It’s the kind of question that comes up from time to time: “who’s the strongest man in history?” A bit like: “who’s the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time?” and just as difficult to answer. The problem, of course, is that weighing up great champions of different eras is fraught with danger and coming up with an objective means of comparing their achievements is not at all straightforward.
Or is it? Surely the man who has lifted the heaviest weights across a selection of the most commonly contested tests of strength should be relatively easy to identify? Afraid not. The problem with that approach is that events constantly change and maximal weight alone is an insufficient test of who is or isn’t the strongest. That is precisely the reason strongman as a sport exists, with all its wonderful diversity of disciplines involving explosive strength, endurance and speed. Otherwise, the powerlifting world champion would simply be declared the strongest and that would be the end of the debate.
There are always people who will maintain that athletes of earlier eras would beat today’s best if they were given the same opportunities to train and compete. This supposition is based on a belief that they are intrinsically superior in some aspect and if transplanted into the modern era would still rise to the top. There is logic to this idea; after all, why should the current era lay claim to all the world’s most genetically gifted strongmen?
It is safe to state that no one in history has ever lifted a heavier log than Iron Biby and his 230kg world record. It is called a world record for a reason – it exceeds all preceding lifts. Whether someone at some point in history had the potential to lift more is pure speculation. Judging who is the strongest of all time must be based on known facts. On 7th September 2024, Biby will be heading to the Utilita Arena, Birmingham to try and beat his record. Click here to get your tickets on the event you do not want to miss!
But what of competitive dominance? An athlete can only beat their contemporaries, and some eras are undeniably more competitive than others. Is Mariusz Pudzianowski the strongest Man of all time because he won the most World’s Strongest Man titles? Is it harder to win WSM today than it was in the early 2000’s? Would Bill Kazmaier have won more titles if he had not been frozen out? It seems clear that this is only one aspect of deciding who is the greatest. Weightlifting and strongman have the advantage of being based on objective data and if these credentials are lacking, no number of winner’s trophies can remedy the fact.
Then, of course, the various forms of strength must be considered: static strength, explosive strength, strength endurance and dynamic strength, as well as durability, which is crucial in such a physically demanding sport. Each are as important as the others in most strongman contests, though often static strength is given greater emphasis. Finally, the prowess of individuals in certain disciplines must be taken into account: who has the greatest overhead strength, back strength or grip power?
The truth is that all these factors are pivotal in deciding who is the strongest ever, and any decision will always involve a certain amount of subjectivity. The list offered below is merely a suggestion, and while many may disagree with aspects of it, there are plenty who may concur with the athlete deemed to be the strongest of all time.
Many believe the French-Canadian Louis Cyr to be the strongest man to have ever lived. His career, that spanned the late 19th and early 20th centuries, is now the stuff of legend with many books written and films made about his remarkable life. Born in 1863, he spent his youth working on a lumberyard and on his family’s farm. His unnatural strength had become apparent and he started his strongman career at the age of 17, besting Michaud of Quebec, who was recognised as Canada’s Strongest Man, by lifting a 220kg (480lb) granite boulder.
Throughout his career as a touring strongman, he amassed some staggering feats of strength including lifting 243kg (535lb) with one finger. He famously backlifted 18 men weighing a combined 1,967kg (4,337lb) or two tons. He achieved a 124kg (273lb) overhead press with his famous Cyr Dumbbell; an event that is now prominent in modern strongman competitions. He is also attributed with a one-handed dumbbell lift of 238kg (525lb), made all the more impressive due to its 1.5-inch handle. Ben Weider called him the “strongest man ever.”
Louis worked as a police officer throughout his career and was famed for his horse resisting. In 1891, in front of 10,000 he resisted the pull of four draught horses, with grooms cracking their whips to encourage the animals to pull harder. Styled as a modern Samson, with long hair to match, he died in 1912, undefeated. There is a park in Montreal named after him alongside a statue of him in the Place des Hommes-Forts.
No debate of who is the strongest man to have ever lived would be complete without the mention of the lifter the Russians called “a wonder of nature.” Born in Tocca, Georgia, in 1932, the American first made his mark in strength spheres as a 20-year-old, breaking squat records that had stood for thirty years. He had begun lifting to gain strength as a football player, using weights of concrete poured into wooden forms.
