Behind every strong man is a stronger woman. Sorry guys, but honestly, to be successful in life, the balance of family man to athlete are always tenuous. Working two jobs, competing in a non-stop lifestyle of international travel for athletic competition and being a husband and father is tough. But, with support from family and friends, the goal to be the best in your game is that much easier. Travis Ortmayer has everything a man could ask for in Strongman; except that 1st place trophy at the Arnold Strongman Classic.
BH: Thanks for taking some of your day to talk.
TO: Absolutely, thank you sir for taking the time to do this interview.
BH: Every great strength athlete has a quality place to train. Tell me first about your training facility.
TO: Well, I train on the weekends at the World Famous "Unit"... it's really just a simple storage unit
but we have had 6 (+1 honorary member- did the Unithon but lived in CA at the time. He is now living
here...) Heavyweight pro's come from the Unit: Josh Thigpen, Marshall White, and myself have all
been to Worlds Strongest Man (WSM). 2 guys have been considered for the alternate position (Jim
Glassman, Andy Vincent) at WSM, and Ryan Bracewell and Dan Harrison are strong "up and comers".
We now have a few Heavyweight amateurs who will probably be pro's soon and we have 2 VERY
good Lightweight's who I am sure will have pro cards in the next year or so. We also have the oldest
Strongman competitor ever to compete- my father, Roger Ortmayer. He is 64 and has won 4 National
Championships in the over 50 category (won't compete in the over 60 because he thinks the weights
are "too girly"). No training group on Earth has this good of a resume; I am very proud of our guys!
The other place I train is at Fitness 1 on 1. It is a personal training gym that really focuses on athletic
training but makes it so that we can easily tweak programs to suit anyone of any age or experience
level, as well as to give the client exactly what sort of results he/she is looking for. Because this gym has
so many options, as far as athletic training is concerned, I find it to be an ideal place for my gym training.
BH: Are there any other strength athletes training there?
TO: We train everyone from stay at home moms to high level athletes but I would say they are all
athletes because of how dedicated our clients are. As far as strength athletes are concerned, yes,
we have a few people that train for this but I am the only one who regularly trains there out of the
professional Strongmen. My father is always there to help me out though and I am always there to help
train him so we have a good team going.
BH: Like a lot of strength athletes you came from a powerlifting background. What other sports were
you involved in when you were younger?
TO:I actually started out lifting to be a bodybuilder. I loved Arnold's physique and I still think his classical
shape and size is the best out there. I was always lifting heavy though so naturally I thought powerlifting
would be a good fit when I was told about a local competition in my early 20's. However, I've only
ever done 2 official meets. As for when I was a kid, I played all the usual kid's stuff: baseball, soccer,
basketball... but never football. I wish I had played football when I was in high school though because I
think I could have been really good at it!
BH: What were your lifts and totals and at what weight class did you compete?
TO: I actually bombed out of my first meet... I was in the 220 Junior class and I crushed a 500 opener;
however, since I didn't know anything about waiting for calls and all that I was "red lighted." It felt so
easy that I decided to take a big jump, but then I couldn't complete either lift... I didn't compete again in
powerlifting for 7 years... Of course, during that time I had found Strongman and that's when my entire
life changed. The last meet I did was in December of 2007 after coming back from a really serious back
injury sustained at the Arnold Classic in March of that year. My top lifts were: 751 squat, 506 bench,
801 Deadlift (first time I had finally broken the 800 lb. barrier! I had missed it 11 times before that in
training and competition...). I was in the 140 kilo (308 lb) class for that meet.
These were both USAPL meets.
BH: Are you married and do you have children?
TO: Yes, I am married to my lovely wife Lucy and we have a son named after one of my absolute best
friends in the world: Mikhail (after Strongman competitor, Mikhail Koklyaev).
BH: I was a stay at home dad for a few years and know how challenging it can be. How difficult is it to
juggle working responsibilities, training, travel and being a dad all at the same time?
TO: It is definitely very challenging! Let's put it this way, without my wife's help there's no way I could
have 2 jobs (one of which has me travelling 12-18 times a year- mostly international), train several times
a week, and take care of my son the way he deserves to be taken care of. I like to think that I am getting
better at it though! At first I didn't get more than maybe 4-6 hours of sleep a night but now I am usually
on the positive side of 6 and sometimes even 8 hours every now and then!
After having a child, and seeing what life is like with 2 parents, I have a whole new respect for single
parents who can work and take care of his/her children at the same time.
BH: How and when did you qualify for your first World’s Strongest Man?
