When he was still competing, Bill Kazmaeir was once asked if he or Alexeyev was the strongest man who ever lived.
Kaz answered ‘‘in his lifts he is the strongest, in my lifts I’m the strongest’’.
Incidentely I personally consider Kaz to be the strongest overall strength athlete of all time.
But to go with what Kaz said… every strongman had his fetish lifts, in which he was the strongest. None of them were the strongest at every lift. So it is a matter of establishing the value of those lifts; and I don’t think that we will ever agree on that.
Is a 950lbs deadlift more or less impressive than a 560lbs clean and jerk? In the deadlift you are lifting twice the weight, but over a much lesser distance. Some men have deadlifted 900lbs + but couldn’t clean over 480… some men clean & jerked in the 500s and couldn’t deadlift 700… so it’s hard to say.
And what about equipment? The quality of the bar can make a significant difference at those levels of strength. Charles Rigoulot cleaned and pressed 400lbs with a non-revolving barbell… how would he have lifted had he used a revolving bar. I know that when I could clean 360lbs+ with a good bar, I was AT LEAST 10-15% weaker on a lesser quality bar.
What about those who accomplished mostly odd lifts, like lifting barrels, climbing ladders attached to a horse, back lifting, lifting thick bars, lifting rocks, etc. How do you compare those with barbell lifts?
And I’m not even discussing modern powerlifting equipment like bench shirts and squat suits!
And are we talking absolute or relative strength? Victor Delamarre did a bent press with 400lbs (supporting feat of strength where you end up holding one barbell overhead with one arm) and did a one arm DB press with 280lbs… at a bodyweight of only 155lbs. Which is more than what Louis Cyr did at 300lbs+… but Cyr was far stronger on other lifts.
Naim Suleymanoglu clean & jerked 3x his bodyweight (roughly 430lbs if my memory serves me well) which is 155lbs less than what Taranenko clean & jerked (586lbs). But Taranenko’s lift was EONS from being 3x bodyweight.
I think that there are close to 10 guys for whom you could make a case of being the strongest man who ever lived. And none of them really stand out, except if you have a marked ‘‘lift preference’’.