2014 Arnold Recap-Why this may have been my best show ever

I was absent on social media for most of the Arnold Classic and this post should certainly explain why.  Before I get into the recap, I should say that this was far and away the best and most talented contest I have ever been a part of.  24 guys from all over the world and each and every one of them legit contenders.  There was no one who didn’t belong or was out-classed, as we saw a little bit from last year.  The powers that be clearly fixed this problem with the qualifications process and it produced the 24 strongest 175 and 200 lb competitors in the world.  Just being a part of this field was quite an honor.

I received all of your messages over all media.  My lack of updates, and for some of you, responses is no way a reflection of how grateful I am.  I feel truly blessed for all the support and belief all of you have in me.  I understand what I am about to telling you is my fault and my fault only.  This is because I honestly didn’t want those who made the trip with me to worry about me.  Furthermore I am not one to make excuses and there is nothing that was going to keep me from competing this past weekend.  So for everyone reading this, you are likely going to be getting information you were never fully aware of.  I think this will explain why I was not nearly as active as I normally am with all of you over this past weekend.

Quick Recap:

We left fairly early on Wednesday morning and my weight was on track.  A car fire and closed freeway put a strong delay on the trip and what should have been a 5.5 hour trip took us nearly 8.  No big deal.  I was even able to eat and drink a little bit the day and night before and not have to worry about weight.  I was awake and at weigh ins shortly after 8 A.M. on Thursday and weighed in at 184.8 lbs on the first shot.

The rest of the day was spent eating and rehydrating while I rested up for the show on Friday.  This is when things kind of went down hill.  I went to bed early on Thursday night only to wake up 3 hours later freezing cold.  Not a good sign.  I brushed it off, and went back to bed.  Contest started at 8 Friday Morning, I woke up at 6:30 A,M. Burning up and getting this reading:

Regardless, this was not going to keep me off the floor.  Truth be told, I was so ready and confident I didn’t think it would affect me enough to stop me.  I didn’t tell anyone how I felt, there was no reason to raise and concern and I am not one to make excuses and definitely didn’t want to give anyone who came to support me want to make excuses for me.  I trained for this event and I was ready.  Plus staying in a positive mood was easy with these two on your side:

Event 1:  150 lb Circus DB -clean and press each rep

A random draw saw me going in heat 1.  A position most people would see as a disadvantage.  This was my best event on day 1 so the earlier the better for me.  I was planning on taking everyone’s knee out with a number that would be untouchable.  I was hoping for a 10.  I was still undecided if I was even going to try pressing with my right shoulder, even though it was my stronger one, but i hadn’t really tested it lately due to the injury.  I decided it was ready to go.  I pressed 4 fairly quick and easy reps on my right before switching to my left where I repped out 2 more.  Then I went back to my right for one and finished with one more on my left.  Good for an 8 spot out of the gate.  Even though it was the first heat, I was confident it was good enough for the win.  When I watched the only other presser in the field that I thought has a chance of catching me only put up a 5, I figured I would have it locked up.  I was wrong as I saw Massachusetts own Matt Lacorix match my 8.  I was later told this was both a NAS Strongman Fitness National and an ASC Strongman Fitness world record event press, that even though I would share, I would say was pretty cool news to receive out of the gate.  I have not gotten official verification on this, and if it is anything like the Axle record I set I have a solid 7 months to receive my hardware.

Event 2:  630 lb Yoke for 75 feet.

As I am sure most have you have dealt with a fever before you already know your whole body kind of aches.  Well my back was not only aching but cramping up and getting kind of (very) painful.  I made the decision to try and combat this on the yoke by switching my yoke pick higher so i wouldn’t have to move it as far off the ground.  It ended up being a good decision.  I love the yokes they use in big events because they are much easier on your back the one I have at the gym.  I tried to use the mentality of the faster I finished the course, the less time i would have to deal with the back pain.  It seemed to work pretty well, as I ended up with a pretty respectable time and won my heat.  I lost my lead on the field, but was still sitting pretty good.  I was drinking as many fluids as i could to try and combat the cramping but was actually burning up even more.  Took a reading:

