Mongrel Garage Strength owner Timothy Louisignau is all in on his quest to master Highland Games competition! He’s one of several Games athletes to cross over from powerlifting and strongman, more than that, Louisignau is passionate about helping others learn from his mistakes and successes to become the best strength athletes they can be! Let’s dive into his story!
How did you get into Highland Games?
I’d have to say I randomly saw it one day and I knew a friend of mine, Nikita Marzano, was in it. Decided to have her out to put on a clinic so that we could get familiar with the movements. That took place in 2015 and I never followed through.
2017 arrived and after several, semi-serious, injuries I decided it was time to reevaluate what I competed in and how I trained.
I signed up for a Strongman Highlander, spoke to several Highland Games competitors such as Mike Landrich, Steve Pulcinella and Chad Clark. They put me on the right path and here we are today.
Do you have a track and field background?
No I don’t. I wish I did. Played soccer the majority of my life. Didn’t start to strength train until 2012.
You’ve competed in Crossfit, Strongman, Powerlifting before taking up Highland Games. What are your career highlights so far?
I hold a couple of Wal-Mart records in two different states for Circus Dumbbell.
What is a Wal-Mart record? I just had an incredible image of large men in kilts, terrorizing the Home and Garden section.
It means it is a meaning less record. They are both easily beat records… Other guys just simply haven’t tried yet.
Ha! I like my explanation better!
Ha, ha! I do too. Unfortunately, it is what it is. Another twenty-ish lbs and I’ll sing a different tune. In July  I will be attempting to break the current West Virginia one. I have won several Strongman competitions, was awarded a State Chair position in Delaware for North American Strongman.
My biggest highlight is that Strength sports got me off of the bar stool and into the gym. I was on a destructive path and was in need of a new hobby at the time.
The second biggest highlight is the people I have met. Strength sports allow you to meet people from all over and I have made friends that will be there for a long long time.
You started Highland Games in April 2017 and you’ve already broken into the top 80. What’s your Games record from last year?
I only competed in five games last year. My first games was actually at the end of June which was unfortunate because I missed out on several games that were in the local area.
I took first place in a small Jersey Games (Kilt Fest) and also Mo Throw in VA. Placed second in Celtic Fling (PA) and middle of the pack in two very very tough games in Virginia ran by Chad Clark, GreenHill and Radford Games.
Very much looking forward to my first full season in Highland Games.
Going into this season what are your goals besides closing the beard gap between you and your teammates at Mongrel Garage Strength?
Unfortunately I have lost the beard gap, ha ha! Work has rules and I can no longer sport a beard.
Before the season started my goal was to break the top 50 but after my off-season and the way my first couple of games have went, I’m starting to eye up top 20. The Arnold indoor Highland Games was a goal last year, is a goal this year and will continue to be a goal until I am invited.
On a personal level when I get older and my kids get older it would be nice to have them see what I did in my younger years.
I can’t tell you if I plan to make it pro, but I want to get as good as I can. Continue to meet new people, have a damn good time at these games and be an a good ambassador for this sport.
Highland Games is a sport that’s traditionally been for taller, larger strength athletes. Yes, there are some under 190lbs/under 200lbs events for men and according to Reddit, there’s an under 140lb class for women as well. You finally found a sport that’s tailor made for big boys and here come us little guys to crash the party. Is sumo wrestling going to be the only refuge for the larger strength athlete?
Possibly yes! You lighter bodyweight people are getting stronger and making us look bad!!! We still have MAS Wrestling though.
In all seriousness, most sports focus on athletes with a body type closer to the average person. Strongman and Highland Games were probably the best shot at seeing athletes who look like you get mainstream sports coverage. Are you worried that having lighter athletes will take away attention from bigger athletes?
I don’t care about any of that. I just want strength sports to continue to grow. Plus when you see a 200 pound guy overhead press a 350lb log, you can’t help but say “that is impressive”.
