To be the strongest man in the world is pretty much every young boy’s dream, and for many of us who grew up watching strongman events on primetime television it was but fantasy, a distant dream, but for one man it was a passion that turned very much into reality.
We’re talking about ‘The Beast’, Britain’s Eddie Hall, who with his astonishing victory at this year’s World’s Strongest Man event, competing against many of the all-time greats, has proved the countless doubters and naysayers wrong, and has cemented himself as one of the strongest people ever to walk the planet.
A man who could stroll across the plains of Africa without fear, in a room full of men he’d be the last man standing and do not even think about approaching him when he’s eating, you’d be safer walking up to a lion.
We had the pleasure of sitting down for a chat with one of the world’s greatest athletes and a man who besides this recent prestigious title is also the first man ever to deadlift 500 kilos! His new book Strongman: My Story lifts the lid on the dedication required to be the very best. It’s a privilege to bring you an in-depth chat with an absolute gentleman.
The MALESTROM: Well first off massive congrats, how does it feel to be the strongest man in the world, the number one alpha male?
Eddie Hall: (Laughs) Well that’s exactly it man, it’s the number one title to have, it’s the most alpha male title and it just feels fantastic you know, it’s been a life long dream. Ever since I was a child I’ve dreamt of being the World’s Strongest Man, and to actually accomplish it is something else, it really is something else – total euphoria!
TM: You couldn’t argue it was a weakened field, there’s two of the all-time greats in Zavickis and Shaw and of course there’s Bjornsson?
EH: Yeah. I’ve won it at a time when it’s at its best, the competition is rife, you’ve got giants like Brian Shaw, Hafthor Bjornsson, both of them 6ft 9′, 6ft 10′ and then you’ve got little old me who’s 6ft 3′, so you know, it’s definitely a nice time to win the World’s Strongest Man, because there are some absolute freaky huge guys out there.
TM: Looking at his social media Hafthor didn’t seem to take the loss as well as some of the others?
EH: No, well Hafthor decided he’d been hard done to for some reason, he claimed some trickery of some sort but at the end of the day he got beat fair and square in a strongman competition and he couldn’t take it.
I mean it’ll all come out at Christmas so I implore everyone to watch it on Channel 5 and you’ll see exactly what went on and you’ll see how pathetic Thor is for trying to get the rules changed basically, to suit him.
TM: How much is this victory two fingers up to the doubters?
EH: Oh massive man, because having a lot of doubters, a lot of haters and to be honest those guys fuel me. When people say that something can’t be done, there’s no better feeling than proving someone wrong and when you’ve got so many people to prove wrong there’s so much glory in it.
Not in a way of ‘I told you so,’ but in a way of ‘look guys if you actually put your head down, graft and be dedicated, you can achieve great things.’ You don’t have to be a genetic freak to be the strongest man in the world, you’ve just got to be the hardest worker and that’s what I am.
TM: You’ve said before that unless someone tells you to stop, or you die trying, you’ll become the World’s Strongest Man. How important is that self-belief to manifest success?
EH: Huge! The mental capacity to be the best, you’ve got to be mentally strong. I think it’s all about goal setting, the number one rule of goal setting is to be public – tell a friend, tell a family member, tell your fans, put it on social media, you know, because that sets it in stone.
You’ve made it open and then you’ve got to achieve that goal, otherwise, you look a dickhead you know! You look stupid and that’s why I’ve set my goals, I’ve been very loud about them, but then I’ve backed them all up because that’s my biggest fear, saying I’m going to do something and then not doing it. It’s one of my biggest fears and I don’t want to look an idiot.
TM: No one out there can match your static power, how did you level up and improve on the movement events?
EH: Literally mate, I went away and all I trained for was the moving events, my static strength was so high, no one was even close, even now. And I just realised I’ve got to be able to move, I’ve got to be able to pull trucks, so that’s what I did.
