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Kyriakos Grizzly and the Greek Strongman Tradition

Kyriakos Kapakoulak Grizzly
Kyriakos Kapakoulak Grizzly has amassed a large following on YouTube and social media. Credit: Kyriakos Kapakoulak / YouTube

Kyriakos Kapakoulak Grizzly, a strongman from the northern Greek city of Kavala, has been making waves online for his feats of incredible strength.

The Greek strongman has amassed a significantly large following on YouTube and social media in recent years, spawning a myriad of memes, reactions, and compilation videos within the fitness niche of the video-sharing site.

Kyriakos Grizzly is not the first Greek to make a name for himself in the strength training world. In the 19th century, a Greek sailor, Panagis Koutalianos, traveled the world as a successful weightlifter and wrestler.

Kyriakos Kapakoulak Grizzly, the internet strongman

Despite a massive catalog of videos uploaded to YouTube, very little is known about Kyriakos Grizzly. This has led to some speculation in the internet fitness community. However, he is known to be a resident of Kavala, where he trains.

According to a recent Instagram post by the Greek strongman, he is forty-seven years old. He is also six feet tall (1.82 meters) and has appeared in videos weighing between approximately 420 to over 440 pounds (190 to over 200 kg). In one viral video, which has amassed half a million views, Kyriakos Grizzly steps on the weighing scale only for it to display “FULL.”

His videos on YouTube are immensely popular and have attracted millions of viewers. One of his most popular videos has attracted an astounding eleven million views. Other popular videos have garnered between 1.5 to 3.5 million views.

Videos from other viral YouTubers, which serve as commentary on the Greek strongman’s content, are also popular. PewDiePie, who was previously YouTube’s most subscribed-to content creator, released a reaction video with over 3.5 million views.

Ronnie Coleman, one of the most successful bodybuilders of all time and winner of Mr. Olympia on eight consecutive occasions, has also reacted to the Greek internet sensation in a video that amassed 1.4 million views.

Unconventional training

Kyriakos Grizzly’s training appears to be a combination of strongman training, powerlifting, weightlifting, and more general strength and conditioning exercises.

He is perhaps best known for the Zercher shrug, a rarely-seen exercise in which a barbell is placed in the crook of the elbows and shrugged up with the trapezius muscles. Kyriakos Grizzly performs exercises like these at very high weights. In one video, he completes four Zercher shrugs using a barbell loaded with up to 1,080 pounds (490 kilograms).

His YouTube channel also features boxing and kickboxing workouts. In many of these videos, Kyriakos Grizzly can be seen training with Greek professional kickboxer Giannis “Hercules” Stoforidis, who currently competes in ONE Championship, a Singaporean combat sports promotion.

Panagis Koutalianos

Kyriakos Grizzly is not the only Greek in history to have achieved fame for his strength. In the 19th to early 20th centuries, Panagis Koutalianos became well known for his feats of strength.

Koutalianos Panagis
Panagis Koutalianos. Credit: National Historical Museum (Greece)

According to tradition, he was born on the island of Koutalis in 1847. His father may have been a Greek Cypriot called Giorgos Pallikaros, whom Koutalianos only met during a trip to Cyprus in his adulthood.

Koutalianos’ strength became apparent during his time as a sailor when he would untangle the ship’s anchors. This task would usually require several men, but Koutalianos was able to perform it singlehandedly.

He left shipping to train under the wrestling instructor Bernardt in France. Equipped with this knowledge, he traveled the world and made a name for himself in wrestling and weightlifting. He is said to have ended his career having never lost a single fight.

After retiring from wrestling, Koutalianos continued to perform strength demonstrations. These included bending iron bars, breaking chains, and lifting rocks. His most impressive feat was carrying three canons which he was purportedly able to fire without losing his footing.

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