How do you mimic the body weight explosive extension-to-flexion-to extension of the muscle up without the skill to do the actual movement?

High skill movements are worth our time, in my opinion, because they give us access that we wouldn’t otherwise have. As a coach, I see this all the time with athletic, capable athletes that don’t have high skill movements in their quivers.  The result is that they can’t improve as fast and as far as athletes that can train these movements that allow for load, speed, and precision.

A ripped, athletic student that doesn’t know his way around a barbell, for example, can’t improve in the way that a less muscular, less athletic athlete who’s skilled and can build strength and speed without limits. Develop skill so that you can load the system. Develop skill so that you can train better than your opponent.


Logan Gelbrich


katie 2

One Signal that is the Perfect Dietary Guide, or It Will Kill You

I once summed up satiety as well I could have dreamed with something that sounded like, “When you’re eating real food, satiety is your best friend. When you’re eating poorly, satiety is your greatest enemy.” You see, the signals our body gives are important.

We aren’t supposed to live in a perpetual diet-mode that leaves us indefinitely hungry. Eat until you are full. That relationship of signaling can almost always tell you everything you need to know about portions and when and what to eat. If (and this is a big “if”) you’re eating quality food.

Processed foods aren’t apart of the signaling structure that can regulate one of the most basic elements of survival… nutrition. If you’re eating Frosted Flakes in the morning, you may run out of pantry supplies before you really capture satiety.

Don’t believe me? Have you ever seen the caloric equivalent of a Dominos pizza in lamb and seasonal vegetables? You’d need to be a competitive eater to put away dangerous amounts of anything real, which means satiety comes first (like it should) and you can go on your merry way fueled like a champion with a satisfied appetite.

Pinky up!


Logan Gelbrich



Fire Your Trainer, Hire a Personal Chef

I once was paid a visit from an amazing trainer from France. He’d flown out west to see what the buzz was about with DEUCE Gym. This guy was an ex-rugby star, local celebrity, and no bull shit trainer.

Part of his struggle back home was a cultural one. He told me that people in the area have a mindset that having a trainer is shameful quality. Even the one’s that do get a personal trainer often want to keep such information secret.

In Southern California this couldn’t be a more foreign concept, but he’s dilemma sparked some thinking that has changed my opinion on the priority of a personal trainer a bit.

When this Frenchman explained to me that having a personal trainer was looked upon like an elitist thing to have, no different than a chauffeur, a butler, or a personal chef, I thought, “BINGO!”

I’ve never understood personal training, considering the options of quality group training experiences available. The cost for a quality coach’s time is incredibly limiting, but people do it. Since every fitness professional would tell you that nutrition precedes training and “you can’t out train a bad diet,” I figured I’d propose a drastic idea.

If you can justify paying a personal trainer $100+/hour, consider firing your trainer. Hire a cook to prepare quality meals for weekly food prep and a couple of amazing in-house meals per week. You wouldn’t spend any more money than you would on a trainer, you’d arguable make better health gains, and, if you live in Southern California, it will surely do more for your street cred.


Logan Gelbrich