Every gym in the world has at least one of them: someone who puts all their energy into trying to impress onlookers by lifting such a ridiculous amount of weight they can’t help but grunt and cringe under the extreme force.
To most people, this scene might look somewhat absurd. Why would someone push their body to extreme limits and potentially hurt themselves? To those strong guys and gals, however, it’s all part of seeing just how far the will to succeed can take them — and these 20 behemoths succeeded big time…
1. If there’s anyone in this world who can motivate you to get out to a gym and get yourself in shape, it’s 97-year-old Edith Traina. She was a great-grandmother who’d been wowing crowds for years. That’s a 135-pound barbell she’s lifting in this picture!
2. Meet Ukranian strongman Dmytro Khaladzhi. This broad-shouldered rock of a human made a name for himself carrying full-grown horses on his back! Before he lifted them, he bound their feet together to ensure he didn’t catch a hoof to the jaw.
3. This group of men belonged to the Royal Horse Guards in Britain, and one of them clearly stood out from the rest as the “strong guy.” You would not want to come across him alone on a battlefield; he’d make a hand-puppet out of you!
4. Any Game of Thrones fan will immediately recognize this massive guy as the character The Mountain. His real name is Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, he lifts very heavy stuff, and as of 2018, he actually held the title of “World’s Strongest Man.”
5. If you travel to Dagestan, a small remote village in the faraway corner of Russia, you can meet Sakinat Hanapieva, an old lady who can tear phone books in half and twist metal rods into a spiral. This is one old lady you wouldn’t want to tick off.
6. Would you believe the young man holding up this motorcycle and a grown man is actually just 14 years old? His name was Charles Highfield, and he claimed to be the strongest boy in England where he lived. By the look of it, he very well could have been.
7. When 17-year-old Michael Cruz entered a local strength competition at a beach in south Florida, he blew everyone away when he flipped a massive truck tire over in less than a minute. It’s safe to say he found his calling.
8. Edward Reece was one man who never skipped ab day at the gym, and if anyone ever called him a liar, he’d just show them this photo. He could probably fit another lady or two if he tried.
9. Ever wonder who the strongest woman in the world is? Well, you’re looking at one of ’em! Donna Moore had a grip of steel, and here she is lifting a boulder that weighs over 300 pounds! She better watch those toes in case she drops it. Yikes!
10. Paul Anderson was wearing a smile on his face for a very good reason. Not only was he strong enough to lift both these massive metal wagon wheels on his thick shoulders, but he claimed to have backlifted the heaviest weight ever: 6,270 pounds!
11. If you ever get a chance to visit the Kila Raipur Festival in India, you’ll see plenty of crazy feats like this one. It’s a yearly festival where men and women from all over show off their wild talents. This guy had “balancing massive objects with his mouth” down pat.
12. This older man could have probably out-lifted most people who were decades younger than him! This photo was taken during World War II when thousands of older men volunteered to defend Britain. He may have been old, but this was certainly one guy you wouldn’t want to duel with.
13. The Australian Oak is a mammoth-sized log that competitors attempt to hoist directly above their head in order to win. This competitor and absolute unit, Žydrūnas Savickas from Lithuania, successfully manhandled the log to its winning position.
14. What do you when you’re a blacksmith named Joe Smith and your boss tells you to move an iron barrier to the other side of the street? You lean back, balance the entire thing on your chin, and walk it over like a boss!
15. Pro-wrestler Braun Strowman didn’t mess around when it came to lifting heavy things (as this picture clearly proves)! Have an issue with the underbelly of your truck? No need to bring out the jack; Strowman’s got it covered.
16. The man holding this enormous barbell was Eugen Sandow. He’s actually credited with being the first bodybuilder of modern times, and it’s easy to see why: this guy could lift! His showmanship even led to a close friendship with King George V of England!
17. One brick, two brick, red brick, Rubik. The way this woman stacked these bricks on her head makes them look like the heaviest Rubik’s cube of all time. Those balancing skills were second to none! Hopefully, she didn’t have far to travel…
18. Iranian strongman Siamand Rahman won several medals throughout his weightlifting career, and he bench pressed almost 700 pounds! However, that’s not even the most astonishing thing about him. He was actually a wheelchair-bound paraplegic who never let his handicap get in the way of greatness!
19. Too many drivers feel they have the right to park wherever it suits them, even if it’s in the middle of a bike lane. Well, when this guy’s around, you better believe he won’t let a car stand in the way of some good cycling. Lance Armstrong would be so proud of his commitment!
20. Even though the woman holding up the full-size piano and grown man didn’t have massive arms or bulging legs, she most likely had a core like a cement brick. Maybe she shouted out song requests to her musician friend to get her pumped while she lifted.
