Strength can be measured by how much someone has the ability to deadlift, squat, or bench press. It can also be measured on the athletic field, or in everyday work, like woodcutting or farming. Basically, there is no one test of strength that can determine if someone is stronger than someone else -- and leave it at that. Someone can be stronger at lifting Atlas rocks at a powerlifting competition, or stronger at pulling an airplane with their teeth, but there is no overall test of strength that could definitively say someone is the strongest person in history. Many have claimed over the centuries to be the strongest person alive and some stories of strength have been greatly exaggerated with the passing of time. Perhaps the strongest person alive today doesn't even know how strong he really is and is living a quiet life on a rural farm in Kansas?
Have you ever been to the gym and seen that one guy taking selfies on his phone while wearing top-of-the-line gym clothes? Well rest assured, that guy does not have a spot on this list. We've curated the best of the best, 15 of the strongest people in history. They've been judged based on their incredible feats of strength, demonstrated at professional events such as the World's Strongest Man competition, and non-professional events such as lifting a platform with eighteen full grown men on it on their back. They will amaze and inspire you to hit the gym! Just don't go attempting to lift up your car until you've had a few weeks to practice---unless your car is a Ford Fiesta or some other 150 pound bicycle with four wheels and a driver's seat.
15 Bill Kazmaier
Born in the year 1953, Bill Kazmaier held the World's Strongest Man title for a total of three consecutive years. He also won two International Powerlifting Federation World Championships. Bill attended University of Wisconsin-Madison until dropping out to pursue a weightlifting career. Bill was 6 foot 2 inches in height and swayed between 320 and 350 pounds. He is married with one son and lives in Alabama. He also owns a fitness company called S.W.A.T.
14 14. Vasily Alexiev
Vasily was a Soviet weightlifter that set a staggering 80 world records! Vasily was 6'1" and weighed 350 pounds. Growing up in Russia he was destined to become a woodcutter like his dad. From 1970 to 1978, Vasily never lost a competition. He was called the 'world's strongest man' and he became somewhat of a folk hero in his tiny town. He lifted and trained without a coach.
Vasily attributed his amazing ability to lift enormous weights to the "USSR mentality". Vasily explained that in the USSR people were not held down by any mental beliefs or barriers. A normal person's brain would have an increase in doubt and fear as the weight was increased but not for someone from the USSR.
Vasily was the pride of the USSR. He earned a handsome salary as a coal mining engineer and then was allowed as much time as he needed to train thanks to being seen by the government as an invaluable asset. Vasily died at the age of 69 leaving behind a wife and two sons.
13 Victor Delamarre
Victor Delamarre was only 5'4" and weighed 150 lbs, but he most certainly was one of the strongest men to ever live. He was born with a spine that was 4 inches thick and twice as many tendons as a normal person. His idol was strongman, Louis Cyr.
Victor was called the "Canadian Samson" and was also a wrestler and a policeman. He has 1500 matches under his belt. Victor's most impressive feats of strength include lifting 15 grown men, a total of 7,000 pounds, up on his back. He also lifted over 200 pounds with one little finger!
Victor was a highly accomplished lifter. In 1914 he bent-pressed 309.5 pounds, breaking the world record at the time by more than 20 pounds. He also carried a full-grown horse up a ladder in a sling.
12 Mark Henry
Mark Henry is a WWE superstar. He has gone by the name Sexual Chocolate, as well as Mark Henry and Markswoggle. He was with the Smackdown franchise before being traded to RAW. Mark is well-known for his sexual exploits while being Sexual Chocolate. He was involved with legendary wrestler Chyna and a transvestite.
As a child Mark's idol was professional wrestler and actor Andre the Giant. Andre the Giant is known for the film The Princess Bride. Mark was able to draw the attention of Andre the Giant while at an event where Mark tried to reach out and touch his hero. Mark accidentally flipped over a railing and landed in front of Andre the Giant. Andre scooped little Mark up and placed him back over the railing. This was something that would have a huge impact on Mark Henry's career aspirations. He wanted to be just like his hero.
In 2016 at the WWE draft he was drafted to RAW. Mark is married to Jana Perry and they have two children. Mark's cousin is former NFL player Kevin Henry.
