Return to the Iron Dungeon

Iron Dungeon - Weight Training / Bodybuilding

The Strongman FAQ

by Tapio Ojanaho

1. What are strongman competitions?

A typical strongman competition consists of six events. The first three events are used to qualify eight finalists for the last three events. There are about fifteen different events established so far. The promoter of a particular competition chooses from among these. Many of these events are adopted from traditional, centuries old contests like Scottish Highland Games and the Basque contests in Spain. Variations of regular powerlifts are used to test pure strength.

The composition of competitions must vary to prevent favoring certain (types of) competitors. For example, if you have two pressing events, you make it easier for Olympic lifters and powerlifters. Qualifying heats must be arranged if there are many competitors. Usually 10-15 men are invited to compete in a regular competition, as a larger number would make the competition unbearably long. In major contests like World's Strongest Man, qualifying heats and final heats are held on separate days. Some of the most common events are:

  • Farmer's Walk -- Competitors carry heavy "suitcases" weighing about 110 kg (245 lbs) in each hand for a set distance, and compete for the fastest time. Otherwise, they compete for total distance.
  • Car Walk -- Distance event. A car with roof and floor removed is carried with harnesses as far as possible. Usually the load is around 350-400 kg (775-880 lbs). A Finnish invention.
  • Loading -- Timed event. Five heavy objects weighting 100-150 kg (220-335 lbs) are loaded onto a truck bed or onto some kind of platform. The course is about 15 m (50 ft) long and the objects range from treasure chests, to sacks of sand, to ship anchors.
  • McGlashen Stones -- Timed event. Five heavy round stones weighing 110-150 kg (220-335 lbs) are put on top of high barrels. The course is about 5-10 m (16-33 ft) long. Scottish tradition.
  • Truck Pulling -- Timed event. A heavy vehicle is pulled across a "finish-line" hand-over-hand style with a 30 m (100 ft) rope as fast as possible. Sometimes the vehicle is pulled with a harness.
  • Log-Press / Stone-Press -- Strength event. Heaviest possible load is pressed overhead or lighter weight is done for repetitions.
  • Hercules Hold -- Timed event. A competitor stands in a cable-cross-type machine with 130 kg (290 lb) weighted cable handles in each hand. Grip strength is tested for time.
  • Stone Lift -- Strength event. Heaviest possible stone is lifted to shoulder height. From the Basque tradition.
  • Log Throw / Caber toss -- Strength event. A five meter long log is thrown for distance or for height over a bar. The distance throw is from the Scottish tradition.
  • Weight throw -- Strength event. A 15-20 kg (33-45 lb) weight, usually a large ingot, is thrown for height over a bar.
  • Tug of War -- One on one tug of war in a single-elimination tournament. Competitors pair-off based on their current point standings.
  • Pole Pushing -- One on one pole pushing in a Sumo-style ring in a single-elimination tournament. The pole has handles at either end.
  • Crucifix -- Weights are held straight out at the sides for time.
  • Car Rolling -- Rolling cars over different courses.
  • Variations on individual powerlifts. For example, squatting a platform full of children on rails.
  • Every year the best promoters invent new events that are exciting and hopefully pose less risk of injury to the athletes in this demanding sport. One of these was last years "bleacher wheelbarrow" filled with people.

2. What is the history of modern strongman competitions?

The World's Strongest Man competition has been held annually since 1977. In 1995 it was held in the Bahamas; South Africa in 1994; France in 1993. It is by far the most important competition in the world. In the 1980's this competition produced various national championships as qualifiers to the upper-level. Nowadays every influential country have their own national contest to find the best athlete for the World's Strongest Man.

The BBC (British Broadcasting Company) has been a driving force in popularizing this sport. The BBC sells the show around the world. Trans World International produces this competition for BBC.

3. What is the strongman scene like in Finland and other countries?

There are about ten international competitions staged in Finland every year. Among these are the European Hercules and the Finnish Open. In addition, there are several local competitions. Almost fifty athletes are entered in the Finnish Nationals to be held on the 13th of April -- an impressive number of competitors! I wonder how they will organize the qualification heats so it runs smoothly. The winner of this competition is invited to compete in the World's Strongest.

The sports arenas in Finland are especially crowded for the three previously mentioned competitions. Also, the local competitions fascinate the public more than powerlifting or bodybuilding contests. Presumably the sport is popular in other countries, but I don't have details about them (anyone?).

