At the 2019 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) contest won by Martins Licis, the truck pull event required competitors to pull a pair of monster trucks weighing over 11,340 kilograms (25,000 pounds) a total distance of 22 meters. Although Licis was unable to defend his title at the 2020 WSM due to injury, he has since recovered and decided to head to the NRG Stadium in Houston, TX for a rematch with one of those monster trucks — the “Grave Digger.”
Although this truck pull involved just one monster truck instead of two and only needed to be pulled 12 meters, there were several key differences this time around that made it a much harder event for the 2019 WSM champ. Check out the full video below from Licis’ YouTube channel:
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Elements of a Truck Pull
During breakfast before the pull, Licis shared some of the often unthought-of factors that play a huge role in the success or failure of a truck pull.
For the 2019 WSM contest — and most strongman contests — truck or airplane pulls are usually done on asphalt. This is an important distinction from the dirt floor of the NRG stadium. Asphalt allows for the build-up of momentum that a strongman can focus on sustaining for the duration of the pull. Once a vehicle is moving, the strongman’s job is to just keep it moving until it crosses the finish line.
On dirt, there is no such thing as momentum when it comes to pulling monster trucks. Licis even suited up with baseball cleats. Each step he took had to brunt the 5,443 kilograms (12,000 pounds) of the entire 1,500-horsepower Grave Digger, making it way more difficult for him. So much so, that after the exhibition pull was complete, he admitted that he needed a push start from the crew to get some amount of movement on the truck to work with.
I could just not get momentum on it. I am humbled. Maybe the Grave Digger’s not meant to be pulled.
He ultimately was able to get the Grave Digger across the finish line. However, if you watch the video again, you will notice he struggled to maintain a low position to drive forward. Rather than staying near-parallel to the ground, each step caused him to stand nearly upright. That was the combination of weight and lack of momentum stunting his progress.
Compare his body position with the pull above to the one he did during the 2019 WSM contest in the video below from CBS Sports HQ’s YouTube channel:
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Even though he pulled twice the weight because there were literally two monster trucks instead of one, the momentum allowed by the asphalt allowed Licis to keep that low position and really drive forward for a fast time of 41.33 seconds. For those curious, this pull was during the qualifying stage — Licis won this event and placed first overall in his group which also included Aivars Smaukstelis of Latvia, Tom Stoltman of Great Britain, Mikhail Shivlyakov of Russia, and Eddie Williams of Australia.
This element is particularly subtle but can determine if the truck pull is even doable at all. A one- or two-degree change of the grade can shift a truck pull “from impossible to pretty easy.” It may not seem like much, but if any additional gravity is tacked onto a 12,000-pound pull, the truck is unlikely to budge.
If it’s even one or two degrees going uphill, that…could become impossible very quickly.
Luckily for Licis, the stadium grounds are maintained and he got to work with a flat surface (although he still had to contend with dirt).
This is not an issue about the type of tire used, but rather the amount of air in them. Tires that are fully filled allow for easier pulls, while tires that are a bit flatter will be more difficult. As part of the preparation before the pull which included a COVID test and warming up with pistol squats on top of the Grave Digger’s tires, the crew working the event made sure that the tires were really filled up.
Assuming Licis stays healthy, he already has a spot reserved for him at the 2021 WSM contest as all past winners have a guaranteed lifetime invite. Although it is not certain that a truck pull will be part of the event list, the Grave Digger is a pretty good training partner.
Feature image from Martins Licis’ Instagram page: @