11 Angus MacAskill
Angus MacAskill, also known as the Giant or Black Angus, was born in 1825 in a little rural village in Scotland. Angus is the largest known person in history without the gigantism gene. He was completely and entirely normal--meaning his proportions were all in line to him being of natural height and weight. Andre the Giant and other known 'giants' have the gigantism gene, a genetic defect of sorts. Angus MacAskill didn't have this gigantism gene.
Angus stood at a staggering 7'9" tall. Angus had a very successful career with P.T. Barnum, appearing alongside General Tom Thumb. He earned a handsome living and upon retiring from the sideshow he returned home to Scotland where he bought land and a general store. He had a very respectable reputation and was known for his gentle demeanor.
Sadly, Angus contracted what at the time was known as 'brain fever' and he died shortly thereafter. After his death tales of his incredible strength were passed around the world. He was said to have picked up a full grown horse and lifted it over a four foot fence. People that worked in the shipyard said that they saw him carry a large anchor over his shoulders, estimated to be a few thousand pounds! It's difficult to separate fact from fiction but it is well-recognized and there is a lot of factual documentation that Angus was quite an incredibly talented and strong individual. Definitely one of the strongest to walk this earth.
10 Brian Shaw
Brian Shaw is a strongman and winner of the 2011, 2013 and 2015 World's Strongman contests. He is the only person ever to win the Arnold Classic and the World's Strongest Man competitions in the same year.
Brian burst onto the scene without any training and came in with raw talent in 2005 at the Denver Strongest Man competition. Less than a year later Brian turned professional. In 2009, he participated in the Strongest Man on Earth competition in Canada where he came in an impressive 3rd place.
Brian Shaw's personal records include an 800 pound squat, 925 pound deadlift, and a log lift of 441 pounds! In 2010 and 2011 Brian won the Jon Pall Sigmarsson Classic. Brian has become personal friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger and appeared on several television shows. His sponsors include Rogue Fitness, MHP and Redd Iron, as well as several others.
In his spare time Brian has authored a book, enjoys camping, hunting and fishing. He resides in Colorado with his parents.
9 Mariusz Pudzianowski
Mariusz Pudzianowski also goes by the names "Dominator" and "Pudzian". He is 6'1" tall and 320 pounds. Mariusz has won more World's Strongest Man competitions than anyone else in history. He's won an incredible 5 competitions. 2008 was his last World's Strongest Man competition in which he won. In 2009 he came in 2nd place and declared he would be retiring from any strongman events. He was always passionate about karate and mixed martial arts and he was looking forward to beginning a career with only mixed martial arts.
A few of Mariusz's personal records include a 915 pound deadlift and an 840 pound squat! He won Poland's Strongest Man six times, as well as first place in the 2003 Europe's Strongest Man contest.
8 Zydrunas Savickas
Zydrunas Savickas is a weightlifter from Lithuania. He is the only person to win every major Strongman competition. He is a four-time winner of the World's Strongest Man competition and an eight time Arnold Classic Championships winner. In 2014, Zydrunas set a new world record for the heaviest log lift at an astounding 500 pounds!
Zydrunas is married to childhood sweetheart Jurgita. In his professional strongman career he has accumulated over 85 first place finishes!
7 Paul Anderson
Paul Anderson was born in Georgia in 1932. He started weightlifting on his parents' farm. His father had crafted homemade weights made out of cement and wood for him to practice with. Paul's goal was to make his high school football team. He fulfilled his goal and even won a football scholarship to college.
Paul won the 1955 Olympic Games, as well as the 1956 World Championships. He also won the 1955 and 1956 U.S. National Weightlifting Championships.
Paul was married to Glenda Gardner and they had one daughter, Paula. Paul was most proud of founding the Paul Anderson Youth Home, a safe place for troubled kids. Paul died of kidney disease at the age of 61 years old. He was diagnosed with the kidney disorder, Bright's Disease, when he was a young child.
6 Louis Uni
Louis Uni was a Frenchman born in 1862. Louis also went more commonly by his performance name "Apollon the Mighty". At age 14 Louis ran away from home and joined a traveling circus. Louis came from a long line of very large men. His grandfather was 6'8" tall! This is made all the more astounding considering the average height of a Frenchman was under 5'5".
Louis was an amazing human being with 100% raw talent. He was able to bend coins and lift train wheels over this head. In 1913, Louis suffered a devastating injury when he ripped muscles in his arms and broke a blood vessel during one of his performances. He was demonstrating how he could hold back two revving cars with each of his arms and suddenly collapsed grabbing his chest. Astonishingly he recovered after this scary incident and continued performing for crowds until his death at age 66 years old.
