How Eddie Hall went from DAF Technician to The World's Strongest Man

22nd May 2020

A leafy suburb in Stoke-on-Trent is where we find Eddie 'The Beast' Hall, winner of the World's Strongest Man competition in 2017 - in the house he shares with wife - Alex - and children Layla and Maximus. If winning a global title wasn't enough, what sets Hall apart from his competitors is that he is the only man on the face of the earth to dead lift 500kg (a whopping half a tonne). For those unfamiliar with dead lifts, a weight—loaded bar is lifted from the ground to the hips.

At the height of his challenge to become the strongest man in the world, Hall topped out at a massive 32 stone, but today the comparatively svelte-like Hall is a mere 28 stone and, at well over 6ft, he fills the door frame as he shakes my hand and welcomes me into his impressive new home. "Sorry it's a bit of mess at the moment," he says sheepishly. "We only moved in a couple of weeks ago".

We settle down in Hall's kitchen for a chat and he talks with ease and confidence while waxing lyrical about his life achievements, starting right at the beginning. Hall was brought up in and around Stoke-on-Trent, and was the youngest of three brothers. "Everything is competition with your brothers — who can eat the fastest, who's the best fighter," he says. “As in most families, the youngest had to go everywhere their siblings went and, as they were competitive swimmers, I didn’t want to miss out. So, I started competing at the age of five.”

As time - and his swimming career - progressed, Hall became annoyed that he wasn't in the same group as his older brothers, Alex and James. "I realised I would have to work harder so I started training harder," he recalls. "At 5am every morning I would cycle to the pool for a 90-minute session and ate a good diet that allowed me to keep my energy levels up."

From a very young age, Hall had been both inspired and motivated by Arnold Schwarzenegger and — taking a leaf out of his idol's book - he started lifting weights, which proved to be a pivotal moment in his life. With all of the extra effort going in, it wasn't long before Hall's hard work was rewarded. In 2001, he entered the UK Nationals swimming competition, where he picked up four golds and a silver, setting two British records in the process.

From Strength To Strength

Success breeds success - and Eddie was selected to represent the GB youth squad, which is a funded pathway to the Olympics. The move not only provided him with new kit, but also gave him access to dedicated trainers and nutritionists. But it was possibly too much, too young. Hall reveals that it was around this time that he slipped into depression and was prescribed the antidepressant Prozac at the age of 14.

Mental health is very close to Hall's heart - and he speaks very passionately about it, in particular depression, which had a major impact on him at home, in school and within his swimming squad. His recovery was helped by the film Terminator - starring Schwarzenegger - when Hall realised he could look like the famous bodybuilder. So, a young - and slightly confused - Hall set about chasing the dream. "I told my family I was going to have the body of Schwarzenegger, and my mind was focused on the task. I had a gym membership and nothing was going to stop me."

The DAF Days

With Hall's time dedicated to the gym, his new build meant he had a real presence wherever he went. But he was eating more and more and also taking protein supplements, so life was becoming very expensive. Still only 16 — and living at home — he needed a job. Hall's mum saw an advert in the local paper for an apprentice technician role at Lex Commercials, the local DAF Trucks site in Cobridge, Stoke-on-Trent. “I applied for — and got — the job and was packed off to the DAF Trucks dedicated apprentice training facility in Bristol," he recalls. "There was a lot of banter in workshop life and I really enjoyed my time as a technician. It gave me very valuable life skills and definitely helped make me the man I am today."

Sometimes working more than 50 hours a week, any spare time was spent in the gym, which meant no socialising, which was - as Hall puts it - "a bit of godsend". When he completed his apprenticeship at Lex Commericals he left to join Muller Wiseman as a technician, where he stayed for eight years.

The Switch To Strongman

Egged on by his brother in 2007, Hall entered his first strongman competition, which involved a truck pull, log lift, tyre flip and a deadlift to name just a few of the challenges. Although inexperienced, he managed to finish fifth out Of 15, the strongman bug had bitten and bitten hard. "From then, I entered competition after competition, at first staying local, before moving onto qualifying events for England's Strongest Man, he remembers. “In many cases I was beating some of the elite athletes that were regular competitors in World's Strongest Man events, which made me even more driven to win. I went on to win the UK Strongest Man on many occasions, but it wasn't enough - I wanted to be champion on the world!“

 

The Big Lift

Part of Hall's training to realise his goal involved deadlifting - just one element of Strongman. In 2015, he broke the deadlift record of 465kg and he pledged to come back and lift 500kg. Many laughed at 'The Beast' because the weight lift was regarded as impossible. "All this did was fuel my ambition to prove them wrong and demonstrate that the impossible was at home with wife Alex and children Maximus and Layla actually possible," he says.

