The weekend of June 21-22 I had the pleasure of attending and working the America's Strongest Man competition at the Del Mar Fairground in sunny San Diego, California. Not only did this competition display 15 of the strongest guys in America, but also Kristin Rhodes, 2 weeks removed from earning the runner-up spot as world's strongest woman while over in Poland.
Kristin (above) is no stranger to kettlebells and here she is shown snatching a 32kg bell. She completed 6-7 reps on each arm for fun in between some of the events on Sunday.
Also in attendance and guest announcing was 3x World's Strongest Man winner, Bill Kazmaier. Everyone involved with strength training knows the name Bill "Kaz" Kazmaier. I was very excited to meet this strength legend and was like a little kid when I asked to take a picture with him.
The American Kettlebell Club (AKC) is a proud sponsor of the American Strongman Corporation (ASC) and I am the AKC representative that gets the opportunity to walk among these giants. I have closely followed these athletes from Columbia, SC to Minneola, FL and now to San Diego, CA.
Saturday was a hot one we had 3 events on this day for the competitors to battle it out. We started it off with the Log clean and press for maximum weight. Jason Kristal and Nick Brugal tied with a weight of 380 lbs. Jason is the American Record holder in this event at 430 lbs. which I got to watch him perform on St. Patrick's Day in Columbia, SC. Jason's push jerk is impeccable and really knows how to get the most from his lower body. It was also during this event that Ryan Bakke had the misfortune of losing control of the log over head and falling backwards. Words do not describe the sight of watching 350lbs. fall from over head onto a man's leg. Ryan finished the rest of the day but did not come back on Sunday. I wish him my best and I know we will see him again.
Next up was the 600lbs. Axle Deadlift for reps. No straps were allowed and that 2" axle did not want to leave the ground. Grip strength became apparent as some of the competitors had plenty of strength left to pull, but not the grip to hold on. Jason Bergmann and Tom McClure gave it there all with 13 reps each. Nick Best, however, pulled strong and had great form for a solid 14 reps and the win.
The last event on Saturday was a new one, 360lbs. atlas stone for HEIGHT!! The platform height started at 54" and would continue to rise 2" until only one man remained. This was an interesting event in that some of the shorter athletes tried every trick they could think of to become taller. Chad Coy came out wearing boots straight out of KISS concert. Chad is a veteran strongman and tactically prepares for every event. In the end, three giants paved the way to 70", Jason Kristal, Jon Connor and Tom McClure. When it was all said and done, Tom McClure was the lone man at the top, being the only man to lift the stone to a height of 72".
With the first 3 events completed, Tom McClure held the lead with 41 points, followed by Jason Bergmann with 36, Jason Kristal with 35 and Brain Turner with 31.
Our second day of competition started with the American Kettlebell Club Press Medley, 6 items; 112 lbs. kettlebell, 172lbs. Thomas Inch dumbbell, 225lbs. keg, 250lbs. block weight, 300 lbs. Axle and a 350 lbs. log were used. The athletes could go in any order and must get full lockout overhead. Numerous strategies were used, some started light and worked there way up, others started heavy and went down and some just went done the line randomly. Five athletes completed the 6 lifts necessary but it was Jason Kristal who did it fastest with a time of 57.98 seconds, followed by Nick Brugal, Van Hatfield, Brad Dunn and Jason Bergmann.
Here is Marshall White (above) showing good form on the Thomas Inch DB and Nick Best (below) with the 300lbs. axle overhead.
Prior to this event, I gave the competitors a crash course on the most effective and fastest way to get the the kettlebell overhead to lockout. With the weight only being 112lbs. snatching was going to be the quickest. Below is a pick of me working with Jason Kristal, he listened well and then went onto win.
Next up was the 410 lbs. Shield Carry for 100 feet. If you blinked you were going to miss this event. I would have thought carrying 410lbs. would slow these guys down a little. Marshall White set a great time of 14.16 seconds. Then came Jason Bergmann who sprinted the 100 feet to a time of 12.56 seconds, truly an impressive showing.
After the first two events of the day, Jason Kristal and Jason Bergmann were out in front with 63 and 62 points respectfully. They were followed in order by, Van Hatfield, Tom McClure, Brad Dunn and Nick Best.
The third event on Sunday was the 930lbs. Yoke Walk. The distance for this event would be 100 feet. Speed was again and important and deciding factor in this event. Nick Best flat out dominated this event with a time of 16.87 seconds. His next closest competitor was Marshall White with a fast time of 20.44 seconds, followed by Jason Kristal and Jason Bergmann.
I also got the chance to walk the Yoke numerous times, albeit minus 360lbs. that we took off as we reset the course for the competitors. I had never walked a yoke before and the balance was very different from just a bar of similar weight across your back. The weights on the ends will swing if you do not maintain a steady gait.
The second to last event for the championship was the 2-part Farmers Walk. Athletes would first carry 320lbs. individual farmers walk handles 60 feet, set them down, pick up a 600lbs. frame and walk back. Speed would again determine the winner. Nick Best demonstrated to us all why he is the fastest man in strongman by blazing the course in 17.78 seconds. Marshall White was again his closest competition at 22.42 seconds.
This was another event I personally got my hands on while reseting the course. No weight was removed this time and even the Kaz took notice as I easily walked the 600lbs. frame back to it starting place. "Not only the strongest men in America, but also the strongest work crew," said Bill Kazmaier. I also signed a few autographs for this ability. Much appreciated but 600lbs. is not that heavy if you haven't already given your all in the prior 6 events.
We were now down to the last event, 380lbs. stone for reps over a bar. The bar height I believe was 48" but I could be wrong on that fact. What is not wrong is the fact that these strongmen were all fighting hard to be named America's Strongest Man. Brad Dunn raised the stone 4 times. Jason Bergmann and Van Hatfield completed the feet 5 times. However, it was Marshall White and then Jason Kristal that succeeded with 6 reps each.
Here Gerard Benderoth (above) is shown finishing off one of his 3 reps over the bar.
With the events complete and points tallied, one man can now call himself America's Strongest Man. This man is Jason Kristal.
Jason Kristal finished with 101 points followed by Jason Bergmann with 91.5, Van Hatfield 86, Nick Best and Marshall White at 84.5, Tom McClure 84, Brad Dunn 76.5, Nick Brugal 69, Jon Connor 58, Gerard Benderoth 49, Dan Ford 41.5, Chad Coy 37, Brian Turner 35, Warrick Brant 26.5 and Ryan Bakke 12.5.
My time with these giants has been tremendous and I have learned a lot about strongman technique and strategy from watching firsthand. They have also learned some of the methods I use as a kettlebell lifter to increase my strength-endurance. Overall, its been a great way for us to learn from each other and I expect to see many strongmen utilizing our kettlebells to help train for next years America's Strongest Man.