John Cena Celebrates His 40th Birthday With a 602 Pound Deadlift

Most people celebrate their birthdays by partying and going out, but not John Cena. He celebrated his birthday in fashion by proving, once again, that he’s a strength athlete through and through. We now have another documented heavy Cena lift to add to his powerlifting resume.

To celebrate his 40th birthday, Cena took to Twitter posting a video of a 602 lb deadlift. His tweet stated, “Bringing in 40 with 602. Never let age define drive. #EarnTheDay #NeverGiveUp

A post shared by BarBend (@barbend) on Apr 24, 2017 at 9:31am PDT


I think everyone can agree that Cena definitely earned the day, aka his birthday. If you’re a Cena fan already, then you know that lifting heavy is nothing new for this WWE wrestler. In fact, we wrote an article a couple months ago speculating about how Cena would fair in a powerlifting meet. Let’s just say, he would definitely be very competitive at local meets.

Luckily for us, we’ve seen more impressive lifting videos from Cena this April than most of his professional wrestling career. Some of our favorites are attached below, which include more Cena heavy deadlifts and even Olympic lifting. Check out the video he shared on April 17th pulling 260kg (572 lbs) for an easy single.

Video from @JohnCena Twitter page. 

He’s already gained a lot of attention for his static strength, but another impressive feature of Cena’s lifting is his power and weightlifting mechanics. A lot of strength athletes are always shocked to see how good Cena’s Olympic lifting form is. 

Check out the video below from April 9th where Cena cleans 140kg (308 lbs). We honestly think he could have caught it in a power clean, but we’ll save that argument is for another time.

Video from @JohnCena Twitter page. 

For being a larger guy who doesn’t focus on weightlifting full-time, Cena has an impressive amount of mobility and mechanics. His triple extension is good and he’s patient with the bar. Granted, he does need a little work on his wrist mobility.

All we can is that we hope Cena continues to share lifting videos as frequently as he has been. It’s not everyday you get to see floating weightlifting equipment.

Feature image screenshot from @apex_pack Instagram page. 

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Foam Rollers – How to Use, Benefits, and Best Exercises

Once an obscure tool for self-massage, today it’s rare to find a commercial gym without an area dedicated to foam rolling, and with good reason. When used correctly, foam rolling can be used for myofascial release, increasing circulation, improving range of motion, providing pain relief for sore muscles, and softening tissue that has become tight from extended periods of sitting.

But as the self-massage tool has increased in popularity, myths about them have become more and more prevalent. Many consider foam rolling to be one of the best ways to break up knots in your muscles, improve mobility, boost strength and performance, and prime your nervous system for a great workout. Those are closer to half-truths.

We did a deep dive into the research so to find out what foam rolling does, what it doesn’t do, how to get the most benefits, seven ways to find myofascial release, and some other self-myofascial release tools that in some cases can actually be more effective.

Foam Roller Infographic
Foam Roller Infographic

What Does Myofascial Release Mean?

The foam roller is most commonly seen as a tool for myofascial release, a term that refers to the body’s fascia tissue: a dense, web-like network of fibrous tissue that covers and penetrates every muscle, bone, and internal organ in the body. Like threads in a thick sweater, every part of the body is connected to itself through the fascia system, which helps to shield organs and bones from outside trauma and support the musculoskeleteal system in all of its functions.

Exercise, inflammation, and other stresses can cause the fascia to become tight or knotted, which can cause pain, restricted ranges of motion (tightness), reduced circulation, weaker nerve impulses (which means more poorly executed movement), and a host of other problems.

“The fascial tissue is our connected web that essentially links everything in our body from head to toe,” says Joseph LaVacca, DPT, CFSC, FMT-C, SFMA, an orthopedic physical therapist based in New York City. “It’s responsible for sensory information, it’s responsible for force transmission, and many believe the most important discovery in human anatomy the last hundred years is that the fascia is the richest sensory organ we have in the body.”

Roam Roller Benefits
Roam Roller Benefits

What Are the Benefits of Foam Rolling?

By helping you use pressure to massage the fascia, foam rolling is intended to help break up (or “release”) tough, knotted tissue.

(It’s worth pointing out that some experts feel that “myofascial release” is a misnomer, since this is more of a practice of altering the body’s sensory input or manipulating the fascia than “releasing” anything.)

Foam rolling is thus intended to reduce pain, improve range of motion, and improve circulation. Since it relaxes fascia, foam rolling is sometimes framed as a means to inhibit or “relax” overactive muscles.

