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Why This Half-ton Lift By Hafþór Björnsson Doesn’t Matter

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the closures of gyms across the globe, this has left people with more free time where they could otherwise be working out. Some have become innovative and have found new ways to stay fit while at home, through BuzzFeed and YouTube. Whether you’re indulging in sweets, or the aforementioned fitness guru, one particular upcoming event should have caught your attention whilst surfing the web. Hafþór Björnsson–who, thankfully, goes by his fitting nickname of “Thor,”–will attempt to break Eddie “The Beast” Hall’s world record deadlift of 500 kg, setting the bar at 501 kg. This event is set to take place on May 2nd at 12 pm in Thor’s personal gym and will be live-streamed on ESPN.

For the Icelandic, breaking Hall’s record would hinder his bitter rival’s legacy and boost Bjönsson’s own legacy. It would be the heaviest deadlift ever accomplished in human history, right? Well, technically, Žydrūnas Savickas and Eddie Hall pulled 524 kg and 536 kg, respectively. However, Savickas’ lift was with tires and a bar longer than a standard deadlift bar at the Arnold Strongman Classic in 2014, which is considerably easier than a deadlift with a traditional bar. The same applies to Hall’s deadlift using uncalibrated books in 2017 during a promotion, of which was his own autobiography adequately named, Strongman. Both were incredible feats, but not as prestigious as Hall’s 500 kg lift on a regular bar at the World’s Deadlift Championship in 2016. This is due to the fact that the extreme bar bend produced from both lifts makes it significantly easier to deadlift. If Thor were to completely lockout and successfully deadlift 501 kg, it would be regarded as the most reputable and respected lift in history… right?

No. Other notable names in the weightlifting world and I would not hold this lift in as high regard as Hall’s, despite the fact that Thor’s lift would be heavier. . Well-respected power-lifter, Robert Oberst, weighed in on this situation. He stated, “The difference is it [Hall’s lift] was in competition, Eddie Hall pulled 500 kg in competition,” he continued, “Thor is going to pull 501 kg in his gym. It’s just two different things.” In addition, the second-winningest strongman in The World Strongest Man’s pristine history Brian Shaw also has a strong opinion about Thor’s lift. “When it comes to this record, in my opinion, it needs to be done in a competition.” Shaw added, “It’s not about the bar weighing what it’s supposed to weigh, it’s about the competition factor when you’re setting a record.” He then elaborated on this statement by describing the atmosphere and how it puts immense pressure on the competitors. He duly noted that participants don’t get the opportunity to know when they’re going to lift, which greatly affects the mental aspect of the lift. Being a seasoned veteran and true guru of the sport, Shaw also weighed in on what this lift could mean for the future of powerlifting. “If we start to allow strongman records to be set in gyms, with that person’s equipment, we’re opening Pandora’s Box to all of the other strongman world records.” 

Now, don’t get me wrong, if  Thor is able to pull off this lift, it will be one of the most impressive feats of strength the world has ever seen. At the end of the day, no matter the outcome, the sport as a whole will come out of this mess better than it was before. Power-lifting being featured on ESPN doesn’t happen often, and Thor’s chase to break Hall’s record will be a great story, not just a great event, that will increase interest in the sport. 

However, I personally will not regard this lift as a world record. I agree with both Oberst and Shaw’s statements that the record-breaking lifts should be reserved for  competitive environments. There are too many unseen factors. The pressure of performing in front of thousands, proper inspection of equipment, correctly calibrated plates being checked by a third party, and countless other things can affect a lifter’s mindset. I’m not saying that Thor will cheat, which will always be a possibility when lifting in your own gym, but rather that he has a distinct advantage. If Thor pulls off this lift I think that it’ll be seen as a “bro record,” but not a world record. “Bro record” meaning that people will talk about the lift, and give it respect, but not nearly the same as Hall’s 500 kg deadlift. But like I said, at the end of the day, the sport will gain a lot from this lift whether Thor is successful or not. Best of luck to you Björnsson.

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