The Secret to Strength Commentary (w/Big Loz)

Today I’m talking to legendary strongman competitor Laurence Shahlaei, better known in the strength community as Big Loz. Loz has a storied strongman career, having competed in more than 10 World’s Strongest Man competitions, winning Britain’s Strongest Man twice, winning Europe’s strongest man, and racking up more podium finishes in the sport than we can list in this intro. He’s since made a successful transition over to sports commentary and is building one of the strength sports world’s fastest-growing communities on YouTube and through his work bringing competitor insight to live events.

Big Loz BarBend Podcast

On this episode of The BarBend Podcast, host David Thomas Tao talks to Laurence Shahlaei about:

  • Live after strongman retirement (01:50)
  • The secrets to sports color commentary (06:00)
  • Slow versus fast-paced strongman competitions (11:00)
  • Why more strongman competitors should train toward specific competition formats (single-day versus multi-day) (11:20)
  • Is there such a thing as an “ideal” competition setting? (16:30)
  • Prioritizing health after retirement as a competitive athlete (20:20)
  • Which sports might Big Loz want to explore? (24:00)
  • Setting a new Dinnie Stones world record (25:30)

Relevant links and further reading:


Big LozBig Loz

There’ll always be strength challenges that I want to pursue, and I will keep training hard. I’ll keep challenging myself in a variety of different ways. I may even one day try something like a marathon or something like that. I like being able to see what I can physically do.

David TaoDavid Tao

Welcome to the “BarBend Podcast,” where we talk to the smartest athletes, coaches, and minds from around the world of strength. I’m your host, David Thomas Tao, and this podcast is presented by


Today I’m talking to legendary strongman competitor Laurence Shahlaei, better known in the strength community as Big Loz. Loz has a storied strongman career, having competed in more than 10 World Strongest Man competitions, winning Britain’s Strongest Man twice, winning Europe’s Strongest Man, and racking up more podium finishes in the sport than we can list in this intro.


He’s since made a successful transition over to sports color commentary. He’s building one of these strength sports world’s fastest growing communities on YouTube and through his work, bringing competitor insight to live events.


Before we get into that, I want to say I’m incredibly thankful that you listen to this podcast. If you haven’t already, be sure to leave a rating and review of the BarBend podcast in your app of choice. Now let’s get to it.


This is one I’m very excited about — the man, the myth, the legend, the personality, Big Loz on the podcast today. Thank you so much for joining us. It’s funny for someone who’s retired from a sport, you seem to be busier than ever. What’s on your plate and your agenda these days?

Big LozBig Loz

Firstly, thanks for having me. I probably am busier than I’ve ever been, [laughs] which is good. It’s great. It’s keeping me out of trouble. That’s the first plus. I was chatting to a friend earlier, actually. I had Travis Ortmeier. I was chatting to him on my show.


I was saying when I was an athlete, I was very lazy. I lifted, I ate, sat around doing very little. [laughs] Whereas, when I decided to retire originally two years ago, after getting injured at World’s Strongest Man, I decided to set up my own coaching business. Then I got involved in a few other things, obviously, the YouTube stuff now.


Literally, I’m a workaholic now. [laughs] I work 16 hours a day, but I’m very happy doing it. I’m doing something I love and enjoy. It keeps my mind occupied so I’m not sitting around. I used to suffer a bit with depression and stuff like that, mental health issues, like so many people do.


This is a great way for me to cope with it [laughs] to be honest. I try and stay in a very positive mental state these days. I like keeping myself busy, driving myself towards new goals.


I think one of the hardest things for an athlete when they retire, particularly athletes, not just strongman but any sport, is identifying what they’re going to find an interest in next. I’ve been very lucky that I can still do something in the sport I love, but I don’t have to beat my body up every single day as you would as an athlete. I’ve been very lucky. I’m in a great place mentally.


David TaoDavid Tao

You do a lot. You do coaching. You do a fantastic amount of work on the media side which I really want to dive into.


It seems like you were almost a natural when it came to transitioning over to the media side. I speak from some experience to say that never comes overnight. It never comes without some practice. It’s a muscle like any other. You need to pattern it. You need to work on it.


