Strength athletics

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Strongman competitions usually involve non-traditional, often sensationalistic, challenges of strength.

Strength athletics, also known as Strongman competitions, is a sport which tests competitors' strength in a variety of non-traditional ways. Some of the disciplines are similar to those in powerlifting and some powerlifters have also successfully competed in strongman competitions. However, strongman events also test physical endurance to a degree not found in powerlifting or other strength-based sports, such as carrying refrigerators, flipping truck tires, and pulling vehicles with a rope.

Competitions designed to test the strength of participants pre-date recorded history. The Highland games in Scotland are an early example of modern strongman competitions. Circus strongmen also performed feats of strength that were non-traditional or sensationalistic. Strongman competitions like World's Strongest Man began their television popularity in the 1970s.



Strength competitions pre-date written history. The first Olympics (running, throwing, jumping) were believed to be held in 776 BCE.[1] There are records in many civilizations of feats of strength performed by great heroes, perhaps mythological, such as Heracles, Goliath, Orm Storolfsson and Milo of Croton.[2]

A caber being tossed by Steven Labrecque at the 2000 New Hampshire Highland Games

Competitions that modern strongman events are modeled on, Scottish Highland Gatherings, were formalized around 1820 by Sir Walter Scott. In 1848, Queen Victoria attended the Braemar Highland Games.[3]

In the 18th and 19th centuries, circus strongmen lent sensationalism to their acts such as bending iron bars, breaking iron chains worn around their chests, and lifting heavy objects.[4] Famous strongmen from this era included Thomas Topham, Eugen Sandow, Louis Cyr, Thomas Inch, Arthur Saxon, Angus MacAskill, and Alexander Zass.

In the 20th century, strength sports such as weightlifting and powerlifting were popularized through the Olympic Games. However, feats of strength akin to the circus performances also gained in popularity. David Prowse (who played Darth Vader in Star Wars) was initially famous in 1964 for his lifting the famed 733 pounds (332 kg) Dinnie Stones, the first man to do so since Donald Dinnie himself a century earlier.[5]


Perhaps the most famous event is the World's Strongest Man competition, still described by a number of highly respected authorities in the sport as the premier event in strength athletics.[6][7]

The concept behind "The World's Strongest Men", as it was originally named, was developed in 1977 for CBS by Langstar Inc. David Webster, a Scot who later received an OBE for his services to sport, was the head coordinator of the competition from its inception. Dr Douglas Edmunds, seven-times Scottish shot and discus champion and twice world caber champion,[8] worked with Webster. When Webster retired from his position, Edmunds took over. These two men were responsible for inviting the competitors and choosing the events. They selected men who had shown prowess in the mainstream fields of strength sports and field athletics events, such as shot put, American football, powerlifters, bodybuilders and wrestlers. The idea was to create a spectacle that would test competitors against one another.

The show was enough of a success that it began to be replicated in other countries, such as Britain's Strongest Man (1979). Competitors began shifting from unpaid amateurs to professional strongmen. By the end of the 20th century, and in to the 21st, other strongman programs and events were created such as Strongman Championship hosted by comedian Errol Silverman. Other competitions have been televised, such as the World Muscle Power Championships, World Strongman Challenge, Arnold Strongman Classic, Giants Live, Highlander World Championships, World Strongman Federation, and Europe's Strongest Man.

Common disciplines[edit]

Farmer's Walk
"Natural stone to shoulder". The stone weighs 165 kg
"Natural stone to shoulder". The stone weighs 165 kg

There is no set rule about what specific events will occur in a contest, except that to prevent single-event specialists from gaining an advantage, each event will be different (a single contest will not include two squat events, or two overhead lifting events, for example). Normally, a strongman contest comprises five or six events, though at the top level of competition, seven or eight events may be held. Among the most common events are:

  • Farmer's Walk – competitors race along a course while carrying a heavy weight in each hand. A variation is the Giant Farmer's Walk, with a much heavier weight carried over a shorter distance.
  • Hercules Hold or Pillars of Hercules – contestants stand between two pillars, pivoted to fall outwards. The competitor must simply hold them up for as long as possible.
  • Vehicle pull – competitors pull a vehicle from a stationary start for a prescribed distance – fastest over the course wins. Trucks are commonly used, but larger spectacles employ trains, boats, and airplanes.
  • Atlas Stones – a lifting stone event whereby five spherical concrete stones of increasing weight are placed on top of podia of varying height, beginning with the lightest stone lifted to approximately a normal person's head height. Alternatively, the stone is lifted over a bar for reps.
  • Stone Carry – in Iceland, the original stone carry was performed with the Húsafell Stone, that was to be carried for a stretch to achieve the title fullsterkur (full-strong). This stone was not round but irregular, increasing the difficulty.
  • Refrigerator Carry – a staple of earlier WSM events that has made a comeback in recent years. The competitors carry two refrigerators, attached to an iron bar they hold on their shoulders, and walk it across the finish line as fast as they can.
  • Carry and Drag – an object (usually a heavy anchor) is run across half of the course. The competitors then must attach it to a chain of almost equal weight and pull it across the rest of the course.
  • Fingal's Fingers – under a timer, lift and flip a series of progressively heavier, hinged poles from a horizontal starting position.[9]

