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Sailor Earns 'Strongest Man' Title at Iraq Air Base

Marine Corps Cpl. Triah Pendracki, Special to American Forces Press Service

Navy Seaman Chris Spencer lifts a 150-pound dumbbell over his head during the Strongest Man competition at Hero's Hall gym aboard Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, May 16, 2009. Spencer won all six challenges in the competition and was named Al Asad's Strongest Man. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Triah Pendracki

AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq, May 28, 2009 –

The U.S. military holds its servicemembers to high physical standards, and some take those standards to the next level, pushing themselves above and beyond what’s expected of them.

Seven such servicemembers rose to the challenge for the Strongest Man competition here May 16, a monthly event sponsored by the base’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation office.

“The last seven months I’ve been on deployment, I have been lifting weights at least six days a week,” said Navy Seaman Chris Spencer, a coxswain with Riverine Squadron 1, whose efforts paid off with a victory in this month’s competition.

In a contest separating the strongest from the strong, participants completed six challenges.

The first test of strength was the overhead press, which required the competitors to lift 135 pounds above their head as many times as possible. The next event was a dead lift, and each strongman competitor lugged 225 pounds off the gym floor for as many repetitions as their body could handle in a two-minute period.

The third event was a test of endurance. The competitors held two 20-pound dumbbells straight out to their side and parallel to the floor. Though already dripping sweat and having lifted hundreds of pounds, the strongmen were then challenged to max out their weightlifting potential.

The last indoor event was the only part of the competition that allowed competitors to choose their load. For the dumbbell power press, each strongman had three attempts to lift the heaviest dumbbell he thought he could handle over his head. The servicemember who lifted the most weight claimed first for the challenge.

The strongmen then moved out into the blazing Iraqi sun for the final two events of the competition: the timed flipping of a 600-pound tire and a series of carrying events.

Finally, it was time for the last and most anticipated segment of the competition that tested the servicemembers’ strength and endurance. Much like the final relay in the popular “World’s Strongest Man” competition, the strongmen raced to complete a farmer’s walk, chain drag and Atlas stone carry – events requiring the participants to pick up and carry items weighing hundreds of pounds.

After almost two hours of grueling physical challenges, Spencer came out on top by winning every event in the competition.

Although Spencer said he was more than prepared for this competition, he already has a strategy for next month’s competition.

“I’m going to take my time and not rush as much,” he said. “I think it’s best to go last, because then you know where the bar is set, and you can see their techniques before you go.”

Event organizers are planning a few new challenges for future strongman competitions, but welcome outside ideas from the competitors.

“I would love to see a Humvee or a 7-ton truck pull,” said Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Andrew Grundel, a machine gunner with Combat Logistics Battalion 7 and a participant in the competition. “Something big and something heavy would just be really cool to try.”

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