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Rose finds his fit in Strongman events


by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JIM BESEDA - Jeff Rose carries bars loaded with 290 pounds in each arm across the parking lot at Cutting Edge gym in Molalla. When Jeff Rose dove into weight training at Molalla’s Cutting Edge Fitness athletic club six years ago, he stood 6-foot-5 and weighed 250 pounds.

His goal was to get stronger and more fit.

As he progressed, his friends at the gym encouraged him to test his strength. Not in an Olympic-style weightlifting competition, but in a strongman competition — the kind that involves squatting, dead-lifting, loading, carrying, flipping and pulling objects that typically weigh between 300 and 900 pounds each.

Rose gave in and tried it.

Today, the 33-year-old Rose is 6-5, he weighs 330 pounds, and almost everything his does outside of work and the time he spends with his wife, Cecily, is geared toward preparation for his next strongman competition.

Rose won the first of two regional strongman titles this year when he took top honors at the RABFitness Strongman Challenge in Kennewick, Wash., in February.

Two weeks ago, Rose dominated the competition at the 7th annual Washington’s Strongest Apple event in Des Moines, Wash., where he won four of five events and had enough points that he could have skipped the final event and still taken the top prize.

He also was presented with the Willie Austin Memorial Award as the most outstanding strongman out of a field of 52 competitors across three weight classes — light, middle, and heavy.

Rose is currently training for the Aug. 2 NAS Oregon State Feats of Strength Strongman Competition at the Deschutes County Fair Grounds in Redmond.

Then comes the Oct. 4-5 North American Strongman National Championships in Reno. He also competed in that event in 2012.

“I’m pretty excited about Oregon Feats of Strength event,” said Rose, a pipe-fitter for Northwest Natural Gas who grew up in Estacada and now lives in Molalla. “I try not to think too far ahead. Just go to the next one. And then we’ll see what Reno brings. But I would like to win Oregon, because that means I won Washington and Oregon in the same year.”

Rose probably wouldn’t be in this position if it hadn’t been for a trip he made with Sheldon Sanders, Eric Stafford, Joe Stafford and Robert Murray to Colton High School in May 2010 for a weight lifting demonstration that turned into a competition.

“I think what was cool about that day, too, is that some people were there just to watch,” said Sanders, the manager at Cutting Edge Fitness. “They were applauding each lift and cheering Jeff on to do more and more.”

At that point, Rose was hooked.

“It wasn’t even a real competition, but we competed against each other that day,” Rose said. “And that taste of competition, I really enjoyed that. That really got my wheels turning.”

Rose’s first strongman competition was the 2011 Washington’s Strongest Apple IV where he placed second, even though he had no idea what he was doing.

“I struggled through it,” Rose said. “I mean, I just got by on brute strength. It was not good, but I met some guys up there who pulled me aside and said, ‘You have raw power, but what you need is some technique.’”

Mike Kromer, a veteran super-heavyweight from Kennewick, helped point Rose in the right direction, giving him tips on how best to train for particular strongman events. Before long, events that were extremely hard for Rose became easier.

“Mike is a very successful power lifter and a great overhead presser, so when somebody like that tells you something, you listen,” Rose said. “He said, ‘You can go as far as you want, but you’ve got to keep working at certain things and break some bad habits to keep improving.’’

Kromer noticed that Rose had a tendency in overhead press events to hold the weight out away from his body instead of resting the weight on his shoulders before pressing it. By holding the weight up off his chest, Rose was expending energy unnecessarily. That needed work.

After a second-place finish at the 2012 Washington’s Strongest Apple and a 17th-place finish at the national championships, Rose took all of 2013 off from competition, but continued to work out daily at Cutting Edge.

“That was a good time to work on techniques and break bad habits and build on power for a whole year,” Rose said. “And this year, I’m so far ahead of where I was at this time in 2012, there’s no comparison.”

Rose, a 1999 graduate of Estacada High School, is into body strengthening and not bodybuilding. That is, he’s not trying to achieve a certain definition to his muscles or a particular look like his friend Jon Huitt, the reigning Oregon Ironman Bodybuilding bantamweight champion from Molalla.

“I don’t really care what my body looks like,” Rose said. “Bodybuilders lift for a look, not necessarily strength. Bodybuilders do lower weights and higher reps. I put on heavier weight to where when I get to seven or nine reps, hopefully that’s about all I can do.

“When you go above nine reps, you’re actually building a shape to your muscle rather than power, and I’m all about the power.”

Rose watches his diet closely and usually eats seven meals a day.

Typically, his first meal is at 7 a.m. with three cups of oats and as many as eight eggs, followed by a chicken breast and two cups of rice at 9:30 a.m. He then has a protein shake, a protein bar and yogurt at noon, followed by another chicken breast and two cups of rice at 2 p.m. He hits the gym between 4-5 p.m., then eats a small portion of whatever Cecily has prepared for dinner as soon as he gets home, and then eats a bigger portion about 8:30 p.m. And, finally, he gets up in the middle of the night and eats again.

“I used to set an alarm, but I just wake up now,” Rose said. “Sometimes I’ll eat twice in the middle of the night, but at least once. Usually, it’s slow-acting proteins like cottage cheese with peanut butter and a protein shake and a protein bar. I don’t make a full-on meal, but I usually eat some sort of slow-acting protein throughout the night.

“I eat almost the same thing every single day. My life is very routine.”

The week before a competition, there is no diet plan and Rose eats whatever and whenever he feels like eating.

“Depending on the event, you could put on 5-10 pounds in a week,” he said. “For the Strongest Apple, I cut a little bit of weight, because there were three events that required some cardio over a period of 75 seconds. It doesn’t sound like a long time, but for a 330-pounder, that’s a long time.”

It is rare that any two strongman competitions are exactly alike. Generally, each competition features five events from a list of about 20 commonly used strongman challenge.

The list of events with weight requirements is released in advance of the competition, giving athletes time to prepare accordingly.

Rose’s strategy of late has been to concentrate his training on those events he considers his weakest, hoping to minimize his potential point loss in that event.

“I knew going into this last competition that I was not going to win the yoke walk,” said Rose, referring to the event where competitors shoulder a barbell with suspended weights — at the Strongest Apple, the total weight was 745 pounds for heavyweights — and carry it a distance of 80 feet in 75 seconds or less. “I worked at it to make sure I got the maximum points that I could and took second.”

Rose’s time: 18.94 seconds.

At the upcoming Feats of Strength competition in Redmond, the five events are, in order:

• Yoke Walk, 80 feet down (760 pounds)/Sled Drag 60 feet back (455 pounds).

• Log Clean and Press (260 pounds) repetitions in 60 seconds.

• Farmer’s Walk 80 feet down (310 pounds)/Tire Flip 8 flips back (650 pounds).

• Stone Over Bar (342 pounds) in 60 seconds.

• Husafell Stone (360 pounds) lift and carry for distance.

Rose is one of the favorites among the heavyweights.

“There are a handful of guys in the Northwest who can beat me at certain events, but overall … right now, I’m tough to beat, overall,” Rose said.

There is a white board on the wall at Cutting Edge that lists the weight-lifting records of current members. Rose’s name is at the top of all three categories; dead lift, 635 pounds; squat, 660 pounds, and bench press, 460 pounds.

“I’d be very bummed out if somebody were to beat me,” Rose said. “That’s what pushes me to keep going every day.”