This weekend we had the current (2X) Britain’s Strongest Man Eddie Hall at the gym to deliver a seminar on his training philosophies and practices. Eddie is quite literally one of the strongest men to have ever walked the planet with deadlift, squat and overhead strength that are freakish even when compared to his fellow elite strongmen. The day he spent with us here at Plymouth Performance Gym discussing his methods were extremely enlightening and I have compiled a list of the 8 main ‘take home points’ which I picked out during the day:
1. Eddie Built His ‘Gym Strength’ First
Ed told us that for the majority of his early career in strongman he did absolutely no training with competition equipment, he simply focused on building his ‘gym’ strength. Training this way took him to his first World’s Strongest Man competition in 2012 but was not enough to make him truly competitive with the best in the world. Since then he has trained with the various strongman implements every week. He trains them competition style usually against the clock trying to replicate the conditions he will face in comps as closely as possible. He doesn’t regret the approach he took early in his career stating that “you can learn to run with weight but you can’t learn to be strong”
2. Recovery is Key
Ed is focused 100% on winning World’s Strongest Man. He repeatedly told us he wants to leave ‘no stone unturned’ in his pursuit of the title and he is incredibly thorough pursuit of this goal. He puts a heavy emphasis on his recovery and avoiding the sort of injuries which would put the brakes on his training and he has been incredibly successful at this to date. He has weekly physio, regularly uses hot and cold therapy and he believes this allows him to move the ridiculously heavy weights he does on a more regular basis than he would otherwise be able to.
3. Don’t Rely on Supportive Equipment
After WSM 2014 Ed decided to stop using any supportive equipment in his training. This means no belt, deadlift suits, knee wraps, wrist wraps etc. He believes this has two effects, firstly to injury proof his body by eliminating weak points which can develop as a result of over reliance on supportive equipment. Secondly he feels an added confidence and boost to his strength when it matters, in competition when he adds all of the extra supports he denies himself in training. A third effect this approach likely has is to effectively limit the amount of weight he handles in the gym further helping to reduce the likelihood of over training and injury
4. Don’t Miss Reps
Training without supportive gear is very much in keeping with the overall theme of Eddie’s training philosophy. He told us he never trains with spotters as he never trains with weights he is not confident he can lift, and that he never fails lifts in the gym. I’ve been fortunate enough to hear a number of the strongest men in the world discuss their training methods including the former Britain’s Strongest Man title holder Laurence Shahlaei and the first man to deadlift 1000lb Andy Bolton, both of whom share this philosophy. If there’s one lesson that I hope everyone reading this takes away from this article it’s that if the strongest men in the world don’t need to constantly max out to the point of failure in the gym to increase their strength then you don’t have to either!
5. Train Fast!
Another theme that runs across the training methodologies of all the aforementioned strongmen is an emphasis on speed. Everyone who knows my views on training will not be surprised to hear that I picked up on this but Eddie repeatedly stressed the importance of training explosively with relatively light weights. The programs which Eddie, Andy Bolton and Laurence Shahlaei use to build their 400+ kilo deadlifts all have one thing in common and that is regular speed work. Eddie and Laurence also apply this principle to their event training.
6. Use Bands to Eliminate Sticking Points
While training with bands has received some negative press when it comes to developing ‘raw’ strength recently, both Eddie and Laurence Shahlaei commented on how they have used them to great effect in their own training. A quick Youtube search shows that other greats in the sport such as Brian Shaw have done the same thing. Eddie told us that when he identifies a sticking point in his squat, pressing or deadlift he set up bands to add resistance at this point and works against the added band resistance in this area until he has eliminated it.
7. Don’t Neglect Your Fitness
Ed puts a heavy emphasis on his sports specific conditioning which he does 3 x mornings per week. He attributes much of his current success to his increased levels of fitness stating that he is now able to recover more quickly between events and handle higher rep sets in the gym without ‘gassing’: more reps = more volume = greater strength! He was keen to emphasise that he wasn’t out running every morning but used tools such as prowler sleds and sledge hammers to keep things relevant to his sport
8. Fuel Matters
Nutrition has traditionally been an often overlooked aspect of strongman training but this seems to be changing with the current shift towards greater professionalism in the sport. Ed spoke at length about his approach to diet and while his food choices are not always what a nutritionist would describe as perfect (they really can’t be to achieve the calorific intake he requires!) he makes a conscious effort to include fruit and vegetables with every meal telling us that most people focus too much on protein and not enough on the vitamins and minerals that can only be found in fruit and veg. He never takes pre-workout supplements but does include omega 3 and glucosamine and works hard to stay hydrated. The quantities of food he consumes on a daily basis are staggering and it seems that eating enough to sustain his considerable mass and to fuel his mammoth 4 hour training sessions is basically a full time job in its own right!
There’s no Secret
Every time I meet one of the strongest men in the world I am reminded that they have not achieved their status through any fancy or complicated methods. Without exception they rely on the tried and tested basics and have dedicated years, not months to consistently improving their strength and power. The lessons learned from the top 0.1% of the strength training population can be applied to everyone who lifts weights in the gym. The day Eddie spent here at Plymouth Performance Gym has left me in little doubt that in the not too distant future the Worlds Strongest Man title will be coming back to England!
If you fancy giving Strongman training a go feel free to come down to the gym where we have everything you need to get started!