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Local athletes test their strength at new strongman club


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Adam Mann hoists an Atlas Stone onto his shoulder.

CHUBBUCK — Watching a person pull a truck with a rope, or lift a stone that weighs hundreds of pounds is spectacular — especially when the person doing the lifting or pulling is the last person you’d expect.

“When you’ve got a young kid or a 30-something mom doing bear crawls pulling a sled with 400 pounds on it … or watching someone in a parking lot doing truck pushes and pulls, there is more energy in the room and in our classes than when we do nearly anything else,” said Chad Bannister co-owner of B.A. Athlete Training Gym. “There is just something about doing these strongman events that people love because you don’t see it every day.”

And that’s one of the big focuses of the B.A. Athlete Training Gym in Chubbuck. The coaches want patrons to know that they can do unexpected things like strongmen sports and excel at them.

“People underestimate what they are capable of doing, and then they try it and get a taste for it — that’s when they get excited,” Bannister said.

The gym has been training athletes young and old for years, and coaches have employed a variety of training routines that have included some strongmen sports. But in July, the gym partnered with the newly formed Snake River Strength Club and is now training athletes to compete in strongman competitions.

Atlas Stones

Blackfoot strongman Adam Mann is the founder of the club. During the day he works as an officer at the Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center, but at night and on weekends he trains people to lift, push, pull and press massive amounts of weight. He also competes in national and international strongman competitions. His most recent competition was the World’s Ultimate Strongman qualifier in Dubai in December 2018.

He said he started the club because he felt strongman sports didn’t have enough representation in eastern Idaho.

“There is a lot of strong people around here, and a lot of them are into CrossFit or powerlifting, but there are a lot more places you can go in strongman,” Mann said. “It’s a more functional sport … that’s not just about lifting weights. It’s also about conditioning and being able to pick up the weights and (move) with them.”

Strongman is similar to other sports such as powerlifting or bodybuilding, but the goals are different. Bodybuilders are focused on muscle mass and tone and the visible ratio of fat versus muscle. In powerlifting, athletes have to lift a tremendous amount of weight, but only for a short time, and the exercises are limited to the bench press, the squat and the deadlift.

Zulaen Fernandez performs a deadlift.

Strongman, however, emphasizes building strength and endurance over everything else. It’s all about moving the most amount of weight based on time or distance.

As a result, there are a variety of popular strongman events, such as hoisting Atlas Stones (massive concrete balls) onto platforms or over bars, or the farmers walk, where athletes take a walk holding very heavy implements in both hands. Lifting giant metal or wooden logs, throwing kegs, or shouldering massive amounts of weights with a yoke and crossbar are a few others.

At the moment, the Snake River Strength Club only has a few members, such as 29-year-old Zulaen Fernandez, who at 158 pounds is the smallest of the group and the club’s sole female lifter. On the opposite end of the spectrum is 35-year-old Justin Harmon, who looms well above 6 feet and weighs 350 pounds. Both joined the club to build their strength and work toward their first competitions.

“Some people look at the big guys and think, ‘That’s something I could never do,’ but strongman is for everyone,” Mann said. “If you come here, we have a 120-pound Atlas Stone for someone to start off with, and empty logs are just 55 pounds. There is definitely something that everyone can do, and I’d encourage everyone to come and try it at least once.”

Now that that club is running, Mann said it’s time to host eastern Idaho’s first strongman competition. The 2019 Eastern Idaho’s Strongest Man/Woman competition will be held on Dec. 7 in Chubbuck, and more than 30 competitors from around the region have already signed up. The location of the event is still being determined. You can read about the event and learn how to sign up on the Facebook event page.

For more information about the Snake River Strength Club, visit its Facebook page or website. For information about the B.A. Athlete Training Gym click here.

Justin Harmon does a log press.