Svend Karlsen was also preparing for WSM 1998 

Read this and you will then know what prevented him from going. 

Mail 10. Sep 
"My training for Tangier is going good, lighter and faster than before, and power is about the same! But my best weapon this year is that my technique has improved incredibly!!! 
And I didn't kill myself in the meets this summer, just did what I needed to not to look bad!  

About Faroe Islands GP: 
"When they show it on Eurosport look at the first event; Conanswheel! I go 4 laps and just put it down! But it doesn't mean that I will win WSM98, who knows I might not even get to the finals, just that the one who wants to beat me has to be very good! I personally think it's going to be a race between; Samuelsson, Ahola, Kiri, Flemming (he might not come) and myself! But you never know!! 
Hope everything is going good for you, and again THANK'S!!! 

Viking Regards Svend 

Ps! Jorma O. sent me a mail to wish me good luck, and he hopes it goes my way! 

Later Svend added that it's not even likely that all the favourites get to the finals. One can't afford to make much mistakes or have a bad day. There will be the best guys in the world. 

11. Sep 
I asked Svend more about his performances this summer and details from World Team Championships. 

Team competition in Holland didn't go too well for Norway. They had trouble because Sturla isn't yet familiar with strongman events. He is better known from powerlifting. When it started to look like they lost it, Svend took the last events a bit more cautiously and they ended up being fifth, which was slightly disappointing. But Svend told me that team competition is just a show for competitors also. 

When I saw it on Eurosport, I wondered why he didn't finish the power stairs there! Jouko told me that he just ran out of strength... Psycological warfare clearly. Svend had something to say also (ok I got him a little worked-up about this because I wrote heavy heavy critique on my page after the competition, sorry about that  ;-) 

"And before the Power Stairs I asked Magnus S. to tell me when the dutch team 2 had quit, because to get in 5. place we needed only to beat them!  
So I didn't even try to lift anymore when Magnus shouted at me to stop,  and that they had stopped! 

"Ps! I think that my endurace is going to shock people again, I didn't stop anything because of bad endurance! 
Note: Look at truck-pull in WSM97, who was the one that didn't breath heavily after that event!  

He had set his mind to do only what was needed to take the fifth place (fourth was out of reach). Easier to understand now - just that Badenhorst and Ahola did it all the way up (and even one "extra lift") with 275kg. 

This event got us to talk about always taking it to the extreme limits. Some competitors like Samuelsson and Ahola seem to do that in every competition. Jouko, for he is supposed to be the strongest man in the World, he just can't quit! That's the way he thinks, even at the gym. But Jouko has done too many shows too seriously this summer we both think. He risks even getting injured for life. This sport stresses body so much. 

"Remember that I'm 30 years old, and hope to stay in strongman for at least 7 years more (my first contact with the game was in 96, never tried any events). And to be able to do that you have to be smart, and not kill yourself everytime you compete! Like Jamie Reeves told me; don't do like I did, and injure yourself for life, but stay calm and come 100% at WSM! The earlyer shows doesn't really matter! 

And I have struggled with some muscle tear, like in WSM last year! And I have teard my chest (and because of that had to stop as an IFBB Pro), my lat's, and also my leg once before! 

Even though taking it always to the extremes  is "a way to do it" and everyone surely appreciates that, think about it really, how often you can do it at this level? And where do you want to be able to do that? In WSM Final of cource. 

In the competitions earlier this year Jouko had a lot to prove, and his competitors maybe also wanted to prove that he surely isn't the strongest. And some, like Kiri, needed to show that they aren't finished yet. So we saw very tough GP-competitions this year. 

I can understand both these competitors, Ahola and Karlsen: You have to remember that WSM Final has the same serious meaning for everybody, but a single show can be just a show, or a place to prove you're the best. 

Karlsen has his gym, Jouko's profession is a strongman, so Jouko has also a bit more on the line. 

"Remember that WSM is not the best strongmanshow in the world, but it's the one! The one that puts money in my pocket! And best of all when somebody asks me to do an exhibition I can charge a resonable pay! Because if they don't pay I don't go! And the reason for that is that I already make a lot of money with my Gym!  

