Brad Shepherd admitted that five years ago he was a “typical meathead, tank top-wearing, show off your arms bodybuilder.”
That’s a far cry from who is his today.
Sitting at around 200-pounds on most days back then, Shepherd was challenged by a strongman competitor at his gym.
“You’re just a weak bodybuilder. I’m a strongman,” Shepherd recalled of the encounter. “I signed up for one of his competitions, ended up middle of the pack. But I beat him. It was so much fun.”
These days he’s a much more modest 330-pound amateur strongman. In fact he is Alberta’s Strongest Man. Or will be, until he gives up that title on Aug. 26 before he gets a chance to defend it.
“It’s sad because I really enjoy the title,” he said with quick laugh.
He responded with a laugh because his new title, as a professional strongman, is one he enjoys even more. After years of hard work and missing out on the chance twice last year, Shepherd turned pro on Canada Day after a competition in Regina.
The Red Deer native finished second at the 2017 Western Canada’s Strongest Man event behind Albertan James Loach and just ahead of Artur Walus of Fort McMurray.
It was the first time in 16 years that Alberta strongman have finished 1-2-3 at that competition.
The top three amateurs from westerns get to turn pro and qualify for Canada’s Strongest Man competition on Sept. 16 and 17 in Planagenet, Ont.
Shepherd is set to make his professional debut when he’ll compete on Alberta soil at the Calgary Stampede on the weekend.
He’s excited for that opportunity and perhaps a little bit of redemption, as last year he finished last at a competition in Quebec against some of the pros who will be in Calgary.
Hiring a coach – Tony Montgomery – this year made all the difference in Shepherd’s progress and development as an athlete, he said.
“Before I would come in and do what I thought was enough work. It was pretty good; I was one of the higher up amateurs,” he said.
“(Tony Montgomery) is fantastic. I work way harder and way more. The programming has brought my deadlift up which used to be a huge weakness. Now it’s competitive.”
Now 35, Shepherd says he aims to compete about seven times a year, with six months of training in the winter then a competition every two-three months in the spring and summer. This year he’s in line for six.
What brings him back to strong competitions is a variety of factors, but in the end it is the community that he values above all.
“I just love it, the whole process of it. The training is fun; the lifestyle; the camaraderie is fun. Competitions are great because I get to see my friends from all over the world,” he said.
“It’s a brotherhood. Everyone is friends. Everyone gets along. Whether you’re a first-place athlete or a middle-of-the pack athlete you’re still having a good time.”
He added that for those interested in strongman competitions, there’s plenty of ways to get involved. The first, is at Ludas Athletics where Shepherd trains. Along with all the specialized equipment there, there’s a wealth of knowledge for both powerlifting and strongman.
Red Deer will also host a Canadian Powerlifting League national event on August 12 and 13, along with a hybrid strongman event on the 13th. Shepherd said it will either be a open competition or invite only depending on interest.
You can count on newly minted pro to be on hand that day, with one thing on his mind.
“It’s just brute strength – being able to move the heaviest weight possible,” he said. “My goal is win every event. I don’t leave anything in the tank.”