I went away and I trained – I pulled trucks, I flipped tyres, I lifted atlas stones, I ran with weights, I trained my arse off and the results speak for themselves. I came out a different athlete, an all-rounder rather than just a static monster.
TM: Have you always been strong? Was there like a light bulb moment when you realised you were?
EH: Well I was a National Champion swimmer when I was a kid, I mean from age five I trained 15 – 20 hours a week, so I’ve always been fitter, stronger, more mobile than anyone else around me and I think that’s stuck with me. The swimming helped me move over to the strongman, I had these huge lungs, a huge heart, it gave me the dedication, you know.
To be able to swim for twenty hours a week, to stare at the bottom of a swimming pool, you’ve got to be disciplined, but I used that discipline and moved it over to the strongman and you need it, it’s not just lifting weights, it’s the diet, it’s the recovery, it’s everything, you want to get everything right if you want to be number 1.
TM: You mentioned diet there, what’s it like to have to eat so much food?
EH: It’s not nice because you’re constantly force-feeding, it’s a constant battle to get 12,500 calories in. From the second you wake up to the second you got to bed you have got something in your hand, you are eating or drinking something. It involves setting alarms so you get up at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning to eat, you know.
During training I’m eating raw steak, it’s just a constant, it’s a non-stop game. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve found with the strongman is getting the consumption in, getting the amount of food I needed in my body was the hardest thing.
TH: Once you don’t have to train that same way, do you think you’ll be able to enjoy food again?
EH: I’m gonna be retired in the next 18 months, that’s my definite goal, and I’ve got to reduce my food as I reduce my training. I was 31 stone in bodyweight, I mean ideally at my height a good healthy size would be 23 or 24 stone, that’s what I’m aiming for.
You know I don’t want to be walking around at 30 odd stone for the rest of my life because it’s gonna put me in the ground. I’ve got a plan, the next 18 months once that’s over I’m gonna drop a load of weight and shred up basically.
TM: You talk about 18 months, so does that mean you’re going to defend the title?
EH: The World’s Strongest Man I’m deciding on, I’ve got to weigh up my options because at the minute it’s just ‘what do I do?’ I’ve won the World’s Strongest Man and it’s basically ‘what next?’
So I’m just biding my time, I’m getting loads of offers from all angles, all sorts of different places, appearances, even the WWE, celebrity appearances, a film role. If something good comes along I’m gonna grab that with both hands and I’m pretty sure something will happen and I won’t need to go back to World’s Strongest Man.
TM: There must be a little part of you that wants to defend that title, or do you feel like you’ve done it now and that’s it?
EH: There is a little part of me that wants to go back and defend it, but there’s the other part of me that’s like I don’t want to put my body through that again, because 24/7 it was eat, sleep and shit strongman and when you’re spending only an hour or two hours a week with your family it does take it’s toll on your mind as well as your body and I can’t do that to myself, and I can’t do that to my wife and kids again, it’s very tough on everybody.
TM: How hard was that on the family, especially your wife?
EH: Very hard, you know. I mean me and the wife haven’t had a holiday in seven years, so we’ve finally after five years had a honeymoon. You know I’ve missed school plays, I’ve missed birthdays, I’ve missed Christmases – all because I was out competing, or I needed my food in a certain way, you know, it took over my life completely, everyone suffered even my Mum and Dad and brothers, my nephews, they all suffered because I was never around.
TM: How selfish do you have to be to become a champion?
EH: You have to be a 100 per cent selfish, nothing else matters apart from yourself when you’re training to be number 1 in the world – if you lay off that track for even a week, it’ll take you four weeks to catch up.
That’s why I couldn’t have holidays because a week off would have taken me a month to get back where I was and then all the other athletes would overtake you, so you’ve got to be absolutely self-absorbed, nothing else matters but what you’re doing and that was strongman.
TM: Is there a bit of resentment in the sport that strongman doesn’t get the money or kudos that it deserves? Especially with all the hard graft and dedication that’s required…
EH: Yeah of course but it’s like that with probably 99 per cent of sports, you know, they all deserve more recognition. I mean me, myself I’ve done very well, I mean I’ve branded myself, called myself ‘The Beast’, I’ve got lots and lots of endorsements and sponsorships which I love to do.
