Millers Falls’ Russ Johnson enjoys first Strongman competition

  • Millers Falls' Russ Johnson competing in a Strongman competition in Peabody over the weekend.  CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/11/2022 5:48:44 PM

People who worked out with Russ Johnson had been telling him he needed to enter into a Strongman competition.

He finally obliged this past weekend.

The Millers Falls resident entered into the United States Strongman Spring Fling in Peabody, competing in the novice group which was comprised of people of all ages new to Strongman competitions. 

Johnson ended up taking fifth place at the event in the 220-pound and under category, a finish he was pleased with in his first competition. 

“I really enjoyed it,” Johnson said. “I was really happy with how I did. I was third until the last event so I’m happy with how I fared for it being my first time doing one of these.” 

Johnson — who is 52 years old — works out at the Franklin County YMCA in Greenfield. 

He trains consistently and works out hard, which gave him the confidence to enter into a competition. He googled the closest competition that had a novice class which is how he ended up in Peabody. 

“As an older guy working out at the gym, I never really pushed myself to see how far I can go with it,” Johnson said. “I started lifting heavier and heavier weights and people were asking me if I did competitions. I started thinking about it and decided to give it a try. I’m old but I thought it’d be fun and I thought I could do all right because I was pushing some good weight.” 

The Strongman competition was broken into five categories. It started with a tire flip, where competitors must flip a 550-pound tire three times in one direction and three times in the opposite direction. Next came the timber carry, which involves flipping a large timber six times. The third is a press medley, which is an overhead press of a 180-pound log and the circus dumbbell press, which is using one arm to standing shoulder press a 105-pound weight. 

Fourth came the farmer’s walk, which involves taking 200 pounds in each hand and carrying that weight 50 feet in the fastest time without dropping it. Last was the hub lift, which involves picking up a 35-pound plate from the ground with just your fingers, doing so as many times as possible in 30 seconds. 

Johnson finished the tire flip in 34.32 seconds, the timber carry in 24.49 seconds, earned 4.5 points in the press medley, scored four points in the farmer’s walk and finishing up with four reps in the hub lift. 

“The timber carry was my best one. I got third in the field in that,” Johnson said. “I was learning as I went. That’s why I wanted to hit the novice event first. I would never recommend trying to do a pro competition first — you’d either get hurt or embarrass yourself.” 

Johnson trained four days a week for the event, also changing to a higher protein diet so he would be able to weigh in under 220 pounds in addition to getting his body ready for the heavy lifting. 

He also spent time online looking for videos to give him tips on how to execute certain lifts, but the majority of the learning came while in competition. One of the major things he learned was how much finger strength was needed, as well as how important form is to being able to get the maximum power into the lifts. 

“The lifts are so different, weight training doesn’t translate well,” Johnson said. “Still, most of the training is weight training. You try to find things that are unique that give you strength instead of building body mass. I did a lot of one hand overhead presses because it builds everything. I did a lot of deadlifts because that translates well. I also got some tires to flip in my backyard but I had 500 pound tires, not 550-pound ones like they used at the competition.” 

Johnson plans on doing more Strongman competitions in the future, but his next adventure will be doing a bus pull for charity. He’s hoping to raise money for someone who was in his youth group who was paralyzed in a car accident, and Johnson wants to use the bus pull to raise money for him to get a service dog. 

Johnson — a bus driver himself — plans on tackling the feat over the summer. Stay tuned.


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