And now I'm invited to hold a seminar and do a strogmanevent for a new  WorldGym in Bosten in November! I love this sport and hope to be able to stay for a while!  

I hope this puts things a little in perspective. 

Take care Svend "The Viking with pride" Karlsen 

You too Svend, and I honestly wish you good luck for WSM! Remember, winning competitions is all about mental strength. 

(And don't worry, I can't drag the 275 up either... just joking, I remember you had the best sense of humour ;-) 

15. Sep 
I called Svend, later he called me back, and now if I can just remember what he told me, I'll be here writing for the whole evening. Speaking seems to be no problem for Svend, even in english. But we knew that already. 

About this mental strength thing, before I continue. He said it's his strongest point. Well who wouldn't say that - but he had a point too: He can look at things also with humour and laugh to himself. And that's how things usually go positive way! 

"Balance nerve" 

Just that right now Svend's humour is tested - and hard. I'm sorry to tell you that he also got the virus which has been rioting in Norway lately. Doctors are not even sure about what it is, but it affects balance nerve (or "organ of equilibrium") so that one feels dizzy. Training is out of the question now. Svend sounds to be ok though, for he called it "the Finnish virus". Why? For it makes you look drunken all the time! 

Shortest time anyone has recovered from it is a month, but they are trying to speed it up. Training gets it just worse and Svend is also otherwise strongly against training while sick (he wouldn't have done what Jouko did, do shows in a flu or so shortly after). After he'll recover from it he'll try to get to his best shape as fast as possible. 

Svend told me it would be very important to be able to give all 100% in Morocco, for if one can't do that, it's there somewhere in the back of your head and it affects performance even more. Actually you can't even compete knowing that. 

Let's just hope Svend passes the qualifying for then he should be already in a much better shape for the finals. 
(note 21.9, when I now know someting about his heat, it should have been quite possible for him) 


He will take only his wife Nanna with him to Morocco. Well maybe also some close friend, but he doesn't know for sure yet. 

Chris told me that Morocco isn't actually on her list of places to go. Karlsen would agree I guess. He had heard one can eat only white bread and drink - was it alcohol - safely there ;-) 

Month ago some iron fans from America were going there, but lately politics and bombing incidents have made even them to think again. Let's see now. 


When we already started talking about eating, let's continue for some: 

I asked Svend what means "lighter"; how much does he weigh now? "Down to 135" he said, from 145kg. I started to feel hungry here. Everything is relative I can see that. 

Jouko has had some trouble eating those 7+kcal/day what he once estimated he needs. Karlsen said that when he visited Jouko, he didn't eat much: Just some drinks and milk products. Jouko is now in a very light shape - which may even affect his maximum strength - only 120kg. However, Svend told me that he has also rethought his own meals: One doesn't need to be overweighed to be the strongest. He is not going back to 145 himself. 

- Look at Magnus Samuelsson for example. He'll never get fat. But he is one of the best. Last year if they didn't have deadlift he might have won. 

Svend told that some competitors, ok ok, Flemming for example, would be even tougher if they lost their stomach. 

Later when we talked more about Morocco again, he wondered that how can one even go there and look at starving children of Africa, having a big belly. He laughed and asked me if I had looked at the UK's strongest page. Big Glenn Ross will sure be a shock to Africans! 

Who's the strongest  

This is a question which can't be answered really. Karlsen might say Samuelsson is. For his great effort. What is it that makes someone the strongest? Is it a question of who's got the highest pain level, max strengh or what? 

I have of cource thought about this myself and once even tried to make a list of top WSM-competitors and their strengths and weaknesses. I came to a conclusion that if I could choose the events (just used in WSM normally) I might about choose the winner also. Even when we had just max strength lifts, there is no guy in history who would have mastered nearly them all. 

But if we choose events carefully, and of course emphasize max lifts with different objects, and events like loading, we get a pretty good estimate who it is. That year. 

We must remember young guys will break all the old records in the future (usually that's the way) so competition is only for who's the strongest at that time. Better food and training methods will help others to break records later. But if someone wins the World's Strongest Man Competition, I think he has the right to think of himself as being one of the strongest ever, no matter what were his records with barbell. 

