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Here are at Top Tenz, we give the people what they want.

One of our Patreon supporters named Birgir recommended we tackle a list about strongmen,

and we obliged.

If youd like to support Top Tenz and suggest list ideas, you can visit our Patreon page.

Over the years, the definition of astrongmanhas changed significantly.

It was once an occupation held by circus performers who exhibited feats of strengths to small


In the 20th century, it evolved into something more like athletic competitions, where competitors

displayed their abilities through a series of exercises including lifting rocks, pulling

trains, and toting huge trucks.

Not wanting to discriminate against strongmen of earlier epochs, here are 10 of the most

fascinating strongmen from over the last few centuries


Thomas Topham (18th century)

Born in London, Thomas Topham was one of the most famous strongmen of his generation.

He was best known for bending thick fire irons by striking them against his forearms.

Crowds would also enjoy watching as he lifted items weighing 224 pounds over his head with

just his little fingers.

Despite his other heroics, his most famous feat took place on May 28, 1741 when, while

using a harness, Topham lifted three barrels of water weighing 1,386 pounds.

For those skeptics out there, Tophams feats were documented in a widely held work by Dr.

John Theo Desaguliers calledA Course of Experimental Philosophy.”


Siegmund Breitbart (19th century)

As previously mentioned, many of the earlier strongmen worked as circus performers and

Siegmund Breitbart was no exception.

Born to a Jewish family in Poland, Breitbart was subjugated to relentless Antisemitism,

which drove him to become theStrongest Man in the World.”

Some of his most impressive feats included bending iron bars around his arm in floral

patterns, biting through iron chains, or pulling them apart; he even lifted a baby elephant

as he climbed a ladder.

As a performer, Breitbart excited audiences by holding back two whipped horses, and pulling

a wagon full of people with his teeth.

Breitbart is probably best known for incorporating The Tomb of Hercules into his act.

The performance consisted of Breitbart laying on his back as a bridge of boards was built

across his chest.

Animals were then brought to parade cross the bridge.

Bulls, elephants, and other heavy beats walked across Breitbarts chest without even a

flinch from the strongman.


Eugen Sandow (19th century)

Known as thefather of bodybuilding,” Eugene Sandow was born Friederich Wilhelm

Mueller in Königsberg, Prussia in 1867.

By the age of 19, he was already performing as a strongman in various circus-like shows.

He became known for his barbell routines and for breaking a chain locked around his chest.

Audiences gathered around him, but were more interested in his bulging muscles than his

feats of strength.

Inclined to give the people what they wanted, Sandow began to develop and perform poses.

He declared the posesmuscle display performancesand these same displays of strength are used

in bodybuilding competitions today.

Sandow was a highly sought-after carnival attraction as audience members believed him

to resemble the Roman gods.

It turns out that Sandows similar build was no accident.

He had traveled to Italy as a child, and it was there, staring at the artwork of these

chiseled gods, that his passion for bodybuilding began.

Sandow believed that these gods had the perfect physique and modeled his own body based on

their image.

He became the first bodybuilder to develop his musculature to predetermined dimensions.


Leonid Taranenko (20th century)

Born in 1956 in Belarus, at the time part of the Soviet Union, Leonid Taranenko would

become a world record holder for the clean and the jerk at the age of 32.

His first taste of success came at the 1980 Olympics where he won the gold medal competing

for the Soviet Union.

Taranenko initially competed in a lower weight class, but in 1988 he moved up to super-heavyweight


On November 26, 1988 in Australia, he set a world record of 266.0 kg in the clean and


Due torestructuringby the International weightlifting federation, his official records

no longer stand, but his feats have not been matched.


Andy Bolton (20th century)

Another world recorder holder on our list is power lifter Andy Bolton.

Born in England in 1970, Bolton is the first man in history to have deadlifted 1,000 pounds.

And he did it twice.

Before he became a world recorder holder, Bolton found success at an early age.

By the time he was 21-years-old, Bolton had won a powerlifting event called Yorkshire

Junior Championships.

As previously mentioned, Bolton is most known for being first strongman to deadlift 1,000


Twice during the competition heeclipsed his own accomplishment with pulls of 1,003

pounds and a then-record 1,008 pounds.”

Bolton is not a one trick pony.

He also holds the fourth highest squat of all-time with 1216.63 pounds, and his three

lift total of 2,806.34 pounds ranks third highest in history.


Brian Shaw (21st century)

The first American on our list, Brian Shaw (born in 1982) is a monster of a man.

Standing at 6-foot-8 and weighing 435 pounds, hes massive even compared to other strongmen.

While not holding any individual weightlifting records, what he does have to his name is

the title of Worlds Strongest Man.

Shaw has claimed the title twice and has placed in the top tree at Worlds Strongest Man

a total of five times.

His personal bests include 972 pounds in the deadlift, 1,122 in the Hummer tire deadlift,

and squatting 825 pounds along with benching 535 pounds.

Not too shabby.


Louis Cyr (19th century)

Theres no one on our list who had a more colorful career than Louis Cyr.

A boxer, a police officer, and of course, a strongman, Cyr did it all.