By 1956 Paul had become world and Olympic champion in weightlifting, establishing new world records in the Olympic weightlifting disciplines. He became an iconic figure in the cold war era after travelling to the Soviet Union and exceeding their best lifter by over 30kg in the press. He won his Olympic gold suffering from an ear infection and high fever and would have won further medals had he not turned to professional lifting and thus disqualified himself from the strictly amateur contest.
Anderson was a true pioneer of strength sports and achieved some truly remarkable lifting bests, including official weightlifting results of 185kg (408.5lb) in the clean and press, and 199.5kg (440lb) in the clean and jerk. The squat was arguably his most impressive lift with an authenticated 420kg (930lb) lift in 1965. He unofficially achieved a 285kg (628lb) bench press and a 372kg (820lb) deadlift. His most spectacular and controversial feat of strength was the 2,840kg (6,270lb) back lift he was reputed to have performed in 1957. Dubbed “the greatest weight ever lifted by a human being,” the achievement was listed in the Guinness Book of Records until 1985.
Traditionally, the winner of the super-heavyweight class at the Olympic weightlifting contest has been referred to as the Strongest Man in the World and there is one individual who is arguably the sport’s most dominant athlete and undeniably the man who has lifted more weight from the floor to overhead than anyone in history.
The two-time Olympic champion from Georgia holds the all-time world records across all weight categories in the snatch, clean and jerk and total. He is a seven-time World and European Champion and has been unbeatable since he took his first world title in 2015. He has utterly dominated the super-heavyweight division, establishing 26 senior world records.
At the 2020 Olympics he set the current world records of 225kg (496lb) in the snatch, 267kg (589lb) in the clean and jerk and a 492kg (1,085lb) total. Over his career so far, he has added 9kg to Bulgaria’s Antonio Krastev’s snatch record that had stood since 1987 and exceeded Leonid Taranenko of the Soviet Union’s 266kg clean and jerk that had stood as the heaviest ever lift since 1988.
Known as “The Mountain,” after his role on the TV series Game of Thrones, Hafþór Björnsson would be many people’s pick for the strongest man in history and he is not short of credentials to back up that claim. Björnsson was the 2018 World’s Strongest Man winner and has stood on the podium at World’s a total of eight times – a number only bettered by Žydrūnas Savickas. He is a five-time Europe’s Strongest Man and three-time Arnold Classic champion. He is the only man to have ever won World’s, Europe’s and the Arnold’s in a single year.
His competitive record includes a plethora of other victories, including ten Iceland’s Strongest Man titles and numerous Giants Live wins. He is, without question, one of the most prolific winners Strongman has ever witnessed. At a truly imposing height of 6-foot, 9-inches and a bodyweight usually well in excess of 200kg (440lb), the Icelander has one of the most impressive physiques in the history of strength sports.
His lifting achievements are no less formidable than his winning record. Despite having pulled an astonishing 501kg (1,105lb) in the deadlift, Björnsson’s greatest and most iconic feat of strength is arguably the 650kg (1,430lb) ship’s mast he carried for five steps, surpassing the legendary feat of Orm Storolfsson who had managed three steps over 1,000 years before. It is perhaps as a stone lifter though, that Björnsson is most renowned. His 17.54 second world record with Giants Live’s 120-200kg set of Atlas Stones has never even been approached.
Nicknamed “The Dominator,” this mighty Pole stands alone as the only man to have won World’s Strongest Man five times. Few athletes have shaken up the sport as Mariusz did, exploding onto the scene in 2000 and blowing away the opposition with his unbeatable blend of athleticism, strength, explosiveness, and endurance, not to mention his ripped physique!
In an era when moving and more speed and endurance-based events were in the ascendancy “Pudzian” seemed impervious to pain or fatigue. He swept to an unprecedented five world titles between 2002 and 2008, picking up runner-up spots in 2006 and 2009. If that were not enough, he won Europe’s Strongest Man a record six times and picked up seven Polish titles as well as a multitude of international wins that rank him as one of the sport’s most frequent winners.