By Hall's own admission, going from 465kg to 500kg was a massive jump and he knew his physical makeup alone would not allow him to lift the weight. He had to dig deep into his own mind to summon up the extra force needed. "The theory of 'flight or fight' is achieved by a massive rush adrenaline. And I had to use my mental powers to go into a dark place to trick my mind to get the maximum amount of adrenaline in my body, he recalls.

Working with a team of sport psychologists, he created a very dark mental scenario that he could use just the once to summon up that adrenaline to achieve the big lift. There was also another mental battle - depriving himself of his family. "I was only seeing my wife and children for an hour, once a week, on a Sunday afternoon." It becomes so much of an obsession that he recalls. "There was a lot of banter in workshop life and I really enjoyed my time as a technician. It gave me very valuable life skills and definitely helped make me the man I am today." nothing else in the world matters - only you and winning the title. The record attempt for the 500kg deadlift took place at the European Strongest Man Competition in Leeds on 9 July 2016. The day before, Eddie had consumed 20 litres of Lucozade and didn't go the toilet once, which indicated all of the liquid had been absorbed into his body.

On the day, after waking up, he had a protein shake, then a full English (seven sausages, five rashers of bacon, four eggs, four hash browns, mushrooms, tomatoes, beans and loads of fried bread) before tucking in to a huge bowl of porridge. After a set of stretches, it was off to bed for a nap. Lunch was an 'all you can eat' buffet, where Hall asked for fried fat and consumed around 4,000 calories. Then it was back to bed for another nap, before waking up, scoffing a load Of flapjack and heading to the arena.

In the competition, Hall was up against two fellow strongmen: Icelandic strongman Benni Magnusson and Jerry Pritchett from Arizona, USA. There were three lifts each, starting at 420kg and working up to 440kg and then 465kg equalling the current world record, then the big one at 500kgs. Hall went first and lifted 420kg very quickly before skipping 440kg, instead going straight to 465kg. He lifted it and so did Magnusson.

"When it was time for the 500kg lift, I knew I needed to psych himself up and think about those dark things to make me very angry and get the adrenaline going," he says. "I gave myself a pinch to feel the pain, walked out onto the stage, locked onto the bar and closed my eyes. I rocked the bar back - now loaded with half a tonne - and pulled it off the ground. Once it was up, I opened my eyes, savoured the moment and mouthed "F*** you!" which was aimed at all the people who said it couldn't be done.

Once he put the bar down, he collapsed, such was the stress put on his 32-stone body. "I had blood pouring from my nose and ears - even 20 minutes after the lift my heart rate was still over 160 and my estimated blood pressure was 300 over 180, " says Hall. The doctor told me afterwards that if the blood hadn't come out from my eyes or nose, my heart would've exploded. I was lucky to be alive!"

Man On A Mission

A month later, Hall was on a plane to Botswana to compete in The World 's Strongest Man. He felt sure he could win, but he dislocated two fingers and eventually finished in 3rd place. The following year, he went two better —again in Botswana — and claimed the title he'd worked so hard for: he was the 2017 World 's Strongest Man.

"After my victory, I announced my retirement from major competitions, but I've still capitalised on my success," he admits. Still only in his very early 30s he has a whole new life in front of him and has prepared for it with acting lessons

He has agents in New York and London and offers of film work have started to come. "I've already got the lead role in an up-and-coming film, which I can't say too much about," he says. "I've also recently finished a series filmed in the US called 'Eddie Eats America”, where I carry out eating challenges. Although I'm not a competitive eater, I do have a very big appetite.

There is still a link to Strongman, however, as Hall also features very heavily in 'The Strongest Man in History', where he and three other fellow strongmen try to repeat historical feats of strength.

Taken from the latest issue of the DAF Driver Magazine, which you can read here.


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