Former Black Hills State basketball player Brian Shaw has made quite the athletic transition.
In the span of a few years, he’s gone from carrying a regulation-size basketball, which weighs 22 ounces, to an “Atlas stone,” which weighs between 220 and 352 pounds.
It’s a staggering weight, to be sure. But given that Shaw stands 6-foot-8, weighs 390 pounds and is one of the front-runners to win this year’s The World’s Strongest Man competition, it’s all in a day’s workout.
Although feats of strength may be a far cry from competitive basketball, Shaw has embraced his natural talent in the sport and has quickly risen to the top.
“If you had told me when I was playing basketball that in five or six years I had a very good chance of becoming the world’s strongest man, I don’t think I would’ve believed you,” Shaw said.
After graduating in 2004 with a degree in wellness management, Shaw became a graduate assistant in the strength and conditioning department at the University of Arizona. While working with students, Shaw realized he wasn’t ready to make the athlete-to-coach transition and decided to return home to Colorado in 2005.
On a whim, he entered a local amateur strongman contest, Denver’s Strongest Man, and won. He had extensive gym training, but Shaw lacked experience in the strongman events. He recognized his natural talent in the sport and decided to enter more contests.
Comfortably winning several more events led Shaw to pursue a professional career. Upon reaching that level in 2006, he hasn’t looked back. Shaw has entered around 30 competitions since the beginning of his career and views the contests as learning experiences.
“The more contests you do, and the more you are in a competitive situation, the better you are going to be at handling pressure and the different things that come along with being in competition,” Shaw said.
A hard-working attitude has helped shape Shaw’s career, giving him success without the help of a coach.
“When I started, I didn’t know anyone and I fell back on my background in weights,” Shaw said. “I watched the technique of others as they would compete and would modify it to best benefit my own workouts. I do what works best for me, and I think it makes me a better competitor because I learned how to make myself better.”
Shaw works as a personal trainer and has the freedom to train properly in order to succeed. On average, he works with weights five days a week and practices strongman events on the weekends. Before starting the sport, Shaw built a base strength with weights and was able to overlap that with his strongman training.
Although balance is a key part of Shaw’s workouts, he believes that listening to one’s body is just as important.
“Getting enough rest and recovery is huge,” Shaw said. “You have to be smart and listen to your body, and be OK with adjusting when necessary.”
Shaw also follows a carefully regimented diet. His average daily menu consists of consuming 8,000-10,000 calories, six to eight eggs, a gallon of milk, 2 pounds of lean meat, three or more protein shakes and carbohydrates at least three times a day.
In a sport where size and strength determine success, Shaw’s impressive stature has been a big plus. Although body size can create advantages or disadvantage in certain events, Shaw feels that being taller helps more than it hurts. His world-best performances in the “Atlas stones,” an event where competitors place five progressively weighted stones on gradually higher platforms, prove size does matter.
Shaw’s highly dedicated workouts, strict diet and natural talent has made him a top contender for The World’s Strongest Man 2010 title. Shaw took third in last year’s event and feels that he can capture the coveted title this year.
“Last year was without a doubt the toughest WSM in history. The athletes keep getting better, and the winner last year is considered to be the strongest man that has ever lived,” Shaw said. “To be in close contest with them made me that much more hungry for the title.”
Shaw became the first automatic qualifier for this year’s competition after he won a recent contest in South Africa. With qualifying behind him and the location site still undetermined, Shaw is focused on a more complete training schedule.
“Strongman tests how much muscle you have and how much power you can generate,” he said. “I have to be good at all the events in order to win.”
Shaw said he feels blessed to do what he loves, but winning The World’s Strongest Man would be a dream realized.
“If I win, it proves that all the hard work I’ve put in has paid off,” he said. “Having that solidified for the world to see would be a great feeling.”