Even though we are all built with the same complex combination of bones, muscles, ligaments, and nerves, some among us have a penchant for the superhuman.
In this list, you’ll learn about some of the most jaw-dropping modern-day acts of physical strength from strongmen and strongwomen alike. So sit back, relax, and let them do the heavy lifting.
Oh, and a friendly reminder: Don’t try this at home.
10 Mark Felix
Mark Felix has become a household name in strongman since he took up the sport professionally in 2004. Since then, he has competed at the World’s Strongest Man final an incredible 14 times and been a medalist at Britain’s Strongest Man six times. Yet the most amazing thing about the Grenadian-born athlete is that he didn’t start his career until he was 38 years old!
Now 54 and showing no signs of slowing down, Felix achieved his greatest feat of strength in 2019. Performing at the Giants Live show in Manchester, he took on the Hercules Hold. Each competitor must grip handles protruding from two massive steel pillars—each weighing 350 kilograms (772 lb)—and hold on for as long as possible while gravity attempts to pull the pillars away from him.
Taking the stage directly after the current World’s Strongest Man, Felix blew away the competition with a time of 83.62 seconds, smashing second place and cementing a new world record.
9 Eddie Hall
Eddie Hall, affectionately known as “The Beast,” is a now-retired English strongman. Despite being a competitive swimmer in his youth, Hall soon turned to strongman, expressing his desire to win World’s Strongest Man. This dream became a reality in 2017, although he had qualified in each of the previous five years.
And before winning the ultimate prize?
Hall had to make do with the measly haul of six consecutive UK’s Strongest Man titles and five consecutive Britain’s Strongest Man crowns. However, his ultimate achievement came in 2016 during the World Deadlift Championship.
After setting a joint world record earlier in the night with a 465-kilogram (1,025 lb) lift, Hall attempted the half-ton, which made him the first person in history to lift 500 kilograms (1,100 lb). However, blood vessels in his brain burst, sending blood cascading from his nose, ears, and tear ducts. He confessed to having problems with memory recall for weeks afterward and was unable to even remember his children’s names.
Now retired from strongman, Hall’s latest conquest is set for September 2021 when he engages Hafthor Julius Bjornsson inside the boxing ring.
8 Hafthor Julius Bjornsson
When the word “strongman” comes to mind, you may imagine a huge being with rippling muscles—you know, the type to grind your bones into bread. Although the feats listed here are far from fairy tales, Hafthor Julius Bjornsson fits this description perfectly.
Standing a Herculean 206 centimeters (6’9″) and weighing in at 205 kilograms (452 lb), “Thor” truly is the epitome of an Icelandic giant. Just as well known for his time as “The Mountain” in Game of Thrones, Thor actually began his sporting career as a professional basketballer before focusing completely on lifting weights. This culminated in his 2018 win as World’s Strongest Man.
In 2020, Thor broke Eddie Hall’s deadlift world record by lifting 501 kilograms (1,104 lb) in his home gym in Iceland. This contributed to a history of bad blood between the two. Even though the attempt was recorded live and viewed by a professional referee, Hall and other members of the strongman community have been quick to dismiss the attempt as it was not completed during competition.
Despite the technicalities, though, it’s no surprise that Thor is widely regarded as one of the strongest men on the planet.
7 Julius Maddox
Anyone who has been to a gym will probably have come across (or had a go at) the bench press, which is one of the most iconic gym exercises. Many experts suggest that an average adult male should be able to press around 60 kilograms (132 lb). But Julius Maddox is not your average man.
An ex-convict who has reformed his life through God and his own passion for weights, Maddox has become the best “bench-presser” in the world. In 2019, he broke the raw bench press world record after lifting approximately 335 kilograms (739.6 lb).
Not content with this, Maddox went on to break his own world record only three months later by lifting around 338 kilograms (744.1 lb). Having decided that lifting just over the equivalent of two male gorillas wasn’t enough, Maddox then smashed his previous record with an incredible just-under-350-kilogram (770 lb) lift!
In June 2020, Maddox attempted an ambitious 363-kilogram (800 lb) lift. Unfortunately, the event proved unsuccessful through no fault of his own. Event organizers were heavily criticized after misloading the bar by putting an extra 25-kilogram (55 lb) plate on one side and unintentionally injuring the strongman.
Far from letting his anger get the better of him, Maddox conceded that everyone makes mistakes and vowed to come back even stronger.
6 Rob Kearney
Stepping away from the “traditional” stereotype of strongman for a second, we shall introduce Rob Kearney. The first thing that makes this American stand out is his size. At 178 centimeters (5’10”), Kearney looks positively tiny next to the giants Thor Bjornsson and Brian Shaw.
The second thing is his striking attire. Clad in multicolored compression shorts, bright socks, and a rainbow mohawk to match, Kearney is certainly not afraid to share his sexuality with the world. The self-proclaimed “World’s Strongest Gay,” Kearney has used his platform to inspire other LGBTQ members around the world after becoming the first openly gay strongman at the tender age of 22.
He certainly lives up to the title. Known for his prodigious shoulder strength, Kearney recently broke the American log lift record, which he had set in 2019. This created a new American record with a 215.8-kilogram (475.8 lb) press and firmly cemented his place as one of the best log lifters in the world.
