Žydrūnas Savickas is arguably the strongest man to have graced the earth.
Known as ‘Big Z’, the man mountain tips the scales at 180kg at a height of 1.91m. Savickas, forty-one years old, is a Lithuanian strongman and former powerlifter.
Savickas interests in strength sports were piqued after watching a strongman event on TV as a teenager. This sparked a career spanning more than two decades yielding truckload of trophies.
But a long and profitable career looked unlikely in 2001 when he suffered a major setback…
What makes him successful?
The ability to overcome adversity
In 2001, Savickas found himself competing in the rugged Faroe Islands. During Conan’s wheel event, an endurance-based challenge, he blew out both of his patellar tendons. Most thought his career was over. Tendon injuries are notoriously fickle. They have a poor blood supply and recovery is slow.
Also, the patellar tendons are fundamental in strength-based sports. They transfer the force created by quadriceps, the large muscles of the front part of the thigh, in movements like squatting.
Savickas was undeterred.
Nine months later, not only was the big Lithuanian competing – but winning – a national powerlifting competition. He would soon claim victory in his country’s strongman contest before placing second in the World’s Strongest Man.
The message here is: injuries are part of the sport and you must be willing to overcome hurdles to succeed.
Savickas rehabilitation was painful and arduous. Rebuilding his body was only part of the challenge. Conquering the mental demons from the traumatic injury, and again having faith in his body, would have been just as hard.
Savickas’s body awareness – when to push and when to ease off – is another contributing factor to his long and successful career. Perhaps he learnt to listen to his body after the injury in 2001.
Autoregulation is a form of body awareness that you can apply. It uses ‘perceived levels of exertion’ – how difficult a lift was – to guide training. The main issue with autoregulation is it takes time under the bar to develop the skill of knowing how much effort a lift was. People fall into two camps: the conservative who don’t push hard enough and the aggressive who get burnt out or injured.
Be patient. Know when to load up and when to ease off.
Forty-one is old in most sports. But Big Z has shown no signs of slowing down, claiming victory in the 2016 Arnold Strongman Classic. If the burly Lithuanian can continue to manage his body there’s no reason he can’t extend his career into his fifth decade emulating the evergreen strongman Mark Felix.