strength

Eddie Hall Talked Us Through Life as the World's Strongest Man

And also lifted me, a weakling, clear above his head.
December 20, 2017, 3:57pm

Eddie Hall is six foot, three inches tall. It is impossible to estimate how wide he is because perspective grows warped and wrong when it approaches him. Like: I notice a new tattoo on Eddie Hall’s arm. "How long did the tattoo take, Eddie?" I ask Eddie Hall. "Not done yet," Eddie explains to me, saying that due to the sheer size of his arm – arms like tree trunks, arms like God got mad – he schedules three-hour sessions every Monday morning to get it inked, and it still isn’t done. "It’d be big on a normal person’s back," Eddie Hall explains. It doesn’t make sense though. The perspective: it’s wrong. "That can’t be correct, Eddie Hall," I say. I splay my hands over the Terminator face on his forearm. On Eddie Hall, the Terminator looks small, round, dainty – like if you placed a digestive biscuit gently on your own puny human arm. Bring the hands away. My hands are honestly spread to the width of my own face. Eddie Hall smiles at me. I am gigantic, the smile says. I am the most gigantic man to ever live.

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Eddie Hall is six foot, three inches tall. It is impossible to estimate how much he weighs, because weight grows warped and wrong when it approaches him. Like: one time, when Eddie Hall was getting ready to attempt the world deadlifting record, he drank 20 bottles of Lucozade before he went to bed. Twenty bottles of Lucozade. Before he went to bed. "Yeah, like ten litres," Eddie Hall says. Eddie looks up and to the right for a moment, mentally calculating. "Actually," says enormous Eddie Hall, Eddie Hall the size of a medium-to-large house, or a small-to-medium monument. "Actually, more: let’s just say there was a fresh 20-pack of Lucozade in my house… and then there wasn’t." Eddie Hall wiggles his mighty eyebrows as if to say: I drank more than a family pack of Lucozade in one night. He tells me about his attempts the next day to lift the weight. "Yeah I was getting ready – drinking more Lucozade." I don’t want to put words in Eddie Hall’s mouth, but I think what Eddie Hall is saying, here, is that in the course of about 16 hours he drank something like 20 litres of Lucozade. I am saying that if you went through the recycling and counted the Lucozade bottles in there, you’d find like 40 Lucozade bottles, all consumed by Eddie. "I put on two stone overnight," Eddie Hall says. Experts call this "Lucozade weight". They very strongly advise you never put it on.

So what I am saying is: Eddie Hall is very vast, and does things with tattoos and weight and Lucozade that would kill the average man. Consider this: consider what drinking 20 litres of Lucozade would do to you, a normal human. Are you telling me you wouldn’t die? Like straight away? Are you kidding me? You’d be dead and leaking orange. And instead, what Eddie Hall did:

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What Eddie did was became the world’s strongest man.

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I cannot tell you whether Eddie Hall is the World’s Strongest Man or not, because World’s Strongest Man (the competition) is filmed in May and broadcast in December, and I’m not about to spoil World’s Strongest Man for you. I know you cherish it like I do. But there are a number of metrics for being the world’s strongest man beyond winning World’s Strongest Man, and Eddie Hall once lifted 500 fucking kilograms off the floor using only the vast lifting power clenched within his marvellous enormous body, and that is the strongest thing anyone has ever done, in history. To put this in perspective: the previous deadlift record was 465kg. Deadlift records have crept up by the kilo every time they have been broken, at a rough rate of about one kilo per attempt per year. The one before that, set exactly a year before, was 463kg. Eddie Hall jumped from 465kg to five-hundred kilograms. The man lifted up half a ton, then gently placed it down again. I should probably mention the name of the previous two record holders before him:

Eddie Hall
Eddie Hall

If you want to tell Eddie Hall he’s not the strongest man alive then that’s on you, but he has the means to lift you over his head like you’re a rag doll. He can pull half a ton up like he’s pushing the entire earth down. I’m just saying: I personally wouldn’t.

