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Hafþór Björnsson (pronounced ‘Haf-thor) may be a world famous strongman and actor (he plays ‘The Mountain’ in Game of Thrones… seriously, where have you been?!). The man can officially lift half a ton of metal from the floor and carry 650kg of dead weight on his back! That is ridiculous and totally unachievable for most of us mortal men, but as I found out over a hamburger lunch in an Icelandic diner, it’s actually his training mindset and beliefs that make him so successful. And the good news is that you can do the same.
Thor doesn’t have a standard training program. It’s always changing, always evolving. He does his standard strength work, but (in his words) ‘does specialised training for upcoming events’, i.e he practices the moves that he knows he will need to perform in his strongman competitions so that he can get stronger in those specific disciplines. But he keeps things fresh by doing things you might not expect – such as swimming.
LESSON 1: You only get better at something by doing it a lot, be it pullups, benchpress, squats or handstands.
LESSON 2: Don’t be scared to mix your training up for the week if you feel the need. Instead of running on the treadmill, or doing the same workout you’ve been doing for the last 2 months – break up the monotony and go for a run outside, or just do a light session and focus on mobility/stretching. That little break could be the reason you push harder in the next session.
FUN FACTOID: favourite bodyweight move = pullups
FUN FACTOID: pushups are his go-to move for a quick pump
The Mountain doesn’t actually take a boatload of supplements. While he does take BCAA’s and glutamine in a shake, he prefers to get his protein from food sources.
LESSON 3: A protein shake is purely for convenience. You are very welcome to get the protein, and all its muscle-building benefits, from some post-workout chow.
LESSON 4: BCAA’s are essential as a pre-workout (or intra-) as they prevent muscle breakdown, aid recovery and muscle growth – especially during intense training sessions.
The man is, well, a mountain and therefore to keep that sort of muscle mass he needs to eat – and quite a lot I imagine – however he does not count his calories. Instead, he has a sense of how much he must eat and listens to what his body is telling him during his training sessions. Also, as a rule he ‘eats clean’ and has 4-5 litres of water a day.
LESSON 5: Like Thor, listen to your body. If you’re having a calorie restricting diet and are feeling weak then refuel with some carbs. If your body ever feels sapped of energy in a session thats a sign that you’ve dropped your carbs too low. And you will never have a good session (or gains) if you don’t have those necessary carbs.
FUN FACTOID: favourite cheat meal = pizza and ice-cream
FUN FACTOID: if he feels like he hasn’t eaten enough throughout the day he has a huge glass of juice
Thor is a big believer in stretching. So much so that he actually considers it part of his training. I guess when you’re exerting yourself and putting your body under the type of strain that strongmen do, you need to do your most to allow the muscle to heal, and stretching is a proven way to do just that. He also finds great recovery benefits in taking alternating hot + cold baths.
LESSON 6: You might not be carrying atlas balls and pulling 18-wheelers but when you train you’re also putting your muscles under great stress. So take the time to stretch. Actually, don’t take the time – make the time! Whether its in the morning or evening at home, or in your actual workout session. Also, as a huge added bonus – stretching has been shown to aid muscle growth. So if that’s not reason enough then I don’t know what is.
From just one sit-down lunch I could tell how headstrong he is. He is very much about ‘feeling’ and not just ‘following’ and ‘doing’. If he’s not feeling tip-top then he takes it slightly easier in his session for the day. He is a big believer in listening to his body.
LESSON 7: Successful people are positive people… and they were positive before they were successful. Training consistently and towards a goal is a great tool in becoming a mentally stronger person.
FUN FACTOID: his 5-point personal mantra – be patient, work hard, be dedicated, believe in yourself and it WILL pay off!
Quickfire Q’s To Go:
Favourite music – Rock
Heroes – Arnold Schwarzenneger and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson
Ideal holiday – Anywhere with a blazing sun + a great beach