From Running Marathons to World’s Strongest Man (w/Mitchell Hooper)

Today I’m talking to Canadian strongman phenom Mitchell Hooper. After just a few short years of elite strongman competition, Hooper burst into the conversation by qualifying for the World’s Strongest Man Final in his first year at that competition — a meteoric rise in the sport. Now, he has his sights set on more, including world record deadlifts. Mitchell joints the podcast to talk about his broader professional and wellness goes, and he also explains how we made the progression from marathon runner to world’s strongest man contender in under 5 years.

Before we get into that, I want to give a quick shoutout to today’s episode sponsor, Athletic Greens. I first tried Athletic Greens back in 2012. It was already a massively popular daily supplement, and since then, they’ve undergone dozens of formulation tweaks, each an improvement on the last. It’s the rare all-in-one greens supplement that’s NSF-certified — a must for competitive athletes — and also tastes delicious (I’m probably a bit biased because I love the subtle notes of pineapple and vanilla). Interested in trying it? Visit to get a free gift with your purchase.


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In this episode of The BarBend Podcast, David Thomas Tao and Mitchell Hooper discuss: 

  • Mitchell’s crazy two weeks following the 2022 World’s Strongest Man (1:50)
  • What took Mitchell to Australia, and what inspired him to become a clinical exercise physiologist (3:00)
  • Mitchell’s athletic background, including marathon running (4:10)
  • His super-accurate powers of prediction (6:50)
  • “My concerns came to fruition” (11:50)
  • Mitchell’s clinical practice, and the type of people he’s most passionate about working with (16:00)
  • Why Mitchell doesn’t have outcome-based goals in the sport of strongman — and what his primary goal really is (23:09)

Relevant links and further reading

Featured image courtesy World’s Strongest Man


If I won World’s Strongest Man four or five times, and I didn’t do something with that platform, I wouldn’t be happy with myself.

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 Canadian Strongman Phenom, Mitchell Hooper. After just a few short years of elite Strongman competition, Hooper burst into the conversation by qualifying for the World’s Strongest Man final in his first year at that competition, a meteoric rise in the sport.


Now, he has his sights set on board, including world record deadlifts. I’m not kidding. Mitchell joins the podcast to talk about his broader professional and wellness goals. He also explains how he made the progression from marathon runner to World’s Strongest Man contender in under five years. It’s kind of insane.


Before we get into that, I want to give a quick shoutout to today’s episode sponsor, Athletic Greens. I first tried Athletic Greens back in 2012. It was already a massively popular daily supplement. Since then, they’ve undergone dozens of formulation tweaks, each an improvement on the last.


It tastes delicious, and I’m a little biased there because I love the subtle notes of pineapple and vanilla. It’s the rare all-in-one green supplement that’s NSF certified, a must for competitive athletes. Interested in trying it? Visit to get a free gift with your purchase.


Now let’s get on to the show.


Mitchell, I’m really excited to chat today. As of recording this, we’re not even two weeks out from World’s Strongest Man 2022. My first question for you is have you rested up? Have you caught up on sleep yet? How are you feeling about two weeks out?

I got back from World’s a week ago Monday at midnight. My first client on Tuesday morning was at 9:00 AM. It’s been a race since then. To answer your question, no, I’m not caught up on sleep, but I’m fairly fulfilled in not being caught up on sleep.


It’s not the biggest deal, system’s recovering OK. I rolled my ankle. That was the injury I came away with. That’s probably back to 90 percent or so. The sixth day certainly takes a toll on your body.


David TaoDavid Tao

Yeah, it’s a lot over the course of the qualifying rounds and then, obviously, the final. Spoiler alert for those who don’t know, you qualified for the final in a really fantastic fashion.


I want to dig into something you said there. Not only are you a professional Strongman, you’re one of the best in the world. You’re active in another aspect of the fitness community. Tell us about the day job.

