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‘This is my life’: Macomb strongman preparing for world championship following record-breaking weekend

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MACOMB (WGEM) – Strongman… or super human? It’s hard to tell a difference with Macomb native Matt Sowers. A 2013 Macomb High School graduate, Sowers has done nothing but lift weights since walking the stage. However, the weights he lifts now, some might consider unorthodox.

Less than two weeks ago, on Sunday, May 19, Sowers broke a world record for ‘max stone load’ in his weight class, 176 lbs. A max stone load is when a competitor picks up a large stone that imitates a boulder, and hoists it over a bar that is raised 4-feet in the air. The stone Sowers lifted settled at 396.2 lbs.

The lift is also a record in the 176 lbs. drug tested division, which means that Sowers does not use performance-enhancing drugs.

“I just wanted to be big and jacked”

30-year-old Sowers began a bodybuilding regimen following graduation in 2013, but after a year of training, he found that it wasn’t for him, so he transitioned to powerlifting.

After another year, Sowers decided powerlifting wasn’t for him, either.

At that time, a close friend recommended that Sowers try Strongman, a style of weightlifting that strictly involves moving extremely heavy objects.

Sowers’ first visit to a strongman gym was in the Quad Cities, and the rest is history.

“My first day in there it was very brutal and I loved every minute of it,” Sowers said. “I just stuck with it and it just kind of never really went away.”

After getting a few months of strongman experience under his belt, Sowers set a goal of performing a 300-pound max stone load without any “tacky,” or grip enhancement. After just one year of training, Sowers accomplished the feat.

His next goal was lifting a 400-pound stone.

“Not a lot of people on this planet can say ‘hey I’ve picked up a 400-pound boulder,’ and that’s when my journey really began, because it was not something that came in just a year,” Sowers said.

Focused on August

After setting the world record for a natural lifter at just 176 lbs., Sowers officially qualified for the Natural Strongman Worlds in August, where he hopes to not only surpass his own personal best, but the untested world record in his weight class as well, meaning individuals who take performance-enhancing drugs (PEDS).

To do this, Sowers will adamantly continue to be a drug-free athlete, which makes the goal all the more meaningful to him. Sowers strongly opposes taking PEDS and believes time, commitment and hard work can get you where you want to go. He describes substance use as a shortcut.

“If you’re not seeing the results now, they are coming,” he said. “It just takes time. Every day you come in here, just grind it out and just keep telling yourself, ‘it’s going to come.’ “

Sowers said he was originally going to be finished and back off from strongman training after his world record lift almost two weeks ago as he is facing a knee injury, and has faced injuries over the last few years. Natural world record isn’t enough, though.

“I want to go silence everyone else up, and I’m going to go out there in August and I’m going to attempt 410 lbs. and I plan to break it,” he said.

Sowers attempted a 410-pound max stone load in 2023 but failed.

Help from friends

Sowers gives a lot of credit to those in his close circle for his strongman success. A cousin, he said, was responsible for transporting a 370-pound to Poulsbo, Washington two weeks ago. He also thanks his friends who help keep him level headed through challenging times in strongman.

One of his closest confidants is the man who owns the gym where Sowers trains.

From the outside, Roger James’ gym looks like a small pull barn, but inside, it’s barbells, weight plates and cables as far as the eye can see. The Bluetooth speaker in the corner is more often than not jamming loud music during a workout.

James met Sowers about five years ago while working out at SNAP Fitness. James has a degree in exercise science, but a personal training preference to powerlifting and not strongman. James helps train Sowers.

“We’re not working with each other when things are going great, we’re working with each other when we’re working through an injury, you’re hangry because you need to make weight,” James said.

James said he didn’t invest in Strongman until meeting Sowers.

Following the competition in August, Sowers said he plans to back off from strongman to take time to recover from a knee injury and get fully healthy. He doesn’t anticipate leaving the sport entirely, whether it be through training or even coaching. To anyone interested in strongman, Sowers first and foremost recommends finding a coach.

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