Why are Icelanders so strong?

Have you ever been watching a strongman competition and noticed just how many Icelandic people feature? From legends of lifting like Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson to double CrossFit Games champion Anníe Mist Þórisdóttir, there seems to be a disproportionate number of Icelanders competing at the highest level.

So what's the secret? Genetics? Diet? Drinking pure glacier water? We're going to take a look at just what makes Icelanders so strong. Who knows, maybe you'll pick up a few tips, so keep reading!


With a population of only 360,000 people, it boggles the mind that Iceland is second only to the U.S.A. for strongman titles. After all, there are 1000 Americans for every 1 Icelander!

Genetics do play a part, and more specifically, natural selection. Iceland suffers harsh winters, and so the bigger, stronger men would be not only more able to thrive in those environments, but they'd also be more desirable. Fast forward through the generations, and you find a population that is, generally speaking, bigger and stronger than the average person.

Culture of Training

Icelanders haven't become the strongest nationality by pounding the hours away on treadmills. A heavy lifting culture dates back to when the only real form of entertainment was to be active.

In a country that, across 8 months, faces more hours of darkness in a day than most other countries globally, people had to get creative in the days before Netflix. And thus, a certain culture of training was born, and this culture grew exponentially once Icelanders started winning strongman competitions.


There's a proverb that says, "a man too busy to take care of his health is like a farmer too lazy to plant his field."

We know that being healthy isn't all about exercise, and some would argue that diet is more important than training. With the physical demands that come alongside being Icelandic, especially historically, the diet has to support the effort required.

A traditional Icelandic diet will include lamb, rye bread, and a huge variety of fresh fish. These foods are high in protein, which is the most important macronutrient for building muscle.

The diet is largely free from processed foods, sugars, and flour, especially in the average Western diet. This, on top of the support for childhood fitness, is a huge contributor to the reasons Iceland is such a healthy country.


A special mention goes to Skyr, which was the North Atlantic's best-kept secret until recently. While it's eaten like yogurt, it is actually classed as a sour milk cheese. It has been a staple of the Icelandic diet since the days of the Vikings.

It is a high-protein, low-fat food and so is ideal for muscle building and retention. 

Be More Like the Icelanders

If you're looking for a diet to follow, forget Atkins, keto, fasting, and all the other fad diets, and eat as the Icelanders do! If you really want to get inspired, why not plan a trip to Iceland? There's nothing like immersion to help you embrace a culture.

Remember to use Blue Car Rental when you're here! And while you're on the website, check out some of the other articles on the blog for more interesting things about Iceland. Including travel tips which we highly recommend for everyone traveling to Iceland.






Snorkeling in Silfra

Snorkeling in Silfra

Silfra fissure is not only Iceland's top dive sites, but one of the best dive sites in the world. We provide you with a wetsuit, but you´ll most certainly feel how cold the water in Silfra is. The crystal-clear waters and beautiful surroundings will surely make the snorkeling tour unforgettable.