TO: Well, I first started out in the pro's when the whole IFSA/ WSM split was going on back in 2005.
Back then all the top athletes, other than Mariusz, went with IFSA so that is where I decided to
compete. I am certain my career would have been much different (especially monetarily speaking) if
I went with WSM at first because it was so much more recognized here in America, but I know that
going with IFSA was the right choice. If you look at the top athletes now that the two have gotten back
together (as of 2008) you can see that most of the WSM athletes from 2005 to 2007 were pushed out by
the IFSA athletes coming over. I know that may seem harsh and step on some toes but it's the truth, and
because of my choice to compete against the best from the beginning, even though I got my ass handed
to me several times, I am now in the top of the field in every contest I enter.
So I guess I'll have to answer this question twice: with IFSA I qualified for the 2005 World's by taking
2nd at the PanAm Championships in Brazil beating all the top Americans and Canadians other than Phil
Pfister. And for WSM I qualified in 2008 by winning the Madison Square Garden Super-Series beating
out some greats like Dave Ostlund, Derek Poundstone, Terry Hollands, Magnus Samuelson (my personal
BH: Tell me about your first athlete's meeting at the World's Strongest Man? Was there a sense of pride
or intimidation? Who else was there?
TO: I can remember every single one of my WSM meetings and I still feel like a kid in a candy store every
time. I look around and see all these faces of the greatest strength athletes the world has ever known
and think "wow, I've seen that guy on TV", or "holy crap, it's so-and-so... he's freaking huge!!" And then
I realize, "oh yeah, that's my friend..." and then I come back to Earth a little bit. The very first World
Championships meeting I went to had guys like: Zydrunas Savickas, Vasyl Virastyuk, Mikhail Koklyaev,
Magnus Samuelson, Svend Karlsen, Phil Pfister, Karl Gillingham, Tommi Lotta, Raimonds Bergmanis, etc.
It was absolutely amazing to see them all!
BH: Injuries. We all have had them. Tell us about your big injuries.
TO: I have hurt my back, torn half my upper left pec off the bone, broken my left ankle, been hit in the
back of the head with an 850 lb car squat apparatus, and so many other things I can't even remember
The back injury was at the 2007 Arnold and basically speaking it was a few severely pinched nerves that
ran down both my legs and around my hips. I'm not sure if I blew a disc out or cracked a vertebrae or
what because I don't have health insurance so I just have to go by feel and really be in tune with my
body to heal it. I managed to do the Circus Dumbbell the next day (got 2 reps!) but that was it, and when
I got home the swelling was so bad that I literally couldn't walk for 3 days. This was the most painful
feeling I've ever had.
The car squat incident still affects me now. At the time it just affected my sight. It was the 3rd event
of the first day at the 2006 USA Nationals and we had a Yoke, Farmer's Walk, Chain Drag medley last. I
had to get the judge to yell when I crossed the line because I couldn't see it unless I got down really
close to it! I only lost that event by a couple inches too- Kevin Nee and I went head to head and he just
barely jerked the chain over the line right before I did! He and I were well out into 1st and 2nd place
on that event too. I was in an 18 point hole after the first day but I came back and damn near won it. I
won every event the second day and in the end I was in 3rd just 1 point behind 2nd and he was only 1/2
point behind 1st!! Talk about heartbreak. For the next 6 months I really had some head/brain troubles.
At the worst point, I couldn't sleep for 5 days straight and then I would be dead asleep for 2 days. It was
awful. You literally feel like you are insane at that point.
I tore the pec the first time in 2006, but it was just a small fibril tear. There was some blood pooling
and swelling and I thought it was a real pec tear but the real tear was in 2008 when I tore a big chunk
of it off doing incline DB Bench Press. I now have a big hole in my left pec but it really doesn't affect my
overhead pressing ability too much accept for on the log press. But that is still getting much better.
I broke my ankle at WSM last year (2010) on the log press event... I pressed the 380 lb. log up easily but
it was out in front of me so I went to bring it back to my chest so I could throw it up and back a little
more (inline with my head), and as the weight came down to my chest I got my left foot stuck in a gap
between the mats. I coudn't move it free and since it had nowhere to go and with all that weight on
it my ankle snapped and my fibula dislocated and slammed back in place. It was the most disgusting
sound I've ever heard! There weren't any huge breaks in the bones but the connective tissue was totally
screwed up. I'm still trying to recover fully from this and it's now been nearly 6 months...
BH: And how are you feeling today, health wise?
TO: Everything feels really good other than my ankle. I am still very light though and I can't seem to
change this. I'm only 290 and about 7-8% bodyfat regularly. This would be ok except that I am naturally
a heavier person... I mean hell, I was the fat kid all my life growing up!