When it comes to laying claim to being the strongest man in history, Pudzianowski may not be able to boast the kind of maximal lifts that some have achieved, but his strength endurance and all-round athleticism are unparalleled. Many of his performances in events such as Conan’s Wheel, Power Stairs, Farmer’s Walk and Shield Carry remain unbeaten and in an era where athletes’ bodyweights are ever-increasing, it is possible Pudzianowski’s like may not be seen again.
Brian Shaw is one of the world’s most successful strongmen and regarded by many as the strongest men to have ever lived. At a colossal 6’ 8” (2.03m), and 193kg (425lb), he is one of the sport’s true giants. Excelling in basketball as a high-school and college athlete, his true passion was for weight training, and he was able to exploit his tremendous natural strength to great success in a career that is notable for its longevity as well as its achievement.
Brian is one of a quartet of men that have taken the World’s Strongest Man title on four occasions. He is also a three-time winner of the Arnold Classic, a contest that is held in the highest esteem among strength aficionados. Further contest victories have fallen to the Colorado Colussus in abundance; few athletes can compare to his winning record. Taking his first world title in 2011, there were no “easy” victories for Shaw, who battled it out at World’s each year with Lithuania’s Žydrūnas Savickas, beating him into 2nd three times.
Shaw’s top end strength is as impressive as it gets, looking across the full array of strongman events. He has held world records in multiple variations of stone lifting and deadlifting, including Elephant bar and Hummer tyre, and has always featured at the top of the pile in any static lifting discipline, be it for maximum weight or repetitions. However, maximal strength is not his only area of prowess and he has dominated the world’s best for a generation in Atlas Stones, Fingal’s Fingers and vehicle pulling, both on foot and arm-over-arm.
For a professional strongman, winning the sports’ greatest accolade – World’s Strongest Man – should surely be the defining moment of their career. Defeating Hafþór Björnsson and four-time WSM winner Brian Shaw was undoubtedly a truly historic feat, but for Britain’s Eddie Hall, aka The Beast, he is better known for a single feat of strength he performed in Leeds in 2016.
At the 2016 World Deadlift Championships – event one of Europe’s Strongest Man – in front of a crowd of 10,000, Hall sent shockwaves through the strength community by deadlifting 500kg (1102lb), or half a tonne. In one evening, he added a mind-blowing 37kg (81.5lb) to a record that had crept up kilo by kilo for decades. No other strongman has come within 50lb of this record in competition since.
Regardless of who has or will exceed this incredible feat of strength, Eddie Hall will always be remembered as the first man to break the magical half tonne barrier. The lift was the strength sports’ equivalent to the 4-minute mile. Such achievements shift peoples’ views of what is possible and set a new standard for up-and-coming athletes to strive for. Many strength sports fans would argue that Eddie Hall’s half tonne deadlift is the greatest strength feat ever performed.
As the great Jón Páll Sigmarsson retired, another Icelander, in the form of Magnús Ver Magnússon, stepped up to dominate the sport, emulating Sigmarsson’s four titles. In fact, Magnússon claimed the World’s Strongest Man title on his very first attempt, defeating Denmark’s Henning Thorson in 1991. He is also one of only two men to have won three World’s Strongest Man titles in a row: taking victories in ‘94, ’95 and ‘96.
Magnús is another of those athletes for which winning seems to have been a habit, and in addition to his WSM victories, he was a seven-time Iceland’s Strongest Man winner, two-time Europe’s Strongest Man and World Muscle Power champion. These are just a selection of the strongman titles “Maggie” amassed over his career, but he was also a twice senior European champion in powerlifting, claiming victory in 1991 – the same year he first won World’s Strongest Man.
By no means the largest of the strongmen of his era, Magnússon was a true all-rounder who showed great dynamic strength and ability, but also a level of static power that belied his size. Having been defeated by Magnús in the squat lift at the 1995 World’s with an incredible 437.5kg (965lb), his great adversary, Gerrit Badenhorst of South Africa, commented that his squat was the greatest he’d ever seen from someone of that bodyweight. Little wonder then, that he is widely considered to be one of the strongest men of all time.