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Eddie Hall has, for lunch: one 20oz steak, one side of onion rings, a side portion of vegetables, chips, a small Pepsi. It is not a gigantic amount of food – you could manage it on a decent enough hangover – but it is more than everyone else at the table is eating. And I’m not saying this to food-shame Eddie Hall; I’m saying this because the man needs a terrific amount of food to live: a study of him at a local university found that – just to sit in a chair, upright and not moving, for 24 straight hours in a day – Eddie Hall requires four thousand, nine hundred calories to maintain his weight. If he is clunking around for four hours in the gym, which he does every day without fail, then he requires somewhere nearer to 9,000 or 10,000 calories, rising to 12,000 as a competition approached.

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Eddie Hall obviously consumes good protein, energy-giving carbs, vegetables, he starts his day with five portions of fruit in with his morning smoothie – but he requires such a massive amount of food that it doesn’t really matter if it’s clean or if its dirty, as long as it has energy. That same five-fruit morning smoothie? PUT A LITRE OF ICE CREAM IN THERE. When Eddie Hall has a weekly curry? ENTIRE PACKET OF BACON, COOKED AND FRIED AND CHOPPED ON TOP. The day before he lifted 500kg off the floor with his bare hands, Eddie Hall went to a restaurant and asked for "just fat". "I asked for 400 grams of fat off a gammon joint," Eddie Hall says. "Because fats are so calorie-dense – there are nine calories per gram of fat – at 400 grams of fat, you're getting a lot of calories in. It’s so easy to digest fat, too. That was my fuel." Sometimes, before a competition, Eddie Hall wakes up at 3AM just to eat a raw steak with his hands. Then he’ll wake up again in the morning and have a Full English, then go back to sleep. The man eats like food offends him. He eats like food is just an obstacle in his way to getting as enormous as it is possible to be. After this relatively un-gigantic lunch, Eddie Hall will wait two hours then eat again. It never stops. He never stops.

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Eddie Hall was a normal-sized child, once, a normal boy in Stoke preoccupied with strongmen. "I remember watching World’s Strongest Man as a kid, and I was just obsessed with it," Eddie says. "At sort of five, six years old. Just watching these huge guys lift planes, pulls trains, lift stones – I was just mesmerised by it. So I think, subconsciously from that age, I always wanted to be the World’s Strongest Man. But it wasn't until the first competition where I was like, 'Oh hey, this is easy. This something I can actually achieve.'"

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World’s Strongest Man, I think, is one of our nation’s most curious traditions: every Christmas, in those dead days after the 25th proper and the New Year, we watch the mightiest men toil under a yellow sun to prove themselves the strongest to ever do it. They tug trucks and flip tires. They run with huge wooden frames strapped to their thick shoulders. Sometimes what they do is get a weight with a handle on it, and throw it backwards over their head over a flagpole? I don’t know who invents strongman events, but it's clear they are a genius. Another strongman event: pull huge smooth round atlas stones up and balance them on your great rippling strong man chest, lathered in chalk dust, and then put that down again on a plinth. Over and over, stronger and stronger. World’s Strongest Man.

There is beauty to this. The Oscars, for example, are subjective: Best Picture can be a matter of opinion, Best Actress the same. There are no absolutes in the world of filmmaking. Or: football, for instance, where one team can best another over 90 minutes purely on one change of play: one last minute goal, one penalty, one moment of genius, and suddenly United flip City or vice versa, but there are just enough gaps in the grey to argue: yes, though the score might say they won it, the other team was better. There is none of this fucking about with World’s Strongest Man. World’s Strongest Man is a competition to find the World’s Strongest Man. It is typically won by the strongest man in the world. He wins it by being immensely strong. Stronger than any of the other men. Stronger than any other man.

