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Interview with Kalle Beck

Kalle Beck has been competing in strongman competitions for the past 8 years. A veteran in the sport with dozens of competitions under his belt he has gained a vast amount of knowledge on strongman training. 2012 was his break out year where he lost 35 pounds transforming his body to compete in the new 175 pound strongman class.With highlights including 2012 California’s Strongest Man, 2012 Washington’s Strongest Apple, top 10 at America’s Strongest Man and 6th place at the 2013 Arnold World Championships. Kalle’s best lifts include a 600lb deadlift, 505lb back squat and a 290lb log press.


Matt: I’m really excited to have the opportunity to interview you! I asked a friend for a few recommendations and you were at the top of his list.First question – I used to think Hugh Jackman was a tough dude until I started to watch your videos. Is it hard to watch him get all the recognition even though you’re the real Wolverine?

Kalle: Well I’ve actually been a huge Marvel fan since I was a kid which is one of the reasons I became interested in Strongman competitions. Wolverine is 5’3” in real life, so Hugh Jackman is way to tall for the role at 6’2”. I’m a lot closer to what Wolverine should be. I don’t know if Hugh knows this because he’s probably too busy singing show tunes. I guess the publicity that comes from this helps out with the small niche sport I participate in.

Matt: What does a typical day look like for you right now while running Starting Strongman?

Kalle: At the moment my day isn’t too structured because I’m so busy building as much as I can for the sport. It’s a nonstop hustle right now which is tiring, but a lot of fun. I wake up in the morning, make my wife coffee, eat breakfast, and then get to work. I respond to emails and update the website for several hours before I head off to the gym to start training around one. While I’m there I’m constantly on the phone talking with my online clients. Later on in the day I’ll review the feedback I’ve received and adjust client’s programs. Sometimes in the afternoon I’ll teach Strongman classes at Crossfit Monterey. Once I’m home I’ll eat and continue working to build my brand and the Strongman sport. This could be anything from researching for the American Strongman podcast or putting out content. There’s a lot of work to be done. Sometimes I even wake up in the middle of the night with ideas and get back to work.

Matt: Man, that really resonates with me right now. We’re going through the same process of building up our product and brand. The work never stops! It’s fun, but as you know there’s so much to do.

Kalle: Yeah I think that’s just kinda how it is in the beginning until you start seeing some of your goals accomplished. It’s interesting to see what happens once people start to recognize that you have some real value.

Matt: I want to ask you about the day you quit your job to make a career as a strongman and trainer. How tough of a decision was that for you?

Kalle: It really wasn’t a tough decision. It was scary, because it was a very secure job with health insurance and everything was paid for. I just hated it and was definitely looking for a way to get out. I wanted to build a career in something that I actually enjoyed and was lucky enough to do it in this sport.

I actually didn’t quit my job, I just kinda forced my bosses hand. When I was invited to China I’m pretty sure I was the first 175lb Strongman go to an international competition with all the expenses paid. Most participants in the sport have to pay for everything themselves, which is tough. I gave my bosses the heads up that this could happen and they told me I couldn’t go. I said well than I quit. My boss told me I was making a huge mistake. I said well it is mine to make.  I already had approved time off for the week after to go to America’s Strongest Man and it was the busy season for my line of work so I understood their concern but I had to take a once in a lifetime opportunity. When the hell would I get to go to China otherwise?. The boss said she would sleep on it and she actually did let me go to China. The week after China I was supposed to show up for 1 day of work. I was very sick and could not come in though and was fired for job abandonment. This meant that I didn’t get the normal benefits like unemployment when someone’s fired so it was pretty tough. I had around $3000 from the competition in China as a cushion and had to bust ass to start building my career. It helped because I didn’t have anything to fall back on and had to work really hard to get where I am now. Now I’m much happier than I ever was and get to live a meaningful life instead of working at my previous job where I just felt like I was getting paid to fill a void. It wasn’t meaningful at all, it felt like I was getting paid to waste my time.

Honestly, I wish I had gone in this direction a lot earlier. I didn’t go to college and never got any certifications. I just worked hard and built my resume the old fashioned way, by proving I knew what I was talking about over and over. When you’re doing something you love it’s a lot easier to get through the hard parts in the beginning.

Matt: Could you tell me about how you grew your business and what it looks like today?

Kalle: I guess it’s a business, but it’s hard to say that because it’s just me doing everything I’ve always done anyway.  I am just able to focus more of my time towards it. I had to prove myself as a Strongman athlete first. While doing that, I was constantly networking so I could learn and get better. I built some strong relationships with people in the industry over time. These relationships are a great resource to have and I’m very lucky to have people to bounce ideas off of. It only worked because I had proven myself as a good source of information. You have to remember that people are selfish in a way. It’s human nature. I showed that I was a good source of information and could not only get myself strong I could  get people stronger as well so it grew into the business I have today. I felt compelled to put out a ton of content about the sport and how to get stronger because there is almost no content about strongman. None at all. I felt that if no one else was doing it I had to. I had to leave my job because there was so much to do for the sport.

