Manatee Strong

Watch Big Guys and Gals Get Physical at the World’s Strongest Manatee Competition

The annual strongman competition takes place March 20 at Crossfit Havoc in Bradenton.

By Allison Forsyth March 1, 2022 Published in the March-April 2022 issue of Sarasota Magazine

Brandon Powell (left) and Rob Scholl prepare for the World’s Strongest Manatee competition.

Brandon Powell (left) and Rob Scholl prepare for the World’s Strongest Manatee competition.

Image: Gene Pollux

Have you ever seen a man flip a 900-pound monster truck tire or pull a U-Haul truck by a rope tied around his waist? If you’re interested in watching muscled men and women attempt these freaky feats, head to the World’s Strongest Manatee competition at CrossFit Havoc gym on March 20.

Strongman, an international weightlifting sport, involves lifting extremely heavy objects multiple times in a row until the last competitor is standing. A combination of CrossFit and powerlifting, strongman is now more accessible than ever thanks to modern-day CrossFit and powerlifting gyms and media attention for strongman competitions. Proper training equipment includes tires, weighted yokes to carry over your shoulders, heavy weights and steel logs.

Anyone, from amateur to world-class professional, can compete. And while the competition coming up in Bradenton says strong “man,” women also compete. The Manatee competition is popular and attracts national competitors and lots of spectators.

The competition’s director, Steve Coyne, has been in the strongman circuit since he was 15 years old and has been running competitions in Chicago for the last six years. He’s organized Manatee’s for the last two. This year, he is expecting 60 competitors from around the country and up to 300 spectators at the outdoor event.

“Florida is the perfect location for strongman competitions because you can train and host events outdoors,” says Coyne. “And with so many CrossFit gyms popping up in the area, anyone can get involved.”

As a competitive sport, strongman has been around since 2000 B.C., when rural Scotlanders would carry one-ton stones across a grassy plain in the Highland Games. Then the image of a “strongman” morphed into the burly, handlebar-mustached man you’d see in a circus or carnival act, lifting a cartoonishly large dumbbell with ease. The wow factor still exists.

“I have seen men pull trucks for 100 feet only by harnesses around their waists,” says Coyne. “I’ve also seen world-class champions lift 600-pound concrete stones and complete 1,000-pound deadlifts. It’s pretty crazy.”

Training for the contest involves a disciplined daily workout regimen, hiring a coach for nutrition and training support and recovery methods like cryotherapy and massage. Coyne says you must have a long-term mindset, since most people train five to six years before they are considered professional. Top competitors can make a living from these events, with cash payouts upward of $500,000.

There will be five lifting events at the World’s Strongest Manatee, including a sled pull, tire flips, weighted stones, a yoke and log medley (which involves carrying a weighted yoke over your shoulders for 100 feet and lifting logs made of steel) and something called a farmers walk and deadlift ladder. Competitors are divided by weight class, and lift within their categories. At last year’s competition, Coyne saw a 132-pound woman lift 300 pounds, a 480-pound man flip a 900-pound tire and a 74-year-old woman win her weight category. “Strongman really is for everyone,” he says.

The World’s Strongest Manatee competition begins at 9 a.m. on Sunday, March 20, at CrossFit Havoc, 801 Seventh Ave. W., Bradenton. For more info visit

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