The American powerlifter, William “Bill” Kazmaier was the first real star to emerge in strongman and his menacing and imposing physical presence left an indelible mark on the sport. From 1980-1982 he was untouchable, winning World’s Strongest Man three times consecutively. In his prime he stated that he was “the strongest man who ever lived” and his dominance over his competitors in that era certainly leant considerable credence to that claim.
As a powerlifter, “Kaz” is regarded as one of the all-time greats and a true pioneer of the sport. He was the first man to raw bench press 300kg (661lb) in competition and in 1981 set a total record of 1100kg, a figure that would remain unsurpassed for more than a decade. He was twice an IPF world champion and a multiple world record holder across all three lifts. Much of this was performed whilst also contesting and winning World’s Strongest Man.
Such was Kazmier’s dominance at World’s Strongest Man, it led organisers, who were looking for a more global appeal, to leave him out of the contest for several years. He would not return to the competition until 1988, where he began a brief but heated rivalry with Jón Páll Sigmarsson. It is reasonable to assume that Kaz could well have won a fourth or fifth title – he won the 1982 World’s by 13 points – if he’d ben given the opportunity. In his curtailed strongman career, he established world records in the deadlift and Log Lift, among others. No other strongman since has ever achieved such supremacy in two separate sports – a fact that confirms, for many, Kazmaier’s position at the top of strongman’s pantheon of greats.
If there is one man who ticks all the boxes to be heralded as the strongest man to walk the planet, it’s none other than “Big Z.” With over 80 international contest wins, he is by far the sport’s most prolific winner. He has won World’s Strongest Man four times, taken the Arnold Classic title eight times, won two IFSA World Championships, three Europe’s Strongest Man titles, as well as seventeen Lithuanian titles. He won Fortissimus in 2009 and has broken over seventy world records in the span of his astonishing career.
Like Kazmaier, Žydrūnas was formerly a powerlifter and had picked up four European IPF silver medals before turning to strongman. His static strength was there for all to see, but his unrivalled overhead power was not revealed until he began pressing logs and axles in strongman. Winning six World Log lift titles, he raised the world record from 188kg, which was the first record he set in 2004, to 228kg in 2015, eclipsing the 500lb barrier in the process. He has established world records in squat events, Axle Press, Super Yoke and deadlift variations.
Savickas stands alone in the sport because of the sheer unrivalled quantity of his competitive victories, combined with the unparalleled breadth of the world records he established over his 25-year career. Had he not missed the opportunity to contest World’s Strongest Man from 2005 – 2008, it is probable he would have at least equalled Pudzianowski’s five titles. He had already finished 2nd on three occasions prior to the IFSA split and won their World Championship twice in the four years he was unable to attend World’s. Winning his first World’s Strongest Man title on his return to the fold in 2009, he assumed, in the eyes of the most knowledgeable fans, his rightful position at the very zenith of the sport. To many, he still occupies that position as the strongest man of all time.
Is Brian Shaw the strongest man in history?
Who are the 4 strongest men of all time?
This is a difficult one!! We would say the strongest man in history is Big Z (Žydrūnas Savickas). Big Z has over 80 International wins including 4x World's Strongest Man titles. We have Bill Kazmaier (Kaz) is coming in second. The American Powerlifter was the first star to emerge in Strongman establishing world records in the deadlift and log lift as well as winning World's Strongest Man 3 times. Magnús Ver Magnússon was a true all rounder of his era, even winning World's Strongest Man on his first attempt in 1991. He also is one of two strongmen to win 3 titles back to back in 94, 95 and 96 making him our third strongest man of all time. Coming in 4th we have Eddie Hall. Despite Eddie winning World's Strongest Man in 2017, arguably what he is known best for is being the first person to lift an insane 500kg in 2016, an unbelievable feat of strength! In competition, no other strongman has become within 16kg of lifting this weight 7 years later.
Who is a strongman?
A strongman performs unbelievable and unimaginable acts of strength. The world deadlift competition record is held by Eddie Hall at 500kg, a half tonne!! The current World's Strongest Man is Mitchell Hooper.
Who is the number 1 strongest man in the world?
Mitchell Hooper is the strongest man in the world. One of Hooper's strongest events is the yoke. He won World's Strongest Man at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in April 2023.