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How Eddie Hall went from normal, un-strong man to very, very, enormously strong man is this: he just lifted shit up a lot. "It was a bit of a weird one," Eddie Hall says – and Eddie Hall drinks a bathtub full of Lucozade sometimes for fun, so when he says something is weird you have to understand that it is exceptionally weird, because his parameters for weird are different to yours, same way his list of ideal features for a sofa are different ("I broke a mate’s sofa in the middle. I break a lot of chairs in restaurants." – Eddie Hall, 2017). "I was expelled from school at 14, and whilst everyone else was studying for their GCSEs I got a membership for that gym, and I just started lifting weights. So while everyone else was in school, I was in the gym sort of bulking up, and when I got to 17 I got a full time job."

So far, so hard lad expelled from your school. But this wasn’t Eddie’s first brush with being exceptionally sporty, or exceptionally obsessed: as a teen he was a competitive swimmer, posting records that are still in place today. "When I was ten years old I would get up at 5 in the morning, cycle to the swimming baths, do an hour-and-a-half session, then cycle to school, do a day at school, then cycle back to the baths after." When he decided to get hench instead of aerodynamic, he transferred that same gruelling dedication to the next sport. "It just became routine, and that's when I started taking it a bit more seriously. I got very big and strong quickly, and when I was 19 I just realised I was the strongest man in the gym, the strongest guy in the area. And I thought, 'I’ve got to do something with this, I’ve got to test it.'" After phoning up and qualifying for an event in Blackburn, he came fourth out of 30 full grown men, and instantly resolved to one day become the World’s Strongest Man. "I was 19."

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Say you want to be the World’s Strongest Man: say you have decided that, just now. It’s not going to happen. Eddie Hall decided at 19, then dedicated every hour of his waking (and sleeping: sleep is a huge part of recovery for a strongman, mainly because Eddie’s resting body burns about as many calories as your active one, so he needs eight hours plus regular naps plus a special breathing mask to wear while he does it, plus obviously you have to get up in the middle of the night to eat steak and piss masses of Lucozade out) life to the goal. "It can be difficult to get your head in the zone," Eddie admits. "Like: now I don't get up every day and work for a multimillion dollar company, I work for myself. It almost takes a lot more effort to get up and work for yourself. But I’ve never once got up and thought, 'I can't be arsed today.' You’ve got to get the graft every day. If I didn't go in once a week for a year, that's 52 sessions I’ve missed. You have to think: for every day that you have off, there’s someone who’s not taking a day off. Gaining on me."

This is how Eddie Hall thinks, and focuses, and eats and sleeps. This is why he lifted half a ton up off the floor and you did not. His elite athlete mindset is essentially a monstrous form of fear.

GET THE EDDIE HALL MINDSET, OR: THE TAO OF DICKHEADERY

Eddie Hall is a dickhead – that’s his thing. Not, like, personally: personally he’s one of the kindest and most down-to-earth men I’ve ever met. I mean, you have to say that about gargantuan men who have "THE" and "BEAST" tattooed on each bicep (each bicep the size of a grown pig) – it’s in the contract – but he honestly is: attentive to waiters, kind to strangers who ask for pictures, genuinely engaging with every gym-goer who says hello. But he’s also a dickhead, because you can’t just lift 500kg off the floor with the power of your body; you need the power of your mind too, and part of Eddie Hall’s lift-half-a-ton-off-the-floor mindset is being a dickhead. It’s His Thing.

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"In my younger years, in Strongest Man, I used to shout, growl, call myself the Spartan on TV. I remember quite vividly other strongmen saying, 'What a knobhead, he's really arrogant, he's bad for the sport, blah, blah, blah.' Now, it's the total opposite: 'He's an amazing ambassador, he’s good for the sport.' I built that persona, that character. I went from 'The Spartan' to 'The Beast' (*1), and because I always backed up my bullshit, it lifted off."

