March Beast of the Month: Blake Dedas
By Andy Laughlin
Beast of the Month features a different club member each month. They share their story and experience, inspiring all of us.
After twenty-one years of competitive strength sports, most athletes' careers are waning, relegating them to coaching duties and maybe the occasional foray into masters competitions or lower-impact sports like armlifting.
But Blake Dedas isn't most athletes. And now, in his twenty-first year of lifting heavy stuff for fun (a career he started as a 138-lb teenage powerlifter), he's making a run for his strongman pro card in the open 231-lb weight class.
Blake recently won the middleweight men's class at Unleash the Beast, a Strongman Corporation sanctioned contest held by The Strongman Club in Sacramento in February. As he tore through each event with an almost calculated ferocity, it became apparent there was no other choice for The Strongman Club's next Beast of the Month. We recently hunkered down for a Q-and-A session to discuss his upcoming, all-or-nothing drive to become a professional athlete.
Q: You've been competing in strongman for a long time. Give us a rundown of your experience so far.
A: My first strongman competition was in 2006 along with my first National Championship competition. I randomly saw an event posting on Facebook so I showed up and signed up the day of the competition, qualifying for nationals. Then nationals just happened to be in my hometown at the time, so I didn’t have to go anywhere.
I’ve played around in strongman off and on since 2006 as a way to mix things up, but I didn’t take strongman training this seriously until 2019 when I found a gym where I could actually train for it. I got kind of embarrassed at a strongman competition before that in late 2018 where I just didn’t perform to my basic expectations. I was able to specifically train for it for a couple months before moving to California. Then I didn’t have anywhere to train again. This past year, with the club, I finally had the opportunity to really break down the movements and take a strategic approach to the lifts. I just now have access to a gym again so I can actually train the way I want, to best prepare myself for this sport.
Q: How did you become involved in the sport?
A: I grew up watching World's Strongest Man, wishing I could compete. I knew I would never be 6’5" 350-plus pounds, so it was an inspiration seeing Mariusz Pudzanowski coming in at 6’ and 300. Around that same time is when I caught wind of a local strongman competition down the street from me, so I just went and signed up the day of the competition. I qualified for nationals, which happened to be just seven miles away a couple months later, so I did that too. I definitely enjoyed the competition but I had no way of training for it so I couldn’t really apply myself as I did for powerlifting at the time. Also, no one I knew of at the time was making the needed equipment, nor could I have afforded it even if it were available.
Q: What was your introduction to The Strongman Club like?
A: I reached out in October 2019 in the Starting Strongman Facebook group trying to connect with people who compete, which put me in contact with David Harrison and Tommy Burns. I dropped in with them at Grassroots Crossfit one Saturday and had a blast. It wasn’t until April or May 2020 when I saw a posting by Rylos Taylor about the Cal State parking lot car pushes that I reached out again to David, asking if I could come and if I needed to rent a car because I was living in SF and didn’t have a vehicle. That is when I started taking the 1.5-hour train ride one way to Hayward, where David would pick me up to take me the last leg. Eventually that developed into a shorter train ride to Oakland and continued lifts from David through August, around the same time The Strongman Club was officially formed.
Q: I understand you have a background in combat sports. How has that experience helped you as a strength athlete? Do you feel there's a connection between your intensity as competitor and your martial arts experience?
A: I played around in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai after my wrestling career ended and UFC became super popular. I loved the challenge and appreciated the endurance training. It also helped me continue to find ways to push myself beyond my comfort limit and general pain tolerance. I would keep training it if I had the time.
Q: In our conversations over the past several months, it's become apparent you grew up a "military brat." Tell me about the different places you've lived, in your youth and as an adult.
A: I’ve lived in Florida, New York, South Carolina, Illinois, Kentucky, Texas, Indiana and California - throw in a couple cities or residences in each state to the mix, and I’ve had to change my address quite a few times. While most people I meet have stayed in the same city or state their entire life, I think moving around a lot has allowed me to be comfortable with change, making new friends, adapting to new environments, and making me generally open to new challenges. (Or also, exacerbated insecurities and created a perpetual drive to compete to stand out among new people).
Q: Having already qualified for 2021 Strongman Corporation Nationals, what are your competitive goals for this year?
A: I haven’t really had the chance to fully train for strongman to the extent I used to for powerlifting until this week, now that I’m back at the gym. I’m planning training cycles similar to powerlifting in preparation for the comps - push my overhead and deadlift strength to the max during the week, then spend weekends with The Strongman Club perfecting technique and coordination drills for the events. My goals this year are to come in top three at USS Nationals at 220lbs, do well at the Arnold, and come in the top three at Strongman Corporation Nationals to win my pro card.
Q: You're about to become a dad... of twins! Tell me more about that.
I’m super excited about this. I have twin girls coming. I grew up more or less only around women so I have certain expectations in that regard. I definitely have fears that I’m going to spoil my girls rotten! But we will see.