“Tissue that’s been too active can get itself in a cycle where it’s in constant contraction, and that’s the knot you feel in your fascia,”says Talayna Fortunato, a physical therapist and CrossFit Games athlete. “The latest theory is myofascial release is just a direct input to your central nervous system to tell these overactive muscle fibers to stop firing so much. So it’s almost something to help downregulate the system.”

Indeed, some research has concluded that self-myofascial release increases the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, thereby reducing stress. Broadly speaking, humans spend most of their time primarily using either the sympathetic nervous system, which is associated with “fight or flight” and excitation, and the parasympathetic nervous system, which is associated with the “rest and digest” or “feed and breed” state — it’s your relaxed state, and many of us have trouble accessing it.

Along with meditation and sex, self-myofascial release may be a way to stimulate the parasympathetic system.

Foam Rolling Guide
Foam Rolling Guide

Foam Roller Mistakes

People get a lot of things wrong with foam rolling, and a common mistake is believing that rolling is the best way to break up tight tissue.

“Foam rolling can be helpful, particularly as a way to scan your body for areas that are tight,” says Eugene Babenko, DPT, a doctor of physical therapy and coach at Dubai’s CrossFit Gold Box. “It’s tough to truly make a change in the myofascia, but it helps you find the areas that need attention. Then I like to implement ‘foam laying,’ where I lie on a problem point for a minute or so.”

A post shared by Bo Babenko (@doctorbofit) on Apr 2, 2017 at 4:57am PDT


Fortunato agrees.

“I think what most people do is roll back and forth, but if you actually sit on the muscle for a little while you can get more myofascial release,” she says. “Sometimes it doesn’t take that long, and other times it takes a while before you feel a difference. So I recommend people stay at least thirty seconds right on top of a problem area.”

A post shared by ProSource (@prosourcefit) on Feb 28, 2017 at 4:18pm PST


Another mistake is the belief that a foam roller is the be-all and end-all of soft tissue work. As stated above, it can help to find problem areas and it can help to address them, but other tools like a lacrosse ball, myofascial release sticks (a smaller, handheld rolling device), “The Peanut” (essentially two lacrosse balls fastened together), and even a barbell or kettlebell can be effective at going deep into the tissue and helping to break up knots. LaVacca agrees that harder tools (like a barbell) can be more effective in certain situations, but only if they don’t cause significant pain. If treating your soft tissue is extremely painful, switch to a softer tool until your body adapts.

Lastly, the foam roller shouldn’t be seen as a means to significantly increase strength and mobility. While it can help to activate muscle groups, and while healthier myofascial tissue has far reaching effects, the foam roller is a tool for soft tissue work and recovery, not strength.


Should I Foam Roll Before or After I Work Out?

Since foam rolling is linked to relaxing the nervous system, a bout of rolling before a workout is viewed by some experts as counterproductive.

“The best way to do it in your spare time after a workout,” says Fortunato. “You don’t want to go too deep beforehand, because it can cause you to downregulate and maybe not have as much strength as you would have otherwise.”

However, there are two different ways to approach foam rolling: quickly and slowly. The two have markedly different effects.

“Quick, rapid rolling provides quick changes in pressure, which are picked up by the pacinian corpuscles, nerve endings in the skin that are involved in upregulation and increasing tactile acuity, or body awareness,” says LaVacca.

A quick roll before a workout, he explains, can help to increase blood flow, stimulate the nervous system and “wake up” the muscles. That can help the body load more symmetrically, experience less discomfort, and improve joint range of motion. It can also be useful for folks who are focused on “waking up” muscle groups before a workout. (Say, the glutes before deadlifts.)


While foam rolling can help in this regard, it’s a good idea to follow up with a dynamic warm-up with whole-body, ballistic movements. Combining these two practices is a much more effective way to prime the muscles and nervous system for a workout.

Slow, deep, intense myofascial work is usually best reserved for after a workout. An exception to this rule is if your warmup hasn’t sufficiently improved range of motion, in which case you may want to direct your attention to unknotting some fascia.

“If you can’t get your arm all the way overhead because you have a knot in your lats or something, you might find that rolling the area more intensely can help you get your arms overhead,” says Fortunato. “Or if you’re having pain somewhere, you might want to really dig in to help separate tissue.”

So, what does deep, intense myofascial work look like?

