On Jan. 11, 2021, the 2016 Europe’s Strongest Man Laurence “Big Loz” Shahlaei took to his YouTube channel to discuss what he believes are the essential aspects for success in strongman. He noted that unlike routine gym-goers who are training to cut weight, improve their fitness, get healthy, stay active, etc. are all reasonable goals, but if someone is aspiring to compete at the highest levels of strongman, they will need to focus on five key areas.
Big Loz’s Five Requirements for Success in Strongman
- Resisting Comparison
- Pushing Limits in Training
- Volume of Food
- Your Network
[Related: How Strongman Athletes Can Enhance Recovery And Progress Outside Training]
The Trap of Social Media
At the start of the video, Shahlaei dives right into a negative trend that he has noticed when it comes to athletes on social media — negative comparisons. Shahlaei points out how online personas and inspirational or motivational posts can often give athletes the opportunity to put up their own obstacles to success by making excuses about other athletes’ progress.
The only thing that is going get you from the position you’re in now to where you want to be is hard work.
A large portion of the conversations Big Loz encounters online about the sport are around the “5 percent things” such as hyperbaric chambers and various medical treatments for recovery. Instead, the bigger focus should be put on the basics — form, foundational strength, training consistency, etc.
You have to get the foundation right.
[Related: Strongman Hafthor Björnsson Teaches You How To Deadlift]
Training To Push Yourself
Big Loz didn’t discuss specifics of programming but rather on a more mental aspect of training: learning how to push yourself. In his view, many athletes fall short on the mental side of training and “don’t know what a physically demanding training session is.” That is to say that when push comes to shove in a competition, knowing where or how to “find that little bit extra” will be the difference-maker between acheiving success or failure. The way to prepare for that in the gym is by doing that extra rep or set “that you don’t want to do.”
He made clear that he doesn’t mean training to failure, but rather pushing past your comfort zone can be the difference between an aspiring strongman and an elite strongman.
The 38-year-old Shahlaei has been a coach for a long time — he notably trains 2018 World’s Strongest Women and multiple strongwoman world record holder Andrea Thompson — but he downplayed the necessity for a coach.
You don’t a coach…don’t let that be an excuse to slow down your progress.
[Related: What Does The ‘World’s Strongest Gay’ Eat? – Rob Kearney’s Strongman Diet]
[Related: The Stoltman Brothers Explain Their Unusual Strongman Diet]
Calibrating Food Intake
Big Loz continued to beat home the idea that there is no excuse for excuses. Although many strongmen such as 2019 WSM champion Martins Licis, Nick Best, and 2018 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) Hafthor Björnsson have and do follow specific diets like Stan Efferding’s vertical diet, when it comes to strongman, Big Loz claims it is not the end of the road if a nutritionist isn’t affordable.
In Shahlaei’s mind, strongmen should consume enough food to fuel their workouts and to recover from their workouts. Elite strongman diets which can range from 8,000 calories like Björnsson to 15,000 calories like four-time WSM champion Brian Shaw. This is, however, not a reasonable starting point (believe us, we’ve tried it).
Big Loz advises that up-and-coming strongmen focus on volume of food and increasing that volume over time as their bodyweight scales up (similar to how one would add weight to their lifts as they get stronger).
[Related: Learn How To Front Squat Like Strongman Robert Oberst]
Your Network and Supporters
Big Loz taps into what is arguably an under-covered aspect of reaching the higher levels of competition — the people you surround yourself with. Shahlaei makes it a point that the people a strongman surrounds themselves with is an important aspect of ensuring they can reach their maximum potential. Although it might sound harsh, he advocates for cutting out anyone who attempts to stymie your progress:
If your girlfriend doesn’t want you going to the gym and your goal is to be a pro athlete, dump your girlfriend.
According to Shahlaei, in order to be a successful athlete, having a supportive network is critical.
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[Related: What Strongman Will Look Like In 2025 (And Beyond)]
At the end of the day, Big Loz offers the sentiment that success will come to those who put in the effort and maintain that effort throughout their careers. The difference between competing against the best in the world versus watching from the sidelines is the extra effort to prep food, get to the gym for the requisite amount of time to put in the work, actually pressing past your limits when your there, and surrounding yourself with those who support your goals.
Feature image from Laurence Shahlaei’s Instagram page: @biglozwsm