When it comes to making a lasting impact, few strongman athletes can compare to the sizable footsteps of Žydrūnas Savickas. A four-time World’s Strongest Man (WSM) champion (2009, 2010, 2012, and 2014), among other illustrious achievements, Savickas is one of the most decorated people ever to lift an Atlas stone or press a log over their head.
On March 27, 2022, the Lithuanian strongman, known as “Big Z,” appeared on Nick Best‘s podcast, Legends of Iron. Alongside his fellow strongman and bodybuilding co-hosts — Jon Andersen and Akim Williams — Best and Co. appeared to leave no stone unturned (pun unintended) when it came to Savickas, the strongman, and Savickas, the person.
In an illuminating conversation, Savickas detailed how he made his career so exceptional and, in the process, what he’d tell rising strongmen to do if they wanted to emulate his uncommon ledger of work.
Advice to Future Rising Stars
In a professional career that dates back almost three decades, there are few things Savickas hasn’t seen or lifted. Due to that longevity and his possession of at least one championship in the prestigious WSM, the Arnold Classic (ASC), and the Europe Strongest Man’s (ESM), many argue “Big Z” is the greatest strongman of all time. It could be hard to find a rebuttal to someone with over 300 trophies (his words) and counting.
At the age of 46, Savickas still competes fairly regularly. Since April 2018, he’s had a hand in 10 sanctioned events, including a notable win in the 2020 Lithuania’s Strongest Man.
Here’s Big Z’s advice for young strongman athletes who want to be tremendous and model themselves after a professional career that began on the very precipice of adulthood.
Always Have Big Goals
In discussing his beginnings in his home country of Lithuania, Savickas muses that he wanted to reach lofty heights from the start.
“I first went to the gym when I was 13, and of course, I started to build muscle, get stronger,” says Savickas. “Later, I saw a strongman competition, and I wanted to compete there…and when I was 16 [in a competition], all the athletes were 25, 30, 35, and I was just a kid.”
The contrast didn’t stop there. It appeared Savickas wasn’t afraid of these ostensibly more seasoned competitors in this undisclosed event. He wanted to win anyway. He says an athlete in a similar position today should have the same approach.
Aim high, keep the ambition as motivation for a diligent effort, and let the rest take care of itself.
“My goal from the first competition was to win first place,” says Savickas. “The big goals help to motivate every day for hard work.”
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It took some time before Savickas made a name for himself on the international scene. For example, he didn’t qualify for the WSM Finals until he was 26-years-old in 2002. Years later, he won first place and captured the esteemed Barry Frank Trophy during the 2009 World’s Strongest Man — over a decade into his strongman endeavors.
During this period, Savickas says he never fretted over his career pace. He bided his time, gradually built his strength, and won events he competed in when he could. He didn’t stress, and he didn’t rush because, according to him, an excellent strongman career takes time.
“A lot of young guys try to get ready, and [they] get strong very fast, and [they] get injured,” Savickas says. “Don’t make that mistake.”
How to Set World Records
In what might have been the first-ever reveal, Savickas said he never intentionally tried to break any records during competitions. His 20 world records — like a 228-kilogram max log press (502.6 pounds) set during the 2015 Arnold Strongman Classic Brazil — came as a result of the Lithuanian trying his best and coming out on top anyway.
He controlled what he could control and flourished.
“The funny and the sad thing is that I never prepared for any world record in my life,” Savickas says. “[During] my best years, there was no money for records, there were no special events to make the world record, and it just happened.”
From this perspective, Savickas says a young strongman shouldn’t necessarily overthink their place. They should focus on competing and let the dominoes fall accordingly.
“I just went to [a] competition, competed, I feel great that day, and I will try to get a great lift — oh, [a] new world record.”
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Whenever Savickas does decide to hang his lifting belt up, he can rest assured his place in strongman history is secure. Here are some of the more notable achievements of Savickas’ career:
- WSM Champion —2009, 2010, 2012, 2014
- ASC Champion — 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2014, 2016 | All-Time Wins Record
- ESM Champion — 2010, 2012, 2013
As far as what he thinks his ultimate legacy will be, Savickas didn’t mince his words.
He beat some incredible, powerful athletes repeatedly, and, while not impossible, he believes that kind of consistency will be hard to replicate in the future.
“The main thing that I did was I won the most competitions ever in strongman sport,” Savickas says. “And it’s difficult to repeat because the level of the athletes is more close. And it’s difficult to dominate because everybody’s strong now. You make one mistake, and you [don’t win] the competition.”
Perhaps if a current young unknown strongman follows Savickas’ tried and true tenets, they might be able to challenge him someday.
Featured image: @savickas_bigz on Instagram