We all tout our favorite athletes for being some of the most impressive physical specimens in the world. The superstars of the three biggest professional sports in North America (football, baseball, and basketball) show off their incredible agility, speed, and strength on a daily basis in often awe-inspiring ways. Every four years Olympians compete in feats that test their relative strength and speed in competitions that have withstood the test of time. But perhaps the most incredible demonstration of raw strength and power can be seen in the yearly event to crown the world’s strongest man.
Since 1977, men from around the globe have convened to compete in a series of events that put the accomplishments of some of our most revered athletes to shame. These men pull trucks down the road, carry cars, lift boulders, throw kegs and barrels, all totaling thousands of pounds in weight. What makes this more exciting to watch than the standard weight-lifting competition is that the events combine incredible feats of strength with common objects. Rather than simply lifting a bar, the competitors carry, for example, a refrigerator (actually, two at the same time), or hoist logs overhead.
While they aren’t necessarily showered with endorsement deals and rarely make the ESPN top plays segments, they are still some of the most impressive “athletes” the world has ever seen. After all, how many football players do you see picking up and carrying multiple members of the opposing team? The most recent competition took place in Malaysia last April, where American Brian Shaw bested a field of 30 men to claim the title. But is he the greatest strong man of all-time? Here is our ranking of the Top 5 Strongest Men in the World.
5. MAGNUS VER MAGNUSSON
This Icelandic competitor joined fellow countryman Jon Pall Sigmarsson as the second four-time champion from the small Scandinavian nation. He ranks higher on this list due to the impressive nature of his victories and the elevated level of competition during his era. In his first six trips to the competition, Magnusson never finished below 2nd place, ranking him as truly one of the greatest in the history of strongman competition. He retired in 1997 after failing to reach the final, by one point, in his seventh trip to the WSM competition.
4. BRIAN SHAW
American Brian Shaw is the current reigning World’s Strongest Man, having won his third overall title at the 2015 event in Malaysia. This third victory ties Shaw with the next man on this list for most wins by an American since the competition began in 1977. At 6’8” and over 400 pounds, Shaw is a looming presence, and with his third title at the age of 33, he may be entering his prime and ready to defend his title. This colossal man credits his success to a dedicated training regimen and a ridiculous EIGHT meals a day.
3. BILL KAZMAIER
Born in 1953, this American strongman won three consecutive WSM titles in 1980, 1981, and 1982. Rumor has it he was barred from competing in 1983 because the event coordinators felt he was too good to make the competition interesting. He returned five years later but failed to recapture his title-winning ways. We may never know how many titles he would have won had he been invited to compete in the mid-80s, but “Kaz” was still inducted as one of only four men in the “World’s Strongest Man Hall of Fame.”
2. MARIUSZ PUDZIANOWSKI
Mariusz Pudzianowski is the only five-time champion in the history of the World’s Strongest Man competition. That alone solidifies his right to sit near the top of this list. But his larger statistics are, perhaps, even more impressive. Pudzianowski won an amazing 42 of 59 various strongman events/competitions over his career and was a near-unanimous selection for the WSM hall of fame. At only 6’1” and 285 pounds, this Polish strongman is one of the smaller champions, but his size certainly didn’t impact his pure strength. He currently competes in the world of MMA with a fair level of success.
1. ZYDRUNAS SAVICKAS
“Big Z’ as he is know to fans is truly a modern legend in the making. This Lithuanian born competitor has competed 10 times for the World’s Strongest Man including the last seven consecutive years. He is a four-time champion, most recently in 2014, and a 14-time champion of the Lithuanian strongest man competition. Big Z has never finished outside of the top 3 at the WSM competition, which is no surprise given his incredibly lifting personal bests. He boasts a bench press over 600 pounds and a deadlift of nearly 900 pounds! He is still in his prime and could easily take his fifth title in 2016.