For as long as feats of strength have been recorded, we have always been obsessed with just who was the greatest of them all. Since the myths of Hercules and the ancient Olympic wrestling matches, there had to be one above the others. Wrestling gave way to weightlifting, which gave way to powerlifting, and then, since 1977, the strongest of the strong flocked to the annual World’s Strongest Man competition, the Arnold Strongman Classic and similar International Federation of Strength Athletes (IFSA) events.
I’ve watched the World’s Strongest Man competition and it is really a match of athleticism and endurance, whereas the Arnold Strongman competition is, I believe, the truer measure of absolute strength. Still, with multiple venues to showcase their power, there are many claimants to the throne of who is the strongest of them all. Each competition has their favorites and each one can make a legitimate claim for the title.
Powerlifters would put forward “Tiny” Meeker with his world-record bench presses, or say that Brian Shaw is by far the overall strongest! WSM purists might argue for the only five-time winner, Mariusz Pudzianowski. After exhaustive research, I’ve compiled a list where I rank the strongest men of all time. Some of these men are separated by generations and pitting them against each other took some conjecture. We have to take into account their lack of advanced training methods or chemical enhancements when we rank the older claimants against the younger generations. We must also speculate just how strong they could’ve been using modern methods.
10 Victor Delamarre (1888-1955)
This classic strongman was born in 1888, in Québec, Canada. Though diminutive in stature, standing only 5’5 ½”, his feats of strength were legendary. While working as a police officer he amazed the public by climbing a ladder carrying a horse in a sling or bending a quarter between his thumb and forefinger.
9 Louis Cyr (1863-1912)
This Canadian strongman stood a modest 5’10” yet boasted a massive 54-inch chest. A former Montreal police officer, Cyr entered competitions as a wrestler and weightlifter. He traveled internationally exhibiting feats of strength and astonishing audiences by holding back the pull of four horses and pushing a freight car up an incline.
8 Brian Shaw (1982-Present)
Shaw is already something of a legend in strongman circles. He has placed in the top three at the World’s Strongest Man competition a total of five times, winning the title three times (2011, 2013, 2015). He has competition bests of 1,122 lbs. in the Hummer tire deadlift, and 972 lbs. in the deadlift (with wrist straps).
7 Andy Bolton (1970-Present)
This immense powerlifter is the first man to have ever deadlifted over 1,000 lbs., and he remains the only man to have done it twice! He held the British record for the bench press with a lift of 755 lbs. and his squat of 1,214 lbs. is among the highest of all time.
6 Mark Henry (1971-Present)
This man has achieved the incredible. He is the only man to ever hold both the U.S. weightlifting and powerlifting Super Heavyweight Championship titles at the same time. He still holds world records in Men’s Super Heavyweight Raw Powerlifting (Drug-Tested) in the squat (953 lbs.), deadlift (903 lbs.), and totals (2,336 lbs.).
5 Magnus ver Magnusson (1963-Present)
He is one of only four men to have ever won the World’s Strongest Man competition four times (1991, 1994, 1995, 1996), coming in second place twice. Today he might be better known as a commentator or as the coach of the giant Hafthor Bjornsson, known as “The Mountain” on the HBO series Game of Thrones, but Magnusson dominated strength competition in the early 1990s.
4 Mariusz Pudzianowski (1977-Present)
Mariusz Pudzianowski has won 42 of the 59 strength events that he has entered. That should say a lot about this Polish strongman. He is the only five-time World’s Strongest Man (2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008), coming in second place twice.
3 Paul Anderson (1932-1994)
Declared by many to be the strongest man who ever lived, he does have his detractors. Regardless, he is definitely one of them. He’s set and broken numerous records and there is no denying his lifting totals. A 1956 Olympic Gold medalist in weightlifting, he is known for his inhuman unofficial record of squatting 1,252 lbs., no drugs, no wraps, no suits – 1950s raw strength.
2 Bill Kazmaier (1953-Present)
“Kaz” is often mentioned in the same breath as Paul Anderson, and is his common rival for who’s the strongest ever. Kazmaier won the World’s Strongest Man competition three years in a row (1980, 1981, 1982) and was the first to do so. He was unbeatable and WSM organizers barred him from competing in 1983 as they assumed that no one else stood a chance as long as he was participating!
1 Zydrunas Savickas (1975-Present)
To be ranked above Anderson or Kazmaier, you have to be strong indeed. “Big Z” does not disappoint. This Lithuanian-born strongman has won the World’s Strongest Man competition four times (2009, 2010, 2012, 2014), and more impressively the Arnold Strongman Classic an incredible eight times (2003-2008, 2014, 2016)! He’s the only strongman to have won every major strength competition.
He’s still in his prime and could possibly increase his number of titles in the near future. He has set numerous competition records and boasts personal bests of an 880 lb. raw squat, 629 lb. raw bench press, and a deadlift of 898 lbs., with no wrist strap! I’m no expert, but I believe “Big Z” is the strongest man of all time!
Sources: muscleandfitness.com, powerliftingwatch.com, strongman.org, thesportster.com, mensfitness.com
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