The Arnold Strongman Australia Championships 2019:

Last year when I competed for the first time at the biggest sports festival in the country, known affectionately as “the Arnolds”, I mimicked the big man himself and said: “I’ll be back!”. I think this is something I will continue to say year after year because it is always such an incredible experience! The Arnold Classic Strongman was in Melbourne from 20-22 March 2019. It was 3 days of extremely fierce competition across 7 amateur weight divisions, as well as the Pro show. The feats of strength displayed were incredible (I have some notable mentions below)! Winners of the Amateur divisions of the Arnold Strongman Australia Championships get the opportunity to compete in the Arnold Pro competition the following year. It’s the biggest event in the Strongman calendar in Australia, alongside the ASA Nationals.

So, let’s talk about the Arnolds events!

There was the Super Yoke & Frame Carry Medley, The Frame Deadlift, Viking Press, Power Stairs & Atlas Stones. Like Josh talked about in his blog post article, preparation is key when it comes to strongman competitions. To get me through the gruelling day, I packed a whole heap of my favourite protein powder (Katana Shred in Chocolate is the best!), some Beast Mode, and other snacks.

Since last year, I’ve been reflecting on my fitness goals and how to find improvements. As a competitor, you’ll always have your strong (and not-so-strong) events. If you’re like me, your favourite events are probably the ones where you feel strong. It’s really important to remember though that if you want to be a well-rounded athlete, you can’t “cherry pick” your workouts and only train the things you are already dominating. This won’t improve your weaknesses by any means! I find that strongman events are always surprising but also incredibly challenging. You need to be well-rounded to perform.
Team Gym Bandit Athlete Red Wiard at the 2019 Arnolds. Image by Sol @thefunksolbrother

The First Event: Super Yoke and Frame Carry Medley.

My Goals:

  1. Do not drop an implement
  2. Transition between implements quickly
So, to describe this Arnolds event logically, I would say “you walk a 220kg yoke for 10m then transition to a 175kg frame you need to carry for 10m. You need to swiftly turn around and walk back with the frame 10m, then pick the yoke up and walk it back to the start line (which is now the finish line)”. But emotionally, it’s intense and I love it! I loved this event because it used implements I felt comfortable with. Subsequently, it ended up being the event in which I performed at my best.
I managed a really smooth run. I didn’t drop an implement and I transitioned quickly so I saved valuable seconds. All the jumping around made me feel like a ninja too which is a bonus. The Arnolds Pro men were moving yokes of a whopping 500kg! Who needs a chiropractor when you can get a spinal realignment from a yoke 😛
Team Gym Bandit Athlete Red Wiard at the 2019 Arnolds. Image by Sol @thefunksolbrother

Event 2: The Frame Deadlift

The starting weight for my division was 160kg. It jumped up in 10kg increments and you could start at whatever weight you wanted, but only had a maximum of 5 attempts. This was an Arnolds event I was nervous about because I had strained my QL (Quadrus Laborum muscle in my back) only a month prior. My preparation for the Arnold’s was less than ideal as I had rested for 2-3 weeks because of this back injury. To complicate matters, I had only started hitting moderate to heavy weights again the week prior to competing.
So, I got a huge PB on this with a 210kg lift. I gave it everything and went into full beast mode (my face says it all!) patiently waiting for that down call from the referee!
I was super impressed with the U65kg champion, and good friend, Camilla Fogonolo from Tasmania who lifted a 250kg frame. Simply outstanding! Also, Andrew Roberts, an U90 competitor from the Sunshine Coast, lifted over 4 x his bodyweight at 380kg. He attempted 400kg but was not successful. All the same, THIS IS STRONGMAN!!!!!

Event 3: The Viking Press Max Reps in 1 minute.

I think this was a particularly hard event for many of the women. My thought on this is evidenced by 10/16 girls in my weight class zeroing (no reps completed). It’s no secret that overhead events are not my favourite. But I’ve been patient with my training and I’m trying to build on this. I don’t think many people lasted the full minute but it’s not meant to be easy at this level of competition that’s for sure!
My main goal was not to zero and I did achieve that. One rep at 80kg was an equal PB for me (yay!). I tried to grind out that 2nd rep, and spent a few seconds trying, but I was just not strong enough on the day.
The Pro men were pressing double this weight on an even bigger contraption at 160kg. Rob Kearney (IG: @worlds_strongest_gay) won the Pro Show and both the overhead events achieved 13 reps (!) on the Viking and 200kg log press. If you don’t know who he is, you must check out this inspirational athlete! He also ended up getting married to his partner while in Australia!
Team Gym Bandit Athlete Red Wiard at the 2019 Arnolds. Photo by @thefunksolbrother
Me doing the Power Stairs

Event 4: Power Stairs

So, in this event you need to lift 3 implements which increase in weight (100kg, 110kg, 120kg), up 5 very narrow steps in 75 seconds. Yes, it’s as nasty as it sounds.
The insides of my legs took a beating and I was bruised for days afterwards. “Strongman kisses” are a token badge of honour from your efforts on the day and when you got them at the Arnolds, they are extra special!
But, that aside, this was the event where I let myself down. I was disappointed not being able to get the 2nd handle on the top step. I was frustrated with myself (because I had lifted this weight in training) and my soul was left on the staircase. But, everyone learns from competing and I am no different. Watching the videos back again, I noticed my foot position was all wrong so no wonder I felt I was going to fall back down the steps. I was reluctant to lean back enough to get the tip of the implement on the shelf! Moving right along, I was now in 4th place going into the final event of stones.
Team Gym Bandit Athlete Red Wiard at the 2019 Arnolds. Photo by @thefunksolbrother
The final event of the Arnolds – Atlas Stones!

Event 5: Atlas Stones

My Goal:
  1. Don’t Get Injured.
The pinnacle of strongman, and my reason for wanting to try this crazy sport, was the beauty and extreme challenge of these giant cement boulders. This Arnolds event had 5 platforms at 1.2m height with giant cement boulders on the foot of each platform. These boulders weighed 80kg and increased in weight as you progressed through the platforms. The heaviest boulder was on the fifth platform and was 130kg. Only 2 girls in my category finished the series. One of whom, Lucia Delle Noci, went onto break the Australian record of lifting a 140kg stone just 10mins after taking the title of the U82kg women for the 2nd year in a row!
I made some mistakes in my stone run; fumbling the 100kg costing me time having to reload it and missing the height of the 110kg. My goal was “don’t get injured” because heavy stone lifting was how I sent my back into spasm just weeks prior. Mental battles are half the challenge of competing and on this day, I was not feeling my strongest in this event.

Overall:

I finished in tied 6th place on points (7th on countback) which was not a bad effort when the line up of women gets more fierce every year and my preparation wasn’t “spot on”. It was great to see some familiar faces and meet some new ones too. I am grateful for all the volunteers who endured long days, resting bitch faces and screams from competitors smashing PBs. Without them, we would have no competition.
Aaron Scarborough is the man behind the magic organising a stellar event year after year. Mason Dannat from Stand or Submit made and supplied the state of the art equipment. Stand or Submit also made a generous donation to sponsor 2 of our lightweight competitors (Camilla Fogonollo U65s and Cam Taylor U80kg men from Melbourne) to compete at the Arnold Classic in Ohio in 2020. I can’t wait to see these Aussies #dominaterelentlessly overseas!!!!
All photos in this post were taken by Sol. Check out his work on his website or insta @thefunksolbrother