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As the Twitch stream turned its attention back to Tyler “Tyler1” Steinkamp for his third and final deadlift, he prepared to hit a personal record. Inspired by his competitors at the inaugural Twitch Rivals: loltyler1 Power Meet, he set the weight to 550, five pounds over his previous best.
He stepped behind the bar, flexing every muscle in his arms, back and chest. He screamed, loosened his muscles and bent low to the ground. “Let’s go!” his teammate and girlfriend, Macaiyla, shouted.
Flexing again, he stood up, exhaled and stepped forward to the bar to make the lift. He shuffled his legs around till they were perfect, swatting at his dangling mic cord as it brushed his leg. Nearly 100,000 people were watching him attempt the lift.
At this point, nothing could stop him. Something was going to break — either Tyler1 himself or his previous record.
He jolted up, whipping all 550 pounds in the air, straightening his legs to complete the lift. Record broken.
When Tyler1 later spoke of that moment, he smiled wide and started rocking in his chair, recalling his energy at the meet.
“Dude, it’s like an anime, bro — I don’t watch that. Of course. Look at me. I don’t watch no anime,” Tyler1 said. “But you get powered up with people watching you, so you’re trying to do more. It’s crazy.”
But Tyler1 didn’t always have a stream with 100,000 people in it, just as he wasn’t always able to get 550 pounds off the ground.
He started off in obscurity, like most people, growing up in a small town in Missouri, playing sports and living a seemingly normal life. It wasn’t until November of his first semester at Central Methodist University that he created an account on Twitch, and it wasn’t until a couple of years later that he started gaining popularity as a streamer.
And as quickly as he rose, he was struck down, receiving a permanent ban from playing League of Legends thanks to the rampant toxicity that had become his core brand. Eventually, that ban was lifted, and Tyler1 “reformed” from some of his aggressive ways. He forged his way to the top of League of Legends streamer charts again, and that’s where he sits now, leading the category on Twitch.
But how did he get there? How did a random, farm town running back make his way to the top of the charts on the most popular western streaming platform?
Well, if Tyler1 is anything, he’s dedicated, and that quality goes all the way back to his time before the Rift. It goes back to his time padded up, helmet-faced and touching grass.
Tyler bends down, gripping the grass beneath his fingers; he’s four yards behind the quarterback, offset a bit to the right. The play is about to start. The ball is coming to him. He’s ready.
The quarterback starts the cadence and the ball is snapped. It’s go time.
Tyler jolts, his right leg bursting forward as he takes his first step. The QB rotates, hands outstretched, and Tyler closes his arms around the football, planting with his left foot, shooting straight at the outside hip of his right tackle. His left guard pulls, leading the charge, and Tyler follows behind him and his fullback who is flanking out to the right.
As his guard collides with the opposing linebacker, Tyler braces, lowering his shoulder and smashing into the pair, knocking them both to the ground. He bounces off them into a spin, narrowly escaping the outstretched hands of another group of his opponents. He trips into a third defender, dragging him along until a fourth and final body tackles him to the ground. The sticks move for a first down.
Fast forward eight years and the focus and discipline required to be a running back is still with him, but a few things have changed. Tyler replaced the pads and helmet with a keyboard and mouse. His cleats have become slippers. His turf? Summoner’s Rift.
Tyler has become Tyler1.
The Missouri native is one of Twitch’s most influential streamers. But Tyler1, still every bit the never-say-die running back from back then, would never be satisfied by simply topping the stream charts in League of Legends. No, Tyler1 was going to change the whole platform. He was going to break all the rules, just as he always did at the start of his streaming career — but this time for the better.
The origin story of Tyler1’s Power Meet powered by Twitch Rivals is not quite as gruesome as his past as a running back, nor is it as calculated as his Draven AD carry or Ivern jungle play.
But when Tyler1, T1 and Twitch started planning their collaboration in October 2020, they carved a new path for the platform.
The Twitch Rivals: loltyler1 Power Meet, which began in April 2021 and was renewed for three or four Power Meets per year moving forward by Twitch, was a risk, much like sprinting straight into the arms of an opposing linebacker. And just like that challenge, Tyler1 hurtled forward to meet it.
“We wanted to move away from the League of Legends type of content that was already being covered by him and his channel,” T1 Senior Producer AJ Schortman said.
