In the 19th century, the term strongman referred to an exhibitor of strength (before strength sports were codified into weightlifting, powerlifting etc., becoming actual athletic competitions) or circus performers of similar ilk who displayed feats of strength such as the bent press (not to be confused with the bench press, which didn't exist back then), supporting large amounts of weight held overhead at arm's length, steel bending, chain breaking, etc. Large amounts of wrist, hand, and tendon strength were required for these feats, as well as prodigious oblique strength.
In the late 20th century the term strongman changed to describe one who competes in strength athletics - a more modern eclectic strength competition in which competitors lift rocks, tote refrigerators, pull trains, walk while towing an eighteen wheel truck behind them, etc. The most famous competition of this type is World's Strongest Man and the " World's Strongest Man Super Series", however North American Strongman, Inc. (NAS) holds amateur and other meets throughout the United States. World Strongman Entertainment, Inc. combines strongman and entertainment with the solar system stone lifting event and the plane pull event.
In recent years, interest in the sport at the grassroots level has skyrocketed, leading to the spontaneous formation of local clubs, loosely affiliated with provincial/state and national associations.
Many sports-specific training facilities have begun to incorporate movements associated with strongman competitions into their general training schemes, albeit with lighter weights used; e.g. tire flips, sled drags, object loading or carrying, log pressing, farmer's walks and so on.