Eddie Hall holds the world record for he heaviest deadlift, at 500kg, and last year he crushed the opposition to claim the title of World’s Strongest Man, in a struggle that as he exclusively reveals to RSNG, almost cost him everything. He tells us that it’s not his body that’s lifting those world-destroying weights, it’s his mind…
RSNG Do you have any plans to come out of retirement from Strongman to aim at further world record attempts?
EDDIE HALL, WORLD’S STRONGEST MAN ‘In the last two years of my career I became pretty obsessed. I was getting up at 7am and going to bed at 11:30pm and all I was doing was thinking Strongman, constantly. There was no time off – I didn’t miss any meals, I didn’t miss training sessions, I didn’t miss physio sessions.’
‘What I would miss was birthday parties… I would fuck up Christmas, evenings out; so I sacrificed a hell of a lot, mentally and physically, to get that title, for sure. And that’s me done now. Completely done.’
RSNG The last time you spoke to RSNG you said you were aiming to win The World’s Strongest Man, and you did – what did it mean?
EH ‘For me it was the end of the chapter. I started with Strongman Junior 11 years ago and the plan was to win the World’s Strongest Man title once, then walk away, capitalise on the title and enjoy life. And when I got the title it was just that.’
‘I felt so happy and content with myself that it seemed very pointless to go on and achieve a second, a third, a fourth, a fifth and even a sixth title because I wouldn’t be any better off in the eyes of the public. I could win it once or win it 100 times, it wouldn’t really matter – winning it is winning it.’
‘But getting that title brought an end to a lot of mental torture for me. For as long as I could think, I had done nothing but eat, drink, sleep and shit WSM!’
‘You’ve got to push yourself harder than anybody on the planet – I swam out to dark waters and kept swimming’
RSNG You whole career has been about going where no-one else has gone before – what has been the biggest challenge in breaking new ground?
EH ‘For me it was coming to terms with giving my life over to strength. I been doing Strongman since 2007 and I didn’t turn pro until 2014. My defining moment was when I was doing a World Deadlift Championship record attempt in Leeds that year. I got given the ‘good lift’, and the referee gave me the ‘down’ signal, and I dropped the bar. The easiest part of the lift is just lowering the bar to the floor, and I dropped the bar. He disallowed the lift, and at that point in my career I was working all hours – I was doing 80 or 90 hours a week, burning the candle at both ends, training 20 hours a week – and then I was doing this world record, and messed it up.’
RSNG Did you think of giving up at that point?
EH ‘I lost £500 that weekend in going to do that tournament, and I had just had enough of the sport. I was killing myself and losing money at the same time, but when I got home and I talked to the wife, she said, “What are you on about? You’ve just proved to the world that you can pull a world record deadlift, so you’re the best in the world right now at what you do. So if you can do that then why can’t you go on and win the World’s Strongest Man?” And that just flicked a switch… it lit the fire in my belly and off I went.’
‘I quit my job that weekend; I never went back to work – I just concentrated on Strongman. Now I’m pretty sure that if I’d been given that lift, and walked away with a world record, there’s probably a good chance I’d have carried on working, not quit my job, and not won World’s Strongest Man. So yes, I definitely did turn that negative into a positive.’
‘Accepting you can only do so much in one state, and that you need to change things around you to move forward, that was the biggest challenge in breaking new ground. You’re no longer looking for answers from within – you’ve got to go out and find them, change your whole environment… and in many ways that’s tougher.’
RSNG How do you motivate yourself to push yourself harder than everyone else?
EH ‘In terms of keeping motivated and going that extra mile in training sessions, I always remember one quote from Muhammad Ali, about he was always willing to swim out to dark waters. If he and every heavyweight title boxer in the world jumped in the sea and kept swimming out, everyone would turn around, one by one, and swim back, yet he would keep going, keep swimming and put himself in that danger zone to the point of pushing the body to the absolute limit.’
‘That’s what you’ve got to do… you’ve got to push yourself harder than anybody else on the planet. And that’s what I did, I swam out to those dark waters and I kept swimming. And that’s the mental attitude that you’ve got to have, that sort of “I’m willing to die to achieve my dream” attitude.’
‘I envisioned that weight being a car and one of my children being under the weight’
RSNG How do you prepare for a maximum effort, to put yourself in the ‘hurt locker’?
EH ‘Attacking weights, especially in competitions going for ‘max lifts’ – you’ve got to put yourself in a different place, and I can only describe it as the same as when you hear stories of mothers lifting cars off their own children in accidents – that’s the kind of flip switch you’ve got to learn to control. You’ve got to release a tonne of adrenalin in the split of a second.’
‘For instance, when I did my final world record deadlift, it wasn’t my body that lifted that weight, it was my mind. I put myself in a position where, in the same way, I was lifting that 500kg weight off one of my kids, and somehow I did it, I put myself in that scenario. I envisioned that weight being a car and one of my children being under the weight.’
RSNG Your records have seen you push beyond what science itself thought was possible – do you think we underestimate human potential?
EH ‘Well, think about Roger Bannister – people said the four-minute mile couldn’t be done, but he did it, and now there’s something like a couple of thousand people who can do it.’
‘Listen, everything is impossible until some crazy motherfucker comes and does it. That’s what I did with the 500kg deadlift, because people said it was impossible. People in the strength world, and not just out of the strength world, people who have been lifting weights for 40 or 50 years said it couldn’t be done, and I went and did it.’
‘It’s just one man showing the world what can be done – the man on the moon, the four-minute mile… it takes one person to do it and then everyone believes.’
RSNG Was the biggest battle the physical or the mental?
EH ‘It was both. Honestly, the whole thing broke me as a man, because towards the end of my career, just before I won World’s Strongest Man, I felt as though my family life was breaking down, my marriage was breaking down, my mental state was getting to the point where I just couldn’t cope.’
‘I was walking around, 32st in body weight, in constant fear of health issues… having a heart attack or a stroke. Just every day I felt lucky to wake up, and that’s not a nice feeling – it’s a very dark place to be, but I had to go through it.’
RSNG Did you seek professional help at any point?
EH ‘I’ve always been my own coach, mentally and physically. I’ve never sought help or advice. The only thing I did was put a good team around me in terms of physiotherapists, doctors, nutritionists – that’s the only advice I would ever seek, but my mental repairs had to be done from within.’
RSNG What would your advice be to anyone thinking of starting a new training regime?
EH ‘The best advice I’d give anyone getting into any sport is to be consistent. There are so many guys who get into training, go to the gym, do two or three weeks and then you don’t see them again. Perhaps you’d see them on the odd session, but because they aren’t seeing instant results, they give up.’
‘There’s that old saying: “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. It took me 10 years of hard graft and dedication to become World’s Strongest Man, but people don’t see that. People think you work out for a couple of hours a day and you win the Worlds, but it’s not like that. You have to be obsessed and turn it into a job to be the best – you’ve got to treat it as a job, though it’s not a job I miss!’
WHAT NEXT? Watch Eddie Hall tell Guinness World Records what it was like to lift 500kg…
*Hero image courtesy of ProteinDynamix.com
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