Strength is one of those rare concepts that is almost always presented in a positive light, especially as it pertains to the human condition. There are very few negative interpretations of strength.
Ben Kutz is pursuing outward, physical strength. But it is inner strength that is his vehicle.
Kutz is a living, breathing, walking, talking embodiment of this concept of strength. The Lebanon resident may be new to the world of Strongman competitions, but his mental, emotional and physiological makeup make him well suited for it.
“I think a lot of people go through their lives and they don’t exercise their passions,” said Kutz. “I’m immensely passionate about finding the strongest version of myself. My mind seems to be geared towards that. I think a lot of people go into stuff just to try it. But how are you going to truly know about the sport if you don’t give it your all? I think that’s something I haven’t been able to put my thumb on until this.”
Kutz said that, in his opinion, anybody can get strong.
“But strong for me does not mean strong for somebody else,” said Kutz. “Strong looks so different to so many different people, in a healthy perspective.”
A 2016 graduate of Lebanon High School with a background in power lifting, Kutz enjoyed immediate success during his initial foray into the under-publicized world of Strongman competition. In the early days of September, in Parkesburg, Kutz finished third in the 198-pound weight class at the Pennsylvania Strongman Competition.
There, he captured the Wilks Coefficient award for the most weight lifted in relation to a contestant’s body weight.
There are anywhere from 30 to 100 Strongman competitions in Pennsylvania each year.
“Usually, the goal for your first Strongman competition is to not get injured and finish half of the events,” said Kutz, who possess a degree in exercise physiology from Slippery Rock University. “I had no clue I’d be very competitive in my first competition. But you have to walk in there with complete confidence. If you don’t, the pressure is going to get to you.
“You only get one attempt at the event,” he added. “So, you have to have that resolve in yourself like, ‘I’m going to destroy it. Every event is mine.’ You have to take control over your mind on that competition day. You have to keep in mind what you have to do for yourself.”
The 5-6, 215-pound Kutz’s next competition will come in June 2024, at the United States Strongman Competition in Denver, Colorado. His involved, peak-seeking training has informally already begun, but not yet in earnest.
“It starts with, ‘Do you have any injuries?’” said Kutz. “If you do, you have to sort that out. Then you determine which events you know and which events you have to learn. Then you do technique work. You build your training on whatever you need to improve on, and then you start going heavier and doing the events faster. You need to peak yourself much passed the competition weights. That gives you a mental boost because then the competition seems like a warm-up.
“The general population has no idea of the concept of ‘I’m going to put 500 pounds on my spine and run with it,’” Kutz continued. “Everything today is built around making things as comfortable as possible. Strongman is the exact opposite. There are no dollies, no forklifts, no Bobcats. A lot of folks have lost the concept of adapting over time. But the general population can still enjoy Strongman because we use heavy objects from everyday life.”
Some people may be familiar with the sport through ESPN’s airing of the World’s Strongest Man Competition. Contestants are typically put through a grueling series of relatable tests of strength and endurance, like the 18-inch deadlift, the heavy yoke run, the log press, the car walk and the atlas stones.
“It’s sort of like a circus act out there,” said Kutz. “Each athlete has their own personality and background. You’re doing things relatable to people. It creates more of a spectacle.
“When I was training for power lifting, I hit a plateau and stopped making progress,” he added. “I’d train and train and train, and my test numbers would be the same. I maxed out with what I could do with power lifting. I started using some Strongman implements to break through my power lifting training.”
After competing in football and wrestling at Lebanon High, Kutz matriculated to Slippery Rock. There, he helped found the powerlifting club.
“I knew the world of Strongman from a spectator’s sense,” said Kutz. “I never thought I’d be gifted in it or should pursue it. After reading about it, I thought I might be more geared for it than I originally thought. So, I switched my training methods for power lifting to Strongman.”
In addition to taking over the family landscaping business, Kutz is also a massage therapist and an online coach. He’s currently seeking to combine all of those pursuits with his passion for Strongman to come up with ways to participate in two or more competitions each year. Kutz was also profiled recently by the positivity campaign We Are Lebanon, Pa.
“Strongman is a very expensive hobby,” said Kutz, 25. “There’s not a lot of people who can make money with Strongman. For me, right now, that is my ‘why.’ That’s why I’m pushing really, really hard. I kind of see those two things coming together and supporting each other.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do professionally,” he concluded. “But I knew I was capable of doing a lot of things very, very well. I want to be a key, influential member of the community I end up in. My chosen family is Strongman, and I’m starting to do that.”
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