The best thing I’ve done so far was come up with the brand name Starting Strongman and provide a platform for people to get started in the sport. People say that Strongman is boring and that it will never take off. Well baseball is boring and people still watch it. Crossfit is also boring as fuck to watch on TV. It’s really hard to watch someone do 50 reps of the same thing and keep track of how far they are. Strongman is actually much easier to watch. The reason that Crossfit has grown so much is because it’s easy to get started and so many people participate in it. We have to work hard to make this possible in Strongman to grow the sport. Starting Strongman was an easy way to help the sport grow. I provided a place for people to come and interact through our FB Group and FB Page and it’s working. We’ve worked hard to continue to add value.

For my online clients, it’s been really interesting to watch this grow over time. I found that once you put a value on yourself and what you do others will do the same. I used to help dozens of people in the beginning of my career for free just because I wanted to help. When I did write programs for these people and sent it to them they wouldn’t follow my advice at all. Instead they would challenge what I was saying because they hadn’t paid for it. They had received it for free. My online clients who pay me almost never do this and continue to make progress. I’ll get questions from them day and night and they all make progress. I get some shit in the Strongman community for charging for online training, but I’ve found out that it’s the only way to get any results. I have to build a business in this career so I can put my time and energy into it and keep on helping the sport grow.

Matt: How do you balance being a Strongman athlete with running a business?

Kalle: It’s definitely hard to balance, especially since I’m so new at it. I don’t have it dialed in yet. I know there will be a point where I have to back off of training and competing to focus on helping the sport grow. For example, I just started hosting the new American Strongman podcast and took a position on the board for Northern California Strongman Championships which will take up a lot of time.

My plan right now is to do a few shows a year. Instead of the five I was doing before I’ll do maybe two or three. Nationals, Arnold, and maybe a local competition if I’m able to stay at the level I want to.

As an athlete you have to be really selfish, but the Strongman sport has so many needs that I want to solve. I know my training will suffer, but I’ve already done some great things as an athlete in the sport over the last eight years. I’m not saying I’m done yet, but it all adds up over time. I think I’ve done 40-50 events. If I stayed 100% focused I could potentially have some greater athletic accomplishments, but it’s more important to me to get the sport where it needs to be for the next generation.

Matt: We’ve seen strength become more and more popular over the last decade. I think Strongman will increase in popularity as a result of this. Where do you see the sport of Strongman going in the next five years?

Kalle: People know who Rich Froning is because he’s the best in Crossfit. In Strongman the best in the sport are not always the most recognized. There is no source of news/information on strongman so it is no ones fault! I plan to help do this. Get strongman a social media presence, use American Strongman Radio to interview all the top athletes and get them known!  I also think the lighter weight classes in Strongman & Strongwoman will lead to this because they open up the sport to the masses and make it seem feasible and relatable. It’s tough for a sport to get serious participation when the guy is  6’5”+ and 350 lbs+. This will lead to people actually appreciating the amazing feats the Heavyweights do as well.

There’s never been stronger people than there is today, but the public doesn’t appreciate it because you see a large dude and just assume he should be strong. When the public sees regular looking people lifting crazy weight and performing amazing feats of strength they won’t be able to look away. More and more people will be drawn to it. It’s already happened to Crossfit and it’s happening to Strongman as well. I don’t know if Strongman will ever be mainstream, it probably shouldn’t be, but it should be recognizable to the public. We’ll get more people involved and show just how fun it can be.

Matt: What are you excited about for the fitness industry as a whole?

Kalle: I think we’re getting to the point where people are realizing that everything can be a tool. You see people that specialize in one area, for example Crossfit, and they end up imbalanced. You need to do accessory movements (bodybuilding) and experiment. You just need to. If people understood that everything has a place then these different methods and tools could be used to make progress. I’m tired of individuals trying to prove that THEIR system is the solution for everyone. Just help people improve their fitness and they will start reaching goals they never thought they would. Instead of arguing, get some perspective about what’s really going on. The average person doesn’t know the difference between bodybuilding, Crossfit, or Strongman yet we do. Why fight amongst ourselves when we are the only people that care about what each other do in the first place? I get asked if I do bodybuilding or Ironman’s all the time, so why should we waste time talking about which is better? Keep on experimenting and testing out new theories to see what really works.

You can follow Kalle by clicking the links below

Starting Strongman Website
Starting Strongman Instagram

Matt McGunagle

Matt McGunagle

CEO & Founder of StrengthPortal. Working hard to help you in between deadlifts and jiu-jitsu!

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