Strongman Rob Kearney is preparing for the 2021 strongman season following his recovery from surgery on his ruptured triceps. Since getting back to the gym, he’s focused on winning trophies over breaking records. Part of his plan is to improve his conditioning, which in many ways is as important of a factor as maximal strength is. Events like medleys, yoke walks, keg toss, and Atlas Stones all require stamina and agility.
Luckily for Kearney, he is getting fitness help from the five-time Fittest Man on Earth®, Mat Fraser, performing some intense challenges and trying his hand at CrossFit WODs. The now-retired CrossFit Games champ sat down with the 2019 Arnold Pro Strongman Australia winner to share what life is like since stepping away from competition.
Check out the full interview below courtesy of Kearney’s YouTube channel:
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Fraser’s Life After CrossFit
The day-to-day change of pace for Fraser is stark. When he was competing at the elite level, he would “wake up and feel like [he was] dying every day for work.” Even with those days behind him, his schedule hasn’t gotten any lighter.
I’m busier than I’ve ever been.
When training for major events like the CrossFit Games, Fraser’s routine was difficult but simple: wake up, work out, eat, sleep, repeat. Nowadays, Fraser’s work is a bit more complicated, consisting of phone calls, emails, and something more akin to a “regular jobish type thing.”
One project that has resulted from that shift is becoming a coach for Hybrid Performance Method (HPM). More specifically, coaching the PSM training method within his “Hard Work Pays Off” (HWPO) program. According to their website, PSM training “uses percentages, scaling, and modifying to make workouts flexible while setting a clear path to elite performance.”
Fraser is intrigued by how proper conditioning influences other sports. The perspective on what good conditioning actually is is different through the eyes of an elite CrossFitter versus a world-class strongman. Fortunately for Kearney, he isn’t entirely a stranger to functional fitness.
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Kearney & CrossFit
The American log lift record holder got his start in strength sports through CrossFit. He walked into his first CrossFit box back in 2009 as a 210-pound high school senior and struggled through the more difficult conditioning WODs like “Fran” and “Murph.” Kearney’s outlook on conditioning in the present day is more “sport-specific.”
A medley in a competitive strongman event usually lasts around 90 seconds — a stark contrast from CrossFit endurance events, which sometimes can last over an hour. Some examples are the Ranch Loop and Atalanta events from the 2020 CrossFit Games Finals.
A lot of what Fraser would program for someone following his training practices don’t apply to Kearney’s needs as a strongman. During his interview with Kearney, Fraser says he’s getting good feedback from folks who are testing his two-hour-long training sessions. That type of training can be heavily adjusted for Kearney. Intense two-hour conditioning sessions aren’t necessarily conducive to the type of competition Kearney is preparing his body for, where many events are max-weight events like the deadlift, partial deadlift, or squat.
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Different Sports, Same Mindset
While both athletes may think and act differently when it comes to actual training, they recognize the importance of programming and sticking to it in the gym.
Fraser highlights an example of a difficult interval day on the bike. The pace or intensity was such that he wasn’t sure if he could “maintain it for 10 minutes, let alone 20 minutes,” which the workout called for. Fraser would overcome that insecurity by “not giving [himself] the option,” meaning that he would either get the workout done or fail because his body would signal that it couldn’t continue. That allowed him to gauge his current limits.
That mental toughness resonates with Kearney, who believes it is why he holds his own in strongman despite often being the smallest athlete in the competitive field.
Every time I step into the gym, whatever’s in the program is an expectation that I do it.
For context, Kearney is 5’10 tall and under 300 pounds. That’s a huge difference from competitors like the four-time World Strongest Man (WSM) Brian Shaw or Robert Oberst, who stand 6’8 and 6’7, respectively, to hold their near 400-pound frames.
Fraser categorizes failures as opportunities rather than defeat: “Failure is only failure if you don’t learn from it.”
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The Intensity of Strongman
Fraser says that the weight strongmen and strongwomen move at every competition is “unfathomable.” For the professional strongmen who don’t win a competition early in the season to qualify for WSM, Kearney notes that athletes will compete upwards of over a dozen times per year. That is a lot of stress on the nervous system. Kearney is already booked for 12 strongmen contests in 2021 between April and December — his triceps surgery was mid-October 2020.
In competition, Kearney has proven that his technique is what helps set him apart. He is one of the few strongmen who utilizes a split jerk during overhead movements like the log lift rather than a straight push press. Adding Fraser’s conditioning program to his training regimen is another avenue for Kearney to take advantage of his size.
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One thing was clear from this interview: both men respect each other’s sport and the dedication and hard work that goes into competing at the elite level. Although the competitions and events are very different in strongman and CrossFit, the mental toughness and commitment to learning good techniques are quite similar.
Fraser’s training program drops on April 1, 2021. We’ll see if it helps Kearney ascend to the top of the podium.
Featured image: Mat Fraser’s and Rob Kearney’ Instagram pages: @mathewfras | @worlds_strongest_gay