Lifting Legends - History's Strongest People
Welcome to the "Lifting Legend" series from Massenomics. Once a week, we select one of history's strongest human beings, and give you the rundown on their accomplishments. It's likely you will know some of the powerlifters, strongmen and weightlifters that we feature, but odds are some of these names will be new to you. Either way, we grantee you will learn something about the men and women that have paved the way in the world of strength. We add a new legend every week, so check back to this page and follow us on Instagram for updates.
Jon Pall Sigmarsson
He was the first man ever to win four world's strongest man titles, and is one of only five men ever to do so. He possessed a rare combination of static strength and athleticism that mad him elite. He finished 3rd place in the IPF powerlifting championship in 1981. His best ever total is powerlifting was 2,138 pounds. He was also a competitive bodybuilder during the height of his strongman career.
Bev played a large part in changing the general perception of what people thought was possible for women's strength and women's physique. She was the first woman to bench press over 300 pounds. She won six straight IPF world championships from 1980 to 1985. She went undefeated in her entire powerlifting career. She was an Australian national champion in the shot put. She finished in 2nd place twice at the IFBB Ms. Olympia bodybuilding competition.
Jon was the first man to officially squat 900 pounds in competition and total above 2,300 pounds. His numbers when he broke the 2,300 mark were a 905 squat, 600 bench, and a 845 deadlift. He set those records in the superheavyweight class, then lost 100 pounds due to health reasons, and continued to compete and set records in lighter classes. He went on to become an IPF world champion in the 110KG weight class in 1974, 1979, and 1980. He deadlifted 870 pounds in the 242 class, which stood as a world record until it was surpassed by Ed Coan. John Kuc may be one of the more underrated powerlifters in history.
Mark won the first ever Arnold Strongman Classic. He was a 3 time U.S. national weightlifting champion and a two time weightlifting Olympian. He totaled 2,000+ pounds in powerlifting as a senior in high school, and ended up with personal best lifts of a 954 squat, 585 bench, and a 904 deadlift. He has the second highest combined supertotal (weightlifting total + powerlifting total) in history with 3,219 pounds. He was the WWE world heavyweight champion in 2011. Mark Henry proved his strength in just about every arena possible.
Kaz is widely considered to be one of the strongest men of all time, across any and all disciplines. He got his start in powerlifting, and IPF World Championships in 1979 and 1983. He put up all time best competition lifts of a 926 squat, 661 bench, and a 881 deadlift. He won World's Strongest Man three times, and he is one of only two men to ever win three consecutive titles. Kaz played college football for the University of Wisconsin for two years, and he tried out for the Green Bay Packers in 1981. He even got into professional wrestling towards the end of his career. He wrestled in the WCW, and battled Lex Luger for the championship belt on several occasions.
Bolton is most well known for being the first man to deadlift 1,000 pounds. He won first place at the WPC World Powerlifting Championships three years in the 140+ weight class. He also competed in the first ever Arnold Strongman Classic in 2002, finishing in 5th place. His best equipped competition lifts are a 1,213 squat, 771 bench, and 1,009 deadlift. He also benched 600 raw and deadlifted 965 raw. He experienced kidney failure in 2016 and was diagnosed with cancer, but he has since returned to training.
Jouko is one of only nine men to ever win the World's Strongest Man title more than once. He won in 1997 and 1999, and finished second in 1998. At 6'1" tall and 275 pounds, he is one of the smallest men to ever compete at such a high level in strongman. He set personal record of 793 pounds in the squat and 895 pounds in the deadlift. He also set a record (at the time) for heaviest atlas stone loaded at 475 pounds. He retired from strongman at a young age to pursue acting. Many believe he could have added more WSM trophies to his collection if he would have kept competing.
In a 1977 article, Sports Illustrated called Jan Todd the strongest woman in the world. She broke over 60 world records throughout her powerlifting career. She was the first woman to squat 500+, deadlift 400+, and total 1,200+. Her illustrious lifting career allowed her to become the first woman ever to be inducted into the IPF hall of fame. She was also the first woman to ever lift the famous Scottish Dinnie Stones, and it is reported that no other woman has lifted them since.
Dr. Terry Todd
Todd began his lifting career in Olympic weightlifting. He was a junior champion in 1963. Then he switched gears to powerlifting, winning national championships in 1964 and 1965. He was the first man to officially squat 700+ in sanctioned competition. He was also the first to break the 1,600 1,700 1,800 and 1,900 pound total marks. He had a career best bench of 515 and a best deadlift of 742. Arnold asked him to create the Arnold Strongman Classic in 2002. Terry and his wife Jan founded the Stark Center located in Austin Texas. It is an enormous collection that showcases the history of strength sports.
Doyle won IPF World Championships in both 1978 and 1980. He also competed in the World's Strongest Man event in 1983, finishing in 7th place. He was the first man to ever officially deadlift over 900 pounds in competition when he pulled an amazing 903 pounds at the 1986 Budweiser World Record Breakers Meet. He was nicknamed "The Grizzly Bear" for his impressive beard and general appearance.
Reinhoudt won four consecutive IPF World Championships. He also won the 1979 World's Strongest Man competition when he bested a young up-and-coming Bill Kazmaier. Don held the largest raw powerlifting total for a staggering 35 years at 2,391 pounds (that total was originally 2,400 pounds, but weighed out at 2,391). That record stood until it was finally beaten by Andrey Malanichev in 2013. He also held the record for the heaviest raw squat without knee wraps at 934.5 pounds until it was beaten by Ray Williams in 2015. He also put up a raw bench of 607 pounds and a raw deadlift of 885.5 pounds. Don's resume makes an impressive case for best powerlifter of all-time.
Anderson is widely considered the "Godfather" of modern powerlifting. He was performing feats of strength that were completely unheard of in his day. He won Olympic gold in weightlifting in 1956. His best clean and press of 408.5 pounds was a world record at the time. His biggest official squat was 930 pounds, but he had even bigger lifts that were not done under official conditions including; a 1,200 squat, 628 bench, 820 deadlift, and his world-famous 6,270 pound backlift.
O.D. was a IPF World Champion in 1988, and he broke the world record SHW total at that time. He finished 2nd place in the 1990 World's Strongest man, and likely would have won if not for a final foot-race event. His size is legendary. It is rumored that he had some of the largest quads ever at 42" around, 23 size shoes, and a 26 ring size.
Wilhelm was an Olympic caliber weightlifter. He placed 5th at the 1976 Olympics, and was the first American to ever snatch 400 pounds. He was also a world class shot-putter, finishing in the top 10 for U.S. men six different years. His best ever throw was 66'. Bruce parlayed that strength into winning the first ever World's Strongest Man competition. Then he repeated the next year to claim his second title.
Gillingham is a six time IPF World Champion and a 13 time USAPL National Champion. He has been inducted into the IPF hall of fame. He has successfully deadlifted 800 pounds or more in competition more times than any other lifter in history. We do not know the exact number, but it reported at somewhere between 90-100 times. He is part of the "first family of strength" which includes his brothers Wade and Karl and their father Gale. Gale was a great from the old Green Bay Packers teams, and was a pioneer with weight training for football players.