Foam Roller Workout
Foam Roller Workout

How to Use a Foam Roller

So, you’ve complete a functional fitness workout. Let’s say it involved one or two relatively heavy compound movements that worked the posterior chain and the legs, followed by a fast-paced, full body metcon. Try the following seven movements, recommend by LaVacca and Babenko, for 30 to 60 seconds at a time

Slow, Deep Rolling Over Bilateral Quads

Slow, Deep Rolling Over Posterior Glutes

Thoracic Spine Mobilization

Rib Cage Mobilization

Slow, Deep Roll With Lacrosse Ball or Peanut on Lumbar Spine

Slow, Deep Roll With Lacrosse Ball on Anterior Chest

Slow, Deep Roll With Lacrosse Ball on Plantar Fascia

What’s the Best Foam Roller? (A Buyer’s Guide for Athletes)

With so many brands on the marketplace, how can you decide which brand of foam roller to purchase? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of the most popular brands.

Image via Gaiam

Gaiam Restore Total Body Foam Roller

One of the softest rollers on the market, Gaiam’s signature foam roller is made from polyethylene foam and is less dense, durable, and effective than other brands. It’s also relatively expensive at thirty-five dollars, but it can be the perfect choice for athletes with a low pain threshold or who are just starting out their foam rolling habit.

Best For: First time foam rollers, people who experience pain when foam rolling

Image via Amazon

AmazonBasics High-Density Round Foam Roller

At $19, this is one of the cheapest, no-frills options around. Amazon’s foam roller has a slightly rough but not jagged surface texture that helps to prevent slipping, and the size (36 inches) means you can use it for a wide variety of movements, like rolling two legs at a time or lying across its length. It’s made from high-density polyethylene foam, but it’s on the softer side as far as foam rollers for athletes go.

Best For: Athletes on a budget, people who don’t exercise very intensely

A post shared by TriggerPoint (@tp_therapy) on Dec 21, 2016 at 4:33pm PST


Trigger Point GRID Foam Roller

A popular brand, Trigger Point uses a PVC pipe wrapped in ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam. Because of the PVC pipe it’s very firm, and it’s available in a wide variety of sizes. It’s more durable than most other brands, but it’s on the pricier side and doesn’t get deep into the muscle’s crevices like some more advanced rollers.

Best For: Experienced athletes and heavier athletes

Image via Amazon

Rumble Roller Deep Tissue Massage Roller

Covered in knob-like fingers, this is one of the most intimidating foam rollers we’ve seen — and the most highly recommended by functional fitness athletes, including Talaylna Fortunato. The fingers help it to achieve a deeper massage, but make it extraordinarily unpleasant for those of us with sensitive skin (or fascia tissue). It’s also quite expensive at $70 for a 31-inch long model and and $45 for the 12-inch model.

Best For: Advanced athletes, athletes with a high pain threshold

Image via Amazon

HyperIce Viper

At a whopping $200, this is the priciest version we’ve ever seen, but there’s a reason: it vibrates. Touting itself as “the next generation of foam roller,” this gadget has three different vibration speed options that’s intended to help it provide a deeper, longer lasting effect on the soft tissue. It’s not very long and the battery doesn’t last more than a few hours, but it may provide a more effective experience.

Best For: High volume athletes, athletes with significant muscle mass

Of course some folks make do with a PVC pipe in saran wrap. For a cheap, non-bumpy option, it can get the job done.

Rolling Out

Remember, the foam roller is a tool that can help to reduce pain, improve range of motion, relax your nervous system, and identify and treat areas of tightness. But if it doesn’t appear to improve your pain, discomfort, or tightness, make sure you visit a medical professional.

The post Foam Rollers – How to Use, Benefits, and Best Exercises appeared first on BarBend.

78 Year Old Janis McBee Proves It’s Never to Late to Start Olympic Lifting

If you’re running low on motivation and need a Monday pick me up, then look no further than 78 year old Janis McBee. She’s currently a U.S. National Masters Record holder for two age groups in the snatch, clean & jerk, and total.

  • 70-74 age group: 58kg women’s records stand at a 22kg snatch, 28kg clean & jerk, and 50kg total.
  • 75-79 age group: 53kg women’s records stand at a 20kg snatch, 25kg clean & jerk, and 45kg total.

McBee recently competed in the 2017 Praxis Cup held in Salt Lake City, Utah. That doesn’t seem terribly out of the ordinary, until you consider that McBee drove over 250 miles from Ridgeline Fitness in Grand Junction, Colorado. Below is a video from the 2017 Praxis Cup of McBee’s snatch and clean & jerk.

