“I remember reading on strength forums, ‘Are we ever going to see a 500 kilo deadlift in our lifetime?'” He says. “And every single answer was no.” This presented an opportunity, and Hall is honest about how his primary motivator was a practical one: being a strongman is expensive.
“I guess the reason I did it was for money,” he says. “Point blank, I needed the money to become the World’s Strongest Man. I was spending 250 a week on food, 250 a week on physio, 250 a week on recovery methods, shock treatments, cryotherapy… That’s 800 a week just on me to become the World’s Strongest Man, and money was running out fast.”
Hall promised a promoter that he’d be able to pull it off and lift 37 kilos more than anybody had ever previously achieved, and then he got to work. “The most I ever pulled in training was 455 kilos,” he says. “Every time I went above that, my head would fall off… I attempted 485 in training, and I couldn’t get it past my knees. That’s when I thought to myself, I’m in trouble.”
In order to keep the pressure on, Hall announced to the world that he was gunning for the 500 kg deadlift, talking to reporters and putting it out on social media. He also hired a team of doctors, nutritionists and therapists to help him get ready, including a scientist who specialized in releasing strength from the human body by recruiting muscle fibers.
According to this specialist, an average person has access to around 50 percent of their muscle fibers, while an athlete who trains can access up to 70 percent. Of course, then there is the anecdotal evidence of mothers lifting up cars to save their children, who are able to “recruit 100 percent of their muscle fibers in a fight-or-flight scenario.” Hall wanted to tap into this potential, and started working with a psychiatrist and hypnotherapist, which ended up taking him to a “dark place” where he wasn’t envisioning lifting a barbell, but saving his children.
Throughout training, he refrained from attempting the full lift, saying: “I got it into my head that if the 500 kilo is going to happen, it’s only going to happen once in my life. It’s such a dangerous feat of strength.”
The day of the competition, Hall pulled the existing world record of 465 kilos in a speed rep, then retired to the bathroom to get into the right mind-set for the 500. “A massive euphoria of self-confidence came over me,” he says. “It was like a little switch flipped in my brain and went ‘Let’s go.'”
He recalls “blacking out” right before the lift. “I’m in the arena, but I’m not in the arena. I remember bending down, strapping onto the bar, rocking it back and forth. And then just on that last rock, I leant forward, leant back, and my eyes just closed and I started pulling… I finished off, I locked the lift out, and that’s when I woke up… I’m looking around, like ‘Have I done it?'”
He had. But it came at a great physical cost: blood streamed from his nose, eyes and ears, he temporarily lost his vision, kept losing consciousness, and the paramedics couldn’t even measure his blood pressure “I thought, This is where I’m going to die,” he says.
It took nearly 4 hours for his heart rate to level out, but the effects could be seen for several days afterwards. “The next day, I went to drive my car home, and I physically, or mentally, couldn’t work out how to drive my car… I was that mind-boggled, somebody had to drive me home.” At his son’s birthday party the next day, he couldn’t remember people’s names or even recognize the faces of family members. Internally, Hall was suffering from several pulled vertebrae and bad bruising, which he was able to recover from in a matter of weeks.
As for when people ask him if he’d ever try this once-in-a-lifetime feat again, Hall’s answer is always the same: “Yeah, of course I would. But I’d add 10 kilos on.”