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Inside the badass world of female Strongman competitors

strongman competition

At first glance, Alyssa Ages looks like a lot of New York City’s fitness devotees: she dresses her petite frame in leggings and tanks, keeps her red hair out of her eyes with Sparkly Soul headbands, and looks totally toned.

But what you can’t tell by looking at her is that Ages (above) is actually part of a small group of young women in NYC who are upping the ante of Barry’s classes or Soul sessions with a different kind of workout: training for Strongman competitions by throwing kegs (yes, those kegs), dragging metal chains, raising logs above their heads, and deadlifting hundreds of pounds.

It’s another step in the trend of women craving workouts with a side of major badass (kind of like how CrossFit shot up in popularity among women and boxing studios are all the rage). “There’s this movement of women wanting to be strong and lift heavy weights,” says Ages. “There’s a unique sense of accomplishment in saying, ‘Today I flipped a tire.’ Every time I go to the gym I impress myself.”

So what else is enticing women from Saturday boutique workouts and brunch to tossing tires and doing farmer squats at a weekend Strongman competition? 

strongman competition 3

It starts with a serious passion for fitness—and a competitive edge. Health has always been a focus for Ages: she runs a marketing consulting company that focuses on fitness brands (Mile High Run Club and Sweatstyle have been on her roster) and doubles as a personal trainer and instructor at Uplift Studios.

But she also has an insatiable desire to push herself—hard. “I’m naturally competitive, and I like to have a goal looming on the horizon,” she says. “I’m always trying one extreme thing after another.” That explains why, after running her first marathon in 2005, she’s gone on to run five more, and competed in a triathlon, and an Ironman.

Then she tried CrossFit, where she met some women who encouraged her to try a class with them at The Global Strongman Gym in Midtown Manhattan.

“I played with Atlas stones and tires and it was so much fun that I started training there regularly,” Ages says. She did her first competition in August, and in February, she earned a personal best with a 265-pound deadlift. “There’s so much adrenaline and excitement. Even if you don’t win, you leave feeling pretty incredible about yourself,” she says.

strongman competition 2

It’s all about defying expectations. Ages says that while people involved in Strongman competitions have always known the potential for female strength, it’s fun to prove it to everyone else.

“I was at Home Depot buying sand, and a guy asked me if I needed help,” she says. “I just threw the bag of sand over my shoulder. The look on his face was incredible.”

It’s also an (extreme) fitness experience that lets you quantify what you’re capable of in a really unique way. “I’ve always been in pretty good shape, but now it’s like, ‘Check out what I can do,’” she says.

There’s a team mentality. Competing is a commitment: Ages weight trains every other day, and does cardio once or twice a week, mixed with cross training at City Row or Uplift. But the thing that keeps her coming back for more (besides feeling unstoppable), is the small group of other women she trains with.

“The camaraderie is unparalleled; I’ve never seen anything like it in a competitive setting,” Ages says. “Knowing what these other strong women can do pushes me to work harder, trust my strength and my training, and not hold back.” Having a support system makes long hours in the gym—and competing—together much more fun. “We bust our butts, then go balls to the wall…and then all take Instagram pictures together,” she says.

Still, she says, there’s a little bit of room for improvement in the sport. “It would be nice if they called it Strongman and Woman.”—Molly Gallagher

For information on The Global Strongman Gym, visit

(All Photos: Seth Miller/Wandering Aramean)