After retiring from competitive strongman in the summer of 2020 following his 10th consecutive Iceland’s Strongest Man victory, Hafthor Björnsson is getting back in the game. More specifically, the 2018 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) champion will first compete as a powerlifter and then return to competitive strongman.
On Feb. 13, 2023, Björnsson took to his YouTube channel to share a video titled “I am coming out of retirement.” First, he says he intends to break Dan Bell‘s all-time world record raw (w/wraps) total of 1,182.5 kilograms (2,607 pounds) scored at the 2021 WRPF Hybrid Showdown III. That will be followed by his return to strongman in 2024.
Before delving into further details of how he plans to do that, Björnsson recapped his strongman career and subsequent boxing career since his strongman debut in 2009. Check it out below:
Hafthor Björnsson’s Strongman Career
Since debuting in competitive strongman in 2009, Björnsson has won every major contest out there. He’s made nine appearances at the WSM contest, finishing on the podium in all but his debut — he reached the Finals 100 percent of the time. Björnsson also won three of his four appearances at the Arnold Strongman Classic (ASC), with the outlier being a runner-up finish in 2017 to four-time WSM champion, Brian Shaw.
In his six Europe’s Strongest Man (ESM) appearances, Björnsson won five times (2014-15, 2017-2019), finishing as the runner-up in 2016 to Laurence Shahlaei. According to Strongman Archives, Björnsson competed in 62 international strongman competitions and won 28, meaning his win rate was 45.2 percent.
World’s Strongest Man Results — Hafthor Björnsson
- 2011 WSM — Sixth Place
- 2012 WSM — Third Place
- 2013 WSM — Third Place
- 2014 WSM — Second Place
- 2015 WSM — Third Place
- 2016 WSM — Second Place
- 2017 WSM — Second Place
- 2018 WSM — First Place
- 2019 WSM — Third Place
Arnold Strongman Classic Results — Hafthor Björnsson
- 2017 ASC — Second Place
- 2018 ASC — First Place
- 2019 ASC — First Place
- 2020 ASC — First Place
In addition to his competitive accolades, Björnsson lifted the heaviest deadlift ever recorded when he pulled 501 kilograms (1,104.5 pounds) in May 2020 as part of World’s Ultimate Strongman (WUS) “Feats of Strength” series. He is one of only two men ever to lift 500 kilograms in a conventional stance — the other is 2017 WSM champion Eddie Hall, who pulled 500 kilograms (1,102.3 pounds) at the 2016 World Deadlift Championships in Leeds, England.
Björnsson became a household name worldwide for his portrayal of Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane in the HBO series Game of Thrones. His popularity grew as he overhauled his physique, dropping significant weight to compete as a professional boxer. His bout against Hall in a match billed as “The Heaviest Boxing Match of All Time” ended in a unanimous decision victory for the Icelander. However, after training as a boxer for two years, Björnsson felt unfulfilled:
I never really fell in love with the sport. I didn’t feel the same passion for boxing as I did for strongman.
Björnsson’s decision to return to strongman and compete as a competitive powerlifter stems from his desire to further his legacy in the strength sports world.
Breaking the All-Time Raw (w/Wraps) World Record Total
Björnsson says he intends to break the all-time raw total world record by the end of 2023. While he admitted that that timeframe “seems crazy,” it is partly because Björnsson is eyeing his return to competitive strongman by 2024. As a former WSM champion, he has a lifetime invite to any future WSM contest, so qualifying for the sport’s biggest show is a non-issue. However, Björnsson did not list WSM as a contest he wanted to compete in. He instead mentioned the ASC and the Rogue Strongman Invitational.
To beat Bell’s all-time raw total world record, Björnsson has quite a training journey ahead. Here are the weights Bell successfully scored at the 2021 Hybrid Showdown III:
2021 Hybrid Showdown III Results — Dan Bell (+140KG) | Raw (w/Wraps)
- Squat — 500 kilograms (1,102.3 pounds)
- Bench Press — 272.5 kilograms (600.8 pounds)
- Deadlift — 410 kilograms (903.9 pounds)
- Total — 1,182.5 kilograms (2,607 pounds) — All-Time World Record
At the time of this article’s publication, Björnsson’s most recent powerlifting stats come from the 2022 Thor’s Powerlifting Meet at Thor’s Power Gym, in Reykjavik, Iceland, held on Dec. 3, 2022. Here are the results:
2022 Thor’s Powerlifting Meet Results — Hafthor Björnsson (+140KG) | (Raw w/Wraps)
- Squat — 380 kilograms (837.7 pounds)
- Bench Press — 210 kilograms (463 pounds)
- Deadlift — 380 kilograms (837.7 pounds)
- Total — 970 kilograms (2,138.5 pounds)
Though opening the powerlifting record books to write in his name above Bell’s by the end of the year is a tall order, historically, Björnsson has consistently accomplished the goals he sets for himself. The questions now are which sanctioned meet will host Björnsson when he chases history and whether the top strongmen in the world are ready for an even steeper climb up “The Mountain” to reach the podium in 2024.