To give some backstory, I graduated with my Bachelor of Human Kinetics in Canada, 2016. I worked with the professional basketball team in a national league in Canada, thought that strength conditioning was the best thing that ever existed, did it for a year, and realized that it certainly wasn’t the best thing that existed for me.


I looked at something more meaningful, and that took me to Australia. I did my master’s in exercise physiology, which is exercising people to treat or prevent chronic conditions and injury, with the intent of learning that and then bringing it back.


I moved back in December this year. Three weeks before World’s Strongest Man, the dream came to fruition, and I’m sitting in my clinic right now.

David TaoDavid Tao

Wait, you started at the clinic three weeks before World’s Strongest Man?

[laughs] A bit of a punish, schedule-wise, but yeah, I did.

David TaoDavid Tao

Oh, my goodness, talk about life change after life change. You’ve been the ultimate busy bee. Jeez, Louise. Let’s rewind. This is your first year at World’s Strongest Man, correct?


David TaoDavid Tao

You qualified for the final in your first year. One thing that I think it took a lot of spectators a little while to wrap their heads around was how relatively new you are to the sport of Strongman. How did you get into the sport?

When I moved to Australia, the last thing I had done was run marathons. I’d always liked lifting heavy, so I started a gym that was in an industrial park because I enjoyed that setting. Then the people there did powerlifting. From powerlifting, I naturally progressed into Strongman. Some people there also did Strongman.


In my first comp, I qualified for the Amateur Arnolds. That was canceled. My second comp, I qualified for New South Wales state titles. I won that state title. I won the ACT state title, which is the neighboring state in Australia.


Then I set the Static Monsters world record. I won one other local comp. That was the extent to my experience before being invited to World’s Strongest Man.


David TaoDavid Tao

That is a meteoric rise, and it may be the definition of it.


I’m curious. How many years was it between you going from running marathons to competing at World’s Strongest Man? That’s an athletic progression I haven’t heard before.

[laughs] I ran the Toronto Marathon. That was the last one that I did. I did that maybe six months before I moved to Australia. Without being on record, it would have been about four and a half years.

David TaoDavid Tao

Four and a half years from marathon runner to World’s Strongest Man finalist. That’s a new one for me. I’ve interviewed a lot of people on this podcast and I’m a little flabbergasted. Did you have a strength background before strong man?

Not really. I have a strength frame and I’ve always had a strength interest. Even when I ran marathons, I had a proclivity to go try to bench press my 1RM. It was pathetic. Before running marathons, I did a little bit of body building.


Before that, I played American football. Before that and interspersed between competitive golf and hockey before that. I’ve made my way around everything.

David TaoDavid Tao

Are you still doing much running today?

No. I ran to get here to this interview and that’s about it. Now, the thing is though, stuff like that, the conditioning for strong man is so specific. You need to be fit for 60 to 75 seconds. I don’t think people understand how fit you have to be to clean and press a log for 75 seconds.


It takes a lot out of you. I think that fitness background still benefits me to this day. I thought that going into World’s Strongest Man, I focus so much on my static lifts but my conditioning probably wasn’t where I wanted it to be. I turned out to be the most conditioned person there. There’s a lot to be learned from that.

David TaoDavid Tao

Did you have any specific expectations going into World’s Strongest Man this year?

Expectation is the wrong word. Prediction. I put out a prediction video and I was pretty much bang on. I thought that I was probably capable of winning most groups that I’d be in, and it shook out.


I don’t think that this is a fair comparison to a lot of the top prize because people have different intentions in the heat, if they have a heat that they could easily win. After the heats, I would have been in second overall, if you pulled everyone, second to Oleksii Novikov.


I had a pretty good idea that those events would line up well for me. After my group got announced, my confidence in that went down a touch. Then I knew that the first day the finals could go really well, and I knew that the second day the finals would be tougher.


