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Dave Johnson – Strongman Interview

Hi Dave, can you tell us about your background in weightlifting and strongman training?   I’ve been lifting weights for about 14 or 15 years now, originally issues with my elbow caused a visit to the doctor who told me to start lifting weights in order to help the joint and it went from there. I’ve been watching strongman on the TV for many years and always been interested in the sport so when my friend Mark Browne informed me he had terminal cancer, as we both enjoyed watching Strongman we decided to put on an event which was an 8 tonne vintage truck pull back in 2011. The aim of the event was to raise cash for him and his family, but also to raise awareness of cancer. He always said if it saved 1 life then it was worth it so I gave my word I’d do what I could each year, hoping to get bigger and better as it went. Marks message was clear, if you feel there’s something wrong, go get it checked out and if it doesn’t improve, to continue going back, Marks doctor missed the issue which if picked up early enough would have saved him.   What current challenges are you working on and when and where will they be held?   The current challenges are July 18th at St Mark’s in Lincoln, I’ve a friend I’m training to pull a fire truck, and I’ll hopefully be dead-lifting a car. The next event after that will be September 31st which is bank holiday Monday and there I’ll be attempting to pull the Lancaster bomber at East Kirkby Aviation Heritage Centre.   What challenges have you done so far?   So far I’ve pulled an 8 tonne truck and the following year a charity strongman competition at a local gym. I’ve dead-lifted a car at Ronnie Coleman’s UK tour where I had him timing me while I did it. There’s also been a car dead-lift challenge at a local gym and a tyre flip challenge where 2 teams of 10 flipped tyres in a mile long race. I also pulled a 16 tonne fire truck twice and the following year was an 18 tonne truck and 20 tonne truck at the fire stations open day. There’s also been an Audi dead-lift which I did in St Mark’s in Lincoln, a power lifting dead-lift challenge at Evolution Gym in Lincoln, and last year with Lincoln Fight Factory we set up an dumbbell press challenge raising money to buy food for the Nomad’s Trust for the Christmas period.   Where does most of the money raised go?   Most of the money raised goes to the Ethan Maul’s foundation which you can find out more about at www.upyourstocancer.co.uk.   What does your training consist of?    I train at pacific gym on Tritton Road in Lincoln. Currently the training I’m doing is a mix of high volume lower weights and higher weights lower reps, cycling it throughout the month. I’ll train between 4 – 6 times a week depending on if I can as some weeks if I have shifts in the gym I’ll struggle to get in 5 times to train but it’s a minimum of 4. My aim is to increase weight, size and strength but keep the fat additions to a minimum. My diet is high in calories and protein, high carbs. It’s not a bodybuilding diet so I can get away with eating more and I get protein powder and weight gainers from performance food on the high street, they are always supportive of the events and help out how they can.    What are your thoughts on diet for strongman training?   Diets are always a tricky subject as everyone has an opinion, all I know is what works best for me, gaining and losing weight is pretty simple from a diet point of view, but the more specialised areas require personal experience and experimentation. Not everything works for everybody. I always aim my training plans and diet advice to the individual’s needs and goals rather than just pass out the same routines to everyone. That’s not being a personal trainer, that’s just being lazy.   What about injuries, are they a risk and what do you do to reduce this risk?   Injuries are pretty common and I’ve been lucky up to now. I’ve a slight tear on the rotator cuff which is a very common one, a slight hernia due to pulling a truck in 2011 when they didn’t remove the handbrake; this happened again in 2013 and made the issue slightly worse. It causes a few issues but the doctors don’t seem too bothered about it, which seems pretty standard. There’s also a vein in my calf which burst last year and now needs removing, though I haven’t got time to have that done due to the current challenges approaching. I’ve been on a waiting list for almost a year and as of yet there’s been no contact regarding this. Using correct equipment minimizes the risk of injury…weight lifting belts and so on as does correct form and the right instruction.   What was the most difficult challenge you’ve so far done?   So far the 20 tonne truck was the most difficult, that and the Audi dead-lift. This year the plane weighs up to 35 tonne, I’m unsure of its exact weight. It has bigger wheels with not a great deal of air in them, so it’s harder to get it moving. Also if I’m unable to get hold of an Audi then I’ll have to use a BMW 318 which is 25% heavier on the rear end on the lift. This equates to around 100kg or slightly more extra for me for the weight lifted due to the levers of the frame. Again I’m unsure of the exact weight but I know it will be in the region of 350-400kg.

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