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Hafthór Björnsson Tells Us What It’s Like Training For A World Record Deadlift Attempt

Hafthór Björnsson is the most famous Strongman competitor in the world, thanks in part to his role as The Mountain in Game of Thrones. But beyond his fame, he’s also one of the elite competitors on the Strongman circuit, most recently winning his third-straight Arnold Strongman Classic earlier this year.

On Saturday, May 2, he will look to set a new world record with a 501 kilogram deadlift, as he seeks to break the record of 500 kg set by Eddie Hall at the 2016 Europe’s Strongest Man competition. Last week, Björnsson spoke with Uproxx on behalf of Reign Total Body Fuel about his upcoming world record attempt (12 p.m. ET, livestreamed on ESPN and CoreSports), what training has been like in his garage at home, what his schedule has been like getting ready for a world record deadlift attempt, and why he’s very confident after pulling 470 kilograms (with ease) last week.

I know you’re used to traveling around the world for competitions and things, so how are you handling being at home for the lockdown and training at home?

Honestly, I’m handling it quite well. The funny thing is, when I prepare myself for a competition I usually do isolate myself a lot. I spend a lot of time at home. I meal prep, I eat my meals, I train. The only real difference right now is that I’ve been training more in my garage, and that’s the only difference. The reason why I’m training in my garage is I want to show people support and show people that you don’t have to have all the fancy equipment. If you have a bar and a small garage, you can do a whole lot with just that by itself. I’ve been using bands more in my sessions, and I’m still gonna hammer. I always have my own gym and my own facility, so I could train there, but because of COVID-19, obviously trying to stay home as much as possible.

With regards to that, I mean, most of us can’t do what you do, but what are some things that you think people can be doing at home to stay fit and continue staying in physical shape which can be tough at home?

So actually a great tip I can give them is to shoot them over to our YouTube channel called Reign Total Body Fuel. My wife and a lot of other team members from Reign have been shooting some awesome content for people at home. They’ve been using bands and just been figuring out stuff you can use to train at home, so there’s a lot of awesome stuff to see there. I definitely recommend people go there if they’re beginners or they don’t have the bars, and want to use body weight or bands, definitely check that out.

When did you decide that you wanted to go for this deadlift world record?

Funny thing is, I’ve seen some rumors online that people think I’ve been trying to break this for four years now, that’s actually incorrect. I have never had chance to break the 501 kg deadlift with a deadlift bar the last two years, actually. 2019, I trained for the Arnold Strongman Classic and I pulled 501 kilograms to my knees, but I didn’t finish the lift. That was with an elephant bar, it’s a different bar and I’m also not allowed to use a deadlift suit, which makes things much more difficult. It wasn’t until this year when World Ultimate Strongman reached out to me and told me that they want to have a regular deadlift bar with the suit with figure eight straps, the same way Eddie Hall has the world record now. So I accepted that and I said I’m going to accept this challenge. I’m going to train for it, and you know I’m going to compete.

And that’s what I did, but then COVID-19 came along and everything got postponed or canceled, and I was trying to figure out ways — I was very disappointed obviously, because I already had worked so hard and my strength was at a very good place. So I thought to myself, what if I host a small show here in Iceland, where I only compete and just pull 501 for the fans, for people at home who are in lockdown and have nothing to do. What if I make something exciting happen so people have something to look forward to? So that’s when I called World Strongman and brought that idea up to them, and we decided to do it together. So now I’m going to do it in Iceland in my gym because of COVID-19.

There will be very few people there, under the limit of 20 people, we’ll be under that just to be safe. I’m going to have a doctor on the spot. I’m going to have the best referee in the world in Magnus ver Magnusson. It’s going to be livestreamed on Core Sports, ESPN, Rogue Fitness YouTube channel, and even on my Twitter account. So it’s going to be great, and I’m just super excited to be able to do this with this bad situation going on.

I feel like part of the process for this and a tricky part of this has to be crafting your training regimen and figuring out the right pacing to go for such a high weight. What was that process like in figuring out how to go week by week and build your body up to go for a weight like this.

That’s a good question. I have a great team around me. Even though I’m a professional athlete and I know what I’m doing, I still have a great coach behind me in Sebastian Oreb and with him and my team we have been working close together to figure out the best way possible for me to achieve this. And that’s why I’ve been so successful, because I haven’t been afraid to have good people around me. If you saw my 470 kilogram deadlift from two days ago, you probably have a strong feeling that I’m capable of pulling 501 right now, actually.

I’ve learned a lot about strength recovery. I have 10 days right now to get my body fully rested back and come in absolutely in the best shape of my life and smash that record. And I’m super, super confident. With the help of my sponsors, Reign Total Body Fuel, Rogue, all these great guys — Transparent Labs, Revive — without them this wouldn’t be possible. They’re sticking behind me and I know that I’m going to be able to pull 501.

What does your training schedule look like, or I guess has it looked like in the months leading up to this, and how different is it from the training you would do for a Strongman competition?

So the only difference really is I’ve been practicing less Strongman movements — absolutely none, to be honest. I skipped all the Strongman movements and I’ve been focused more on static strengths, and obviously mostly on the deadlift. That’s why I’ve been improving so fast there because I have more into it when it comes to my deadlift days. I’ve been training squats also as well, but nothing too heavy so I don’t get my body fatigued for when I need to do my deadlifts. Pressing days are still, you know, nothing too heavy but I’m still putting in the work. But nothing that will affect my performance when it comes to deadlift, and that’s what I’ve been able to do. I’ve been adjusting everything towards the deadlift, so the deadlift will improve the fastest.

And, you know, yeah, the days are mostly the same. I wake up. I start the morning by having my breakfast: six eggs, rice, and two hours later I have steak, rice, peppers, carrots. It’s all about being super consistent. I eat that, then right before my sessions, I throw in Reign Total Body Fuel to get my caffeine. At my session, I eat more food and just more, more, more. Steak, consistently. I treat the food like my work. The training is the easy part here, the hard part is the diet.

Finally, you mentioned your attempt got picked up by ESPN over here in the states. What does it mean to have that kind of platform for something like this?

That’s huge. I’m actually just honored and super excited that ESPN was willing to livestream my lift. That makes me very proud and excited for the future for Strongman, because I believe this is only going to grow the sport. I think this is the future, livestreaming Strongman events, and hopefully the audience can grow.