News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 19, 2013

Hughes, News & Views: Gladiator Games are back Saturday

Pumpfest/Strongman contests part of outdoor fun put on by Union Hospital

David Hughes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — When I talk to my old weightlifting buddies around the country on the phone, through texts or on Facebook, we frequently reminisce about “the good ol’ days.”

Imagine that — guys over 50 living in the past.

Anyway, I recently discussed with Jim McCarty — who now lives in Daytona Beach, Fla. — about a “Terre Haute’s Strongest Man” contest he organized in the mid-1980s inside the National Guard Armory on Maple Avenue.

We couldn’t remember all the events, but we were pretty sure they included the bench press, deadlift with a regulation bar, arm curl, tire toss, running with heavy dumbbells in each hand to a spot on the floor and returning to the start line and repetition deadlifts using the back end of a medium-size car.

It was primitive, but it was challenging fun for yours truly to try.

“It was the first time anything like that had ever been done in Terre Haute,” McCarty insisted. “We were surprised we had so many entries. Barry Kent was there from the radio station [WTHI-FM 99.9]. We had hundreds of spectators from around the Midwest.”

“I had been lifting weights for years, but I had never competed in anything like that before,” added former Terre Haute resident Brian Shelton, who also lives in Daytona Beach. “I was able to lift with the best strength athletes who had ever come through that town at the time and it was the best time of my life.”

Now let’s live in the present.

Fast forward to Terre Haute 2013 as “Big John” Barrett prepares to put on the Strongman competition for the sixth annual Gladiator Games, which will take place Saturday in the Union Hospital Center for Fitness and Performance parking lot on North Seventh Street.

The Gladiator Games are free and open to the public. The Pumpfest competition will begin at 8 a.m., followed by the Strongman competition at approximately 12:30 p.m.

This event is how today’s modern strength athletes will build memories they can chat about 25-30 years from now.

But things have changed since the ’80s.

Barrett, a fitness specialist for the Union Hospital Center for Fitness and Performance and assistant football coach at Terre Haute North High School, explained how the Strongman competition will work.

“We’ve got some nice local talent coming in, some first-time competitors — Dane Norton, Sean Brentlinger, Jeremy Snowden, Buddy White, to name a few,” he said. “We’ve also got some guys coming from Michigan, Missouri, Ohio. So it’s going to be a nice group of competitors.”

Barrett expects about 21-22 competitors, including at least four women, to test their strength. Former multi-time winner Molly Martin is among the female entrants.

For men, there will be two divisions — lightweight (231 pounds and below) and heavyweight (above 231).

To enter, you must be a member of the North American Strongman Society (NASS), which costs $40. Entry fee for the competition itself is $70.

Barrett described the five segments of the Strongman competition:

1. Farmer’s carry — Basically, you carry a torpedo-looking weight in each hand 60 feet, then turn around and come back 60 feet while not releasing the weights.

2. Viking press — You perform an overhead press with a contraption that has a slight forward lean.

3. Car deadlift for repititions — You do as many reps with the back end of a Ford Focus as you possibly can in 60 seconds.

“For the heavyweights, we’ll add some weight to the back end of the cars,” Barrett mentioned. “Plus, they’ll be lifting from a lower level [making it more difficult].”

4. Conan’s wheel — You push a weighted pole around in circles, seeing how far you can go in 60 seconds.

5. Atlas stone — You pick up a heavy round stone, lift it over a bar and drop it, then someone pushes it back to you and you repeat the process until 60 seconds have elapsed. See how many times you can do that!

“There’s a lot of technique involved and a lot of core strength,” Barrett noted. “They enjoy it, but they’ll be spent at the end of the afternoon.

“This show will probably go pretty quickly. I’m looking at about 30 minutes per event. And outdoors, on pavement, it’s going to be hot. A lot of hydration going on. A lot of people will be drinking plenty of water and plenty of Gatorade. … It’s going to be fun, though. It’ll be interesting to watch.”

Barrett said some of the athletes are former football players, track weight-throwers and wrestlers as well as “guys who just worked all their lives and like to lift weights.”

Although the 46-year-old Barrett won’t be competing Saturday so he can focus on officiating, he did place second in the Senior Division (40 and older) of the U.S. Strongman competition last September in Indianapolis.

Standing 6 feet, 4 inches tall and weighing 360 pounds, Barrett admitted: “It’s a little harder than it used to be, but it’s still fun.”

The Pumpfest also sounds like challenging fun.

Event co-coordinator Colton Zeck, another Union fitness specialist as well as a Level 1 CrossFit trainer, said there will be 50 participants, including 21 women. There will be a scaled division and a prescribed (RX) division for men and women, with the latter division being the more difficult.

In the prescribed division, each athlete will be put through at least three time-based, repetition-based workouts. The first workout, for example, will involve running 400-meter shuttles, jumping rope and a weightlifting/body-movement routine.

Zeck said the top five men and top five women in the prescribed division through three workouts will be put through a fourth workout to determine the Pumpfest champions.

If Saturday’s temperatures weren’t going to reach the upper 80s, all of this fitness activity would sound like fun, even for me to try.


David Hughes can be reached after 4 p.m. by phone at 1-800-783-8742, Option 4, or at 812-231-4224; by fax at 812-231-4321; or by email at Follow Hughes on Twitter@TribStarDavid.