Ahmad Taufiq – Arnolds South Africa Write Up and Tips for competing overseas
By Ahmad Taufiq
Comp Prep- 16 weeks out
Prep work for the Arnold’s South Africa started 16 weeks out. Prep was somewhat a high and low… High because I loss a bit of body fat with my new nutrition program, gained muscle and got really strong. The low was when I got infected with Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever at 12 to 11 weeks out no thanks to the Aedes mosquito! I was basically rendered useless for a good 2 weeks, I couldn’t train, I couldn’t eat or even walk without feeling any pain in my joint. I also lost a good 10kg (22lbs) in 10 days. I felt really down at this point because I have been taking care of my diet and have gain some quality muscle and weight.
I’ve always neglected one portion of prep which is nutrition. I worked with a nutritionist as she planned and monitored my meals daily and constantly gave me feedback and changes I had to make. I’ve started out eating more vegetables, fruits and proper food. For that 16 weeks I did not have MacDonald’s or KFC. I had the occasional pizza once a month but after that I usually feel sluggish the next day.
Once I fixed my nutrition, I was able train longer, harder and more frequent during the week. I think nutrition is one of the many elements that have been neglected by all strongman athletes and if you really explore this option it would definitely be that missing piece of the puzzle.
Competition Breakdown and Reflections
Group photo of all the amazing athletes!
Axle Clean and Press for reps
The weight of 140kg (308lbs) is rather manageable as I’ve achieved this weight during my training sessions before. Warmed up at 80kg, 90kg, 100kg and 120kg for doubles. And during my last warm up set of 120kg. I head a “crack” at my ring finger on my left hand while cleaning the axle. It wasn’t a pleasant sensation. But I thought, I just taped it tight and give it a go. Only managed to clean pass my hips but I wasn’t able to transition the bar to my chest due to the pain. I bombed out and got hurt during my first event!
320kg (708lbs) for repetitions. Seems that first day was rather grip dominant but at least we could use straps. I managed to rep out 5 good repetitions for this and managed to come in joint first! Much chance thanks for Pro Strongman Eben Le Roux for pushing me to get that last 5th rep! I was rather happy with 4 repetitions.
Sandbag Loading Race 125kg(375lbs) x 3 sandbags onto a 1.3m platform
This was rather unpleasant! During the break Eben was giving us tips on how to lifts, walk and load the sandbags. I tried as many ways I could but my finger just refused to cooperate and every time I picked it up my grip just gave way. So I thought I would still give it a go but try a different way to pick like a husafel stone grip. But nope my finger was having none of my nonsense. Bombed out too!
150kg (330lbs) x 30m There is a pattern on first day that from a top 5 placing after one event I was slowly diminishing away with an injury. I attemped the farmers and 60kg for a warm up and I couldn’t even get a good grip at all. Justin one of the referee’s told me to give it a go and even if I moved it for 1 metre I would still score points and not zero. Because I was stubborn I gave it a go… Once again my finger which was swelling up nicely didn’t want to cooperate at all. I zeroed for this too!
At the end of Day 1 of competition, I was pretty bummed out that I only managed to score well on one event and pretty much sucked on the others. Competing with the smallest of injury on competition day itself is a challenge but I kept telling myself that I would give every event a genuine attempt because I didn’t fly 19 hours just to call it quits. So day one was pretty much over and I was walking around the competition area with my hand in an ice bucket and heavy tapped fingers. We had one day rest on Saturday as the Pros were on Saturday! Made myself useful by helping Eben and some of the Pro guys with their deadlift suits and I’ve lost count how many suits I put on and took off.
Day 2 of competition with 430kg (946lbs) yoke. I’ve done 400kg to 420kg for 10 meters before, it was definitely an unpleasant sensation! Warmed up with 200kg, 280kg, 320kg, 380kg and I thought to myself “Hey that felt pretty comfortable!” I was able to walk with 380kg with much ease (also I didnt have to use my grip). I was one of the first to go because I zeroed my past event. Picked up the yoke, waited for that forward swinging and i walked a good 5-6 steps and suddenly my right calf went “POP”! I just brushed it off and went for another attempt. Pick up the yoke and took a step and I just came crashing down! Getting hurt is like becoming the norm. My calf swelled up nicely and I if you ever need one thing in strongman is duct tape! I taped my calf so tight that I forgot that I had a calf!
