For sports fans - and followers of strongman competitions in particular - Eddie Hall needed no introduction when he became the world's strongest man in 2017. But the event marked the culmination of his dreams, and prompted his retirement, ushering in a new period which would see him develop his own brand and launch a whole new career as a businessman.

"I only wanted to win it once and then walk away," he says. "The health factor backed that decision up. When I won I was 400 pounds of bodyweight, which is nearly 200kg or 32 stone, and I just felt as if I was pushing the boundaries a bit too hard. Even at six foot three inches, I was the shortest guy in the final so the six foot nine guys held the weight a bit better. I'd started having a few health scares, and I just thought another world's strongest man trophy was not worth my life, so I decided to step back and take a change in career path."

The result was the development of "The BEAST" brand, for which he owes a debt of gratitude to Arnold Schwarzenegger. "In 2016 I lifted a world record deadlift in front of him in Melbourne and he nicknamed me the beast on the microphone," he says. "The news outlets weren't saying ‘Eddie Hall beats deadlift record'; it was ‘the beast beats deadlift record'. But that's where it stemmed from, and it's stuck ever since."

Schwarzenegger has been a role model for Hall in other ways too. "He won the Mr Olympia title several times but he was building up his pathway to Hollywood to start his acting career and I always had that in mind," he says. "Within 18 months of winning the title I had two TV shows, I'd landed roles in movies that haven't aired yet, and I've got no end of business deals and endorsements, appearances and speeches.

"Since I've retired I've been busier than I was when I was doing strongman and that's just through building up the brand, being entertaining and being myself. That was something that the other athletes were a bit shy to do; they would do an event and walk off but I would shout and growl and call the other athletes out. I was the Connor McGregor of the strongman world and I'm very proud of that."

Hitting the small screen

Television appearances have been a central part of Hall's reinvention - taking part in shows such as Eddie Eats America and Celebs In Solitary: Meltdown - and one that he found a reasonably easy transition. "I was quite well known in the TV world because I was so good at the interviews," he says. "The people who were interviewing me were often massive fans so to go and pitch a TV show to a producer who was a massive fan gave me a huge headstart. It was actually quite easy to break into this new world of TV because I was so well known in the first place.

"But I'm very picky in what I do; I'm a believer that if you do something good on TV that will lead to other good things but if you do bad things then that will only lead to other bad things. You have to be very articulate and pick your paths, and realise what's good for your career and bad for it."

So far, the formula appears to be working. "The way it's heading now I'm becoming a household name and getting very popular," he says. "They call me a person of the people and doing these TV shows is a good way for me to portray that. I want to keep entertaining people and that will take me a long way, just having that hard work and dedication."

Alongside the TV appearances and pushing his own YouTube channel, which attracts around a million viewers a day, Hall is still actively involved in promoting strongman, including commentating for CBS in the US, and also endorses a growing range of merchandise incorporating clothes, water bottles and protein drinks.

"Last year I was on the road for 10 and a half months doing appearances and TV shows, and this year was exactly the same until the coronavirus crisis hit," he says. "I was fully booked for 10 months in advance, just doing TV work." He's recently announced a high-profile boxing match against Icelander Thor Bjornsson - his successor as both world's strongest man and world record-holder for a deadlift (albeit unofficial) - which is due to take place in September 2021.

Finding focus

Hall wasn't always on the road to stardom as a strongman. When he was a child, he was a very talented swimmer, being taken into the world-class potential squad at the age of 11 and winning four gold medals at the national championships. "I set some British records and was destined for the Olympics," he says. "At the age of 12 I was training upwards of 15 or 20 hours a week."

The swimming, though, wasn't to last, with a teenage Hall suffering from anxiety and depression and, in his words, "falling out with everyone". "By the time I was 15 I'd been expelled from school so I had a lot of free time, and my parents encouraged me to join a gym," he says. "Every time I went I felt better and came away with a sense of euphoria and that stemmed into a goal." Initially the target was bodybuilding - with Schwarzenegger the inspiration - but his height worked against him.

