On Apr. 15, 2023, Hafthor Björnsson attempted a 252.5-kilogram (556.7-pound) raw bench press during a powerlifting competition held at Thor’s Power Gym in Kópavogur, Iceland. The athlete would not finish the repetition as he appeared to injure his left pectoral muscle immediately upon touching the barbell to his chest, leading him to grimace in pain while yelling to his spotters. Björnsson would require assistance to rise off the bench but was able to walk away under his own power.
In a YouTube video posted to his channel on Apr. 17, 2023, the Icelander stated that he tore his pec muscle.
Björnsson did not beat around the bush with his injury. He characterized it as a “complete tear off the bone,” which would require eventual surgery if confirmed, though it’s unclear if that was the official medical diagnosis. The athlete said he would undergo an MRI test on Apr. 18, 2023, which will give more clarity on the severity of his injury and reveal any potential next steps he needs to take in his recovery.
In what might be considered vintage Björnsson fashion, he proceeded to make light of his circumstances as a strongman and powerlifter. He even joked about his current relatively limited capabilities in the aftermath of his pec injury.
“I am doing okay, considering everything,” Björnsson clarified. “I came into the gym today [Apr. 17, 2023]. Did a half an hour of cardio, just to keep my sanity and get out of the house. Things are tough, I have to be honest. Hopefully I can make some of you guys laugh now. Things like wiping my [expletive] are difficult. I am left-handed … It’s life … This is literally the biggest injury of my career, so I’ve got to tackle this.”
Björnsson had been planning to break Daniel Bell’s raw (with wraps) all-time World Record total of 1,182.5 kilograms (2,606.9 pounds) from the 2021 World Raw Powerlifting Federation (WRPF) Hybrid Showdown III. The athlete had even shared training tidbits like a raw 420-kilogram (925.9-pound) back squat on his road back to top strength form after a foray into boxing. Earlier in the meet, before the injury occurred, Björnsson successfully squatted 445 kilograms (981 pounds) with wraps. Björnsson, the 2018 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) champion, had previously announced plans to return to professional strongman sometime in 2024.
It is unclear how Björnsson’s pec injury will impact his timeline toward both his ambitious powerlifting and strongman goals. Presumably, if surgery is indeed necessary for his pec muscle’s recovery, the athlete will be sidelined for some time before eventually getting back in the saddle toward the powerlifting World Record and his strongman pursuits.
By the time he comes back to full-throttle training, one of the world’s most powerful athletes might channel this setback as motivation.
Featured image: Hafthor Bjornsson / YouTube