Powerlifters focus on lifting HEAVY. They aren’t necessarily concerned about the physique, just raw power. These tanks will usually be running a program like the Smolov Squat Program, a program requiring them to do 10 sets of 3 reps of squats every week, yep.
So here are 20 famous powerlifters that have taken the calling and have shown the world what the human body is truly capable of.
#1 – Ed Coan
Ed Coan is basically the #1 powerlifter ever, here’s why.
First of all, he set over 70 world records, just to say the least.
Here are his lifts if you’re interested:
- Bench Press: 584 lbs
- Squat: 1,109 lbs
- Deadlift: 901 lbs.
Ed Coan’s “total” was 2,463 lbs. A total is the combination of your bench press, deadlift, and squat. Most lifters after 3-4 years can hope to reach an 800 lb total.
Did I mention Ed Coan was only 220 lbs? I mean come on, at 170 lbs I was squatting 330 lbs. With only 50 more lbs than me, he is squatting nearly 3x that. This guy is incredible!
Ed Coan can kind of be considered one of the ancients of powerlifting. He was born in 1963 and competed in his first competition in 1988, at just 25, and competed until 2001. So needless to say, everybody in the industry knows him and he is considered one of the most famous powerlifters of all time.
#2 – Eddie Hall
Eddie Hall is one of the most famous powerlifters currently. While he is not ‘technically’ a powerlifter, I still had to include him in this list due to him holding the current deadlift world record.
Eddie Hall was nominated World’s Strongest Man in 2017 and holds the official world record deadlift of 500kg, which is 1,102 lbs.
Sure, he might be a strongman, but he still has beaten out every other powerlifter at what their sport is literally all about! So in my eyes, he’s both. And for what it’s worth, you don’t necessarily have to be confined to just powerlifting or bodybuilding or being a strongman, it’s a spectrum (or something like that).
Regardless, this guy lifts HEAVY. Plus, he’s huge and a funny guy.
#3 – Doug Young
Doug Young is one of the most famous powerlifters and one of my favorite powerlifters for one big reason.
This guy competed in a competition, squatted so much he literally BROKE 3 RIBS, then continued to bench press AND deadlift, AND STILL WON GOLD.
I’m not kidding, here’s a video of it in action!
This dude was a certified champion in my book. He is tough as nails and I admire his ability to continue. Personally, if I broke my ribs during a competition, I would just leave.
#4 – Stan Efferding
Stan Efferding is one of the most famous powerlifters because he is so inspiring and was featured on Shark Tank.
First of all, he is inspiring because, at 45, his lifting totals were 2,300+ pounds! At 45, most guys at that age just give up. In fact, if I was 45 I’d probably throw in the towel too. (But we will see how I hold up in 20 years…)
He’s definitely living life, even in his late 40s.
#5 – Scot Mendelson
Scot Mendelson set a world record of 1,031 lbs on the bench press. That’s just crazy. I mean, squatting 1,000 lbs feels like the world is crashing down on you- what could benching it feel like?
And you know if you mess up it’s not going to be pretty. How can the spotters even lift that much weight?
Regardless, that takes a lot of strength! Furthermore, this guy competes in arm wrestling and even defeated a legend, Travis Bagent.
Scot Mendelson is one of the famous powerlifters and he is still active today.
#6 – Jesse Marunde
Jesse Marunde is one of the most famous powerlifters, but unfortunately, we lost him too early. Jesse Marunde passed away at the age of 27 due to a genetic heart defect.
He qualified for World’s Strongest Man at just 22 years old. Imagine being 22 and being called the world’s strongest man!
This dude is good for those like me that want to start lifting but at a young age. I started at 15, but was discouraged because it’s not common to find other teen lifters. Jesse reminds me and my friends we don’t have to wait ’til our 20s
#7 – Manfred Hoeberl
Manfred Hoeberl is one of the most famous powerlifters because he has had the largest arms in the world at 26 inches. This is even bigger than my boy Rich Piana at 23.5 inches.
This dude also came up from Austria in the same town Arnold Schwarzenegger was from.
Regardless, his big arms were one of the most notable and memorable features, and for good reason.
#8 – Louie Simmons
Louie Simmons is the owner of the famous westside barbell. I’m telling you, if you haven’t watched the documentary of Westside Barbell, watch it right now below.
Westside Barbell is one of powerlifting’s most exclusive and controversial gyms. This VICE documentary really just explains it better than I ever could.
Louie Simmons has trained some of the most famous powerlifters and popularized one of the most famous methods of training, the westside barbell method or the conjugate method. It really is a different way of training that is far different than the standardized 5x5/Push/Pull/Legs split.