21. Varya Akulova became known as “the strongest girl in the world.” Born in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine as the first child of two circus performers, Yuriy Akulov and Larysa Akulova, Varya was defying everyone’s predictions even from the beginning.
Yuriy was confident his first child was going to be a boy. He was so certain of this that he had begun plans to rejoin the circus with a father-son act. So when baby Varya arrived, her parents were delighted, but her father’s dreams had also been dashed. Or at least that’s what he thought.
Varya’s family had a history of almost superhuman physical strength that was rumored to be a divine gift. When Varya was born her parents wondered if she, too, might have inherited this superior aptitude. After only a few months, the answer to their pondering became very apparent.
Around the time most infants are beginning to develop their motor skills, baby Varya was able to lift herself into a standing position. By the time she turned one year old, she was exhibiting great displays of strength in her hands and arms. Twelve months fresh, and little Varya was already a prodigy.
Yuriy’s crushed dream of a father-son circus act was soon resurrected as he saw the incredible gift his daughter possessed. Though it was not as Yuriy had initially pictured, his new idea of creating an act with Varya had him more inspired than he could have imagined. A family and father-daughter act would be their fortune. Sadly, that would be their only fortune.
In 1995, at only the age of 3, Varya joined the circus with her family. Initially, her performance was exclusive to gymnastics and acrobatics. Before long though, Varya would find herself with her father under the big top, raising the very heavy proverbial bar to join the ranks of the strong.
At 5 years old Varya would steal the show as she began performing weightlifting stunts alongside her parents. Through her training, Varya’s parents gave her advice and made sure she was practicing safe lifting— especially her father, who was her primary trainer. But there were some things her parents struggled to provide.
Ukraine in the ’90s was in economic shambles, and a family of circus performers really felt the worst of that crisis. When they weren’t traveling around the country, the Akulovas lived in a tiny one-room apartment above a bar. Varya’s family went without essentials such as a refrigerator and a stove, and the only bathroom they had was one they shared with the bar downstairs.
Living in this poverty was extremely difficult, but it didn’t deter Varya from her rigorous training. As the Akulovas were reduced to a diet of bread and noodles, Varya still managed to gain impressive strength, which was not only limited to her corporeal abilities.
Varya had quite the head on her rock hard shoulders. She excelled in her studies even in the midst of her demanding extracurricular activities and the hardships she experienced at home. That is a lot of weight for anyone to carry on their shoulders, but all that was only the beginning of what Varya proved she could handle.
One night when Varya went to use their shared bathroom at the bar, two drunk men started harassing her. Varya grabbed the two yapping men by their legs and threw them to the ground. They never bothered her again, but the incident did signal to her parents that a change needed to happen.
The family moved out of the small apartment and into the stairwell of a gym. The three of them slept together on a mattress at night and trained at the gym during the day. None of these obstacles could bring Varya down, though. She harnessed her gift and, by the age of 8, she accomplished something incredible!
At 8 years old and 88 pounds, little Varya set a Guinness World Record for lifting over double her own body weight when she pumped up 220 pounds of iron — that’s the weight of an average adult panda bear! Spectacular as her accomplishment was, Varya had even more uplifting things coming her way.
A year after Varya set her world record, the Akulovas finally saved up enough to move into their own apartment. Not only did their new home give Varya a room of her own at last, but it also had enough space for them to set up a gym so she could train from home. With the dedication she had to her lifting, it was clear there was much more in store for Varya.
By age 10, she was making international appearances and wowing audiences with her ability to easily support the weight of both her parents while lying flat between two chairs. Two years later, her father commented that Varya was now stronger than him. But just how much stronger, was beyond even his belief.
In 2006, at age 14 Varya blew the world away once again when she managed to lift over 660 pounds. That’s more than 4x her own body weight! This super power move earned Varya her second Guinness World Record! Wow. Can you say, GIRL POWER!
Even with a family history of Herculean strength, young Varya defied the odds and became, not only the strongest girl but the strongest of them all! Strength, as it is can intimidate and threaten the weak, and Varya’s strength was no exception.
As she continued to perform in the circus as a young woman, she would often be shouted out by men in the crowd with comments like, “No man would ever marry a strong woman.” Please don’t even pause for pity, because this strong woman just held her head high and kept on being the powerhouse that she was born to be.
Where is she now, you ask? After she was rejected from the 2012 London Olympics for the sheer reason the committee found it problematic that the 17-year-old’s father was her coach, she went to university. Aged 26 as of 2018, Varya continued her education while also juggling a job as a physical trainer.
Though some have commented that Varya’s upbringing was uncouth, looking back, Varya was grateful for her experiences and believed her childhood made her the strong girl she was and the strong woman she became. As she said in an interview, “I [only] wish I could be bigger, really big… like my dad.”