As you read this, I’m at the Arnold Sports Festival enjoying the sights and reconnecting with old friends around The Animal Cage and at The National ABC. In honor of that, I’m putting out the very cool story of a garage gym athlete who I met on the Animalpak Forvm, Ed Eliason. Ed is a former powerlifter who currently competes as a strongman and bodybuilder. I’m proud to present his Journey here.
Ed, what’s your athletic background? Were you a fairly active kid?
I was sort of the fat kid until about the age of sixteen when I started lifting. I’ve competed in powerlifting, strongman, bodybuilding, and even ran a 5k once.
You ran a 5k? I can’t believe a dog chased you that far! Was this before you started powerlifting?
No, it was about 2 years ago. I just wanted to try something different. I don’t remember my exact time but it was around 27 minutes. Not the fastest time but I was happy with it since i’ts something so different from what I’m used to. I came in 3rd place.
So unpack your competition history for me. What came first?
I started out as a geared powerlifter about 10 years ago, a couple years ago ditched the gear and started competing raw. My bodyweight fluctuates quite a bit— that’s the fat kid in me. I’ve competed everywhere from 181 to 242. Over the years I’ve lifted in probably two dozen meets. My best geared meet lifts are 666 squat, 501 bench, and 501 deadlift. Best raw meet lifts are 501 squat, 352 bench, and 501 deadlift.
I’ve also competed in a dozen or so strongman contests as a lightweight. 2016 was my best year for strongman, I competed five times and finished top three in all except nationals. I got blown out at nationals but came back the next weekend to win King of the North so that was pretty cool.
I also recently competed in my first bodybuilding show, The Northwest Championship, I placed 4th in Masters classic physique.
Wow! That’s quite the journey! So how long have you been training at home?
I started training at home about 10 years ago. Most of my strongman training is out of my garage or a buddy of mine’s garage.
What was the first strongman implement you bought for your home gym?
I bought a 12” log and yoke first.
Why did you choose those two?
I chose them because the guy’s house I was training at only had a 10” log
What do you have in your garage gym?
10” log, 12” log, axle, two sets of farmers handles, four circus dumbbells, yoke, two kegs, a bunch of atlas stones, husafeldt stone, car deadlift, two tires, a couple barbells, high pully, chest supported row, and a lot of plates.
What was the first atlas stone weight that you made?
My first stone was 190 pounds. I now have stones ranging from 155 to 350 pounds.
What do you plan to buy next?
I don’t really know. I’d like to fabricate an attachment for my car deadlift frame to be able to use it as a Viking Press.
Do you have welding experience or will you get someone local to fabricate it for you?
I don’t have any welding experience but I have a friend who’s very good at it. He also made my car deadlift frame. Knowing a good welder comes in pretty handy in strongman.
You train at home, your buddy’s garage and at Timber Gym. How do you break down your training split?
Generally Sundays I train strongman out of my garage, the rest of the week is more traditional bodybuilding stuff at Timber. Sometimes I’ll train events at the gym if it’s real nasty out. A lot of strongman is done outside so it can kind of suck in the rain.
And Timber Gym, how does it fit into the mix?
Timber Gym is open twenty-four hours a day; I train there mostly because I don’t have access to all the traditional gym stuff in my garage. Also I love the people and the gym itself. Timber Gym is kind of like one big family. It’s a great place.
The Bodybuilding Experience
Now that you’ve tried bodybuilding, which would you say you enjoy more? The subjective judging of a bodybuilding show or strongman where either you lifted it or you didn’t?
That’s a tough one. Strongman is tons of fun both in training and competing. Bodybuilding, the training is all right thought the diet sucks, but contest day was a blast.
Was it hard to accept that your fate depended on what a group of strangers thought of your physique after having competed in strongman where you could control winning and losing to a certain extent by how well you executed each lift and how strategic you were during the competition?
It’s sort of a weird feeling being judged on how you look. I have never really cared how I looked. I’ve always been more concerned with performance. I like that in strongman or powerlifting it’s pretty black and white. I mean either you lift it or you don’t.
One thing that many people say about bodybuilding is you have to adjust to the reality that unlike anything else you can’t take a break. It’s 24/7. What surprised you the most about the process of training for the bodybuilding show?
How much one bad diet day effects your physique. I mean one day you’re like man i’m looking pretty good and then you slip up on your diet and it’s like man i’m fat or flat or whatever. Training for bodybuilding was relatively easy compared to strongman but the diet was very tough for me.
What’s your favorite event to train?
Easily car deadlift.
A lot of strong men prefer to just do stone over bar as opposed to loading stones to a platform. Why is that and which do you prefer?
Stone over bar takes up less space because you don’t have a platform and it’s easy to adjust the height of the bar. The platform is always a fixed height so the adjustability of the bar is nice.
What event are you trying to improve?
I need to improve all of them. Haha! Seriously though my grip strength is my biggest issue. About seven or eight years ago i crushed the pinky on my right hand while training atlas stones. It was a stupid accident and a stone rolled off a platform from about chest height and smashed my hand between it and a keg. My finger was basically cut off and pushed sort of inside of my hand. They were able to reattach it but I don’t have full movement and my hand doesn’t close all the way anymore. This makes grip events like farmers very difficult for me.
A lot of people would’ve been tempted to quit after severing their finger. What gave you the motivation to continue in the sport?
I’m not sure. The way I look at it, it’s just a finger. No big deal.
i guess that fits with the whole strongman attitude. After all, one thing that attracts people to strongman is you get to unleash your inner barbarian.
It does make you feel pretty manly.
Just about all of the events involve you grabbing something that most people wouldn’t be able to even budge and either run with it, drag it around like a dog with a chew toy, lift it a bunch of times or throw it. Do you feel a letdown when you go back to “normal life” after a contest and you’re surrounded by people who get help to move anything over sixty pounds?
Not really. I pretty much just accept that everyone is going to ask me to help with anything even remotely heavy.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to try strongman but doesn’t know where to find a strongman gym?
Kalle Beck has an awesome website. His Facebook page has a lot of good information also. His motto is strongman is for everybody. I really believe this. Most people can do more than they think they can.
Let’s say someone wants to start training strongman at home, where are your best places to buy equipment?
Strengthshopusa.com has a lot of implements. They’re decent quality and reasonably priced.
I’ve reached out to Strength Shop, I believe that they’re connected to Kalle Beck as well. I really want to get an interview with them this year and they do follow us on Instagram so maybe we’ll make it happen this year!
There are also a lot of DIY instructions on Starting Strongman. Plus it pays to know a good welder.
Do you recommend that beginners start with an atlas stone that they can carry for distance or something that they can only pick up?
I think I’d recommend making your first stone one you can load. Stones are a lot of fun and the first time you load one it feels pretty good.
How can people follow your training or reach out to ask you questions?
I keep a training log on the Animal Pak Forvm.