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SPOTLIGHT: Randall Strossen, PhD '79

The Strongman

Randall Benton/Sacramento Bee/Zuma Press

BIG CRUSH: In his prime, Strossen closed the No. 2 gripper.

Randall Strossen's chums are the world’s most powerful people. Not presidents or billionaire executives, but the guys who pull busses wearing spandex and a harness. That harness? Strossen’s company, IronMind Enterprises, created it.

Strossen, who rock climbed and biked at Stanford, had continued to lift weights while he worked as a market researcher with Bank of America in the 1970s. In 1988, he started submitting columns to Ironman magazine. He won a regular spot in the publication and went on to write his first book (a best seller in the field), Super Squats: How to Gain 30 Pounds of Muscle in 6 Weeks. In 1991, Strossen introduced the first IronMind catalog, which included IronMind’s signature piece of equipment, the Captains of Crush gripper.

The gripper has become a sort of cult phenomenon: people post videos of themselves on YouTube, huffing and puffing as they attempt to squeeze the handles together. IronMind offers 10 strength levels. The Guide, the easiest, is similar to a gripper you’d find at a typical sports equipment store. Strossen says most people you’d find at the gym every day cannot close the No. 1. (The No. 1 is the fourth strength level.) Not a single known woman has closed the No. 2. As for the No. 4—the top level and the equivalent of crushing a raw potato in your hand—only five men have officially closed it (IronMind will send someone out to certify that you can), and it’s widely considered to be the ultimate feat of grip strength. Magnus Samuelsson is one of those five. The former World’s Strongest Man champion can bench-press 600 pounds, but even he needs to be having a good day to conquer the No. 4.

The grippers were a modification of existing sports equipment. But IronMind also develops new products, like the IMTUG, which strengthens individual fingers for rock climbers and the like. Other products cater to people needing physical therapy. “Everyone squeezes things,” Strossen says. “A lot of people have overuse [injuries].” Expand-Your-Hand bands help relieve el­-bow pain caused by such injuries.

Strossen lives with his wife, Elizabeth (IronMind’s chief administrative officer), in Nevada City, Calif., going to local meets and running this company that the average person may never even realize exists but that Olympians and champion arm wrestlers can’t do without. He travels extensively, covering events for his publication, MILO: A Journal for Serious Strength Athletes. This summer, for the fourth time, MILO was the only U.S. bodybuilding or lifting magazine to be awarded media accreditation for the Olympic Games. Strossen recently was awarded the certificate of merit from the European Weightlifting Federation—the first non-European to be so honored.

So if you need sand bags to train for your next barrel-lifting meet, Strossen is your guy. Just be careful when you shake his hand.

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