Regardless, it’s proven to work, and many of the westside barbell members are huge because of it.
#9 – Kirk Karwoski
Kirk Karwoski squatted over 1,003 pounds in a competition. I think that’s all I have to say.
He is a super famous powerlifter because he won 6 IPF World Championships in a row. He is also a seven-time U.S Powerlifting National Champion and is known for his squatting.
I sympathize with him for his squatting, he does 800 lbs for a set of 5 when he’s just casually working out at the gym. If you’re trying to get big like him, check out the Smolov Squat Program!
#10 – Ronnie Coleman
Ronnie Coleman is incredibly funny. Imagine you have a police officer that is pure muscle 300 lbs chasing after you screaming “YEAHH BUDDY” and when he tackles you he says “AINT NOTHIN BUT A PEANUT” as he folds you in half to handcuff you.
Just kidding, but this dude is funny. Those are his sayings, “AINT NOTHING BUT A PEANUT” and “YEAHHH BUDDY” just check out this video of it. He is one of the most famous powerlifters for those quotes alone.
Plus, he used to be a police officer. So if you’re into that stuff, you might find him as a good idol.
I could do say and talk about how he won the Mr.Olympai title 8 times, or did 200 lbs of curls for 12 reps, or played football too, or had 24 inch arms…you get the point. But this guy is genuinely a funny guy to be around and definitely boosts your mood in the gym!
#11 – Ted Arcidi
Ted Arcidi is a famous powerlifter but not completely for his lifting numbers.
Sure, he benched 700, and was actually the first to bench 700+ lbs in a competition. But, he was most notably famous for his appearances in Wrestlemania and in TV commercials.
If you aren’t sure if you’ve seen the guy, you probably have on TV at some point in your life.
#12 – Lamar Gant
Lamar Gant is one of those famous powerlifters for A) overcoming an extremely limiting disability and B) showing the world that his disability will NOT limit him.
Lamar Gant was the first to ever deadlift 5x his body weight (634 lbs at 123 lbs). To top that, he holds the deadlift world record at the 123lb and 132 lb class.
Here’s the thing, Lamar Gant has extreme scoliosis of the spine. Generally, if you have scoliosis of the spine, it becomes incredibly hard to lift things.
Don’t even get me started on overhead press, or even deadlifting for that matter. Any lifting becomes incredibly tough and challenging, but against all odds, he pushed past it.
I think Lamar Gant is incredibly inspiring just because he’s sending a message for you bodybuilders or future powerlifters out there that no matter your disability, you can still partake in the sport and have fun with it!
#13 – Louis Cyr
Louis Cyr is one of those almost ‘myths or legends’ of powerlifting. This guy is rumored to be the strongest man in literal history. It is said that he literally lifted 553 lbs of the ground with just one single finger.
He has a record back lift of nearly 4,350 pounds. Lifted a 500 lb stone onto his shoulder, and was said to eat 6 pounds of meat in one single sitting. Louis Cyr spent his entire childhood life in a lumber camp and family farm.
But he did something incredible. In bodybuilding or general lifting, there’s this idea of progressive overload from someone named Milo of Croton. Milo of Croton carried a calf on his back every day as it grew into a bull to become stronger.
Well, Louis Cyr took it upon himself to do that too. Well, until the calf kicked him, then he just started carrying around sandbags lol.
So apparently this guy was basically a nobody, then word got around that he single-handedly lifted a farmer’s wagon out of a ditch where it was stuck. Then he started to get a name for himself.
He goes to the United States, then proceeds to enter a competition where he picks up a horse. What??? Then he decides to wrestle some 365-pound guy and WINS.
This guy might’ve literally been super human.
#14 – Iron Bear Collins
Iron Bear Collins is one of the most famous powerlifters because he is the world’s strongest Native American!
Coming from the Lumbee Tribe he became the USPF National Powerlifting Champion and set 6 world records.
#15 – Chuck Ahrens
Chuck Ahrens is like my spirit powerlifter. Oh, he’s a famous powerlifter, but he definitely didn’t want to be a famous powerlifter.
He is considered one of the most mysterious or ‘mystical’ men in powerlifting LMAO. He NEVER competed in any official competition, and there aren’t many photos of him because he wasn’t a big fan of photos. This guy LITERALLY is my spirit animal.
Yeah, I’m strong. But you’ll never see me at a competition.