5 Greg Kovacs
Greg Kovacs was an electrical engineering major and part-time hockey player before starting his weightlifting journey.
Greg was a huge bodybuilder at 6-foot-4 inches tall and an off-season weight upwards of 400 pounds! His chest measured 70 inches around and his legs each had a circumference of an astounding 35 inches. He was the biggest bodybuilder of the 1990s. He earned the nickname 'the gentle giant'.
Greg's success garnered him the attention of the corporate supplement company MuscleTech. They signed Greg to a very lucrative contract. He appeared in many print advertisements and commercials for MuscleTech protein powders, diet pills, and everything else under the MuscleTech umbrella.
There are many people that say Greg could have been more successful if he had focused on one career and one career only, powerlifting. Greg's focus was on the stage and being a competitive bodybuilder. He never had consistency in the sport, however, and lacked the typical physique of a bodybuilder. After Greg retired from bodybuilding he built a successful coaching career in which he earned a reputation as being someone who could make the impossible--not only possible but easily attainable with his advice and guidance. His coaching career was just starting to take off when sadly, his journey ended when he was only 44 years old from heart failure. He left behind his parents and two sisters. Greg never married and had no children.
4 Ed Coan
During his prime Ed Coan was 5'8" and 220 pounds. He has set over 70 records in weightlifting. His biggest accomplishment to date has been setting an all-time lifting record of 2,463 pounds while not even being in the heaviest weight class!
Ed won nearly every competition he entered with the exception of the 1999 USPF Mountaineer Cup in which he placed a respectable 3rd place. In 1996 he won the IPF World Championships for the 7th time but unfortunately tested positive for a banned substance and his record was erased from the history books. Also, the IPF banned him from ever competing in the IPF World Championships ever again.
Ed took the defeat and subsequent punishment in stride and went on to start a successful career mentoring and training aspiring weightlifters.
3 Jon Pall Sigmarsson
Jon Pall was the very first person to win The World's Strongest Man competition four times. He was born and raised in Iceland. He was 6'3" and 295 pounds. Jon was known for his vocal, somewhat comical outbursts. At one competition someone in the audience tried insulting him by calling him an eskimo. Jon shouted back saying he was not an eskimo--he was a Viking!
Jon's rivalry with Geoff Capes was the stuff of movies. Jon and Geoff were up against each other at many strongman events. Geoff usually coming in second but not always. Jon and Geoff really got the fans going wild during the arm wrestling component of The World's Strongman competition. The final time Jon and Geoff arm wrestled Jon tore Geoff's arm back tearing Geoff's muscle in his forearm. Ouch!
Jon died of what was thought to be an aortic rupture induced cardiac arrest. He was deadlifting in his gym when the cardiac arrest occurred. Jon was only 32 years old. There have been many books and documentaries on the short but incredible life of Jon.
2 Magnus ver Magnusson
Magnus ver Magnusson is somewhat of an Icelandic legend. He has won Iceland's Strongest Man contest eight times and the World's Strongest Man contest four times. He is known for his static strength. For a powerlifter he is a little below average in size which just makes his incredible feats of strength all the more incredible! He is 287 pounds and 6-foot-3 inches tall.
With fame came opportunities to be on Comedy Central's The Daily Show and appeared in a Coors Light commercial. He owns a gym in Iceland and is often called upon to judge international weightlifting and strength competitions. He currently lives with his longtime girlfriend and her daughter. He also has two daughters from a previous relationship.
1 Louis Cyr
Louis Cyr is widely considered to be the strongest man in history. His impressive feats include; lifting 500 pounds with only one little finger, lifting up a full grown male horse, lifting a platform holding 18 men, and doing a back lift of 6,678 pounds!
Louis was a modest 5'8" in height and weighed anywhere between 250-400 pounds during his career. Louis wrestled a 'giant' that was 7'8" and astonished the crowds when he won! He also performed for Queen Victoria, withstanding four draught horses pulling him in two different directions! There were two teams of two horses and each of his hands held the reigns to a team. Men were whipping the horses to get them to pull with all their might but their attempts were futile. Louis didn't budge one inch!
Sadly, he died undefeated at the age of 49 from nephritis. There are monuments across Canada, most notably the Robert Pelletier piece in Montreal. His funeral was attended by thousands.