I predicted that if the competition was ran a thousand times over, I would have finished somewhere between third and sixth. I underperformed in the final slightly. That prediction is probably pretty accurate.


It takes a lot of pressure off you to say, “I know exactly what I’m capable of and what I’m not capable of.” I thought I could definitely come third but in no way did I think I could come first. [laughs] I had no expectations of that. I think that’s the fine line you walk between confidence and arrogance.


You have to recognize I can do this and I cannot do this, and there’s other people who are 100 percent better than me.

David TaoDavid Tao

That is one of the biggest mental challenges for professional athletes. A lot of people underestimate is the fact that you have to be realistic and confident at the same time and everyone balances that differently.


Out of the qualifying events at this year’s World’s Strongest Man, did any stick out to you as a favorite? Something you were excited to tackle and something where you performed up to your expectations or beyond maybe?

I did everything I had to do. I won the loading medley. I won the deadlift ladder and I won the car walk. That put me in position to just keep pacing the log press and do virtually nothing on the wrecking ball hold.


The answer is more because of how things lined up. I think forever having this video where I’m side by side doing a deadlift ladder besides Brian Shaw. I beat him, but what’s more important to me, is this is a legend of the sport and here’s me and I got to go head to head with someone like that, which is to me a lifelong memory.

David TaoDavid Tao

In 10 years Brian Shaw might look back and say, “Hey, remember that time I got to go head to head with Mitchell Hooper?”

[laughs] Something tells me he won’t.

David TaoDavid Tao

Look, you never know. This is probably your first time definitely competing against a lot of the folks at World’s Strongest Man. Probably your first time meeting many of these fellows, I assume?

Yeah. Of the people competing at World’s Strongest Man, I literally had not met one of them before and I coached one of them. That was a funny thing. I was meeting one of my athletes as well.

David TaoDavid Tao

Who was that?

Coco, the Australian. Well, French representative.

David TaoDavid Tao

Is there anyone that you were especially excited to meet for the first time?

No. The reason being is there’s a completely different persona that you can put out online and a completely different persona that you can be in person. I’m trying to be as authentic as possible. From the feedback and people very close to me, I’ve pretty much the same person when you meet me.


There’s as when I say in interviews is what I say online, but there is a certain element of that, that’s easy to protect. Regardless of what you say, I’ve been pretty down the line.


I haven’t said anything crazy, but there’s some time you say, I like dogs, and someone will say, “A few cats are better, you’re an idiot,” [laughs] but it’s much easier just to say, “Look, I [laughs] had that real personality.” It’s hard to say. I was excited to meet Martins Licis because he looks like a lot of fun, maybe he isn’t. I don’t have a lot of reverence for celebrities.


It was very cool to meet Brian Schatz and get very cool to meet Mark Felix, but I don’t like to put people on pedestals, and I don’t want to be on a pedestal, either. I just want to be a dude, when you meet, people say, “I have heaps of favorites, heaps of people I love from World’s Strongest Man now that I’ve been there, but I didn’t have that feeling beforehand.”

David TaoDavid Tao

Well, this could be a saying, podiums, not pedestals. That could be the Michel Hooper say.

 [laughs] Yeah, I like that.

David TaoDavid Tao

Let’s talk about your prep for World’s Strongest Man. Were there any particular weaknesses that you were tackling in a couple of months leading up to the competition? Weaknesses being relative, because you had a pretty fantastic performance, obviously, in your first year, so I give that heavy air quotes.

Well, everyone has weaknesses. Everyone has holes, of course. When you look at the events I had concerns, the concerns came to fruition where the truck pull was something new for me, the power surge was something new for me, the car deadlift was something new for me. I hadn’t done any of those before, and I wasn’t able to do those in prep, because of my own decisions.


I knew that those things wouldn’t go as well. The Flintstone press, I chose to go in front of my head, not behind because I didn’t have a safe setup to go behind. I worked really hard to get my push press as high as I could, but I knew where my weaknesses lay, and I could have tried to work on them, but I chose to accept them instead.

