The World’s Strongest Man Competition just unveiled the first events of the 2016 event—and damn, they look brutal.
When 25 modern day giants descend upon Botswana on August 13-20, they will face an absolute barrage of mythically demanding events.
How the event works: The competitors are divided into one of five groups, and will move through a gantlet of six events. The top two competitors in each group get a spot in the “Grand Final,” in which they’ll go head to head in a new set of events for the trophy.
The events are mostly different for each group, although all must complete the Atlas Stones.
With four-time champion Žydrūnas “Big Z” Savickas out of the competition this year, the title of World’s Strongest Man is anyone’s for the taking. Could 2015 Champion Brian Shaw repeat his astounding effort in 2015? Is this finally the year for Hafthor “The Mountain” Bjornsson, who’s made it to the podium four times but never captured the gold? How about Eddie Hall, who just set a world record in the deadlift?
It all depends how they fare with in these events:
Like the keg toss and the Atlas Stones, the loading race challenges a strongman’s agility, endurance, and ability to carry ungainly objects. Competitors must carry five objects, usually oil drums or kegs weighing from 100–164kg, onto a platform about 50 feet away. Watch Poland’s Mariusz “Dominator” Pudzianowski—who now competes in MMA, by the way—absolutely truck past everyone else in the 2007 trials:
Also known as the Pillars of Hercules, this event essentially a test of grip strength and sheer force of will. Strongmen must stand between two titanic pillars weighing 160kg, holding them with handles, and keep them from falling over. One tactic to fight through the pain? Start screaming, which American Phil Pfister did to great effect in 2001:
Simple, right? Here is a large, heavy object with wheels. Here is a rope attached to it. Pick up the rope. Pull the heavy object with wheels—and do it faster than the other guys. Here’s Terry Hollands of Britain, who succeeded in hauling a damn plane faster than almost everyone else back in 2009:
Named for the mythological Gaelic hero, Fingal’s Finger’s is a set of five progressively heavier log flips, with one end of each log anchored into the ground. Completed for time, the logs can range from 200kg (440lbs) to over 300kg (661lbs). If the Hercules Hold is a strongman’s endurance event, this is his sprint. Here’s Savicas vs Pfister in 2009:
Keg Toss for Height
Like the ones you did in college, except, you know, impressive and without implying property damage. An event borrowed from Scotland’s Highland Games, the Keg Toss requires competitors to throw four kegs or, occasionally, rough concrete blocks of increasing weight (15–24kg, or 33–52 lbs) over a 4.42-meter (14’6”) wall. Please do not try this at your next frat party, bro—leave it to Big Z:
When the squat debuted at the WSM back in 1977, the competitors had to lift women suspended in birdcages. Nowadays, they stick with more mundane items—but with competition weights tipping the scale at nearly 400kg (882 lbs), it’s still just as impressive. Here’s Louis-Philippe Jean at the 2011 qualifiers, hoisting 715 lbs:
Like the one you do at the gym, except heavier and (usually) more spectacular. Here’s a clip from the legendary 2009 showdown between Savickas and Pudzianowski, in which the usual weighted barbells were replaced with Mitsubishis.
Giant Dumbbell Press
The giant dumbbell press is actually closer to a dumbbell clean and press. (It Athletes must hoist four one-handed dumbbells—each weighing between 100–115kg (220–253 lbs)—from the floor to their shoulder, and then press it one-handed overhead. Here’s Thor Bjornsson in practice mode:
Unfortunately, this event does not involve hoisting a live Viking overhead. No, this is basically a neutral-grip overhead press, except instead of a standalone barbell, athletes lift one end of a weighted platform. Imagine shoulder-pressing one end of a tree trunk. Yeah. That. Here’s Eddie Hall doing one back in 2012:
Probably the most iconic event in all of strongman competitions—they even showed up at the 2016 CrossFit Games—the Atlas Stones demand not only brute strength but also raw work capacity. In the competition, athletes must lift five stones weighing 100kg (220 lbs) to 160kg (353 lbs), carry them for a distance, and then setting them on top of platforms. Here’s Savickas taking on Pudzianowski for the title back in 2009: