The World’s Strongest Man competition has been held annually ever since 1977, and has since developed into the most recognizable and widely watched strength competition in the world. The competition’s assortment of bizarre events remains a mainstay on ESPN and its affiliates, although WSM was even more depended upon during the early days of the network (started in 1979), when the channel was far from the media powerhouse that it is today. The reruns of the competition remain one of your best entertainment options during those idle afternoons when there isn’t much on.
Since simply filming some of the world’s bulkiest guys lifting weights and doing squats obviously wasn’t interesting enough to produce TV success, the events they created right off the bat were, well, strange, and they continue to amaze and puzzle viewers decades later. Here’s a list of the weirdest ones we’ve seen over the years.
The Event: Basically, this was just a gimmick to get people more interested in watching the event. So, instead of the announcer looking at how much weight the competitor was lifting and saying it was akin to squatting a dozen Playboy bunnies, they made it happen in reality. This went down at the Playboy mansion in New Jersey in the 1980 WSM Final. The 1997 competition in Primm, Nevada (about 45 minutes outside Vegas) featured a similar showgirl squat event.
Still In Competition?: The squat lift is still going strong as a core WSM event, but alas, in recent years, it has become more common for competitors to lift more traditional heavy objects during the contest, such as weights, as opposed to totally hot chicks.
The Event: After cutting a hole out of the roof and floor of a relatively small car, competitors hop in, grab the edges and start walking. The result is very Flintstones-esque, although they’re not even using the wheels. Think about this event the next time you think it’s a drag when you have to push your car when the engine’s having a bad day.
Still In Competition?: Yes. Competitors can still be seen doing this task each year, one that would be inexplicable and unfathomable outside WSM.
The Event: Bending metal bars are a basic part of training for strongmen, as far as we know. The use of this event to kick off the first WSM Final in 1977 provided some classic footage of Lou Ferrigno, aka the Incredible Hulk, angrily bending a bar over his head and then finishing the job with his muscle-bound arms. The event proves that WSM competitors couldn’t be held in normal jail cells. Three-time champion Bill Kazmaier once fell victim to the bar bending event in 1981, injuring himself before rallying and winning his second straight WSM tournament.
Still In Competition?: Sadly, bar bending has been gone for quite some time now. On the plus side, that just makes this old footage that much better and weirder.
The Event: Here, we see American strongman Phil Pfister pull an 80,000 pound plane 25 meters. How is that possible? Considering the fact that it would take an entire herd of people to make such a massive object budge, this seems like one of the most unbelievable feats of human strength you might witness, even in WSM.
Still In Competition?: No, but don’t fret, they’re always dragging something of ludicrous size and weight down the road a little bit. Last year they pulled 18-wheeler trucks down the street—as is the normal massive vehicle of choice—although buses, fire engines and limos have also been used in the past.
The Event: Only in a strongman competition will you see a race to the finish despite the nuisance of having to carry two refrigerators strapped onto a metal contraption. If you’ve ever moved a fridge in or out of your house, think back to that day. You probably had at least one friend help you, and it was so heavy and cumbersome that you practically smashed holes in the walls trying to get it where it needed to be. Now imagine doing that on your own and thinking it was so easy that you could picture trying to run with that, plus another one for your other shoulder. That’s what it takes to make it in WSM.
Still In Competition?: Nope. Apparently the fridge carry was deemed to be too gimmicky and unwieldy of a contest even for WSM. It hasn’t appeared as an event in the finals since 2005.
The Event: The Yoke/Duck Walk is a two-part race well known and widely used in strongman competitions. It kind of looks like a couple guys desperately hobbling toward the bathroom, with their situations becoming more dire in the second (duck walk) half of the race. Like many WSM events, it provides a testament to how good these guys are at picking up and carrying really heavy things for a while.
Still In Competition?: Surprisingly, no. WSM archives say the Yoke/Duck Walk, also known as the Farmer’s Walk, hasn’t been in the final competition since 2003.
The Event: Participants have to be ready to lift five stones of increasing weight (220-352 lbs) and place them on top of five different pillars, which mercifully decrease in height. It’s a grueling test of strength, endurance and competitors’ ability to pick up huge spherical objects anyone else would need some kind of machine to pick up. The name of the event appropriately refers to the Titan Atlas from Greek mythology, who had to carry the world on his shoulders for eternity because he pissed off Zeus.
Still In Competition?: Of course this one’s still around—it’s practically the logo for the entire tournament. Like many other years, the Atlas Stones were the closing event in 2011, with American Brian Shaw becoming the World’s Strongest Man by knocking off two-time defending champion Icelander Zydrunas Savickas in the contest. As you might expect, it was just like D2: The Mighty Ducks.
The Event: The object of the game is to hurl a 66-pound object as high as you can, obviously. This event looks suspiciously similar to Olympic events like shot put and the hammer throw, but the World’s Strongest Man competition decided to up the ante. In fact, in more recent competitions, we’ve seen strongmen switching over to throwing multiple barrels over a bar—definitely more in line with the extreme and bizarre nature of WSM.
Still In Competition?: The event has been altered over the years to become the keg toss. It’s actually become much more impressive. Check out this clip from last year.
Car Turn Over Race
The Event: This clip from 1989 displays the World’s Strongest Man competition in some of its weirdest and best moments. It’s like a 100-meter dash, but you’ve got to flip three cars before you cross the finish line. It’s amusing to watch these guys flip over a car with the same level of effort most people might use to tip over a moderately sized desk. This confirms that WSM competitors would make top-notch rioters. Also, note the bleeped out expletive from the always fiery Bill Kazmaier (1:36).
Still In Competition?: Unfortunately, one of the most fun to watch WSM events has been defunct for quite some time now. You can still see them lift cars and then walk with them as far as possible, but in the past decade, we haven’t seen any of those satisfying flips.
The Event: Along the same lines as the Atlas Stones, this event vaguely harks back to ancient Greek mythology, in reference to the Pillars of Hercules. According to legend, Hercules used his ridiculous strength to smash through a mountain and produce the Strait of Gibraltar between North Africa and the Rock of Gibraltar. Of course, this event suggests that those pillars are falling and only a WSM competitor can stop it. It’s fun to watch these guys cling desperately to two pillars that would literally shred a normal person in two.
Still In Competition?: The event hasn’t been in WSM since 2005, although it’s been used in other strongman tournaments. It seems like the Hercules Hold just isn’t as much of a traditional WSM event as several others, but that doesn’t mean we don’t lament its ongoing omission