After more than a decade of coaching, promoting, and competing at some of the highest levels in strongman, I have seen some things. One of those things is the stark contrast between people who arrive at competitions prepared, and those who don’t.
My goal is to have more people (like you!) arrive more prepared. So, piece by piece, I’m putting all the things I’ve learned from strongman competition into writing. In this case, we’re talking about the exact steps you can take to prepare for a competition and bring your best to the competition floor.
We’re going to look at this from 2 perspectives: Competition Logistics (the nuts and bolts of getting ready to compete) and Competition Mindset (bringing your brain’s A-game to the competition floor). These are followed by a third post, which covers the Intangibles and “lessons learned” from over a decade in the sport.
This post is all about Competition Mindset. Click here to check out the Competition Logistics post. The Intangibles post is coming soon!
While logistics covers the physical requirements of getting ready, mindset addresses the mental components of competition preparation and execution.
We build routines for training leading into the competition, what we do in the couple days and hours leading into the first lift of the day, and the routine of each individual lift.
For the individual lifts, get used to what equipment you wear and how you put it on. Practice how you step up to each implement and what you do when the timer starts. Decide what pace you need to use for different events. Practice getting into and out of your straps. Practice your transitions.
All this repetition is unexciting and doesn’t seem very important, but these are the small things that make a huge difference on comp day. We always say that when you’re stressed or tired, your body and brain will revert to what they know. If what they know is good foundations, you’re in a much better position to succeed.
Visualization is a highly underutilized tool in training. Our brains are super powerful, and they love to practice and rehearse things. Take time to go over each lift in your head. What are you wearing? How does the equipment feel? What commands are you looking for from the judge? How does your body feel during the lift? What does perfect technique and execution look like? What does a successful lift look and feel like?
Walk yourself step-by-step through every single event. No detail is too small. By going over the rhythm and feel of each lift, you’re preparing your brain – and body – for performing when it counts.
It’s never a bad time for visualization, but I do most of my visualization work the night before competition, morning of competition, and between each event. I find that between events is helpful for letting go of the events I’ve already done and refocusing my brain on what’s about to happen.
In competition, the best advice is to have a super short memory. If an event goes well, take a minute to celebrate. Then move on. If an event goes poorly, take a minute to feel the negative feelings. Then move on.
Either way, by the time you get back to your seat, that event needs to be fully in your past.
We strongly advise against watching your competition videos during the competition. Whether it went awesome or terrible, you will gain nothing from watching it in that moment. The only exceptions to this would be in the event of a possible scoring error when you need to review the video, or if you’re doing a max single and can make a simple (emphasis on simple) correction between attempts. But if you’re just looking for form, save it ‘til after competition. Your focus should be on what comes next, not on things you can’t change or learn from right now.
Immediately after the competition, when you’re still at the venue, just take a minute to soak it in. Enjoy time spent with friends and think about what you’ve accomplished just by competing. It might sound cheesy, but you’ve put a lot of work into this and you owe it to yourself to take some time to appreciate that.
In the days following the competition, spend some time reflecting on the events and your overall experience. What went well, and why? Where is there room for improvement, and what steps will you take to make those improvements? Are there people you need to reach out to? How did you feel about the overall experience? What happens next?
It’s important to remember that there are no “wrong” answers to any of the above questions. This is your experience, and you can take from it what you wish.
Competitions also present some of the biggest opportunities for learning and growth in both the technical and mental aspects of the sport. It’s best to reflect on the experience while it’s still fresh. You can write down some notes for yourself, or talk it over with a coach or partner. Whatever method you choose, try to leave a record. Trust me when I tell you that your future self will thank you.
We’ve got your back! The PPG Team has been doing this for a longgggg time, and we’re here to help with competition mindset, logistics, and anything else you need. Feel free to hit us up with any questions via email at [email protected], or book a FREE 15-min coaching call by clicking this link or the “Free Intro” button at the top of the page.