I’m Possible: Training for the Winter Paralympics

At the 2014 Winter Paralympics closing ceremony an enormous sign hung above the stage proclaiming: “IMPOSSIBLE.” Paralympian Alexey Chuvashev rolled onto the stage in a wheelchair. A veteran who lost his legs eight years ago in a combat operation, he went on to win a bronze medal in rowing at the London 2012 Summer Paralympics.

2014 Winter Paralympics

A fifty-foot rope hung from the sign. The athlete got off his wheelchair and started climbing. A burly guy, even without legs he carried a lot more weight than a gymnast.

2014 Winter ParalympicsWatch the climb on video; fast-forward to 14:10.

Once Chuvashev reached the top, he forcefully pushed over one of the Tetris blocks forming the sign. The block inserted itself as an apostrophe into the sign. And now it said:


2014 Winter Paralympics

You do not need comic book movies to find inspiration for your training. Paralympians, StrongFirst salutes you! Below, coach Eric Kenyon shares his experience training gold-medal winning athlete Evan Strong.

Training an Olympic Snowboard Racer

By Eric Kenyon, SFG

Evan Strong and Eric Kenyon
Paralympian Evan Strong training with his strength coach Eric Kenyon, SFG.

Evan Strong won gold at the Winter Olympic in Sochi, Russia. He is also missing his left leg from the knee down. For now, Evan is competing in the paralympic category. For now.

Evan lost his leg in a car wreck ten years ago at the age of seventeen. A speeding SUV crossed several lanes and hit his motorcycle head on. He lost his lower left leg, and while his left knee is present, it is not fully functional. There are long titanium inserts in his left femur and his left forearm, which was also injured in the crash.

Evan competes in “boardercross.” In this event, four to six racers blast out of the starting gates at once, jostling each other for position as they accelerate to 40- or 50mph in a few seconds. They wear motorcross-type armor. Collisions and spectacular wipe-outs are common. This reminds me to mention one of the most powerful effects our training has had on Evan’s competitive career: defensive strength, as Evan calls it. Pavel and Dan John call it “armor building” in their Easy Strength course and materials.

Evan’s life and schedule force us to adapt continually, and it is the bedrock of hard style, StrongFirst, and Easy Strength principles that drive our continual success. Here is the foundation of Evan’s strength and conditioning.

1. Barbell Deadlifts

As shown in Power to the People. Done at 80- to 90% intensity, or somewhat less, but never more. Sometimes with chains. Usually singles, but sometimes doubles or triples.

Barbell Deadlifts

2. Kettlebell Swings

For race conditioning, it’s 30/30 intervals. For pure explosive speed, it’s Master SFG Mark Reifkind’s power swings. Heavy bell, full speed, no fatigue.

Heavy Kettlebell Swings

3. Striker’s Floor Press

A kettlebell floor press with elbows tucked into ribs, kind of like a slow uppercut. Easy on the shoulders. This is our defensive strength, or armor building, movement. Evan does sets of 2 to 5 reps, quite heavy.

Striker's Floor Press

The Results From the Winter Paralympics

We followed Easy Strength principles and got results that looked like black magic. We never allowed fatigue during strength or speed training. We brought up Evan’s strength by a solid 100%. His speed increase was harder to measure, but Evan calls it “exponential.” This translated into his best snowboard racing season yet, in what is his sixth season: thirteen medals in thirteen national and world-class races and a gold medal at the Winter Olympics.

Evan Strong Gold Medal

Pavel Tsatsouline
Pavel Tsatsouline is the CEO of StrongFirst, Inc.

18 thoughts on “I’m Possible: Training for the Winter Paralympics

  • Update: Evan got 4th place in Boardercross and silver in banked slalom. I will meet with him in the next couple days to get the after action report. He is the best he has ever been as a snowboarder. There are also a good number of smart, tough, well supported and hungry athletes for him to battle with.

  • Evan is in New Zealand right now for the first race of the season. He now weighs in at a solid 185 pounds at 5 foot 10, the model athlete for boarder cross. He’s gained 31 pounds of muscle in the 5 years as my student. Some more fun facts: Evan had to get a new prosthetic recently as the stump, or remainder of his left leg has become more thick and muscular. Last three years have involved a lot of double kettlebell front squats, sometimes with mismatched ‘bells. Sometimes not all that heavy. Evan is planning to win gold in boarder cross and banked slalom at the Paralympics in Korea next year. He is also moving entirely over to able bodied racing.

  • Evan is in Korea right now for Paralympic trials, preparing for the 2018 Winter Olympics. While there he also finished the last of the season’s World Cup races. Evan won two of the highly coveted, adaptive snowboard racing World Cup Crystal Globe Awards this year. These awards are given to the racer that has the best aggregate score in the season’s World Cup races. Evan won the Snowboarder-cross Globe and the Overall Globe. He came very close to also winning the one remaining, Banked Slalom Globe. I have served as Evan’s S & C coach for over 5 years now. His training has changed little since I wrote this article. Perhaps I will write an updated piece. Here is a link to a fairly recent interview with Evan and I: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ps5lzd21xbE&t=17s

  • Evan just completed a brutal 23 race season all national and world class, about 5 in the able-bodied category. 6 crashes, 3 due to collisions with other racers. Evan walked away with a smile and a bunch of medals. Eyes on 2016 Korea. StrongFirst baby!

  • This is incredible inspiring. Speaks measures beyond strength training too. Believing in yourself is the first step to attaining the impossible. Just believing you are possible makes all the difference.

    Incredible work here!

  • Great testimonial to smart training, inspirational comebacks and how strength and resilience can be built in our bodies despite tragic outcomes. Kudos to Eric for his ability to train Evan with intelligent training that translated to the needs and strengths of his competition. Just awesome!!!

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