James Griffiths is a gym owner and is as passionate about improving his own fitness as he is for his members. He talks to Sundried about training as a Strongman and his road to becoming Britain's strongest man under 80kg.
How did you first get into Strongman training and competitions?
I bought a gym that had a decent range of Strongman equipment. At the time I took the gym on I was training for the highest altitude workout ever recorded at the top of Kilimanjaro. After I did that I gave myself 2 months to train for my first Strongman competition. I came second which wasn’t bad considering I weighed 80kg and it was an open event against some 140kg+ guys.
What does it take to be a Strongman competitor?
The training is tough. Mentally, you are lifting numbers that you don’t see in the gym. Pick up over 3 times your body weight on your back and run with it. The risk of injury is huge, so good conditioning and balancing your programming is really important. You’ve got to want it a lot. I want to be Britain's strongest man under 80kg, and to do that I will need to cut back a lot of my more diverse training like Aerials, Callisthenics, and martial arts. The Strongman training just has too big a stress on the nervous system.
Do you follow a specific nutrition plan? If so, what/when do you eat?
I eat every 3 hours, eat foods of every colour every day, have loads of variety, get the quantities right, and always go for quality.
Talk us through your Strongman training regime.
I have just found out the events for the British Natural Strongman Federation final competition:
- Max Log - 90kg... 10kg increments until the last few. Then 5kg increments.
- Deadlift Ladder - 3@170kg, 2@200kg, 1@230kg
- Truck Pull - rope and harness 20 meters
- Sandbag - TBC but I'd guess 110kg
- Farmers Walks - 30m with 120kg in each hand
- Atlas Stones - 120kg over 130cm/ 51 inch yoke/bar
Below is my plan for winning it. This will be a 2 month phase:
- Monday - Farmers walks and Log Press
- Tuesday - Wild Man legs and volume deadlift (ladder)
- Wednesday - Sled drag/ sack carry
- Thursday - Farmers walks and Log press
- Friday - Sack carry and Atlas Stones
- Saturday - Truck pull and Deadlift heavy
- Sunday - Aerials, clubs
What is your favourite event in Strongman and why?
Anything where I’m moving. Super Yoke, Farmers Walks, Truck Pull, Sled drags. I don’t know why but I seem to be very good at them. I’ve moved a super yoke at 320kg which is 4 times my body weight.
What is the toughest part of Strongman training and competing?
For me, it’s missing out on the other activities I like in my training. To compete at the top level you have to dedicate your time to one thing. Strongman. It hurts. It’s hard to maintain mobility. I can’t eat all the food in the world as I have to stay under 80kg. It really does hurt.... but I want that title.
What are your three top tips for surviving Strongman?
Build your strength from the inside out. My background in a diverse range of training styles has meant my strongest link is my middle. Having the core and stability to maintain form and limit risk of injury has been a big advantage for me. Don’t ignore mobility. It’s hard to maintain, but not impossible. I am now training an up-and-coming pro Strongman called Sam Duthie. Watch for him next year in England's Strongest man.
What are your goals for 2018?
To be Britain’s Strongest Man under 80kg.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
I take inspiration from everything I see and do. I’ve never been short on motivation so I don’t look to people to help drive me. My training and programming is my own. I just like meeting people with good energy. In the world of Strongman I’ve met and trained with Laurence Shahlaei and Terry Hollands. Both top guys.
What advice would you give someone thinking of entering the world of Strongman for the first time?
Strongman training will always feature in my training. It’s the best strength training on the planet because it’s focused on raw movement. For me that is what makes it more applicable than powerlifting, Olympic lifting, CrossFit etc. The numbers you lift are crazy but the difference the training has made to my other training and sports is obvious. At 90% of your max it’s the best thing in the world. At 100% training for competitions it’s incredibly exciting to see what your body can do. The Strongman community is friendly and encouraging and I’ve yet to meet a bad ego. There are no egos when you are carrying serious weight as everyone knows how much training goes in to being able to even attempt most of the events in competition. Just a lot of respect and fun.
The Crossfit Open is the first stage of qualifying for The Crossfit Games. To learn more about the basics of Crossfit and to understand the jargon used in this article, read our article on Crossfit here.
The Crossfit Open workout 16.1 is the first workout of the 2016 open and it's not for the faint hearted.
20 minutes AMRAP
- 25-ft. overhead walking lunge (5ft per rep)
- 8 burpees
- 25-ft. overhead walking lunge
- 8 chest-to-bar pull-ups
Men lunge 95 lbs (42.5kg), Women lunge 65 lbs (30kg)
Emily Abbott, who took 8th place last year, completed a mighty 290 reps in this WOD!
We spoke to our personal trainers competing in this year's games to see what they made of this year's first challenge.
Personal trainer Liam Scott, 26, from Crossfit Southeast Witham, has been training 6 times a week, rotating strength, skill and endurance as well as completing WODs and previous open workouts in preparation for this year's challenge. Liam gave himself a trial run competing in The Icon Online Championship last month, where he took 34th place. Prior to the games, he told us, “I’m excited for the open to get started and see what crazy stuff is in store for us over the next 5 weeks, preparations have been going well!”
“The moment I saw 16.1, I knew it would be a great test. Overhead walking lunges are a rather difficult exercise and with 42.5kg overhead, let’s just say it’s not going to get any easier. I watched Emily Abbott do the workout live via the Crossfit website which got me more excited” he said.
There were 10 other athletes competing from Liam’s box, which created a great atmosphere with all the competitors spurring each other on.
“When I noticed that the other guys were scaling and using 30kg front rack lunges and only getting 6 rounds it made me more nervous about my turn, but on the beeps I started with my power snatch to get the 42.5kg above my head and the first 25ft walking lunges began. They were definitely the hardest part of the workout, but once I’d done 2 rounds I started to relax a lot more, like everything I’d been working towards was starting to come together.”
Liam completed a whopping 205 reps, his legs were cramping and he even had to go outside in fear of being sick, but he didn’t give in. When we asked how he felt the rest of the day, he joked "it wasn’t too pleasant either”.
In true macho competitor style, Liam was chuffed to have beaten his best friend and coach's score. He told us he is “confident for the rest of the open” and is currently sitting around 600th in England.
Our female athlete Beth, 42, is a Personal Trainer and a great lover of the outdoors. She has been Crossfit training for two years but this was the first open which she completed without scaling the workouts. At just over 5ft, Beth has well and truly proved herself small and mighty.
She told us, “16.1 was a good workout for me. My first RX! The overhead lunges were not a problem nor the burpees. I have only just started being able to do chest-to-bar pull ups so these were the real challenge as the rounds progressed.” Despite having to go down to singles there was no stopping Beth and she gave it her all until the very last rep.
“Overhead lunges are a challenging move for the shoulders and core primarily more than the legs, well in my case anyway. It was good to see them included.”
“I never push myself over the edge...I'm too old now and it takes too long to recover” she joked. When we asked her about her aches, she rather modestly told us they “weren't too bad”. Clearly, age is just a number because Beth could outperform women half her age and twice her height with her inspirational performance.
Crossfit 16.1 has no age limit, whether you're 26 or 42, what the Crossfit open shows is that if you’re prepared to work, it pays off. The diversity of entrants and spontaneity of the workouts are what makes the open so exciting.
If you want to try Crossfit yourself but are intimidated by the challenge why not scale down the workout and give it a try next time you're at the gym, without the pressure of competing? It's a great workout and is really good fun, as well as being very rewarding.