Elite strongmen are larger-than-life figures. They often tower over non-strongman civilians and weigh at least twice as much as someone they’ll walk past on the street. Their livelihoods involve lifting cartoonishly heavy weights off the floor, moving gargantuanly heavy implements from one place to another for time, and pushing the limits of what the human body is capable of in terms of strength.
The equipment and fitness gear strongmen use to help them perform jaw-dropping feats of strength are essential for protecting their joints, skin, hands, health, and overall well-being during training and competition. Two-time Scotland’s Strongest Man (SSM) Andy Black took to his YouTube channel on June 17, 2022, to share what apparel, fitness gear, and accessories are in his gym bag. Strength Shop sponsors him, but his explanations for what he carries in his gym bag and why are insightful nonetheless.
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Andy Black’s Gym Bag
Here’s everything Black carries with him when he heads to the gym or the arena to compete:
- Resistance Bands
- Rock Climbing Boots
- Knee Sleeves
- Wrist Wraps
- Elbow Sleeves (double and triple-ply)
- Slingshot Under Belt & Velcro Belt
- Lifting Straps
- Talcum Powder
- Deadlift Suit and Neoprene Shorts
- Knee Wraps
- Tiger Balm
- Phyto Rub (for joints)
- Glucose Tablets
Black’s Gear Explained
Below are more in-depth explanations into why Black carries specific pieces of gear in his gym bag.
Warming up and mobilization are vital for a competitive strongman. Despite the moniker of World’s Strongest Man (WSM) all the athletes seek, most events in the sport are completed for time, including but not limited to Loading Races, Medley events, Farmer’s Carries, and the Atlas Stones. It’s vital that the joints are sufficiently warmed before hoisting such heavy implements as the clock’s ticking.
Rock Climbing Boots
While Black often deadlifts or squats in Nike Jordan shoes, he also travels with a pair of rock climbing boots. That might seem strange, but many strongman events are often held outdoors, and having shoes with stiff traction helps when the terrain is integral to prevent slipping and possible injury. He’ll wear rock climbing boots for events like the Truck Pull or Conan’s Wheel.
Elbow & Knee Sleeves and Wrist Wraps
Sleeves for the knees, elbows, and wrists wrap are pretty self-explanatory. When performing a deadlift, squat, or any other hip hinge, supporting the knees is helpful, considering the weight they are lifting is usually around 800 pounds. Likewise, for overhead press events like the Log Lift, Heavy Dumbbell, or Viking Press, maintaining elbow support protects from injury. Any implement that involves downward pressure on the wrists, whether from a log or barbell, can strain the wrists significantly. The wraps help maintain wrist alignment with the forearm to prevent impinging the joint.
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Black has recently veered away from weightlifting belts in favor of a Slingshot Under Belt with a Slingshot Velcro Belt over it. The benefit of that combo is sufficient support for his core while bracing for big lifts without hindering the mobility of his hips and side-to-side movement. This is a subtle but essential nuance when performing midline challenges like a Super Yoke.
Elite strongmen almost certainly have some of the most robust grips on the planet — Hercules Hold world record holder Mark Felix might have the strongest grip of any active athlete alive. However, the weights strongmen deadlift on barbells, axle bars, or frames holding cars or other obscure loads often flirts with upwards of 1,000 pounds, sometimes more. Lifting straps remove grip as a limiting factor when attempting those immensely heavy lifts so the posterior chain can take on the brunt of the load.
Talcum Powder and Tacky
Speaking of those heavy lifts, that’s a lot of potential pull on the skin if there’s any unwanted friction. Talcum powder prevents that potentially bleak future from becoming a reality by keeping the sweat at bay. Additionally, the powder can make removing tacky used for lifting Atlas Stones easier. Tacky is also in Black’s bag. It may come as a surprise, but tacky is not standardized in elite strongman competition, so athletes can use the tacky they prefer. Black uses Spider Tack cause he likes how stringy and sticky it is when lifting stones.
Deadlift Suit and Knee Wraps
Unlike powerlifting, where there are different divisions for lifting raw versus equipped, strongman has no such categoires. The only thing that matters in a max lift in strongman is lifting the max weight. Therefore, strongmen often use a lifting suit when possible to get more weight from the group to the lockout during a deadlift. Black wears a single-ply suit.
The same notion goes for knee wraps. While strongmen often wear sleeves when they squat, during a max squat event like the one at the 2022 Arnold Strongman Classic, many strongmen opt for the stiffer option of knee wraps.
Black suggests that having a mouthguard helps improve his lifts. While the research around that is inconclusive, Black notes that the feeling of having a mouthguard to bite down on helps his big lifts. Safe to take a tip from one of the best in the world on this topic until the science clarifies it further. (1)
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[Related: Konstantine Janashia Withdraws From 2022 Giants Live Strongman Classic, Replaced by Maxime Boudreault]
2022 Strongman Classic
Black most recently competed at the 2022 WSM contest in Sacramento, CA. He was one of the two reserves for the competition alongside Jerry Pritchett. The day before the start of the Qualifying Group stage, Pa O’Dwyer of Ireland withdrew from the contest, and Black got the call that he’d step in as O’Dwyer’s replacement. Black ultimately finished fifth in Group One and did not reach the WSM Final.
The two-time SSM champion will return to the strongman competition floor on July 9, 2022, at the 2022 Giants Live Strongman Classic at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England. Several of his fellow 2022 WSM competitors will compete against him in London, including 2022 WSM bronze medalist Oleksii Novikov, Evan Singleton, Maxime Boudreault, Mitchell Hooper, Mark Felix, Rob Kearney, and Adam Bishop. We’ll see if Black can flip the script and step onto the podium.
- Miró, A., Buscà, B., Aguilera-Castells, J., & Arboix-Alió, J. (2021). Acute Effects of Wearing Bite-Aligning Mouthguards on Muscular Strength, Power, Agility and Quickness in a Trained Population: A Systematic Review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(13), 6933. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18136933
Featured image: @andy_black on Instagram