Don Reinhoudt, who won the 1979 World’s Strongest Man after dominating powerlifting and setting numerous world records, died at 78 on July 3 from a car crash. This is his story.


Born March 6, 1945, Donald Reinhoudt grew up on the western edge of New York state. After excelling in high school sports, he began lifting weights when playing football for a small college in Iowa. He competed in weightlifting before finding his way to the new sport of powerlifting in 1969. At 6’3” and well over 300 pounds (he went as heavy as 380), he quickly rose through the national and international ranks. At the first World Powerlifting Championships in 1972, Reinhoudt finished third, totaling 2150 pounds. The next year he won the super-heavyweight division. And the year after that. And the year after that. And the year after that. He’s still the only super-heavyweight to win the powerlifting world championships four straight years.

Don Reinhoudt
Don Reinhoudt squatting all the weights.

Winning the world championships from 1973-76, Don Reinhoudt put up the biggest powerlifting numbers ever achieved. He held international all-division world records in all three lifts: squat, bench press, and deadlift. His total of 2391 pounds (1084.5 kg.) in 1975 was the highest raw powerlifting total for 38 years! His raw squat record lasted 39 years! The guy was four decades ahead of his time. He’s still one of the very few powerlifters to squat more than 900 pounds raw and bench press more than 600 pounds raw in the same competition. For how long it took his records to be broken, you can make a good argument that he’s the GOAT of super-heavy powerlifting.

Wary of all the weight he was carrying around, after winning the 1976 world title, Reinhoudt dropped from 365 pounds to 239 pounds in a mere four months (another amazing feat!). He competed just once more in powerlifting, in 1977, at 32, setting four world records in the 275-pound division.



934.5 lbs. (423.9 kg) raw without knee wraps (1976), ? world record until 2015!

Bench Press

607.4 lbs. (275.5 kg) raw (1975), ? world record until 1977.


885.5 lbs. (401.6 kg) raw (1975), ? world record until 1981.


2391.5 lbs. (1097.7 kg.) raw (1975), ? world record until 2013!


As the then-GOAT of powerlifting, Don Reinhoudt was invited to the inaugural World’s Strongest Man in 1977. Because he’d shed so much weight, he declined; but he began preparing for the next year. He led the 1978 World’s Strongest Man most of the way, but lost out to returning champ Bruce Wilhelm on the final event (tug of war). In 1979, Don Reinhoudt won the World’s Strongest Man easily, becoming the second champ. Unfortunately, he suffered career-ending injuries at the 1980 World’s Strongest Man, his last official strength event.

With women as weights, Don Reinhoudt wins the squat event and overall 1979 WSM. / YouTube


Outside of his college years, Don Reinhoudt lived his life in western New York. He married and had two children. He worked as an accountant and then as the director of the Chautauqua County Youth Bureau, helping troubled teens. His wife said: “He always said that he never felt that it was a job.” At motivational speeches for kids, the World’s Strongest Man performed strength feats like bending bars and tearing license plates. He was elected to numerous hall of fames, including the United States Powerlifting Hall of Fame and the International Powerlifting Federation Hall of Fame.

Don Reinhoudt
Don Reinhoudt, 1979 World’s Strongest Man, bending a bar.

On the morning of July 3, 2023, the Jeep Cherokee he was driving veered off a road and struck a tree; he was pronounced dead at the hospital. Don Reinhoudt is revered as the greatest super-heavy powerlifter of his era and one of the strongest men who ever lived. The Barbell offers our condolences to his family, friends, and fans.