Mitchell “The Moose” Hooper wants to help you feel better, one thousand-pound deadlift at a time. For the Ontario-area native, the sport of strongman is both a personal calling and a stepping stone to something bigger than being one of the few men alive to successfully pick up four digits.
With less than three years of formal strength training under his belt, the six-foot, four-inch Canadian powerhouse has already racked up staggering results in powerlifting and strongman alike. Some of his highlights include a 400-kilogram (881.8-pound) raw deadlift, multiple equipped pulls over 453 kilos or 1,000 pounds, and a 201.8-kilogram (445-pound) push press on a standard bar.
At only 26 years old, Hooper has also collected a motley assortment of athletic achievements. On their own, they’re nothing to balk at — a brief stint in collegiate football, a rookie bodybuilding competition, and having run multiple marathons.
Yet these things aren’t why Mitchell Hooper is making waves in the strength sports scene. Between setting some unofficial world records in training and making elite pulls look offensively easy, the secret is out — Hooper is vicious with a barbell in his hands.
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You may wonder about what it takes to tug on world-record weights. Fortunately, Hooper has a lot to say about his recipe for floor-shaking deadlifts, why he’s concerned about your (yes, you) health, and his certainty that — so far — you’ve only seen him at his worst.
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Mitchell Hooper, Athlete
Pulling has always come easy to Hooper, even from early days in the iron game. That’s no exaggeration, either. At his first sanctioned powerlifting competition in June of 2019, the Australian Powerlifting Union’s NSW State Championships, Hooper pulled 331 kilograms in the deadlift (733 pounds) while weighing just 116.8 kilos (257 pounds).
However, his history in competitive athletics goes back much further than that. Hooper competed in a Men’s Physique bodybuilding show back in 2015 before casually dabbling in not one but three full marathons.
“I wanted to be able to eat a lot,” he says of his post-bodybuilding aspirations.
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Hooper believes his broad athletic history served him well when he began transitioning toward being a dedicated strength athlete:
“My background made it easier to adapt my soft tissues to heavy lifting. I always enjoyed testing my one-rep-maxes in the gym, even when I was bodybuilding.”
He also credits much of his physical resilience to his education. Hooper boasts a Masters’s degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Sydney with a focus on injury prevention and management. He leans heavily on his knowledge in the classroom when working in the weight room, particularly when it comes to staying healthy and avoiding accidents or setbacks.
Strength In Numbers
On Nov. 7, 2021, Hooper deadlifted 475 kilograms (1,047 pounds) with a conventional stance at a charity fundraising event and joined the echelon of four-figure pullers on a standard bar and plates. That colossal pull earned him a bid to participate in Giants Live Open in Cardiff, Wales, and the 2022 World Deadlift Championships on Aug. 6, 2022. Despite such a meteoric ascension, he’s extremely tactical about his lifting.
“When it comes to training, I never give myself numbers I can’t hit,” Hooper says. “You don’t always have to be a bulldog during your workouts.”
As one of the younger members of the 1,000-pound deadlift club, Hooper realizes he can lift a bit more aggressively than more tenured strongmen.
(Andy Bolton, the first in history to pull over 1,000 pounds, was 37 years old when he hit the lift. Several 20-somethings like Eddie Hall, Jamal Browner, and others have broken through the barrier in recent years.)
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“I learned from my time on the football field that there’s no point in being intimidated by more experienced competitors. If anything, they’re the people I learn the most from,” he says.
Despite being known for his mammoth pulls, Hooper mentioned that he believes his strongest asset to be his engine. He’s most confident in carrying events — he smoked a 20-meter, 1,000-pound yoke walk in eight seconds — but remains conscious that there’s still lots of ground to be gained in his overhead pressing.
I think I can break the deadlift world record this year.
Armed with an accredited degree, a broad athletic base, and heaps of raw strength, Hooper has his eyes set on even bigger lifts in 2022. If he pulls well, he’s confident that he can break both the deadlift world record and the car yoke carry record in 2022.
“People are seeing my worst,” he says.
Hooper’s “worst” is still more than good enough to get his foot in the door of the biggest competitions in strongman. As of Apr. 23, 2022, Hooper has officially received a special invitation to compete in the 2022 World’s Strongest Man competition.
The Power of Health
Hooper’s inherent motivation lies away from the barbell and toward community health. He’s serious about public health & wellness, something he hopes to make a meaningful impact on through his career in strength.
“We’re going in the wrong direction. Life expectancy is going up year-over-year, but health outcomes are trending downward for many people,” he says. “I want to change that by using my platform to promote the benefits of exercise and physical training.”
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The World Health Organization notes that while mortality rates are trending down, healthy life expectancies aren’t keeping pace. This notion is corroborated by groups such as the Centers for Disease Control, which notes that in the United States, as many as four in 10 individuals suffer from multiple chronic diseases. This phenomenon is at least partly due to low levels of physical activity.
I want to use my platform to change people’s lives for the better.
