A show for Minnesota’s strongest

Fitness enthusiasts gathered Saturday at the Minneapolis Convention Center to carry wheelbarrows, run with yokes and lift rocks.

Justin Tweeton competes in a show of strength strongman competition at the Minneapolis Convention center on Saturday June 10. 2017.

Easton Green

Justin Tweeton competes in a show of strength strongman competition at the Minneapolis Convention center on Saturday June 10. 2017.

Gunthar Reising

Pole dancing, bodybuilding, powerlifting and a “Strongman” competition were front and center at Saturday’s Minnesota State Sports Expo.

In the Minneapolis Convention Center, women contorted themselves on poles, unnaturally tanned men flexed on stage and athletes loaded 300 pound sandbags into wheelbarrows for fun.

“It’s all about being in shape,” Branch Warren, a two-time Arnold Classic champion, said. “Too many people are living sedentary lives these days.”

The most enthusiastic (and strangest) crowd was gathered around the “Strongman” competition.

An excess of grunting and yelling emanated from this section of the hall. One man in the crowd wore a shirt that mysteriously read, “If you like prison you will love Los Campeones,” the name of the gym that hosted the competition.

“It’s a celebration just to be here,” said Chikio Richmond, a first-time female competitor. “A year ago I started working out, and as I began to get more serious about fitness I got bit by the bug.”

The physical price of this bug bite was considerable — the day’s events included a wheelbarrow load and carry, axle clean and press, viking deadlift, yoke race and atlas stone lift.

Preston Walls, a heavyweight competitor, bowed out after loading a 300-pound sandbag into the wheelbarrow, on par with the rest of the heavyweights.

“I’m not feeling great,” Walls admitted, hunched over and sweating. “But it’s a heavy competition, so I expected it.”

After reportedly “not feeling great,” Walls went on to win the heavyweight axle clean and press, lifting 313 pounds over his head.

Competing among predominantly younger athletes, several masters risked their spines as well.

Pete Berg, a masters’ division athlete and “Strongman” competitor since 2004, was one such competitor.

“It’s really just the camaraderie,” said Berg, who’s been competing for over a decade. “It’s not a competition so much against everyone else. It’s against yourself and trying to beat your personal limits.”

Still, Berg said he understood the consequences for the athletes — especially the masters.

Just before the viking deadlift, where Berg and the other masters would have to lift 550 pounds off the ground as many times as possible, Berg said, “I’m scared … I’ve actually been hurt pretty badly in [past competitions] from the deadlift.”

Walls went on to win in his division. He synched his lead in the atlas stone event, in which the heavyweights were tasked with lifting a 380 pound stone.

Chikio Richmond also went on to win her division, novice women, completing all of the stones in the atlas stone event in order to win.

With only one finger smashed by a 150-pound keg, the event was a success.