Many athletes don’t like the forward hold of 17.5kg (38.5lbs) on each hand because its a tough event and it will hurt you! Saw quite a few guys getting hurt before me and one of my buddies Travis did dislocated his shoulder for this event. I started out pretty well and got the implement to the required height but after 5-6 seconds my butt was not in contact with the platform. Got penalised for that… Rookie mistake!
180kg for reps (396lbs) Eben did warn me that this event would hurt me because I was walking around with a injured calf. But I told Eben that, I would give it a genuine go despite my useless calf. I managed to lift the stone off the ground but once it reached my knees, my calf pulled so tightly that I nearly fell, good thing I bailed out nicely and the marshalls were there to catch me. Zeroed for this too!
My target for the competition was rather realistic and being able to be in the top 10 was good for me. I did achieve that desired placing. To be really honest I wasn’t even close to being happy with my performance but given the circumstances I’m just happy to have given each event a genuine go despite being hurt. I just kept telling myself that I’ve fly 19 hours in a plane and not doing my genuine best is not good enough for me.
Travis, Eben Le Roux, Keya Woodward and Myself
With whatever that has happened, it was an amazing experience to be able to learn so much about what I need to work on and fix my weaknesses and just get stronger! But the most amazing thing was just having the opportunity to compete at the Arnolds Amateur Strongman World Series and able to compete with the strongest guys in the Southern Hemisphere! It was also such a delight to see Eben Le Roux break the Australian and Southern Hemisphere Deadlift Record with a 420kg lift! I was very fortunate to have many friends from Australia who also competed during the Arnold’s Weekend and we took care of each other! Congratulations to Johan Els from South Africa for winning the Opens Amateurs!!!
Johan Els winner of the Opens Amateur category (far right)
So here is some Strongman-bro tips to competing overseas because jet lag is a bitch
Pick a flight and always choose an aisle seat! Because getting your shoulders hit by the trolley is far better than being stuck in the middle seats! Also choose an airline that suits your budget and travel plans. Try to always arrive at another country between 12.00 Noon to 2.00pm because most hotels check in time is within 12.30 to 2.30pm then you are able to check in, wash up, get sorted and have something to eat. Arriving too early would mean you have to wait for your room to be ready and to late would mean that most eating places would be closed. And always choose a hotel nearby to the event. I was lucky as the hotel I booked was just 2 minutes walk away!
Know the climate
Singapore has always been hot, humid and wet! South Africa was cool and Dry! Always make sure you have a pair of warm trackies and sweater to warm up with! Cos warming up in a cold climate is different from warming up in a hot climate!
Know the altitude
This was the killer bit… I arrived 2.5 days before the competition and while we had dinner on the first night, walking back I really struggled with breathing and I was just panting and gasping for air and it felt I was having an asthma attack and I had headaches these were all symptoms of vertigo and altitude sickness! Only when I got back to our room and Googled on the altitude. It seems that Johannesburg is located on the Highveld Plateau at a height of 1753m (5751 feet) above sea level. I live an area where its not more than 30m above sea level in Singapore. So the next day I forced Travis and everyone just to walk around and get used to the altitude and thin air. The worst thing to happen is to be breathless on competition day, pass out and get hurt in the process! Which brings me to the next point of flying in early
Importance of flying in early
Knowing what I know… with the altitude and climate changes, I would probably fly in 4-5 days earlier next year if I were to compete in Arnold’s South Africa! Also the jet lag and fatigue from the flying and travelling really hits you hard. It hit me really hard on the Saturday as I felt so tired, listless and just not able to concentrate. All I wanted to do was sleep! So fly in a few days earlier and get your rest!
All in all it was an amazing experience at the Arnolds South Africa! Managed to meet my old friends, make new friends and just being able to have the company of like minded athletes made it a perfect weekend! A huge thank you to Pro Strongman Gerhard Van Staden for the smooth running of the competition, the helpers and judges for the competition. Eben Le Roux and Jon Lane for just being so helpful and guiding us along the way. To the most fantastic crew from Australia Alira, Rebecca, Leigh, Keya, Joanne and Travis for adopting me as Team Australia for the weekend and also we basically had so much fun and laughs together! Last but not least all the other strongman athletes who gave it all this weekend! I was such a privilege to be able to compete with everyone of you guys!
Strongman Athlete from Singapore
Team Optimum Nutrition Athlete
Technical Director Singapore Strongman Series
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