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Is Trey Mitchell the Worlds Strongest Man?

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In Greek mythology, Zeus sentences Sisyphus to spend eternity in the underworld, rolling a boulder up a hill. After moving the heavy object to the top, the boulder rolls down again, only to see Sisyphus make the same excruciating attempt. Trey Mithell, 30, can commiserate with this tale a bit. He’s used to lifting and moving heavy objects as one of the top competitors in World’s Strongest Man. But that may be where the comparison ends. The sport has changed Mitchell’s life and offers an outlet for his skill. Unlike Sisyphus, the Texan is turning his strength into a way of life that’s given him purpose.

(Photo by World’s Strongest Man)

The World’s Strongest Man Competition

“Strongman is just a challenge for me to improve,” he says. “When I was a kid, I didn’t have any goals or direction. Then I started working out. I liked that I could change my body and get stronger. When I found that I could do Strongman and was really good at it, I had something I could work for in my life, not just be aimless.”

As the World’s Strongest Man cranks up for the competition’s 47th year, Mitchell is ready to rack it up and flex his muscles.

Becoming a Strongman

For the uninitiated, Strongman pits modern-day Hercules against each other in competitions, combining plenty of muscle, agility, and fortitude. That may involve carrying massive stones, deadlifting hundreds of pounds, tossing kegs, pressing heavy logs overhead, carrying a Volkswagen Beetle, and more.

Several outfits hold competitions throughout the year, but “World’s Strongest Man” is the sport’s marquee. Founded in 1977, WSM has been aired on ESPN and CBS Sports from exotic locations worldwide. The event sees competitors vying for the ultimate title of “World’s Strongest Man,” which Mitchell captured in 2018. He’s also made the finals four times.

This Strongman from Lumberton, Texas, played high school football for two years before moving on to lifting to compete. Even before graduating, the 6-foot, 4-inch, 360-pounder had already competed in two amateur competitions. The sport seemed like a nice fit for his frame and athletic mindset. Growing up working on his parents’ farm, I saw him tossing bales of hay and completing plenty of hard work in the Texas heat, which may have also helped.

The Earliest Days

“I grew up watching (WSM) on TV, and I always thought it was cool,” he says. “I was always one of the stronger kids growing up just because my dad basically had me for physical labor. He always had me mowing grass and doing chores around the house. After football, I just wanted an excuse to keep training, so I found a competition and convinced my parents to let me do it. I told myself, ‘I think I can be the world’s strongest man one day.’ Now I’m competing with the guys.”

While he’s had a few other jobs managing gyms and working retail, Mitchell now lifts and competes full-time. First-place finishes can bring payouts up to $50,000. Sponsorship deals also help as competitors avoid taking part in too many competitions each year. Injuries can be a major setback, and Mitchell is coming off an Achilles injury sustained in October.

‘I think I can be the world’s strongest man one day.’ Now I'm competing with the guys.”
(Photo by World’s Strongest Man)

Training & Competition

Some might think competing in Worlds’ Strongest Man is simply a battle of brawn, but that’s definitely not true. Each event has its own idiosyncrasies. Like in a decathlon, where athletes shine in certain events over others, strongmen also have varying events at which they are better. One athlete may be a good fit for more traditional-style lifting, while another may be more agile and excel in events involving more movement beyond simply slinging weight around.

Mitchel shines in the Atlas stones, one of WSM’s signature feats. In this event, each competitor lifts several stones, hoping to put them on top of five high platforms spanning a course up to 33 feet long. The stones increase in weight from about 220 pounds to 330 pounds.

“Everybody’s different – their bodies, genetics,” he says of the athletics involved. “I have long arms and a long torso, so when I do Atlas stones, I can wrap my arms around over the top of it to get more surface area. When doing Atlas stones, you want as much contact with it as possible to transfer as much force into it. Usually, the athletes with short arms aren’t too good at Atlas stones.”

Beyond the stones, Mitchell excels at deadlift and overhead log press. A typical week may see him practicing the stones and working on carrying events on Sunday.  Tuesday brings pressing events and tricep and back work. That includes overhead pressing with a log bar used in competitions and lifting heavy sandbags. Thursdays involve deadlifting and squats to pair with lower body events, with more pressing coming on Friday.

For the uninitiated, strongman pits modern-day Hercules against each other in competitions combining plenty of muscle, agility, and fortitude.
(Photo by World’s Strongest Man)

Exercise Routines

The entire routine runs from three to four hours a day. He’s now up to a 900-pound deadlift, 850-pound squat, a bench press of 500 pounds, and a 465-pound overhead press.  Exercises like Atlas stones and log presses aren’t an option at the neighborhood gym, so lifters have to get inventive and sometimes fabricate their own apparatuses, as well as use a traditional gym.

“I have a lot of stuff in my garage,” he says. “Most of the big events like Atlas stones and sandbags I can do in my garage right now. But since I’m recovering from my injury, I was going to a commercial gym with machines. They have some strongman equipment but not anything hardcore, like the big wooden logs or Atlas stones. You’ve got to make your own Atlas stores. They sell the molds, and you pour concrete into them to make your own.”

That wasn’t always the case, and Mitchell and his father initially made their own stones when he got into the sport. They bought large exercise balls, cut a hole, and poured in concrete. They were a little misshapen, but they did the trick, and he’s now one of the best stone competitors in the world.

Getting to that level involves more than lifting. Mitchell also watches his diet, which includes high calories and carbs. At the peak of his training in 2023, he ate eight egg whites each morning with a side of oatmeal and added two and a half pounds of beef with rice and sweet potato daily. He notes, “It takes a lot of food to fuel our training to be able to lift a lot of weight.”

Looking Ahead

Life on the road as a strongman offers some excellent opportunities to see the world. Mitchell’s first competition was in Australia, and he’s also competed in England, Montreal, and other locations. Despite the effort to outduel opponents, competitors share techniques and knowledge. Mitchell enjoys both the competition and the camaraderie.

When not involved with Strongman, Mitchell enjoys hunting and fishing, but his heavy workout routine has prevented that a bit lately. What’s he hoping for this year?

“Since I’m coming off the injury, going into World’s Strongest Man, the goal has been to make the finals,” he says. “You compete in qualifying heats, and the top two of each heat go to the finals. So, the goal is to make it to the finals, and then I’ll have other competitions later this year. I think I can be 100% going into those. Now, I want to perform as best as I can.”

There are several outfits holding competitions throughout the year, but WSM is the sport’s marquee.
(Photo by World’s Strongest Man)

A Popular Sport

As more people have seen the competitions on television and follow the athletes on social media, WSM has grown in popularity. Mitchell has seen that firsthand as more fans show up to check out the action. These big men are becoming a bigger deal.

“Last year, it was really crowded at World’s Strongest Man,” he says. “People couldn’t see in the back, so they went out to find step ladders to see over the crowd. It’s great having so many supporters for the sport. When I started as an amateur, it was just your friends and family showing up to watch and support you. Now you have actual people come in to cheer you on, people that you don’t know, but they know of you.”

As the World’s Strongest Man cranks up for the competition’s 47th year, Mitchell is ready to rack it up and flex his muscles. Be sure to follow Trey’s journey and follow all the World’s Strongest Man action by visiting: theworldsstrongestman.com

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