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“I’m the first Canadian to be named World’s Strongest Man. Here’s how I did it”

Mitchell Hooper can deadlift the weight of a grand piano, carry the weight of a grizzly bear and pull the weight of a city bus

By Mitchell Hooper, as told to Alyssa Ages| Photography by Todd Burandt
“I’m the first Canadian to be named World’s Strongest Man. Here’s how I did it”

After just one year competing at the professional level, Barrie’s Mitchell Hooper is officially the World’s Strongest Man, making him the first Canadian to win the title since the competition began, in 1977. Strongman athletes train in local gyms or makeshift garage set-ups, carrying, dragging, throwing and pulling a variety of weighty objects, including 18-wheeler trucks and giant boulders. Then they go head-to-head in amateur competitions in suburban parking lots, hoping to make it to one of the national or world championships. 

At the April competition, 27-year-old Hooper’s feats included pulling a city bus using only his body and a rope, deadlifting 475 kilograms (about the weight of a grand piano), and walking across an arena carrying a pair of boulders weighing a combined 252 kilograms (about the weight of an adult grizzly bear). When he’s not lifting enormous things, Hooper, who has a master’s degree in clinical exercise physiology, is busy running the Longevity Nexum kinesiology clinic in Barrie, where he focuses on treating and preventing chronic injury and disease—and getting otherwise sedentary people moving. Here, Hooper talks about his training regimen, pushing his body to its limits and the moment when he knew he was about to dethrone the previous strongman champion. 


I’ve been active my entire life. I started playing hockey when I was four years old. As I got older, I played baseball, basketball, volleyball and golf at the competitive level, traveling to competitions to represent my various clubs. I went on to briefly play football at the University of Guelph, where I was studying human kinetics. I wanted to experience all of the ways the human body could move. So, before I settled into my career, I shifted into bodybuilding and eventually started marathon running. Regardless of the sport or whether I’m competing against others, I’ve always been excited to see what I’m capable of.

After graduating from the University of Guelph, I  moved to Australia to pursue graduate studies in Kinesiology. While I was there, I found a strength training gym and began powerlifting, winning the national championship within six months. Soon afterward, the guys at the gym egged me on to do some strongman training. The first piece of strongman equipment I touched was a log, which is usually either an actual tree trunk with handles attached or a metal cylinder made to resemble a real log. It’s always so cumbersome and awkward the first time you touch any new weight. The most I could lift at that time was about 100 to 120 kilograms. 

In the first competition I entered, a qualifier for the Arnold Strongman Australia Championships in late 2020, there was a 130-kilogram log, and I was over the moon that I was able to clean and press it overhead. I qualified for the championship, though the event was postponed due to the pandemic. Three years later, I pressed 195 kilos for three reps at the 2023 Arnold Strongman Classic in March—an annual international competition hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger—and I took first place. It’s amazing to see the progress you can make when you get comfortable with something.

Mitchell Hooper is the first Canadian World's Strongest Man

Leading up to World’s Strongest Man, I trained five days a week and practised for all of the events—the load medley, deadlift, log press, Conan’s wheel, kettlebell toss, Fingal’s fingers, shield carry, monster dumbbell, vehicle pull and Atlas stones—at least once a week. I trained for the ones I was having the most trouble with, like the monster dumbbell press and the truck pull, at least twice a week. I mostly worked out at my home gym in Barrie, Athletic Kulture, which has a mix of strength, cardio and strongman equipment. 

Mitchell Hooper is the first Canadian World's Strongest Man

I weigh 320 pounds, but my diet isn’t anything special. I’m just a normal guy who happens to eat a couple of extra meals per day compared with most people. I don’t spend too much time eating. I have a protein shake for breakfast at 6:30 a.m and a sandwich at noon followed by a premade meal before I train. After I work out, I have a smoothie followed by another premade meal before dinner and eventually my proper supper. Then, before I go to bed, I have one last shake. I’ve never been too restrictive. Before a competition, I usually go out for dinner, have a couple of beers and stay up a little bit later than usual, because it keeps me from lying in bed worrying.

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Mitchell Hooper is the first Canadian World's Strongest Man

Heading into this year’s World’s Strongest Man, in April, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina—on the heels of making the podium at eight out of the nine international competitions I’d competed in over the past year—I knew that I had a shot at winning. But I was also aware that, out of the 30 of us who qualified, it would be a tight race between me and six or seven other guys. The four-day competition included two days of qualifying rounds, after which 10 of us would make it into the two-day finals, competing in three events each day. 

Mitchell Hooper is the first Canadian World's Strongest Man

On the first day of the finals, I went head-to-head with the reigning champ, Tom Stoltman, during the shield carry event—both of us carrying a 195-kilo metal shield in a bear hug for as long and as far as we could. Tom held the world record for the event, so he was the favourtite. I knew that, if I beat him, I’d be in very good standing, so that was great motivation. After one lap, I had to stop and adjust my grip on the shield because it was slipping down my chest; you’re not allowed to drop it during the run. 

I was getting to the point where I was done. Then I heard Tom’s shield drop, and I looked over and saw him turn toward me and make a number-one gesture with his hand. I kept my eye on the mark where he’d dropped his shield, and even though I was struggling, I made sure I carried mine just a bit farther. Strongman is all about perseverance and getting things done by any means necessary.

Mitchell Hooper is the first Canadian World's Strongest Man

After day one of the finals, I was in the lead by half a point, but I still had my three historically terrible events—the monster dumbbell, the vehicle pull, and the Atlas stones—to go. I told myself I’d be happy to make the podium. Instead, I ended up tying for first place in the dumbbell press, taking first on the vehicle pull and coming in second on the Atlas stones. I had to overcome a lot of self-doubt, but to be able to go out and execute on what I’d trained for—that was just so rewarding and such a good feeling.

Mitchell Hooper is the first Canadian World's Strongest Man

Strongman training takes a lot of time and dedication. I do my best to keep the balance between my personal, professional and training lives from getting too out of whack. I prioritize a lot of things—including my business, the Longevity Nexum clinic in Barrie, which is very important to me. I also have a fiancée named Ashely. If something were ever to happen to her, I’d give up the sport in an instant to take care of her. I’m not sure every guy in this sport would say that.

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“I’m the first Canadian to be named World’s Strongest Man. Here’s how I did it”

Strongman has added a greater purpose to my life. Now, my focus is giving back. I want to use my platform to help the sport grow and get others involved. I’ve just put out a new apparel line, and I’m donating a chunk of the profits back to the strongman community: I’m going to choose a small gym and give it to them so they can pay rent or sponsor members. My goal is to change as many people’s lives as possible, even if it’s just by one or two degrees. 

Mitchell Hooper is the first Canadian World's Strongest Man

Smashing through my physical limits with strongman training has helped me understand that I can smash goals in every aspect of my life. It’s changed my whole perspective on who I can be and what  I can do. In the end, regardless of how many titles I win or how far that takes me, the gym is my reprieve. And it always will be.

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