David TaoDavid Tao

Understood, work in the factory, spend the energy on the factors you can control. One thing I’m curious about, I’ve talked to a number of professional Strongmen, and Strongman athletes, this is their full-time gig.


Even over the pandemic, a lot of folks in your echelon of athletes moved from, maybe having a job on the side, maybe working in strength and conditioning, being a gym owner. Now they’re just training and competing full time, you’re still very much doing that balance and you’re a month out from getting settled into your new routine and your new office.


What do your weeks look like now balancing training, and then what you’re doing in your day job?

Well, I have three things going on at the moment. I had my Strongman career. I have my online business, which is coaching, apparel, education, all that type of stuff, that business does really well. It does well without me needing to talk about it, so I don’t talk about it as much. Then, I have the clinic. [laughs] Most days I’m up around 6:30.


I find them not productive if I get up earlier than that. I’ve tried. In Australia, for about eight months, I got up at quarter after four and it just completely wore me out. It just wasn’t a practical thing to do. Normally, I’ll get up at 6:30.


I’ll have the quickest breakfast I can, which is usually a carton of egg whites, a couple of granola bar-type things, then a glass of milk and a couple of cookies or something like that. I’ll come into the office. I’ll do an hour-or-so’s worth of work on the online business.


I’ll see a couple of clients. I’ll do some networking with different allied health professionals, doctors, all of that getting the word out about what we’re doing. Around lunchtime is when I traditionally go to the gym. I’ll go to the gym, train for a couple of hours, come back, do whatever administrative work I have to do. Maybe see a couple of clients in the evening.


[laughs] What I’ve been doing the past little while I don’t have a laptop at the moment. I have a Mac computer here, one of the big, bulky, old ones. I’ve literally been carrying that from the office back home and I’ll have dinner with my fiancé. I’ll do some online programming when I get back home. I’m not the type of person who can have downtime.


I just have this innate ability, not ability, it’s a curse really and a feeling that if I have a spare hour, I need to do something new. Even after World’s Strongest Man, I had the online business going well. I had the clinic and I went, “Well, let’s do clothing. Let’s get some clothing out there.”


 I have good people that I’ve hired around me, that helped me a lot. That’s a bit of a funny relationship developing where I say like, “Let’s do this, this and this and that,” like, “Let’s relax. [laughs] Let’s take things in stride.” Yeah, I do my best to make it work. It’ll probably come to a head, and I probably have to keep hiring people smarter than me.


The benefit of that is, when you’re starting at a very low bar, it’s easy to find smarter people. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

Hey, as we were talking about before this, I know something a little something about that my friend. I do have to say one thing. If there’s anyone in the world, who is equipped to lug a heavy Mac from the office back home and back again, it’s you. It’s definitely you. Maybe, that’s a training strategy. Let’s talk a little bit about your clinical practice.


Is there a specific demographic of patient or client that you’re particularly passionate about working with?

I’m particularly passionate about working with people who are invested in their long-term health, whoever that turns out to be. Sometimes, that’ll be a young athlete and their perspective is they want to be the best performance possible, and the parents will come to me and say, “I just want them confidence in the gym so they can exercise forever.”

David TaoDavid Tao


They’re doing it for their long-term health, they don’t even know. Oftentimes, I’ll get people who are in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, who had their first significant adverse health events and they realize that they got to take care of themselves. Unfortunately, a lot of people that I see are people who are past the point of full function, and they have tried to get it back. It’s really a huge challenge.


Oftentimes, you can maintain the capabilities, but you can’t turn someone into Benjamin Button. My real goal, my real passion, my real ambition, is to have that group of people we have now, who are 60, 70, 80, 90, who are not capable of their activities of daily living, and catch those people when they’re 30, 40 and 50.


