Great feats of strength never fail to baffle us, humans, the most. We seek out to ponder at those with the abilities to display skills extraordinaire. Imagine someone who could lift a tree trunk above the shoulder or toss a keg from a considerable amount of height. Now isn’t that something that gets us curious due to its extraordinary nature. Strength is both a talent and a fruit of hard work. Whatever may be the case refinement is an important step in both cases. It takes years of training, discipline and dedication to achieve feats that a strongman normally can. Who is a strongman?
A strongman is a strength athlete who exhibits strength through the unconventional and more real life-ways. What does it mean by- real life ways? Well, it is one thing to be able to lift a significant amount of weights in a gym but if you were asked to apply the same strength to an outdoor task in natural circumstances, you may very well fail. Because at a gym we train within certain limits. Strongman athletes have no such limits. For them, weight doesn’t mean a barbell loaded with 6 45 lbs plates. For them, weights could be anything ranging from a fridge to truck or a rock boulder to pillars. They require heavy-duty grip strength and a whole lot of power to execute a lift.
Strongman competitions are a place to witness a group of such athletes battling against each other in fierce events to sit on the throne. The most respected throne/title in the sport of strongman is the World’s Strongest Man also known as WSM.
What is World’s Strongest Man?
World’s Strongest Man is a multi-event formatted international strongman competition held annually. It was established in the year 1977 by David Webster for CBS. First-ever WSM event was held at Universal Studios in California. The competitors go through a series of events and at last whoever has the highest points in the leaderboard sits on the throne. Click here to read about the series of toiling events that take place at the Strongman competitions.
Competitors have to first qualify before participating in the show. The qualifying process is such that the top 3 people winning at the Giants Live held multiple times in a year are selected. Giants Live is another strongman competitive show which takes place across the world 4-8 times in a year. It acts as the qualifier for the world’s strongest man. Since 40+ years of its inception world’s strongest man has witnessed a number of athletes winning the crown. There have been a number of records made and broken by these elite strongmen. This show is the king of all strongman shows that take place across the globe. Let’s take a look at the World’s Strongest Man winners over the years.
|1977||Bruce Wilhelm||United States of America||Universal Studios|
|1978||Bruce Wilhelm||United States of America||Universal Studios|
|1979||Don Reinhoudt||United States of America||Universal Studios|
|1980||Bill Kazmaeir||United States of America||Vernon|
|1981||Bill Kazmaeir||United States of America||Magic Mountain|
|1982||Bill Kazmaeir||United States of America||Magic Mountain|
|1983||Geoff Capes||United Kingdom||Christchurch|
|1984||Jón Páll Sigmarsson||Iceland||Mora|
|1985||Geoff Capes||United Kingdom||Cascais|
|1986||Jón Páll Sigmarsson||Iceland||Nice|
|1988||Jón Páll Sigmarsson||Iceland||Budapest|
|1989||Jamie Reeves||United Kingdoms||San Sebastián|
|1990||Jón Páll Sigmarsson||Iceland||Joensuu|
|1991||Magnús Ver Magnússon||Iceland||Canary Islands|
|1992||Ted van der Parre||Netherlands||Reykjavík|
|1993||Gary Taylor||United Kingdoms||Orange|
|1994||Magnús Ver Magnússon||Iceland||Sun City|
|1995||Magnús Ver Magnússon||Iceland||Nassau|
|1996||Magnús Ver Magnússon||Iceland||Port Louis|
|1997||Juoko Ahola||Finland||Primm Valley Resort|
|2000||Janne Virtanen||Finland||Sun City|
|2001||Svend Karlsen||Norway||Victoria Falls|
|2002||Mariusz Pudzianowski||Poland||Kuala Lumpur|
|2003||Mariusz Pudzianowski||Poland||Victoria Falls|
|2006||Phil Pfister||United States of America||Sanya|
|2010||Žydrūnas Savickas||Lithuania||Sun City|
|2011||Brian Shaw||United States of America||Wingate|
|2012||Žydrūnas Savickas||Lithuania||Los Angeles|
|2013||Brian Shaw||United States of America||Sanya|
|2014||Žydrūnas Savickas||Lithuania||Los Angeles|
|2015||Brian Shaw||United States of America||Putrajaya|
|2016||Brian Shaw||United States of America||Kasane|
|2017||Eddie Hall||United Kingdoms||Gaborone|
|2018||Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson||Iceland||Manila|
|2019||Martin Licis||United States of America||Bradenton|
Bruce Wilhelm (1977 & 1978)
Bruce Wilhelm was the first-ever person to win World’s Strongest Man. He won the title two in the year 1977 and 1978 consecutively. He was also a weightlifter apart from being a strongman.
