Rob Kearney is an American professional strongman, renowned for his incredible pound-for-pound strength and for being the first openly gay strongman competing at the sport’s top level.
Kearney has held multiple American log lift records as well as the world log lift title, beating much larger competitors; Kearney’s stature of 5’ 10” and 140kg (308lb), though large by most standards, is diminutive compered to many strongmen. This has not prevented him from winning international contests and achieving lifts that have led to him becoming Official Strongman’s strongest pound-for-pound strongman in the world.
A former schoolteacher, Kearney and his husband Joey live in Brooklyn New York. Rob hopes to raise awareness and acceptance for athletes of varying sexuality through his involvement in strongman, which he feels will help to breakdown negative stereotypes of the LGBTQ+ community.
Kearney’s path into competitive strongman began in cheerleading where he would routinely throw competitors into the air and catch them. His lack of tumbling ability led him into powerlifting where he built a base of strength which would help him transition into strongman. Early contest did not go well, but Kearney was hooked.
In 2015, Rob placed 5th at the Arnold Amateur Strongman World Championships, but the big turning point in his career came in 2016, when he won the World Log Lift Championships, competing as a heavy weight. A year later Rob won his first big international contest in Martinville, Indiana, claiming top spot at the Giants Live North American Open.
Kearney successfully qualified for the 2017 World’s Strongest Man and returned in 2018 and 2019. Failing to progress from his heats the first two years, Rob was agonisingly close to making the final in 2019 after finishing 2nd in his heat, 2 points ahead of Britain’s Luke Stoltman. Rob eventually lost out in the “stone-off”. He has been unable to compete at World’s since, due to a serious triceps injury.
In 2022, Rob achieved his best finish at the Arnold Strongman Classic, coming in a creditable 5th, with second place event placings in the Double T Squat as well as the 125kg (276lb) Monster Dumbbell.
A certain controversy has existed around Rob’s use of the split jerk when log lifting. This technique, employed by previous world record holder Raimonds Bergmanis of Latvia and Misha Koklyaev of Russia, has been criticised by some competitors. Kearney used this style to great effect in establishing an American record of 216kg (476lb).
In 2017 Kearney was able to win the Giants Live North American Open title, in Martinsville, Indiana. Rob comprehensively defeated his closest rivals, beating USA’s Nick Best by 9 points, with Adam Derks in 3rd place, 16.5 points adrift. Rob was able to take event victories in the super yoke and overhead medley and was runner-up in the remaining three events: deadlift for reps, carry and drag and Atlas Stones.
Rob is looking to focus on podium finishes at major contests over the coming seasons, which means putting attempts of reclaiming his American record in log lift, from Bobby Thompson, on hold. The ruptured triceps tendon he sustained on his record attempt in 2020 put his immediate strongman aspirations on hold and Kearney seems reluctant to risk further trauma chasing records. This should hopefully lead to improved contest finishes and perhaps a place in the World’s Strongest Man Grand Final.
In 2020, Rob appeared on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, an episode that has been viewed 1.4 million times. Rob’s own website is www.robkearneystrongman.com, where he offers speaking appearances, merchandise and training advice and planning.
Rob is very active on social media: his Instagram handle is @worlds_strongest_gay. On YouTube his channel has a similar title: World’s Strongest Gay, whilst on Facebook he goes by the name Pro Strongman Rob Kearney. His channels are updated regularly with training and competition content, as well as insights into Rob’s lifestyle.
Rob has also co-written a children’s picture book called “Strong”, which tells the story of a youngster growing up dreaming of becoming the world’s strongest man but feeling he can’t fit in.