Just that neither of us really understood Kazmaier saying that he's the strongest man who ever lived on Earth, right after Jesus. Was this just a bad joke from him or what? 

About competitors this year  

I gave him an estimate that Virtanen (this wrestler from Finland) will be very good at loading and car walk. If there aren't too many powerlifts, he might do anything. Do you still remember when Marko Varalahti came to WSM? People asked "what is this basketball player doing here?" But they had to shut up later. 

Remember, and this is what Svend told me, Finland is the only country right now who could send ten good competitors. 

Kiri is also in a good shape again, won't be a big surprise if he wins. Injuries could be a problem, that has happened to him so many times before. Kiri had told Karlsen, that he does now only light bench pressing because his elbows are sore. <deep voice>"Just sixes with 240-260"</deep voice>. Even Svend then wondered this Kiri's "light". 

Riku's problem has never been bench press, and if any press, it's incline and overhead press then. Squat, deadlift, he might have even had world records in those, if he had continued powerlifting. 

Then I asked Svend about his lifts: 

Something about deadlift  

Many of you know, that Svend has deadlifted 410kg at the gym. His second best deadlifts are 3x400 and 2x400 and 1x402,5. He started as a powerlifter, but while he was a bodybuilding pro, he didn't do deadlifts that heavy. Only one year ago, when he really tried his strength at this (got then a few reps with 350) he started to feel that he could perhaps go even higher. And he sure did! But I doubt he's really ever going back to powerlifting. 

Svend told that one can't always be in such a shape though. Like if someone deadlifts 200kg at maximum, he'll never miss say 190kg. But if you had a bad day and even if you were a 400kg deadlifter, you might miss something like 350. Svend told me his "shame limit" is now somewhere between 370-380kg. That much he has to get any day! 

In Faroe Islands GP they had a deadlift from back of a car and he told me it was quite a shock for him really. "I missed weights I could have never thought I miss if I get them over my knees." His problem was that he tried to pull backwards after the bar passing the knees (just like in deadlift normally) but because the car didn't move back, it felt like pulling 2 tons! The correct technique would have been to lean forwards in the end of the lift and that was new to him. Kiri won there, but we have all seen him deadlift cars before (like he won also in European Championships last year with 500+kg). 

Last year in the WSM deadlift, the bar did bend so much, that the lift didn't really start before the knees. Karlsen would prefer deadlifts done much lower, that would be better for him. 

Karlsens' gym  

Have you ever wondered what is their gym like? Well I asked some questions: 

  • Do you have extra hooks for weights? Do you often break equipment?
Naturally he had hooks for adding extra weight on stacks. Machines don't break down often, wires mostly. 
  • Do any women go there? I mean when you lift heavy (drop deadlift weights for example), do you scare customers away? Can you even train while it's open? 
You'd be surprised how many women come here, he said. Most of the strongman stuff he has outside (also means training in -20 deg of Celcius at wintertime! "Makes you hard if it doesn't make you sick!") so it's not a problem. Some of the heaviest deadlifts he has also done in a powerlifting club (for they didn't believe him otherwise and also because Karlsens' have just "rubber weights" and not the real thin ones) but customers are pretty well used to see him train there. Must be an ego-breaker though for some guys! 

His customers might be a bit stronger than in a normal gym, but only 5-6 really (really really) strong guys go there. 

Svend respects very much if someone does his personal best of 100kg in bench for example, much more than if someone who's best is 250 does only 200. 

And I think he's friendly enough to not to scare anyone from his gym 

  • So did you find your wife from gym then?
(Nanna, if you're reading this, Svend did remember how you met, but I can't probably get the details right, it was just a one long phonecall...) 

Anyway Svend met her while he was still a bodybuilder, '92 at a competition plane trip? He still smoked heavily that time and had bad moods because of heavy dieting. Nanna was the one who said "I can sit here", when their group tried to decide places for the trip. So, not exactly from gym, but close. And it took just a few months before they got engaged. 

