England’s Pathway: what does 2024 look like for strongwomen?

England’s Pathway: what does 2024 look like for strongwomen?

We’re officially in Autumn; mornings are darker, bizarrely it’s not much cooler, but the summer of strongman has drawn to an end. There are a few competitions to close out the year, but some of you may already be planning for 2024 and thinking about qualifiers in the spring. I’ve spoken with a lot of strongwomen recently who are either considering national-level qualifiers for the first time, or have already competed at national level and are weighing up their options for next year. Off the back of Friday’s announcement from Unbreakable Promotions that the ‘new’ England’s Strongest Woman will have weight classes (yay!), it seemed appropriate to chat about the pathway and what that might mean for you. As ever in strongman, most information is circulated through Facebook groups and the rumour mill, and it can be difficult to find the right information. This is an opinion-piece, not facts! This post is simply to give a rundown of what we know so far, and hopefully help you make some decisions for 2024.

England’s Strongest Woman 2.0

For any of you who have competed the last few years, you’ll know that England’s Strongest Woman and Britain’s Strongest Woman have been run by 100% C.A. Promotions. Regional qualifiers typically take place in March, with England’s happening roughly 8 weeks later. 100% C.A. rebranded these shows to Women’s English/British Pro Show at the beginning of 2023. This decision was made as the official trademarks for ‘England’s/Britain’s Strongest Woman’ were bought by Giants Live. The first ever Giants Live Britain’s Strongest Woman will take place on September 30th at Doncaster Dome, an open weight invitational show that marks an important milestone for women in the sport. Some of the world’s top open weight athletes will be competing for the title, such as Lucy Underdown and Rebecca Roberts, plus a selection of the top weight class athletes in the UK.

This news has caused a huge buzz in the sport; women have previously appeared at Giants Live shows (i.e. World’s Strongest Nation), but this will be the first ever Giants Live women’s show! While this means a lot to all of us and the exposure it offers, this doesn’t materially change the pathway for women hoping to climb the ranks. It’s still an invitational show, and largely catered to open weight athletes. There have been rumours of a new pathway, but nothing concrete was announced until last week when Unbreakable Promotions posted on Instagram that they would be hosting England’s Strongest Woman in 2024. Again, I think a lot of us assumed it might be an open weight show, but it has since been confirmed over the weekend that there will be weight classes. Hurrah!

What do we know so far?

Not a lot at this stage. All we know is that there will be an England’s Strongest Woman next year with the usual classes: u64, u73, u82, and Open. There will be an online qualifier to earn a spot at the show, and the winner of the Opens category will receive an invite to Britain’s Strongest Woman 2024. Rumour has it that these classes will be big, potentially 15+ athletes per class! Specific details concerning dates, qualifier events, etc. will hopefully be released over the coming weeks, but it seems likely that the qualifier will take place in the springtime.

What does this mean?

This is exciting on two fronts; the online qualifier arguably offers a fairer opportunity for athletes, and affiliation with Official Strongman will hopefully be the beginning of a more streamlined pathway to invitational/international shows. There were some complaints about the regional qualifiers for the historic England’s show. For one, it was always confusing why the open men had an online qualifier but the women didn’t, especially when we competed at the same fitness expo. Women shouldered additional financial burden (entry fees, travel to competitions, etc.), they also had to account for an extra competition in the calendar, and the qualifier was a same-day weigh-in when a lot of athletes who are doing other intermediate/pro shows were not walking around at comp weight. There has been recent controversy surrounding the fairness of online qualifiers and weigh-ins, especially in the wake of OSG European Championship where a number of athletes missed weight and were allowed to step up to the next class. Regardless of your position on this debate, the current standard is 24 hour weigh-in for national and international shows. Unless that standard changes, it would be ideal to align weigh-in rules with other shows in an athlete’s calendar. What this means for you as a potential competitor is: you would no longer need to pay to travel to a regional qualifier, you can have a decent off-season by removing that extra competition, and you can avoid an aggressive cut if you tend to come in heavier for other shows.