I love to work with companies, grow them, grow myself and I’ve sort of made a good career out of things but unless you’re winning every single competition no one gives a shit, you come second in World’s Strongest Man – nobody cares, it’s like that, you’ve got to be number 1, you’ve got to win for everything to be good.
TM: You mentioned before about a career change, something like WWE would be a perfect fit surely? Or maybe a Bond villain, have you had offers?
EH: Yeah I’ve had offers, I’m actually doing an appearance for the WWE next month, so I’m just waiting for that right thing to come along you know, just waiting for something to land in my lap basically, I’m doing everything I can, all the PR I can, getting my face out there on TV, doing radio so I’m doing everything I can and I’m still in the sport as well.
TM: Are you still training as hard?
EH: I’m still training as hard, but I’m finding with all the appearances and extra sponsors and travelling, I’m finding it tough to keep on top. But I’ve got Britain’s Strongest Man at the end of January next year, and I plan on winning that, so it’s head down for that as far as I’m concerned.
TM: You talked about life goals earlier, have you set yourself any new ones?
EH: New goals now are just to make sure my kids are set up, you know. I’ve set up a Barbershop for my wife to run, so it’s just getting all the bread and butter stuff now, making sure my legacy lives on and my wife and kids benefit from the fruits of my labour for the rest of their lives.
TM: What about your lad Maximus, any plans for him to follow in your footsteps?
EH: It’s a tough one, obviously he’s only five, he’s into his iPad more than anything at the minute. I’ve got a daughter as well, I’d just be supportive you know, I wouldn’t force anything – if he wants to play football I’ll support that if my daughter what’s to go and do dance lessons then I’ll support that, you know.
But if he went into strongman, I’ve got all the tools, all the knowledge and all the backing to help my son out, so the options are there if he wants to.
TM: One thing you won’t miss are the injuries?
EH: Yeah you know, I’ve been through some bad times with strongman, I’ve ripped muscles off the bone, I’ve detached ligaments and tendons. I’ve trained that hard I’ve made myself ill, I’ve caught meningitis, septicaemia, so there’s a dangerous side to the sport where you wear yourself down, you burn the candle at both ends.
When I was working a full-time job, seventy hours a week with security work as well and training twenty hours a week – I was doing a hundred hours a week at work and training, but I had to do it to get to where I was, I had to do it!
TM: If you’d have ended up pursuing a swimming career, do you think you’d have ended up as successful as you’ve been in strongman?
EH: … No, I think the swimming set me up for life, I really do. I think it gave me the tools, it gave me the lung capacity, it gave me the heart function, but most of all it taught me discipline, because in strongman there are no coaches, there’s no one telling what to do, what to eat – you’re out on your own an that’s exactly what I did, I taught myself how to lift weights, I did my own nutrition, I did my own coaching. It’s a one-man band, you’ve just got to get on with things.
TM: Tell us about the record-breaking deadlift you did? Half a ton, that’s crazy!
EH: Yeah sure, so the world record at the time was 463 kilos, I said I wanted to pull 500 kilos, everyone laughed and said it was impossible, probably 99 per cent of people out there thought it wasn’t going to happen, but I went and did it, you know and it solidified my status in the strongman world as one of the strongest men in history because I pulled such a huge weight.
I needed that title, the World’s Strongest Man and I needed the 500-kilo deadlift – the two go hand in hand, you know because as I’ve got the two, I could almost solidify myself as the strongest man in history, which I’m very proud of. I mean the 500 kilo was one of the most dangerous things I’ve ever done, it had horrendous repercussions on my health, I lost my vision for a few days afterwards, I had concussion, I was bleeding out my eyes, my ears, my nose – it was horrific but it was worth it, however I would not do it again, no chance!
