7 CHANGES EDDIE HALL MADE TO BECOME THE WORLD’S STRONGEST
Follow The Beast's blueprint for world class strength gains
Eddie “The Beast” Hall trains like a bodybuilder, eats like a polar explorer and looks like the only thing that could possibly stop the Game of Thrones’ monstrous Gregor Clegane in his tracks.
That’s because in reality, he has. In Botswana this May, Hall dismantled the Icelandic strongman Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson who plays The Mountain to claim his maiden World’s Strongest Man title – the first Brit to scoop the prize since Gary Taylor in 1993.
It was the 29-year-old’s sixth tilt at the title, having come third – with a broken hand, no less – last year. That result, Hall reveals exclusively to Men’s Health, drove him to overhaul his diet, his training, his life for the single-minded pursuit of glory.
“Coming third, not winning, put the fire in my belly,” says Hall, reflecting on the relentless 12 months that helped him scale the mountain. “I trained even harder, ate more, did more recovery, did more physio. I upped my game in every aspect.”
Here Hall reveals the seven critical fixes he made to ensure victory a year later wasn’t a possibility, but a probability.
1. He borrowed techniques from CrossFit
The first thing Hall did after the 2016 WSM was recruit Chris Peil, a mobility expert from The Move Well Project with a background in competitive kettlebell lifting, CrossFit and Olympic lifting.
“He’d analyse Eddie’s movement patterns and tweak his technique so he could generate more power for every lift,” explains Andy Parker, owner of Stoke’s Strength Asylum gym where The Beast pays iron pilgrimage every day of the week.
“And he started using pressure point release therapy – foam rolling, basically – before every session.” When combined with regular swimming sprints – a legacy of his time as a national champion as a junior – it meant Hall had a superior range of motion than most of his competitors and could draw on more muscle fibres.
“It was by far the greatest area of improvement he made,” says Parker. “Although Thor won Europe’s Strongest Man in April, Hall’s demolition of him on the car walk was a sign of things to come.”
2. He learned how to back off
Surprisingly for a man used to flipping beer kegs like tossing a coin, Hall’s training has always closely resembled that of a bodybuilder. He’d use machines, especially the lat pull-down and seated row, to build foundations of strength that would translate to anything in competition. He’d do the same with chest machines – if he could fit in them.
He’d follow a body part split, targeting legs, chest, cardio, back and shoulders for each day of the week, yet each workout would include an event-specific move – such as 190kg axle presses – that would snap most bronzed bodybuilders in two.
But the biggest lesson he learned in the weights room was when to back off. He’d alternate all-out strength sessions with lower weight power reps to let his central nervous system recharge. “Your body can’t take that constant punishment,” explains Parker. “You’ll eventually plateau.”
To keep his numbers for the big lifts going up, Hall would ensure every rep was done as explosively as possible to build fast twitch muscle fibres. Then as soon as his form broke down, he’d walk away. “That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned,” says Hall. “Once you’ve worked up to a really heavy set you’ve already ripped enough fibres to warrant growth so it’s time to move onto another exercise.”
3. He supersized his diet
In Eddie’s world, it’s not just the dumbbells that are bigger. “You’re literally going up against the giants of this world,” he says. “Most are 6ft 9 or 6ft 10. At 6ft 3 I’m small by comparison but I needed to match them for weight or I wouldn’t have a chance in hell.”
To measure up, Hall knew his diet had to blow up. “Food is the hardest thing,” he says. “Leading into the WSM I was eating 12,000 calories a day, spending £250 a week, with 20 alarms on my phone reminding me when to eat, including throughout the night.”
Fat at nine calories per gram, took precedence over protein and carbs. “I’d rely on high fat, calorie-dense foods like steak, sausages, coconut oil and nuts. I’d add peanut butter ice cream, avocados and coconut water to my shakes for a 2,000 calorie snack. I simply couldn’t afford to miss a meal.”
The one time he did, he compensated by downing a litre bottle of full-fat double cream. “It must have had a 1,000 calories in there,” recalls Parker. “An hour later that came straight back up.”
If that’s left you salivating, it’s worth remembering Hall’s extreme diet was designed to match his extreme training demands. Even at rest his body would churn through 5,000 calories just to keep his organs ticking over and at his peak of 30.5 stone [195kg] he still retained a respectable body fat of 25%.
4. He built his own supplements
To reach his unfathomably high calorie target, Hall worked with the sports nutritionists at Protein Dynamix to create his own tailor-made supplement range, supercharging the pills and powders he relied on for his strongman career.
On training days he’d sink four mass gainer shakes made from ultra-calorific buttermilk protein at 41g protein, 65g carbs and 8g essential amino acids a pop. He’d chase that with two doses of creatine on an eight-week cycle to power through regular max-lift workouts and intersperse that with five to six doses of an amino acid solution to prevent his muscles breaking down in sessions sometimes lasting four hours.
“We selected ingredients that are effective and useful throughout the day, not just pre- or post-exercise,” explains Jon Langton, Head Of Product at Protein Dynamix. “And we packed in a load of carbohydrates, protein and extra amino acids to support glycogen levels and protein synthesis, meaning Eddie could remain in an anabolic [muscle building] state throughout the day no matter how hard he beasted himself in training.”
With his heartier appetite, Hall quickly started seeing results. “Every week I could see improvements,” he says. “I’d be able to lift a little bit more weight or get in an extra few reps. My speed and endurance improved and everything came together.”
5. He upgraded his recovery
After injury robbed him of victory in 2016, Hall was determined to limit any self-inflicted damage caused from working out. “I bought a hyperbaric chamber for my garden, had hot and cold baths put in, a sauna put in, had regular physio, all to help speed up recovery after training,” he says.
He also explored the fringes of marginal gains, notably having regular blood tests to highlight any vitamin or mineral deficiencies in his diet and even sleeping with a £2,500 magnet under his pillow to de-ionise his blood and boost circulation. “It’s fair to say I invested,” says Hall.
Not as flush as Eddie? Parker suggests prioritising sleep and the occasional dunk in a plunge pool after tough workouts for similar, more affordable, benefits.
6. He was utterly selfish
Ultimately, Hall made sure that coveted WSM trophy was his, through sheer bloody-mindedness. “There’s no magic, it’s all pure consistency,” says Parker. “Day in, day out, month after month, he put it in. He’s got that switch, that mental strength, that desire and that selfishness that meant nothing would distract him from his goal.”
That commitment to the cause meant by the time the final in Botswana arrived, Hall was confident nothing – not injury, not The Mountain – could stand in his way. “I didn’t need to psyche myself up because the only prep I do is training,” he says. “If I know in my head I’ve trained 100% and not missed a meal, not missed a physio session, I know I’ve done everything I can. That gives me the confidence to show what I can do.”
7. He realised his potential
With all the pieces of the puzzle in place, Parker believes it was only a matter of time until he was crowned the world’s strongest man. “Ed’s a genetic freak,” he says.
“Where he recovers, others wouldn’t. I’ve seen some strong lads tear muscles clean off their bones pulling a lot less than he’s pushing. He must have tendons like ropes. Seven billion people walk the Earth and he’s lifted more than any of them. People like that don’t come along very often.”
When they do, Parker says, all you can do is learn from them. “Every strongman competition he’s been learning from the best, now he is the best.”
First published on 3 August 2017 by Men's Health. Achieved over 30,000 page views on first day of publish. Re-posted by Eddie Hall on Twitter and Facebook, achieving a further 5.2k likes, 411 shares and 230 comments.