Don Reinhoudt (1979)
Don Reinhoudt won the World’s Strongest Man in the year 1979. He used to be a powerlifter and a weightlifter as well. In fact, he was one of the greatest bodybuilding of his time. Don Reinhoudt set over 40+ records in powerlifting. He positioned first in the IPF World Powerlifting Championship for the years 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1976.
Bill Kazmaier (1980. 1981 & 1982)
Bill Kazmaier won the title 3 times in a row from 1980 to 1982. He was also a powerlifter and a professional wrestler. During the 70s-80s Kazmaier set a whole bunch of records in both powerlifting and strongman competitions. He was said to be the strongest man alive on the planet during his reign. Kazmaier secured the first position in other various Strongman competitions like Pure Strength and Strongbow Strongman.
Geoff Capes (1983 & 1985)
Geoff Capes won the World’s Strongest Man title 2 times in his career, once in the year 1983 and the second in the year 1985. Apart from winning the WSM, Geoff Capes was a professional shot putter. He won the gold medal twice for shot putt in the Commonwealth games. Capes was also a 6 times world champion in the Highland Games. He was also Europe’s Strongest Man for the year 1980, 1982 and 1984.
Jón Páll Sigmarsson (1984, 1986, 1988 & 1990)
Jón Páll Sigmarsson won the World’s Strongest Man title 4 times in his career in the years 1984, 1986, 1988 and 1990. He was also a powerlifter and a bodybuilder apart from being a strongman. Jón Páll Sigmarsson was a very respected athlete in his country- Iceland. His great achievements bought the spotlight to Iceland. He also participated in several weightlifting events and the highland games. His popularity and work for his native country got him the title- Icelandic Sportsperson of the Year in 1981.
Jamie Reeves (1989)
Jamie Reeves won the WSM title in the year 1989. He had other titles like Britain Strongest Man for the years 1988, 1989, 1992 and 1998 and England’s Strongest Man for the years 1987, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997. Jamie was also a powerlifter and after his retirement, he stayed connected with the sport. He became a judge for International Federation of Strength Athletes.
Magnús Ver Magnússon (1991, 1994, 1995 & 1996)
Magnús Ver Magnússon was the second Icelandic to win the title of World’s Strongest Man. He won the title 4 times in the years 1991, 1994, 1995, and 1996. Magnús began with powerlifting as a junior. After his first win in 1991, he fully devoted to being a strongman competitor. He won several other Strongman competitions like Europe’s Strongest Man, Iceland’s Strongest Man, Pure Strength, World Muscle Power Championships and Le Defi Mark Ten International.
Ted van der Parre (1991, 1992 & 1994)
Ted van der Parre won the World’s Strongest Man title in the year 1992. Apart from becoming the World’s Strongest Man in the year 1992, he won the Sterkste Man van Nederland/ Netherlands Strongest Man contest in the years 1991, 1992, and 1994. At the time of him competing he was the tallest strongman to win the WSM. However, there are much taller strongmen now with the achievement of winning the WSM.
Gary Taylor (1993)
Gary Taylor was the World’s Strongest Man winner in the year 1993. During his career, he also competed as a bodybuilder and an Olympic weightlifter. He was known for his incredible strength and technique at Behind the neck press lift. A career-threatening injury incurred at the 1997 Europe’s Strongest Man resorted his into his early retirement from the sport of strongman.
Juoko Ahola (1997 & 1999)
Juoko Ahola was the World’s Strongest Man winner for two years- 1997 and 1999. He also won Europe’s Strongest Man twice in the years 1998 and 1999. From the other Strongman on this list, he is one of the few strongmen with an acting career. Juoko Ahola appeared in several films such as- Invincible, Bad Day to Fishing, Kingdom of heaven, War of the Dead & Basement Perspective.
Magnus Sammuelsson (1998)
Magnus Sammuelsson is a former World’s Strongest Man winner of the year 1998. Before venturing into Strongman he was a professional Arm wrestler and a very good one. So good he was ranked amongst the best arm wrestlers in the world during his career. He also has an acting career and has appeared in various shows and movies like- The Last Kingdom, Arne Dahl & Medieval.
