2011 Portugal’s Strongest Man – Aderito Santos – Do Great Powerlifters make Great Strongmen?

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Aderito Santos 2011 Portugal's Strongest Man

Aderito Santos 3x times Portugal’s Strongest Man explains in this interview how and why, he believes great Powerlifters do not necessarily make great Strongmen.

He also opens up on his career, and tells us more about his journey in the sport.

This is one of my favourite interviews to date.

Phil Burgess: How did you get involved in the sport of strongman?

Aderito Santos: I got involved I guess like almost all athletes do, by watching on TV the big strongmen competing, moving large objects and doing incredible things and wondering if one day I would be capable of doing some of these things.

Before I started competing and training for strongman I did many sports like swimming, soccer, handball and basketball which I played professionally for 5 years.  

All this time I was training in the gym to get stronger for these sports but at the same time I was getting more interested in strongman competitions.

The opportunity appeared the first time in 2004 when I heard about a strongman competition that was going to be held up in the north of Portugal.

I signed up and appeared at the competition not knowing anyone and competing against known Portuguese powerlifters and strongman.

I remember my girlfriend telling me: “Adérito what the hell were you thinking, all these guys are bigger and stronger than you, they’re going to kick your ass”

I told her it didn’t matter as long as I didn’t come in last, I am ok with it.  

At the end of the competition and for the surprise of all, especially the Portuguese strongmen and powerlifters, I came in 2nd place, very close to winning my first ever strongman competition.

The funny part was that no-one had ever heard about me before, as I didn’t belong to any powerlifting group or strongman group.

Aderito Santos
200kg Sack Carry

Phil Burgess: You have won Portugal’s Strongest Man 3 times (2008/2009/2011), which one of these victories was the most important for you and why?

Aderito Santos: The most important one for me was 2011, not because it was my last victory but because it was the competition that I proved to everyone that I was Portugal’s strongest man.

OK… for you to fully understand I have to explain to you some things.  I was never accepted by the powerlifting community as Portugal’s strongest man even though I won the titles in 2008 and 2009.  

They had the opinion that since I never showed interest in competing in powerlifting, I shouldn’t have the title of strongest man of Portugal.

I explained to them that I am only interested in strongman competitions and all my training is for strongman competitions and if I win one, then I deserve to be called Portugal’s Strongest Man.

With the 2011 strongman competition there was alot of media and TV coverage.  I looked upon this 2011 competition as an opportunity to silence and prove wrong all those people that said that I was not Portugal’s Strongest Man.

In the end I won the title without a doubt and on national TV.

Van Squatting

Phil Burgess: You have recently competed in the amateur division of the 2012 Arnold Classic Europe, how did you go?

Aderito Santos:

Yes I did.

It didn’t go exactly like I planned.  I was very well prepared but two days before the competition I got a gastric flu that shook me up alot, I lost 5 kgs.

I only decided to compete at the last minute, I don’t give up easily but it was very hard for me to take the pain in my stomach.

I placed 6th, given my condition it was not bad, but not the result I was aiming for.  

Sometimes it´s not the difficulty of the competition or the weight that beats you, its nature…..  

Phil Burgess: Who was the 2012 Portugal’s Strongest Man?

Aderito Santos:  I am still Portugal’s Strongest Man, as this year 2012 there was no competition.

The only competition held in Portugal was the (Strongman Champions League official world tour – Porto 2012).

As for 2013, I am going to be ready and prepared like I always am to compete in the Spanish circuit of strongman competitions.  If there is a competition in Portugal may the strongest man win.

Loaded Yoke

Phil Burgess: Do you think that it is easy to switch from being a top Powerlifter to being a top Strongman?

Aderito Santos: I try to be consistent in all events, from experience I have seen that it is not wise to be very good in just 1 or 2 events.  Usually the other events will be placed lower from lack of training.

For example you can be good in squatting events and deadlift events but then the rest not so good and then lose the competition.

If you are consistent in all events scoring high points between 2nd and 3rd and eventually 1st in one event ,at the end you may win the competition.

Sandro Eusebio is one of Portugal’s best powerlifters period, but whilst he continues to put powerlifting as his no.1 sport of choice he will not be able to evolve in strongman.

There are many examples like him in the world of strongman, you have to be good in every lifting or dragging exercise not just in deadlift, squat and bench press.

Otherwise what will happen is that when you have to lift up an Atlas stone or a log or even a tire flip , you will not have the ability to do it at the highest level.

One Legged Log Press

Phil Burgess: What is your best weight for the bench press, log lift, yoke carry, squat and Deadlift?

Aderito Santos: Despite not competing in powerlifting, I believe that these exercises are essential for all strongman competitors that take strongman seriously to gain strength.

I can Bench Press raw 220kg for 4 repetitions , but I prefer 90kg Dumbells.

I obtain better results this way because I can target different muscle groups not just the chest.

Log lift, my personal record this year during training was 180kg

Yoke carry, my personal best that was also in competition was 450kg in 25 metre course.  I didn’t win but I was one of the few that finished the event.

Full Squat raw 355kg for 4 repetitions, I also do a lot of half squats that I use to gain impulse power,here I can go up to 450 kg for 6 repetitions.

Deadlift raw 330kg for 4 receptions.

Phil Burgess: What do you do when you are not competing or training for strongman?

Aderito Santos: When I am not competing I am training in the gym 5 times a week just to keep in shape and in overall condition.  In the rest of my spare time, I enjoy going fishing on my boat  just to relax.

150kg Farmers Walk

Phil Burgess: What is the best advice you have been given which you can share with our readers?

Aderito Santos: The best advice that I was given was to dedicate myself and to compete in what I enjoy the most in this case strongman and not to compete in other sports (powerlifting) just because others say that I should.

The advice I would give to other is to dedicate themselves to the sport that they like and enjoy the most.  At the end you will be a happier and healthier person.

Phil Burgess: When you are planning your training routines, do you centre them around bodyparts or the powerlifting exercises?

Aderito Santos:  I plan my training routines first by bodyparts and then I introduce the powerlifting exercises, for example:

  • When I train chest I do all the exercises for that muscle group including bench press,
  • When I do legs I do all the exercises for legs including squat,
  • When I do back I do all the exercises for back including deadlift

This is not very easy, especially if you are looking to do maximum weight in the powerlifting exercises.

It takes some time to get accustomed to, but after some time the benefits for strongman competitions will be much greater.  

Your overall conditioning will be much better, your movements will be much more fluid and not so concentrated in that static steady lift.

Your body will be more accustomed to overall pain that occurs in strongman competitions because of the different events.

This is the system that works for me.    

Car Deadlift

Phil Burgess: Finally, can you describe where you live to us, and the gym you train at?

Aderito Santos:  I live in a very nice city called Aveiro in the center of Portugal.

It is also called the Venice of Portugal because it is surrounded by water and many canal´s go thru it with local traditional boats full of tourists

At night all the decorative lights are turned on, shining in the water making a beautiful contrast of a city full of light.

I can’t imagine myself living anywhere else than here in Portugal.

The gym where I train is a small gym that is more suitable for bodybuilders, but has all the machines and free weights that I need for training overall conditioning and strength.

The most important equipment I have at home and that is the strongman equipment like, atlas stones, log, tire, farmers walk and yoke.

We thank Aderito Santos for sharing with us his thoughts on his career and the sport of strongman, and wish him well for the future.