The highly anticipated boxing match between 2018 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) champion Hafthor “The Mountain” Björnsson and Canadian arm-wrestler Devon Larratt is fast approaching. On Sept. 18, 2021, those two heavyweights will step into the squared circle in Dubai, UAE, as the main event of CoreSports’ Fight Night 3.
Six days before the main event bout, Larratt got in one final conditioning session with strongman Laurence Shahlaei. The one-off training session together in the gym included safety bar squats with resistance bands and chains, landmine presses, battle ropes, tire slams with a sledgehammer, and more. Check out the video of their session below, courtesy of Shahlaei’s YouTube channel:
As the chains were set up for the start of their conditioning session, Larratt and Shahlaei discussed the importance of cardio and endurance after the adrenaline wears off at the start of a fight. Larratt has over a decade and a half of experience in the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, including seven deployments to Afghanistan. Despite that, he admits that endurance was the “main thing” he has worked on with the short six weeks of training he’s been privy to since replacing 2017 WSM champion Eddie Hall as Björnsson’s opponent.
That was probably my biggest deficiency coming in.
A competitive arm wrestler needs to be engaged for, give or take, 30-second bursts. Larratt is one of the best in the world at an arm-wrestling table and seems well aware of the additional endurance he needs to battle through three-minute rounds in a boxing ring. Larratt shared his expectations for the upcoming workout while leaning over a yoke:
I think I might vomit during this one. Puke all over this beautiful establishment.
The conditioning session focused on exercises that help enable “explosive power.” That includes accessory work and interval training.
The session kicked off with walking lunges that featured the yoga pose known as Warrior II. The two men loosened up the hamstrings, hips, and lower back with active stretching, lateral lunges, and walkouts. They warmed up their shoulders with scapula retractions and resistance band pulls.
Because he’s an arm wrestler — bosting biceps so developed they look like softballs under his skin — Larratt has some issues with shoulder mobility. Once Larratt and Shahlaei were sufficiently warmed up, the conditioning session kicked off.
The first exercise in the queue was safety bar front squats with chains. Both men started light to get a feel for the barbell and worked up in weight. The eccentric portion of their reps was slow, and the concentric portions were swift, accenting the focus on explosiveness. Both Larratt and Big Loz then superset those with jumping bodyweight squats, dumbbell jump squats, and rotating Pallof presses.
Despite being a world-class arm wrestler, it was not until securing this fight against “The Mountain” that Larratt hired a trainer:
This is the first time in my entire life, ever, that I’ve worked with a trainer.
The second half of the session for Larratt led with banded pull-ups for reps superset with medicine ball slams. While the arm wrestler fought gravity on the pull-up bar, Shahlaei knocked out inverted rows with chains before heading for the medicine ball himself.
Maintaining stability while an opponent actively tries to knock you off balance is a valuable skill to have as a boxer. To train stability, Larratt held a trap bar loaded with a weight plate on each sleeve while standing on one leg. After sustaining that hold for some time, Larratt’s trainer pulled one of the weight plates off, compelling Larratt to maintain his balance despite the trap bar remaining loaded on only one side.
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Larratt’s first attempt inside the trap bar saw him fall to one side when a weight plate was removed. However, he learned from his mistake quickly, and the following rounds saw much less movement. Shahlaei was not quite as steady but was much more stable on his left leg than his right.
The final section of the workout was a superset of banded landmine presses and rotating wall balls. There was an emphasis for the wall ball throws to generate power from the hips rather than the shoulder as though throwing a straight punch (also known as a cross).
The session closed with the following two supersets:
- Glute ham raises — 12 reps
- Face pulls with external rotation (for the rotator cuffs) — 12 reps
- Tire slams with a sledgehammer
- Battle ropes
The latter superset lasted three minutes, following a pattern of 20 seconds of action followed by 10 seconds of rest. The conditioning session finished with a trip to the ice baths.
Fight Night 3 in Dubai
Considering Larratt stepped in to replace Hall on short notice, Larratt has tempered expectations of his fight against Björnsson:
“I’ll…do the best I can…I’m not planning on backing down,” Larratt says. “I’m planning on fighting my very hardest. I have minimal expectations. Whatever happens, I’m not going to be let down…all the pressure is on him.
The bout is scheduled for six three-minute rounds with 12-ounce gloves. It will be available to view for $9.99 plus tax on CoreSports.world and includes the other eight fights on the card, which features CrossFit Games veterans Jacob Heppner vs. Josh Bridges and powerlifter Stefi Cohen vs. Marcela Nieto.
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Will Larratt be able to pull off the upset victory against Björnsson? The odds are seemingly stacked against him, but his training suggests he’s given himself the best shot possible.
Feature image: @devlarratt on Instagram