On April 2nd, 2022, the world’s best log lifters will be convening, once again, at Leeds’ First Direct Arena to contest the World Log Lift Challenge. Two-time winner and current World Record Holder, Iron Biby, of Burkina Faso, will be the man to beat. To get strength fans in the mood, here’s a short history of the log lift from 1980 until the present day:
Log Lift World Record Progression
There can be few tests of strength that compare to the log lift for visceral, brute power or invoke such a primeval notion of pure strength. Ever since its inauguration into strongman competition at the 1980 World’s Strongest Man in Vernon, New Jersey, it has featured in the regular roster of events.
First World Log Lift Records
At least part of the event’s appeal must be attributed to its first great protagonist; Bill Kazmaier, from Burlington, Wisconsin. A World Champion and World Record Holder in powerlifting, “Kaz” put his huge pressing power to great use in establishing the first real record at the 1981 World’s Strongest Man finals in Magic Mountain, California, with a lift of 163kg (360lb). He had shared the win the previous year with Lars Hedlund of Sweden, with a 157kg (346lb) press.
The densely muscled Kazmaier, now Giants Live’s much-loved co-host, was once a growling, eye-bulging and somewhat menacing competitor, who seemed to relish intimidating his competitors by easily out-pressing them in the log. At the 1988 World’s Strongest Man finals in Budapest, pushed very hard by England’s Jamie Reeves, Bill extended his record to 170kg (375lb).
The Record Rises
It was Reeves that would be the first athlete other than Kaz to hold the record. He achieved a lift of 177kg (390lb) in 1989. That same year he became only the second Brit to claim the World’s Strongest Man title and three years later he extended his record to 180kg (397lb). There the record would remain, unbeaten, for 10 years!
A decade later, the 2001 World’s Strongest Man, Svend Karlsen of Norway, took the record beyond the 400lb barrier with a 185kg (408lb) lift at the Strongman Super Series event in Sweden. The following year, Canada’s Hugo Girard, in front of a home crowd, added a single kilogram to the record (410lb).
The Big “Z” Era
Lithuania’s four-time World’s Strongest Man winner, Zydrunas Zavickas, or “Big Z” as he is more commonly known, took a stranglehold on the record, with just one minor blip. After setting his first record in 2004, of 188kg (414lb), he briefly lost it to Latvia’s Raimonds Bergmanis, who achieved a 190kg (419lb) press that same year.
The following year, Big Z regained the record and didn’t relinquish it until 2021! In that time, he set so many world log lift record that it is actually very difficult to keep track. This is partly due to the fact that he established records with large wooden logs, as well as slimmer, less unwieldy metals ones.
Here are some of Zydrunas’ records:
2005: 200kg (441lb), IFSA Grand Prix, Hungary
2005: 202.5kg (446lb), IFSA European Championships, Latvia
2010: 210kg (463lb), World’s Strongest Man, Sun City, South Africa
2011: 215kg (474lb), Strongman Champions League Finals, Sarajevo
2012: 216kg (476lb), Europe’s Strongest Man, Leeds, England
2012: 217.5kg (480lb), Strongman Champions League, Holland
2012: 220kg (485lb), World’s Strongest Man, Los Angeles, USA
2013: 221kg (487lb), Europe’s Strongest Man, Leeds, England
2014: 227kg (500lb), Giants Live, Poland
2015: 228kg (503lb), Arnold Classic, Brazil
A New Era?
Savickas’s sixteen-year hold of the world record came to an end in 2021, when Iron Biby of Burkina Faso established a new record of 229kg (504lb) on September 4th, at the OVO Hydro Arena in Glasgow, competing at the Giants Live World Tour Finals.
Biby had failed on two previous attempts to break Zydrunas’ lift. In 2018, at the World Log Lift Challenge in Leeds, England, Biby successfully cleaned, but was unable to press out a 230kg (506lb) log. In 2019 he took another attempt at the record but was unable to even clean the log.
Biby, whose real name is Cheick Ahmed al-Hassan Sanou had also claimed the axle press record that year at The Strongman Classic, held at The Royal Albert Hall. In lifting 217kg (478lb), he successfully eclipsed Eddie Hall’s 2017 record of 216kg (476lb).
Few would argue that Biby has the strongest shoulders of anyone on the planet right now. Whether he has reached his limit will be seen in the next few seasons. That someone will rise through the ranks to challenge him is a certainty, and just a matter of time. But who of the current world’s best right now can challenge the mighty Burkinabe?
If Iron Biby is to retain the World Log Lift Challenge title, he will have to see off challenges from some superb log lifters. In a stacked field that includes the 2020 World’s Strongest Man, Oleksii Novikov of the Ukraine and The Georgian Bull, Konstantine Janashia, two men in particular stand out:
Luke Stoltman, Invergordon, Scotland. Current World Log Lift Challenge champion and holder of the unofficial British Record of 221kg (487lb)
Bobby Thompson, Virginia, USA, aka “The American Nightmare”. Personal best: 217.5kg (480lb). Bobby took the American Record from Giants Live regular, Rob Kearney. He will only contest the log lift, rather than the rest of Europe’s Strongest Man, so will not want to waste a trip across the pond.
Will one of these men step-up and add their own page in the history of log lifting, or will Iron Biby emulate the great Zydrunas Savickas and Bill Kazmaier, by establishing multiple log world records? On the April 2nd, we will find out.
Tickets for Europe’s Strongest Man 2022 and The World Log Lift Challenge are available here.