People think I’m a bit odd because of the way I react when they tell me how big and strong they think I am. My response is usually something along the lines of “Uuuuhhh no, I am just average.”
|Me and Benni. He makes me look dainty.|
I guess my self-perception is a bit off, but that’s what happens when you are raised up two of the most awesome gyms in the world, Gym 80 in Iceland and Metroflex Gym in Arlington Texas. Being around freakishly strong, almost un-human, strength athletes tends to humble a person. My Icelandic gym, Gym 80, had 8 World Strongest men titles won by Jon Pall Sigmarsson and Magnus Ver Magnusson. Metroflex Gym, owned by Brian Dobson, is where I training during my five years in Texas. This gym boasts 8 time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman, Branch Warren, and other rather impressive fellows so my perception of “normal” is a bit warped.
Every year at the Metroflex Gym, Brian has a show called The Ronnie Coleman Classic. This is a big fitness festival similar to the Arnold and covers everything from Bodybuilding to strongman to arm-wrestling to even a dog pulling contest. The story I am about to tell you happened during my last year there and involved one of the many visits from my friends Benedikt Magnusson and Stefan Solvi Petursson. When these guys would visit, they would train with me at the Metroflex Gym and always attracted a lot of attention.
|Stefan and my son Isak.|
In 2011 Brian offered to bring my friend Stefan over from Iceland to compete at a push and pull meet they were putting on. This meet was going to bring in all the big lifters from the USA such as Brian Siders, Al Davis and many more to battle for first place and the prize money that came with it. Stefan had just won 4th place at the World strongest man and although he was not really a power lifter, he was Icelandic, which means he is strong as hell. (Well, its true.)
When my friend Benni (Benedikt) heard Stefan was going to Texas he wanted to come too but was not completely committed until we managed to win him over by promising a hog hunt. Benni is an avid hunter but there is not a lot of big game in Iceland so as soon as he heard about a hog hunt he was sold. When I realized how quickly he had made this decision, my first question was: “Have you been training at all?”
He told me that he had been training hard for 4 weeks and given another 4-5 weeks, should be very strong for the meet. I would not normally believe this coming from anyone else, but according to Benni, “When your name is Benedikt Magnusson you can do anything”.
I was pretty excited about these guys coming and talked about it quite a bit. A few friends asked me what their opening lifts were going to be and I told them “around 800lbs for Stefan and over 900lbs for Benni”. As usual, when I say things like this, my friends thought I was full of it.
When Benni and Stefan arrived in Texas I went to pick them up in the airport. I was waiting in baggage claim and started to hear a lot of talk about the two huge dudes that were on the plane. I knew then that the Icelanders had arrived. It had been months since I saw them last and they were bigger than I had ever seen them. It took me a while to recover from being crushed in a hug sandwich, and I couldn’t get over how strong they looked. My wife and I were thankful that we’d been stockpiling food for their visit. It was going to take a lot to feed these guys. I think Benni was eating around 14000 calories a day at that time and you can just imagine how much food that is.
People often ask me ‘”Do they really need to eat that much?” Benni explained it to me in a simple way. “If you are around 230lbs, are pretty strong, and work out a lot you are a Toyota Corolla 1600 with decent gas mileage. I am a big Dodge Ram V12 Longhorn edition with terrible gas mileage. I need a lot more gas.”
|Just a little snack.|
After picking them up at the airport we dropped the bags off at my house and went to Metroflex gym. Thankfully, it is difficult to go hungry in Texas since there are restaurants on every street corner and on the 30 min drive to the gym we ate three times. Texas has the best BBQ in the world and when we got to the gym Brian had skinned up a hog for us and put it on the grill. For the next two days, we did nothing but eat and have fun. People tend to think that Benni does nothing but train the deadlift all day and lives and breathes powerlifting. He is actually very far from that, he only trains when he wants to, and does it just to have fun. That’s why we saw him pull a big deadlift 2007 and the nothing again until 2011.
The day of the competition we went to the convention center, driving in my car that really didn’t like all the extra weight. When we arrived, Benni asked “What are we were doing here?”
I answered “This is where the meet is”.
