Strongman competition weighs in for Bath Heritage Days

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BATH — It’s truly a sight to behold.

With a power belt strapped around his waist and powder on his hands, Ryan Martin reached down to grip a barbell. Channeling every ounce of strength and defying the pull of gravity, he tightened his knuckles while glaring straight ahead, and lifted the 585-pound weight in a way that almost looked easy.

Then you realize the weight on the barbell is more than 2 1/2 times heavier than Martin’s 5-foot 6-inch, 212-pound body.

It’s a skill that will come in handy during Saturday’s strongman competition, part of Bath’s annual Heritage Days celebration.

The competition will be held at Waterfront Park from 1-2 p.m. on July 4.

Martin, 26, is coordinating the competition, as he did last year. Since March he’s been working to obtain the equipment and enlist the sponsors to pull off the event, which is nationally sanctioned by North American Strongman.

The competition has five different components, the Bath resident said. There’s a trolley pull, and a “Last Man Standing” dead lift, in which competitors start at 405 pounds; those who succeed advance to heavier weights until only one person is left.

There will also be either a log press or Viking press, and also the “Hell on Earth” medley, in which participants pull a Conan’s wheel – which may be weighted with kegs – around for one rotation, then advance to a farmer’s walk with 250 pounds in each hand for 50 feet, and finally hoist a 600-pound yoke on their shoulders and walk that 50 feet.

Piece of cake, right?

Atlas stones close out the competition, requiring the strongest of the strong to lift five concrete spheres onto pedestals. Those spheres weigh between 235 to 350 pounds, depending on the weight class of the lifter, and the competitors must hoist five of them onto pedestals as fast as they can in 90 seconds.

Martin said he is hoping for 20 participants this year. The event attracted 11 last year, and Martin finished third.

The training for such intense activity require compound movements, involving more than one muscle group at the same time. Martin trains at the Universe Gym in Bath five days a week and then goes to Augusta on Saturdays to train specifically for the strongman’s competition using specialized equipment. He also participates in Highland Games training at Thomas Point Beach in Brunswick.

Martin’s lower back is one key focus area in training. He has a pinched nerve in his back, as well as a twisted sacrum.

“That’s my biggest concern, basically, my back strength,” he said. “Because everything we do, it’s a lot of core back strength.”

In the 11 years that he’s been weight training, Martin has also torn both rotator cuffs.

“Any time you get under a 600-pound yoke, you take one wrong step and a number of things can go wrong,” he said. “I mean, your knee, your back, hips, anything can go wrong. Just go into it as prepared as possible, and just be as responsible with your own body as you can be. Just know your limits.”

Martin said he figures he consumes about 4,000 calories a day, which he burns off in the gym. He said his optimal weight is 220 pounds.

Being in good shape also eases his job at Maine Lightning Systems in Bath, where he installs lightning rods and does a bit of masonry.

Martin said the training also keeps him humble. “I know there’s always somebody stronger than me,” he said, “so it kind of keeps my ego in check.”

He said he sees the strongman competition as a way of promoting the local businesses that are sponsoring the event, as well as a means of exposing people to a unique and family-friendly sport.

“The kind of stuff that we’re doing, it’s just impressive to watch,” Martin said.

While the event is open to those who want to try it, he warned that the competition is not for the uninitiated.

“You can’t walk up the street in shorts and a T-shirt and say that you’re gonna put up an Atlas stone,” Martin said. “It just doesn’t work that way.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or

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strongmancompetition.jpgLongtime Bath weightlifter Ryan Martin is coordinating and participating in the strongman competition at Heritage Days this weekend. (Lear photo)

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.