4. Who does well in strongman competitions?

Obviously strength is an important qualification for competitors. Not surprisingly, powerlifters do well, but competitors must have all-around strength and athletic abilities. Tremendous explosive power and superb endurance are required to cope with the pushing and pulling of different objects required of competitors throughout the competition. Competitions of this type demand such a wide repertoire of capacities that specialized training is required to excel. Heavyweight bodybuilders have sometimes done well, owing to their usually better aerobic capacities as compared to powerlifters.

5. Who are the top contenders?

In the 1980's America's Bill Kazmaier and Iceland's Jon-Pall Sigmarsson dominated the sport with Sigmarsson winning the world title for four times (most recently in 1990) and Kazmaier thrice. In 1989 it was UK's Jamie Reeves. In the 90's Iceland's Magnus Ver Magnusson has won the title three times (1991, 1994 and 1995), Holland's Ted van der Parre won in 1992 and UK's Gary Taylor won in 1993. All of these men have a strong background in powerlifting, and they are all large men, averaging about 192 cm (6'4'') and 135 kg (300 lbs).

Bill retired in the 80's and Jon-Pall died in 1992. His aorta was torn while deadlifting in the gym -- an injury attributable to a family related heart debility. Magnus Ver Magnusson has said that Jon-Pall was aware of this weakness, as his sister suffered from same thing. The other champions mentioned are still active.

Some of the other contenders:

  • Manfred Hoeberl -- Austrian with lots of coverage in bb-magazines (eg. profile in the April '96 issue of MMI) and runner-up in world's strongest 1994. Has fully recovered from a serious car accident.
  • Joe Onosai -- Samoa's gift to American football's Dallas Cowboys and also a former powerlifter.
  • Forbes Cowan -- Three time Scotland's Strongest Man.
  • Gerrit Badenhorst -- A South African with three world titles in powerlifting and also a runner-up in World's Strongest Man in 1995. Considered one of the top-five strongest of all time by Powerlifting USA's Brian Batcheldor.
  • Riku Kiri -- Four time Finnish national champion, twice placed third in the World's Strongest. Considered one of the top-five strongest of all time by Powerlifting USA's Brian Batcheldor.
  • Marko Varalahti -- 6'9'' Finn with one Finnish national title and a third place showing in the World's Strongest in 1995.
  • One rising star is German Heinz Ollesch -- 195cm and 160 kg (6'5" and 360 lbs).
  • An American star is missed badly, as Bill Kazmaier's shoes are still waiting to be filled.

6. Which countries turn out the best competitors?

The sport's strongest nations currently are Iceland, UK, South Africa and Finland. Magnus Ver Magnusson while competing in the Finnish Open Championships on 10 March 1995, stated that he had never seen so many high-caliber contenders as in Finland.

7. How to familiarize with the sport?

If you want to familiarize yourself with the sport, you can purchase VHS-copies of these competitions. Brian Batcheldor wrote a complete report of World's 1994 in the Feb. '95 issue of Powerlifting USA. Also, I think David Webster has written some books of history's strongest men. Look for the small ads in the muscle magazines.

8. Is there an organization behind these competitions?

The rights to the World's Strongest Man competition are owned by Trans World International (TWI). David Webster of Scotland was head coordinator of the competition since 1977. As he wanted to retire, Douglas Edmunds of Scotland, a former contender, took over the position. David Webster is still very involved in organizing this competition -- he is the secretary of the International Federation of Strength Athletes (IFSA). These two men are responsible of inviting the competitors and choosing the events.

Last year, these two and representatives of the competitors formed a governing body called the IFSA. The IFSA is organizing it's first European Championships to be held in Helsinki Finland on 18 May 1996. The IFSA is working with BBC and TWI to organize the World's Strongest Man competition later this year.

I cannot supply the address of IFSA because I haven't got it. If it's really important, I can give the phone number of Mr. Edmunds (President of IFSA).

The info in section 8 was supplied by Mr. Ilkka Kinnunen, head of the Scandinavian IFSA.

Send any questions or new information to Tapio Ojanaho (

Thanks to Michael Leary ( for help with the particulars of the English idiom.

		 puh. +358-0-148 4290
		 gsm. +358-40-5536190

Strongman Organization Links


Reader's Comments:

Please leave your comments or suggestions below!
 your post is very informative
 Lmfao!!!! what jokes!
 hi Kevin N, i look forward to the videos of Rubarsh Naidoo..I've seen this natural powerlifting phenomenon and agree with you that its just a matter of time..if the 'N' in ur name is Nee, then i know ur another monster on the strongman wishes
 Dear Sir,

I am Amir Ahmadi and I am headquarter of Iran kyusho and self-defense.