Many believe that he is the strongest man to ever have lived.

Born in Quebec, Canada, Cyr developed his strength at an early age, working at a lumber

camp during the winter and on his family farm during the summer.

Told of the legendary exploits of strongman Milo of Croton, who as a child carried a calf

on his shoulder, Cyr attempted the same feat, only for the calf to kick him in the head

and run away.

Cyr decided instead to carry a sack of grain and added two pounds each day.

His strongman career began at the age of 17 after he gained some publicity for lifting

a farmers heavily laden wagon, which had become stuck.

Soon after, he competed against Canadas strongest man (at the time), beating him in

tests of lifting heavy stones by hoisting a granite boulder weighing 480 pounds.

After immigrating to the United States, Cyr competed in a strongman competition in Boston,

where he lifted a horse (that was resting on a platform) off the ground.

Despite gaining fame, the strongman, now a married man, became a police officer.

His foray into police work came after, just using his strength, he broke up a dangerous

knife fight.

According to eyewitness accounts, Cyr disarmed and subdued the combatants and then made a

citizens arrest, carrying the hooligans under his arms to the police station.

Eventually hed leave the police force, using the money he had earned to open a tavern.

Louis Cyrs most impressive feats of strength include lifting a platform on his back holding

18 men for a total of 1,967 kilograms, lifting a 534 pound weight with one finger, and pushing

a freight car up an incline


Louis Uni (19th century)

The Frenchman who became known as Apollon the Mighty was most popular for his grip strength.

Louis Uni ran away from home at 14 to join the circus, but was returned by police officers

who noticed he was underaged.

It wasnt enough to stop his drive to become a strongman and after a couple of years, he

left home again.

Uni became a student of strength training and would repeatedly be challenged to demonstrate

his strength.

In one particular instance, a friend named John Grun Marx told him that he would perform

a lift that no one else could.

Marx slowly approached a thick-handled dumbbell, which weighed 226 pounds, and lifted it over

his head.

At the time, Marx and three others were the only men to have been known to accomplish

such a feat.

Louis, not known to turn down a challenge, attempted it as well but he lost control and

it landed 10 feet behind him.

This demonstrated that he had the ability to accomplish such a feat, he just needed

more training.

Years later, he was challenged by Andre Brandelli, who claimed no one else in the world was capable

of performing clean and jerk using his 278 pound barbell.

After performing the feat, he turned to Louis smirking.

Conscious of his strength, Louis grabbed the barbell and performed the feat.

The challenges only continued as Louis became more famous.

A trio of Germans called theRassio Trioapproached Louis claiming that they would

strip him of his title ofWorlds Strongest Man.”

For the challenge, Louis instructed them to bring a dumbbell which weighed 200 pounds

onto the stage.

However, hoping to trick Louis, a dumbbell which weighed 341 pounds was brought to the

stage instead.

Unable to notice the difference, Louis lifted the dumbell over his head.

The Rassio Trio didnt make much of this, but when it was their turn to lift the dumbbell,

they were barely able to get it off the ground.

Some of Apollon the Mightys most notable feats of strength include an act calledEscaping

Prisoner,” in which he would bend iron bars in order to escape from a cage, cleaning and

jerking a 341 pound barbell, and lifting two train wheels (366 pounds) over his head.


Angus MacAskill (19th Century)

Angus MacAskill makes all of the strongman on our list look like ordinary people.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, MacAskill was the the largest true giant to

have ever lived, and the man with the largest chest measurements of any non-obese man.

Standing at 7-foot-10 (for reference, the man beside him in the above picture was 6-foot-5),

MacAskill weighed 580 pounds, but what was so remarkable about him was the proportionality

of his figure.

He was free of growth abnormalities, with his size and strength was simply due to his


Born in 1825 on the Isle of Berneray in Scotland, MacAskill moved to Nova Scotia with his family

as a child and eventually they settled in a fishing community.

He was known in his community to have lifteda 2,800 pound ships anchor to chest

height, carry barrels weighing over 300 pounds under each arm, and was apparently able to

single handedly set a 40-foot mast into a schooner deck.”

Soon, the fishing community became too small for MacAskill and he joined P.T.

Barnums circus.

Word spread of his amazing size and strength.

Queen Victoria eventually invited him to appear before her to give a demonstration at Windsor


Afterwards she proclaimed him to bethe tallest, stoutest and strongest man to ever

enter the palace.”

She presented him with two gold rings in appreciation.


Thomas Inch (20th Century)

There arent many strongmen who left a mark on strength athletics like Thomas Inch.

Born in Scarborough, England in 1881, Inch won the titles of both Britains Strongest

Youth and Britains Strongest Man.

However, his lasting legacy isnt a feat of strength, but a mechanism of demonstrating


Inch invented theThomas Inch Dumbbell.”

Its routinely used in strongman competitions because of its difficulty to lift.

The dumbell weights 172 pounds, 9 ounces and its handle is extremely thick, making it

difficult to hold onto without a forceful grip.

And while Thomas Inch doesnt have any records that remain, he will always have a dumbbell

that bears

his name.

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