A post shared by Lisa Riggs (@slcfornow) on Apr 23, 2017 at 12:02pm PDT


Yes, she “pressed” her snatch, but with most masters classes at this age group lockout guidelines are generally more relaxed. This is done for the sake of competition and safety. In addition, she split snatches, which is often considered a more “old school” style, and can be linked to weightlifting’s origins.

We don’t see this rarely utilized lifting style with most younger competitive lifters, so it’s cool to see McBee use this method. Check out the video below of an even faster split jerk snatch from another masters athlete.

If you’re wondering, “If she pressed her snatch, then why did she split jerk and not just press then?” It’s most likely due to the fact that athletes at this age find jerking easier on the joints, as opposed to grinding through presses. Yet, that’s just my assumption.

What’s possibly the most impressive part of McBee’s lifting is that she only started a few years ago. Her first competition posted with results online is from 2009, and one of the commentator’s on the video also pointed out she’s relatively new to the sport of weightlifting.

McBee proves it’s never too late to learn a skill like weightlifting. If you feel intimidated to pick up and try weightlifting, then think of McBee crushing records, and check out some of the resources on our site.

Feature image from @slcfornow Instagram page. 

The post 78 Year Old Janis McBee Proves It’s Never to Late to Start Olympic Lifting appeared first on BarBend.

How to REALLY Set Goals in Strongman Competition

Strongman is very much unlike two other contests designed to test strength: powerlifting and weightlifting. When you participate in one of the aforementioned meets, you know what you should be capable of and how you should place compared to the other athletes . This helps you understand your place in the endeavor and how much you need to improv. This is not even remotely true of the absolute, endurance, and varying tests in strongman contests. I’ve found that this uncertainty can lead many competitors to set unrealistic goals and actually believe in game day magic.

“He’s got a 33rd place car. He should stop racing like it’s a top ten car.”

Watching a NASCAR race last month fed me that bit of genius from an announcer. It is a point that (by realists) should be well heeded. It applies directly to strongman athletes when planning out their days outcome if they want the best possible result. Prior to many contests that I’ve reported on I have asked many contestants:

“How are you going to do tomorrow?”

Let’s first discuss the most common answer I get:

“I’m going to win, I’m the one to beat,” or some similar thought.

Don’t misunderstand, I am all for having a positive attitude but most often these people are flat out wrong. There can be only one victor and there may be ten people assuming they will have the same outcome. By saying this massive singular goal aloud they often give themselves a validation that may work against them (as I wrote here). There is a second and more important way this statement and belief can work against them.

If your only goal is to win the show and you have a poor first or second event, I would wager that the rest of your performance will be negatively impacted. While most people think they will pick themselves up and game harder, the opposite is more likely true. Often, that disappointment will make you feel like you’ve already lost, so why keep pushing? Fear and doubt will begin to creep in, along with being overwhelmed. Seeing that you have so much ground to make up can play on your subconscious making it difficult for you to go the extra mile later in the show.

The author speaks to a competitor before a strongman event

The second second answer I receive is is the polar opposite of the fist:

“I just want to do my best.”

My initial thought when I hear this is:

“Way to set yourself up for success.” (Sarcasm implied.)

Having such an open ended goal lowers all expectations on yourself and your fans. You basically just said whatever happens is sufficient. This is never an acceptable mindset for a true competitor. This line of thinking will have you leaving too many points on the table. There is a better way to think about your contests and here are the key points:

  • Know your events inside and out: Flawless technique, your trial runs properly weighted and being comfortable are going to go a long way to understanding how you stack up on an event. This will allow you to know how you can place on an event. If you find that a certain event is a weakness and you know this ahead of time, you will be OK with your placement on it and it guide you when it comes to how much better you need to do on your good events.
  • Remember, magic is only an illusion: While a novice might not understand their true ability someone with a few contests under their belt and properly prepared should. If you are constantly missing a weight in training and you must do it during a contest don’t count on an adrenaline surge to get the weight to where it needs to be. Adjust your training accordingly or pick a better contest for your abilities.
  • First places on events isn’t as important as your overall score: This is a points game so it’s important to accumulate as many of them as possible. Always going for the win on events can work against winning the overall. You must decide if expending high amounts of your endurance will work against you on the strength events or vice versa. If you know you can beat the field on your best event (or events) consider pacing your lesser events and look for a solid finish as opposed to an outright win.
  • Study your competitors: Most of your competitors will have a social media account where you can check on how their training is coming along. If that isn’t the case you can often check their past contest scores to see how they do on similar events coming up. Remember, you aren’t just competing against the weights in the contest, but against yourself and others as well.

