I'd like to thank Montana State University's strength and conditioning
Tudsbury for his assistance in writing this piece. Brett, a nationally ranked lightheavy
(85kg), immediately became my friend when I attended one of his Olympic lifting contests
in January of 1999. Since then we've corresponded and traded a number of strength and
conditioning ideas. Because I have been successful using some odd implement training
with my trainees, Brett was eager to innovate and try some of my suggestions.
First, a little back ground on Brett! He's 30 years old and has been
a strength coach at
Montana State in Boseman, Montana for two years. Before that he coached at
Washington State for two years. He has USAW Level 2 certification and C.S.C.S.
certification, and last year coached the 1999 Men's Collegiate National Championship
Weightlifting team. His best Snatch in the 85kg/ 187lbs class is 125kg/275lbs and best
clean/jerk is 157.5kg/347lbs.
In my opinion, Brett is one of few strength coaches I've met that
I feel is qualified to do
his job! It's a sad state of affairs in this country, but the fact is I've met some in the
strength coaching profession who were so ignorant that they couldn't even tell me the
difference between Olympic lifting and Power lifting.
Like myself Brett believes that it's the Olympic lifts that build
the best foundation for
functional strength, and this belief is no accident! Formally the President and founder of
the Chico Olympic Club, he is presently the President of the Montana Local Weightlifting
Committee for USAW.
BT: I would someday like to have my own training center here
in Bozeman. Maybe even
a USAW developmental center. Along with Steve Gough we might have a chance at
getting something like that started here. My experience of weightlifting the last couple of
years can be attributed to working with Steve. Steve is one the greatest coach's we have if not the best right now. I truly believe that too. I didn't get into weightlifting until after my
collegiate eligibility had run out, so I pursued something else to do. I now wish I had met
someone like Steve 10 years earlier.
NOTE: Steve Gough is the father of Olympian Tom Gough (94 kg. class).
Steve is also a
top level Olympic lifting coach and lives about an hour's drive from where Brett works.
Brett Tudsbury snatching
at the 1999 Amercian Open
JVA: Brett, why did you decide to incorporate strongman contest
events into your
BT: I was drawn to strongman training as a way to increase
the variation in my training
programs for my athletes, especially throwers and football players. I liked the idea of
having to lift and move objects that were awkward, bulky, and hard to handle. The
strongman events are very popular with many of our athletes because of the visibility they
get on TV. There's also a mental toughness aspect to the strongman events that has a
huge carryover into training and competing.
I also think with events like tire flipping, rock carrying, and log
pressing there's is a
conditioning factor related to strength. It's not the same kind of strength as only having to
lift with a barbell. Now if you asked my preference of training athletes it is still strongly
Olympic weightlifting, but I do like to integrate the tire flips, keg tosses, log presses, rock
lifts into the training programs during certain times of the year.
JVA: What decided you on running a strength contest?
BT: Well, it was near my testing time for throwers so I wanted
to do a couple more things
than the traditional lifts.
JVA: When and where did you hold this contest?
BT: At Montana State University Fieldhouse on December 4th,
1999. The competition
was for the men and women throwers only. Although there was a lot of interest generated
by other athletes once the competition began. It seemed like everyone was ready to try a
keg toss or tire flip.
NOTE: Since this interview, Brett has also taken over as MSU's football team's strength coach.
JVA: Was your strength contest like the SMC's on TV?
BT: Similar events, but not nearly as heavy. The tires
were much lighter, as were the
stones. My goal here was to have fun, test the level of my students, but at the same time I
did not want any injuries.
JVA: Specifically, what were the events?
BT: I had a total of six events for both the men and women,
which was your
recommendation after talking to you.
NOTE: I had previously suggested to Brett using a format with one
Olympic lifting event,
one Power lifting event, one bodybuilding event (reps), and a Hard Labor type of event.
Preferably it's best to do the first three events with implements rather than barbells or
dumbbells. I then suggested six events total, because this was the how many we had at my
county fair contest, and that was the smoothest running contest I had been to.
BT: The first event was a back squat, although it could have
easily been a front squat, and
almost was if I didn't have the clean and jerk next. I gave every lifter four attempts to get
his/her best squat effort.
The second event was a clean and jerk judged just like an Olympic
competition. Every lifter was also given four attempts. Steve Gough was the head judge
for the clean/jerks.
The third event was the keg toss. The women tossed a pony keg (23lbs)
and men tossed a
full keg (32lbs) over a crossbar. We conducted this event at the pole vault pit and used
pole vault standards. Each competitor was allowed up to two misses at a given height
before exiting the competition.
The fourth event was a tire flipping event. The women had to
flip a 225lb tire for 30 yards
for time. The men had to flip a 350lb tire for 30 yards. In the preliminaries the
competitors were going for time. The top four times went to semifinals where it was a
race and not timed. Then the top two squared off in a final.
I could have used a little bigger tires if I had them, but it was
hard trying to get two tires
exactly the same weight, so I went with what I had donated. I also remember hearing
from you that many biceps injuries occur during the tire flipping event, so I didn't want to
overdo it with the tires. I did get a lot of sore hamstrings from the tires, even though we
had trained with them for two months prior to competition.
