In Pictures

The extreme lifestyle of a strongman

Mikey Lane eats 8,500 calories a day and trains five days a week in his bid to become one of the strongest men in the world.

Mikey Lane training in his gym Image copyright Richard Hancox

Mikey, 35, eats seven chickens a week, along with six pizzas, as part of his training regime.

The semi-professional strongman from Nuneaton has dedicated the last nine years to pushing himself to his limits to chase his dream.

Mikey Lane training in his gym Image copyright Richard Hancox
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His journey has seen him compete nationally and internationally, with his ultimate quest to compete in the World's Strongest Man contest.

Mikey's interest in weight training began when he was at school, after finding that sports like football did not appeal to him. He would cycle 10 miles to train at his nearest gym.

"Growing up watching the World's Strongest Man competitions every year at Christmas, I was in awe of these giants," he says.

It was when Mikey was helping his cousin host a strongest man contest in Warwickshire, that he realised he had a talent for the competition.

"I was loading and resetting the event equipment for the competitors - including very large steel girders and car brake discs - when I found I was lifting and moving them easier than some of the actual athletes!"

Mikey Lane training in his gym Image copyright Richard Hancox

Mikey used to train at a commercial gym, but found he outgrew the equipment and weights.

Three years ago he decided to take his mission to the next level and create his own gym by renting a farm outbuilding a couple of miles from where he lives in the Midlands.

Mikey Lane training in his gym Image copyright Richard Hancox

His day job as a builder of gym equipment meant he could put his metalwork skills to good use and create the perfect training facilities just for him.

Mikey Lane's gym equipment Image copyright Richard Hancox

He called it Ape Gym, because "I have quite large hands that one day I may grow into, they often get referred to as 'gorilla paws'".

Mikey Lane training in his gym Image copyright Richard Hancox
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Mikey Lane's gym sign Image copyright Richard Hancox
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In his own personal gym space, Mikey does not need to worry about manoeuvring around other gymgoers and dropping weights.

Mikey Lane training in his gym Image copyright Richard Hancox
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The racks of his gym are filled with dumbbells from 0.5kg to 105kg. His Atlas Stones, large spherical stones, weigh from 60kg to 200kg.

In the World's Strongest Man contest, five Atlas Stones must be lifted and placed on top of high platforms along a course. It is the final event of the contest and often determines the winner.

Mikey Lane's gym equipment Image copyright Richard Hancox
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Mikey Lane's gym equipment Image copyright Richard Hancox

Mikey is helped by his girlfriend Nina, who acts as his manager and physiotherapist and also prepares his body-building meals. She is seen below helping Mikey with a splinter in his finger.

Nina helping Mikey remove a splinter Image copyright Richard Hancox

Nina previously competed in a strongwoman competition, achieving her personal best in squat, deadlift, overhead press and farmer's walk, in which heavy weights are carried.

Nina using a car polisher on Mikey's back Image copyright Richard Hancox

Nina is seen above using a car polisher to massage Mikey's muscles. He says it helps him to relax contracted muscles, alleviates muscular pain and aids mobility.

"I wouldn't suggest anyone just grabbing [a car polisher] and using it without knowing what they're doing and why they're doing it," he says. "Find someone knowledgeable, and ask a ton of questions."

Mikey's daily diet includes pizzas. "They aren't the most ideal form of nutrition, but if by the end of the day the rough calorie intake hasn't been met, pizzas are an easy and convenient way of hitting that figure."

Mikey Lane training in his gym Image copyright Richard Hancox

To maintain his 8,500 calorie intake and 130kg body weight, Mikey also eats steak, bread rolls, German ham, cold roast chicken, slow-cooked beef, vegetables, shakes with blended oats and snacks like crisps, chocolate and biscuits.

Mikey is frequently visited by strongmen and women to swap skills and knowledge. "That's the great thing about the sport, the friendships and support that can be found.

"Although we may be competing against each other, we are all there to help each other along."

Mikey Lane training in his gym Image copyright Richard Hancox
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Mikey is seen above carrying a weight frame, called a yoke. Running with a yoke is a competitive event in strongman competitions.

At his side is Mazikeen, a German shepherd cross Alaskan malamute dog, who has been with Mikey when he trains since she was eight weeks old.

Mikey's dog Mazikeen Image copyright Richard Hancox

To train for each event, Mikey's exercises are centred around compound lifts, which work multiple muscle groups at the same time.

Mikey Lane training in his gym Image copyright Richard Hancox

He also uses assistant exercises, secondary movements that help lifting weights and create stimulus for growth.

Mikey also focuses on maintaining mobility and flexibility. "I follow a set plan of muscle release, nerve release and muscle activation before each training session, using foam rollers and passive stretches to release muscle tissues without straining them."

Mikey Lane training in his gym Image copyright Richard Hancox

Being a strongman does take its toll on Mikey's body, with occasional achy joints and small muscle tears.

Keeping fit and active outside his training, along with the help of physiotherapists, chiropractors and movement specialists, has helped him avoid any major health issues.

Mikey Lane training in his gym Image copyright Richard Hancox
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Recently, Mikey competed in Utah and achieved a personal best of performing a deadlift of 362kg. He missed out on third place by just half a point.

His next big event will see him competing to regain his Elite British championship title in Billingham on 15 September.

What are Mikey's views on body image and masculinity in 2019? "I'd say any pressure anybody feels, men or women, comes from within, and not from a certain ad campaign, or a body type used by the fashion industry.

"I think masculinity is really quite objective. Living in such a digital age, it's changed quite drastically from the old image of a masculine man, being big, strong and able to fix cars and build things.

"I feel proud I'm able to do those things, but I think it's more about being capable now, regardless of gender."

Mikey Lane in his gym Image copyright Richard Hancox
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Mikey shares his advice for someone with ambitions of being a strongman or strongwoman: "Find an established gym, or club, with experienced people who really know what they're doing, ask plenty of questions, start light, and build a foundation.

"But mainly have fun. The more fun it is, the more you'll want to do it, and the quicker you'll progress!"

Photos by Richard Hancox.

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