Kalle Beck: Training Strongman from Home (Podcast)

Starting Strongman founder and coach Kalle Beck joins us to talk about training for strongman (and for strength and fitness in general) when you have minimal formal equipment. Kalle has a ton of experience helping clients stay strong under a lot of circumstances, and he also shares his insights into making your own weighted implements and the do-it-yourself lessons from years in the strongman community. 

In this episode of the BarBend Podcast, David Thomas Tao talks to Kalle Beck about:

  • Can Kalle squat with his miniature horse? (2:00)
  • Kalle’s recent move to Cookeville, TN (famously the home of Rich Froning and CrossFit Mayhem) (4:15)
  • The DIY origins of strongman (6:10)
  • Training with household implements (7:25)
  • First things to invest in for home equipment or build (9:55)
  • Is the strongman community better equipped for a pandemic? (12:10)
  • Why it’s human nature to overlook how simple training can be (14:30)

Relevant links and further reading:

Transcription

Kalle BeckKalle Beck

 

We’ve over complicated fitness and strength training and everything a lot. You don’t really need that much. I’ve always trained fairly minimally. I’ve always been a garage gym lifter. Back when I started Strongman, you had to drive two-plus hours to go train and stuff. You pretty much had to make your own stuff to do it. You get used to modifying things. That’s not been a problem.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Welcome to the “BarBend Podcast” where we talk to the smartest minds from around the world of strength. I’m your host, David Thomas Tao. This podcast is presented by barbend.com.

 Today, I’m talking to startingstrongman.com founder Kalle Beck. Kalle’s been competing in the sport of Strongman and covering the sport and coaching clients for over a decade. He knows a thing or two about training at home without access to a bunch of fancy equipment. That includes training with minimal equipment or even making your own.

In today’s episode, we talk about strategies for staying strong when you might not have access to your normal gym and how that applies to both Strongman athletes and strength athletes in general. I do want to take a second to say we’re incredibly thankful you listen to this podcast. If you haven’t already, be sure to leave a rating and review of the BarBend Podcast in your app of choice. Let’s get to it.

Kalle Beck, thanks so much for joining us on the BarBend Podcast for a second time under very different circumstances. First thing I have to ask is social distancing. How are you holding up in Tennessee now?

Kalle BeckKalle Beck

 

It’s hard for me to complain. I have it set up pretty good here. It doesn’t really affect my life too much because I work from home and I have for six years. I’m used to it. We just bought a property out here with three acres on it. It’s pretty easy to social distance. You have plenty of room around you. It’s not like you in New York City, which I’m pretty sure where you live…

David TaoDavid Tao

Yeah.

Kalle BeckKalle Beck

 

 It still affects your life, and it’s weird. It’s weird knowing you don’t want to go to the store, go get my haircut, or whatever, but, it’s hard for me to complain because as far as everything I have it as about as good as someone can that’s not Arnold Schwarzenegger.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

[laughs] Fair enough. He also has a mini horse, right?

Kalle BeckKalle Beck

 

He does.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

I have to ask about that. It’s something you’ve been posting. Not only are you the founder of starting strongman.com and one of the most prominent voices in the Strongman community, something a lot of people didn’t know about you until recently, you own a miniature horse.

Kalle BeckKalle Beck

Yeah. My wife’s a professional equestrian. She did Hunter/Jumper. Basically, jump horses over things for a long time. I grew up with horses, and we adopted, Willow, the little mini-horse six, seven years ago. He was at the SPCA. It was when life was a lot simpler. There’s no kids. I think I had just lost my job which we talked about in the last podcast. She said, “Hey, babe. Look.”

 

I went, “OK.” We hadn’t even been together for a year. We weren’t even married at that point. We lived in a house in California back then that had a little bit of property and didn’t think that was going to change so I said, “Sure. Why not get a miniature horse?” He’s been great. He ended up becoming best friends with our American Bulldog, which we also rescued from the SPCA after.

 

They pretty much grew up together and play and you could follow along. There’s some videos of them at A Puppy and His Pony on Instagram. We had to move into the city for a bit and couldn’t keep him at home. It’s not the reason I moved to Tennessee, but it’s a big factor because you could reunite everyone. It’s been four years since I’ve had him living with us because he is just a pet. It feels really good to have him back.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

That’s awesome. I have to say, you recently moved to Cookeville, Tennessee. Did you moving there reduce or raise the average fitness level in that town?

Kalle BeckKalle Beck

Probably reduce it. My training’s horrible right now. [laughs] I’m having a hard time getting a handle on how to mix my clients, my business, a toddler that won’t sleep, and everything, and still fit in what I have to do. I was getting a good handle on it, then we had all this craziness where you get in a good rhythm on how I update all my client’s workouts and everything.

