Strongman shows off SMU’s strength and community

Six hundred pounds of metal crashed to the floor. An even louder wave of cheers and applause exploded around the room in response. Munashe Size casually strolled away from the barbell he had just successfully lifted, with a small smile forming on his face.

“You just look at the weights, you get into your form, you take a deep breath, you make sure everything’s right, and you make sure it gets up,” law alum and SMU rugby player Size said.

Strongman Competitors
Munashe Size deadlifts a jaw dropping 600 pounds Photo credit: Audrey McClure

Eighteen men and women, both faculty and students from across campus, tested the limits of their physical strength while competing at the ninth annual SMU Strongman competition in the Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports Thursday night.

Each competitor demonstrated their overall body strength through deadlifts, bench presses, and pull-ups. Judges evaluate participants based off a weight to body weight ratio to more fairly evaluate their strength.

“Each event we’ve got little modifications. We want to make sure that anybody and everybody would be able to compete,” Event Organizer and Assistant Director of Fitness Gina Garcia said. “So, no matter what kind of weight you are, you basically compete against your own body weight and then you get points on how much you can outlift yourself.”

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Will Nolan prepares for his benchpress Photo credit: Audrey McClure

The competitors determined for themselves how much weight they wanted to add to their exercises, with the exception of the body weight-dependent pull-ups.

The SMU Strongman competition uses pull-ups in place of squats unlike most powerlifting competitions. Dedman personal trainer and health coach Jeff Bolte said there would be multiple complications with introducing squats into SMU Strongman.

“If you fail on a squat, a.) it’s hard for a spotter to pick up the bar because it’s typically more weight, and b.) you’re immediately going to feel that pain,” Bolte said. “So, for the squats, it’s a liability. If this was going to be a true powerlifting competition, we would have squats and I think that would be very nice to see. However, once a year someone would get injured.”

Since the competition’s beginnings, participant numbers have fluctuated. There have been as many as 24 competitors in previous Strongman events and as little as 14 in other years.

However, consistently, the competitors have already known each other as friends and workout partners. Emily Zhang competed alongside many fellow powerlifting club members.

“I just think the community is probably the best part. Everyone is so supportive,” Zhang said. “You’ll never meet a better group of people, like-minded individuals. It’s fun! Most of this is just for fun.”

The fun of the competition brings competitors like Will Nolan back multiple years in a row.

“It’s always been fun no matter what,” 2018 and 2019 winner Nolan said. “It’s not always about like trying to kill yourself to get those weights up, it’s trying to have fun.”

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Competitors and organizers pose for a group photo Photo credit: Audrey McClure