The Strongman FAQ 1.2
From: (Michael Leary)
Subject: Re: The Strongman FAQ 1.2
Date: 1996/03/26
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organization: AccessOne

The Strongman FAQ 1.2

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

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

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.
Currently recovering 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

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). 

Last updated: 3-26-1996

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
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