Brotherhood of Iron proudly presents: An interview with a world record holder!
I walk into Jakaból(loosely translates to Den of Giants) and my ears are immediately assaulted with the sounds of grunts, the clanging of plates and axles dropping down from 8 feet in the air. I look around and quickly notice that despite me weighing about 230lbs everyone in here still outweighs me by at least 100lbs. I quickly spot Stefán Sölvi, a 2010 WSM finalist, Hafþór Júlíus, a 7 foot tall 400lb behemoth and of course Benedikt Magnússon, the greatest deadlifter in the world. He motions me over and after a few minutes of inter-set chit chat we get down to business.
BOI: Alright, let’s start off with something easy. You are something of a natural deadlifter and I understand that it has always been your favorite lift to train. My question is, when was the first time you deadlifted and how heavy did you go?
Benedikt: Well, I guess I was about 16 or 17 and had just wandered into Steve Gym. I had broken my back skiing some time ago and so I was eager to do something to make it get in better shape. Steve instructed me to do deadlifts, and so I did, three times a week. My first time around I only did 120kg, but a few days later I worked up to 180kg. I must have weighed about 140kg at the time though, having gained a lot of weight after getting injured.
BOI: Sounds like you were a big boy. So how long did it take you to snatch the world record from Andy Bolton after you started training?
Benedikt: Let’s see. That was in…2005. So it took me five years to work my way up to 426kg, which was the world record at the time. Of course this resulted in me getting to the Arnold Classic. Which was the reason I made a decision on aiming for the record. It worked for me, and I got the invite.
BOI: And it seems you did it again the other day, in the Finnish Bullfarm Powerlifting Meet. Andy was there too, was he not?
Benedikt: Yes he was. He ended up pulling 445kg to my 442,5kg, but I of course was under no pressure because I do this for fun first of all, I had hernia, and I also was the only one going for a raw total. I left Finland with a new RAW world record in the deadlift along with an even more massive hernia. Went for my operation and have been spending the past few months getting better. Even had surgery that left me with literal “abs of steel!”
BOI: So you are back on track then?
BOI: Glad to hear it. What other major injuries have you sustained, and how did you deal with them?
Benedikt: Well, I’ve had lots of muscle tears. I’ve torn my pecs several times, as well as my tricep, mostly benching. One time when doing hurdle jumps I even impaled my bicep on a metal pole and had to be rushed to the hospital. Generally speaking I try to start training again as soon as possible so as to not let the area atrophy too much. I focus on explosive exercises that involve fast twitch fibers in order to boost GH production and thus promote recovery. I have found that doing it this way allows me to avoid long downtime and not lose much, if any, strength.
BOI: So how are you setting up your training? What exercises are mainstays? What exercises do you avoid?
Benedikt: Right now I have two days a week where I have a planned workout. I rarely miss these. I usually end up working out for most of the other 7 days of the week though, just doing recovery workouts and some bodybuilding stuff to keep the joints feeling healthy and my muscles full. I always try to include heavy behind the neck presses, squats and of course deadlifts in my routine. I feel that these are the exercises that have contributed the most to my progress. I don’t really bench though. Flat benching has never felt natural for me and has resulted in several pec tears. I just rely on behind the neck presses and bench warm ups for my bench strength. (Author’s note: Benedikt benches about 500lbs effortlessly and raw, not bad for someone who doesn’t really train bench)
I usually train my squat with higher reps and speed. I try to use it to fatigue my quadriceps, allowing me to maintain better form on the DL unconsciously. I prefer not to alter my form consciously. Rather, I try to program my body to do what I want it to do naturally.
I generally try to keep everything feeling light and consistently keep my work sets in the 70-80% range. After all, speed is king.
BOI: Any deadlift specific routines? Anything in particular that you find increases your DL?
Benedikt: Nothing too fancy. I usually just work up to a relatively heavy set and then drop the weight some and do elevated deadlifts. I am also a fan of both sprints and box jumps for training speed and I feel those contribute immensely to my progress and that most everyone should be doing them.
BOI: What about the BBing stuff?
Benedikt: Well I try to work biceps and chest by feeling to maintain ideal posture for whatever I’m going for at the time and also just to keep things fresh and recovered. I generally do high volume on these body parts and “go for the pump”. As for upper back, I am a fan of pull-ups and I attribute my calves to elevated deadlifts. I have occasionally in the past done hypertrophy specific phases, where I do bodybuilding stuff just to gain some muscle and look better, and refresh the body. This is usually a phase preceding one where I train heavy and hard in order to get stronger.
BOI: How do you handle nutrition?
Benedikt: Well, when I am gaining, I apply the see-food diet, in that I see food and then I eat it. I try to keep my protein intake very high; in excess of 300g a day from shakes alone, because I feel better and recover faster when I do. Aside from that, I don’t really plan my nutrition all that carefully. I just make sure to include lots of potatoes. I guess I’ve just never taken training seriously enough to have a set meal plan.
BOI: Well, doesn’t that make the rest of us feel special…Anyway moving on. What is next on your agenda?
Benedikt: I have an exciting meet coming up in June in Russia, and the Ronnie Coleman Classic in Texas in April. After that I have the Funpub competition with my friends in Finland the week after. All three are a push/pull competitions and I have recently started my training cycle for those meets. I intend to beat my own RAW record in the deadlift, as well as the all time deadlift record. So look out for another name to be added to the 1000lb club soon!
BOI: How exciting! In closing, what is the number one most important advice you can give to novice lifters?
Benedikt: Make weightlifting *part* of your life, not the entirety of your life. You should try to grow in all aspects of life, not just one. Learning a trade you like, making friends you like, breeding, reading books about stuff you want to know, and traveling are all things you could and should be doing alongside hitting the gym. Be the person you truly want to be. Not just the person you are expected to be.
Also… don´t be afraid of giving. When you teach you learn.