The World's Strongest Man
“I woke up in a massive pool of blood,” he recalls. “I had blood coming out of my nose, my tear ducts, my ears. I remember paramedics having to race to the scene to assist me. I had burst blood vessels in my brain during the lift. My heart rate was through the roof, my blood pressure was unreadable. I couldn’t see, I lost my vision for a few hours and for about two weeks I forgot my kids’ names. That nearly killed me”.
Eddie Hall didn't just break the Deadlift record. He smashed it. 500kg. 1102 pounds. Half a metric tonne.
The previous record was 465kg. And the world record typically improved by 2-3kg at most each time it was broken. Eddie Hall broke it by 35kg. And he did it despite never lifting more than 457kg before that day. The story of how Hall managed this is incredible. He literally went all out to engage himself in fight or flight mode, to trigger the maximal amount of adrenaline.
He explains the incredible process behind how this was done in the video below.
(The video has been set to start at 12min 23 secs, when Hall starts discussing the deadlift attempt. The video is filmed with Brian Shaw, himself 4 times World Strongest Man).
(Adrenaline is a hormone, triggered by our sympathetic nervous system. You can find out more about hormones at the endocrinology page. You'll also find the page on fear interesting.)
Pretty incredible huh? He practised for months and months to be able to force himself, literally, into a do-or-die situation, that shocked his body into recruiting all the muscle fibres he had.
These World Strongest Men might seem like so far removed from most of us. And because they are so outwardly distinctive - so enormous and bulky, it is easy to think of Strongmen like Eddie Hall and Brian Shaw as just big slabs of meat. But many of them are incredibly interesting people, with intriguing life-stories.
It's hard to believe, but Eddie Hall was once earmarked by the United Kingdom as a potential Olympic Swimmer.
He fell out of the swimming program because of disciplinary issues. In 2007, as a 19-year-old, he entered his first strongman competition. He placed 5th. On the way back home, he wrote on Facebook that he will become the Strongest Man in the World.
9 years later, in 2016, he broke the Deadlift Record.
10 years later, almost to the day he wrote that Facebook post, Eddie Hall won the 2017 World Strongest Man. He fulfilled his promise to himself.
But what did it take for him to become World Strongest Man?
“I didn’t care about my well-being. I didn’t care about anybody around me – my wife, my kids, my family, mum, dad, brothers – I didn’t give a fuck. I was training four hours a day, physio - two hours a day, stretching an hour a day, hot-cold treatments an hour a day, hyperbaric an hour a day, meditation, I was sleeping 13 hours a day. Then there was food prep and eating. Honestly, no joke, I would see my wife and kids for an hour or two a week at most. And that put so much strain on me mentally because, if I failed, all that fucking sacrifice would have been for nothing. And that in itself made me very anxious and very depressed. I was paying my wife no attention. I would fuck up Christmas, birthdays, meals out, I wouldn’t do anything because I was obsessed with Strongman."
"It just got to the point where my wife just didn’t have a husband and my kids didn’t have a dad. My son Maximus didn’t know me. I’ve got a nine-year-old daughter as well whom I don’t know. I’m getting to know her now but I didn’t because I spent so much fucking time obsessed with Strongman"
And then there was the physical strain he went through. He tore muscles and detached ligaments. He trained so hard that once, an eye popped out of its socket. To get stronger, he needed to get heavier. He would consume 12,500 calories a day. He would have to wake up in the middle of the night just to eat. Eventually, he got up to 196kg at 1.91m. His BMI was 53.7. And it was miserable being so big.
“Five weeks before I won World's Strongest Man 2017, my wife was basically packing her bags... she was going, she was out the house. I had to beg her to give me five more weeks just to let me win the World’s Strongest Man. I promised her I’d win it and that our life would get better. And thank fuck I won it because, honest to god, that saved my marriage. You see, because of my depression I didn’t really give a shit if I died doing it because, unless I won the World’s Strongest Man there was no point in me living anyway. In a way, it was my suicide. It was a win-win for me; if I died along the way, I died, and if I won, I’d achieve the dream."
Does Hall's selfish pursuit turn you off? As I shared, his story was not so simple. For a long time, he suffered from depression and anxiety attacks. It's quite hard to imagine someone so big being so vulnerable, but we often make impressions that are convenient but not necessarily accurate ADD LINK LATER.
“When I was 12 or 13 my nan was diagnosed with cancer. I was having a really hard time at school, I was thrown out of the swimming club – which was going to be my career – I was always in trouble with the police, in trouble with my parents, my family, always getting into fights and, I don’t know, it just fucking hit me hard. I got huge anxiety attacks where I couldn’t leave the house. Sometimes I just couldn’t go to school and ultimately that’s why I got expelled because, when I was there, I just didn’t want to be there. I was always in panic mode. I’d always be wanting to go to the toilet to sit on my own and just rock back and forth and just calm down and get the anxiety out. If I had to go out for a family meal or go out with mates, I’d be throwing up before I went out, I’d be that anxious. Doctors put me straight on Prozac and straight into counselling. I was on them for about four years and it did help. Then I started doing strongman and it just disappeared.”
Strongman was an escape for Hall. There were no other alternatives that he knew of. It was the one thing he was good at. And because of that, he was able to forge the discipline he needed to do well in it, discipline - perhaps to the extent of full-blown obsession - that was previously missing. In turn, this drove him to be able to overcome all the obstacles to being able to his dream. If he had not found Strongman, well who knows what would have happened to Eddie Hall.
Hall would retire in 2018, in his prime at just age 30, for health reasons and to spend more time with his family. Was it right for Hall to have made his wife and kids go through all that they did for his own personal dream?
I would leave you to decide.
Edit: Behind the scenes footage of the physical price it takes to pull 500kg