Benni replied “Oooooh. Okay, I thought it was going to be at the gym”. He had no idea how big this meet was that he’d decided to “drop in” on 4 weeks out. Thousands of people were going to see him deadlift and he had no idea. He thought it was just another gym meet.
|Stefan on the bench.|
The meet was a raw meet, and that means you cannot where all the silly assistance gear such as a squat or deadlift suit and a bench shirt. The only thing allowed is a weightlifting belt. When we came in I saw that everyone knew who Benni and Stefan were and there was a lot of buzz. The guys started warming up on the bench. Stefan was going to open at 500lbs on the bench, but Benni was only going to deadlift. On Stefan’s 3rd lift he injured himself and had to quit. It’s a shame because with what he was opening with on his deadlift would have beaten Brian Siders, one of the best powerlifters ever, and Stefan is only a 24 year old kid who does strongman.
|Benni warming up.|
When Benni started warming up on the deadlift, it didn’t take people long to realize something amazing was about to happen. It’s not often when the heavy weights are warming up that one guy need a bar just for him so they don’t have to take all the weights off for the other HW guys. But then again people don’t warm up with reps of 800lbs on deadlift either. It was cool to see all the big guys in the back just sitting and shaking their heads when they saw Benni warm up with weights that they were hoping max on that day.
For many, pulling 800lbs on deadlift is a lifetime goal whereas Benni has made it as a joke to pull 760lbs so fast that he can bring the bar to his bellybutton. Benni doesn’t spend a lot of his energy in the warm up. When Benni is warming up he is the calmest guy there, the complete opposite of the other guys who are yelling and making a lot of noise. When the announcer called out Benni’s opening lift as 900 lbs, most people didn’t believe it. Benni just walked up to the bar and ripped it up like lifting a shopping bag.
I think the best deadlift other than Benni at that point was over 820lbs so when the announcer said that Benni was going to go for 1010lbs on his 2nd attempt everything became real quiet and there was a lot of whispering. “Did the guy say 1010lbs?” you could hear in the crowd. However, when the loaders were putting the weights on they couldn’t close the bar. They had 4*100lbs, 1*45lbs, 1*25lbs, 1*5lbs, 1*2.5lbs and then the collars to close the bar. There just wasn’t enough room on the bar so they asked us what we wanted to do. Stefan just told them to put more weight on the bar, so they had to put a 35lbs instead or the 1*25lbs, 1*5lbs, 1*2.5lbs. The bar now weighted 1015lbs.
The crowd was very excited because they were about to witness a guy lift the heaviest weight a human body has ever picked up on deadlift. Stefan and Benni started going through their regular rituals. Stefan starts squeezing and pinching Bennis earlobes to get his blood flow going. Or it might just be an old Viking trick to make them go Berserk. Berserkir were the craziest Vikings and they say that when they were on their ships and about going into battles they wanted to fight so bad that they would start biting on their shields.
There is nothing more intimidating than watching Benni about to attack a heavy bar. In Iceland Benni is called The Bull. And if you have seen him lift you know that he acts like a bull when he is about to attack the bar. He made 1015 lbs look easy.
Being the kind person he is, Benni offered to give the $1000 price money to Brian’s church. He then went on to pull 585lbs deadlift for 22 reps and raised $1000 more for the church. Benni’s 1015 record still stands and no one has lifted more raw. If Benni would just train for couple of months I know he would be the first man to lift 500kg (1100lbs).
I am thankful that I was able to be a part of this great event as well as the other adventures I’ve had with these friends of mine. I look forward to telling my children these stories including my own competitions with these super-humans. I actually did beat Benni at a deadlift meet once. The fact that I was seventeen and he was fourteen is not really an important detail in the impressing-my-children version of this story. I also once finished 4th at the West Coast Viking strongman over Benni who finished in seventh place. I also don’t think my children need to know that this was because Benni got injured and had to withdraw after 2 events. I still have Benni's trophy from the Ronnie Coleman Classic and although I would like to get it back to him someday, its kind of awesome having it in my house. Hopefully, he'll come back soon for another visit and another adventure.