The number one question I get asked when I am performing my show is “how does someone become a circus strongman”? So I decided to write an article to describe exactly how I did it, and hope to encourage other budding physical culture enthusiasts to follow my path.
I’d like to stress that I didn’t have a natural ability for strength as many of the great old-time strongmen did. Often people got into this because they realized early on that they could lift more weight than their peers and decided to capitalize on that natural advantage. It’s a different story for me, as I’ve been a juggler since I was 14 but then decided to pursue a strongman act late, as I turned 30. One thing I learned by doing this was that it truly is never too late to pursue your passions.
The first step: READ! The internet is a great source of information and a lot of material is available either through articles or by purchasing books online. Many of the great old time strongmen have shared their methods of obtaining strength and the books are really interesting. From that research I learned who was currently doing an old time strongman act, and reached out. The man I reached out to was none other than Dennis “the Grandmaster” Rogers.
Which brings us to step two: Find a mentor. As the vintage strongman act is not too common, it really helped me to find someone who had already been there, and done a lot of the research himself. Dennis has been invaluable to me over the years and I really appreciate all the help he’s given me. I try to visit him whenever I can to train and discuss show ideas. He’s got such a huge collection of old time strength training equipment, as well as ideas for me every time I visit, that I always leave with several new feats.
Step three: take your time! When starting this, especially in my position with no particular strength advantages, it was overwhelming to see all the different kinds of feats. Juggling bowling balls, blowing up hot water bottles, driving nails through boards, bending horseshoes, tearing packs of cards, or bending steel bars. Each one of them takes completely different types of strength, various ways of conditioning your body, and it was overwhelming when I realized how far I was from each one. However as I made small steps towards my goals, gradually my strength built up.
It actually took me almost 4 years to finally focus on ‘short-bar bending’ which is a classic feat of strength that the circus strongmen of the past used to use as a benchmark. I also think this general advice can be used to anything you want to achieve, whether it’s becoming a vintage strongman act or a math expert… just take it one day at a time and be patient with yourself.
Finally I will say that the main key to success for me was finding my passion. I have always loved performing and so the artist in me is drawn to the different ways of presenting a strongman show. However there’s something really satisfying about taking something that seems impossible and making it happen, especially when it’s so tangible like bending a piece of steel.
The first time I started applying myself to these feats, I realized I had a real passion for it and so that’s where I’ll leave this article. Perhaps being an old time strongman isn’t for you! However I hope that you will take the advice to try all kinds of different things to see if something inspires you, apply yourself to it completely, and you will see amazing results in your life!