5 Kevin Fast
Kevin Fast is not a household name in the world of strongman. Yet this 57-year-old Canadian holds some of the most impressive Guinness World Records in the field of strength.
These include the most cars pulled by an individual (15), the heaviest vehicle pushed over 100 feet (weighing 11,080 kilograms (24,427 lb)), the heaviest vehicle pulled over 100 feet (99,060 kilograms (218,390 lb)), and the heaviest house pulled by an individual! The house weighed almost 40 tons and was pulled 11.95 meters (39 ft).
At this point, an important question arises. Who in their right mind decides to see how far they can pull a house? Perhaps a firefighter or a soldier? Not quite. Well, certainly a tradesman, someone who works with his hands? Wrong again. Kevin Fast is, in fact, a pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada.
And if none of those records really scream “incredible feat of strength” for you, Fast also pulled a plane. It weighed 188.83 tons. Returning to our trusty measuring guide, this totals roughly 1,260 adult gorillas—just in case you were wondering.
4 Becca Swanson
The next spot on our list is held by a woman regarded by most as the strongest of all time. Even though she’s only 175 centimeters (5’9″) tall, Swanson has set multiple world records and competed in powerlifting, bodybuilding, and even professional wrestling.
She began competing in powerlifting in 2002 and has since firmly cemented her place in history. Her considerable list of accomplishments includes heaviest squat for a female (becoming the first woman to squat 318 kilograms (700 lb) and the only woman to squat 387.5 kilograms (854 lb)), heaviest bench press for a female at 272.5 kilograms (600.8 lb), heaviest deadlift for a female at 310 kilograms (683.4 lb), and heaviest total for a female in competition.
In 2005, her combined deadlift, bench press, and squat set, which totaled 930 kilograms (2,050.3 lb), made her the only woman in history to total 907 kilograms (2,000 lb) in competition. Swanson is a true trailblazer in the world of strongwoman.
3 Brian Shaw
Possibly the best-known name in strongman, Brian Shaw has created a legacy due to his prodigious strength and his indefatigable work ethic and attention to detail. Standing 203 centimeters (6’8″) tall and weighing in at around 200 kilograms (440 lb), Shaw might look intimidating, but he has the reputation of being one of the gentlest giants around.
In contrast to the other names on the list, Shaw’s “feat of strength” is his consistency through the years. He has won World’s Strongest Man an incredible four times, made it to 11 consecutive World’s Strongest Man finals (a record in itself), and won the Arnold Strongman Classic (named after the great Arnold Schwarzenegger) three times.
So what’s next for the 38-year-old?
In addition to running a YouTube channel with over one million subscribers and starring in various films and documentaries, Shaw recently founded his own strongman event, the Shaw Classic, which will hold its inaugural competition in December 2020. When World’s Strongest Man 2020 finally takes place, Shaw hopes to take home his fifth title and cement his place firmly in the record books for generations to come.
2 Martin Tye
If we told you that this military veteran and disabled strongman had completed a deadlift that eclipsed both Eddie Hall and Thor Bjornsson, it might be hard to believe. But for Martin Tye, who won World’s Strongest Disabled Man in 2018, it’s a reality. And his journey to strongman is far tougher than most.
On a tour in Afghanistan in 2009, Tye commanded a vehicle that was rammed by a suicide bomber. The resulting explosion left Tye wheelchair bound with no sensation from his knees down. With metalwork in both knees (which have also developed arthritis), severe nerve damage, and PTSD, the gym became an escape for the Englishman.
Tye has now established himself as a force in the strongman world. He first caught headlines when he broke the deadlift world record with a 505-kilogram (1,113 lb) lift and won 11 medals in the Invictus Games. As of this writing, his greatest achievement came during World’s Strongest Disabled Man 2019 when he set a new world record for a 520-kilogram (1,146 lb) deadlift!
1 Zydrunas Savickas
Finally, we come to the legend himself, known in strongman circles as “Big Z.”
The Lithuanian is widely considered the strongest man ever, with a list of records that almost defies belief. He has won Europe’s Strongest Man three times, the Arnold Classic eight times, and Lithuania’s Strongest Man an unprecedented 15 times. Oh, and he’s also been crowned the World’s Strongest Man on four occasions and finished second six times.
However, his showpiece has always been the log lift, believed to be one of the truest tests of pure strength. A competitor must lift a log from the floor (or a platform at knee height) to his chest before pressing it overhead and locking out at the top of the lift.
Big Z holds the world record, an astonishing 228 kilograms (502.6 lb), and has done so since 2015. His dominance in the event is clear when you take a look at the 10 heaviest log lifts in history and see Savickas accounting for eight of them. The closest anyone has gotten is 220 kilograms (485 lbs), which occurred in 2019. However, even at age 45, Savickas doesn’t have to worry that his record will be broken any time soon.
About The Author: Joseph has been writing since he was very young. Even though he’s only 19, he definitely thinks he’s wiser than his years. When he’s not running around a field or kicking a football, you’ll find him curled up with a good book or complaining that Australia is far too hot.