When it came to transitioning over to the media side, whether that’s recording podcasts, doing commentary, the numerous things you do, is that something that you had your sight set on years ago and started practicing a little bit or did you just dive right in the deep end recently?

Big LozBig Loz

A little bit of both. It was something I was always interested in. I always wanted to think what can I do after strongman. Often, when I was doing interviews as an athlete, a lot of people told me I would be good in that role. It was something I thought about.


I hadn’t really pursued it so much, because obviously when you try to be the best strongman you can be, you focus it as that. After certain injuries, and COVID was the real one, because we were stuck at home not able to go anywhere, not able to see anyone, and I thought, ” Make the most of this opportunity.”


I started doing a few videos on the history of strongman. That’s what I started doing. I looked at a few events. I looked at in the Log Lift, Atlas Stones, those types of things. I thought, “I’m just going to put a video together, narrate it myself.” It did OK.


Then I thought, “I’ll get some people on, do a bit of talking.” Like yourself, it was a more natural conversation that I wanted to focus on. Then I got the opportunity to do some commentary for the World Ultimate Strongman. They actually invited me over after I got injured at World’s.


They invited me without me asking to do it. They wanted me to come and do the commentary for their show. That was the real first…I can go back a lot further. I did some commentary with Collin Bryce while I was competing years ago.


It’s quite funny if you go back and watch that show because you can tell I was nervous and talking really quietly like this. There was no energy in the way I was talking.


It’s funny with commentating and any kind of presenting, you almost have to act like a complete nutcase to get that to portray on camera. If you’re quite flat in your voice and you just talk and you have a normal conversation with someone, a little bit of that animation gets lost through the camera and the mic.


I’ve started to become even more animated when I’m doing commentary, but I do it on purpose so that it comes across as being genuinely exciting when people are listening.


I think when I’m talking about things that I know about, so strongman for me is something I’ve spent 20 years doing. I’m not just an athlete, I’m a fan. I absolutely love the sport. I love the history of it. I can rattle off every single winner of World’s Strongest Man and dates of events and stuff like that.


That side of things was easy. The harder thing for me was the more presenting side of things, intros, outros.


I have tried to get better at it and I keep practicing. I watch things back and I want to improve. I want to keep getting better like I did with my training. I don’t think I’m particularly great at all. I’ve been lucky to work with some good people that have given me good advice. I take that in just like I would from a coach or a nutritionist as the athlete.


Now I’m trying to learn and develop in different areas. Absolutely love doing it, really, really want to keep getting better at it, want to keep doing more. I am purposely trying to improve at it right now.

David TaoDavid Tao

Your first commentary gig was with Colin Bryce and you talk about someone who’s animated. It can be a little intimidating with someone who has built their career around being the ultimate hype man in many ways for the sport. You talk about a trial by fire. We’re going to have to go back, I’ll link that in the in the show notes, some of those earlier videos.


Who are some folks that you’ve really enjoyed working with? Be it doing commentary with them, having them on your podcast and interviewing them? As far as the personality goes, who do you just kind of jive with?

Big LozBig Loz

I’ve got to say Don Idrees, who is one of the co-owners of the WUS organization, very interesting character. His knowledge of strongman isn’t so great, but he’s just such an energetic guy. He’s so keen to put on these extravagant events. I love seeing how his brain works. He doesn’t think like the rest of us think, and I find that really interesting.


I’ve got to say Colin Bryce. Colin Bryce is a unique individual. He’s a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde character. Some people love him, some people don’t. I get on very well with him. I’ve got a lot of respect for Colin because he has been in the sport for so many years, and he stuck with it. They’ve built Giants Live into very big event now.


I’m lucky that I’m working with a number of big promoters. I do to work with the WUS guys. Colin and the Giants Live team have things planned that we’re working on towards next year. A lot of behind the scenes action for their livestreams and stuff like that.


Colin has definitely been a big help in terms of the media side of things. He’s given me tips. He’ll ring me after I do a show. Almost like a mentor, giving me advice. He’s commentated at the Olympics. He’s done all the strongman commentary for years, and he does know what he’s talking about even though he can come across as a bit of a mental guy at times.


When you watch him and you listen to him, he’s got a great voice. He knows when to talk and when not to talk. He knows how to lead. He knows how to be a color commentator. He knows how to be a lead commentator. He’s got a lot of advice.