Now, having looked at the contest in this light and having studied it a bit, you can help to articulate your goals for yourself (and your audience a bit better). This correct verbalization can help you be more successful and hold you accountable to actual measurable goals. Here is how the revised conversation would go:

“How do you plan on doing this weekend?”

Enthusiastic athlete: “Well, last year I placed eighth at this event but made a few technical errors. I am looking for the top three this year with the log being something I can take outright. If I win that, I know I can hold my own with the best in class on the farmer’s walk and deadlift for reps. The yoke may hold me back a bit as I’ve not been that strong on it but I have done extra work to get more comfortable with and make less mistakes. That will take us to the stones, my best event. If I have a flawless run with them, I will see you at awards!”

An elite competitor will always have a strong set of goals and have the ability to explain them. With a solid knowledge of how the day would play out perfectly in your head, you can help erase some jitters and increase your confidence and marketability. Now get focused and game plan like you should!

Photos courtesy Michele Wozniak

The post How to REALLY Set Goals in Strongman Competition appeared first on BarBend.

Emerge Fitness 7mm Knee Sleeves Review

Emerge Fitness is an online retailer that provides supportive knee and elbow compression sleeves, wraps, bands, and more. They are also one of the leading sellers of 7mm knee sleeves on After reviewing many neoprene and non-neoprene knee sleeves, each with distinct pros and drawbacks, I was eager to put these sleeves to the test to see how they stacked up against heavy back squats, olympic lifting, lunges, and functional fitness WODs.

In this article, we are reviewing the Emerge Fitness 7mm Knee Sleeves.


The Emerge Fitness knee sleeves is a 7mm sleeve thickness for most power, strength, and fitness sports. The 7mm sleeve is supposed to provide support for daily use during squats, snatches, heavy cleans, with the flexibility needed for light-load high intensity WODs. They are also sold in 5mm options.

The Emerge 7mm knee sleeves felt balanced in the amount of support and flexibility they provided. The sleeves themselves were very easy to take on and off, however stay in place well enough to not fuss with during higher rep squat and olympic weightlifting sessions. The support of the sleeves was adequate, however nothing stood out as exclusive to this sleeve. The movement ability within these sleeves was what I would expect from a slightly less supportive sleeve when compared with more rigid sleeves.

Lifters looking for a more rigid feel and support to be used during more strength and power work may find this sleeve to simply be too light, as I would have liked some more support when rebounding out of heavy squats and cleans. With that said, these sleeves did allow for some fluid movement in general fitness and WODs, as they compression was adequate to keep them in place and not restrict knee flexion and extension.

Emerge Knee Sleeves Sizing
Emerge Knee Sleeves Sizing

Comfort and Fit

Emerge Fitness offers their neoprene sleeves in thicknesses of 5 and 7mm, both in black sleeve color.

The Emerge 7mm knee sleeves sizing is comparable to other leading 7mm knee sleeves I’ve tried. (Check out my video above to see how they fit on me.)

The seams and cut of these sleeves allowed for a tapered, snug fitting knee support, one that stayed put during most workouts. The material was soft, like most neoprene sleeves, and had a good amount of stretch to allow for easy application and removal of the sleeve.

I did notice that the sleeve itself seemed to be slightly shorter than other 7mm knee sleeves, offering a little less material covering the areas above and below the knee joint, which could impact the fit for taller, longer limbed lifters. While I didn’t have too many issues with the sleeve length, I could potentially see some long-limbed lifters having slippage during some movements.

Emerge Fitness Knee Sleeves Fit


The Emerge knee sleeves are constructed of neoprene, which is the standard for most 5-7mm options on the market. The material itself was your standard neoprene material, that offered smooth, light to moderate compression, and did not impede with movement.


These sleeves look, feel, and perform generally how I would expect a 7mm neoprene knee sleeve to. The overall durability factor of these, I suspect (based upon my limited… a few sessions) in them to be average, making them a fair investment.

Emerge Fitness does have a 100% lifetime quality guarantee, stating that in the event that the sleeves doesn’t meet all of your needs, they will refund you the full purchase price, no questions asked.


Emerge Fitness sells their 7mm knee sleeves in pairs (two sleeves per order) for $34.97. This price point is comparable to many of the 7mm knee sleeves on the market, however slightly less expensive than some of the more rigid and support sleeves that I have reviewed. Personally, I feel that these sleeves are a fair price for many beginner lifters and/or those looking to experiment with sleeves, as they do offer basic support and flexibility at a price that matches/slightly undercuts more expensive and rigid sleeves.

