Interview with Iceland's Strongest Man Stefán Sölvi Pétursson
By Aaron Hallett; July 2011
Before we start Stefan I’d like to thank you for taking the time to be our interviewee of the month; I know you are a busy man. Before I jump into asking questions about the here and now, I’m sure our readers would love to learn about your early beginnings and how you grew up. SSP: I grew up in a nice peaceful neighbourhood, with a loving family and good friends. AH:
How old were you when you first picked up a weight and what was the spark of motivation to start weight training; after all, everyone has a reason to start, be it for the attention of the girls at school, for extra sport performance to even making school bullies think twice? SSP: I was 17 years old when I started training seriously. Before that I had fooled around in the gym a few times but never stuck with it really. Was too busy being a teenager, haha. The spark I actually got when I was 4 years old and saw Jón Páll Sigmarsson doing a strongman exhibition and seeing him win World’s Strongest Man on TV. Same for Magnús Ver Magnusson later on, of course. AH:
You started out like many strongman competitors by training for powerlifting; how did you get into strongman? Did you find it a natural progression moving to strongman? SSP: I only did powerlifting in the beginning because I knew that Jón Páll and Magnús Ver did that before their strongman careers. My goal before I started lifting weights seriously was to try strongman one day. Raw powerlifting builds a good base that all strongman athletes need. AH:
Most people can attribute someone who stands out in their early development as a role model or influential person in the formative stages of training,who was yours? What would you say they 'brought to the table'? SSP: Jón Páll Sigmarsson. It was just so great that a fellow native was the strongest of all. He was like a hero in a fairy tale for me as a kid as he fought the beasts victouriously. The beasts being Capes and Kaz, haha. AH:
When you were in your early beginnings training wise, did you naturally take to easier to some lifts or events than the rest? SSP: Yes, to lift stones came natural to me right away. Both nature stones and Atlas stones. AH:
Jón Páll Sigmarsson won the title of World's Strongest Man four times; do you feel you can follow in his footsteps and bring back the WSM title back to Icelandic shores? SSP: His footsteps are big but I don’t feel like I need to follow them. But yes, I believe I can win the title. And I will have fun trying to reach that goal. AH:
How long did it take you to qualify for your pro card and do you remember your first pro strongman competition? Were you up against any big names? SSP: I was 18 when I did my first contest. I did poorly. The following year at my second contest and I went up against Magnús Ver. Which was very cool for me as I watched him alot growing up. I did ok and had fun. We don’t have pro card system here in Iceland. We are lucky if we get 8 guys competing in a local contest. But I won a right to do IFSA world championships at only 20 years old and did some international shows as well. AH:
I’ve been told you are good friends with Terry Hollands and you attended his wedding; how did this friendship start out? SSP: Through a mutual friend Boris Haraldsson and just by competing together all over the world. I have also visited him a few times to train with him. AH:
With anyone who trains hard enough for long enough, injuries are always looming, have you had any big injuries over the span of your career? If so, do they still effect how you train now? SSP: I tore a bicep tendon off in my left arm in 2007. In April 2011 I partially tore my right pec tendon as well as tearing alot of muscle fibers. Both injuries required surgery to repair the damage. Bicep is great and the pec is getting better with each day. It does not affect me and it won’t affect me. AH:
Looking now at your training, how do you split your time in the gym? There seems to be two camps, training for specific strongman events or training muscle groups; where do you side with this? SSP: I split my routine with upper body and lower body workouts and split down events on that. So upper body would be log, axle, dumbbell and any pressing events. Lower body, deadlift, stones, farmers etc. AH:
Watching strongman competitions on TV, there is now more of a balance between what can be considered endurance opposed to pure strength in events. How do you feel about this, should a strongman competition be based on who is the strongest alone? SSP: It should be mixed up. It’s all about finding the strongest athlete out there. Static strength, muscle endurance, explosive power, speed! Who’s got it all? AH:
Strongman now has the 'Giants Live' tour, which made a popular appearance at this years British Grand Prix; how important to the sport do you feel it is to have a strongman tour like this for competitors? SSP: It’s very important. It gives us a chance to qualify for the World’s Strongest Man contest as well as competing at great arenas like at the British Grand Prix. Giants Live also gives us a chance to travel the world, meet fans and give them a great show of strength. AH:
What’s it like working with Colin Bryce during the tour? SSP: Colin is great to work with! He’s a great promoter that understands athletes needs as he was one himself. Plus he’s a great fellow and good to hang around with. AH:
Will you be competing in 2012 at the next IFBB British Grand Prix Giants Live event? SSP: I sure do hope so! I had a blast last time and really want to come back. AH:
With the typical strongman being large in size and bodyweight, how do you tailor your training so you can perform at the highest competitive level for endurance events such as the Power Stairs, the Africa stone, etc. SSP: Just do the events. I train power stairs and run with stones or shields. I also to other stuff for conditioning like prowler and sled drags. AH:
Off-season, what would a typical diet look like? SSP: Meal 1. Eggs and egg whites, porridge, toast, orange juice. Meal 2. Shake with protein and complex carbs.
Training. Post workout shake.
Meal 3. Chicken, beef or fish. Sweet potatoes, rice or pasta.
Meal 4. Chicken, beef or fish. Sweet potatoes, rice or pasta. Meal 5. Shake with protein and complex carbs. Meal 6. Chicken, beef or fish. Sweet potatoes, rice or pasta.
Meal 7. Protein shake or cottage cheese. AH:
Leading up to a contest, does your diet and training change? SSP: No, but events get specific to the contest I’m going to. AH:
You live in Iceland so have to travel by plane to every strongman event, how do you find such long journeys in a plane considering your large size?! SSP: Not as bad as you would think. I kind of had to get used to it and I don’t really think about it. Flying first class always would be nice though. AH:
You certainly have time on your side seeing you are only 25 years old; with the severity of common injuries sustained in the strongman events, do you feel all strongmen have a time frame in which to achieve what they want out of the sport? SSP: Yes but I will probably retire earlier than most just because I started out earlier. I don’t think it has that much to do with age. Just the fact the body can only take certain amount of “beating”. AH:
What would be for you, the defining moment that you would like to be your legacy in the strongman world? SSP: Nothing fancy. I’m just a guy having fun, doing what I love and enjoying it. AH:
When discussing how a current or future champion develops over time, the argument of 'nature vs nurture' is often brought up. Are champions born or are champions made? Genetics vs years of training? What camp do you fall in? SSP: Both born and made. Genetics, hard work and passion. AH:
For a person who wants to start training and one day compete in Strongman, what advice you would you offer? SSP: Go for it and have fun but seek advice for training principles. If anyone out there is interested I offer online training programs and coaching. Check out my website www.stefansolvi.com or more information. AH:
Many thanks for taking the time to answer these questions, Stefán and on behalf of MuscleTalk.co.uk and its members I wish you all the best for your competitions in 2011 and the future.
<message edited by James on 13 July 2011 20:20>