Episode 244 Show Notes
Grant and Heavey sit down with David Tao of BarBend.com as they chat about the world of strength sports, its origin, and how it is gaining popularity. They also begin a new Scotch month with Glenmorangie, which is a must-try especially if you’re still new to drinking scotch.
[01:13] What is BarBend.com?
BarBend.com is meant to be a central resource for strength sports. The website mostly covers the strength sports of weightlifting, powerlifting, Strongman and CrossFit. Basically, anything where you’re lifting weight competitively.
BarBend started off as a news resource blog covering events due to the lack of news resources related to powerlifting, weightlifting, and CrossFit.
Over the past three years, they’ve curated content, training videos, and they just launched a podcast. They want to be that central hub for people who enjoy strength training and strength sports.
[02:20] A Little Background About David Tao
David has a background in weightlifting which he discovered after his rehab from a rugby injury. He found some weightlifters who taught him to squat properly for the first time. Around that time, he was also getting into journalism.
He also got involved in CrossFit and did some consulting.
[03:22] BarBend Content
David takes pride in publishing original content in BarBend. On average, they publish between 30 and 55 pieces of original content every week. These would consist of articles from their in-house team as well as from contributors. They also publish more in competition season and during huge events.
This site covers topics like training, nutrition, product/service reviews. David mentions that their current popular topics include stuff about vegan diets and strength training.
[05:02] Can Vegans Do Strength Training? (And The Hype Around Topics Vegan-Related)
David believes that strength training is for everyone. It’s not easy to be a vegan and get complete proteins and be an active strength athlete. But people do it.
David explains the variety of comments coming in. It causes massive traffic on the site and the debate will just immediately start. Basically, the perspectives come from both for veganism and against it. But reasonable perspectives don’t necessarily win the day.
Nevertheless, more and more people are open to learning and willing to understand different perspectives.
[08:07] Attachment to Strength Sports
For a lot of their readers, they take strength sports very seriously. It’s not something they do. It’s who they are. It’s how they identify.
If you’re pushing yourself to be as strong as possible, you’re working on nutrition or your recovery. It’s something that literally touches every aspect of your life and every hour of your life. It creates an attachment that isn’t necessarily there for a lot of other activities that we find or pursue in adulthood.
Moreover, strength sports are based on self-progression. It’s a great quantitative objective way to measure self-progress. Not to mention how this is good for the ego, especially in a society where you crave this more and more.
[13:00] The Growth of Strength Sports and Weightlifting: The Financial Piece
Media attention and money have recently changed strength sports.
Over the years, weightlifting has progressed and matured in the United States. But it still has to catch up with countries like China, Russia, and Colombia which have relatively more mature systems. More people are treating it as a full-time occupation.
All those being said, weightlifting is in the catching-up process with more resources – more money, more sponsors, more programs to get people into weightlifting earlier and to do it as a full-time endeavor.
David thinks the money element is important in the growth of this sport. Athlete support programs, stipends, funds, and sponsorships allow athletes to train full-time (and coach). This is relatively new to American weightlifting. But there are definitely a lot more programs now that are supporting athletes from USA weightlifting and youth programs all the way through sponsorships from companies, as compared to ten years or even five years ago.
Weightlifting is able to capture more athletes now and have it as their primary sports. Whereas a decade ago, there were a lot of great weightlifters who moved to other sports or because there was money in that.
[19:10] The Road to More Medals
If athletes had the resources to pursue this more full-time, then those medals would become more attainable. In 2016, Sarah Robles won a bronze medal for America and this made a huge impact on what people thought was possible.
Now, we have athletes who previously weren’t even on the national competition radar but are now competing in Tokyo. David is wondering whether this was because of Robles winning or the increased exposure of weightlifting or the increased programs supporting these lifters both nationally and locally.
Additionally, there are financial rewards from national governing bodies for Olympic medals. Companies also use these athletes to sell gear. And they have really big kickers if their athletes win. So if they win a competition, these companies will more than double their prize money. Sometimes the sponsors will match or percentage-match the total prize when the athlete wins. And this is huge!
[23:35] Seeing Gender Inequality
Interestingly, the prize pool for CrossFit games has always been the same for men and women. And a lot of the controversy post the Women’s World Cup was with pay where women had less financial incentives than the men.
In strength sports, it isn’t always equal and hasn’t always been. Weightlifting wasn’t even an Olympic sport for women until 2000. So there are still inequalities.
David thinks that mainstream sports might be able to learn something from what CrossFit is doing as this has helped the growth of the community among men and women.
[28:37] Strongman: The Next Big Thing
The sport that’s growing the quickest in popularity is Strongman. It has taken off since its biggest stars have gone mainstream. Hafþór Björnsson was on Game of Thrones. Eddie Hall, Brian Shaw, Nick Best, and Robert Oberst now have a show on the History channel. These guys have a massive number of followings.
This has created a lot of interest into the sport as well as sponsorship dollars. From a website traffic perspective, David sees people are more interested in the World’s Strongest Man competition and the Arnold Strongman Classic.
Nevertheless, there’s a big lag between the men in the superheavyweight open division and all the other divisions. There is growth in those sports but it has a lot of room to catch up.
[31:00] Let’s Talk Steroids
Grant suspects that while Strongman is popular, it’s not going to gain that mass appeal for the reason of steroids. Performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) are so built into that sport and accepted that it’s going to stop a lot of people because of that limitation.
Steroids are pervasive in so many sports. It’s just that sports with more money are better at hiding it. David isn’t sure how this is going to play out. But he could see more drug-tested federations springing up and getting popular as you’ve seen in powerlifting. But the more federation you have in the sport, the more confusing it gets and the more difficult it gets to establish these singular, bankable stars. For instance, there are 14 different world championships, which one is valid? So it gets tough.
Heavey adds how bodybuilding is designed for mutants. Even the most famous popular competition in Strongman, The World’s Strongest Man was designed for TV. It’s recorded in a way that is conducive to make a really cool TV package that is being aired later on.
[34:55] Ever Heard of MAS Wrestling?
MAS Wrestling is a one-on-one sport. Two people are seated on the ground with a board in between them. Their feet are tucked against the board and they’re grabbing onto a stick. The goal is to either wrestle the stick from your opponent’s hands or hold them over the board towards you.
This sport originated in Siberia, where also the World Championships every year is held. It’s a cool, fun sport that’s now growing in the U.S.
[37:20] The BarBend Podcast
They recently launched four episodes on the BarBend Podcast. They interviewed different world-class athletes. They talk about topics around the range of strength. Check out their podcast if you’re interested in where the strength world is and if you want to learn about multiple topics.
[40:10] Scotch Talk: Glenmorangie: The Original
Grant and Heavey give their take on another bottle called the Glenmorangie. It’s a pretty affordable bottle at around $30. They specifically review an entry-level 10-year they call The Original.
Grant describes this as a quintessential scotch of the Highland region, and one of the most popular.
Heavey thinks the smell is more palatable than the Laphroaig. It has this smooth, sweet, and creamy smell to it. The only downside Grant noticed is that he’s picking up more of the alcohol in the nose. Because it’s much younger, it doesn’t have the peat overwhelming it.
Heavey did the chewing trick, which by the way, is a great way to expose your mouth to a wider variety of the flavor. He recommends this to people who are still first starting or trying a new whiskey. And he could taste more of the alcohol when he does the trick. Otherwise, it just goes down very smooth. He could see how this bottle can be so popular because it’s much less distinct than the Laphroaig. If you’re looking to get into scotch, this might be a good transition.
Grant describes the Glenmorangie as medium – in terms of its body and flavor – making it a very balanced scotch.
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