  • Have you done any aerobics there at your gym?
And he thought I meant something like wheel barrow! Oh, he "does that a lot", puts up some objects and away he goes... 
  • No no, with women in the aerobics classes ;-)
A few times that too! And they have even thought about making Svend an instructor sometimes for that would sure gather some audience! 

Ok, enough of this 

How do you SQUAT?  

He usually trains "bodybuilding style", narrow stance, bar very high on back. But he does go lower than some bodybuilders do, and even holds it there in the lowest position for 1-2-3. Many strongman events start from this difficult position and you can't bounce there! But when you're down with the bar it feels like your head is going to explode. 

For WSM last year he started to train powerlifting style (there was squat for max weight). It was hard at first, but it came back to him fast. Years ago, when he did powerlifting, experts said that he had a perfect technique for squat. 

I understood that he trained with close to 400 already before the competition. 

But Svend injured his leg there at WSM and had to quit. However it's ok now and healing took only few weeks then. 

If I heard right, he is also a user of Manta Ray? 

How do you train chest when you can't bench press with max? 

(partial tear in pec) Actually bench feels ok every now and then, when he concentrates only on chest. But because he has problems with shoulders also, it can get difficult. So he does mostly incline presses. 

Svend reminded that bench press does not play an important role in strongman, incline and overhead presses do. 

Back and biceps?  

He feels that seated row needs to be done in a very strict form for WSM (which I can't understand really). In bicep curls however, he cheats. You need that kind of workout for wheel flips for example. Chins he doesn't do much, because he weighs so much that he would have to do warm-ups with pulldowns anyway. 

Don't care what these overweighed strongmen say, chin-ups is the best exercise for back and biceps there is! ;-) 

How often?  

Usually he trains at gym four times a week. Now, when he first gets healthy again and starts to prepare for WSM, he will do just strongman training. Every day a little at a time. 


Don't forget vitamins, but Svend also recommended CLA for me. He thinks it has helped him to drop bad cholesterol from 6,5 to 4. 

There are many opinions about CLA. One is, that usually these produtcs on sale contain only 40% of natural CLA, and the rest is chemical isomers, about which one doesn't really know much yet. These isomers are (still?) untested and the users could take quite a risk actually. Also the first ever CLA-test with humans was left halfway because it didn't give the same results as animal tests did (increased muscle mass, burned fat etc). But it might be ok though, who knows. 

10 000 kcal a day? Top competitors sometimes tell magazines what supplements they eat and how much. Svend remembered this one set of his, which would sum up to 500$/month if you would take it every day. Some people then imitate it, but remember even Svend doesn't eat all that every day and he gets them for free! 

Andro-products are now banned in Norway also (as they are in Finland). These are the same products shot-putter Randy Barnes got his testosterone levels too high from. Even Svend's gym had time to sell some before it got banned and he got worried about that later because he doesn't want to sell that kind of supplements for people. This has made him precautious. 

Steroids then  

His opinion was, that maybe it was a mistake to ban steroids at the first place. Why? Because people seem to train even more dangerously now (this is about people who train extremely hard). Steroids would at least help to save your body a bit. 

He also told me that every powerlifter in Norway is clean! Huh, but then again their federation has really taken doping seriously. Take Sturla Davidsen (total 997,5kg) for example, who was with Svend at the team competition - he was tested about 40 times last year! 

Strongman training   

  • Crucifix
I know guys from karate and from other martial arts who could probabaly match Svend in crucifix, if they used only weights under 12kg. It's a question of endurance then, one doesn't need to be that strong. Also Kiri has told this before, in his opinion the weights should be much bigger. 

In Helsinki the weights were 17kg and still Jouko was able to hold them for 50 secs. Too light - could be? Svend told that for Helsinki he had trained arms a little bit bent, and at the place, there were some discussion about what's "a little bit". So when he held up those weights the judge suddenly told that was it. Someone should have told him there how much can the arms be bent. It's quite a different event with arms locked. Or was it that he had arms locked at the stage, can't remember. 

