Nestled at the doorstep of the Arctic Circle, the country of Iceland is uniquely acquainted with the relationship between strength and survival. For hundreds of years, men and women were challenged to overcome harsh weather and endless winter nights by developing their own distinct physical and mental fortitude—passed down from the age of the Vikings, and iconically represented by the lifting of heavy stones. Today, on an island with a population of just over 300,000, a disproportionate number of the world’s greatest strength athletes still call Iceland home.

The film features some of the modern stars of Iceland strength, including Magnus Ver Magnuson, Hafthor Bjornsson, and Annie Thorisdottir. But it also sheds light on strength culture’s early roots in the region, from the traditions of the Vikings and Sagas to the lives of farmers and fishermen.


Explore the map to learn more about the landmarks visited in the film.

Husafell Stone

The most famous of Iceland’s legendary lifting stones is named for the west country farming estate on which it resides; a familiar destination for strongmen across the decades. The Húsafell Stone is said to have been crafted from a large rock over 200 years ago, when a local pastor named Snorri Björnsson adopted it as the door to his goat pen. Once passing travelers started using the stone as a test of strength, Snorri gave it a nickname: Kviahellan, or “the pen slab.”

Dritvik Stones

The roots of Iceland’s stone lifting culture can be found in the Dritvik cove on the country’s west coast, where the famous Dritvik Stones still offer the same challenge they have for centuries. Historically, the sailors and fishermen who rowed out from this port would lift the stones to prove their worth to a ship’s crew. Men of particular stone-lifting stature would earn themselves better pay and/or a greater share of a boat’s eventual haul (since they were theoretically carrying a larger percentage of the load).

Leggstein Stone

The “Leggstein” or “Tomb Stone” isn’t just named after its appearance. Weighing 220 kg, or 480 LBS, this pillar-like stone, located in the northwestern corner of Iceland, is said to mark the spot where an unfortunate farmer made a pact with the devil. As the story goes, the lazy farmer wanted a fast track to an easier, more prosperous life, so the devil offered him his dream if he could simply complete one task: lifting the Leggstein stone.

Latra Stones

Another famous set of lifting stones in the Westfjords are the Latra Stones, located near some of Iceland’s famous seabird cliffs. Many generations of local fishermen used these stones to stay fit and gain bragging rights in their rare time on dry land. Like the Dritvik Stones, there is a hierarchy of stones based on their size, and a system in place for challenging the lifter.

Brynjolfstak Stone

Legend says that the Brynjólfstak Stone was first pulled from the sea in 1845, when a mighty farmer named Brynjólfur asked four of the strongest men in the land to lift the giant slab on to his shoulders. From there, as perhaps an extreme proof of his own superior strength, Brynjólfur carried the 281kg (620 LB) stone on his own, uphill, to a nearby ridge . . . a distance of 50-70 meters to its current location. Naturally, the stone has since been named in his honor.

Judas Stone

Located in the “vik” or cove known as Látravík, the Judas Stone is particular infamous among the many lifting stones in the Westfjords. It supposedly earned its name more than a century ago, when local farmers repeatedly attempted to utilize it in the construction of a wall, only to have it “betray” them like Judas by always slipping out of place.


The sailors who rowed out from Dritvik to fish from open boats tested their strength by lifting these stones. The name for each stone is associated with strength needed to lift it onto a plinth or natural stone platform. If you were to lift a small stone you'd get a half share and if you were to lift a big stone you'd get a full share.
Before becoming a two-time “Fittest Woman on Earth,” CrossFit athlete Annie Thorisdottir developed her drive and work ethic in her native Iceland, where she says there’s always been “support from the community to be a strong and independent woman.”
Current World's Strongest Man and Arnold Strongman Classic champion Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson talks about one of his Icelandic and Strongman heroes, Jón Páll Sigmarsson.
In this clip from the new documentary feature film FULLSTERKUR, about the tradition of heavy stone lifting in Iceland, we see how the folklore and legends from the country’s Viking past still resonate for people today. Rather than slaying dragons or sea monsters, the relatable stone-lifting hero Grettir the Strong was an outlaw, often battling his own inner demons above all else.
Veteran Icelandic strongman Stefán Sölvi Pétursson is part of a proud and ancient tradition in his home country, where the lifting of heavy stones was once the measure of a man (only an elite few could lift the heaviest stones: the fullsterkur, or “full strength” level).
For a country of just 300,000, Iceland has produced an unusually high number of superior strongmen and strength athletes. For many, the explanation goes back through countless generations of local fishermen, who used to determine their share of a ship’s haul by proving how much strength they brought to a crew.