Not trending the right direction.  Going into event 3:

Event 3:  300 lb housafelt Stone max distance

This ended up being both good and bad.  I thought this would be the most miserable event with the cramping and achy body.  But I was surprisingly wrong.  The pick was fairly easy, and when I started Carrying i didn’t feel any different from when I trained.  I was hoping for a 300 foot carry and when I dropped the stone I thought I would be pretty close to that.  I was wrong.  242 feet.  disappointing distance for as good as I felt.  Not exactly bad but far below what I expected.  Would need a strong finish in the last two to get to day 2.

Event 4:  250 lb farmer handles for 75 feet

This was the event that proved to be worse on my back, breathing, and everything else than I expected.  I am sure the fact that I was running a fever and taxing my CNS by this point had my body in a downward spiral.  Still I had a clean pick of the farmers and ran then fairly quickly.  Yes I wanted to cry the entire time, but still managed a good enough finish to keep me in the running.  I figured in my heat I would need a top 3 performance in the deadlift medley to give me a chance for day 2.

Event 5:  Dione’s Deadly Deadlift

This was a mystery deadlift event.  Had this have been a heavy deadlift event, things may have swung in my favor.  Instead the weights were (highly) underestimated and turned into an endurance event that belonged more in crossfit.  Many, many competitor ripped their hands open due to the amount of reps that needed to be done.  I finished with 23 reps and collapsed after I finished.  23 was a pretty good number but not in the top 5.  I can say I left it all out there, and gave everything i had all day.

My fever ended up peaking at 102 that day and was still 101.2 Monday morning when i left.  Though I have not seen and final and updated score sheet by the best of my math skills I ended up finishing in a tie for 7th place and not making the stage for day 2.  I was not disappointed in this at all.  I was happy with my fight against the best in the world on a day that performing at 100% was not going to be an option.  Bad timing and bad luck hit me.  No excuse these things happen and in this sport there is no doubt every competitor was dealing with something. I didn’t tell anyone this as I do not want to take anything away from the 4 finalists and all 4 of them deserved to be there.

Video of 2014 Arnold:  Quint 2014 Arnold World Championships

While there are  many thank you’s that I will be sending out both on an individual basis and in a future web post there are 2 that need to be included here.  I know I almost always send my thank you’s out first but I have gotten so many questions, I figured this would be the easier route this time.

Adam Corra.  After 2012 Nationals I told Adam and everyone we were around that he was one step away from being an elite competitor.  Not only did he prove this by qualifying for this years Arnold and finishing in 12th place, one mistake cost him a top 10 and possibly a top 5.  His top status as a competitor aside, Adam is the best teammate in the world.  I have mentioned his positive attitude many times in the past.  Adam is also the team player that we all should strive to be.  He is the most supportive individual there is, and also the biggest fan of everyone he is associated with.  He keeps everyone upbeat and he will make sure you compete at a level you are capable of.  I am so fortunate to have him on my side, and very grateful for him to share the same team logo as I do.  There is no way I would have done nearly as well if he wasn’t there with me.  Can’t thank this guy enough.

Tracy Stankavage.  As most of you know this young lady has already become a very positive influence in my life.  The picture above is just about perfect when it comes to her in or out of competition.  She rarely doesn’t have a smile on her face that isn’t that big.  She is already a LW national champion and finished in the top 10 at the Arnold this year despite being the second smallest female in the show.  If we all had half her heart and a quarter of her fight we would be extremely lucky.  She is as motivating as she is inspiring and it is contagious.  Thank god too because just like Adam above if she wasn’t there is no way I would have been able to keep my head in the game and positive.  To take this even further from Thursday night till Monday morning when I left back home, I got out of bed for a significant amount of time exactly twice.  Once to compete and once to watch the finals.  Other than that I not only didn’t get out of bed, it would have been almost impossible for me to do so.  Killing myself while clearly sick left my entire body in paid and locked up worse than it has ever been.  I complained about this non stop and pretty much acted like a babt.  Even though I tried to kick her out of my room on several occasions she never left my side, and gave up her weekend to take care of me in a miserable state.  I don’t know if I will ever be able to pay her back for this, but it sure did make it a lot easier.  I am not sure what I did to deserve any of this, I’d like to assume I saved someone very important in a former life, I am glad to have her on my side in and out of competitions.

