Get Stronger: Chronicles of a Lightweight Beast Tamer

I’ll never forget the first time I witnessed the Beast Tamer Challenge. It was during my SFG Level I Certification in Philadelphia last year. Known in the fitness industry as one of the most challenging—and daring—tests of strength, the Beast Tamer is a trio of rigorous exercises using a 48kg bell known as “The Beast.” In order to become a “Beast Tamer,” you are required to complete a strict military press, a pistol, and a tactical pull-up.

Only one guy attempted the challenge that weekend. He was big and ripped—or “swole,” as I like to call it—and someone I thought to be the next Beast Tamer. His press went up easily, and his pistol squat was on point. But despite several valiant attempts, he didn’t quite have the pull-up in him, thus proving aesthetics do not always equate to brute strength.

At that point I knew this was not just something I wanted to do, it was something I would do. After researching further, I didn’t understand why so few people had achieved or even attempted this challenge, but then I picked up the Beast, and I immediately understood. The idea of becoming a Beast Tamer at first was only a thought, but once I came up with the appropriate formula I decided to tame this Beast. The formula was simple: get stronger.

Kenton Boutwell Beast TamerSetting My Beast Tamer Goal

I knew I couldn’t accomplish all of this on my own, so I sought help from one of the best in the strength game, my mentor and close friend, the Iron Tamer, MSFG David Whitley. I got in touch with him immediately and mentioned to him that I wanted to become a Beast Tamer. We decided I would do the challenge at my SFG Level II Certification at the Dome of Strength in Chicago. Notice I said “do” and not “attempt.” (This will come into play later.)

The certification was in April and I decided to sign up and begin training for the Beast Tamer in mid-January. This would give me a full fourteen weeks to prepare. I consulted with Dave regarding programming and the training began.

The Elements That Earned Me Beast Tamer Success

Looking back on this experience, there are three major elements that contributed to me getting stronger:

  1. Expert coaches
  2. Mindset
  3. Specific Training

Don’t be afraid to seek out help. If you want to excel in life, you will need appropriate guidance from experts in the industry. A good coach can speed your progress considerably by helping you avoid their mistakes. Never forget you are always a student first. I received guidance from David Whitley during my training and also from another strength coach, Matt Poe, later into the training. Without guidance from these guys I would not have been able to conquer this challenge.

As I mentioned earlier, the guy I saw attempt the Beast Tamer was massive. I weighed in at 172, making me one of the lightest tamers—if not the lightest within StrongFirst—when I attempted the challenge. To put things into perspective, strength is not just about mass. Mass will only get you so far.

To excel, you need an unyielding mindset. The mind and body must be one. They should function as an inseparable unit. When you grip that bell to perform a specific movement, the task at hand should be an automatic pattern because you’ve grooved the mind and body to be one.

Each lift requires an intense focus, a drive and a solid determination in order to tame the Beast. I cannot stress your mindset enough. You must be focused and driven. This is especially important when lifting heavy. My mindset has gotten me through many grinds and helped keep me setting new personal records linearly. If your mindset is in the right place you will have heightened mind and body awareness which will transfer over into all that you do.

I use meditation techniques as part of my training and recommend you do also. Breathing, visualization, and outlook are a few of the major mental aspects of my training.

  • Breathing is essential for life and therefore a major determinant in your strength and technical abilities. Proper execution of inhalation and exhalation should be a part of your training.
  • Visualization will also aid in your technical abilities and outlook.
  • A positive outlook (i.e. knowing I would do, not attempt the challenge) will help you stay motivated to continue training and also allow you to overcome obstacles in a proactive and constructive way. Trust me when I say there will always be setbacks in your training, and it’s how you choose to respond that will determine your success or failure. Being truly StrongFirst includes mental as well as physical training.

And then, of course, there is the training aspect—very specific training that is. Most people will have one or maybe two lifts they are exceptional at. Typically there will be at least one problem area. For me, it was the press. So this problematic area will require the most effort and focus.

Proper programming and adherence is a must. Create a plan and stick to it. The plan may change, of course, depending on how your training unfolds. Just be sure to make the necessary adjustments and continue to get stronger.


Kenton Boutwell
Kenton Boutwell is co-founder and CEO of GymCloud and co-owner of Evolve Fitness Nashville.

He holds an M.S. in Exercise Physiology and Kinesiology, and is a StrongFirst Kettlebell Level II Instructor, American College of Sports Medicine certified Personal Trainer, USA Weightlifting Sports Performance Coach, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, USA Powerlifting Club Coach, Precision Nutrition Level 1, and Functional Movement Screen certified fitness professional. He is also a USAF Veteran.

He can be reached at
Kenton Boutwell on Email

9 thoughts on “Get Stronger: Chronicles of a Lightweight Beast Tamer

  • Great article, man. Where in MS did you grow up? Too many Boutwells to count in my neck of the woods.

    Congrats on taming the beast!

  • Great article.
    I was at the Dome and very impressed by your efforts. Your final press attempt was a real example of everything in this article. Awesome work.

  • Found this to be very inspiring. Awesome work. Not sure if at 54 with my shoulders Beast Taming is my goal, but I’m going to set some kind of heavy goal and do it this summer.

  • awesome … i can’t wait to read the rest and especially the programming and more about your mental imagery tactics. i’m guessing you did as little as possible and just enough to keep you moving forward; refreshed, injury free and peaking at the moment of the challenge.

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