World's Strongest Man contestant and Harlequins strength coach Adam Bishop on his journey to the top via Winter Olympics trials - and having to eat seven meals a day
Adam Bishop's sporting journey could have taken him to a Gallagher Premiership final or even the Winter Olympics – but instead he has made a name for himself as one of the planet's strongest men.
Anyone tuning into Channel 5 on New Year's Day evening will have seen him come sixth in the 2020 World's Strongest Man competition as he went close to being crowned the globe's ultimate muscleman.
And the reigning Britain's Strongest Man, who turned 32 earlier this month, is now looking forward to a hectic year as he bids to add to his long list of successes.
He is getting ready to compete in a scheduled World's Ultimate Strongman show in Bahrain at the end of February before taking part in Europe's Strongest Man and Britain's Strongest Man in April in Leeds and Sheffield respectively. As always, the year will culminate in another World's Strongest Man showdown.
"This year is going to be quick-fire," said Bishop. "It's all about planning your training accordingly to be at your peak."
Bishop was born at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow and grew up in Sawbridgeworth.
Mum Rachael and dad Peter were both teachers, at Leventhorpe School in Sawbridgeworth and Loughton's Roding Valley High School respectively. They are retired now, but his older sister Rebecca followed them into the teaching profession at The Broxbourne School.
Bishop attended Fawbert & Barnard Infants' School and Reedings Junior School in Sawbridgeworth before going to The Bishop's Stortford High School.
After doing his GCSEs at the London Road school, he moved to Wales to do a rugby scholarship at Llandovery College. Bishop's dad played rugby for Harlow, so he also played for the club before moving to Bishop's Stortford to play for the Silver Leys youth teams between the age of 15 and 16.
He was also part of the Saracens academy from under-15s before signing for the club's full-time academy. Having started as a No 8, he moved into the back row before switching to the wing.
At 19 he opted to leave Saracens and took up a deferred place at Loughborough University where he studied sports science and geography.
In the 2011-12 season he returned to rugby union by taking on a voluntary unpaid role as a strength and conditioning coach at Harlequins. The position became full time the following season and he began running the rehabilitation side of things. He has been a senior strength coach for the last four years, predominantly working with the forwards.
He played one match for the Harlequins second string in 2011-12 when they were short of numbers, but that was his last foray onto the field.
"I decided to put my career first," said Bishop. "It was impossible to work in rugby and play rugby on the side, even for a lower-league side, because you're often working evenings and weekends. It tied into me getting into strongman."
Bishop was introduced to strongman while he was at Loughborough. A friend took him to a "spit and sawdust" gym set up in an old shipping container with homemade equipment.
"It came to me very naturally," said Bishop.
"The big appeal was that it was about problem solving. You need to get better in one area so you have to think about what you can do.
"I've always been my own coach and that's why I still love doing it."
Even then Bishop could have taken a different sporting path. Following his departure from Saracens he was one of several athletes leaving the professional ranks to be selected for the Pitch2Podium scheme run by UK Sport, which was created to unearth potential Olympians.
Following tests he became part of the skeleton programme, training alongside Lizzie Yarnold – who had been discovered in a similar talent ID search called Girls4Gold – who went on to become a double Winter Olympic champion.
Bishop took part in winter training camps in Germany, but, after a year, decided to stop due to a combination of being too big and the travelling schedule meaning he would have had to change to doing a part-time degree.
"I do have a couple of regrets that I didn't see one of those sports all the way through, so part of my motivation for strongman is making sure I reach my full potential," said Bishop.
And he is certainly hitting the heights in the sport he has chosen to put his full force behind. After winning the first strongman competition he entered, he has gone on to become Britain's Strongest Man as well as a runner-up in Europe's Strongest Man.
His route to competing in World's Strongest Man began in 2014 when he was invited to Giants Live in Sweden, where he came fourth. That earned him an invitation to World's Strongest Man the following year and he competed in the heats that year and in 2016 and 2018 – tearing his bicep off the bone prevented him taking part in 2017.
His first grand final came in 2019, when he finished ninth, and then he went three places better at last year's event in November.
The 2020 edition, which took place on Anna Maria Island in Bradenton, Florida, should have been held in May but was postponed due to the Covid pandemic. Some athletes having to pull out due to positive coronavirus tests caused more problems before Hurricane Eta meant the heats had to be held indoors.
The grand final was able to be held on the beach, however, and Bishop made a flying start as he won the giant's medley and came second in the max deadlift. But the keg toss did not go his way and, after the three other events, he found himself sixth in the overall standings.
"I was looking for a top-five finish, to be honest, and should have got it. It was an improvement on the year before so I can't complain too much," said Bishop.
"I had a keg that hit the top of the wall and didn't go over, and that seemed to take the momentum out of me. It's very fine margins."
Bishop stands at 6ft 3in and weighs in at 24 stone. Keeping himself in peak strongman condition is a gargantuan effort – and that includes an epic eating regime.
He has seven meals a day in a bid to cram in 6,500 calories. They can include a bowl of 10 egg whites, whey protein powder and oats; a plate of chicken with rice or potatoes and vegetables; sirloin steak and rice; bowls of porridge; meal replacement shakes and carb-based drinks.
Having a high metabolism makes the challenge of gaining weight tougher for Bishop. A spirometer test showed that even if he was simply lying down and doing nothing, his body would burn 2,803 calories in a day.
"I always describe myself as a professional eater who lifts weights," said Bishop. "It's quite a challenge trying to eat that many calories every day eating good-quality food. It's very time-consuming.
"I'm probably looking to put on another stone before Europe's Strongest Man in April. The bodyweight helps with several events and putting on muscle mass makes you stronger."
Juggling training and eating with his work commitments is no easy task, but Bishop is fortunate to live with someone who is also keen on pushing their body to the limit when it comes to sport.
His partner Amy, who works for global accountancy firm KPMG in mergers and acquisitions, enjoys doing ironmans and is regularly putting in long hours of training.
They live together in the Hampshire village of Grayshott and have a home gym that's been particularly useful during lockdowns and tier restrictions.
And after a more relaxed Christmas schedule – Britain's Strongest Man would normally take place in January – Bishop is fully focusing on cranking up the training and being a big name among the big men for a long time to come.
"A strongman's career depends on how long your body can last. Mark Felix is still competing and he's 54," said Bishop.
"The weights are so extreme now and your body can only take so much. I see myself in the middle of my strongman career and hopefully I'll peak in about three years.
"Ultimately, strongman is entertainment and people want to see crazy weights being lifted.
"My goal this year is to defend my Britain's Strongest Man title and then get in the top three at World's Strongest Man to make the podium."