  • Grip
He has a very good grip strength, just trouble keeping it up for minutes. Not bad at that though anymore. But like Magnus Samuelsson asked Gerrit Badenhorst: "How come you can do these 400kg deadlifts and still lose grip events in WSM?" To which Badenhorst answered: "You don't have to hold it that long in deadlift!" 
  • Loading
Loading is a good event for Svend and he sure did show that in Helsinki too. He likes and trains it a lot. 
  • Wheel flip
Look at Magnus Samuelsson's style, he has an efficient technique. Svend tried it and immediately liked it. 

Competitions in Norway  

Strongman competitions are now getting bigger audiences in Norway. Svend even gives there consulting for free. And it's needed for sure, or what do you think about this: A while ago they had a competition there and one event was to move bricks from one place to another. Try it and you can see it's ridiculous. I did it yesterday. 


"It's better to be a king for one day, than a jerk for the whole life" 

"If I were a mountain, ... I would always be stone!" 

His life is not just lifting, he needs also other things to keep it in balance. I'm even afraid that there aren't many other strongmen who read books, know something about Internet, hunt, keep a gym ... hey where's the time for Nanna ;-) 

When I told him I study automation engineering he said that studies are important. He did fine in school but training came between him and university. He laughed that bodybuilders are thought to be dumb, but now as a strength athlete people don't seem to think that way. 

And hey, I have a life too, this is enough for now. Svend said that Internet makes time go fast now when he can't train. Too fast, I might add. He also told that he doesn't take that much time when writing english to non-english speaking people like me, because I can understand it anyway. Let's see now, if he can understand anything from this, for I will post this to him. 

21. Sep 
I'm sorry to inform you that Svend can't participate in the WSM this year. The virus I told you before still has a strong control over him. Also his back (did I tell you about this?) has gone worse. Treatment has not helped and (because of the back problem) he can't even tie his own shoelaces now. Although some might argue, that nearly all of the strongmen can do that in the first place, he feels that he might not be the strongest man in the World right now. 

He has never been this sick before, only 2-3 days at a time, at most. And his back, always a massage has helped. He made the decision not to go last weekend - he can't even think much about WSM right now. 

And even if he did get a bit healthier - he would not be able to give everything, and that's not a way to compete in WSM. Also if he went there, would anyone believe the reasons for him not doing so well? 

Let's change the subject now. Remember, life is not just lifting for Svend. He said he even feels a bit relieved now that he has made the decision. 

Muscle chat: You must know by now that he spends some time on Internet. A couple of days ago he visited a chat line using "Viking power" as his nickname. So somebody, probably even a WSM fan, asked if he was Jon-Pall Sigmarsson then. He answered: "No, he's dead, I'm Svend Karlsen"! And do you think this guy believed him?! (I'm quite sure by the way, that Sigmarsson never used this "power") 

Svend thinks Sigmarsson was the greatest. He even did many shows here in Finland just to promote the sport and give audience fun. 

Oh, don't stop to this "greatest". Svend thinks that new guys will break all the records, and it's good that way, otherwise this sport would not be going anywhere. From what I gather, Svend puts weight on mental strength and being the best at one's time. 

Although he doesn't think it's just the muscles that can make you the "strongest", he also thinks that they still have some right to call their competition "The World's Strongest Man Competition". After all, competitors need to have good speed, max strength, endurance... and to be smart. 

(Oh, actually I think there's not a single sport you can be the best at, if you aren't very smart.) 

What else still? 
He hopes that WSM never gets standard equipment - it would take much away from this sport. Also he hopes that strongman competitions won't become just some cirkus (like wrestling in USA). 

Svend's next goal will probably be Helsinki GP. He wants to come strong there. It's easy to understand why. 

Get better soon! (How can such a small virus beat...) 


From: Mike <>
Subject: Svend chat man

Hello ,
I am the guy in Muscle Chat that you referred to who met Svend there..he
was VikingPower, I was called Grip. Of course at first I thought he was
faking, but since I am a strong man fan, I eventually determined that he
was the real Viking Power. And I did call him Jon Pall at first!! ha ha
ha . Well, he is a very nice guy to talk to. I also enjoy your site and
am a friend of Chris.
Have a good day,
Mike G.