‘I’m Wales strongest man but I don’t really get hungry and I forget to eat’

Surprisingly, Wales' strongest man doesn't really get hungry, despite training for 10 hours a week and pulling seven-ton trucks on the weekends. David Ramplee, recently crowned champion at the Welsh edition of Ultimate Strongman, is from Llandrindod Wells in Powys and is perhaps not what you might expect for a strongman. For starters, he has no Achilles tendon.

And he admits he struggles to eat enough to maintain his 150kg bulk. But stood in Nick's Gym in his home town - where he trains - he looks every ounce (or kilo) the strong man with biceps fit to burst out of the seams of his t-shirt.

David Ramplee, Wales' strongest man

"I started at the gym when I was 16 because I was a sporty little ginger kid and I thought I'd better get bigger," he said. "I just wanted to be as strong as I possibly could." Then a mate of his, Ashleigh Harris, started doing strong man events and "it got a bit competitive". Still in the early days of his career, the competition was a Nandos- whoever got beaten had to buy the other a Nandos.

"I just turned up, had no training apart from the gym stuff and I beat him," said David, now 31. He's not looked back since. That 16-year-old wouldn't recognise his adult self, he said. "I was playing rugby for the Welsh colleges at the time, I was lean and fast rather than slow and bulky," said David.

Strength runs in the family - his dad is 6ft 3in and has "massive hands". When he's not lifting weights in the gym, David works in a sawmill. It's a fitting job for a strong man.

David Ramplee

The former pupil at Llandrindod High School, and then Brecon College where he did sports science, David didn't really know what he was going to end up doing.

He tried his hand at building sheds, but was scared of heights, so ended up in the sawmill. Sitting down at a machine all day helps with the recovery phase after his sessions in the gym, he laughed. Winning Strongman doesn't mean he can quite give up the day job yet though - he took home GBP1,500 for his efforts as well as a handful of new sponsorship deals including Cerberus Strength, Strom and Nordic Botanics which at least keep him fully stocked in protein shakes.

Here's the full rundown of what happened when the strongest men and women competed together in Cardiff. David has a coach - Dan Hipkiss Coaching - so he doesn't have to think about the training: "I wake up, I have my breakfast, I drive to the gym, open the app and go through the six or seven exercises he's given me," he said. He does that four times a week with each session typically taking two and a half hours.

After every session is the post gym meal. And then off to work, which is a shift pattern and can disrupt his sleep and training regime. The 4am starts are hard, but so too are the later shifts starting at 2pm, which mean getting a gym set in before work.

David trains at least 10 hours a week

Food is one of David's weaknesses - not in terms of eating too much, but struggling to remember to eat at all: "I don't get hungry, I don't crave food as such," he said. "That's the worst part of strong man is having to force feed yourself.

I can't eat much food, I've tried but I can't." Shakes help make up the difference. For breakfast I have a massive bowl of crunchy nut cornflakes, because it's quite high in calories, David continued. Then I'll have a protein shake a couple of hours before the gym, carb shakes during the workout and then straight after I'll have another protein shake." His dinners are slightly unorthodox in that David likes his food cold.

So it'll be something like cold curry and rice or cold spaghetti bolognaise. It's nothing to do with nutritional needs, he just prefers cold food, he said. While the training part of his regime is quite strict, his diet is less so: "I just need to eat more, because although I am 150kgs, I am quite small.

I can eat pretty much whatever I want as long as I'm getting the protein and carbs intake."

David Ramplee no longer competes for a Nandos bet The Strongman podium: Mark Jeanes (3rd), Luke Sperduti (2nd) and David Ramplee (1st)

When it comes to the gym sets, each day is very specific: deadlifts on Mondays, overheads on Tuesdays, and mobility and cardio on Wednesdays. Surprisingly, there's time for meditation too - "not a very strong man thing", admitted David, but important nonetheless. He does nasal breathing exercises to improve his diaphragm strength so he can brace harder and meditation to help keep his nerves steady on competition days.

Talking about competition days, the final of the Ultimate Strong Man Wales on July was an important one. Last year, David was runner up, and this year, he was determined to go one better. Seeing off his fellow competitors including well-known Strongman faces Mark Jeanes, Luke Sperduti, Desmond Gahan, Garret Cann and Matt Dimond, was the reward for a disciplined training regime.

For the best pictures from the day, click here. Each competition has five events which are announced 12 weeks before competition day to enable the competitors to do some specific training for it. Off season, David will follow an all-round strength programme but during the season he'll start focussing on specific events and specific exercises.

So for example the next Wales Strongman event, in October, will consist of a maximum deadlift (opening weight 300kg), loading medley, axle press FTOH for reps, sack throwing and the stones. But David's new favourite event is the truck pull, something he's won on the two occasions it's been on the list. It's an arm over arm seated lorry pull so it ultimately comes down to strength of grip, explained David.

It works the lats, lower back, hamstrings and glutes but "if you haven't got the grip then you can't use your power". It took David 50 seconds to pull a lorry 20m at the Strongman event.

David Ramplee in the gym

David's lack of Achilles tendon doesn't seem to hold him back too much. He snapped it flipping a 400kg tyre in August 2020 and thought his life competing was over.

He spent six weeks in hospital while surgeons cut it out and attempted a tendon transfer from his big toe. But that failed after he got a bone infection and ended up having a skin graft from his right thigh to his ankle. It wasn't pretty but somehow he came back.

Another winning event for David was the sandbag to shoulder event - a test of how many reps he could lift a 130kg sandbag from the floor to his shoulder. He said: "That's when you notice you're knackered because there's a lot of holding your breath, brace, pick it up, hold your breath, then you get it to your lap, that's holding your breath, then up to your shoulder that's holding your breath, you get very tired very quickly." David's winning performance means he's now qualified for the Ultimate Strongman UK event in July 2023.

The three-day competition will test his strength over a total of 30 events. He came fifth last year so he'll be looking to improve on that. But what is it that motivates him to keep training and keep eating?

"Everyone goes to the gym for different reasons," he said. "I quite like being the strongest person in the room. Everyone goes to the gym to make their abs bigger but I just like knowing that when I walk into a pub or wherever I am probably the strongest person in that room. It's quite satisfying."

It seems the event has certainly tapped into something as it continues to grow in popularity- when David started, the Wales event was just a handful of people in a sports hall in Wrexham. But in July this year, it packed out the stadium in Cardiff: "It's definitely on the rise," said David, who has fond memories of Strongman on TV as a kid. "It was a Christmas tradition, dad would out it on and we'd all watch it," he said. "But none of us knew it was a sport we could get into." Not only has David found his way into that world, he's now the one to beat.

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