BH: What is your training schedule like at less than a month away from the ASC?
TO: I have it pretty much set up so that I am hitting my heaviest training about 3 weeks out then a
couple decently heavy workouts after that. The week before I don't really go over 225 on anything. I
warm-up like I am going to have a real workout but then I cut it off there.
BH: And how does that differ from say, your off season training?
TO: Well, in Strongman there is no off season... However, my training does change throughout the
year. For the Arnold I train really heavy on everything and only 3 times per week. For WSM I will try and
do more like 5 days a week but fewer exercises in each workout.
BH: Let’s talk nutrition. Everyone realizes how important eating is. What is a typical food day like for
TO: I have been on Nathan Payton's diet programs for the past couple years and I have to say that it was
one of the best things I've ever done for my career. I eat a lot of starches throughout the day (potatoes,
rice, etc...) and my proteins are usually from shakes, chicken, and beef. In the morning I'll have some
oatmeal with a shake that I put 4 eggs and a scoop of ProV 60 protein into. Now that I am so lean and
trying to actually gain some weight I eat cheat meals on my workout days.
BH: Do you use any sports professionals like a psychologist or nutritionist?
TO: Yes, I have Nathan Payton for my nutrition. [email protected]
BH: What supplements do you use?
TO: I use Labrada Nutrition's Lean Mass 60 and ProV 60, Super Charge Extreme, Power Carb, and Elasti
Joint. I also take their meal replacements with me every time I travel. I also like DotFit's Amino Boost,
Amino caps, multi vitamins, and their whey protein. I am a huge fan of Promera Health's Con-Cret. It
really is the only creatine that has done for me what creatine has always been touted to do. Because
of this I am now working with them and they are bringing out a whole new line of supplements with
the same concept of the Con-Cret. They make everything concentrated so you don't need to have huge
scoops of crap fillers when you want to take a pre-workout supplement.
BH: Who gave you your nickname “The Texas Stoneman”?
TO: It's kind of funny how I got that name. I just randomly used it as a sign-in name on some forum but
when I got known for my stone lifting the name just stuck.
BH: Obvious question here, what are some of the keys to picking stones correctly?
TO: Don't think about them!! They will get inside your head and eat you alive if you let them. Just set
your feet so that the ball of your foot is just about in the middle of the stone then take a breath, grab
the stone, lock on!, and pick it up with your back and legs. You aren't going to curl 400+ lbs. so don't try
to. Use your body to do the lifting and your arms to keep the stone tight and not moving around.
BH: What kinds of specific gear do you use for stones?
TO; I always felt like less is more on stones. I don't like any kind of sleeves, but I have used tape on my
forearms but only if I am too sweaty for the tacky to stick. I never wear a belt for them either. I would
suggest not wearing any kind of loose pants or shirts because the stone will slide on them. And last but
not least, Spider Tacky is a whole new realm of tacky. The stuff is almost too good... I seriously won't let
myself train with it too often.
BH: Anyone you would like to thank?
TO: Almost too many people to list... I'd have to thank my father for always being there to support
whatever crazy thing I decided to get into. My wife for being able to put up with me and still be as
supportive as she is! All the Unit guys who are there every Saturday and stay the whole day to take
the equipment out and put it away and make their monthly donations so we can keep the place open!
(there are too many people that want to come out and never donate and then they want to leave early-
these people aren't welcome for long. It's not like we ask for much!)
BH: And your sponsors?
TO: Absolutely. I couldn't keep going at the rate I do without the support of Con-Cret, Labrada
Nutrition, and DotFit supplements. Spider Tacky, and Team Ortmayer!
BH: The burning question: Boxers or briefs?
TO: Definitely Under Armor jockey shorts
BH: Lastly, now that all 10 athletes have been named for this year’s competition, give us your prediction
for this year’s ASC?
TO: I never give predictions; I wouldn't want to jinx anyone. I just know that everyone who shows up is
going to bring the pain! This will be an Arnold Strongman Classic to remember! I just pray for the same
thing I pray for every time I compete; may I do as well as I know I am capable of doing, and please Lord
protect us from serious injury!
BH: Thanks Travis for your time. Safe training this month and I am looking forward to our interview at
TO: Thanks to you Bryan! I am looking forward to it.
Predictions aside, anyone who knows Travis’s work ethic and tenacity, knows anything this weekend
is possible. A quiet humble and loving husband and father by weekday…. A ferocious and tenacious
powerhouse of a man by weeksend. My best to Travis this weekend.