The rest of you I want to also thank.  I will get the second part of this message up this week.  I do truly feel like the most blessed human being alive.  Thank you all with all my heart.

It’s Time for 2014 World Strongest Man

Well Wednesday morning I will leave to represent my Country and battle for the title of Strongest in the World in the 185lb class.  From the information I was given 30 athletes were given the invitation to the show, and at present time we have 23 confirmed competitors.  Seeing this list of names I see some of the craziest, strongest, most explosive, and a few of the most unstable people I know.  I have no doubt that the names on the list I don’t know coming in from foreign countries will possess the same excellent characteristics.  It still makes me smile everytime I see Adam Corra’s name on the list.  Relatively small Crystal Lake and even smaller Davis Speed Center is sending two athletes for the second year in a row.  It is hard to argue with results.

I am feeling relatively good, strong, and confident.  Frankly, its about time.  The four months following nationals has been four of the most frustrating months of training I can think of.  My hip injury from natonals is still not healed and I have been unable to squat with anything more than 300 lbs.  I have had to shelve my shoulder completely on two occasions,  I have made one trip to the emergency room, and an illness sidelined me for two weeks.

I struggeled with up and down training days and could never quite get on track.  Seemed like everytime I took a step forward I had to take two back.  I plugged on forward doing what I could and avoiding setbacks the best I could.  On many occasions I didn’t even feel like trianing, on more than one occasion I thought about throwing in the towel as the pain was not worth the results.  But Quitting is just not in me.  Each time I went ahead praying if I kept doing the right things that things had to turn around.

Adam Corra my training partner, friend, and fellow World Qualifier

As I continue to try to spread a simple theory of if you want to be positive and successful you need to surround yourself with positive and successful people.  Thankfully I have the best the best group of athletes, the best team, the best friends and family that are already surrounding me.  The amount of support and belief I have gotten from the entire Davis Speed Center family is what kept me going through the down times.  A couple of out of the blue conversations with fellow strongman competitors, and an unlikely partnership on both a personal and buisness level reminded me there is nothing I can’t do.  When I was unable to train at 100% it was my team I went to for help.  If I couldn’t get stronger in the lifts I may as well clean up my technique, and I am fortunate to have an expert in just about every field on my team.  More importantly they know they are a part of this as much as I am, and have never once not been there when I needed them.

615 lb Deadlift

So while all along I promised you all that I would be at my best come day of the contest, up until today I wasn’t sure how I was going to fullfil that promise.  I suppose how I got to this point is not important just the fact that I can tell you that in one week I will be at my all time best, and it won’t be a lie.  It may not be my physical peak, I may not be injury free, I may be dealing with a lot of things I would rather not deal with; none of this has stopped me from getting better at every event I will be doing at the World Championships.

320 lb Log Press

So with this I thank you all.  I hope to do you all proud.  Represent Davis Speed Center with respect, sportsmanship, strength, will power, and class. You have all done more than that for me already.

I will do my best to keep everyone updated.  Thank you all again and I sincerly mean this when I say that none of this would be possible without the contribution of all of you.



Catching up on Athletes in the News

Erin Ginsberg has come back from two surgically repaired knees to fulfill her dream of playing college soccer.  A lot can be said about what it takes and how you never give up, no matter what the obstacle may be:


Jackson Smith, takes part in almost taking out the Varsity Squad in McHenry and a great performance regardless:


Ali wins Basketball Athlete of the week

Austin Rodgers leads area scoring before an injury has him sidelined for the rest of the season.  Unfortunate for this very gifted athlete.
Tate, Ephrain, Danny, Bennett all prove to be wicked smart in addition to being great athletes


2014 World Championships-Time to come clean

This blog post has changed shape several times.  Originally was going to be a post about how one gets older their training methods must change to accommodate different changes that come with that increased age.  Due to several events happening since I started writing this it has now changed shape and scope about 12 times and if i don’t send it out now, not sure it will ever get sent out.  So this may be a little bit all over the place, but aren’t we all sometimes.