I am also secretary general and headcoach of iran shaolin chuan.

we are working officially under the Iran martial arts and iran wushu federation.

infact our activing are under the Iran physical education organization and Iran Olympic committee.

we want to develop othere sports in Iran.

we would like to get your representative .

so, we have a private sport center and we make different sport ( martial arts, massaje, pressure pointes, self-defense, bodybuilding,..) seminars in Iran.

we would like get cooperation with your federation and participate in your competitions and your coaching and referee course.

we can hold these courses in Iran and we can invite a teacher from your federation for comming and teaching there.

please write me can we get your representative to Iran?

can we get cooperation with togheter?


2010-03-08kevin N
 hi everyone,i see many guys posting their feats here.As an international competitor myself,id just like to advise everyone that in a few weeks,ill be posting videos of my good buddy and strongman competitor RUBARSH NAIDOO from south africa,a strength freak who is a mad trainer,im not one to boast,and although ive beaten this guy,once before,i feel it is only a matter of time before he claims his first international title,Oh and by the way,to all the other strength athletes posting messages here,if you ever come across him,challenge him!! he doesnt say no
 Great... keep us posted!
 I also want to find out where and when the UK strongest man heats are going to take place after waiting and looking for 2009 date details etc and realising have completely missed them in 2009!!
 how can i compete to be the worlds strongest man im 16 im bench press 180kg im really big and strong i would like to take up the rest of the other 16 year olds

Can anyone tell me when and where Englands Strongest Man 2010 is going to be.
I desperately want to get tickets for the event as a present for my partner.

 You can buy ANY and ALL of the strongman competitions on DVD from this address

or from this address

 Thanks for sharing, Nicholas -- it's obvious that a lot of people have been looking for these.
 Hi there i used to play bagpipes at callander strong man crom 1992 onward and piped in douglas edmunds into the ampetheatre at WSM in 1993. was friedly with numerous atheletes from garry taylor, manfred hoerbl, Forbes cowan,etc would love to hear from anyone involved with competitions at the time or any photos or video footage.
2009-09-28Nicholas Hans Gary
 Hi Guys,
You can buy the entire worlds strongest man finals from 1977 through 2008 and many other competitions including fortisiumuss and others from 2 places that I have them listed. One is on and the other is on
They are really good quality for both audio and video just search from strongman
 I need more info to register my boyfriend to compete in the 2010 Strongman show. Please send all appliciable information and registration if needed at this time.

Thank you.
Leesa Beaumont
2009-06-18Jess caigoy
 I'm Jess Caigoy I can do amazing feats from wholsome to extreme check Incredible Features Inc.(Master of Pain series or visit my cell number +63909-876-94-22
 Hi all, i am 23 yrs old currently weighing in at 16st, i am wanting to compete in strongman competitions very soon, how do i go about doing this
2009-05-16T Street
 If this Jeff Lara is so bad put some videos on youtube otherwise i think your full of it crap. If he was doing them weights at 18 he would be one of the top amatures in the country
 Look for New Jerseys strongman Jeff Lara at age 18 going for his pro card in years to come,deadlifting 700,push pressing 320, and with an 700 lb farmer walk and 800 lb yoke
 I am looking to chat and network with anyone intrested in strong man training and events in Highland and Islands
and anywherels in scotland
 I was thinking of doing a strongman this year up in scotland, but was wanting to know how to into one and how much the winning prizes are.
2009-01-07ron brown
 I am 28 and would like to know how to enter strong man competitions. I live in nairn beside inverness in scotland and have done the highland games a couple of times want to try strong man can you help?
 For people in the north of England who want to get into strongman why not take a visit to Eddy Elwoods gym in hartlepool. He has most the strongman equipment including a full set of atlas stones in the gym and has even put on his own shows in the area around his gym. Photos are on the wall inside the gym.
 Hi , I also wish to know how to sign up and compete in a strongman contest ... I am currently training for a charity truckpull , which will take place in the spring 2009 for the ''HELP FOR HEROES '' charity ... sponsored by Topps Tiles and hopefully Fitness First ...