I love this guy, even more, because rarely trained legs or back! He instead focused on arms and shoulders. (This guy is literally ME) He could do 370 lbs for 3 reps on the barbell curl, and bench press 400 lbs 28 times in a row.
This dude could do a 400 pound skull crusher, had a 58 inch chest and 22 inch arms.
Again, Chuck Ahrens is still consdiered incredibly mysterious. And many are quick to try and say that this guy either never existed or never benched heavy or other weird things.
Point is, this guy was strong and inspired a lot of people to actually push their body to the limit. Plus, he didn’t want any internet money or fame from it, he just lifted, lifted heavy, then left the scene. This is a guy I can respect.
(Do you think he’d be mad that I wrote this article about him?)
#16 – Pat Casey
Pat Casey is one of the oldest powerlifters, but that’s also why he is a famous powerlifter.
This guy was the first man to ever bench 600 lbs. While that was part of his claim to fame, his training style was a bigger one.
Pat Casey drunk a gallon of whole milk every single day. Me and my friends are attempting to do this, but it doesn’t always end so pretty. (Try the fairlife milk if you’re lactose intolerant!)
Also, his training sessions lasted 4+ hours. So if you think training an hour in the gym is too much, think again.
#17 – Paul Anderson
Paul Anderson is just iconic. This dude literally raised 6,270 pounds on his back, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, just for fun. He literally just did it because he wanted to have that world record.
Like who does that? A man with a real package (certainly not me..)
This dude literally would hammer in nails with his bare hands and would put 8 men on a table, then lift the table up.
A literal BEAST among us. He then founded a troubled youth home, and was just overall an awesome guy in the community.
#18 – Dr. Terry Todd
Dr. Terry Todd is one of those guys that just wasn’t satisfied with doing only one thing in his life. He didn’t just give up and retire after powerlifting, he built it even further. He is one of the most famous powerlifters for his incredible contributions to the sport, including the creation of the Arnold Strongman Classic.
He is considered one of the world’s best powerlifting historians, is a journalist, has a PhD, and founded the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports.
This guy was done with his lifting, but never gave up on the rest of the sport, and built it so the rest of us could enjoy what he loved doing best. And for that, I have immense respect.
He truly left the sport better than how he found it.
#19 – O.D. Wilson
O.D. Wilson is one of the most famous powerlifters because this guy was just HUGE.
What size shoe do you wear? I wear like size 13 or something? Yeah, this guy had size 23 shoes. WHAT.
Not to mention that he had huge quads at 42″ round. Just for reference, after completing the 20 rep squat program and smolov squat program, my legs were only 23″ inches wide- and I was squatting 300 lbs.
Just to put that in reference, his legs are almost twice the size of mine. He also placed second at World’s Strongest Man.
I mean, the bottom line is, this guy was massive.
#20 – Mike Jenkins
Mike Jenkins is one of the most famous powerlifters that had his career cut off way early.
Most agree that this guy was a legend that was born. This guy finished second at the pro-Arnold, then next year came back with a BIG vengeance and won first place next year.
Then, he finished at the World’s Strongest Man competition at 4th place. But, he passed away on November 28th, 2013. But most agree with his incredible vengeance, appetite for winning, and strong discipline he would have possibly been the strongest man in the world.
He quickly came in around 2007 and retired against his own will in 2013. Regardless, most can agree that if he was able to live longer, he would’ve been one of powerlifting’s biggest legends.
Thankfully, even though his career was cut short, he still ended up being one of powerlifting biggest legends and will still be remembered.
My biggest takeaway is that you don’t have to be lifting for 10-20 years to be a powerlifter, he came up in the scene in roughly 5-7 years. You can start at any age, and you don’t have to be lifting since a teen.
#21 – Honorable Mention: Kody Sanders
Kody Sanders is an upcoming powerlifter that has been pushing incredible maxes before he even graduated high school.
While COVID-19 has shut down most of the gyms, he continues to work out. He has set numerous records in the state of Minnesota, deadlifting 660 lbs at just 18 as a natural lifter.
He started his own website that’s just all about helping people getting into powerlifting with no BS. He isn’t selling any supplements, programs, nothing. He just wants people to get into the sport! Check out his site! https://chasing-strong.com/
Conclusion of Famous Powerlifters
When it comes down to it, there are way more famous powerlifters, but I couldn’t name them all on this list.
These were some of the ones I felt were most notable on creating the sport, or had something unique about them. Like that Chuck Ahrens guy that literally bro lifted his way to the top. “Who needs to workout their back or legs? LAME” (still convinced that he is my spirit animal)
Let me know who your favorite powerlifter is in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you.