There comes a time when every athlete has to accept the realization that they need to change the way they train.  When you realize it takes you longer to recover from a workout.  Your joints hurt just a little bit more.  The minor aches, pains, and injuries start to happen more often.  You need to start taking care of your body more effectively.  Make sure you get to bed early, not eat with reckless abandon.

It is not all about your biological age.  As athletes or anyone gets older more responsibilities come into play.  In a sport like mine where you are likely not going to make enough money to make a living there are a lot of things that making training more difficult and less convenient.  Work and responsibilities increase as you get older, some may have a family to take care of, a business to run, any number of things that make having time to train more difficult.  Or at least making excuses not to train easier to justify.

This is not excuse nor is this something I just learned this week.  Quite the contrary.  I have been aware of this for a while.  I am one of the old men in this sport and I have to train smarter than the rest to stay competitive.  All that being said, you can do everything right and still have things happen.

I am usually not one to talk about my insecurities, or fears.  Not something I share often.  But I am no different from anyone else and yes these things exist in me.  I am as human as anyone else and as J.C. Quinn taught me from the movie Barfly ”no more full of shit than anyone else”.  I have been dealing with a shoulder issue that has gotten to the point that I have to shower with my left arm only.  I have a hip injury from Nationals that still hasn’t healed.  I have a right hand torn open making gripping even the lightest of implements feel like my hand is on a hot stove.  Only 6 weeks to the world championship and I will have a slew of people who will accompany me to the big dance.  I hadn’t told anyone about my shoulder till a recent post on facebook and I have been receiving messages of support and concern ever since.  Unfortunately, I think I gave off the wrong impression of why I finally came clean.  It was not to make excuses or show weakness or vulnerability believe me in the beginning as they injuries were piling up I had plenty of that.  It was my way of saying that I am not worried about these injuries anymore.  That I no matter how hard I get hit on my road to Worlds I am going to hit back harder.  I will be the best I ever have been on Competition day, no matter what I have to do to make it happen.   Lets go back a couple of weeks to where my mind-set started to change.

I had my right hand man Kevin back for the better part of the last month.  The timing was nice as it is the end of a grueling season that will culminate in said World Championships at the End of February.  Was able to take a little extra time off, recharge my batteries, and heal up a little bit to get ready for my final surge for the big stage.  I Took some time to catch up with some family I haven’t spoken to in a while, some old friends that I don’t get to see often these days and my fellow competitors across the country.  Was nice to check in and see what was going on.   I had a few talks with a new (and quickly becoming good) friend, fellow old man competitor, former NFL trainer, and one of the most elite strength coaches I have ever met (one I really look up to as a strength coach myself).  He will be at the Arnold as a competitor himself and one of the first things he said to me was “I am looking forward to you finishing things off at the Arnold”.

It hit me hard.  I have had a hell of a year and finishing things at the Arnold would be a perfect ending.  In the last 12 months I set a National record, finished 2nd in the Country, won 2 NAS titles, and had a blast all the way.  Debated on coming clean to him or not.  I eventually did.  Told him I was feeling strong but dealing with injuries of the not so minor variety.  That I was to the point that what I was looking forward to most was just the opportunity to play.  While I would be as ready as I could be and give my all, I was just happy to be there.  Then he said this:  “Be appreciative, but never satisfied! The joy in eating comes while eating thus the joy is in the process!”

I knew exactly what he was saying.  What the hell was I complaining about?  Or worried about for that matter?  I just had one of the most respected coaches in the Nation tell me he thinks I am a favorite, despite what I just told him.  And you know what?  He was right.  It got me thinking way past just me, and the part of me being a baby that these injuries came at a bad time.  BAD TIME?  How can any of this be a bad time?  Let me elaborate.

