How Does Larry Wheels’ 440-Pound Overhead Press Compare to Other Pressing Legends?

In 2018, Larry took off the training wheels for this monster of a lift. Here's how he stacks up to other pressing GOATs.

On August 23, 2018, fitness personality and multi-sport competitor Larry “Wheels” Williams overhead pressed 200 kilograms (440.9 pounds) from the rack. A little over three years later, Wheels threw the lift back up onto social media to serve up a chilling reminder that he’s simply built different.

To give credit where credit is due, we’re going to revisit what could be considered one of Wheels’ most impressive achievements in strength ever — a difficult conclusion to arrive at, given his reputation for ravaging the barbell. Check out the strict press below, courtesy of Wheels’ Instagram page, and then read on to see how his lift stacks up against some of the other greats of the overhead game.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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[Related: The 15 Best Upper Body Exercises to Build a Strong Torso]

How Wheels Pressed

To ask how Larry lifts the amount of weight he does may be as silly as asking why the sun rises in the sky — it appears to be the natural order of things. However, this press merits a closer look. Despite Wheels’ achieving complete elbow extension, his back reclines drastically and he uses the momentum from bouncing the bar off of his chest to help propel the weight overhead. While he doesn’t utilize his legs, whether or not this lift can or should be considered a strict press is iffy. Still, any strength enthusiast can rally behind a lifter pushing 440-pounds overhead. 

Pressing in Competiton

From 1928 until 1972, the press was actually performed in Olympic lifting competitions, where athletes would leverage their torsos to move tremendous weights overhead after being cleaned from the floor. 

The right lifting equipment can help in a big way on attempts like this. Wheels wore a sturdy lifting belt to brace his back. He also wore elbow sleeves and wrist wraps to support his joints. Given the fact that the man is pushing a small horse overhead with his bare hands, some soft tissue support seems wise. 

One valid criticism of this lift could be that Wheels got some assistance from momentum. The overhead press is typically performed from a static start with the barbell resting on the clavicle. Wheels suspended the weight near his chin before letting it fall to his chest and pressing upwards — breaking inertia may have worked to his benefit, but there aren’t many people who can hold over four hundred pounds aloft in the first place. 

More Impressive Presses

While Wheels made his rise to fitness stardom by performing ludicrously heavy lifts in the gym, a press of this caliber places him in the echelons of other strength sports icons. Also, many of the all-time great overhead lifts were performed by athletes with many more years of training under their belt and at much higher body weights. To see how Wheels holds up to history, let’s look at a few of the most impressive presses ever performed.

Below, all but one of the lifts are of weightlifters performing strict presses or clean & presses, as those are the closest in comparison to Wheels’ feat. That said, it’s important to note that Wheels’ lift would never count in an official weightlifting competition, as he didn’t clean the weight from the floor. Still, the presses below are elite and should contextualize how strong Wheels’ overhead game is. 

Mart Seim — 150 Kilograms for Six Repetitions

Estonian weightlifter Mart Seim is known as one of the most brutally strong Olympic lifters alive. Beyond his truly astonishing 400-kilogram (881.8-pound) squat, Seim’s platform performances don’t always outshine what he’s done in the gym. In 2017, Seim — who placed second in the now-defunct +105-kilogram category at the 2015 Weightlifting World Championships — graced the internet with a 150-kilogram (330.6-pound) press for a set of six. Check it out:

Dmitry Klokov — 162 Kilograms 

Russian weightlifter Dmitry Klokov needs no introduction, whether as a world-class competitor or Olympic lifting’s biggest celebrity. At his personal expo, the Klokov Power Weekend in 2015, Klokov stepped on stage to press 162 kilograms (357.1 pounds) without so much as a flinch in the knees or a bend of the back. 

Almost as impressive as the press, was perhaps the world’s most casual power clean Klokov, who won both the 2005 WWC and 2010 European Championships at 105 kilograms, performed to get the weight to his shoulders.

Paul Anderson — 182 Kilograms

Prior to 1972, what is now recognized as Olympic weightlifting was once commonly known as the Classic Olympic Triathlon, where the clean & press was considered a competitive movement. In 1955, strength legend Paul Anderson clean & pressed roughly 182 kilograms (402.5 pounds) — the heaviest weight ever moved overhead at the time. 

In the +90-kilogram weight category, Anderson was an Olympic gold medalist (1955), Weightlifting World Champion (1955), and a two-time U.S. National Weightlifting Champion (1955-56).

Serge Reding — 228 Kilograms

In 1971, one of the final years of the press’s tenure as a competition lift, Serge Reding performed one of the historical great achievements in strength. With exemplary effort and a precise display of the requisite technique, Reding crushed a 228-kilogram (502-pound) clean & press.

Reding was a four-time silver medalist at the WWC (1968-70, 1974), and a gold medalist at the 1968 European Championships. He was also a silver medalist at the 1968 Olympic Games (+90 kilograms). While briefly considered an untouchable achievement, Reding’s lift would be exceeded only moments later. 

Vasily Alekseyev — 230 Kilograms

Russian weightlifter Vasily Alekseyev may be the country’s most powerful export of all time. Having set over 80 individual records throughout his career, Alekseyev helped to cement his legacy by performing the heaviest — and possibly most contentious — press in history. 

In the same competition as Serge Reding, Alekseyev lifted 230 kilograms (507 pounds). While the lift was validated on the day, the footage shows what could be construed as a visible bend in Vasily’s knees as he hoists the weight up with pristine upper body mechanics. Whether he performed a push press or not, Alekseyev’s name remains synonymous with strength. 

Žydrūnas Savickas — 228-Kilogram Log Press

No conversation about the strongest overhead athletes could be had in good faith without including Žydrūnas Savickas. At 46 years old, the Lithuanian lifter is among the winningest strength athletes in history, racking up dozens of gold medals in both strongman and powerlifting throughout his career. In 2015 at the Arnold Classic Brazil and in the presence of Schwarzenegger himself, Savickas hoisted 228 kilograms (502.6 pounds) in the log lift — a popular strongman event that has the athlete press a loaded log (or log-shaped implement) with a neutral grip. 

Comparing it to a barbell press is a bit like comparing apples to oranges, but it remains the heaviest log press ever. Note: Big Z did use some leg drive to get the weight up. (In strongman competitions, athletes are allowed to perform a push press or split jerk to get the weight overhead.) The four-time World’s Strongest Man and eight-time Arnold Strongman Classic winner undeniably possesses one of the strongest pairs of shoulders in history. To match the greats of the clean and press with a larger, more cumbersome object speaks to Savickas’ terrifying levels of strength.  

In the Conversation

With exactly 200 kilograms on the barbell, Larry’s overhead press can be considered elite. Plus, the fact that Wheels pressed what most would consider a decent deadlift while having shredded abs makes him all the more impressive.

At 26 years old, Wheels has a long, long way to go in his career. With the right program, nutrition, and energy in the gym — something Wheels is not hurting for — we expect to see far more from him in the future. 

Featured Image: @larrywheels on Instagram