Well - in the case of the Midlands qualifier for Britain’s Strongest Man 2008 - it seems a 300kg deadlift for 13 reps is a good starting point…Today I caught up with 25 year old Laurence Shalaei - winner of the 2008 Midlands Britain’s Strongest Man qualifier [Unfortunately no pictures this time round - but a visit to the "Whey Consortium" is on the cards]. I’d heard that his performance in the deadlift was ‘class’ and was keen to find out more about this highly competitive event.
So Laurence, sounds like the Midlands qualifier was a hard fought event?
Yeah, I really had to work for it against a lot of good competitors, it was a tough event. Though a few people have asked me over the last few months where I think the toughest qualifier will be. I thought the Midlands would be the most competitive, but for sheer quality of athletes, the Southern is definitely the best and will probably be the toughest. I’m quite happy that I’m living in the Midlands at the moment!
So tell me about this ‘class’ deadlift performance?!
The event was set as 300kg for reps. Three of the other competitors had all pulled 380kg - which is more than my current PB - but I managed to beat all of them for reps - I did 13. I’ve known that this qualifier was going to be reps for a long time so rather than training for a maximum I’ve been training for repetitions and - obviously with Strongman - it’s all about training for the events that are coming up in your competition rather than worrying about powerlifting.
I know my deadlift will be higher now, I probably estimate somewhere around 370kg. The last time I went for a max it was 350kg, but to be honest I think I’m good for a lot more at the moment, I haven’t gone for a max for over 5 months now.
Do you compete in powerlifting events?
No, I’ve never done a powerlifting competition, I’d like to one day but I’m not really a big fan of all the suits and stuff like that! I’ve had a go but I just can’t get on with them - you need about 10 people to get into them!!
So what got you into Strongman?
As a little kid I was always kind of interested in strength and stuff like Arnold Schwarznegger and Thundercats and stupid things like that. That and watching Worlds Strongest Man on TV, like most of the guys have.
I used to play rugby as a school boy and I used to play for the South West. I started going to the gym to get fitter (I was always a podgy little kid to be honest!). I was training at a local gym and saw some powerlifters training and they invited me to have a go with them. I realised then that I was quite strong so started training a bit more.
I entered a novice strongman competition in 2005. It was a big comp, there were 36 guys competing. I’d never done any event training and still managed to come 8th. I started taking it a bit more seriously - doing some event training - and progressed from there.
So who do you train with?
I’ve got two training partners; one is my younger brother Harry. He’s 18 and he’s coming on really well. He’s doing his first competition at the end of June.
I also train with Nick McKinless. He was the under 105 strongest man two years ago. He’s helped me a lot; he taught me how to train properly and has given me some really good advice. Nick has moved away now, but we still keep in touch by phone and email. He keeps me informed with my training and keeps me in line.
Nick runs the beyondstrong blog. He really knows his stuff. He stopped me from going for really heavy max weight stuff all the time in the gym; he taught me how to train to get stronger rather than worrying about lifting PB’s every week.
That must help in avoiding injury that way?
So where do you train? Are there any specialist training camps down your way?
Yeah, we are lucky enough to have the “Whey Consortium”. It’s run by Mike Betty and Steve Gardner. The “Whey Consortium” is a supplement company and we train in their unit in Gloucester, about 20 mins from my house so ideal for me. We’ve pretty much got all the equipment we need and it’s definitely helped me a lot. It’s all very well training in a gym and you can be very strong but if you aren’t able to have a go using the equipment - like the stones and other ‘bits and bobs’ - you aren’t going to be able to learn the technique.
I train 4 days a week down there; Mon, Tues, Thurs and Saturday. Saturday is the big events day when we tend to have quite a few people turn up. We’ve got a lot of youngsters training at the moment, my younger brother being one of them. We’ve a 17 year old lad who comes down from Bristol to train too. Steve tends to take them aside for training, whereas the older competitors like myself tend to concentrate on training for competitions that are coming up.
So it’s Minehead next for you then? I hear you need to be down there for nearly a week?
Yes. You do six events in total in the group stages and there are four days of group competitions. If you qualify, there’s a day of rest before the final which is held over two days; three events on each day. It can feel quite slow because of the way it’s run for TV and it can be quite frustrating when you are warmed up for an event but it’s delayed or postponed for some reason.
So who was the other qualifier from the Midlands comp?
I qualified with Dean Slater. He’s been competing for a while but doesn’t compete in all the competitions. He was favourite to win actually, so it was good to beat him.
How did you get on in last years BSM final?
Last year I was 8th. I was in 6th going into the tyre flip, but then ruptured my bicep and had to pull out.
So it must have felt good to win the tyre flip in your recent qualifier?!
Yeah, that was nice. I hadn’t competed for 10 months before that, so I was a little bit nervous. But luckily we’ve got a tyre down where I train and I knew my training was going pretty well. So it was just a matter of trying to forget about any injuries and just get straight into it and not worry too much about the bicep.
There’ve been a few people with bicep tears this year. I know Oli had a bad tear, but he seems to be going really well now, so it’s not the end of the world
…And I hear you suffered with your back a bit at the qualifier?
Unfortunately I did pick up a back injury on the deadlift and was in a lot of pain towards the end. I’ve been to a chiropractor four times this week already. It seems I’ve fractured a vertebrae in the lower spine. It was really, really bad, but it’s starting to ease up a bit now and my physio is helping a lot. He thinks that within a couple of weeks I’ll be able to get back into heavy training again, which is good.
Strongman’s a great sport and I get to meet some great people. The boys at Portsmouth; they’re all awesome and Rob Frampton is such a great guy. Mick and Jay are really nice guys; very competitive, but that’s what you want you know. We’re there to beat each other on the day but be good friends afterwards.
Well all the very best for the final Laurence, hopefully I’ll be able to get down there and meet up with some of you guys!
For a great write-up of the Midlands qualifer, visit Beyondstrong.typepad.com.