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In the professional strongman world, John Conner, at 6’6, 400 pounds, has already gone against some of the strongest men in the world. In June of 2008, John competed in Iowa’s Strongest Man and got first place. With his win, John was invited to compete in America’s Strongest Man, where he placed ninth overall and decided he needed to kick up the intensity in his training. His placing at America’s Strongest Man gave him the opportunity to compete at World’s Strongest Nation in the Ukraine with team USA, who ended up placing fourth. Now John Conner is training harder to get better and to continue competing on a level with the world’s strongest men. We welcome John Conner to Team HMB!
Q: John, welcome to Team HMB, we are happy to have you with us! Can you tell us a little about your background and how you got to the point you are at in your life now?
JC: “It feels great to be a part of the team! I first started lifting consistently my senior year of high school. I competed in Kansas’ High School Weightlifting Competition in March 2004 and had a really good day at the competition for only having eight months of experience. I hit a 350 squat, a 250 power clean and a 280 bench, just missing 315 pounds. I placed pretty low on the squat and the power clean, but ended up winning the bench press. After that, I casually trained off and on after work and when I had free time. For a while I tried to do a full-time job, school and lifting, but I had to let something go, so I took a break from lifting and focused more on other things. I decided to focus on school, so I became a full-time student while working part time. It was perfect timing because I was just learning about strongman. Through various Web sites I came into contact with Scott Tully in Salina, Kansas. I would have to say without Scott Tully I would not be where I am today. He has been the best partner I could ask for, always pushing me and giving me the confidence I need to achieve a higher level of strength and mental focus. He gave me a huge push into the strongman world, and has been right there helping me every step of the way.”
Q: What made you take an interest in strongman competitions and becoming a professional strongman?
JC: “I was always a big guy and my friends would always joke around with me about competing in the World’s Strongest Man. I never really took it too seriously until I was about 19. I had just started lifting weights and noticed I lifted a significant amount more than friends that have been lifting for years. Every time I lifted I seemed to make some gains and improvements. I happened to come across an episode of the World’s Strongest Man on TV and looked up on the internet and found out how I could get started to be a Strongman.”
Q: What is your training schedule like and does it change from competition to competition?
JC: “My training schedule stays pretty much the same year round with minor changes from competition to competition. I try to focus my training around specific events, but the biggest changes come in the number of reps I do for different exercises. For light endurance meets I really try to train with higher reps and little rest between sets, and for heavy meets I try to train with max effort lifts and a good amount of rest and recovery.”
Q: What was your journey in the strongman world like before Iowa’s Strongest Man and going pro?
JC: “It was a great experience. Everyone was so supportive and had so much faith that I would go pro someday. My first competition was only a week after I first started training and doing any of the lifts in the sport. I placed pretty low in the field but once I became familiar with the lifts, I started getting closer and closer to a win. Overall it was a just a great experience being able to travel to fun places and make a lot of friends along the way.”
Q: How did it feel to get first place at Iowa’s Strongest Man competition?
JC: “It felt great! Months before the competition I felt like I had already won and there was no chance I could lose. I even looked up the events for America’s Strongest Man, which I would qualify for if I won Iowa. When I won, I couldn’t believe it. I had the perfect mind set for what to do and how to do it. I think that’s why that whole day feels like a blur and why I don’t remember too much from the competition. There were a lot of great competitors and I truly feel like I deserved to go pro for winning such a stacked meet.”
Q: What was it like to get invited to and compete in America’s Strongest Man competition?
JC: “It was great, probably the least stressful competition I have ever been in. I was just so happy to be there that I didn’t have any expectations. From this competition I realized there were areas that I needed to make improvements in, and I have been working on them ever since. Now that I am weeks away from my second America’s Strongest Man, I have standards that I expect to meet. I will be stressing out until it is over and I walk away on top.”
Q: How was your experience at the World’s Strongest Nation different from the competitions you had in the United States?
JC: “It was amazing, I felt like a celebrity in the Ukraine. Everywhere we went, we were mobbed by spectators and fans. I never had to turn away so many fans asking for photos and autographs because of how many there were. Competing against the top pros in the USA is exciting, but when it’s the top athletes in the world, it just blows your mind.”
Q: What was it like to compete on a team instead of as an individual at World’s Strongest Nation?
JC: “It was very different. For the most part it was like a normal competition, but then there was the added stress of letting the team down if I made a mistake or did poorly on an event. When it came down to competing, we actually motivated each other to perform our best and to work together.”
Q: How does it feel to be competing with some of the strongest men in the world?
JC: “It is a great feeling and I feel like I belong amongst them, but it took me awhile to realize that. Not too long ago I went to see a friend I haven’t seen in a few years and talked with him about lifting. I showed him a few videos of me and fellow competitors lifting, both in the gym and during competitions. I skimmed through my videos and started talking about what I consider to be some of the strongest men in the world. I started talking about how strong Misha Koklyaev is and he replied ‘yeah and you are the one competing against him…’ He just started laughing and told me he couldn’t believe how humble I am. ‘If you are competing against some of the strongest men in the world, then you are one of the strongest men in the world.’ For some reason, it took me until then to realize that I really am at a high enough level to compete with the best. I still have a long way to go to be a threat, but I feel as if I belong right there by the top strongmen in the world."
Q: What have you learned about training from all of these different competitions?
JC: “The biggest thing I have learned is to listen to my body. There is a time to push the limits and a time for recovery.”
Q: What are your goals for the future in the professional strongman world, and where do you think you are headed next?
JC: “My number one goal is to compete in the World’s Strongest Man. I would also like to set another world record. I had one for about two minutes until the next competitor broke it. It was the world record axle dead lift. In July I am headed for Liberty City, Pennsylvania for a competition, then to Ottawa, Canada and then America’s Strongest Man 2009. From there I hope to get one of the 10 invites to the first strongman competition at the Olympia.”
Q: Why did you want to be a part of Team HMB and how do you think this will help you with your goals for the future?
JC: “I have heard nothing but great things about HMB products and HMB sponsored athletes. I feel as if proper supplementation knowledge is something that has been holding my training back. With the help of the team and all of the studies behind HMB, I think this is a great opportunity for me to get my body to reach its fullest potential.”
Q: As we worked on this interview you ended up winning the competition in Pennsylvania, how did it feel? Where does this put you in terms of your goals for this summer and the future?
JC: “I feel great. This was my first professional win and I couldn’t have asked for a better place to get it. Winning this competition puts me ahead of my goals for the summer. Going into the competition, I was hoping to place high in all four competitions, but getting a win is even better. I just hope to make this a common trend throughout the summer.”
Congratulations on your win John, and thank you for sharing your story with us! We wish you the best in future competitions, and again welcome to Team HMB!
Check back in to see updates on John’s competitions and to look for future interviews.