This is part of what’s made Eddie a "brand" as well as a strongman – Eddie’s Facebook following is out of control, his Instagram builds year-on-year, he is akin to God among gym lads who do selfies in grey tracksuit bottoms and vests. Part of that is saying, "I am a spartan" every five to ten minutes you’re not lifting shit up or eating.

This "speaking it into existence" thing is a large part of Eddie’s self-belief, and it’s why he finds so much work on the motivational speaker circuit as he plans a life post-strongman (you cannot be 30 stone and strong your whole life, is the thing: your heart will explode and you will die. You make plans for something else). For a moment, the transcript:

EDDIE HALL, WORLD’S STRONGEST MAN: It’s goal setting. Number one rule in goal setting is: tell someone. You can be at home: 'My ambition for next year is to get a job paying 30k a year, get a house, blah, blah, blah.' If you don’t tell anyone, you’re just kidding yourself. That's your own little self belief bullshit. But if you tell your mum, your brothers, your friends, 'This is what I’m gonna do,' it commits you. And if you don't do these things, you look a dick. That’s always something that’s played in the back of my mind. Once I’ve said I’m going to do something, I’ve got to achieve it, otherwise you look a dick. I suppose that’s a big thing in human nature: nobody wants to look a dick.

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WORLD’S WEAKEST MAN: It’s better to be a successful twat than a loser dick?

EH, W/S/M: Exactly, yeah, exactly.

W/W/M: What's the biggest dick you've ever looked in public?

EH, W/S/M: [laughs] Fucking hell. I don't think I have. I’ve always backed up my bullshit.

I’m going to interlude here: when the World’s Strongest Man says to you, "I’ve never looked a dick in public," just take him at his word, and don’t, I don’t know, recall that period – as documented in Eddie Hall – Strongman, the fantastic 90-minute Netflix doc I sincerely suggest you check out this Christmas, which is about Eddie Hall, and features a to-camera scene with his wife where, there in the background, Eddie pisses out a litre of Lucozade onto a tree – where Eddie Hall tries to break the world deadlift record (461kg), but fucks it up by, after making the lift, dropping the weight instead of putting it down, directly contravening the rules of the sport, his biggest and most public self-defeat, his most enormous failure. So like, again, to clarify: when the World’s Strongest Man says, "I’ve never looked a dick in public," don’t then immediately cite the time he looked a dick in public, both on film and in front of a crowd—

W/W/M: But what about the 461? And then doing the 462? When you failed? You made yourself look a dick then

Okay, but here’s the thing: Eddie Hall didn’t look a dick when he lifted 462 kilos off the floor, because, crucially, he lifted 462 kilos off the floor. So here’s how Eddie Hall took that failure – a technical failure, wrapped in a cloud of true success – and forged it into something more: forged it into even more motivation, to go and crush every record that has ever been broken, to become a legend—

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EH, W/S/M: I suppose that’s about it, really. You have these little failures where you do look a bit of a dick. Like when I dropped the deadlift, wasn't given a lift. I suppose it gave me the fire in my belly to push on and train harder at the goals. Because, yeah: I did look a bit of a dick, but not an entire dick, because I did the lift… but it dropped. It just gave me a little nudge. 'Come on, Ed, you’re gonna look a bit of a cock here if you don't pull your finger out.' It’s probably why I went on to lift 500 kilo as well as I did. There was no question I was the best in the world.

W/W/M: Did you immediately process the loss with the 461, or was there at least a period where you were like, 'This really stings'?

EH, W/S/M: When I dropped the deadlift at Europe's [Strongest Man] and it was disallowed, that was the switch light moment in my life, really. Because it was that weekend that I came home and I was like, 'What do I do with myself now? Do I give up because I haven't done what I said? Do I give up Strongest Man and not do it any more?' I just felt so unmotivated, depressed, and did look dick, and I felt embarrassed. And it was my wife who said to me, 'You’ve just pulled the world record deadlift, you're the best in the world at something. If you can do that, why can’t you be the World's Strongest Man'? It was like: you're fucking right, I can. So that weekend I quit my job and I never went back to work. So that was the switch flip moment on my career, that lift. That's what made – I suppose, looking a dick – that made me think fuck, what's stopping me from progressing? My fucking job, so I quit my job. Dropping that weight was probably the best thing that ever happened to me.

