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While the rest of the world might know him as the actor playing Gregor Clegane aka The Mountain on the HBO series Game of Thrones, the strength sports community know Hafthor Bjornsson better as one of the greatest strongman athletes of all time.
Regarded by many to be the strongest man to have ever lived, the Icelandic professional strongman is the only person in history to have ever won the Arnold Strongman Classic, the Europe’s Strongest Man and the World’s Strongest Man competitions in the same year.
With numerous Strongman world titles under his belt, along with multiple world records — including the heaviest Elephant Bar Deadlift ever at 474 kg — Bjornsson is one of the most decorated strength athletes in history behind Lithuania’s Žydrūnas Savickas and Poland’s Mariusz Pudzianowski.
Born on 26 November 1988 in Reykjavík, Iceland, Bjornsson had always loved sports from an early age — participating in soccer and gymnastics before dedicating himself to basketball in eighth grade. He began his basketball career as a teenager, but after numerous setbacks with a troublesome ankle, the Icelandic athlete was forced to hang up his jersey at just 20 years old.
After recovering from the same ankle injury that derailed his basketball dreams, Bjornsson became inspired by the likes of Ronnie Coleman and Dorian Yates, and began his bodybuilding training.
“I just really enjoyed being strong because I felt good about myself,” he explained in a Sports Illustrated interview about finding his passion for strength training. “You look around and say, I can lift more weights than anyone in the entire gym. You basically become hooked. You see your body change, and that’s addicting, too.”
During a chance encounter at the gym with Magnús Ver Magnússon, an Icelandic former powerlifter and strongman competitor, Bjornsson began his journey as a strongman athlete. It wasn’t before he started training with notable names like Stefán Sölvi Pétursson, Benedikt Magnússon, Páll Logason and Ari Gunnarsson.
Over the next decade, Bjornsson participated in countless competitions and managed to achieve 30 international wins, including the World’s Strongest Man, Arnold Strongman Classic, Europe’s Strongest Man, Strongman Champions League, Giants Live, World’s Ultimate Strongman. During his dominating reign over the sport, the only time Bjornsson didn’t win a competition was due to an injury.
In August 2020, with nothing left to achieve in strongman competitions, Bjornsson announced his retirement from the sport, and began training for his boxing career. He has since boxed four times, including a fight against fellow strongman Eddie Hall, who he defeated via unanimous decision on March 19, 2022 in Dubai.
I treat my body the same way I would treat a brand new car. You have to treat it well so it can run for a long time. While you’re competing in lifting these heavy weights, you want to fuel the body up with good nutrition so you can recover faster from all the heavy work. So nothing changes. I eat the same thing every single day. You might think it’s boring, but I love it. I absolutely love it.Strongman Hafthor Bjornsson Shares How He Sticks to His 10,000 Calorie Meal Plan While Traveling | Men’s Health
Hafthor Bjornsson’s training routine & diet
During the days of his strongman career, the only thing that mattered in Hafthor Bjornsson’s daily routine was getting food inside his body. “I need to force feed myself,” he told Men’s Health back in 2017. “I’m constantly fighting to stay the weight I am.”
With a daily nutrition plan of eight meals and average target intake of 10,000 calories to hit, Bjornsson’s day would begin at 7am with him staring at a mountain of food for breakfast — typically six eggs, dozens of bacon rashers and three pieces of French toast. After finishing his first meal for the day, he would take his vitamins and go on a 10-minute walk to help him digest the food and enable him to eat again.
For the rest of the day, Bjornsson’s meal plan followed the same pattern – steak and rice, sometimes with vegetables, and sometimes chicken instead of beef. There wasn’t much variety to his diet, save for the occasional cheat meal — “One cheat meal once in a while is fine as long as you stay on track the rest of the planning,” he believes. “I had five really good meals today, one cheat meal.”
As a strongman, Bjornsson trained regularly — four times a week — and was able to perform some of the most outrageous human feats of strength ever imagined, but for the Icelandic pro, he rarely felt healthy.
“I don’t feel very well at this weight,” he explained to Men’s Health. “I feel tired, because I have to move more weight.” Bjornsson also regularly suffered from breathing and snoring issues, which in turn, affected his sleep quality. “It’s harder to sleep,” he revealed. “My body doesn’t want to be here. A little lighter is more comfortable.”
After retiring from his strongman career in August 2020, Bjornsson took up boxing which led him to an entirely different (and healthier) lifestyle. The only similarities between his strongman and boxing life is the focus on diet and the amount of training he does.
These days as a boxer, Bjornsson has slimmed down considerably, going from 205 kgs (451 pounds) down to 155 kgs (341 pounds). “I feel so much better than when I weighed 205kg,” he said in a 2021 interview. “I’m obviously healthier, but I am also more focused.”
His weekly routine consists of six boxing sessions, four strength training sessions — two upper body, two lower body — and four endurance sessions, which include HIIT exercises on the assault bike. All up, the strongman-turned-boxer can be in the gym for up to five hours a day.
When it comes to his nutrition, Bjornsson’s boxer diet looks vastly different from that of his strongman one. He’ll eat the same five meals each day — staples include eggs, chicken, oats, fruit, yoghurt, white rice, green vegetables, potatoes, almond butter and whey protein.
To recover from his intense training sessions, Bjornsson is a fan of ice baths and saunas, as well as the Graston technique, a form of manual therapy known as soft-tissue instrument-assisted mobilisation.
I am absolutely loving boxing right now, and I enjoy it more each week. It is hard. But I like hard work.Hafþór ‘Thor’ Björnsson Shares the Diet and Cardio Workout Behind His 50kg Weight Loss | Men’s Health
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