Last year I was fortunate enough to take part in a piece of this sports history.  The first ever World Championships for 175 lb strongmen.  It is something I will never forget and something that will always be special for me.  Making it even more special, I got to coach one of my athletes compete at the same show.  A record-breaking female athlete of mine for that matter (shameless plug).  Making this team bigger than me is the ultimate goal and some coaches may never get to see their athletes on that stage.

This year?  I get to compete with and against a teammate, Adam Corra.  Little Crystal Lake IL and Davis Speed Center sends 2 to the world championships two years in a row.  It is humbling and proud moment of mine knowing I have had a part in Adam’s success as a strongman.

So I will be side by side with my training partner, thinking about how I have already coached an athlete to the World stage, thinking about my records, my accomplishments, but mostly thinking about all the amazing people I have met along the way.  All the experience I have had and the support I have earned.  It kind of makes the pain go away, well actually it doesn’t make the pain go away but it certainly makes it easier to deal with.  It makes you remember why you do all this, why you are so hungry.  That you are a positive influence on the people you encounter, and it is you’re calling to inspire and lead by example.  It tells me that if it is not bad enough to keep me from getting out of bed in the morning, that nothing is going to stop me this year.  I have so many people behind me that it sometimes doesn’t even seem real.  We all want the same thing.

Seems like Everyone has my back

1 More month of training.  Champions are made in the gym.  There is a positive and even advantageous side to this story.  Not being able to train everything lets me get really good at that I can do.  Time to out work this field of fellow lunatics and leave it all out there.

I wouldn’t have any of this it wasn’t for all of you who are reading this right now, all of you who have helped along the way, all of you who have ever cheered for me.  Going to try and do this done for all of us.

I hope that clears some things up.



It’s not the size of the person, It’s the size of their Heart

Been slacking on getting my new blog posts up here.  Have a few that I just haven’t finished but after seeing what I did a week ago at the event we hosted, I didn’t want to wait on this one, because as a trainer seeing this stuff is the coolest thing in the world.

I love competitions, serious ones, or just for fun.  I think it is healthy and teaches athletes young and old a whole lot of lessons that will help them in their sport and in life.  On the other side of the spectrum nothing drives me more crazy than hearing a capable athlete tell me they would like to do the competition and it sounds fun but they don’t feel “I can win” or “I am not ready for this one going against ________.

There is a lot more I could write on why doing these competitions are beneficial and why I try to get all my athletes to do them.  Instead I am going to share 4 stories of 4 very inspiring females with their videos who competed, and kicked ass.  These are 4 females who if you heard them say they were not ready for this competition, or didn’t feel it was for them, you would probably understand.  The contestants in this contest included at least 8 collegiate level athletes, 4 of which are division I, 3 top level strongman competitors and 1 that should be, and rounded out by some of the top high school athletes and strength coaches in the area.  Me, well, I wasn’t the least bit surprised that they did compete and did so well.  I am not sure anyone can read this and watch the video attached and not be motivated.

Athlete 1:  The athlete you will see first in this video is 15 years old, competes in cheerleading and track and field.  She was a member of the youngest team in the competition.  She also has 3 less fingers than, probably, everyone who is going to read this post.  I have worked with this young lady for a couple of months and not once has she ever used anything about anything as an excuse of what she can or can’t do.  The Friday before the contest I was not working.  My employee was working with her on picking up an Atlas Stone (an event in the contest and something she had never done). For anyone who has lifted a stone before you can imagine how hard it would be only being able to use one hand fully.  Even an experienced stone loader may not be able to pull this off.  I received a message on facebook from someone watching her try that said “_________ really struggles with the stone; I don’t think it is fair to have her do it, maybe we should have her do the keg twice tomorrow”.  No more than 5 minutes later I got a text from the young female competitor saying the same thing.  Here was my reply and the actual conversation:

Me:  Don’t worry about it.  You will load the stone, I will show you how in the morning.

Her:  Ok sounds good.

