I originally wrote this article in March 2020, and was fairly confident that my answer of 500kg would be set in stone for a while. Oh how wrong I was! So, what is the heaviest deadlift in history?
The heaviest deadlift in history is 501kg, it was achieved on 2nd May 2020 by Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson in his Icelandic Gym. Previously, the world record was held by Eddie Hall who lifted 500kg in 2016.
In this article, I will talk about the different deadlift world records, and what they mean.
The deadlift is the ultimate test of full-body strength, no other exercise allows you to lift so much using both your upper and lower body. The deadlift is frequently used as a measure of overall strength, which is why a new record makes the news. This does not happen for bench pressing or squats, at least not to the same degree.
In 2016, Stoke-On-Trent’s second favourite son (Robbie Williams is #1) Eddie Hall lifted 500kg. It was until recently the heaviest deadlift in history, and nobody had ever lifted more. However, Eddie’s record was made while wearing a deadlift suit (an item of clothing that fits very tightly and is designed to increase stability). It is what is known as an assisted-lift.
Don’t get me wrong, the assistance is tiny! But when comparing deadlifts there are assisted deadlifts and raw deadlifts. A raw deadlift is performed without a deadlift suit, or lifting straps (which improve grip). There are some who would say that a raw deadlift is the only form of deadlift that should count, as it is the purest form.
The heaviest raw deadlift was performed by Benedikt Magnusson when he lifted 460kg.
Finally, there is a third form of deadlift that uses a type of barbell known as an Elephant Bar. This type of barbell is much longer than a standard barbell and uses thinner weight plates. This changes the weight distribution and makes the Elephant bar bend more when lifting. The idea is that the more a bar bends, the shorter the range of motion.
The world record for an Elephant Bar deadlift is 474kg set by Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (Game of Thrones fans may recognise him as “The Mountain” from season 4) in 2019.
After his 2020 world record, Björnsson now holds the record for heaviest assisted deadlift (he wore straps and a deadlift suit) as well as heaviest Elephant Bar deadlift. Magnusson still holds the record for heaviest raw deadlift (at the time of writing).
For my money? I’d say Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson. You can say what you like about deadlifting suits and weightlifting straps vs a raw lift, but at the end of the day, nobody other than Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson has ever completed a deadlift with 501kg! The craziest thing about that lift was how easy it looked. When Eddie Hall lifted 500kg he pretty much passed out afterwards, this was a guy using every last ounce of his strength. It was emotional watching it.
When Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson lifted 501kg it genuinely looked like you could have added another 5kg to that bar! Maybe I’m wrong, but to me, he did not look like he had reached his peak. Magnusson’s raw deadlift was incredibly impressive and doesn’t get as much attention as it should. But the debate about raw vs deadlifting suits and straps is a little overblown in my opinion.
You may be inspired by this new world record to up your own deadlift game. But what are the best ways to do that? Here are five tips for increasing your deadlift one rep max. Maybe one day in the future your name will be thrown into the debate about what is the heaviest deadlift in history.
How you set up for a deadlift will make a huge difference to your success. When you watch professional strongmen and powerlifters approach the bar, it may appear as though they put no thought into their stance. But actually, they know it so well that it is instinctive.
You want your feet to be the correct distance apart, and the correct distance from the bar. This will give you the best stability, and allow you to generate maximum power. It will also shorten the distance that the bar has to travel. Every little helps!
To find your stance distance, all you need to do is jump in the air. In fact, you don’t even need to actually jump. Just prepare to jump. Doing so will place your feet the right distance apart, you can use that distance for the deadlift.
Finding where to place your feet under the bar is also surprisingly easy. All you need to do is know where the centre of your foot is. If you are wearing shoes then the spot where the laces are tied is the centre. You want to place this part directly under the bar. So feet wide enough to jump, and then the centre of the foot under the barbell. Simple!
You could have the greatest lifting technique in the world, but if your grip is poor then you’ll never be able to deadlift well. Straps and chalk can only take you so far! Luckily, deadlifting is itself a great way to improve your grip. But you can also strengthen your grip through exercises such as:
Good deadlifting is reliant on stability, and one of the biggest causes of poor stability is incorrect footwear. If you are attempting to deadlift while wearing a pair of running shoes then you are not wearing the correct footwear.
Don’t get me wrong, if you’re just starting out and haven’t got a particularly high one rep max, then it won’t make much difference. But if you’re looking to add 1-2kg to your lift, shoes can make all the difference!
What you want is a pair of shoes that has a flat heel, you can wear Olympic weightlifting shoes if you have the budget for them. Alternatively, you can get yourself a pair of converse. Or (if you have zero budget) you can lift barefoot. Just check your gym’s policy first.
Unless you’re going for the raw deadlift world record, it wouldn’t hurt to have some help. We’ve discussed improving your grip through strengthening your muscles, but you can also improve your grip with weightlifting straps and chalk. This will prevent the bar from slipping or rolling. Small actions that can affect your ability to deadlift. A good lifting belt is also important, one that fits you well and is durable. You’ll also want to consider footwear as I mentioned earlier.
No, I’m not talking about clothes, I am talking about accessory exercises. Movements that work the muscles required for a deadlift. A good deadlift requires a strong set of glutes, a strong set of hamstrings, strong lats, and strong traps. You’ll also want a good grip (as mentioned above).
I still believe that the best way to improve your deadlift is to deadlift more, but adding Romanian deadlifts and Nordic curls to your program will help build your hamstrings. Adding some glute raises will strengthen your glutes, and some pull-ups and barbell rows can help strengthen your back and biceps. Concentrate on your deadlift and fill the rest of your program with exercises that will complement it and you’ll soon see a big difference in your results.
Matt Smith is the owner of Beer N Biceps. He has a degree in Sports Science, 10 years of experience working in the fitness industry, and has written for hundreds of fitness websites. He is a lover of good quality beer and believes that drinking in moderation can form part of a healthy lifestyle.