Enter the Viking Cave with Erik Røen

Norwegian powerlifter Erik Røen has been on my radar since I first saw him training in his shed bundled up against the cold and deadlifting like a madman. I immediately started calling his gym the Viking Cave. We caught up through a combination of Facebook Messenger, emails and Instagram DMs and I was excited to talk to him to find out more about how he’s following his dream to be among the strongest in the world!

Erik it’s great to talk with you! Tell me, how long have you been training and competing in powerlifting?

It all started with a dream to be a powerlifter and become among the strongest in the world.  Four years ago I became a member of the Norwegian powerlifting federation. In July 2013 I went to my first meet, I weighed 106 kg/233lbs and squatted 165kg/363.8lbs , benched 100kg/220.5lbs and deadlifted 190 kg/418.9lbs, a 455 kg/1003lb total across all three lifts. Today I’m at 134 kg/295.4lbs bodyweight and almost at an 800kg/1763.7lbs total! Things are moving forward.

Let’s talk about what I call your Viking cave. What did you start with in there and why did you choose to train at home instead of joining a powerlifting club?

Where I live is far from a gym so I started with what I had and that was one bar and some plates that I got for Christmas.

Your gym is in a shed isn’t it? I still remember the first time I saw it with the snow outside and I put #vikingcave in the caption when I reposted the video! Why did you locate it in the shed?

The only space available to set up a “gym” at my home was in an old shed/garage.  The temperatures can easily get below -20 C in the weather where I live at almost 700 meters above sea level.

As a top level athlete, you have different training needs than someone who is just in a sport for recreation. How has this affected the type of equipment that you put in your gym?

As time went by I got a few more bars and plates thanks to GYM2000AS who sponsored them to me. I added a platform for my deadlift and a power cage for my squats.

Erik Røen about to put on a show on the IPF platform

photo taken by: Stian HJalvmetern Jensen

What are your best numbers in the gym and in competition?

My best meet results so far are 317.5kg in squat, bench is 185kg and deadlift is 327.5kg. My best raw deadlift in training is 330 kg. My best equipped deadlift in training is 350 kg.

How many championships have you won?

In 2013 I won my first sub junior national championship. In 2016 I won my first national junior championship in +120 and this year I won it again. Last year I competed at the Nordic Equipped championship and became Nordic Equipped/Classic champion in +120. Last year I also competed at the European Classic Cup Open and got third Place. This year I competed at the European Classic Powerlifting Championship and came in third. On the 20th of June this year I go to Belarus to compete at the World Classic Powerlifting Championship. And it all started with a dream that everyone told me was impossible. I will continue to dream and get stronger!

Have you ever thought about competing in strongman?

I have never done strongman competitions and my main focus is on doing well at IPF powerlifting.

You had a very inspiring video where you did lunges through waist deep snow with a training partner. Do you do that for mental toughness and how often do you do that

IPF Nordic Champion Erik Røen deadlifting in his Viking cave

sort of thing?

My closest neighbor is The Mountain. So to get extra training for my powerlifting I became creative and started carrying my bar and plates up The Mountain. It helped me to use all those muscles I normally don’t use. It helped with my balance and definitely with my cardio! Even if I am 134 kg in body weight I believe in staying healthy and doing some cardio. The heart is also an important muscle! I even tried to carry my bar up Norway’s highest mountain! Ha ha!

I think I saw that and put it in the video that goes with this article.

No, the video you posted is of my backyard ha ha! I will send you the picture of Galdhøpiggen.

I can picture you up on a high mountain in a cave just lifting weights all winter then coming down in summer and smashing records! So does your sister still train with you?

Yes, my sister got motivated and started to train with me. She started at 14 years old! This year she did her first Norwegian record in squat for sub-junior! She is also motivated to get stronger and compete in the years to come.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own gym, especially if they live in a climate where it might be cold most of the year?

To start a gym like mine isn’t something that I recommend. In winter there are no breaks between sets. Even if I wear extra clothes I need to be moving around because my body loses temperature very fast. In winter my training basically maintains the strength I already have. In summer is where I get my gains and temperature allow muscles to grow. I dress warmly but I find that I can’t dress to thick because it’s difficult to do the exercises.

IPF champion Erik Røen warming up on Hessdalen in his backyardI think I have a solution to your heating problem. It’s a cold weather survival tactic. You need two large sheets of plastic. Hang them both at your door but leave a small space between them. Put a fire source, a barrel with fire in it would work, between the plastic sheets. This will warm your shed up a lot!

I have tried to close my gym up with some plastic in front to stop the wind. The door on that old shed was broken long before i started using it. I have tried a heater but it doesn’t help much because the garage is in bad shape. The cold is back in November and I will let you know if this works.

Is there anything you did when you started training that you would change if you could go back and do it differently?

If I went back in time to change something about my training it would be to get help on technique. It was really terrible and it’s amazing I survived! It’s painful to watch my old videos!

Do you have any sponsors?

In Norway, there are few sponsors in powerlifting. Its not like some other sports where people can make living of doing it.

Where can people follow your training or ask your advice?

If someone wants to follow my journey they can do so at my instagram: erik_roen or my Facebook: erikrøen. (you can also check out Erik’s powerlifting journey in this inspiring documentary on Vimeo. ed.)

About the author

John Greaves III is a writer based in North Georgia with nearly two decades of experience in training at home. A former amateur kickboxing champion, John now competes recreationally in powerlifting. He takes a physical culture approach to training; believing that strength and health need not be mutually exclusive. In addition to his nonfiction work, John has written two fiction books, A Different Kind of Giant and A Little Lesson in Manners that are available on Amazon.com.