Those two, I love talking to them both because they’re interesting characters and both very, very driven to succeed, and both very helpful in terms of feedback and helping me improve what I’m doing.


David TaoDavid Tao

Every competition is different. In fact, we were doing a little bit of work with Giants Live and talking about the format of Europe’s Strongest Man and how that compares to other shows. Everything’s packed in just a few hours. It’s a very hectic, very fast-paced show built for an audience.

Big LozBig Loz

Fast-paced. Yeah, very much so.


David TaoDavid Tao

When we brought it to our readers and listeners, and we’d like to mention to them, a few folks hadn’t really thought about that. We got some messages where folks were like, “Oh, I didn’t realize that it was over that short of a time frame,” because people might be used to World’s Strongest Man taking place over the course of five days, six days.


There are a lot of misconceptions that I think fans — and you are an ultimate fan, maybe the ultimate fan in some ways of strongman — now have if they haven’t been on the ground, seeing a show live or competed in a show.


What are some of those misconceptions that you think a lot of the broader strongman fan base might still have when it comes to the nuts and bolts of the sport?

Big LozBig Loz

For me, you hit the nail on the head is every show is different and run differently. We’ll take those two extremes. World’s Strongest Man and Giants Live are probably the extremes. You’ve slowest pace competition and the fastest pace competition.


Now, if you’re someone in the gym that likes to take your time, you like to have a good amount of time between sets. You might do one or two events a day, in terms of training. You’re going to struggle when you go to a Giants Live show because you’ve got to fit five events in at a fast pace.


You don’t have time to wait around and do your warm-ups when you want to. You’re told you got to go. You’ve got a few minutes to get on to the next event. You do see guys that might do well at World’s Strongest Man struggle in those one-day show.


Likewise, you see the guys that like the fast-paced shows because at a one-day show, let’s take as an example, you start and you get on with it. If you have a bad event, you get on straight to the next event. It’s not the end of the world because the pace is moving all the time.


At World’s Strongest Man, if your first event goes badly, you could potentially have to wait till the next day to do an event. Mentally, that can play on your mind. You’ve got a lot of time to sit around. There’s not a lot to do at World’s Strongest Man, a lot of the time.


You could do one or two events a day and then you’re sat in your hotel room for the rest of the day. If events have gone badly, you’re there, you’re thinking about it, and it’s getting on you, whereas when it’s fast-paced, you don’t have time to just sit and mope, and feel sorry for yourself. You’ve got to go and get on with the next event.


It can work in the opposite way as well. Some people with that space, they have time to recompose themselves, come back the next day. One thing I noticed with athletes at World’s, it’s not so much for physical exhaustion. It’s the mental exhaustion, because it is so long, because it’s such a slow mover, because you’ve got…


It is the one show where the cameras come first over the athletes. They will send up the drone to get their shot. They’ll take shots again and again, very much like working on a film or something like that. They want the visual when it goes out on TV to be perfect.


The one-day shows are not so much like that. They’re recorded around a sport. World’s Strongest Man, it’s like an event for TV. They’re the big differences, I guess, between those shows. World’s Strongest Man is still, without question, the king of the mountain in terms of titles to win. It’s the title that, as a general fan, you know about.


As hardcore fans, we love the Arnold’s. We love the WUS competitions. The Rogue Invitational looks like it’s going to be amazing. As a general fan, no one knows what they are. That World’s Strongest Man title is still the king for sponsorship deals, for recognition. In terms of titles for athletes, it’s going to launch their career to a new level.

David TaoDavid Tao

When you were competing, which type of competition — we’ll use those two extremes because there are plenty in the middle as well — the fast-paced, tightly-packed or the more drawn out multiday. Which did you gravitate toward more as an athlete? Did that change over the course of your competitions?

Big LozBig Loz

I, without question preferred the one-day shows. The one-day shows in front of fans. I loved competing in front of as many fans as possible. The arena shows, for me, personally, where what I enjoyed.

David TaoDavid Tao

You have the track record back this up, by the way. [laughs]

Big LozBig Loz

My performances at World’s Strongest Man were never as good as my one-day show performance. I did OK at World’s, I made the final, I think five times. I came fourth in 2011.


