For 5 years, Aurélien Lejeune has retained his title of Strongest Man in France. He experienced the beginnings of Strong and today is multiplying competitions around the world. The Nutrimuscle team had the pleasure of welcoming him to talk about his practice, his journey as an athlete and how food supplements help him on a daily basis.
Can you introduce yourself as an athlete?
My name is Aurélien Lejeune, I am 38 years old. It's been 20 years since I started bodybuilding. In 2008, I started strength sports. I have 12 French champion titles in different federations and categories.
In 2012, I specialized in strongman. I was twice vice-champion of Ile-de-France in Strongman. In 2019 I won the title of Strongest Man in France for the first time and I have kept it for 5 years.
I live in Normandy, I have always lived there. Living in the countryside allows me to train in my garden, because most of the gyms are not equipped with strongman equipment. Plus, I'm quite close to Paris in the end, so that doesn't pose a problem for competitions.
This year, I was once again titled French Strong champion. I was also invited to the Ragnarok Games in Miami where I finished 2nd. In April I was at the Siberian Power Show in Russia where I finished 7th. My next competition is the World's Strongest Latino in Portugal. In September, I'm going to Orlando, in November, to Iceland for another competition. It makes me travel, it's cool!
My goal is to participate in the World's Strongest Man competition in May 2024. If in December I make the podium, I am sure to go to the World in May.
Can you explain to us what the sport of strongman is?
Strong is a spectacle sport. It is not managed as a federation, it is a private sport. We have around twenty possible tests. We know them one or two months before the competition, there are 5 or 6 of them. We can prepare, but it's different from a powerlifter who knows at each competition that he will have his three movements. Strong, it changes all the time and it will be out of the ordinary as a strength exercise, but always functional: moving a truck, lifting a tire, passing a tree trunk over your head... We have a time of approximately 1 min or 1 minute 30.
We all have our favorite movements, often those are the ones where we do the best. Personally, I love the grip exercises, the Hercules hold, the deadlift… I'm less of a fan of overhead movements.
The heart of our training is basic movements, like in bodybuilding.
Before, there was no bodyweight category. Today, there are 4 body weight categories: -80 kg, -90 kg, -105 kg and the open class, without limit. The World's Strongest Man competition is an open championship, with no weight limit.
Being world champion of France does not give you any rights for the future. To participate in international competitions, there are competition gateways to qualify for other competitions. Otherwise, it is by direct invitation from the promoter.
How did you find out about the strong?
I always wanted to do strength competitions when I was little, I watched the strong competitions on television. My idols were Jón Páll Sigmarsson and Bill Kazmaier. For the record, Bill was the referee for one of my competitions in the United States [laughs]. It was strange to meet him with a 30 year difference.
I did lots of sports when I was young: athletics, rugby, powerlifting… With rugby, I understood that I had the potential to develop my strength. It gradually led me to the strong.
At the time, it wasn't easy to do strong. It wasn't as developed as today and we had difficulty finding participants, competition dates, where to train... it's a little simpler and more democratized today.
How did you get started with food supplements?
When I started training, I didn't take any supplements. 20 years ago, food supplements were very frowned upon and it was after 2 or 3 years of bodybuilding that I started taking proteins, on the advice of practitioners in the gym.
At the time, I bought from Nutrimuscle via Le Monde du Muscle magazine. I knew Nutrimuscle in its early days and I rediscovered them 3-4 years ago as an athlete of the brand.
Which ones do you consume the most?
Every morning I have my routine: Omega-3, Multivitamins Multiminerals, krill oil for health. When you're athletic, you're always careful, especially when you have a very heavy body weight like mine. I also use collagen for joint protection.
In training, I always take BCAAs. For protein I take a little whey, but it's mainly peptopro. Sometimes creatine, and Beta-Alanine [to delay fatigue, increase strength and endurance, Ed]. I take peptopro with flavorings because, we're not going to lie to each other, pure peptopro tastes horrible. Protein allows me to maintain my body weight, I'm no longer looking to develop muscle so it's really occasional.
I sometimes take the Blend Night Recovery. I also take a lot of barley flakes, buckwheat flour for cooking. My favorite thing at Nutrimuscle is the chocolate-hazelnut spread. It's a killer.
What foods and dishes do you eat to build strength?
I gain weight very easily. My healthy weight is 160 kg, I try to limit it.
I consume a lot of proteins and carbohydrates, I consume few vegetables because it is necessary for health, but I am really not a fan. I have 6 meals a day, three big meals and three snacks around 10 a.m. and 4-5 p.m. My snacks right now are a bowl of barley flakes with honey.
For the strongman, it's more high-protein dishes and very rich in carbohydrates because the workouts are very long, between 2h30/3h. You have to have enough energy to hold on.
What was your very first strong workout?
I remember it very well! I was 26 or 27 years old. The difficulty at the time was having equipment. I had been to Amiens. I had contacted a former athlete on Facebook to train with him. For 2 or 3 years, I went to Amiens every weekend to train with his equipment. At the first training session, I tested the atlas stones, I did one at 180 kg and the suitcases at 140 kg. I wasn't new to bodybuilding so I had already built up my strength. But I remember that I really liked this session!
Is it better to train alone or with others?
It's always better to train with people, for motivation and safety. I recommend having a coach. Personally, although I am an athlete and myself a coach, I am coached by Jean-François Caron, a Quebec athlete. My goal is to achieve the World's Strongest Man , so it allows me to delegate my training and my diet to my coach.
Is there a good atmosphere in strong competitions?
At the moment, there is competitiveness. But I find that the atmosphere is rather good: everyone helps each other, advises each other, motivates each other. Before, it was totally different. 4 or 5 years ago, before the federation, it was a very bad atmosphere. Since the creation of the federation, the atmosphere has been very family-friendly: when you go there, you know it's for the competition and that you're going to have a good time.
Have you ever had moments of doubt where you almost stopped everything?
I had to have knee surgery due to poorly treated tendinitis. My patellar tendon was partially torn. It was due to accumulation. During 2017 I felt that things were not going well. I was in pain every day.
When I got injured, the first sports doctor I went to see told me that sport would be over for me, that my knee was inoperable and that my career was over. Fortunately, my wife, who works in the medical field, was able to contact a sports doctor, who agreed to operate on me without any problem. Six months later, I returned to sport. [laughs]
Today, my health is doing well, if we don't pay attention to what the doctors say about my morbid obesity [laughs]. My sports doctor leaves me fairly alone despite my high body weight.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start strong?
My first piece of advice would be to surround yourself well. Today, we have the ease of communicating with networks, we can find competent coaches in the field. It is important to be careful and protect yourself from injury. Social networks have brought together many enthusiasts, they have made many people grow and know the strong. I only see positives in it.
Today, to be able to start in strongman, you have to have equipment. Although some crossfit gyms are starting to make some equipment available, at some point you have to get your own equipment, and it's an investment.