And even though I’m a heavyweight I’m always on the lighter end of the heavyweights so in a weird way I can kind of relate. In strongman, the cutoff is 300lbs, so when I’m going against guys that are 340 I tend to feel like a Wee one.
The most common advice I’ve seen for how to get started is to find an event, sign up as a novice and just jump right in because of how helpful competitors are to each other. What do you know now that you’ve got some time in that you wish you’d known when you started?
- Avoid the PR attempts. Too often I went for PRs that weren’t important. Which led to either bad performances, injuries and fatigue. Stay disciplined, stay patient and trust the program.
- The use of Internet to find other competitors. Travel and train with people. You will learn so much and have a great time doing it.
Your garage gym, Mongrel Garage, recently co-sponsored an Intro to Highland Games seminar. The seminar covered Stone Put, Weight for distance, Weight over bar and Caber toss. Which events tend to be the most challenging for beginners to grasp?
All of it.
In strongman and powerlifting the aggression can help you— in Highland Games it’s about patience. You try to get all crazy in the head like you would for a big lift and you’re going to throw worse. The two weight for distance events and the caber toss are probably going to be the most challenging for a noob though.
Take advantage of clinics and people that are willing to coach you.
There’s a weight difference between a shot put in track and field and the Stone Put besides adjusting to the weight difference and the fact that the Stone isn’t a perfect sphere, does having a prior throwing background in track and field help or make it more difficult to pick up Highland Games style throwing?
– being that I don’t have a background in track and field I’m not sure if I’m the right person to answer this. But the guys so far that I have met that do have a track and field background take to open Stone nicely. I’m sure they have a leg up but someone like me is not going to allow that to be an excuse.
Most of what you do to train for your sport happens away from home. I believe you do a fair amount of training at your business so that cuts down on the number of places you have to travel to during the week. With all of that though, it seems that training at home would lead to burnout. What do you get out of training at home as well as at Mongrel Garage?
Well, first I want to take a second and just state that Mongrel Garage Strength operates out of Equity Strength and Conditioning. Equity welcomed us several years ago into their home and have been very good to us ever since.
Due to our schedules, getting to the gym has been a huge task so I train out of my garage three times a week. Two of those sessions are with our Bench Club. It primarily focuses on bench press, overhead press and accessories that go into the press. Other days focus on squat and throwing. I had to build a full gym in my garage to accommodate the goals that we all had. Equity is a wonderful place, it’s where I do business but it is hard for everybody to meet up there because of location and where we all live. We keep each other accountable and on the right path.
You’re an experienced strength athlete but new to Highland Games. Do you program 100% of your own training, do you have a coach or do you use a template like Matt Vincent’s “Training Lab” or “Behemoth” by Daniel McKim?
No, I do not follow any formal template by either Matt or Dan. At the moment I’m following a bench press template, that’ll also aid in my overhead. After that I go week-to-week on what strongman movements I’m going to use to aid me in to my goals. Viking press and log pressing are two of my favorites that carry over into general strength training.
Highland Games season is pretty long. Unlike powerlifting or even strongman, you’re not training to peak for a single event. Because you already have some forms of power training in Strongman, do you essentially train as if you’re preparing for Strongman and just add in Games specific skills practice or do you have a hybrid training plan?
Yeah, my training hasn’t changed much right now. Just trying to make sure I get everything in. I still use my strongman equipment, powerlifting methods and add in my throwing.
I’m starting to learn more drills to help my foot work and working on consistency with each throw. I love pressing, so I make sure to do that weekly.
I hope, in the near future, to try and take in a couple Crossfit classes to help also.
How do you balance improving what you’re good at and addressing weak points?
Being this new in the game that is easy. I’m weak at everything. I have a couple throws that are beginning to be respectable but the goal there is to make it consistent. Attention to detail is an key for me. I get a hold of my coaches and we try working on the little things that’ll make my game better.
What does your training week look like in the off season?
