T Nation

Strongman Deadlifts vs Powerlifting Deadlifts


Ok… probably a complete noob question but whatever. Why do strongmen seem to have much higher capacity for deadlift as opposed to powerlifters? Let’s take out the higher picks. I understand straps and hitching, but it just seems like strongmen are far and away leading the pack on this.


Do you mean work capacity, reps at a certain weight or just heavier deadlifting in general?


Specifically higher weights, but all of the above really.


Work capacity and rep capacity I think would be better. Strongman training lends itself more to those attributes. Like asking why powerlifters seem to be better at 1RM back squatting to Powerlifting standards than strongmen.

1RM deadlifts I dunno if your assumption holds. Straps add a bit to most people’s deadlifts I guess but that goes for powerlifters who use straps too.

Maybe in the absolute or SHW categories at the top level of each sport the kinds of builds in Powerlifting like with a power belly as well as a large part of training being focused on squatting leads to less on average deadlifting than comparable SHW strongmen who are taller guys, can’t turn into fat slobs to lift more statically and don’t focus the squat as much


You’re probably evaluating genetic predisposition and thinking it’s training related. Someone better at deadlifting due to size and lever length is probably pretty likely going to go into strongman sports these days.


So I’m not sure height plays the biggest role. Compare Dimitar Savatinov with Dave Hoff and they’re only inches apart but competition deadlifts are several hundred pounds apart if I’m not mistaken. Granted an equipped PL focuses on bench and squat, but it’s not like Dimitar has slouch numbers in either one of those. Then you’ve got Benedikt Magnusson who’s pulled 1000+ raw at 5’ 11”. Andy Bolton is also right in that height range at 6’ and no slouch, but is predominately known as a PL. Maybe it’s more to do with the purses and opportunity in strongman compared to PL currently, but it just seems strongman competitors are consistently turning in higher numbers.


There’s more money in strongman than powerlifting.

The guys that are predisposed to be the strongest will go to where they will get paid to be better at it.

Thor took a break from strongman, spent 8 weeks training for a powerlifting meet, and set a top 10 total. Larry Wheels took a break from powerlifting, spent 8 weeks training for a strongman competition, and took second place in an amateur competition.

Just different classes of athletes. And conversely, back when there was some money/fame to be found in both sports (or equal amounts), you had Kaz, who was one of the greatest powerlifters of all time dominating the sport of strongman, because Kaz was also just plain one of the strongest HUMANS of all time.

Speaking of Kaz, he brought up a cool theory on why strongman competitors deadlift with a wider stance; he said modern day training of strongman has a heavy emphasis on stones, which requires a wider stance than a narrow conventional deadlift stance. In turn, strongman spend a lot of time in that stance and get VERY strong in it, and it ends up carrying over to how they deadlift.


When I talked to one of the top guys still competing, that was one of the first things he did was spread my stance out. He said guys who tell you to deadlift with a narrower stance have never had to deal with being our size (also read as power bellies- that’s at least what I tell myself it is). In the lighter categories that could be, but some of us SHW guys just need to do it so that our belly isn’t pushing us out of position. Respect to Kaz though. One of the greatest of all time for sure.


This is the more obvious answer people give, but it discounts the fact that SHW powerlifters don’t pull with the same wide stance as strongman competitors, which is WHY Kaz explained the difference.

Look at the stance of Benni

Then look at Jerry Pritchett

Similar sized dudes, similar weighted deadlifts, different stances.


Fair point. You’re right that if his gut isn’t pushing him out, then other guys that size should be able to deadlift in a similar stance. I can say that, for whatever reason, I feel better wider. Could be all a mental trip though. You know how a placebo type deal can take hold.


I think straps play a huge role. A lot of top powerlifters are limited by grip.

Also on the subject of wider stance, straps allow for a wider grip, which allows for a wider stance. In particular, in a mixed grip the supinated hand needs to grip pretty much right under the shoulder or it just doesn’t work much. This means that the grip in powerlifting is almost always pretty much shoulder width. The stance is either inside shoulder width or sumo. Straps change this entirely.

Straps also allow for a slightly higher starting position, particularly the figure 8 strap. The bar can be lower in the hand.

Not saying other things don’t play a role, but straps help a lot, particularly for big guys with very heavy weights.


In terms of absolute strength (as in absolute weight on the bar), I think strongmen have the edge here because of their sheer mass. More muscle mass = more potential to lift heavy weight. But I think you also have to consider relative strength (as in weight lifted relative to body weight). For example, Eddie hall lifted 500kg (1.1k lbs) at 164kg (360lbs) body weight, making it roughly x3 body weight. There are smaller powerlifters though that can pull waaay more than x3 than their body weight. Tim thebodeau for example has lifted 317kg (700lbs) at 79.5 kg (175 lbs). That’s almost x3.9 bw.