 

Now, it’s like, “Hey, I have one kettlebell that I bought six years ago and still has the label on it and a jump rope and a band. How can you modify my training?” I can, but it makes it a lot less routine than sitting down. They have a contest coming that has Atlas Stones and Log and Farmer’s Walk, etc. They have all that stuff. You kind of know how to progress that.

 

I want to do my best to accommodate my clients, have them do it. It definitely created a lot more work this past week.

David TaoDavid Tao

Definitely. What are some of main issues you’re seeing as far as clients coming to you and being like, “Hey, I have minimum equipment, and I want to keep up my progress.” What are some of the first issues you’re helping them overcome?

Kalle BeckKalle Beck

I think it’s keeping it entertaining and a little different. If anything this is teaching us all that we’ve over complicated fitness and strength training and everything a lot. You don’t really need that much. I’ve always trained fairly minimally. I’ve always been a garage gym lifter. Back when I started Strongman, you had to drive two-plus hours to go train and stuff.

 

You pretty much had to make your own stuff to do it. You get used to modifying things. That’s not been a problem. They’re upset. A lot of people, they go into the gym for a social reason. I never understood that point of it. That’s the reason a lot people do. They like doing different things.

 

I think that’s one of the reasons why CrossFit is so popular because you’re constantly doing different things. Strongman’s pretty varied. I can’t just tell them to do three sets of 10 pushups and some band pressdowns every day, even though they’d probably be fine while this goes on. Keeping it interesting and varied a bit.

 

We are going to learn just to how to keep things back to normal and make it interesting. It’s easier just to load up a barbell and get progress. You have to go back a bit and think about different bodyweight variations and getting creative. It’s making a lot of trainers out there go back to the roots a little bit.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

What are some of the main household implements that you think folks can use if they have no equipment or very minimal equipment as weighted implements or as accessories to stimulate or make their bodyweight training a little harder?

Kalle BeckKalle Beck

 

I picked up my bull dog and did stones with him. He actually likes that. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

 

I was going to ask if you used Willow, the mini horse? How much does Willow weigh?

Kalle BeckKalle Beck

 

I’m still working up to that. I’ve tried to, years ago. He’s probably 250, 300 pounds. I really wanted to try and pick him up for photos back in the day. He’s not as cooperative as Domino, my bulldog, who’s about 80 pounds.

I didn’t get him young enough to do that whole…what was it? Milo…Where you carry the bull from a calf. We didn’t quite adopt him when he was that young where I got him used to it. He won’t let me.

David TaoDavid Tao

The origins of progressive overload. You get an animal when it’s young. You carry it up a hill. As it gets older and bigger, you get stronger because you carried up a hill every day. Right?

Kalle BeckKalle Beck

 

Yeah. Right now, I just have to walk him down to his hill. I’m out of breath the whole…It’s a pretty steep hill…

 …to go down. That would have definitely worked. Even everyone went and bought stuff in bulk, if you got a big bag of dog food from Costco or whatever, you can make your life pretty horrible just carrying that back and forth and doing some squats in between. Kind of like a good morning or simulating a stone-load. You can press it. You can roll it.

What I had a couple clients do is Home Depot and Lowe’s is still open is just go get three bags of sand. They’re usually what, 80 pounds apiece? Then a couple rolls of duct tape, and just do one empty…I think you could even get those sandbags. They’re going to break eventually, but for now, you could spend 20 bucks.

You can get about 100-pound sandbag doing that, just taping two together, 100, 120 pounds. You’re going to hate life doing it if you do five squats, walk 50 feet, do another five squats, and just do some circuits with a sandbag like that. [laughs] It’s going to be a bad time.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Going back to some of the origins of how you got started in the sport where Strongman equipment wasn’t available easily in every metropolitan area. You either had to travel a long distance or build your own. In a situation like this, what are some of the first things you might advise your clients to just build if they have some tools and basic equipment at home to start putting together equipment?

Kalle BeckKalle Beck

Actually I just put out a little video on my YouTube, just a quick one going through it. I think it depends on if you’re trying to start a home gym you want to keep forever and I think after this a lot more people will just because you realize the world can change really quick.

 

The number one thing to buy is a yoke if you’re trying to build a Strongman home gym because you can get J-cups and spotter arms for it depending on the brand you buy for four to six hundred dollars. You can get a squat rack that you can also do. You can do yoke carries, yoke zercher carries where you’re carrying them in your arms. You can do squats with it, you can press a yoke.

 

Usually they’re about 170 pounds empty so as long as your overhead press is around there, you can. Most of them have feet on them where you can push them like a sled. They’re pretty versatile.

 

Or if you have a rope, pull it, do backwards drags. It’s going to take up less space than doing that with a squat rack. There’s some limitations as far as a squat rack. If you just want the most versatile bang-for- your-buck equipment I’d say just a pair of farmer’s walk and an axle is pretty easy to build and cheap to buy and definitely a sand bag.