As much pressing as I can do. I love to press; Bench, Log, dumbbell, Mouser block, Viking press. Pressing is my favorite. I will get some squats in there, maybe some deadlifts if the back is feeling up to it. Once in a blue moon I’ll throw in an Olympic lift but in all seriousness I need to start Olympic lifting with some consistency.
How does all of that change as you get closer to the start of the next Games season?
At this moment I really don’t change too much. I just eliminate the heavier singles. I try to eliminate isolation movements and focus on movements that’ll hit more muscle groups.
As for the start of the season I start throwing more, as the season starts, I’ll have more throwing days than strength training days. If I get several weeks where I don’t have a competition then I’ll ramp up the strength training again.
How does your weight room training intensity change when you’re in season for Highland Games?
We train at night after work and after all of our kids get put to bed. We usually have beers after training so our intensity is pretty high to get the training session over.
To keep our attention we will try to change a few things up in our training to make it fun for example adding Wagon Wheels to our bench or deadlifts, Viking press instead of incline, Mouser block benching instead of close-grip with a barbell. By the time Thursday hits I usually shut it down and go into the competition.
Mobility is sometimes regarded as overrated for strength athletes, especially larger competitors. Bud Jeffries and Matt Vincent are notable exceptions. How much mobility work do you do to stay loose enough to throw well without cutting into your ability to produce force?
Good question. I actually tore the labrum in each shoulder so I try to keep the mobility in my shoulders pretty high. My left shoulder is actually still torn but as long as I keep everything else strong around it I can avoid surgery for a while, so mobility is actually pretty important.
Let’s say someone has already been to their first Games and the bug bit them but they got excited and didn’t write down any of the resources that people told them at the competition. Now they’re home and they can’t remember what people told them. What resources would you recommend to get them started?
First and foremost
- Facebook page: Mongrel Garage Strength
- You can also go to our Facebook group MGS info and updates page. We post our competitions and events.
After that you are going to “Chad Clark” on Facebook. Chad knows everyone! He will do his best to get you hooked up with a training group in your general area.
Lastly go on Facebook and check out North American Scottish Games (NASGA)
You can also post on there and everybody on that page is more than willing to help.
You had the opportunity to try Highland Games the way Adaptive Games athletes do courtesy of Alex Armor. Describe what that experience did for you as a competitor.
A lot of times as athletes we get wrapped up in technique, form and how hard a movement can be in trying to tie it all together. We take advantage in a way or at least for granted. I met Alex at Radford games in Virginia and I watched him perform all his events, including the caber from his wheelchair! We got chatting and at one point when we were doing the weight over a bar event he asked me if I wanted to give it a shot from his wheelchair.
When we throw, we use our lower half to gain our height during the throw. When sitting in the chair obviously that is not an option. I took his weight I threw it up in the air like I thought I was supposed to and very quickly I jumped out of the chair and sprinted away because I thought the weight was going to fall straight back down onto me. After a couple of guys gave it another shot I jumped back in the chair and when I threw the weight I quickly got very very scared because I thought I threw it into the crowd. Safe to say I saw the games from someone else’s point of view even if only for a second. Not to sound too cliche but it was humbling.
Speaking of humbling, do you think you’ve got the most graceful forward roll after tripping and falling after a Heavy Weight for Distance in Highland Games?
Ha, ha. I can honestly say that was not practice one bit and I was trying very very hard to stay upright because when that weight left my hand it felt like it was a good throw.
A lot of throwers out there they know the minute the weight leaves their hand if they had a good throw or not and unfortunately that was one of the moments that I thought I had a very good throw and it was all for nothing except a sweet Instagram video.
So you’re not a Highland Games Tumbling and Gymnastics coach but how can people follow your training or reach out to you to ask you questions?
I try to keep most of my videos on Instagram.
You can contact us on Facebook at Mongrel garage strength and check out our website for event updates at Mongrel-garagestrength.