Lighter guys will have better body weight multiples, independent of sport. Top sub 200lb strongmen are also pulling in the 700lb range. That said, I think you’re right that you only see this discrepancy among the really heavy lifters and there aren’t that many 400lb powerlifters.

Looking at Thor’s powerlifting meet, he pulled 900 and failed around 950 due to grip. That considering Thor has pulled 1000 in a strongman meet. So I’d say most of the difference is due to equipment and rule sets(straps, hitching, whippy bars, pull height).


Straps are a non-factor in my opinion. I mean the biggest benefit to them is that if you learn to cheat by shaving off a few inches of ROM, you’re really only adding like 5-15lbs to your deadlift. Outside of that, there’s nothing included with straps that could explain the 100+lb gap between all the top PL deadlifts and top strongman deadlifts.


Thor dropped 946.


Thor missed 947 on grip, Jerry Pritchett’s best pull is 914, also fails with grip (his grip is world class in farmers/frame carries, but the DL bar gives him skin-tearing issues).

Steve Goggins, many years ago, pulled 947 with straps vs. his best pull of around 859 at the time (this was before he hit 881 in competition).

While I do think Strongman competitors have much stronger backs, there are some that benefit hugely from straps. Anyone that is extremely powerful off the floor and to just above the knees, can really add some pounds with straps & ramping/hitching. The “2-stage” pull is discussed pretty routinely for those who can master the technique.

Now for me, my sticking point is below the knees, so I get very little from straps. Straps certainly aren’t magical, and many who are used to the over/under grip often pull LESS with straps… but there are certainly some people who can get a lot out of them.


Part of the conversation should also include the fact that many things can disqualify a deadlift in powerlifting versus in strongman. Because of that a powerlifter needs to be more conservative with their attempts. Many powerlifters can “gym” lift much more than in competition (especially with straps).


Yeah okay, but it was still 946, and who knows how many times he has trained mixed grip in the last 10 years. Fresh, with a few months of training mixed grip, you’re telling me he isn’t gonna pull a grand strapless?

There’s a serious gap between top PL’s and strongman. It might be a bit lesser than I stated admittedly, but it’s absolutely there. There isn’t a single powerlifter that can throw on straps and add anything significant to their deadlift on a record-breaking scale. Eric Lilliebridge could probably get like 930 with straps because his hands are softer than a babies ass (seriously, he has failed more daedlifts via hand tear than anyone i’ve ever seen or known).

I’ve also pulled 650 double over and no hook and I pull virtually the same with straps. I might just be a weird exception, but yeah.


That’s a big generalisation to make lol. If I asked a bunch of powerlifters if they deadlift more with straps 8/10 maybe 9/10 would say they lift more.

Dunno how it is at the top level because I haven’t checked out enough high level powerlifters Instagram to see how they perform with vs without straps to make generalisations. Two off the top my head:

Yury Belkin - ATWR DL 110kg class, 2nd heaviest PLifting DL

Sergey Daragan - ATWR DL 125kg class, 6th Heaviest Powerlifting DL (May have recently been usurped by the guy in 7th though)

Seems dudes with grip or hand tearing being a limiting factor and sumo pullers benefit greatly from straps. Andrey Belayaev a now retired lifter I think who got a lot from both benefits. His pulls in comp were either easy as fuck or he dropped em. Apparently he could rep out more than his comp best in training with straps and this was a guy who was already a world record holder.

And yes ur a freak lol. 650 double overhand is ridiculous makes me wonder what the record for that is? I have it in my mind it’s martins licis maybe?


What I meant more by the quoted statement (which you took out of context, but I understand considering what I said stood out pretty boldly lol), is that if they started wearing straps in powerlifting…it wouldn’t make them catch up to strongmen any time soon, if at all.

I sincerely think strongmen are just stronger than powerlifters on the deadlift because the drive in strongman to get better is so much greater than that of the terribly underpaid and not as vehemently competitive powerlifters.

Perhaps it has something to do with physically going head to head against your opponent, the larger (much larger) crowds, large prize money pools and above all, the great respect for the sport each athlete has. Powerlifting seems so calculated, calm and cool, whereas strongman is a bunch of fucking freaks who will die trying to lift something while doing whatever they can to make sure their adversary doesn’t jack the title from them first.

Boy do I sound like I’m full of my own shit. I kind of am though. I mean powerlifting is fantastic, but it just seems like half the guys at the top are way too humble and trying so hard to avoid injury and be perfect that they unintentionally mute the animal in them and it makes them weaker? Either that or I’m really poetic.