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Adam Shinder/Recorder staff Bryan Baia lifts a 225-pound keg onto a platform of tires as Mike Altieri looks on Friday outside of Alpin Haus Fitness in the town of Amsterdam. Baia and Altieri are both training for the Granite State Strongman/Woman Championship July 26 in Hanover, N.H.

Adam Shinder/Recorder staff Mike Altieri lifts a keg Friday while training outside of Alpin Haus Fitness in the town of Amsterdam in preparation for the Granite State Strongman/Woman Championship July 26 in Hampton, N.H.

Adam Shinder/Recorder staff Christian Tiberia lifts a keg Friday outside of Alpin Haus Fitness in the town of Amsterdam as part of his training for the Granite State Strongman/Woman Championship July 26 in Hampton, N.H. Training partners Mike Altieri, back left, and Bryan Baia, back right, look on.

Adam Shinder/Recorder staff Bryan Baia carries a pair of weights totaling nearly 500 pounds during a training session Friday at Alpin Haus Fitness in the town of Amsterdam.


Only the strong: Locals prep for Strongman contest

Saturday, July 19, 2014 - Updated: 4:08 AM


TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- There's an easily-conjured image that probably pops up for most people when the topic of a Strongman competition is broached: Most likely something involving burly brutes from remote Scandinavian and Eastern European outposts pulling 18-wheelers by their teeth at an ungodly overnight hour on ESPN2.

Mike Altieri, Bryan Baia and Christian Tiberia like to prove that a person doesn't necessarily have to be the size of a mid-sized hatchback to perform Herculean feats of strength.

"You think of Strongman, and you think of guys that are 6-8 from Bulgaria that weigh 380 pounds," Altieri said.

"I'm the heaviest guy here, and I'm not within 60 pounds of those guys. It's nice that there's something relatively local -- we're traveling five hours -- and there's different weight divisions," he added

Altieri, a former star football player at Amsterdam High School and a personal trainer at Alpin Haus Fitness, started competing in Strongman events with his older brother, Rich, several years ago before stepping away from competition.

This year, Altieri's back lifting kegs, carrying sandbags and throwing preposterous amounts of weight skyward. A small group based out of Alpin Haus, including Altieri, fellow trainers Baia and Calvin Martin and former Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute football player Tiberia has become dedicated to Strongman training. Members of the team took part in their first competition in April, and Friday afternoon they were putting the finishing touches on their preparation for their next event, the July 26 Granite State Strongman/Woman Championship in Hampton, N.H.

"Mike did the Strongman a while ago with Rich, and we were lifting heavy and wanted to take it to the next level," Baia said. "We wanted to compete doing it, instead of just lifting it in the gym."

The Granite State Championship consists of five events: The super axle clean and press for maximum repetitions in 60 seconds, holding a weight-laden frame for maximum time, carrying a sandbag for maximum distance in 60 seconds, lifting a keg over a bar for maximum reps in 60 seconds and the "Deadly Medley," where the keg and sandbag are loaded into a wheelbarrow and dead-lifted for maximum reps in 90 seconds. During the competition, Altieri, Baia and Tiberia will be moving around weights ranged from 200 to 400 pounds.

While all of them are used to high-level weight training, Altieri said that Strongman events -- especially on competition day -- are an entirely different animal.

"Normally, if you're in the gym and you do a lift for a one-rep max, everything you've got, that's what will end your workout day many times," he said. "In these competitions, you're gonna do 60 seconds worth of an event -- like carrying a sandbag -- and on a normal day you'd call it a day, but then you've got to do four more events and you've got to have your best day in every event. Mentally and physically, it's a really long day."

Baia summed up his first competition experience in April -- when he placed second out of 25 competitors in the men's novice class -- with one word.

"Tiring," he said.

The training is equally tiring, going through specialized lifts in the gym and using kegs, cement stones and massive tires best suited for industrial construction equipment to train for the more esoteric events behind the gym.

Friday was the group's last day training heavy for the competition, as they'll use the next week to taper off, recover and make sure they're in peak condition for the grueling competition in New Hampshire.

"It's hard training, moving that kind of weight around all the time," Altieri said.

"You've got to be strategic about how you do it," Tiberia added.

Altieri and Tiberia both came to weight training through their football backgrounds, and while Baia came from a slightly different path as a star soccer player at Broadalbin-Perth High School, the former rugged defender has a frame befitting a linebacker or fullback.

"He's probably one of the only soccer players doing Strongman, but he's built like a football player," Altieri said.

All three have an established weight-lifting base, which Altieri said was essential for competition. Strongman, he said, isn't for the inexperienced or faint of heart.

"Strongman's not something where you can just grab a guy out of the gym," he said. "You've got to have a base that's stronger than just about everybody in this gym."

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