In the one-day shows, I’ve actually won more international titles than almost any other British athlete ever. Only Geoff Capes has won more than me in terms of international shows. I was very good in the one-day shows where it was just, get on with it.


I always found I was a bit nervous before the first event. Once that was done, I was into it. I was a bit like an Evan Singleton now who really psyches himself up. I used to really get myself in a crazy rage. In a one-day show, you can maintain that level of energy.


In a long-paced show, this is something I learned and had to change over time, you can burn out doing that. Being that aggressive, smashing yourself in the head with a stick. That was the kind of guy I was.


I do see myself in Evan Singleton, especially when I was younger because I used to get so pumped up, but for the longest shows it’s not always the best approach. You get so worked up, you expend so much energy, and then you have this big come down. Then you’ve got to do it again, and again, and again. You find you can’t maintain that level of energy.


World’s Strongest Man, when I was competing originally, was 10 days to two weeks. They’ve shortened it from there. I think Evan is going to do amazing in the one-day shows, and I think he’s going to have to learn to control that energy expenditure at the drawn-out shows.

David TaoDavid Tao

Well, I love talking to experienced athletes, whether they’re still competing or retired, about their post-competition routines. Some people have that meal and every time they complete a competition, they eat this particular thing or they have this particular routine. Were you a creature of habit in that way kind of after shows?


Big LozBig Loz

Not really, I was usually knackered after a show.


Physically beat up. I didn’t have much of an appetite after competition. It was normally the next day the appetite would come back and I want to eat everything. No, because I’ve competed over such a long period of time. Things always change.


There was a time some of the Giants Live shows, for instance, used to be earlier in the day. You’d get the show done. You’d have time to go back, chill out, have a rest, have a shower, wash, eat, go out if you wanted to in the evening, whereas, now, the shows are evening shows. You get back quite late.


I’m usually just knackered. [laughs] Maybe because I’m older. [laughs] I don’t think I do have a routine, certainly, for after the shows. Maybe more pre-show I do. I tried to keep my food very similar. I used to watch a lot of motivational videos before competitions just to try and get my head in the right mental space. After competitions, I was just like, ”And relax”. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

What were some of the videos or personalities or people that got you pumped up or in the right headspace prior to a competition? I’ve heard some people watch old…Matt Fraser years ago told me from before CrossFit competition, he’d watched old Mike Tyson videos. Everyone has their thing. Did you have a particular go-to?

Big LozBig Loz

Lots. Rocky films. Seeing guys like Mike Tyson, Michael Jordan. I’d listened to motivational speakers, like is it Dan Brown. There’s so many on YouTube now that just got me fired up. The videos, I’ll watch them again, and again, and again. It got me in that headspace.


I remember as a kid watching the Rocky films. Probably, about eight years old. I want to get to the gym. I want to do something. I was doing Kung Fu at the time. Every single time I watched it, I wanted to get in the ring and fight someone. [laughs]


Sylvester Stallone movies, Arnold movies, things like that. Those traditional ’80s type movies that we watched when my generation were younger. A lot of motivational stuff on YouTube, whether it was things that pumped me up or kept me calm. Anything like that. Yeah

David TaoDavid Tao

Let’s talk about your training. Now, you’re no longer competing. You’ve had I’ll call it two retirements, at this point. You’re someone who, at this point, for you being active, moving, it’s a lifestyle. What is your approach to fitness and wellness look like these days after your competitive career?

Big LozBig Loz

I’ve just very recently competed in the Royal Albert Hall, the Giants Live Classic. That was it for me. That is the official retirement. I’m done, happy. It was the perfect way to have a send-off. I couldn’t have asked for more. Now my training has gone towards more fitness and health. Particularly right now because I have a couple of injuries that I need to rehab.


I don’t think it’s sensible to stay at 350 odd pounds if it’s not necessary. I’m not trying to be the World’s Strongest Man anymore. I’m not trying to break records. Currently, I’m trying to bring my body weight down.


I’m working with John Anderson. Don’t know if you know John, a former pro strongman, former pro wrestler, and currently a pro bodybuilder. He’s working with my nutrition to help bring my strength down, whilst maintain as much muscle mass as possible.


