Who is the Better Athlete?

who is the better athlete 1 Who is the Better Athlete?


This post – The Components of Physical Fitness – may help you make your decision.

Žydrūnas Savickas

  • The world’s strongest man – 2009 & 2010
  • 6’3″ – just under 400lbs
  • Six times, “Arnold’s Strongest Man winner (2003-2008)
  • Three-time world powerlifting champion (2005, 2006, 2009)
  • 4 times World Cup winner team (2005-2008)
  • Fortissimo Stiprausias man on earth Winner (2009)
  • Log lifting world champion (2008)
  • European powerlifting champion (2005)
  • European round lifting champion (2009)
  • World Cup winner (2004)
  • Strongman Super Series winner (2004)
  • Strongman Champions League winner (2008)
  • 10 times the Lithuanian powerlifting champion (1998-2000, 2002, 2004-2009)
  • World Powerlifting vice-champion (2000)
  • 3 times European Powerlifting vice-champion (1999, 2000, 2001)
  • 10 times the Lithuanian Powerlifting Champion (1995-1997, 1999-2005)
  • 7 times the Lithuanian Powerlifting Cup winner (1994-2000).

Dean Karnazes

  • Ran 135 miles nonstop across Death Valley in 120°F (49°C) temperatures
  • Ran a marathon to the South Pole at −40°F (-40°C).
  • Ran 50 marathons in all 50 states in 50 consecutive days
  • Overall Winner, 4 Deserts Race Series, 2008
  • Competitor magazine Endurance Athlete of the Year Award winner, 2008, 2006, 2005
  • ESPN ESPY Award winner, “Best Outdoor Athlete,” 2007
  • Winner, Vermont Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run, 2006
  • Two-time Emmy Award winner, 2005, 2007
  • American Ultrarunning Team, World Championships, 2005, 2008
  • Men’s Journal, Adventure Hall of Fame, 2005
  • Winner, Badwater Ultramarathon, 2004
  • 350 miles (560 km) in 80 hours and 44 minutes without stopping (2005)
  • 148 miles (238 km) in 24 hours on a treadmill, 2004
  • Single-handedly completed the 199-mile (320 km) Providian Saturn Relay six times
  • Eleven-time 100-Mile/1 Day Silver Buckleholder at the Western States Endurance Run (i.e., better than ten twenty-four hour finishes), 1995–2006
  • Outside magazine, Ultimate Top 10 Outdoor Athletes, 2004
  • Swam across the San Francisco Bay




Doug Robb is a personal trainer, a fitness blogger and author, a competitive athlete, a social media nerd and a student of nutrition and exercise science. Since 2008, Doug has brought his real-world experience online via his health & fitness blog, Health Habits.


  1. FeelGood

    June 19, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    Please understand; I take NOTHING away from the UltraMarathoner/Swimmer. In fact, I find him EXTREMELY amazing, because what he does pushes human ability to the max. BUT, I have to say without any doubt that the StongMan is the ultimate athlete. I hear the arguments that neither one of these athletes could turn around and do what the other does. However, who believes that the StrongMan could not at least train for and complete a normal marathon (42.2 km)? In the USA alone, only about .10% of the population completed a marathon. So, at the very least I’d say that if the StrongMan were to complete a normal marathon that would put him in decent company. 
    Now, with all due respect, does anyone believe the UltraMarathoner could perform some of the traditional events which StrongMen are expected to complete? For example, you almost always see the Atlas Stones. The big boys usually lift stones weighing 100 – 160 kilos in increasing order. You also have the farmer’s walk in which 125 – 175 kilos is held in each hand and carried for usually around 15m. Even if you cut some of these weights for the UltraMarathoner, I just don’t see him crossing over to lifting and doing that well. Not that he couldn’t train and become stronger, but in my opinion, no where near the level of even some amateur lifters. 
    With all of that said, I want everyone to know that my main point is not that the UltraMarathoner is somehow weaker or inferior to the StrongMan. FAR FROM IT. However, if the question is “Who is the better athlete?” then I MUSTchoose the StrongMan. His athleticism requires explosive strength. Also, let’s not forget that many of his events require a healthy bit of endurance as well. The UltraMarathoner has built his body for endurance and probably less than average functional strength (not that it’s bad, just that he doesn’t need it). The StrongMan has much better than average endurance AND the explosive power. BOTH are prime athletes, but the StrongMan wins for me based on overall athleticism. 

