The year is 2008. Mariusz Pudzianowski has just won his fifth World Strongest Man title and I am in a heated discussion with my cousin about who the strongest man ever is. My cousin said Pudzianowski and I, being the strength nerd that I am, argued for Vasily Alekseyev. While we all know that I am right (first man to press 500 lbs.!), it was a conversation that always stuck with me.
How can we compare and contrast athletes from the past? It is a question that plagues both sport fans and historians. From my own perspective, I love these conversations and can spend hours engaged in them. Was Louis Cyr stronger than one of the Stoltman brothers? What about Arthur Saxon? How would he fare against Jim Bradford or Tommy Kono? How does Vasily stack up against someone like Žydrūnas Savickas?
Obviously we can’t fully answer these questions. To do so we need to compare pressing, pulling and leg power across dozens of modalities. We need to take into account advances in training, technique, nutrition and, obviously, performance enhancing drugs. This does not mean such conversations are a lost cause. They demand that we look towards our own philosophy of strength and it’s boundaries.
Philosophy of Strength?
What do you class as strong? It is not a trick question but an invitation to look within. For me, strength primarily revolves around static, big movement lists like the deadlift, squat, bench or press. I’m not proficient in any of these lifts, but they inspire awe in me more than a truck pull, hundreds of chin ups or multiple squats. I care about the latter, but not that much.
We all have our own strength philosophy. The Arnold Strongman is different from the World Strongest Man in the lifts used. Everyone has a benchmark and a boundary. It is what makes the Iron Game just so much fun. This does not mean that conversations, like Vasily versus Mariuz, should not exist.
But sometimes people try and create a quantifiable measurement system similar to other sports. For readers in North America, you will be familiar with baseball trading cards. You buy a pack, rip it open and then proceed to compare the overall score Cal Ripken Junior got versus Alvin Davis (too dated a reference?). Readers in Europe, the closer thing we have are football stickers, which often distinguish athletes based on their overall score, their attack, defense etc. For very immature people (like my good self), you may also remember how cool Top Trumps are.
For those unaware, Top Trumps are a card game, usually based on a movie or book franchise, which will pit characters against one another. So for Harry Potter nerds (again … me), you can compare Harry Potter’s courage versus that of Draco Malfoy. Well, for strength nerds, as opposed to nerds nerds (again … me), someone has created trading cards for the strongest men to ever live.
Strongest Ever Trading Cards
Early this year I received a strange but wonderful email from someone interested in the history of strength. This isn’t the first time this has happened and, in fact, some of my happiest moments come from people who reach out to me to share their love of strength and their family stories. This time was different, however. This time, the emailer was interested in answering questions like who was stronger, Vasily or Mariusz? More than that, they wanted to create an objective system which would compare them.
And thus, I was introduced to Strongest Ever Trading Cards. Launched this month, Strongest Ever Trading Cards feature profiles of some of the Strongest Men in the world, gives them a strength profile, lists their achievements and, amazingly, allows for people to compare strong men from across history. They feature powerlifters, strongmen, Olympic weightlifters and strongmen from the past.
My role in this process is purely as a fan. I read over some of the profiles, made some slight corrections to ensure their historical accuracy and continually praised their creator. As I’ve talked about previously on this website, I love public histories which bring the weird and wonderful from the Iron Game to the masses. Strongest Ever Cards do just that. They are snippets of history which are just so inventive and awesome.
I have run and written for this website for eight years and I have rarely, if ever, promoted a product. I am not getting paid for this post but I am passionate about this product. If you love the histories found here, I have no doubt you will enjoy the fun and wonder of these cards. For $10 a pack, they are a great Christmas gift for the lifter in your life. The more people who get involved, the more arguments can be had at Christmas over who could possibly be stronger than Vasily Alekseyev?
Strongest Ever Trading Cards
* Buy a pack here: https://strongestevertc.com/
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