"By the time I got to 17 or 18 I realised that I was never going to win against the five foot eight or 10 guys so my direction switched over to strongman," he says. "I did my first strongman contest at 19 and came fifth and I got the bug for it that day. I decided that I wanted to be the world's strongest man and I completely switched all my energy from bodybuilding into strongman."

Initially this was more of a hobby, while Hall worked as a mechanic from the age of 16 and then moved into working in security on pub and nightclub doors. "I was putting 20 hours a week into lifting weights and doing strongman, but I'd be working 80 hours a week too so I was burning the candle at both ends," he says.

By the time he was 22 he'd won the title of England's strongest man and followed that up the next year with the UK title. "I was able to get a few sponsors onboard and that's when I became a professional strongman," he recalls. "That was the tipping point because there were no excuses. I didn't have to work so it was just training full-time, and that's when I realised I had the potential to win the world's strongest man."

It was, quite literally, a full-time commitment. "I was sleeping 13 hours a day and then I'd spend from 3:30pm until about 10pm training," he says. "I'd do four hours of weights, an hour's cardio, an hour's hot and cold treatment, an hour's stretching and an hour's hyperbaric treatment so it was pretty relentless. It takes a lot of your time up to be the best in the world." He believes the sport is slowly getting the recognition it deserves, rediscovering the popularity of the Geoff Capes-inspired 1980s.

Next steps

Hall, who is still only 32, believes any aspiring sportsperson needs to have one eye on what they will do when their main career comes to an end. "There have been people who have won world's strongest man and gone back to working in full-time jobs afterwards," he says. "That doesn't mean they're not savvy; it just means they have missed out on opportunities or been mis-managed. Footballers and Olympians will have an after-life. The money can be great or not so great, but you have to think as an individual and make it work."

The key is to create opportunities for yourself. "Surround yourself with positive people, get yourself good management and be prepared to work hard," he says. "People win gold medals and then sit on their hands and expect people to give them endorsements and opportunities but it doesn't work like that. You have to work hard to get where you want to be and then carry on working hard."

Like many business owners, Hall has had to call in additional support as his operation has grown. "I'm quite savvy with the accounts but I find all the paperwork and invoicing very tedious," he says. "I've hired a full-time PA and a full-time social media person, and even now I'm still pulling my hair out with business opportunities and enquiries. I can go somewhere for two months for a TV show but it's the business behind that - keeping on top of all the opportunities that are coming in and making sure I grab them with two hands - that can be hard."

The coronavirus situation has allowed him time to spend at home with his wife and two young children after years of living on the road, but he's already thinking of once things start to return to normal. "I'm planning on doing season 2 of my main TV shows, I have a movie lined up towards the end of this year and then I have all the strongman competitions coming up as well," he says. "Next year I'm doing the Arnold Classic with Arnold Schwarzenegger so I'm running a strength and bodybuilding exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham which is going to take a lot of planning and time."

He also has plans to expand The BEAST brand into other areas, with biltong and beer in the pipeline. "They should both be coming out in the next few weeks," he says. "For me it's about building that brand, whether I have 100 or 1,000 products. The bigger your brand, the longer you're going to last in this game."

Outside of work Hall, who still lives in his home town of Stoke-on-Trent, trains every day - he's lost six stone since retiring - and is even rekindling another former passion. "I'm actually getting a swimming pool in my back garden so I can get some swimming training back in," he says. "I enjoy lifting weights - it keeps me sane and my body in shape - but as I'm getting older I feel as though the focus is moving more towards the cardiovascular side of things with bike-riding, boxing and swimming."

Perhaps surprisingly, there are few hankerings after his former life. "I don't miss the stress, the competitiveness and all the pressure," he says. "When you're at the top of your game that's all there is: stress and pressure. It's a lot to put on your mental state as well as your physical body and I don't want to go back to that. There are guys who have won world's strongest man and then carried on trying to win it again and again. For me, you have to know when to walk away from what you're good at, and that's what I've done."