Janne Virtanen (2000)
Janne Virtanen is a former Finnish Strongman. He was the World’s Strongest Man winner in the year 2000. His other qachievemtns include winning the Finland’s Strongest Man for 4 consecutive year- 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001. He qualified for and placed for many years ahead of the 2000 World’s Strongest Man but failed at securing a first place after the one in 2000. Eventually he retired from the sport in 2007.
Svend Karlsen (2001)
Svend Karlsen represnted Norway in the World’s Strongest Man. He was the World’s Strongest Man winner for the year 2001. Before starting off as a Strongman he had a glorified career as a powerlifter setting a number of record in both Norway and the whole of Europe. He then transitioned to a bodybuilder and won the Mr Norway and secured his IFBB pro card eventually. After suffering a muscle tear he had to retire from bodybuilding but then he picked up strongman and won the 2001 WSM.
Mariusz Pudzianowski (2002, 2003, 2005, 2007 & 2008)
Mariusz Pudzianowski was the winner of World’s Strongest Man in the years- 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2008. He is the only strongman with the highest World’s Strongest Man wins ever. No other Strongman equals 5 five wins at the WSM. It can be stated without a doubt he is one of the best Strongman the world has seen. After his Strongman career ended he proceeded to Mixed Martial Arts/ MMA. It is unusual for a Strongman to become an MMA athlete but Mariusz Pudzianowski did it pretty well. He started off in 2009 and even today he fights as an MMA athlete in the KSW- a Mixed Martial Art event based in Poland.
Vasyl Virastyuk (2004)
Vasyl Virastyuk was the winner of the World’s Strongest Man in the year 2004. He represented Ukraine at the World’s Strongest Man. Vasyl Virastyuk was Ukraine’s Strongest Man for 6 years- 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007.
Phil Pfister (2006)
Phil Pfister was the World’s Strongest man winner in the year 2006. He was the man responsible for bringing the title back to the United States of America after Bill Kazmaeir last won it in the year 1982. Following his retirement from the sport in 2009, he became a commentator for the World’s Strongest Man. He made appearances in the film The Protector and the show Are You Smarter Than Fifth Grader?
Žydrūnas Savickas (2009, 2010, 2012 & 2014)
Žydrūnas Savickas was the World’ Strongest Man winner for the years- 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2014. He is one of the only Strongman to have won every major Strongman competition once in his career. Žydrūnas Savickas holds the record for placing the most times in the top three at the WSM- 10 times. He even holds the record for the most number of times qualified for the World’s Strongest Man- 14 times. Savickas holds a number of personal records in both strongman and powerlifting.
Brian Shaw (2011, 2013, 2015 & 2016)
Brian Shaw was the winner of World’s Strongest Man for the years- 2011, 2013, 2015 & 2016. He is one of the 2 Strongman ever to win both the Arnold Strongman Classic and World’ Strongest Man in the same year. Now he achieved this feat not just once but twice in his career. Once in the year 2011 and the other in the year 2015. He is one of the 5 people in the world to ever lift the Millennium dumbbell. Shaw has achieved some incredible feats of strength and continues to amaze people through his Youtube channel- SHAWSTRENGTH.
Eddie Hall (2017)
Eddie Hall was the winner of the World’s Strongest Man in the year 2017. He came into notice by the general public when he broke the deadlift world record by lifting a massive 500 KG deadlift. Eddie appeared in several shows and movies like- Born Strong, Transformers: The Last Knight, The Chase, A league of their own, Celebs in Solitary & The Strongest Man in History. His other achievements in strongman include winning England’s Strongest Man, Britain’s Strongest Man and UK’s Strongest Man on multiple occasions.
Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (2018)
Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson was the World’s Strongest Man winner in the year 2018. He is the only Strongman to have won the Arnold Strongman Classic, Europe’s Strongest Man and World’s Strongest Man all in the same year. The 500 Kg deadlift world record by Eddie Hall was broken by Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson in 2020 by lifting 501 Kg deadlift. He gained due attention after appearing in the show Games of Thrones as the character ‘The Mountain’. Besides that role he has done several others in shows and films such as- Born Strong, Kickboxer: Retaliation, Devilish Deeds, Beast, Hamlet Pharon, Heavy Bubbles and A League Of Their Own.
Martin Licis (2019)
Martin Licis is the present World’s Strongest Man. He won his title in the year WSM 2019 held at Bradenton, Florida. The same year he placed 2nd at the Arnold Strongman Classic. Martin Licis has expressed his admiration towards a former 2 times World’s Strongest Man Juoko Ahola. He started competing in Strongman events when he was only 18 years old. What is more surprising is the fact that he began training at the age of 9. He is said by many to be the future of strongman.