It may be an unconventional approach, but Hooper is dead-set on linking his phenomenal career in strength to general health activism, athlete-centered coaching, and making a meaningful impact on the lives of anyone he works with.
Mitchell Hooper’s Keys to Success in the Deadlift
What some have taken decades to do, Hooper has achieved in only a few short years. There’s no doubt that a portion of his success in both the deadlift and wholesale strength sport is due to intangible factors like genetics, but Hooper isn’t shy about sharing what he’s learned on his journey.
Hooper emphasizes the importance of making sure you’re working with weights appropriate for your strength and tolerable for your body.
“When looking at programming and optimal loading, we are looking at optimal loading of the central nervous system,” he says.
Further, Hooper notes that your body will provide you with very obvious feedback if you’re pushing too hard in the gym:
“You should monitor for the cardinal signs of systemic fatigue. Difficulty staying alert, restlessness at night, irritability, and low enthusiasm for training can all indicate that you’re going too hard.”
He emphasizes that while the right training volume is highly individualized, you should keep to moderate intensity (roughly 70 to 85% of your 1-rep max) for a large portion of your deadlift workouts.
According to Hooper, many athletes miss the forest for the trees when it comes to recovering from hard training. Fancy techniques like massage guns or cold plunges may feel good, but you might be majoring in the minors if you partake in these things at the expense of what he calls the “three pillars of recovery”:
“Recovery is relative, but more experienced lifters will need more time to recover between deadlift sessions. There isn’t much reason to deadlift more than twice per week if you’re new or once per week if you’re an advanced puller.”
Hooper also remarks that your tolerance to heavy training largely depends on the adaptation rate of “passive tissues” like your tendons and ligaments. He believes this partly explains why bodybuilders, who have spent plenty of time developing their active tissues, often experience tears or fractures when they dip their toes into strength sports.
You have to earn the right to max out.
Hooper recommends carving out some time to strengthen your joints, tendons, and ligaments to ensure structural integrity. He suggests that plyometrics, isometric work, and eccentric-focused tempo movements are a great place to start.
Intelligent deloading is equally important to long-term performance in Hooper’s mind:
“When I was pulling 500 pounds, I needed just as much time to recover as I do now from a 1,000-pound lift. It’s all relative.”
Hooper likes to aim for mild but consistent improvement in his numbers for four to six weeks and then back off for a week or two. He’ll pull back on both intensity and volume in the first week, and then ramp back up to normal pulling dosages over the course of week two. It might look something like this:
- Deload Week 1: Intensity 80% of normal, volume 50% of normal
- Deload Week 2: Intensity 90% of normal, volume 75% of normal
As always, Hooper lets his own performance guide his hand:
“If I fail a lift I don’t see it as a bad day in the gym, I see it as information. People shouldn’t be afraid to ask themselves if they have earned the right to max out and test the waters of competitive strongman.”
“If you get in a fight with your spouse at home and your knees are sore the next day, these two things might be more related than you think,” Hooper notes of his approach to stress management. Training should be fun, but working towards a heavy deadlift is plenty of stress on its own.
Do what you can to limit your stress outside of the gym.
Hooper doesn’t have a favorite cue for the deadlift, but he has come to two major realizations throughout his campaign to pull the heaviest weight possible.
“When I approach a heavy pull, I keep two things in mind. First, the deadlift is a full-body exercise and requires stiffness from head to toe. Second, I assume the tightest position possible and pull hard for at least five seconds without changing my posture.”
He notes that the most common error he observes when coaching the deadlift is that some athletes are too quick to abandon their setup if the weight doesn’t immediately budge off the floor.
“A big pull takes some time to get going. If you pick your hips up, you might find yourself folded over and fail the lift around the knee,” he says.
When it comes to his favorite accessory exercise for the deadlift, Hooper stresses a perhaps less-obvious choice — squatting. He explains that since most athletes squat considerably less than they pull, squatting can be a great high-frequency movement to improve the deadlift.
Hooper also notes that squatting helped him improve his overall performance both during his powerlifting days and while training for strongman, and that even high-level athletes stand to benefit from squatting (in one form or another) as often as thrice per week.
Lifting the World
Mitchell Hooper has the strength to go the distance and the knowledge to get himself there. While a 1,000-pound deadlift may not rock the world of strength sports to its core anymore, it’s no small feat for Hooper to have climbed that mountain well before his 30th birthday. What’s more, Hooper approaches his place in strongman with surprising nonchalance.
“Training for strongman isn’t the only thing in my life, and the sport isn’t what I want to do forever. But it’s where I’m at right now,” he says.
Even if he does ultimately have his gaze fixed beyond becoming the World’s Strongest Man, record books are written in ink. Any bar he pulls or car he carries will stand long after he hangs up his lifting belt.
But right now, Hooper has the motivation and means to permanently get his name attached to more than “just” pulling the heaviest deadlift ever. Can he hang with the greats of strongman and make history? Time will tell, but Mitchell Hooper has all the time in the world.
Featured Image: @mitchellhooper on Instagram