Mitchell Hooper is fresh off his victory at this year’s World’s Strongest Man competition, but topping the podium in the biggest strength event on the planet is just the latest achievement on his resume. In a new video on his YouTube channel, Hooper reflects on the many sports he has pursued in his life before becoming a world-class strongman.
Hooper started out playing golf and hockey before progressing to college football in 2013, and although that didn’t last very long, he had “stacked on a whole bunch of weight”—just shy of 90 pounds—by 2014. By 2015 he had lost that weight and carved a lean, shredded physique which he began to show off in bodybuilding competitions.
From there, Hooper then got into distance running, which he explains stemmed from a desire to “eat a lot of food and not put on a whole lot of weight.” He started out running 10Ks, and within six months, at around 220 pounds, had trained enough to take on his first marathon. His inaugural marathon in Ottawa in 2016 also happened to yield his best time, at 3:24.
“I was a good marathon runner, but not a great marathon runner,” he says. “I wanted to qualify for the Boston marathon, which was 3:05 or less, and I just couldn’t do it.”
“I was disenchanted with running after that,” he adds. I was never going to be great.” Hooper spent a year or so feeling uncertain about his athletic future, before turning his attention to powerlifting.
“Even when I played football, I always wanted to do one-rep maxes,” he says. “I always wanted to lift heavy in the gym, that was just what I was inclined to do.”
He started gaining weight, and went up from 230 to 260 pounds as he trained.
“I just took to the strength really well,” he recalls. “I was able to get my first 700-pound deadlift, I was able to get my first 400-pound bench press, and I was able to squat very close to 700.”
Encouraged by friends at his gym to enter a qualifier for the Arnold Classic, Hooper began participating in strength sports. After winning his last powerlifting meet, he decided to leave that sport on a high, and committed to bulking up, reaching 310 pounds and going “full boar” into his strongman era.
“It’s not an overnight thing,” he explains. “I was lifting heavy throughout the entirety of that… it was a lot of work, it wasn’t easy, it took a lot of time.”
Philip Ellis is News Editor at Men’s Health, covering fitness, pop culture, sex and relationships, and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared in GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV, and he is the author of Love & Other Scams.