"Game of Thrones" articles and videos are as common as crows on a battlefield these days, with the eighth and final season of HBO's fantasy epic now finally wrapped up. But few if any of them address what, to me, is the most stirring plot development in the last few seasons: Namely, how Hafthor Julius Bjornsson, who plays Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane, has simultaneously become a terrifying, world-dominating force in the real-life sport of strongman.
Yes, Hafthor was a force in strongman for years before he was an actor. But he wasn't the world-crushing, record-shattering force of nature he is now. In recent years, his dominance and fame in strength has come close to eclipsing his accomplishments onscreen. It's almost like a "reverse Arnold," and there's little precedent for it.
No matter if you're a complete newb to Westeros or you're one of those millions of sickos who obsessively watch The Mountain's kill-compilations on YouTube, enjoy this epic draught of epic lifting from the Icelandic warrior himself. In (roughly) chronological order, one for each season of "GoT," here are his greatest feats of strength.
2015: Log Carry, 1,411 pounds, World's Strongest Viking
Competitive strongman has a more established connection with history and legend than most strength sports. But this lift, from a time when Bjornsson was the reigning Europe's Strongest Man and had only appeared in one season of "GoT," was especially loaded with mythological heft.
At the World's Strongest Viking championship in Fefor, Norway, in 2015, Bjornsson carried a re-creation of the mast from a Viking ship for five steps—and was supposedly the first man to do so in 1,000 years, "as the stories tell." But all stories aside, that's a hell of a schlep, and a sign that Bjornsson wouldn't be intimidated by any superhuman challenge.
2017: Weight Over Bar, 100 pounds, Rogue Record Breaker
Who says strength is all slow, grinding lifts? Anyone who has ever swung a heavy-ass kettlebell can attest that getting the thing up to bellybutton level for a rep or two can feel like a battle for your life. But Bjornsson not only swings this 100-pound bag-bell easily, he launches it well over a 20-foot bar and just short of the mesosphere.
This is one of those lifts that really brings home just how much I don't want to ever be in a position where Bjornsson feels it necessary to throw me. Or hit me. Honestly, I'm OK with him just staying ignorant to my existence entirely.
2018: Atlas Stone, World's Strongest Man
Bjornsson has been so dominant for the last couple of years that it's easy to forget he tried and failed to win the World's Strongest Man seven times starting in 2011, back when he was just 23 and some other dude was playing The Mountain on Season 1 of "GoT."
After taking either second or third in six consecutive WSM championships, it seemed inevitable that he would win someday. But it wasn't a sure thing until the final event, the atlas stones, in The Philippines in June 2018. Bjornsson has always handled the frantic head-to-head pace of the atlas stones well, but he was able to stroll to a victory with time to spare.
2018: Elephant Bar Deadlift, 1,041 pounds, Arnold Strongman
Yes, he broke this record by five pounds at the same event in 2019. But there's just something special about Bjornsson's triumphant record-setting pull at the 2018 Arnold Strongman. The 9.5-foot bar flexes, then floats up off the ground like magic. And then, as he seamlessly locks it out, Bjornsson nods, then holds it for what feels like an eternity.
He still had another event to go before defeating Brian Shaw for his first Arnold Strongman victory, but this moment said, "game over." It's the lifting equivalent of that time he grabbed that gloating Dornish chap by the leg and dragged him into a bear hug, even though he had a spear stuck in his guts.
2019: Elephant Bar Deadlift, 1,042 pounds, gym training lift
This is just one pound more than Bjornsson's record lift at the 2018 Arnold Classic, but it announced to the rest of the competitors that he was peaked and ready to repeat a week later in Columbus, Ohio. That he nailed this silky pull with an army of screaming Icelandic strong-folk and Larry Wheels at his back just made it more awesome.
And come to think of it, it was also probably a huge hint that Larry will unexpectedly take over the role of The Mountain's brother "The Hound" for season eight, in preparation for an epic Clegane-battle in the final episode. Probably.
2019: Natural Stone Shoulder, 410 pounds, Arnold Strongman
This one's really just a personal favorite. Bjornsson didn't win the event, and he only needed a single rep to cement his overall victory in the Arnold Strongman. But what a rep it was.
As an experienced stone lifter, Bjornsson didn't have to battle to get the stone to his chest. But to get it to his shoulder, he used his head—really, his cheekbone—as a fulcrum, under the narrowest edge of the rock. If this were "GoT," a gruesome head-exploding fatality would have been a (forgive me) no-brainer at this point.
Watching on the live stream, my 7-year-old and I were screaming at the TV in disbelief. Nobody should be capable of balancing a 410-pound stone on the bony part of their face. And yet he did. I still get nervous watching that thing travel across his mug.
2019: Husafell Stone, 410 pounds, Arnold Strongman
Husafell stone carries are an established part of high-level strongman comps, so this may not sound special. But this Husafell wasn't your run-of-the-mill tombstone-shaped metal box with a bunch of weights inside.
For the 2019 Arnold Strongman, Rogue Fitness hired a monument carver to create a near-exact stone replica, based inch-for-inch on the real Husafell stone, which is located in Husafell, Iceland. Their "Road to the Arnold" video about the stone and the event is definitely worth watching. If ever there were an event that Bjornsson seemed destined to win, it's this one—and he positively trotted around the rock-marked course meant to replicate the sheep pen where the Husafell stone resides.
2019: Squat, 440 pounds for 29 reps, gym training lift
This isn't a feat anyone is going to make a documentary about. It's just a lift from Bjornsson's prolific YouTube channel, where he chronicles the highlights of each day's training. But it's… 440 pounds, for 29 reps, in under a minute. No spotters, no safeties, just the man and the bar moving. The first 20 reps barely take 30 seconds. The next 7, well, they look tough. And the final 2, they're completely terrifying.
Come what may in Westeros, this is why my money's on The Mountain.