The idea was simple. Professional weightlifters compete in Power Meets, or tournaments consisting of various lifts. The participants face off in different weight classes to see who can perform the best deadlift, squat and bench press, all of which are scored in a system that eventually crowns a Power Meet champion.
Despite Tyler1’s popularity on the streaming platform, getting Twitch to partner with him was still a tough pitch. Tyler1 had to convince Twitch that the most successful League of Legends streamer could actually produce a meaningful experience for the platform and their Rivals series. After all, just because Tyler1 is jacked doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to bring in an audience for a weightlifting competition.
After a bit of spitballing back and forth, Twitch gave the go-ahead. And that’s when the real trouble started.
Many logistical complications popped up as they began preparation for the event. Would participants be on teams or compete individually? How would scoring work for a remote competition and how would they judge lifts? Would the tournament be co-ed and have weight classes? All of this didn’t even touch on the technical difficulties.
“Power meets have three different judges watching sides and then in front, I believe. We can’t do that. I can’t have everybody get three different camera setups,” Tyler1 said. “But the rules were very similar to how real power meets are. We really tried our best with that.”
Beyond logistical issues, they also needed contestants, of course, enough to form two well-sized, somewhat evenly matched teams, and they needed an online platform to communicate with during the meet. The event was entirely remote, and each contestant had to be in compliance with local COVID regulations.
The final challenge for T1 was figuring out where Tyler1 would actually be performing these lifts during the event itself. Streamer clout, unsurprisingly, does little to help secure a venue in the world of weightlifting.
“A lot of people didn’t know about esports or Tyler1 at all, so it was hard to get them to cooperate,” Schortman said. “We had to make sure that we had 35 megabytes per second up, and there were only a few gyms who were willing to bump their internet speeds.”
Many meetings and months later, with a gym pinned down and all other logistics finally solved, the event could finally take place — all online but impressively connected. And amid the competition, those digital bonds brought out a side of Tyler1 few people have ever seen.
A senior in high school bracing for contact. A 26-year-old ramping up for a ranked match or power lift. No matter the platform, Tyler1’s passion for competition is deep, earnest, ferocious, almost tangible. He won’t blame you for calling it obsession; the line between the two is thin.
It’s why Tyler, the former running back, has spent so much time in his post-football life working out and dieting properly to achieve his fitness goals. It’s why Tyler1, the League of Legends streamer, is known for countless clips smashing keyboards and blowing out the mic playing video games — and for reaching Challenger, League’s highest ranked tier, in three out of five of the MOBA’s positions.
Sure, some of it is for the fame, the memes, the Twitch Primes, but it’s all rooted in a near-constant craving for perfection. You’d be forgiven, then, for assuming Tyler1 wanted to crush his competition during his own Twitch Rivals event.
But as the meet progressed, the mood shifted away from the streamer’s “Discount code: Alpha” aura.
“At first it was really competitive,” Schortman said. “But then when people started challenging themselves and talking about their own personal fitness journeys, Tyler1 kind of let down his guard, and it was more camaraderie between everyone and less of a competition.
Lift after lift, that camaraderie continued and, by the end, everyone was each others’ biggest fan. Tyler1 had set aside his flagrant banter and moved on to encouraging his opponents, that all-important win be damned. It was a side of Tyler1, Schortman said, that even some of the staff on T1 had never seen before.
“Everybody was a winner no matter what they did, because everybody was giving it their all,” Tyler1 said, ignoring his toxic characterization. “Even if you lose, but you PR, you’re still winning.”
The common misconception of Tyler1 is that he is nothing more than a rager with a big audience. The character he portrays in his League of Legends streams, though, doesn’t mesh with the reality of Tyler.
Off the Rift, he’s an ally, cheering on and challenging those near him to achieve their goals and more. “I couldn’t tell you how many people have messaged me — thousands — about what this did for them and their health,” Tyler1 said. That was really important to him.
“Some gamers believe the lie that they’re sold about gaming addiction,” Power Meet host and Overwatch League caster Mitch “Uber” Leslie said, referencing the negativity surrounding playing games. “Hopefully we can break down that stigma, but also encourage people who are gamers who believe they’re better off [just sitting at home playing games] to turn to fitness to help their physical health and mental health as well.”
People are stuck at home with ever-worsening mental health and their physical health is declining right along with it. People need encouragement; now they have it.
