World’s Strongest Man – What Is It?

The World’s Strongest Man Competition is the most well-known sports event in the weightlifting training regimen called “strongman”. Many people have probably heard of the competition but have no idea how the sport works or about its history.

The history

The well-known World’s Strongest Man competition was started in 1977 and was the brainchild of David Pirie Webster. When the World’s Strongest man competition started it was quite unique since there was not any well-known competition that combined powerlifting and a myriad of other weightlifting sports into one competition. Although the World’s Strongest Man competition was heavily inspired by the Highland Games, a competition celebrating Scottish culture, the sport is still quite different from its source of inspiration. While both sports are centered around heavy weights and objects that the participants push, pull and lift, the Highland Games are a test of general fitness and the World’s Strongest Man competition is more of a test of pure strength and power.

Although the World’s Strongest Man competition was heavily inspired by the Highland Games, a competition celebrating Scottish culture, the sport is still quite different from its source of inspiration.

To some this sport event might sound quite boring, but for others like myself, this competition is one of, if not the most exciting sport in the world. These athletes push themselves to limits that we have a hard time to imagine. There is probably no other sport where the competitors will exert themselves to this extent during a practice or a sport event. Strongman probably has one of the largest injury rates of all sports and even when the practitioners injure themselves, many of them keep on going, lifting, pushing and pulling while still being in casts. 

What do they do?

A strongman does practically anything that involves strength and power, in contrast to other sports where the equipment used is most likely a well-designed piece of equipment made so that the athletes can perform their lifts as efficiently and safely as possible, with proper handles, weight distribution etc. However, in strongman competitions, athletes will have to carry and lift objects that were not designed for lifting, like stones, logs and cars that often lack real handles. But strongmen do not just lift crudely made objects, they also lift completely regular lifting equipment, like barbells, dumbbells and other lifting contraptions and structures just like in other conventional strength sports.

Strongman Championship – Royalty Free Stock Photo

What do they look like?

Many people would imagine the world’s strongest men as very big, lean and muscular. However, very few strongmen are actually lean and the “lean” ones are not near the leanness of bodybuilders or Olympic weightlifters. Strongmen are often quite chubby and many of them carry a large belly since most people in the strongman elite weigh over 150 kg, and some even weigh over 200kg. 

What distinguishes a strongman from an overweight man then? It is the muscularity. While having a considerable layer of fat on them, all of them have gargantuan, large muscles that poke through the fat. Not only is the world of strongmen a world of heavy people, but it is also a world of giants. For elite strongmen it is not uncommon for a competitor to be over 195cm tall. The tallest World’s Strongest Man winner was Ted van der Parre who stood at an incredible, 213cm and then there is Brian Shaw who is probably the most consistent strongman in the history of the sport with 4 World’s Strongest Man titles and a multitude of other gold medals and who has a stature of 203cm.  

Not only is the world of strongmen a world of heavy people, but it is also a world of giants.

Why and how are they so big?

It is simple. The one with the biggest and strongest muscles is often the winner of the events in a competition. “Then why are they so fluffy?” you might ask. Well, that is also simple as mass moves mass and that extra mass would not slow them down. Plus, it is easier to build muscles and strength under a layer of fat since you will be in a huge calorie surplus. A strongman needs that extra fat for leverage, strength, protection and energy. Being fat is actually very beneficial for most strongmen. Also, they are tall because a larger frame will have more space to build more muscles and the leverage from longer limbs is often an advantage in the sport since they will have to throw and push objects and in those instances longer arms and legs are often an advantage. 

Hafthor Julius Bjornsson deadlifiting 501kg Photo: YouTube

The World’s Strongest Man is only one of many competitions in the sport of strongman. The sport is growing quickly and now is larger than it has ever been before. Many new competitions and events such as the Arnold Strongman Classic and Ultimate Strongman are emerging and the sport is becoming more well-known to the public. Strongman is not a sport for everyone but if you are ready for the trials and tribulations in strongman then go for it, become not just a strong man, become a Strongman.

Written by Humle Waldeborn Gamming, IB student at Katedralskolan Lund, Sweden

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