It’s going well. It’s a different challenge, but I’m enjoying it. I’m someone that needs a challenge. I’ve set myself a target of getting down to 300 pounds to start with. I’m going to address how my fitness is and my health at that levels. They’re the most important key factors for me.


If I have abs, bonus. [laughs] The fitness and health is more important. I’ve got three kids to think about, a wife. I don’t want to keep pushing myself to try and lift or try and win the World’s Strongest Man title.


At my age, with the injuries that I’ve had…I’ve been doing strongman for almost 20 years. As much as I’ve loved every single minute of it, the ups and the downs because they all were part of my career.


I’ve been lucky now that I’ve moved into a different role. Because I have that, I can turn my back on the competing side of things. I do a lot of coaching. I love that side of it as well. I coach athletes, male and female, able body, adaptive body, all sorts, and absolutely love it. From complete [indecipherable 21:30] . From novice level right up to world level competitors.


It’s really enjoyable because I’ve got so much experience competing in many different types of events, using so much different kit. I can help not just with the technical side of lifting but the mental side as well.


It’s like you said, I’ll always train. It’s just part of who I am. Right now, training four days a week. I would guess it’s a cross between bodybuilding and CrossFit-type training that I’m doing. Nutritionally, I’m just trying to reduce my intake of calories and bring my body weight down to a more manageable weight.

David TaoDavid Tao

Is there anything — it could be a sport, it could be golf, it could be curling, could be lawn darts for all I care — anything in sporting that you were interested in pursuing as a hobby, but didn’t get to do it because of your strongman career? So much of your physical and mental focus was toward competing in strongman. Anything that you’re excited to explore over the next few years?

Big LozBig Loz

Absolutely. I’ve always been very sporty. I was British champion at Kung Fu as a kid. I used to play rugby for the Southwest. Rugby is big in the UK. I loved playing rugby. I was a decent athlete. I was good at throwing and sprinting as well, weirdly. I was always big, was always fast, which we saw in my strongman career.

David TaoDavid Tao

Many strongmen are [indecipherable 23:01] .

Big LozBig Loz

To be honest, most strongman, most top-level athletes in any sport, they are athletes. They can transition to different sports, but their training become specific.


Sometimes people will look at a strongman and think there’s no way they can be fast, they’re, however, heavy. We can be good at whatever we want to be good at. It’s just we’ve decided to focus on a certain sport that suits us.


You see Eddie and Thor, they’re transitioning their training into something else and they’re still doing…You see some athletes who can cross over into anything. They’re born gifted.


To a degree, if you’re a pro in a certain sport, you’ve got that mentality that you can push yourself hard, half of the battle is that mental side. If you believe you can do it, and then you’ll put the work in and make it happen.


Since doing strongman, I was playing darts for a while, which is a funny one. I love darts. I love watching it. I love playing it.

David TaoDavid Tao

Lawn darts, I pulled that out of nowhere, by the way, so I wasn’t too far off.

Big LozBig Loz

No, you weren’t too far. When I retired from strongman, I was playing a lot of darts. Then I set up my businesses and the darts became less and less. I’m not able to play at all because of how busy I am.


I really like arm-wrestling. That’s something I would say I’m a complete novice, but I’m pursuing arm-wrestling a little bit more now. I really enjoy that side of things. I enjoy the technical aspects of arm-wrestling. Because it’s new for me. I’ve got that excitement for it, whereas strongman I’ve been doing for so long.


As much as I love strongman, I still do, the arm-wrestling side of things is a bit more exciting. It feels like when I started strongman. I’d like to push that a little.


I’m one of these people that will always set myself weird strength goals. Particularly with, you may have seen I’ve been up in Scotland doing some of the traditional stones up there. I’d love to go over to Iceland and try some of theirs.


Lots of feats of grip strength. Grip strength, you can keep your hands strong. You see Arild Haugen in his 60s or 70s. That guy is still a freak of nature.


There’ll always be strength challenges that I want to pursue, and I will keep training hard. I’ll keep challenging myself in a variety of different ways. I may even one day try something like a marathon or something like that. I just like being able to see what I can physically do.


David TaoDavid Tao

Well, I should say congrats on the Dinnie Stones record recently, by the way. I may have mentioned that in the intro, which I record separately. Speaking of feats of [indecipherable 25:48] and world-class grip strength, absolutely fantastic.


