It takes a special kind of stubbornness to be a great strongman. Jerry Pritchett epitomises that quality, displaying a willingness to put in the kind of work that would be the undoing of most men.
The Arizonan has trained for strength in some capacity since the age of 15, and bears more than a few scars as a result of his efforts. In early 2017, Jerry tore his bicep tendon while sprinting during a 815lb frame carry in Johannesburg, South Africa. The injury is the sort that could end the careers of many a committed athlete.
Yet the 6’4” strongman is used to such setbacks. He has sustained damage to the muscle bellies of both arms in years gone by, and has come back from a torn pec and quadricep tendon. Jerry has bounced back with equal vigor again, winning the title of America's Strongest Man in October 2017.
As he points out, after every injury he has always returned stronger. Mere weeks after tearing his bicep, Jerry has thrown himself back into training, with a focus on the kind of movements that can bring balance to his repertoire.
Already one of the world’s most formidable deadlifters - holding the elephant bar record at 1,031lbs, and with a powerlifting style pull of 914lbs - Jerry believes that movements like kettlebell swings and safety bar squats will help to develop stronger legs and explosive hips while he rehabilitates his arm.
Having reached the podium of the prestigious Arnold Strongman Classic in 2017, Jerry has his eyes set on winning the contest in the years to come. To many, the Arnold in Columbus, Ohio is viewed as the pinnacle of strength-testing trials. Unlike World’s Strongest Man, where entrants face challenges of strength and athleticism, the Arnold specialises in exceptionally heavy weight.
“It is the heaviest show we do,” explains Jerry. “It is the most legitimate test of who is the strongest.” The Columbus competition has seen progressively greater loads each year, as professional strongmen have improved at a phenomenal pace. It features events that Jerry is exceptional at, often including heavy farmer’s walks or yokes, and even heavier deadlifts.
To win the title, Jerry will have to work on his weaknesses, such as the overhead dumbbell events. Here, fellow SBD USA athlete Dimitar Savatinov has been of great assistance. The Bulgarian, himself considered a dumbbell specialist, has been helping Jerry to perfect his form.
Jerry has leaned on other friends throughout the world of strongman in the aftermath of his most recent injury. Bicep tendon tears are very common, he admits, adding that “if you can get through your career without one you are very lucky”.
To an outsider, it might seem like the strongmen who work through these injuries are more than a little masochistic. Yet, in truth, these athletes are just wired differently to the rest of us, and refuse to let something as insignificant as a torn tendon get in the way. “It is just a drive that is hard to explain,” says Jerry. “You have to want to keep getting better and stronger, and to want to set the big records that will be remembered for years to come.”