Final Thoughts

The Emerge Fitness 7mm knee sleeves generally met my expectations of what a 7mm neoprene knee sleeve should feel like, the support it should offer, and the movement it may allow. For lifters looking for a moderately priced sleeve to offer basic compression and movement support, these may be a good option.

For lifters who are looking for rigid sleeves, who often find themselves squatting, pulling, cleaning, snatching, carrying, and moving heavy object, these may not be the most supportive sleeve that still allows movement; however they are decently priced when compared to some of the other alternatives. 

I found these sleeves to be what you pay for. Nothing too fancy, nothing overly achieving in any aspect, but rather; a good pair of knee sleeves that offer average support and flexibility at a fair price.

The post Emerge Fitness 7mm Knee Sleeves Review appeared first on BarBend.

The Sickest Angles: An Interview with Steve Galvan, the IWF’s Official Photographer

For sports fans, there is nothing more exciting than seeing a live competition. This is especially true if that competition consists of the best athletes in the world performing their craft. Unfortunately for weightlifting fans, with the international aspect of the sport, most elite level events do not happen close by or even in their own country, and watching on television is a slim proposition. Some events have a live webcast, but most likely the internet, and social media, is going to showcase highlights from the event.

The photographer the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) considers to have the “sickest angles” in the business is Steve Galvan of San Antonio, TX. He is the official photographer of the IWF, and I recently had breakfast with him when I visited his gym, 210 Weightlifting, for a competition. For the few people in weightlifting who do not recognize his real name, you may know his photography Instagram moniker, @sickangles. In 2016, Galvan served as the Official IWF Photographer at the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. While this has been his most prestigious position in photography so far, he has been involved in sports for most of his life, through photography not quite as long.

Steve Galvan

A young(er) Steve Galvan was a hurdler and on the 4X400 meter relay team on the track & field team at Texas A&M University during his college days. This was where he initially was exposed to the sport of weightlifting; as part of his training he worked on snatches to improve his explosiveness. After college, weightlifting was not a big part of his life. That changed in 2007 when he started doing CrossFit as a way to work out, and led him back to his passion for weightlifting. By 2009, he started Crossfit 210 out of his garage and he was training people on a growing basis. This was where his love affair with photography really took off. As he told me:

“When I started my gym out of my garage, one of the first purchases I made was a camera so I could take pictures of people. They like to see the transformation and it’s a great way to track progress.”

A post shared by Sick Angles Media (@sickangles) on Aug 16, 2016 at 10:31pm PDT


In 2010 he started training under the coaching of USA Weightlifting (USAW) Senior International Coach Ursula Papandrea, with a focus on weightlifting. In his own coaching career, he was training anyone who has displayed an interest in the sport. This is all inclusive of children, adults, masters athletes, men and woman; literally ANYONE who was interested in weightlifting – because at this point coaching and weightlifting had become a passion of his. His gym eventually moved out of his garage and he was coaching over 60 dedicated weightlifters, half of his new facility was dedicated to weightlifting; something almost never heard of at a functional fitness facility. With all these athletes, he was also utilizing photography significantly more to help with athlete development. His skills and abilities improved in photography became really good as a result.

His first international photography “gig” as an IWF accredited photographer at the 2014 World Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Steve initially thought he would be assisting other photographers, in the neighborhood of taking lunch orders and getting coffee. To his surprise, he photographed every A session of the competition, a lot of B sessions, and all the action in the training hall. A lot of his photos were utilized by the IWF on their website and social media platforms. What Steve thought was a once in a lifetime opportunity evolved into a steady stream of international travel and elite weightlifting photography.

(Author’s Note: One evening in the training hall, the only teams training were the Kazakhs with Olympic Champion Ilya Ilyin and Polish team with Olympic Champion Adrian Zielinski, and the only other people watching and taking photos or videos were Steve and myself. In the middle of the greatest weightlifters on the planet I saw first hand Steve go about his craft as he created some very popular content.)

Over the past two years, the IWF has asked him to photograph at more prestigious international competitions. His resume currently consists of:

  • 2015 Youth World Championships in Lima, Peru
  • 2015 IWF Grand Prix in Fuzhou, China
  • 2015 Senior World Championships in Houston, USA

A post shared by Sick Angles Media (@sickangles) on Dec 21, 2016 at 3:05pm PST


After the World Championships in Houston, Steve received the call that would take him straight to cloud nine. It was from Lilla Rozgonyi, IWF Director of Communication & Marketing; they wanted him to be the official photographer of weightlifting at the Olympic Games.

