Steve Pulcinella talks about Highland Games and Strongman – interview form 2011


Steve Pulcinella, strength athlete with outstanding achievements in many different sports, coach, writer and owner of Iron Sport, a powerful resistance trench against mainstream fitness, gave me this interview in 2011. It was translated into Portuguese and published at Musculação & Fitness, a Brazilian training magazine. The original interview is here.

Anything you would like to add to the background provided in your personal profiles

I have been doing strongman and highland games professionally now for 20 years. Before that I had done track and field throwing and powerlifting. My wife Jalaine Ulsh was a former NABBA champion figure competitor and now trains and competes as an Olympic weightlifter.

 It is argued that modern Strongman competitions derive from the Highland Games traditions. What are the most important differences between the two sports?

The Highland games consist of all throwing events, it’s also a little more technique oriented. Although the highland athletes are big strong guys they are nowhere near the size of the top pro strongmen. The early events of strongman events definitely had their roots in highland games. They were all tests of manhood in Scotland


How is the HG community organized?

Right now the HG community is still just individual festivals all around the world. There really is no central governing body.


Are most HG athletes also SM athletes or is there some specialization/segmentation?

Thirty years ago all the strongmen did highland games and vice versa but now the athletes are largely specialized. It had a lot to do with the sport of strongman really coming into its own now.

What attracts you most to HG?

For me it is competing in front of larger crowds which made it a lot more exciting and fun. Most powerlifting meets I did and strongman contests really didn’t have crowd appeal but some of the festivals we go to we might be doing events with thousands of people watching us. Its gets you pumped when you turn a big caber and you get a good crowd reaction from bleachers full of people.

Which were your most important achievements in this sport?

I guess I would have to say in strongman it was winning the 1993 North American Championships and in Highland Games it was winning the 2000 Loon Mt NH games. That was just a special win for me. But in all it really is the friends you make over the years.

Could you tell us something particularly interesting to the lay public about your experiences/events in the HG? (they always ask why you wear the kilt)

Yes, the kilt is always the big draw, chicks dig it. After the national championships this year about ten of us huge guys walked into a crowded family restaurant with our kilts on and the looks on everyone’s faces watching us all walk through there was hilarious.

How do you see its growth around the world?

HG has grown by leaps and bounds. When I first got involved the internet was not really around yet so the sport was still kind of an underground thing. Few people knew about it and even fewer people knew how to get involved with it. Now it seems to be exploding not only in north America but all over Europe too.

With your students/athletes/gym members, do you employ HG/SM derived movements?

How are they useful?  Strongman event training is extremely useful for many sports, it is a highly functional style of training that strengthens every part of the body. Just about every athlete in my gym incorporates stone lifting, tire flipping and sled dragging into their weekly routines.

Do you think the SM/underground training approach will become mainstream in the US?

Or elsewhere? I know in the US it has exploded in the last five years. There is not one college and high school football program that isn’t tire flipping, pushing trucks and sled dragging for greater explosive strength.



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