By Eric Buratty | Published March 24, 2015
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s . . . the biggest quads south of the Yukon!
His name is Bryan Krahn, and he’s well-known for his witty-gritty writing/editing on the topic of muscle-building, looking good naked and his superhuman ability to detect fitness scammers from a mile away.
We’re very fortunate to have him here today for our special guest interview. Without further ado, let’s get our bro on.
1. It’s great to have you here today with us, Bryan. For readers who are unfamiliar with your work, where have you been in the past, and what is(are) your current lifestyle (business plans?) like?
I was a trainer until I was 24 and then I kind of fell into sports supplements, specifically the marketing side of things. I wrote ad copy, did account repping, and a lot of product “technical support.”
I kinda got burnt out from doing that, so I went back to school to beef up my writing from a Psych degree to an English degree, and later Journalism, before plunging into fitness writing.
After some freelancing and personal training, I was fortunate enough to work with T-Nation as an associate editor, where I made some friends and learned a ton from TC Luoma.
Over time I longed to get my own “voice” out there, so I shifted my focus toward the niche of older guys who want to look good naked without following all the over-complicated, douchebag stuff.
2. Right on. You recently shared a two-a-day weight training experiment for getting into the best shape of your life without any traditional “cardio.” As mentioned in that post, this is not too different from the training approach used by Arnold and his boys back in the day. But, to appease all those “show me the studies” people, how’s your transformation coming along so far?
I originally got into that because I’ve been really turned on by stuff from the 60’s to 80’s. Back then it was high volume, clean diet, go go go. I was itching to train my ass off anyway (I took a long break over Xmas), and just see what could happen.
So I doubled my strength training and cleaned up my diet—and by “cleaned up,” I mean I ate more like an athlete. My diet was lots of nutritious food with very little junk or supplement bullshit.
I found that my weaker body parts really responded well to the higher volume. And training for a couple hours a day also really opened up my freedom to eat as well. Now 300 grams of carbs a day is a low day. Previously that was a high day!
3. Now’s there’s something everyone loves to talk about . . . good food after a workout! Who would win a fight after a solid muscle-building workout: water, coconut water, sports drink, protein shake/bar, chocolate milk, a peanut butter snack, a fast food meal, a home-cooked meal or other (please specify)? Why?
I think all of the pre/intra/post-workout shit is overrated. Your daily macros for the day are all that really matter in the grand scheme of things. I could see the recovery drinks being more beneficial if I was an elite-level, Olympic athlete—training at least four hours a day.
I guess I just feel bad when guys [or gals] waste their time and money worrying about all that bullshit. They just need to work harder at the gym instead of focusing on how alkaline their water is or how fast their protein is getting into their system.
Now with my current high training volume, I do make sure I have some protein & carbs in my system before I lift, or at least some BCAA’s (and a very strong coffee). I like eating relatively soon after I’m done, too. But these 18 different drinks and bars you’re supposed to put back is bullshit.
4. You know, it’s funny. In spite of all the dogma people buy into, many of them still like to play the bad genetics or old age card. When we aren’t dealt the optimal hand, should we take the red or blue pill—or neither —to see how far the health & fitness “rabbit hole” goes?
Genetics is such a self-limiting thing. Out of all the shit you can control, you just can’t control your genetics you were born with. That’s the reality—which is why trainers and coaches don’t bring it up.
However, we can all improve on, and work with what we’ve got. Just keep hitting it hard and above all, don’t keep doing something that isn’t working. If “no direct arm work” is giving you great results in the arms, great. If not, do something else. That’s why it’s so important to keep records [and food/training logs] and just figure stuff out for yourself.
There’s honestly no substitute for putting in the time and figuring out what stuff works best for you along the way.
5. Word up. On the topic of keeping testosterone naturally high and looking like a badass after the age of 40—which lower body exercise keeps you feeling the youngest and strongest? How about for the upper body?
When I find ways to improve my squat form, many other things just seem to fall in place. Especially when I squat for reps—in the 8-12 range.
One thing I’ve noticed is that if I go away from single leg work entirely, I feel like I lose some mobility in my hips, and I just don’t “move” as well. So I think keeping some single-leg work in the mix is always a good idea.
As I get more experienced, I find that the most important thing for my upper body is rowing or working on thoracic mobility . . . But if the goal is to get bigger, the key is more muscle tension. Activate the larger upper body muscles while keeping everything tight and focusing on the contraction instead of just going heavy all the time.
6. Good point—I’m a big fan of squats myself—and getting stronger in all rep ranges is extremely underrated. With all the redundant fitness information out there these days, it’s no wonder that you read it more for entertainment rather than for educational purposes. From your writing & editing experience over the years, what separates knowledge-bomb material (i.e., an original, worthwhile article) from regurgitated material (i.e., an unoriginal, time-wasting article)? BONUS: How do you manage to keep your cool with all the current pseudo-science madness?
Well, keeping my cool really isn’t a problem. I just don’t take anything too seriously anymore. Sometimes I get wrapped up into social media more than I should, and that’s where I seem to stumble across a lot of this redundant material.
What makes someone’s material more interesting? Well, I like to ask: What has that person done to establish themselves? What kind of physique have they built for themselves? What kind of impact are they having on the lives of others? A lot of guys are “faking it” by regurgitating what other guys have written.
While there’s nothing wrong with repeating lists of “healthy habits,” that stuff just gets old after awhile.
People need to stop parroting good advice, and start making a difference in themselves—and others.
7. No kidding! Alright—let’s wrap this up. Are there any books or training methods that saved your life over the years? What about any current products or things that are totally rocking your world?
One of my most prized possessions is my large book collection. I do find that the more I read—especially the old school stuff—the more wisdom I seem to gain. I think people spend too much time reading blogs and not enough time reading published material.
I have old Joe Weider books, books by Vince Gironda, Charles Poliquin, Dan Duchaine, Bob Paris, John Parillo and a dozen others. It’s all just information, which you can apply or file away for later. Sure, much of the info contradicts itself, but so what? There are many ways to skin a cat. Just find the way that works for you.
I also really think people need to have a mentor—someone they can look up to along the way that’s been where they’ve been and knows where they’re headed—basically someone they can identify with.
For me, I’d go with someone like Dave Tate or John Meadows because they never try to make stuff more complicated than what it needs to be. And you can learn a lot about nutrition by reading Alan Aragon’s material.
The number one thing I go back to is, do they practice what they preach? As I get older, I find that this is the most important thing of all!
Awesome sauce. Thanks for your time, Bryan.
There’s only question left to ask for those of you who’ve made it this far.
Do you view health & fitness as something you WANT or NEED in life?
If health & fitness is just something you WANT, you may be overlooking much of the simple, old school wisdom right in front of you.
If health & fitness is something you NEED, stay true to what works for you, and keep going about your bro business. Just remember to not take things too seriously, or you may develop some of the over-complicated “health” habits of fitness wannabes around you, wearing the cone of shame.