BarBend: What goes into your work as a photographer when you are onsite at a competition?

Galvan: We will arrive a few days before the competition to check out the facilities. We will check out the Wi-Fi connection, see how the lighting is, as much prep work as we can before the competition starts. I have had strategy sessions with the IWF, social media is very important, so after the competition ends I go to work selecting the best photos, editing them, adding a watermark and getting them online by the next morning. It’s important to get them out before the next day’s session’s start. Our goal is to capture photos from all the A session lifters, and select others [IE if an American is lifting or there is an interesting storyline in another session]. We want to capture the best snatch and clean and jerk of all the lifters also. We also want to capture cool moments, like when North Korea’s Rim Jong Sim got help to the medal podium in Houston after being injured.

A post shared by Sick Angles Media (@sickangles) on Mar 31, 2016 at 6:03pm PDT


Also some lifters are very animated, like Muhammad Ehab jumping around and being excited after a lift. To put this into perspective, the Youth World Championships was a 12 hour day and the Senior World Championships was a 15 hour day. Pictures capture the emotion of weightlifting.

A post shared by Sick Angles Media (@sickangles) on Apr 27, 2016 at 10:29am PDT


BB: What equipment do you take with you to a competition?


  • 2 Nikon D3S cameras (2 bodies)
  • Main lens is Nikon 70-200 F2.8 (2 total – 1 backup)
  • Sigma 120-300 F2.8 lens (purchased for Olympic Games)
  • 85mm fixed lens
  • 35-70 Nikon F2.8 lens
  • Sony a7s video camera (body) and 18-200 lens
  • 6 SD cards for a competition
  • 6 CF cards for a competition
  • SIM card for phone if venue does not have Wi-Fi [he will use a hot spot to connect his phone to his computer]
  • Many other cables, batteries, remotes & carrying cases
  • Hard-shelled rolling case to transport all of his equipment

BB: What type of preparation went into getting ready for the Olympics?

Galvan: It felt like many months went by, and I did not know where I would be sitting in comparison to the stage. I ended up in the main pit, which was front and center to the stage. During an A session there would be 15-20 other cameramen squeezed in there, and it was first come first serve. [Publications like Reuters, USA Today, Getty and other International press were in the same media section] I would arrive at 10:30 in the morning, about an hour and a half before the morning’s B session just to make sure I had a good position. The pit to the platform was about 120 feet. During the 10 minute break between the snatch and clean and jerk, I was actually rushing to edit a photo, watermark it, and load it onto the IWF social media platform. I tried doing the same when there was a long 2 minute clock running. 


BB: In your opinion, what kind of photos are most popular to weightlifting fans? What gets the most likes?

Galvan: What I think is cool and what is popular are not always the same. People love photos of muscles and attractive people. The Olympics mean less to social media than weightlifting fans. Different moments are actually more popular than the actual lifts. People want facts [Medals, World Records, etc.] and my job is to take photos and post them.

BB: What are your thoughts on copyright issues, to what extent does that play a part in what you do?

Galvan: This is a case where I ask myself, what is it worth to defend your photos or videos? Promotion is free, the value is not in the money. Most people will ask me before they will re-use my photos, and a lot are used for things like seminars or a similar event. Watermarking is the best defense if you have a concern about this.

BB: What are some tips that readers can utilize to take better photos or videos of weightlifting?


  1. Use a monopod to keep your camera level, it also will help with supporting the weight of a camera.
  2. Know where the bottom of the frame is in relation to the action on the platform. You want to minimize the amount of space between the athlete’s feet and the platform.
  3. Use a tripod and remote when taking video. Without a remote you run the risk of moving the camera with your hand, after you have perfectly lined up your camera.

BB: What were some of your favorite moments from the Olympic Games?

Galvan: There were so many, but several stand out to me:

  • In the 56KG category, China’s Long Quinquan set a world record in the clean and jerk on his last lift of the competition to defeat North Korea’s Om Yun-Chol. Om Yun-Chol had won the previous three world championships.
  • At 62KG, Oscar Figueroa won the gold medal then retired after the favored Chinese athlete cramped up.
  • Kazakhstan’s Nijat Rahimov had a huge 214KG clean and jerk to win the gold medal over Lu Xiaojun.
  • At 85KG, Kianoush Rostami won a great battle over Tian Tao. Every session was unreal, and I thought it could not possibly get any better, then the next session would be amazing.

BB: How has photography helped with your coaching?