Aside from weight cuts, the qualification process will be different as athletes will only be required to submit gym lifts. Online qualifiers usually feature 3 lifts, typically testing some form of static strength i.e. 3 rep max on log, or 5 second max farmers hold. There are critics of this format of qualification; with such a focus on static strength, it doesn’t necessarily select for the ‘best’ strongmen/women as it excludes some core features of the sport such as endurance and speed. This isn’t powerlifting. While it’s true that testing static strength alone doesn’t always select the athletes who will perform best on comp day, it’s probably close enough. Plus, regional qualifiers haven’t always been the greatest test of strength either. For example, the regional qualifiers for the Pro Show 2023 featured log press for reps at a significantly lower weight than usual. This decision was perceived as encouraging participation, with the hope that more women would sign up if the threshold for entry was lower. In practice, it meant that a lot of classes had women sending north of 20 reps, capped simply by the 60 second limit. This also isn’t Crossfit. The log press at England’s was increased by roughly 20kg for all classes. With maybe an 8-week block of training in between shows, the distance between those felt too significant. For athletes, either the qualifier log was far too easy, or the log at England’s was out of reach. We desperately want more women to feel confident enough to enter shows, but encouraging participation in the sport also looks like aligning qualifiers with the weights that will be expected at the main show, to ensure everyone is adequately prepared. The point here being, although there are certainly issues with online qualifiers, regional qualifiers have not always been ideal either. There is something to be said for enjoying the comp day and hanging out with your friends, but an online qualifier offers other benefits too.

In addition, a country-wide qualifier will put everyone in the same pool, which is arguably a fairer way of selecting athletes. It’s well known that each region has a different calibre of athletes. The southern qualifiers are significantly easier than the midlands or northern qualifiers, and I can say this as someone who enters the southern qualifiers… There is a greater concentration of strongwomen up north, plus there just seems to be something in the water that breeds strength superstars up there! Some women have put in a performance that didn’t earn them a spot through the northern qualifier that may have been enough to win down south. This is all very speculative and unscientific, there really is no guarantee what would happen on the day! However, with an online qualifier you’re competing against everyone with no bias towards the concentration of athletes in your area, which is arguably fairer. However, there is no complete fairness in all of this. Some athletes will have access to better gyms, better kit, better coaches… it's best not to get too caught up on what is ‘fair’ and just play the game, do your best. It will be really interesting to see whether a similar pool of athletes will be selected next year from the online qualifier.

As mentioned earlier, there is the potential for a more streamlined pathway to other shows, such as Giants Live shows or OSG. It has already been confirmed that the winner of the Open class at England’s will earn a spot at Britain’s Strongest Woman. We’re seeing greater collaboration between promoters, where a podium spot at one show can earn you a place at another prestigious show. As an example, Unbreakable Promotions recently announced that winners of Britain’s Strongest Masters will earn OSG invites. Earning invites to future shows is a further incentive to perform well, but it also makes it crystal clear what the trajectory is to the pinnacle of the sport. If I achieve X, I can move onto Y. Understanding the network of competitions and how they feed into each other is extremely helpful when choosing which competitions you’d like to prepare for. 

There are still a lot of question marks surrounding this new England’s Strongest Woman; it’s brand new, there will probably be creases to iron out, I don’t want to oversell its potential. Although we’re all extremely excited at the prospect, it may not solve every issue. It might make sense for some athletes to still pursue the 100% C.A. Pro Show pathway. I suspect that a lot of experienced strongwomen will get behind this new show; the success of this show will be driven by the athletes themselves, and we all have a part to play in that.

What should I do?

Firstly, make sure you are informed and follow all the right pages!




The 100% C.A. English & British Women's PRO SHOW - private group

Secondly, enter the qualifiers! If an in-person qualifier features weights that seem challenging, but potentially doable, you should 100% be there. This post hasn’t even touched on the natural athlete pathway, such as UKNS, which held in-person qualifiers in January (I could do a full post talking about the natty pathway?). Don’t put too much pressure on yourself for qualifiers, it’s a good opportunity to see where you place against other women in your class. Having the confidence to step up forward is a really valuable experience, you can see where you excel and areas that need improvement.

With online qualifiers, there is even more reason to enter! It’s low pressure, low cost, and you can usually train for it around an existing program/prep. If you’ve been considering getting on the national pathway, this is the time to do it. And make sure you upload your entry, rather than training for it in secret! Don’t hold out posting your numbers because you don’t think they’re good enough. A) you are good enough! and B) high participation shows high demand. Each of us helps grow the sport by showing up.

Whichever path you decide to pursue next year, just make sure you’re informed and well prepared. Follow all the right pages, speak with your friends, and make sure to have fun! I hope this was helpful and you found the read enjoyable. If you guys would like me to chat about anything else, such as a natty pathway, please let me know in the comments. I’d be glad to continue this conversation over on Instagram too.

Let me know what you think!

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Really good blog, especially for someone like me in their first year of competing and still figuring it all out .
I really want to step up for these strongwoman qualifiers next year but it was a little confusing what comp to go for (I’m a masters/open weight) .
Would really appreciate a blog on your thought re the natty pathway as well (ukns/bnsf etc) . Thanks again for the info !


Great blog! And will hopefully clear up some pathways clouds for some athletes !! Lookikg forward to 2024 already!

Ben Joyce

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