“Big Z” – Zydrunas Savickas
Zydrunas Savickas isn’t merely a strong man – he’s the most consistent strongman of all time.
We affectionately refer to him as Big Z, but Lithuania’s Strongest Man is as much brain as he is brawn, working within his countries government on top of a full schedule of strength training. His physical toughness is matched by a mental toughness that has seen him overcome injury setbacks, and challenging rivalries.
The 39-year-old Zydrunas Savickas began his career as a powerlifter, where his strict barbell training was less conducive to his strongman success than you might think. The high variance of a strongman competition meant there were areas where the muscle-bound Big Z was inefficient and undertrained.
Despite rocketing into success as a powerlifter, transitioning his straight lifts into functional muscle with odd-shaped objects, stones, logs, and more, presented early challenges to him. In fact, you’ll have trouble finding an early strongman competition where Mr. Savickas wasn’t being criticized for his weakness in the overhead press – especially during the log lifts.
Flash forward about ten years from the days of harsh criticism – and Z’s the best log lifter who ever lived.
In the wake of his newest World Record set beside Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Arnold Strongman Classic Brazil last weekend (shown in the YouTube video above), I thought it high time to dedicate some spotlight to one of my all time favorite athletes.
Here’s more info on the man who ‘had trouble in the overhead press’, and went on to become the 5x World Log Lifting Champion among other, even more incredible records.
Professional Rivalry with Mariusz Pudzianowski
In 1998, Zydrunas qualified but did not enter the Finals of the most popular strongman contest: World’s Strongest Man.
He tried again in 2000, and failed to make the finals a second time. Headstrong and determined, he wouldn’t see the 2001 contest after tearing both patellar ligaments in a minor league competition. That’s about as extremely as you can “blow out your knee”, or both knees in his case.
Nine months later he was the Lithuanian Powerlifting Champion, and in 2002, he proved himself the second strongest man on planet Earth. In first place that year was Mariusz Pudzianowski, the only 5-time World’s Strongest Man winner. In another challenging heat, they repeated their placings in 2003.
When Pudzianowski received a temporary ban, eliminating him from 2004 WSM competition, it was thought that Savickas would clean house. Instead, he maintained himself at second place, and went into a long break away from the promotion to focus on maintaining his titles elsewhere, particularly his 1st place at the Arnold Strongman Classic – a ranking he maintained for six consecutive years (2003-2008).
But Pudzia was busy back in the premier promotion, and there was only one way to prove which champion was truly the strongest on Earth. In 2009, Big Z returned guns a’blazing to challenge Mariusz fresh off his 2008 record-setting 5th WSM Championship. Here’s the finale:
Pudzianowski’s record may yet be tied by his former rival Savickas, who has since been labeled ‘World’s Strongest Man’ four times… but one very sizable man stands in his way.
Ongoing Professional Rivalry with Brian Shaw
Big Z has weighed in as heavy as 400lbs for competition, according to wikipedia.
I know from personally watching him compete over the years that 395 is a comfortable home for him. At 6’3″, you could say he’s one of the largest, most intimidating men you’d ever have the scare of bumping into. [Actually, he seems very friendly].
It’s no surprise then, his greatest rival today is even larger and more intimidating.
At 6’8″, 434lbs, Colorado’s Brian Shaw is a bona fide mountain king.
Remember when you thought Jay Cutler was huge?
These two men have been playing give-and-take with the title of strongest man since 2010. In fact, it was Shaw who, in 2009, placed 3rd behind Mariusz Pudzianowski.
The two have not earned two-in-a-row since Brian Shaw won his first in 2011. And they have been among each other in the Top 3 an impressive six times.
Some call Zydrunas Savickas the strongest man to ever live… so long as he’s driven to defeat Shaw, he’ll maintain that title.
Big Z plan’s on breaking his Overhead Press World Record once this year, and again next year.