I had the pleasure of being the live stream broadcaster for a first-ever event this weekend (August 27th-28th); Strongman Corporation’s Strongest Woman in the World. After watching some of the most amazing female strength athletes on the planet, I began to ask myself, “Have we seen the limits to how strong these athletes can get? How close can they get to the strength of top male athletes, for instance?”
With 25 years of coaching experience and hundreds of books consumed on the subject of human athletics, I haven’t seen anyone attempt to answer that question when it comes to the relatively new sport of strongman.
From what I have seen, the average 180 lb Professional Strongwoman (who likely has a regular job and trains five days per week) will almost always out lift the average gym “bro” with a similar life schedule. I am certain of this because I have been training people in the gym for years, and most guys rarely break 405 in the deadlift — and I’ve seen these women pull it for sets of five. I believe we finally have an answer to the outdated question pondered by some male athletes with inflated egos: “You think a woman can beat me?”
Well, yes, yes I do. Especially the average Joe VS. a well conditioned machine.
You must examine the best athletes in their professional sports at their peak. And with more competitions and athletes than ever, we’re finally starting to see what female strongman competitors are capable of, though it’s likely just the tip of the iceberg.
When you look at a sport like running, women’s times fall short of men’s by just 10 percent in almost any event, whether it is sprint or endurance racing. Over the last decade of Strongman coaching I have noticed this same observational similarity. I regularly see male and female athletes of similar weight approaching similar reps and distances on the athletic events. In a purely strongman trademark event, Donna Moore (around 220 lbs) has the World Record stone of 327 lbs. This is 148% percent of her weight. Brian Shaw (around 430 lbs) only hits 125% of his weight with the 550 stone record.
Looking purely at the stone in an absolute manner, most 220 pound men are thrilled with a 327 pound load. This is interesting because I understand while many well trained men will argue that they can rep this stone, the pool of women training at this weight class is minuscule compared to the men (for now). If we increase the sample, what would happen? The best way is to look at men and women in the 180 pound category where there are many more competitors already. Head to head, many 180 pound women would keep pace of men at a similar ability level.
As more and more women gravitate to the sport, the opportunities for them to have better coaching, equipment, and access to prize money will expand their abilities to improve. Less than a decade ago, only 16 women competed in Strongman Nationals. The 2015 season had over 70 women at Nationals, with many more qualified.
In pondering this, something stood out to me as even more incredible than all the other performances at this amazing contest.
Strongman Corporation Professional Danielle Schwalbe cleaned and pressed a 175 pound strongman log 12 times in just sixty seconds. In a live interview I conducted with her immediately after the event, she was nonplussed and proclaimed that she could have done 24 if she had two minutes. This is (basically) bodyweight from ground to overhead unbroken, one rep every five seconds. She is an outlier — dare I say extreme to outside of the curve — and I’ve called her the best strongman presser for repetitions in the world. There are plenty of good pressers in the sport, so it’s a bold statement on my part. I don’t like to make unsubstantiated claims.
Naturally, this got me thinking about “Grace” (30 repetitions of clean & jerk for time with prescribed weight, 135 pounds for men and 95 pounds for women). How would she do? Would it be easy? Could she beat most competitive athletes (who practice) this workout?
So, I called her up and laid down the challenge. She immediately accepted, but only if she could use Men’s RX’d weight of 135 pounds. Her coach Matt Wattles and I had a brief discussion as to how this would affect her training, and his main concern was that she was rested enough from her victory in Jacksonville.
So this article is my statement of faith. In the next week, Dani will run “Grace” at 135 pounds for the first time ever, and BarBend will highlight the video on their website and social outlets.
I believe that the results will floor you.
I believe that she will be close to any Elite man that posts his time — and that she will beat quite a few.
I believe she will show what incredible strength strongwomen are capable of and how incredibly close they already are to the strength, speed, and endurance of male athletes.
And I believe athletes like Dani signal the beginning of a new era of women’s strength.
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
Featured image: Michele Wozniak, Strongman Corporation
Mike Gill is a retired 105kg professional strongman and currently a broadcaster for Strongman Corporation. He has a background in all weight disciplines and has competed in Bodybuilding, Powerlifting and Weightlifting. He can be reached at @prostrongman onTwitter, Snapchat, and Instagram.