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Farm Preps This Pro

Carl Foemmel has never shied away from the heavy lifting. "I've always had excellent strength," says the fourth-generation farmer from Chile, Wisconsin.

"When I was young, I never watched TV. I purchased a plastic-and-cement weight set at Fleet Farm and worked through the entire book daily. Even at 3 years of age, I picked up a 50-pound block of salt and loaded it onto the cart."

At Marshfield High School, he lifted weights, playing nose tackle for their state champion football team his junior year.

Today he farms with his dad, Tim, and grandfather, Forrest. They share equipment and a dairy calf enterprise with Carl's uncle, Dan, and two cousins.

Rising To The Challenge

In 2005, Foemmel and a friend at the gym saw a poster about the World's Strongest Man competition. Foemmel, who is 6 feet tall, weighed 240 pounds at the time. "My friend said there was no way I could do that -- everyone was so much bigger than I was," Foemmel says. "I decided to take on the challenge, and I never looked back."

To prepare for competition, Foemmel worked out at a local gym six days a week, putting in 18 to 20 hours.

He entered a contest in Madison with 20 other contestants. He placed third. At New London that year, he placed seventh out of 30 individuals.

This was followed by six other competitions. In 2006, he won the heavyweight division at the nationals in Louisville.

He needed a more customized workout, so he and Pastor Gerry Zehrung renovated a 20×25-foot garage, heating it with a wood stove. He works out there four days a week for three hours per day.

"This is a quiet place and has all the proper equipment," Foemmel says. "I can go at my own pace, do as many reps as I want, and focus on the various events."

Sanctioned events include:

  • Giant farmer's walk (moving 380 pounds in each hand) for 200 feet.
  • Giant dumbbell is pressed overhead (lifting 200 pounds) with one hand.
  • Lifting atlas stones (weighing 250 to 500 pounds) to a 56" platform.

Not surprisingly, Foemmel has torn his bicep and pectoral muscles.

Last month the 29-year-old, 295-pound farmer competed in the first round of World's Strongest Man in Los Angeles.

"It's a great way to stay in shape," he says. "It takes dedication and self-discipline, improves your cardiovascular, and fits the physical activities of farming. I plan to compete as long as possible. My goal is making it to the World's once."

Winter Workout

You don't have to compete to stay fit. Neither do you have to leave home, buy expensive equipment, hire a personal trainer, or get a gym membership.

A simple home gym is private, convenient, and time-saving. It's also weather-proof. The key is choosing a form of exercise that you'll continue year-round.

Warren Franke, professor of kinesiology and director of Iowa State University's Exercise Clinic, recommends a minimum of 100 minutes of physical activity per week to improve general fitness.

Look for home exercise equipment at a sporting goods or discount retail store. Franke offers this short list:

  • Exercise mat for stretching, sit-ups: $10
  • Adjustable handheld dumbbells: $40
  • Stability exercise ball: $20

For cardiovascular fitness, he suggests a Schwinn Airdyne. "A new one is $600, but it's a whole-body workout," he says. "You get quite a bit for your money."

Expect to pay $500 minimum for a new elliptical trainer, he says. "The next step up is a treadmill. Don't pay less than $1,000 for a new one," he says.

Always test used equipment before buying. For more, read the February 2011 Consumer's Report magazine.

By Harlen Persinger and Cheryl Tevis, Farm Issues Editor

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