  2. Bear

    January 21, 2011 at 10:37 am

    These guys are too far apart. They are polar opposites. But I like the discussion.
    Neither guy could switch and do what the other guy does.
    However, In my opinion the best all-’round athlete is
    Joe Decker. http://www.howtobefit.com/worlds-fittest-man.htm
    He has done endurance rivaling the worlds best, and strength to better most strong men. He is the balance of strength and endurance. What many call “power” or “warrior power” that ability to be very strong, continually over time.

    Strength + Endurance = Power

    The examples here are extreme Strength vs extreme Endurance. So the comparison here is unfortunately mute. (whereas Joe Decker is the balance between each)

    I personally prefer watching strongman stuff on TV over watching runners on TV. But that is a personal preference, slightly biased by me participating in strength events and not endurance events. I do have several friends who do long range running and I enjoy working out with them and attending their events.

    So for me I vote BOTH. or Joe Decker who isn’t a choice here. (lol)


    The Guinness Book of World Records certified Decker as the world’s fittest man in 2001 after, within 24 hours, he biked 100 miles, ran 10 miles, hiked 10 miles, power-walked 5 miles (all this on a track), kayaked 6 miles, skied on a NordicTrack 10 miles, rowed 10 miles, swam 2 miles, did 3,000 abdominal crunches, 1,100 jumping jacks, 1,000 leg lifts, 1,100 push-ups and lifted, cumulatively, 278,540 pounds.

    He also ran the 135 mile Death Valley run with full Military gear (combat boots, BTUs and a 60lb backpack)

  3. matt

    January 11, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    Both amazing athletes… Tough choice….

  4. ali

    January 10, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Just like engineering the maximum power just between speed and torque. I would choose someone who play sport required both stamina and strength because that real athlete.

  5. Susan@Home Workouts

    January 10, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Not sure I can choose – because I can’t do any of that!

  6. Matt

    January 9, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    IMHO in my mind “athlete” really means being able to do many things well. It is the total sum of many things such as: strength, will, endurance, agility, balance, awareness of their surroundings, reaction speed, pure speed, focus, and the ability to adapt to the situation among others. These guys both excel at what they do, and may have some crossover to other areas from their main focus, but I don’t see them being able to excel at every category they are very lopsided. For example I doubt either one of them could balance on a balance beam like a gymnast.

    There are people out there that might lift half as much and run 1/2 as far, but if they are completely well rounded I see that as more athletic then being really good at one or two things.

  7. Ken

    January 8, 2011 at 10:01 am

    I went with Karnazes due to the differing conditions of the runs he’s done (extreme heat, extreme cold) as well as the SF Bay swim (shows that he’s switched things up and excelled in different areas).

    Both are pure awesome.

  8. Online Health Guy

    January 8, 2011 at 9:22 am

    I voted for Dean Karnazes. I have no doubt about him the better athlete among the two.

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  10. Janet

    January 8, 2011 at 4:34 am

    Tough Decision. I question the diet of the body builder and the sanity of someone who runs in -40 degree weather. Both are amazing.

  11. Head Coach

    January 8, 2011 at 4:32 am

    They are both phenomenal in what they do now. But I would say the better of the two is he who can either translate his strength or endurance into a different sport. For example, I trained a basketball player who, after graduation decided to not go in the PBA just yet but instead wanted to try his hand at MMA. Not only was he a bench player that I turned into a MVP candidate in the college league in a year, but he was able to translate that same speed and explosive quickness into being someone who can wipe the floor with some of the best lifelong MMA fighters with whom he has sparred/wrestled, etc. If given more time to practice he could be world class.

    Bo Jackson and Barry Sanders were two of the best known examples of guys who were able to be superstars in two entirely different sports. So while neither was “the best ever” in their respective sports, they were easily good enough to be candidates for best athletes of all time due to their ability to adapt and change.

  12. Nancy

    January 8, 2011 at 3:28 am

    I picked Worlds Strongest Man because his abilities seem more diverse and lifting and rolling logs seems like it would require more focus on building a balanced body while incorporating mental focus. Lots of people run, and we know it can be done, but who goes around lifting logs?

  13. Andreas

    January 8, 2011 at 2:31 am

    you can’t even compare the two there both such different sports vastly different traning needed.

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