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I’m feeling pretty pumped after that pep talk, so we head to the gym to lift weights. Eddie Hall is enormous – Eddie Hall is the size of Hong Kong – but he’s also an inch shorter than me, so a small part of me thinks I can take him. I am wrong about this. We would find this out seconds into Eddie Hall trying to teach me how to benchpress. "Push from your nipples," Eddie Hall says, towering over me as I lie prone and weak beneath him, him the most colossal man on Earth, me a sort of inverse Eddie Hall, somehow weak for my size, flimsy for my height. "Breathe out to stabilise your core, then push." I rep the bar a couple of times. We put – and I am not even joking – five kilos on each side of it. I do not rep the bar. "How much do you normally do?" I – a suddenly very pink and desperate man – ask Eddie. "More than that," he says. At one point he literally lifts the bar away from me using his pinkie finger.

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Eddie has a series of videos on his phone showing various feats of strength – so, like, for example, that time he lifted 500 kilos off the floor and then immediately collapsed over and got so hot five other strong men had to come over and take his various vests and T-shirts off, that is one of his videos. Another video is him bench-pressing four human women ("And these weren’t light women, mate," Eddie Hall is saying. Eddie Hall is so strong he cannot really see women as women any more. Eddie Hall just sees the entire planet as a series of various shapes that he will one day get strong enough to pick up.) A third video, my favourite, sees him shoulder-press 100 kilos with a single enormous, trunk-like arm, a sort of desperate feat of strength, it looks horrible. Most sportspeople, in the absolute prime of their career, look gorgeous doing what they do best: Messi as the dancer, Federer as ballet, Serena a sort of all-encompassing calm sense of power. Eddie Hall looks like his teeth have just exploded inside his mouth but he’s very politely trying to keep you from knowing that has just happened. Eddie Hall looks like his body is trying to stop being his body and become something else, somewhere far away from him. He rips 100kg above his shoulder like he’s trying to get a bookcase up some stairs. We get me to rep about 6kg, but stop short of 8.

A Fun Fact:

You have never felt emasculation until the world’s strongest man has plucked an eight kilo barbell away from you because he knows you cannot lift it.

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A Fun Fact:

Eddie Hall once lifted a weight in the gym wrong and his eye came out of his head. His eye came out of his head. "Have you ever seen the film Total Recall, where Arnold Schwarzenegger’s eyes pop out his head?" Eddie Hall asks. "Literally like that. It was horrible because I actually had to touch my eye to pop it back in, then fold my eyelid back around it." Eddie Hall did finish the set after doing that, yeah.

A Fun Fact

Eddie Hall goes blind way more often than anyone else I know, actually. After he pulled five hundred K he went blind for a good couple of hours. "Not instantly, but it’s the same effects as concussion," Eddie Hall says. "So very bad memory loss. I couldn’t remember how to drive my car. I lost my sight, so I couldn’t see anything properly. I was bleeding out my nose, my ears. My blood pressure was over 200." How would you describe lifting something so heavy and gigantic no other human had ever managed it before, and your head basically exploded and started bleeding as a result? Here’s how Eddie Hall describes it: "It was nuts, mate."

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Thing is, at no point does Eddie Hall intimate that I am in any way a pansy or a pathetic wet boy as I demonstrate my completely lack of prowess in the gym. In fact, he’s in his element: as we go around the equipment, he demonstrates form, shows his own gigantic strength, calmly guides me through my weak attempts to copy him, quietly tells me to focus on my breathing, Push From The Chest, Hold Your Core. It’s something you see in him whenever he interacts with people around him – I hate to do the "he’s polite to waitresses!" bit again, but Eddie Hall was exceptionally polite to our waitress, and was the only man at the table who remembered to say "ladies first" and gesture our photographer, Bekky, when it came time to order.

