Strongman Contests and Safety: How the Sport Can Adapt to Social Distancing

How the pandemic is affecting athletes' abilities to get together and compete with an illness that is everywhere.

With every state setting it’s own recommendations for Social Distancing, traveling from other places, and what businesses can operate, holding an athletic event can be a nightmare. COVID has canceled almost all events from every amateur sport world-wide!

In the midst of this, there have been a handful of smaller events contested and even Iceland’s Strongest Man was held, crowning Hafthor Bjornsson for the tenth time. Many people are asking how we can continue on with our sport, that by nature, brings sweaty people, breathing hard in close contact with each other. With some creativity we can make the situation safer and still work as hard as we did in the past.

Note: The information on BarBend should not take the place of medical advice, nor should it take the place of advice from local, state, and national authorities in regard to social distancing and pandemic safety protocols. Please abide by your location’s recommended best practices for social distancing and transmission mitigation.

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

Move Outside

In recent years, many strongman events have gained popularity and moved indoors to large venues like stadiums. While this was celebrated when it happened, arenas circulate the air much less efficiently than being outside. By having events outdoors we can:

  • Increase the space between athletes and spectators
  • Improve the air quality between people competing
  • Get back to the roots of traditional strongman games that have been held outdoors since recorded time

For local events, a few tents, tables, and chairs keep people out of the sun and comfortable while being able to maintain social distancing. If you are running an event, consider the space, your local situation (as far as the outbreak is concerned) and find a great outdoor venue to hold your next event.

Use Objects That Can Be Easily Cleaned

Unfortunately a few traditional pieces of equipment (like stones and sandbags) can be very difficult to clean between events. While under normal circumstances the CDC indicates surface transmission is less likely, it cannot be counted out. With sweat, spit and other bodily fluid discharge being likely during every strongman event, promoters and athletes should be aware of using the right equipment and keeping it in great shape.

  • Metal equipment with smooth surfaces can be easily cleaned with an approved disinfectant and reduce the likelihood of transmission
  • Athletes and helpers (or anyone who touches the equipment) should wash their hands before and after each use of the implements
  • Athletes should wear as much protective gear as possible, (especially high socks on deadlifts) to prevent getting blood on the bar

Virtual Contests, or at Least Qualification Systems

Participation in contests har grown by leaps and bounds, and that has been great for the sport. Events like the Arnold attract hundreds of participants and unfortunately this increases the risk of exposure for everyone who is involved. By using an online system to better run the qualification for these events, many can still participate and still keep the risk of spreading any diseases.

  • Open the field to all and have a video submission system to advance in the contest
  • Use things that can be easily standardized like logs, loadable kegs, and push sleds to determine the events for the contest
  • Invite only the top athletes in each category to the in-person event

Completely Changing What It Means to Compete

Almost everyone equates a competition with an actual contest. The fact that people actually stick with a sport that is on the most extreme end of the strength curve long enough to get good at it makes you a competitor in itself. While there are fantastic benefits to traveling to contests and meeting up with friends working against yourself can provide benefits you never thought of.

This can be a perfect time to fix your weaknesses and improve your strengths.

Set up a 12 week program that does just that:

  • Pick two events that give you issues like a max overhead or a farmers walk.
  • Now chose two events you are awesome at that, contrast those like a deadlift and stones.
  • The last and fifth event should be one that you love and you can train to chase a record. Whether it is a gym, friends, national, or world record it should be well defined.
  • Put your contest together and work towards it. Now every year you have your own personal championships to attend. This is one of the single most important things you can do to make yourself a better athlete. Instead of chasing goals promoters set for everyone, your personal choices can work around injuries and other issues you may be hiving.

Being open to compromise will allow us to continue to compete and interact with each other and test our limits. Strongman is composed of some of the smartest and capable athletes on the planet; let’s lead the way back to contests for other sports.

Featured image: @theworldsstrongestman on Instagram