TM: Crazy. So could you give us a rundown of what a typical training session would look like?
EH: Well I do four hours of weight training every day, and that consists of bodybuilding movements. I’ll do two or three exercises like squats, leg press and then I’ll do my moving events with the weight, so the yolk, farmers (walk).
If I was to train my chest, I’d do flat bench, incline bench and then dumbbells and then I’d do the log press. So I’d just do bodybuilding training and then throw strongman events in at the end.
TM: There are not many gyms with atlas stones, do you have to get it all specially made?
EH: Yeah I have to get it all specially made and I just keep it all at the gym. Luckily the gym’s pretty handy – it’s got its own strongman room, so I just put all the kit in there and use it as and when.
TM: Tell us where someone your size sleeps? Have you got like a reinforced bed?
EH: I’ve actually got a specially made bed, it’s a ten-foot bed, it’s got two five-foot mattresses – one for me, one for the wife. Mine is reinforced to thirty-five stone and it’s got all the mechanics in it so you can lift your feet up, your legs up, your head, I mean I think the mattress is worth about… well I got it for free, but if you were to buy it it’s over five grand.
TM: What one tip could you give our readers if they wanted to improve their overall strength?
EH: My one tip would be don’t overtrain, learn when to walk away. I have a six rep rule of thumb, so, if you can do six reps with a weight and if say you can only manage five reps, then you shouldn’t go on. So if I did six reps with a 100 kilo, I would then put 10 kilos on and I’d again try and do six reps, but if I only do five reps I would then walk away.
That is my method, the six rep rule – if you can’t do six reps that’s when you’re finished, that’s when you put your weights back and you walk off, otherwise if you carry on with the session you over rip the muscles and you end up going backwards and you get weaker.
TM: You’ve mentioned Olympic weightlifting in the past, is that something you try your hand at, you’d smash that wouldn’t you?
EH: Potentially yes, but it would be like starting over again. I mean Olympic Weightlifting, I have tried it in the past and it is a tough sport, it’s not all about strength, it’s about mobility and flexibility, you’ve got to be able to get under the weights, get your elbows nice and tight and it’s a tough sport. So I’m probably not going to go down that route for the simple fact it’d be starting all over again.
TM: So tell us what it was like to meet Arnie?
EH: Yeah it was nice man. I mean Arnold’s a great guy, obviously, he’s my childhood hero. I met him the first time when I pulled the world record deadlift in Australia and he just sort of turned up and was egging me on from about three foot away, so that was an amazing moment in my life. I spoke to Arnold and had a good conversation with him, and he’s a really nice guy and yeah it was just really nice to meet him.
TM: Ok so where do you rank yourself in terms of strongman? A lot of people say Zavickis is the greatest of all time?
EH: I wouldn’t rate myself as the greatest of all time, but I would rank myself as the strongest man that ever lived. I mean Zavickis has done twenty odd years, he’s got four strongest man titles fair enough, but I can’t do that, I’m not the same size and build as that guy, I’ve proved my status – I’ve won the world’s, I’ve done a half a ton deadlift and I’ve got numerous records in the overhead press. I think I can safely say I’m one of the strongest men that’s ever lived if not the!
TM: And being from Stoke, would you say your more famous now than the other hometown hero Robbie Williams?
EH: Probably not Robbie Williams, but I will say that I cannot go anywhere in the country now without being stopped for pictures and autographs, it’s not only my fame it’s my sheer size I just can’t blend in anywhere.
TM: So just finally do you have a piece of wisdom for our readers or a mantra that you live by?
EH: Yeah, never put your dick where you wouldn’t put your tongue! That’s the best piece of advice I could give any lad.
TM: Haha. Seems like a good place to finish, thanks so much Eddie, you’re a legend and massive congratulations again.
EH: Awesome. Thanks buddy.
Buy a copy of Eddie’s brilliant book Strongman: My Story.
Don’t forget to tune in to Channel 5 over the Xmas period to watch Eddie in the WSM final.
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