 

We sell Cerberus strength sandbags on Starting Strongman. Even if you don’t want to make one from sand at Home Depot, if you want one that’s going to last I’d pick one of those up. If you’re going to get one for overall training I’d get 150-ish pound bag for a guy and 100-pound for a lady.

 

If you’re doing it to compete more like 150, 200 men and women bags to actually compete. For general fitness, 150-pound sandbag will kick your butt.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

What percentage of your clients have some existing home gym setup and do you think that percentage is higher in the Strongman community versus other strength communities like powerlifting or CrossFit?

Kalle BeckKalle Beck

Yeah, I think it’s pretty high. Powerlifters tend to worry too much about calibrated plates and stuff so it might be a little less. Strongman equipment looks more like it came out of a junk yard in comparison. I’d say probably around maybe 25 to 30 percent.

 

The thing I was the most surprised by was that some people, they’re so upset their gym’s closing. They’re like, “This is all I have in my home gym.” I’m like, “You have a gym. You got dumbbells up to 85 and a rack and a bar. Why do you have a gym membership?” I didn’t know how many of my clients had pretty good home gyms already. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

It definitely makes you thankful for the stuff you already have. It gets us in this mindset of we need more in order to get stronger. I’ve definitely been in that. My squat is terrible, but no, I need all these resistance bands, I need all these types of bars. When really what I should be focusing on — when I have access to that — is getting better at a barbell squat.

 

We think more is better. Maybe that comes from the days of muscle beach and Nautilus machines and thinking that we have to have all these different angles of muscle stimulation to get the maximum response. Where do you think that mindset comes from, that more is more?

Kalle BeckKalle Beck

I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I’ve always trained with some pretty basic stuff. Part of it is maybe the fitness industry, trainers. Especially we go through the magazine days. They made everything seem so complicated. I wasted way too much money on supplements that didn’t do anything or didn’t do much in my 20s.

 

You have to have something to write about. You have to, I have to have something to talk about. If you’re like, “Hey, go do another set of barbell squats and next week do some more barbell squats,” it gets boring after a while. We have to make things up. It’s fun to buy toys too and try different things.

 

It’s like what I talked about earlier. Part of the thing about writing peoples’ programs is it’s not just about having them make progress, it’s about keeping it a little entertaining for them. It’s partially the media and it’s our human nature. I’ll buy an old truck that I want to restore and then I’m still going to go on Craigslist and search for other old trucks I want to buy that I’m not going to buy. It’s just how people are.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Speaking of old trucks, have you advised any of your clients or would you advise against any of your clients putting their cars in neutral and doing some sort of car pull in training?

Kalle BeckKalle Beck

 

Yeah, totally. It’s really hard to do some pushes or if you have rope do some pulls. Just make sure we got to keep our social distancing. I wouldn’t put it in neutral and just push it unless someone was steering and could apply the brakes.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Let that be a fact. If you want to use your car as weight, be careful and don’t run over yourself. [laughs] Kalle, what advice would you give to people who might feel a little mentally checked out during this era of social distancing and social isolation and are looking for a little inspiration as far as keeping up with their fitness and their training?

Kalle BeckKalle Beck

It’s always best to focus on what you have. Make a list. That’s what I’ve been telling my clients. Think of any random piece of equipment or things you regret you bought online five years ago and make a list. From there you can make a list of exercises to do with it and write down your programming like you’re going to do and follow it.

 

Use it as an opportunity to work on other aspects of your fitness and training that you generally neglect because you’re too beat up from doing barbell or heavy work. You can do some agility drills, ladder drills. You can do a little bit more cardio if you have the space where you’re still away from people, sprints, download something like ROMWOD or do some YouTube yoga.

 

Focus on all those things that you can do. That’s all we really can do because of the situation we’re in, it’s changing by the day. I’m not going to talk too much on my own thoughts on it because that’s not the point of this podcast.

 

It’s a good time to think about if we all work a ton and people are forced to stay home with each other, if you are in that situation with your family and kids or whatever, to reconnect and have more dinners together and talk and play board games.

 

When you look back on it there’s going to be a lot of memories that people are fond of. It might be stressful in the time. Times like this make me super fortunate for what I have. That’s just being at home with my family for the most part.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

 Awesome. Kalle where’s the best place for people to keep up to date with the work you’re doing?

Kalle BeckKalle Beck

 

Yes, startingstrongman.com, @startingstrongman across social media. My YouTube is Kalle Beck, if you look it up or if you search Starting Strongman on YouTube, it should send you to there as well.

If you want to follow my personal accounts to see no more ponies and trucks and baby pictures. I guess he’s not quite a baby anymore. It’s @letkallelift across social media.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Awesome Kalle. Thanks so much for joining us. Really appreciate your time.

Kalle BeckKalle Beck

Thank you.