Major titles and title holders[edit]

Year World's Strongest Man World Muscle Power Classic World Strongman Challenge Arnold Strongman Classic Strongman Super Series World Strongman Cup/
WSF World Cup
IFSA World Championships Strongman Champions League Louis Cyr tribute
Defi Mark Ten/
2023 Mitchell Hooper
2022 Tom Stoltman Martins Licis
2021 Tom Stoltman
2020 Oleksii Novikov Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson
2019 Martins Licis Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson Aivars Smaukstelis
2018 Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson Dainis Zageris
2017 Eddie Hall Brian Shaw Matjaz Belsak
2016 Brian Shaw Žydrūnas Savickas Mark Felix Dainis Zageris
2015 Brian Shaw Brian Shaw Krzysztof Radzikowski
2014 Žydrūnas Savickas Žydrūnas Savickas Martin Wildauer
2013 Brian Shaw Vytautas Lalas Krzysztof Radzikowski
2012 Žydrūnas Savickas Mike Jenkins Žydrūnas Savickas
2011 Brian Shaw Brian Shaw Tarmo Mitt Ervin Katona
2010 Žydrūnas Savickas Derek Poundstone Brian Shaw Terry Hollands
2009 Žydrūnas Savickas Derek Poundstone Brian Shaw Andrus Murumets Žydrūnas Savickas
2008 Mariusz Pudzianowski Žydrūnas Savickas Derek Poundstone Mariusz Pudzianowski Žydrūnas Savickas Derek Poundstone
2007 Mariusz Pudzianowski Žydrūnas Savickas Mariusz Pudzianowski Mariusz Pudzianowski Vasyl Virastyuk
2006 Phil Pfister Žydrūnas Savickas Žydrūnas Savickas Mariusz Pudzianowski Mariusz Pudzianowski Žydrūnas Savickas
2005 Mariusz Pudzianowski Žydrūnas Savickas Mariusz Pudzianowski Raivis Vidzis Žydrūnas Savickas
2004 Vasyl Virastyuk Hugo Girard Žydrūnas Savickas Žydrūnas Savickas Raivis Vidzis
2003 Mariusz Pudzianowski Hugo Girard Mariusz Pudzianowski Žydrūnas Savickas Mariusz Pudzianowski
2002 Mariusz Pudzianowski Svend Karlsen Hugo Girard Mark Henry Hugo Girard
2001 Svend Karlsen Hugo Girard Magnus Samuelsson Magnus Samuelsson
2000 Janne Virtanen Not Held Janne Virtanen
1999 Jouko Ahola Hugo Girard Jouko Ahola
1998 Magnus Samuelsson Jouko Ahola Magnus Samuelsson
1997 Jouko Ahola Raimonds Bergmanis Magnús Ver Magnússon
1996 Magnús Ver Magnússon Forbes Cowen Nathan Jones
1995 Magnús Ver Magnússon Magnús Ver Magnússon Jouko Ahola
1994 Magnús Ver Magnússon Manfred Hoeberl Andrés Guðmundsson
1993 Gary Taylor Manfred Hoeberl Gerrit Badenhorst
1992 Ted Van Der Parre Jamie Reeves Jamie Reeves Mark Higgins
1991 Magnús Ver Magnússon Jón Páll Sigmarsson Riku Kiri Mark Higgins
1990 Jón Páll Sigmarsson Jón Páll Sigmarsson Mark Higgins Mark Higgins
1989 Jamie Reeves Jón Páll Sigmarsson Mark Higgins Magnús Ver Magnússon
1988 Jón Páll Sigmarsson Bill Kazmaier Riku Kiri Hjalti Árnason
1987 Geoff Capes Geoff Capes Bill Kazmaier
1986 Jón Páll Sigmarsson Jón Páll Sigmarsson Tom Magee
1985 Geoff Capes Jón Páll Sigmarsson Tom Magee
1984 Jón Páll Sigmarsson Tom Magee
1983 Geoff Capes
1982 Bill Kazmaier
1981 Bill Kazmaier
1980 Bill Kazmaier
1979 Don Reinhoudt
1978 Bruce Wilhelm
1977 Bruce Wilhelm

See also[edit]


  1. ^ See, for example, Alfred Mallwitz's article "Cult and Competition Locations at Olympia" p.101 in which he argues that the games may not have started until about 704 BC. Hugh Lee, on the other hand, in his article "The 'First' Olympic Games of 776 B.C.E" p.112, follows an ancient source that claims that there were twenty-seven Olympiads before the first one was recorded in 776. There are no records of Olympic victors extant from earlier than the fifth century BC
  2. ^ "Strongest Men in History Hoisted Cattle and Crushed Stones to Show Their Might".
  3. ^ Crieff Highland Gathering Archived 2007-12-03 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Notable Strongmen and their fascinating feats of strength". 20 May 2017.
  5. ^ British Strongmen Archived 2010-08-13 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "World's Strongest Man Update". Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  7. ^ Archived 2005-10-26 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Bring on the war games". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  9. ^ "Fingal's Fingers – The World's Strongest Man".

External links[edit]