World's Strongest Man Magnus Ver Magnusson

The four-time winner discusses today's Strongman competitors and why Iceland breeds them so well.

World's Strongest Man Magnus Ver Magnusson

Magnús Ver Magnússon has built a powerful body of work. Though it’s been a while since he officially held the title of World’s Strongest Man, he’s been carrying the competition on his massive back and reputation for nearly three decades. The 53-year-old may not have been the biggest man in the competition—but he certainly had the biggest impact.

“I like being appreciated for what I did,” he admits.

With an unprecedented four WSM titles, including three in a row—only Mariusz Pudzianowski has more total wins with five—the rugged Icelander was the Incredible Hulk in a universe of Herculeses, and his name was as synonymous with his sport as Michael Jordan’s or Babe Ruth’s had been to theirs.

And it all started on a small farm, somewhere in rural Iceland—which is somehow the land of the giants in the sport—and Magnús would soon tower above them all.

“I was always stronger than the rest of the kids,” he admits. “I was working on my grandfather’s farm when I was really young, and I was throwing hay bales around like they were nothing. This being Iceland, a powerlifter moved to my village—which only had about 1,000 people—and he started a sports council with weightlifting equipment, and it didn’t take long for me to get hooked.”

Ver Magnússon opened up the Jakabol gym—now a breeding ground for Strongmen including Hafthór Björns- son—with his own handmade equipment in 2009 in Iceland’s capital and only real city, Rekjavik. There, he met his predecessor as Iceland’s premier powerlifter, Jón Páll Sigmarsson, and began training with him and quickly surpassed him as the country’s strongest man.

“He taught me quite a bit,” says Ver Magnússon, and from 1989–91 he won medals in the European Power Lifting Championships and placed third in Iceland’s Strongest Man in 1985, with Sigmarsson taking the top spot.

“I got a taste and wanted to be the best, so I started training more and got invited to the Scottish Highland Games, and I beat everybody,” he recalls. “Sigmarsson got hurt, and I got invited to take his place. I left powerlifting and knew I’d found my path in Strongman.”

It was a path of destruction as far as his competitors were concerned. He won his first WSM championship in 1991, and when he came in second the next two years, personal frustration weighed on him heavier than the trucks he pulled.

“The first time I won people might have thought I was lucky,” he says. “Then I got second in ’92 and ’93, and I realized the only reason I didn’t win was that I wasn’t prepared properly.”

So he revolutionized the training process for the competition and ripped off an unprecedented three titles in a row. Only American Bill Kazmaier had completed this feat (1980-82).

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