Say, women, before menopause, you have to start doing things like resistance training, or you’re going to go into muscle-wasting sarcopenia and you’re not going to be able to live your life, you’re going to be in a nursing home, your hip fracture risk will go through the roof. I could talk about this stuff all day, but that’s really what I’m passionate about.


David TaoDavid Tao

We’ll get back to the conversation in just a moment, but first, a quick shout-out to our episode sponsor, Athletic Greens. Athletic Greens is the daily all-in-one supplement with vitamins, minerals, probiotics, adaptogens, and more to help your body perform at the highest level.


It mixes easily, tastes delicious, and is a personal favorite way for me to start the day. Visit today to check it out. Now, let’s get back to the show.


Has your clinical practice influenced how you approach your training at all?

Sort of yes, sort of no. It’s impacted my mentality, where there’s a certain element that you have to accept that we are not training to be healthy. Sometimes people lose sight of that, where everything that we can do is shifting risk profiles.


If we were training not to be injured, you wouldn’t make very good progress, in our world, at our stage. Once you come to terms with that, once you accept that, you start to train in a different way.


When people ask if I’m worried about rupturing a bicep or rupturing a pec, I answer not at all because that would be like worried about getting up in the morning. I just assume that that’s going to happen. When it happens, you deal with it and move on.

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s a very level-headed approach to this. Have you dealt with any significant injuries over the course of your Strongman career thus far?

Luckily, not in my Strongman career but just before, when I was doing a bit of powerlifting. My worst one, I was at the gym, I was doing a deadlift, and the technique was monumentally horrendous. It was fantastic…


…and I felt a pop in my back. I had felt something like that before, so I put the weight down. It’s funny in retrospect. I think it was something around the 550 pound mark, which now would be a set of 20. [laughs]


After I put it down, I go and I lean on some boxes that were stacked up, some pads. I’m doing that thing where every time you exhale, you let out a big moan.


I was standing there moaning for about 10 minutes. Someone asked me if I need help. “No, no. I’m OK.” Eventually, I go from the boxes to the floor, lying down. If you’ve had a back injury, you know. Once you’re lying down, you’re not getting back up.


The ambulance had to come to the gym. The paramedics had to lift me on to the stretcher. I went off to the hospital. Unbelievably, through a Canadian health care system, they gave me enough OxyContin until I couldn’t feel it anymore and then gave me a bunch to go home with and said, “Feel better.” [laughs]


I never had a diagnosis. I never had a scan. I never had anything. I was just told to go home. I stole a walker from the hospital. I used that for about four, five days. Then I was able to walk on my own.


Two to three weeks later, I was able to start hip hinging again, deadlifting probably four weeks later or so. Deadlifting about 315, and then steady progression. There’s really no setbacks from that one. That was one of the major ones.


I had another very similar event in Australia. Because I had a little bit more knowledge at this stage, I was able to work through that faster, and I was back deadlifting in about a week’s time. That’s the extent of the significant things I’ve dealt with.


Actually, no, not true. This is a funny one. First powerlifting comp, I was walking on the beach with my fiancée. When I get nervous for comps, it doesn’t really look like when other people get nervous. I wasn’t nervous at World’s for whatever reason, but I’ll just get quiet. I’ll get a little bit irritable, but I’ll still have an outwardly exuberant demeanor.


I was chatting to my fiancée, and she didn’t really know how I got nervous at this time. She started aggravating me, and I don’t even think she knows why. We were walking on rocks by the beach. It was very, very rainy the day before, so the sand was very hard. We’re walking on rocks, and she was irritating me.


I think at one stage, I looked over to her, and I tripped off of a rock. I fell down, maybe five, six feet. I was completely fine, but I was embarrassed and frustrated, and so I punched the sand and I broke my fifth metacarpal, the classic boxer’s fracture. [laughs]


This is about two weeks, or sorry, two hours before the first lift for my state championship powerlifting. My hand was swelled up like a balloon. I’m like, “Well, we’re here. I might as well give it a crack.” [laughs]


David TaoDavid Tao

How did you manage that?