Sure, they can’t allow for a live audience — hell, they can’t even all participate in the same venue — but they can still put on a remote show and empower their viewers in a desperate time.
“I think it’s really important to demonstrate that you can have a passion for video games, but you can also live a healthy lifestyle,” Uber said. “You can do both.”
But those feel-good moments don’t lead to the event being approved for multiple iterations per year. No, that happened because Tyler1’s power meet opened up an entirely new avenue of growth for the platform, especially those in the Fitness and Health community.
“We’re pioneering a format here, especially in the powerlifting genre,” Schortman said, referencing the 80,000 average viewers of the first Power Meet. “This has literally never been done before.”
Almost instantly after the event was over, the Twitch and YouTube Power Meet VODs shot up to nearly three million views combined on Tyler1’s channel. What initially began as a random curiosity about content expansion realized itself as a potential behemoth for both Tyler1 and Twitch Rivals.
Tyler1 shifted the landscape of Twitch, bringing a huge audience to the fitness category that otherwise may have never heard of the small subsection of creators.
“The Fitness and Health community on Twitch is really small,” Uber said. “The top streamers got 60 people [before the first Power Meet]… but since then, we’ve really blown up.”
After the first Power Meet, nearly every competitor saw a significant bump in their viewership for the following months, according to SullyGnome, a Twitch analytics site. Some of them, like Tyler1 himself, Ben Rice and Michael “SONII” Sherman saw big jumps for the next few weeks.
Tyler1 jumped 10,000 average viewers for the month following the meet. Ben Rice gained 5,000 followers during the event and saw a temporary 60% increase in average viewers, which lasted about a month, and SONII saw just above a 65% increase in average viewership for about a month as well.
Their huge spike in viewership didn’t last forever, as they eventually returned closer to their previous metrics, but most retained a bit of a bump up even after the decline. Either way, the event brought eyes and attention to the category and helped many of the smaller streamers grow their platform.
One of those “smaller streamers” is Tom “TominationTime” Talks, whose explosion after the event was the most notable. He went from 38 average viewers while streaming under the Fitness and Health category in March to a steady plateau of around 350 average viewers for his fitness streams throughout the summer.
The work and energy provided by Tyler1 fundamentally changed the platform, vastly expanding the audience on the Fitness and Health section and all the channels involved.
Fast forward a few months from the pilot meet and the whole story has changed. Aug. 30 marked the second installment of the Twitch Rivals: loltyler1 Power Meet, which featured a much higher production value, boasting an entire in-studio production team and an additional host, former Olympian Cheryl Hayworth, who accompanied Uber as a technical analyst.
As far as what to expect moving forward — mostly just more of the same, but better. The general format is obviously working wonders for Twitch, and it has been fairly beneficial for most of the creators involved as well.
Sure, some of the specifics around the event may occasionally change, but two things never will: the love and passion Tyler1 has for his work and community and his desire to continue pushing the rest of us to join him.
So get ready for more. This is just the start to a long relationship.
The energy in the studio for the final lifts of the second power meet seemed deflated and stale compared to the jazzed-up, coffee-infused morning. The crew was exhausted, the snacks were dwindling and the competitors had been through a gauntlet. The smell of chalk and sweat had taken over the gym.
With only one lift left for each of them, Macaiyla walked over to congratulate Tyler1 on his most recent deadlift pull as he hung his head in exhaustion. She grabbed his shoulders, shaking him, almost as if to shake out any doubt that had set in.
Tyler1 started to walk off — still loosening his legs after his last lift — but Macaiyla followed, grabbing at his chalk-covered hands. In the midst of the subdued chaos, they paused for a moment.
That other side of Tyler1, the sensitive, encouraging and caring side, came through. He looked over Macaiyla’s calluses, and she looked at his, each examining the other’s scrapes and tears. The rough-and-tumble Missouri man’s toughness was stripped away, just for a moment, after hours of toiling over a barbell.
Tyler1 is more than his narrative. He can joke about only nerds watching anime and be an opponent’s biggest cheerleader, clapping and smiling even as they outlift him. The irony of it all — an adrenaline-fueled “Alpha” showing compassion in a heated competition — might just help his audience understand they too can also be more than what they, or anyone else, ever imagined.
Tyler1, no matter what you think of him, is built different. And he’s dead-set on helping his fans build themselves differently, too.
League of Legends esports reporter and photographer for half a decade. Sometimes I try to touch grass.