Not a question of how.  Not a doubt of ‘what if it doesn’t work?’  But you have to be around this young woman to understand that she knows there is nothing that can stop her, there are just some things that she doesn’t know yet.  Watch her load the stone, albeit unorthodox, no problem.

Athlete 2:  The second lady you will see in this video is 48 years old, an age where most adults have long since slowed down.  Those who haven’t slowed are usually trying to keep their weight manageable and/or doing what they need to play with their kids or keep up with day to day activities.  Not this woman.  She has quickly become a motivating factor for everyone who sees her at the gym.  Turning heads with every feat of strength she accomplishes and goal she reaches.  In about 6 months of lifting weights this 5’2 115 lb woman deadlifts 225 lbs for reps and carries farmer handles that weigh 140 lbs each as easily as she carries groceries.  Competing on a badly injured ankle this Saturday you will see her put the doubters to rest and guaranteed to impress you all.  Age doesn’t dictate old or young, you activity does.  She doesn’t train to add years to her life; she is training to add life to her years.  Nothing like a friendly competition to bring that out.

Athlete 3:  The third young lady in this video I have only had a chance to work with on a few occasions.  Still in middle school, everyone can learn a lot from observing her in action.  She is a member of our speed program and the first thing she ever said to me at the gym was, “I want to lift that” (this was in reference to a 650+ lb tire).  She has zero to very minimal weight training experience and would be called upon to load three implements that weighed more than she does to a platform 42 inches high.  In addition to this she would be required to carry an implement that weighed more than her, Put it in a wheelbarrow that also contained me (fatty), and a 60 lb sandbag and carry it 50 feet, push a sled that was 3x her body weight, and hold on for dear life while I lumbered like a bear for 80 feet.  The amount of heart, toughness, perseverance, and never-say-die, never quit in this girl is not even measurable.  As you will see in the video when she does the loading event, how happy I am.  Because I know exactly what she was feeling and I know how bad she wanted it.  Very cool to see from a (her) coach.  Loved every second of competing side by side with her and watching her fight for every inch.  In fact I didn’t even something so small could have so much fight.

Athlete 4:  The final athlete in this video is also still in middle school.  Had to take on a new partner the day of the contest due to her regular partner coming down sick.  She was nervous, she was uncomfortable, and she was smaller than just about everyone.  In training this young lady has already reached unbelievable levels of strength for her size and age, pulling deadlifts of 220 lbs just weeks after a broken arm had her sidelined for over a month.  She is little more tentative than the other females in this competition, she doubts herself more than she should, even questions her ability at times.  What I know with 100% confidence is that she is starting to believe in herself more and more, and when the day comes that she realizes and achieves what she is capable of she is going to astonish people with her feats.  Few have as much raw strength as she possesses, tolerance for training through pain and being uncomfortable, and ability to smile for over 34 hours each day (yep I don’t know how either).  My favorite part (yes it is in the video) was when she loaded the stone in the contest Saturday.  The stone was her third and final implement and I was right next to her.  She picked it up to her lap and struggled with a couple attempts at the load.  I saw the look on her face and knew exactly what was going through her head and what she was going through.  There were only 2 things that happen when you are in this situation (and I have experienced them both).  Option 1.  This is what you know is going to happen, because you have nothing left and you wasted it on your first two attempts, and you are about to disappoint your teammate.  You’re going to miss the rep and know that if you did it the first time right you would have had it.  You will be mad at yourself, disappointed, and for lack of a better phrase be really pissed off at the World.    Option 2:  You know this is impossible.  Your body is at exhaustion, everything hurts doing one of the most taxing total body exercises there is.  You dig down to that place only you know exists and you give one more leave-it-all-on-the-table lift.  Before you even know if it is reality yet you realize that you just pulled off what even you didn’t think would happen.  Then you see what you are made of and no one can take the smile off your face.  Unfortunately the video cuts off right before she makes the load.  I promise you that it was successful, and I also wanted to take a vote on who was happier after it happened.  Her or me.  Because I was right there, and it was nothing short of awesome.

Nothing more to say on this; just have a look at the video here:

Watch them in Action here

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