The fifth event for women was a sandbag carry. A total of ten
sandbags weighing 70lbs
each had to be carried approximately 15 feet and loaded onto a box three feet high. As
the box became stacked higher and higher with the sandbags the event became more
difficult. The last couple of sandbags would have to be lifted to about head level. The
sandbag carry was timed and deductions were made if any of the sandbags didn't stay on
The men had a rock carrying event. I had collected eight rocks
ranging in weight from 90
to 170lbs. The rocks had to be lifted from the floor and carried 15-20 feet and flung over
a barrier into a sand pit. The barrier was about four feet off the ground. A deduction was
also made if the rock hit the barrier or didn't land into the sand pit.
The sixth and final event was an incline log press for as many reps
as can be done without
rest. The logs had notches carved out for handles. The women's log weighed
approximately 70lbs and the men's log weighted approximately 120lbs. Both logs needed
to be much heavier and will be in any future strongman competitions.
JVA: How many contestants did you have and how long did it take to complete?
BT: 10 men and 10 women and the whole thing to took about
6 hours from 10 AM to 4
JVA: Specifically, what were you trying to achieve with the events you chose?
BT: I chose the traditional squat and clean and jerk because
I wanted to know what the
athletes' maximum lifts were at that time. I also wanted to choose events that were
relevant to how we were training at that time. I didn't want to pick something that they
weren't accustomed to.
I chose the keg toss in lieu of a snatch and also because of the
carryover into a throwers
event. It was more sport specific for these athletes and they loved this event more than
any other. The tire flips showed me strength/power, and the rock carry/sandbag carry
equated as a blue collar hard labor type event. Finally, the incline log press as a test of
upper body strength and muscular endurance, also was the bodybuilding event you
To break it down:
1. Back Squat-lower body strength
2. Clean/Jerk-explosive power and strength
3. Keg Toss-sport specific power event
4. Tire Flips-power/strength
5. Rock Carry-manual labor, mental toughness
6. Incline Log press-upper body strength/muscular endurance/bodybuilding
JVA: Where did you get implements for your contest?
BT: Some local businesses donated awards and equipment! A
local beer distributor
donated the kegs. A local tire company donated tires. Big R Ranch and Home donated the
sandbags and some awards. And Universal Athletics donated some shirts and hats.
JVA: Are you going to be do some more SMC's in future, and
if so, what would you do
I've put a lot of thought into future SMC's. I would like to
add a farmer's carry of some
sort. Get heavier logs for log press and maybe do a standing push press/jerk with logs. I
also would like one more throwing event, since the throwers are the ones doing it. Also,
the next strongman might have a bit more Highland Games to it. For a football players
SMC I would choose some different events altogether.
JVA: What would you do differently for football players?
BT: If the football team did a SMC I would probably add another
type of press, either a
horizontal press or overhead press. I might also not have more than one throwing event. I
would like to see some type of dragging event for the football team, or maybe some kind
of a pushing event.
JVA: Don't tell me you would taint a strongman contest with
the horizontal champs'
BT: I agree with you about the horizontal press as not being
important, but by the same
token it probably should be done, since every football team in the country does bench
press. I don't think the bench press is a good measure of upper body strength as a
overhead press, but putting together something takes a lot of creativity and time. The
hardest part for me was making the equipment, getting donations, and searching for the
right rocks, logs, tires, kegs, etc.
JVA: Do you see SMC becoming an official collegiate sport?
BT: I think strongman competitions would be fun to compete
in at the collegiate level, but
I don't see that happening. I would like to see the NCAA sanction Olympic weightlifting
JVA: Why don't you see this happening officially?
BT: I don't see SMC's becoming a NCAA sport because it's not
an Olympic sport. I think
Olympic weightlifting would have a greater chance to get sanctioned because of this and
most weight rooms in the country already have platforms and strength coaches. However,
as we both know many of those coaches don't know a thing about Olympic weightlifting.
I look at it like this! We can kill two birds with one stone. Olympic
not be an expensive sport. The strength coach that many schools already have could
handle the coaching part. Some athletes could even double as football/weightlifter or
For example, Montana State wants to move to Division I status, but
would need to add
another sport or two. They are looking hard at women's soccer, but don't have a facility or
budget for soccer. The Division I-AA schools, which are many, face this same problem.
Division I status, whether it be I or I-AA, needs14 different sports.
It can be seven men
and seven women, or six men and eight women's teams. There are many other
requirements involved also, such as scholarships, attendance, number of contests, number
of participants. The major hurdle would be getting the NCAA to sanction weightlifting
and determine the criteria for eligibility as an NCAA sport.
This is feasible because there is already the facility, the coach,
some athletes in places like
Northern Arizona and Sacramento State. Olympic weightlifting is a tradition at their
schools. It would also create more opportunities for women athletes and would thus solve
Title IX issues for some universities.
Hypothetically take a Division I-AA school wishing to move up to
Division I. The number
of football scholarships would increase so the number of women's scholarships would also
have to increase, which for many schools would require adding another team, along with
some of the other factors fore mentioned.
Now, a school that isn't Title IX compliance could easliy and inexpensively
weightlifting to bring the women's numbers up.
JVA: For those who don't know about it, exactly what do you
mean by Title IX
BT: Title IX Compliance is in short gender equity. Women's
numbers must be close to
equal the men.
JVA: So, are you saying that strength sports, mainly OL, have
a better chance in the
NCAA if the women get to do it first?
BT: Yes, women's weightlifting might be easier to sell than
men's, and this could be the
starting point towards sanctioned NCAA weightlifting contests for both genders.
We could explore this possibly in another article. I need to research
this possibility more
myself! There are many universities that have women's sports, that don't offer the same
opportunity for men. This discussion could go on and on.
JVA: Thank you Brett.
BT: You're welcome anytime.
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