Once this is out of the way , I would like to turn my hand to stongman comps and hopefully do well before i get too old as I'm currently 38 yrs old now

Thanks in advance ... If anyone would like to sponsor me please keep an eye out at ....
 hello there, i am just searching on the internet and i have come accross your website, im from northen england and i am wondering do you know anywhere which does strongman competions in north yorkshire?
many thanks patto
2009-01-01daniel oliver
 hi i am tyring to find out where and how i could compete in a strongman event,i live near birmingham so any sugestions please?
 im 22 years old and wanting to enter strongman competitions in the near future and was wondering how i could go about this, could you provide any info on how i could go about this. I live in yorkshire. Thanx
 hi im wanting to compete in the strongman competitions, how do i go about it
 hi, i am keen in getting magnus ver magnusson dvd, regarding his career, world strongest man's title, life and exercise. i have been looking for a while now, does anyone know where to get? please... thank you very much.

 my name is robert from ghana and an event organizer,there is no any strongman competion in my country and i want to organize one this year, can u give me an ideal on how to organize it. my email is robertmawul@yahoo.comi
 I have been searching for many years to find these strongman tapes too. I have, on VHS, everything except 1982, 1985-1988. I foolishly somehow erased or recorded over 1986. In many cases I have some heats for the competitions. I would love to get these missing tapes if you have them. I am willing to trade tape-per-tape.
Contact me at:
If others are interested in simply getting any of these tapes that I have, email me and we will talk.

 do you have world strongest man competition dvds or videos to purchase from 1970' and 1980'? if so how much would they cost etc.I would prefer to speak to a person over the phone if possible please send a contact number if not possible than just email me with the info I requested.
 do you have world strongest man competition dvds or videos to purchase from 1970' and 1980'? if so how much would they cost etc.I would prefer to speak to a person over the phone if possible please send a contact number if not possible than just email me with the info I requested.
 How can I enter in the wsm competition,please can you give me some information.
 hi can anybody help i'm looking to take up strongman events but cant find somewhere to train i live in glasgow scotland any help would be great
 Hi,are any on the 1970's WSM competition's on dvd at least in bootleg for sale? do you know? thnx!
 hello all i pulled a fire engine on 25th jan 2007 and raised money for charity i am the lightest man in the world to have done it and i was 10 stone and pulled 11 ton 80 meters across a carpark in galashiels and there was a virtual tornado with rain snow and gales and i still done it if you want a charity event raised cash for please telephone charity organser in galashiels mr k thomson 07849997344
 hi i was wondering if you still sell worlds strongest man dvds. i am interested in purchasing dvds from the 80s contests.
please could you let me know.

 I don't sell them, but if anyone else has a contact for where to buy them, please feel free to post a link! There's obviously a lot of interest in these.
2007-04-21Tony B.
 Does anyone know where I can purchase a millenium dumbell? I have looked but seem to be coming up empty. Thanks for your time. -TB
 How do you pull a car with your skin anyway?
 I was wondering about prizes that your competitors might win.
2007-03-27karl etherington
 hi i am the current english heavy wight judo champion and i want to compete in this years britans strongest man. I dont want to just compete i want to win, any info on qualifying.
2007-03-11Jess Caigoy
 Anybody want to sponsor me. I can pull a 4 tons car using only my skin (pierced).I appeared in Ripley's episode 306 (superskin stunt).
 lewis maclean to win scotlands strongest man easy
 i am tring to find video or dvd on Bill Kazmarier's strongman wins in 1980, 1981, 1982
2007-02-13jeff lara
 hi im jeff lara from new jersey im 16 and would like to enter a strongman compeition for my age group i would like to do one around me if you know of one can you send it to me thanks you
 i would like to find out the strongman competition calender for 2007 as i am eager to show my raw power
 For the US: 2007 Schedule, for the UK, I wasn't able to find a recent schedule posted anywhere yet.
 I want to participate and show my power in strongman series. I am from India. I want to know calender of 2007 for strongman series
2007-01-08Leon Paterson
 How can i compete or get up to date information about up and coming strongman events in my area FIFE Scotland
 How would i go about applying to compete in the strongman competition? I am very interested.
 I am trying desperately to find videos of strongman competitions with Magnus ver Magnusson. If anyone knows, please email me.
 If someone does know of a source for strongman videos, please post as a lot of people are obviously interested!
 It is quite apparent that there is a lot of footage of various competitions about, one member of a different forum (brute Strength) is doing an exchange which I think is A1 ethicaly it would be great if someone could give the hint of a link to a site, which other followers of the sport could gain access to similar footage?
 Please feel free to post a link -- it is clear that there is a lot of interest in the videos. I myself am not aware of a good source for these videos.
 I would like information about competing in a strong man competition in USA, preferbly on the east coast. Thank you


Leave a comment or suggestion for this page:

(Never Shown - Optional)