Despite describing his growing fame as being a sort of double-edged burden – as he winds down his career, he has the time now to spend with his family, but can’t go to Tesco without being constantly asked for photos, can’t strut around Alton Towers without being mobbed – but when a Christmas party at a nearby table asks him to pose for a frame he’s unutterably polite. At the gym, he’s stopped every few seconds – handshakes, fist bumps, a chance encounter with an older guy who Eddie says "haven’t seen you in a couple of years" to, before they have a quick chat about his recent illness.

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Watch Eddie Hall – Strongman and you’ll see his other focus, next to lifting up the heaviest things in the world, is his wife, Alex, and two children: when he talks about his wife he shrinks down to the size of a normal man briefly with sheer adoration, and I sincerely think that, like most things in Eddie Hall’s life, if you somehow transplanted the way he interacts with the world into my body, it would explode it, and his love for his wife is no different – it would stop my heart dead and make my skull shatter out of my head (as celebration for a good year of being strong, they had their delayed honeymoon and Eddie bought her a hairdressing salon in his gym). You might think of a strongman as being a typical meathead, just caning protein and pulling trucks, but it couldn’t be further from the truth: Hall is introspective, intelligent, fully aware of every atom of his body, and even more so in tune with his mind, the secret weapon when it comes to talking things into existence and lifting 500 kilos up off the ground.

Speaking of, he is about to undertake arguably his greatest feat of strength to date: lifting me above his head like a log.

Eddie Hall has a whole routine when he lifts up another human being, because he lifts other human beings up a lot. Eddie Hall is fixing me straight in the eye and talking to me like a parachute instructor might before flinging me out of a window to my death. "Right, I can either lift you clear above my head," Eddie Hall is saying (Eddie Hall’s head is the size of a boulder), "or I can cradle you in my arms like a baby." I want to be cradled in his arms like a baby – I just feel like I would finally ascend to a level of peace and tranquillity, there, in Eddie Hall’s arms, one I haven’t felt in years: I just feel that, there, in Eddie Hall’s arms (arms the size of aqueducts), a lot of my problems would melt away, possibly forever.

But come on. I’m thinking about the Instagram likes. I have to go up. "Above your head, Eddie Hall," I say. "I weigh 85 kilos, if you can manage that." Eddie Hall shows me a video of him lifting up 100 kilos with a single arm. Eddie Hall smirks. Eddie Hall can lift me above his head, yeah. Back to the routine: "I’m going to put my hand here," Eddie Hall says, clenching my armpit, "and you’re going to snap that arm shut." I nod. There is no way this man can lift me above his head. This is insane. This is an insane thing for another human being to be able to do. "I’m going to hold you here," Eddie Hall says, pointing to my thigh, "and you’re going to snap your legs shut. Right?" And I do it, and Eddie Hall eases me over his gigantic shoulders – Eddie Hall’s shoulders are wide like an ocean, Eddie Hall’s shoulders are strong like concrete, Eddie Hall’s shoulders go on forever, until you cannot see the end of them, Eddie Hall’s shoulders a monument to themselves, the World’s Strongest Shoulders – and then—

Just for a moment—

I—

Fly—

@joelgolby

World's Strongest Man 2017 is currently airing on Channel 5, with The Grand Final starting at 6.35PM on New Year's Day. World's Strongest Man: The Winner's Story immediately follows on 5Spike.

(*1) I want you to imagine being hench enough to un-ironically give yourself the nickname "The Spartan", and then, when you exceed that henchness, deciding that the nickname "The Spartan" is not hard enough to truly encompass who you are and how much strength you possess, and instead you have to upgrade that nickname to simply "The Beast". Eddie Hall has lived that reality. There is no nickname after this. There are no nicknames left. He lifted them all up and held them at hip height for a three-count and then placed them back on the floor.