Galvan: Photography has given me a better picture of what it takes to be a better coach. I can see the “big picture” of weightlifting behind my lens, and the end game is to win Olympic medals. It had helped me to put into perspective how to create a sustainable training atmosphere and advance my own coaching career. It also allows me to be more of a fan of the sport and less of a coach when I am at events.

Featured image courtesy of Steve Galvan

The post The Sickest Angles: An Interview with Steve Galvan, the IWF’s Official Photographer appeared first on BarBend.

Strongman Showdown: Can Eddie Hall Beat Brian Shaw in 2017?

Perhaps the only person as tenacious as Eddie Hall is an Eddie Hall fan. Strength enthusiasts seem to rally behind him more than any other strongman. This claim is not merely anecdotal, though teems of social media and forum users who post in praise of “The Beast” do make it hard to dispute.

One might point out that Eddie Hall is the only strongman to have his own feature documentary, or that he has over 240,000 more “likes” on Facebook than his rival Hafthor Bjornsson – and Hall isn’t the one with a recurring role on Game of Thrones, one of the most highly rated shows on television today.

At 692,981 “likes,” Eddie Hall dwarfs the Facebook presences of Brian Shaw and Zydrunas Savickas, the two strongest men of all time, who each boast under 200,000. (It must be conceded, however, that Bjornsson has the most popular Instagram account of all strongmen, with Hall in second place, but quite far behind him.)

A post shared by Eddie hall (@eddie_hall_strong) on Jan 13, 2017 at 4:41am PST


Eddie Hall’s career seems perpetuated by spectacular momentum. The twenty-nine year old seems to break his own records with regularity.

Each of Hall’s World’s Strongest Man performances have been an improvement on his last. In his debut, he finished fourth in his qualifying heat. Next, he finished third. By his third appearance in the annual competition, he was cracking into the WSM Grand Final. Hall placed sixth in 2014 and fourth in 2015. Last year, he earned a coveted spot on the podium for the first time.

Despite dislocated fingers that completely sabotaged his performance in the Frame Carry event, where he placed dead last, Eddie Hall proved he was the third strongest man in the world.

Third place is far from where his ambition ends.

A post shared by Eddie hall (@eddie_hall_strong) on Jan 1, 2017 at 12:59pm PST


Hall, despite never winning the title, believes he is the strongest man in the world. In his documentary, he distinguishes certain events as “proper” strongman events. These so-called proper events include deadlifts, squats, and presses (all of which Mr. Hall excels at). The term does not seem to apply to medleys, runs, or carries, which can be cited as Hall’s weakest events.

In contrast to my analysis, Eddie Hall does not list any weaknesses as the cause for his third-place performance, but rather those dislocated fingers, which undoubtedly were an inhibiting factor.

On his Instagram, Hall made himself clear by writing, “I genuinely believe I would have been in with a win if I hadn’t had the injury!” He throws up some logic to back it up: “Even if I got middle placing on the frame and an extra point per event, I’d have won, but it’s easy to say whats, buts, and shoulds after the event.”

Was he really that close to victory? Let’s do some back-of-the-napkin math.

Brian Shaw won the 2016 World’s Strongest Man with an impressive 53 points. Eddie Hall was a full ten points behind. Improving from last to sixth in the Frame Carry, which would be just behind Hafthor Bjornsson, Hall improves four points. [53-47] Had he pulled the C-130 Hercules just 0.08m more, he would have bested Shaw, trading one point. [52-48] Moving up one rank in the Kettlebell Toss, where I imagine fingers are quite valuable, adds another point, but doesn’t detract from Shaw’s supremacy there. [52-49] With all these concessions, Hall is still three points behind.

Even winning the Circus Barbell Press and the Max Deadlift outright, rather than tying for the win (as he did in each case), could only take Brian Shaw down half-a-point, and lift Eddie Hall by one. That would make the score 51.5-to-50, preserving Shaw’s championship, and perhaps dispelling Hall’s Instagram bravado.

For Eddie Hall to have won the 2016 World’s Strongest Man, he would have needed to win the Atlas Stones. That incredibly tall order would have been the only way left for Hall to earn the number one spot, 52-to-50.5.

So, no. With respect to Mr. Hall, healthy fingers would unlikely have helped him to victory. 2016 was not his year. Still, it says something that one can even dream up a situation where he’s within 1.5 points of glory.

One year may be enough time for him to close the gap. Despite my criticism, I am not betting against him.

Featured image: @eddie_hall_strong on Instagram

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

The post Strongman Showdown: Can Eddie Hall Beat Brian Shaw in 2017? appeared first on BarBend.