Big LozBig Loz

It was amazing going up to Scotland. There was no plan to try and break the record. I planned to go up there and try it, but I couldn’t train for it because I was training for the Royal Albert Hall. I think because of years and years of strongman training…One of my best events was a farmer’s walk. I was always very, very good at moving with weights.


I’d say I’ve got a world-class grip. I’m not in the league of a Mark Felix. That guy is on a level on his own. I’ve been able to beat pretty much everyone at things like farmer’s grip events over the years, and consistently as well. My ability to walk with weights helps me more on that than grip.


A lot of people keep saying, “Oh, I’d love to see Mark Felix do it.” Mark’s done it. He’s tried it a number of times and hasn’t been able to go as far as I have. Mark has never, certainly in the last 10 years that I can remember, beaten me at farmer’s walk. Even though his grip’s better, my ability to move with weight is better, and that’s a difference.


These stones constantly whack into your legs. You have 188 kilos in one hand, so that’s over 400 pounds in one hand. Then the 340 odd pounds in the other. It’s very awkward, very painful. [laughs]


The people that look after the stones up there, the people around that are involved in stone lifting are so passionate about what they do, and it rubbed off on me when I was there. I felt that I was part of their history. It lit a fire in me. I really switched on, and I managed to not just break the record, but I smashed it, to be honest.

David TaoDavid Tao

Let’s transition as we come up toward the end of this recording here. You mentioned a name earlier in the recording, someone who reminded you of yourself, Evan Singleton, as an up and coming competitor. Someone who has I’ll say he kind of burst onto the scene and onto the radar of a lot of folks.


As the commentator and as a fan of the sport, are there any other names right now that pop up when you think of folks that you really enjoy watching compete? Or specifically, anyone who you enjoy doing commentary on when they compete?

Big LozBig Loz

Right now, I think we’re in a very exciting time for the sports. There’s a number of athletes that I have loads of time for and I’m genuinely excited to see competing.


I’m really excited to see Kieliszkowski returning. He’s going to be competing at the WUS event in Dubai this month. Super excited to see him back in shape. If he’s come back, and he’s even close to as good as he was before, I still rate him as the best strongman in the world. If he’s back in shape, that’s going to be exciting.


We’ve got the return of Licis happening at the Rogue Invitational. Those two guys for me was the guys we all looked at, after Zydrunas and Brian and Thor and Eddie. These were the guys that were going to take the sport and battle it out between each other.


Suddenly, they both got injuries and we’ve seen an influx of incredible youngsters, such as Novikov, such as Tom Stoltman, Maxime Boudreault, Evan Singleton, Trey Mitchell, Bobby Thomson. There’s just this list. Luke Stoltman, we’ll chuck him in there. There’s so many great guys right now.


I’m missing off names as well. There is so much talent in the pool of athletes right now that it’s a very exciting time to watch strongman because you’re not getting the same guy dominate every single show and year after year.


You can go to a show, and we’ve seen it this year. We’ve almost had a different winner every single show. All the Giants Live have been different winners. You had World Strongest Man where Tom Stoltman comes and wins.


Novikov doesn’t make the final of World’s. He’s the only athlete that’s probably been the most consistent performer in all the other shows. He’s got two wins, and he’s been on the podium in everything else that he’s done, but he didn’t make the final of World Strongest Man.


It shows how high the standard is right now. If someone’s slightly off their game, if the events are slightly different, it changes everything in terms of the outcome.


For me sitting there watching, doing the commentating, doing my analysis, it makes it fun, because you don’t know who’s going to win.

David TaoDavid Tao

 I don’t want to say it’s a golden age for the sport, because smarter people than I have to determine that, but it certainly is a great time to be a fan. It’s a great time to cover the sport.


If folks want to follow along with the work you do, whether it be coaching, commentary, media, where the best places for people to do that?

Big LozBig Loz

The best place, Big Loz Official on YouTube, that’s where I am most active. Also, @biglozwsm on Instagram, and my website

David TaoDavid Tao

Thank you so much for joining us, an absolute pleasure getting to chat. I look forward to you bringing us coverage of the sport for many years to come. Especially, in the back half of 2021 with a lot of great competitions left to come.

Big LozBig Loz

Thank you so much. Take it easy.