Competition Tips for the Traveling Strongman

Strongman is becoming popular, really popular. More and more gyms are offering strongman equipment for their members, leading to more folks looking to test their strength and ultimately more competitions themselves. In short, throw a stone on any given weekend, and you’ll likely hit a strongman event, they really are getting that popular.

While that last statement might be a stretch, you can pretty consistently find a comp every weekend if you are willing to sit in a car for a couple of hours, especially in the UK. This is fantastic news for all strongman competitors, but especially beginners for whom a 12 hour round trip can understandably seem overly daunting. As they start to accumulate swords, axes, and trophies though, they will find themselves traveling further and further afield as the opportunities present themselves.    

This poses a serious problem though as a competition nears: training slows down, calories go up, as do fluids and recovery time. The end result of all this is hopefully you being the strongest and fittest version of yourself. Now compare that to the last time you travelled long distance cross country or abroad. Hours sat squished between two other people in that cramped position, desperately raking through the paltry selection of food available at petrol stations and airports hoping to find anything with more 10g of protein and weighing up whether staying hydrated is worth the toilet stops.

Traveling to a competition is never going to be ideal, but there are a few things you can do to make it a lot easier on yourself.

Train with the Kit You’re Taking

If you are driving to your event then the only limiting factor on your kit bag is the size of your boot/trunk, however if you are traveling on a plane/public transport you need to be aware of their limitations and how that will affect what kit you have at your disposal on game day. A few weeks out from the comp, pack the kit that you will be taking and start using it exclusively in training. This might sound unnecessary but the last thing you want to discover at a comp is that you can’t jerk without the lifting shoes you left at home or that the tacky you bought for the day is unusable without a blowtorch that you didn’t bring.  

Talking about Tacky, there are certain items that you just won’t get through security in your hand luggage:

“Sir what is this?”

“Smelling Salts – but look, bud, I know it sounds bad but you don’t want to open that,”

“Is it dangerous?”

“Nah, it’s just very very strong.”

*One Sniff*

“I think we’ll just keep hold of this.”

In hindsight I see that trying to take smelling salts called “revive the dead” in my carry on luggage was just asking for trouble. What’s worse is that they they then proceeded to relieve me of my tacky and chalk. Get checked luggage and put everything of importance in there; it’s just not worth the risk.  

Go Easy on the Caffeine

Coffee and caffeine in general is something very close to my heart. I try to avoid going overboard, but those 2 to 3 cups just makes the everyday that little bit better. This daily consumption comes at a cost, and that cost is tolerance. And if you drink more than one cup a day the same will go for you too, so my normal recommendation pre competition for folks is to deload your caffeine intake in the same manner that you deload your training. Slowly reducing your intake over a ten day period so that you completely without caffeine for 48 hours prior to the comp. This allows you reset your sensitivity to the stuff and get a lot more out of a little hit.

In the comfort of your own home this plan is easy enough, but take it on the road and it becomes a whole lot less enjoyable. Airports are tedious places and sitting in a cafe with a coffee can be one of the few enjoyable ways to break up that monotony. By all means stop by that cafe but stick to the tea.  

Embrace the Dark

Performance benefits aside, there is another very good reason to cut back on caffeine while traveling: better sleep. Sleep is in my opinion the most overlooked part of comp prep, athletes will deload to a T, eat right and do everything else perfectly and then get to their hotel room and not be able to sleep a wink. This is such a shame as sleep like anything else can be trained and improved with a little work. The further you’re traveling the more important this becomes as cramped plane seats, bad hotel beds, and time differences all add up to take their toll.

To counter this you need to take action long before you get to that hotel room: build a simple routine around going to bed. You’ve heard it all before: dark room, no electronics, read a book in bed etc. whatever works for you and then replicate that on the road. Also as shameful as it can be take an eye mask with you, just do it. If by some cruel twist of fate your hotel has the world’s thinnest curtains you’ll be glad you did.

Eat What You Know

One of the best things about traveling is that you get to explore new cultures through their food and drink. If you are competing, however, you’re going to have to postpone living like a local until after the show. Stick to the things that you know and that work well for you, if you have to bring them with you from home so be it. They’ll be plenty of time to eat fermented shark and drink chili schnapps at the after party. Personal experience tip: stay away from rotary chicken in Lisbon on a Sunday.


Sitting in the same cramped and uncomfortable position for hours on end is just part of the reality of long haul flights. But it won’t help you perform at your best, so do whatever you can to move as much possible. Haggle for the aisle seat and get up as much as possible. When you’re at the airport or hotel you’ll have a bit more freedom and I suggest taking these opportunities to move as much as you can. Take a band with you and use it to move your body in an athletic manner as often as you can. You’ll get odd looks, but do you really care?

Befriend Anyone and Everyone that Speaks English (or Whichever Language You Speak)

If you are in a country that doesn’t speak English as a first language, there will be things said that you don’t understand even if the entire comp is run in English. Ask a ton of questions and get everything confirmed by two people. This way you won’t be disqualified for dropping the log from overhead….   

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.