It was fine, actually. Squatting was really tough, benching was really tough, but the numbers were OK. Deadlifting was surprisingly fine.


I ended up winning the state title, which is less of an accomplishment than it sounds like. The competition isn’t that stiff there. It was certainly a mental victory for the day. We’ll call it an emotional loss and a mental lift. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

You were kind enough to share some of your professional goals and the kind of people that you really want to help as your career progresses. Let’s talk about goals in the sport of Strongman.


Look, I’ve interviewed a lot of World’s Strongest Man competitors. Every one of them has said their goal is to win World Strongest Man. I assume that is a goal of yours. You’re a very analytical person. From your perspective, like I said, I assume that, but I want to hear it from you, what are your goals in this sport?

I don’t have outcome-based goals. I don’t have the goal of winning World’s Strongest Man. I don’t really have the goal of breaking the deadlift world record. It’s certainly something that I aim to do, and I want to. I suppose it’s a goal in that way, but it’s very much secondary to my primary goal, which is that professional goal.


It’s hard for people to wrap their head around that this is just what I happen to be doing at the moment. It’s something that I love, I have so much fun doing. I think the community aspect of Strongman and the mental health aspect of Strongman is so important. From a local level and people getting involved, I’m in huge, huge support.


For me, if I won World’s Strongest Man four or five times and I didn’t do something with that, I didn’t do something with that platform, I wouldn’t be happy with myself.


When I speak to guys, and I spoke to them at World’s Strongest Man, I didn’t confront them with this, but in my head, when someone tells me their goal is to win World’s Strongest Man as many times as they can, my first question in my head goes to and then what? You win the NBA championship. That was your goal. Then what do you have to live for?


I don’t feel like it’s a smart thing to have that as something that is hugely important to you. We don’t control when our bicep ruptures. We don’t control when our pec ruptures.


What I want to accomplish in the sport of Strongman is to grow a platform to spread a message for a couple of things. One, because everyone knows someone or will become someone who is sedentary and in that population that I want to impact.


Two, I want to dissociate the idea that big, strong guys with tattoos are screaming and aggressive and slapping each other and all of these, what I would consider, undesirable-type things. I think that deters some people from going to the gym.


For example, my mom would be very, very off-put going to a commercial gym if she saw someone slamming away or screaming or whatever it is. Obviously, if you’re moving big weight, you can’t help but slam it. I wouldn’t bat an eye at that, it’s important the image that you present of yourself.


For example, I make a huge effort when I’m competing to be smiling, to be happy, in every picture to be smiling as much as I can, to be waving at everyone, to be enjoying my time there. That’s a conscious effort as much as it is a genuine emotion, and it’s for that reason.

David TaoDavid Tao

You talk about building a platform, and I think you’re well on your way. Where’s the best place or best places for people to follow along with you, not only your work in Strongman and your competition life in Strongman but also your professional life, fulfilling your other goals, helping these populations, helping people live more active, healthier lives?

The best place is on Instagram. My personal Instagram, Mitchell Hooper. I very much dissociate my goal of building a platform and my communication of my primary objective. Preaching to people about exercising when these are people who don’t want to exercise is not something that’s interesting.


I do my best to put out interesting content. Then I’ll sprinkle in a little something here and there, but I think people listen to me enough that if I speak about it on podcasts, I don’t need to jam it down your throat. I try to do entertaining stuff and all that stuff. Yes, definitely Mitchell Hooper on Instagram is the best place to find me.

David TaoDavid Tao

Mitchell, I really appreciate you taking the time today. It’s awesome to get to know you. Our editorial team’s been doing some work with you. It was a real treat for me to get a little taste of your personality and to get to know you a bit better. I think our listeners are really going to enjoy it. Thank you for your time.

Thank you very much.