Mitchell Hooper had one of the most remarkable rookie strongman seasons of the modern era. Hooper made his professional debut at the 2022 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) contest and finished eighth overall after stunning fellow competitors and spectators alike with his speed and agility. He continued the back half of the 2022 season with a string of podium finishes.
Hooper ranked second at the 2022 Giants Live Strongman Classic and the 2022 Giants Live World Open, third at the 2022 Shaw Classic and 2022 Rogue Strongman Invitational, and won the 2022 Arnold Strongman Classic UK and 2022 Giants Live World Tour Finals. He also set a new Dinnie Stones world record hold. Six podium finishes with two wins will be a tough act to follow in 2023, but Hooper seems up to the test.
On Nov. 21, 2022, the phenom took to his YouTube channel to share the seven lessons he learned over the whirlwind of his rookie strongman season. Check it out below:
1. Be Ready for Change
Though it is relatively common for last-minute changes to occur in amateur strongman contests, Hooper also acknowledges how much variance impacts elite strongman contests. Events, event times, competitors, and other variables in competition change constantly. In 2022, athletes withdrew from competitions due to injury, travel issues, visa issues, and fatigue, to name a few.
The most unexpected change was arguably Evan Singleton in the 2022 WSM group stages. Singleton withdrew from the contest after suffering a heat stroke on the first day but then was allowed to reenter the competition on the second day after he was cleared by medical.
It’s all in flux the entire time.
At the 2022 Rogue Strongman Invitational, the events were delayed from their initial schedule, which threw off the planned nutrition and hydration plan Hooper had mapped out for himself. He also mentioned the turn order of events — the winner of the previous event goes last, the runner-up goes second to last, and so on.
If an athlete finishes first in event one, they are last to attempt in event two, but if they are last in event two, they are first to go in event three. That means the rest times between events are constantly unknown. Strongman competition is structured as ‘the rich get richer,’ so to speak, where those who perform best in each event are always favored in the subsequent event.
[Related: Martins Licis Named New Captain of Team USA for 2022 World’s Strongest Nation Contest]
2. Brotherhood in Strongman
The strongmen at the top of the sport travel around the globe to compete against each other. The pool of athletes at the highest level is shallow compared to other sports and highlights just how impressive of a splash Hooper’s rookie season was.
There are very few poor sportsmen in the strongman scene.
Constantly seeing and competing against the same faces creates brotherhood amongst the athletes, and Hooper learned how strong those bonds are.
3. Consistency Over Specialty
Every event is worth the same number of points in strongman competition. Being a specialist in an event may help one excel, mainly if it’s an event consistently scene in competition, such as the deadlift or the Atlas Stones, but the scoreboards reward consistency.
Hooper’s string of success in 2022 came not from being the best at any one event but not being weak in any event. Hooper had never trained a truck pull or the like before the 2022 WSM contest. His poor showing in the Bus Pull event didn’t completely derail his performance because he was consistent everywhere else. Tom Stoltman won his second WSM title in 2022 on the back of never finishing worse than third in any event in the Final.
4. It’s All a Business
While elite strongmen are athletes, Hooper recognizes that interacting with promoters and fans, making content, and being selective about invites are all necessary for success in the sport. Everything in the sport is built around making money and generating interest in the sport.
While prize support isn’t tremendous compared to other strength sports like CrossFit, the trend for prize purses has slanted upward over the past few years. Most notable in that regard is the Rogue Strongman Invitational as the first contest to ever feature a six-figure prize purse for first place (as has been the case for both editions of the strongman contest).
5. Politics Are Real, Favoritism Is Not
Hooper suggests that different regions’ promoters invite certain athletes to their contests even if they have not necessarily done much to qualify for that event. He cites his inclusion at the 2022 WSM contest:
I had no business being invited, but I played the game, I worked hard on the back end to make sure they knew who I was [for] a shot.
Taking action worth attention extends to everyone. Powerlifter Jamal Browner, an all-time deadlift world record holder in the 110-kilogram weight class, was invited to the World Deadlift Championships despite not having never competed as a strongman. Browner did not compete at that event.
Thinking about a quirk, niche, or character to play to bring some level of entertainment to the sport could propel the time it takes to make it to the pro stage. While athletes need strength to compete, having an outgoing personality is also essential.
6. The Biggest Battle is Boredom
Dealing with boredom during strongman competition is a huge obstacle. Competing in each event is typically a 30-second to minute-long endeavor. At the WSM contest, each competitor competed for a total of, give or take, six minutes, but the competition was a week long.
Finding ways to cope with boredom during competition to maintain focus and composure can lead to improved results. Interacting with fans, family, and fellow competitors is a way to fill the time, but knowing how to deal with downtime during competition is crucial to success.
7. Strongman Isn’t Everything
Hooper went from obscurity in the sport to what he believes is a top-5 strongman on the planet. His recent results support that claim. However, Hooper doesn’t feel that turning pro deters him from running a business, maintaining a healthy relationship with his partner, or staying consistent with content production. While Hooper is in a position to let go of all his other work to be a full-time strongman as his primary means of income, he doesn’t feel he has to.
Hooper has proven time and time again that he has a knack for honest reflection without a hint of ego. It has proven an invaluable part of his personality that has enabled him to recognize previous weaknesses as objective areas for improvement and improve upon them he has. We’ll see how much better he comes out of the gates in the 2023 season now that the sport knows he is a contender to win any contest he enters.
Featured image: @mitchellhooper on Instagram