Alan Thrall: Where Can Powerlifting & Strongman Grow?

Alan Thrall is an accomplished strength coach and the owner of Untamed Strength. Alan has coached thousands of athletes over the course of his career, and his YouTube channels has amassed more than 85 million views, helping countless athletes get stronger in and out of the gym.

In this episode of the BarBend Podcast, guest host Jake Boly talks to Alan about his growth in strength coaching, how he accidentally built a massive YouTube channel, and much much more. 

  • Alan Thrall’s origin story and start in the world of strength & conditioning (2:00)
  • How and if the Marine Corps helped Alan take the leap of faith to opening his own gym (4:30)
  • What actually gave Alan the confidence to start his own gym and grow his business (6:15)
  • Finding the value in doing things throughout life that you don’t like to find what you love (9:25)
  • Lessons learned the hard way and what went smoothly when Alan opened Untamed Strength (10:15)
  • Where Alan went after he dialed in on his target population (14:20)
  • What drew Alan to building his massive YouTube channel (18:46)
  • Did Alan predict how much his channel would grow over time? (21:15)
  • What has been Alan’s favorite video to date that he’s published (24:30)
  • Alan’s process for coming up with and creating YouTube videos (29:40)
  • Does Alan ever check comments to come up with videos? (32:45)
  • How Alan worked around negative comments that can limit creativity (37:25)
  • The mindset it takes to grow and learn in the world of strength and conditioning (40:15)
  • How Alan shifts gears from strength sport to strength sport (43:45)
  • The timeline in which Alan recommends lifters getting into competitions (46:55)
  • Who has been an inspiration and mentor for Alan over his career (49:45)
  • What a Celeb’s life website said about Alan Thrall (52:45)
  • The future plans for Untamed Strength (54:45)

Relevant links and further reading:

Transcription

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

I don’t care if someone is making a YouTube video explaining how to make $1 million in a week. If it’s just boring and dry, a lot of people are going to check out. Even if the information is good, not a whole lot of people are going to watch it.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Welcome to the BarBend podcast where we talk to the smartest athletes, coaches, and minds from around the world of strength. I’m your guest host Jake Foley, and this podcast is presented by barbend.com.

Alan Thrall is an accomplished strength coach and the owner of Untamed Strength. Alan has coached thousands of athletes over the course of his career.

His YouTube channel has more than 85 million views and has helped countless amounts of athletes get stronger in and out of the gym. In today’s episode I talk to Alan about his growth in the strength-coaching industry and how he accidentally built a massive YouTube channel along with much, much more.

 

As always, we’re incredibly thankful that 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. Every month we give a box full of BarBend swag to one of our listeners who leaves a rating and review. Without further ado, let’s dive into this episode.

 

All right. Welcome to the BarBend podcast. Today we are joined with Alan Thrall, who in my opinion is one of the OJ fitness YouTubers when it comes to just all-around fitness knowledge. More than likely you’ve seen one of his videos here at one time or another. Alan, thank you so much for coming on, man. It’s a pleasure to have you.

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

Thanks for having me on.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Where I want to start this podcast is, I know you’ve mentioned this before in videos and other podcasts, but I would love for you to share a little bit more of your origin story into strength and conditioning, and how you got started for anyone who might not know you.

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

 

As far as just as a hobby myself or more as actually doing it as a career or what?

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

Let’s do a little bit of both, man. I’d love to just hear the full Allen origin story because I don’t know if I’ve ever heard every detail to it.

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

 I started lifting weights at summer of my eighth grade school year, and it was in preparation for high school football. I was running track and I was playing Pop Warner football.

 

The high school football coach came to the middle school that I was at and he had said, “At lunchtime, anyone who wants to play football in high school come meet for a meeting.”

 

We went there. He talked about a high school weight training program that he was doing at the high school I was going to go to. Eighth graders were invited, any incoming freshman. I started lifting weights then and I really enjoyed it and bought into it.

 

I loved playing football at the time and I knew that lifting weights was going to make me a better football player. I was even more bought in because I really liked playing football. I lifted weights all throughout high school and I loved it, but it was primarily because I loved playing football.

 

Once high school was done and I stopped playing football, I stopped lifting weights for quite a while. I got into long-distance running. I was a runner for a couple of years. Then I decided to join the Marine Corps.

 

While I was in the Marine Corps, probably a year into the Marine Corps, I met a couple of guys who were into lifting weights. I fell back in love with lifting weights, just for the sake of lifting weights, not really for any sort of goal as in, “I’m doing this to get better at football.” I really liked lifting weights on my time off.

 

While I was in the Marine Corps, you’re limited to what you can do when you’re out in the middle of nowhere in the United States, an unfamiliar place for me. A lot of the guys, when they had time off, liked to go out on the town and do a whole bunch of stuff that I wasn’t really interested in.

 

I would stay back on most of the weekends and lift weights. I’m sure we’ll talk about it plenty, but from there I developed this desire and obsession that I’d open my own gym when I got out of the Marine Corps. Once I got out of the Marine Corps, I hit the ground running and I pursued opening my own gym. Then I started Untamed Strength.

Jake BolyJake Boly

My next question was going to be how the Marine Corps translated and gave you that push to start your own gym. I know you said that you stayed there on the weekends and pursued lifting.

 

My question for you is what sparked that to fall back in love with it? What did the Marine Corps scenario and setting translate to your personal business and give you that push?

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

 I would say that the two friends that I met in the Marine Corps, Josh Clark and Carl Borgas, were their names. They were friends of mine and they were really the catalyst to want to start lifting weights again, wanting to be big and strong.

 

I was influenced by them and I wanted to be more like them. I wanted to lift weights with them. After doing a couple years of long-distance running, being in the military and doing all their physical training and PT, I wanted to do something different. I’ve always been active and I’ve always loved either lifting weights or doing sports, or whatnot. This was my outlet to continue being active.

 

For once I have looked at weight-training as a way to…I want to get bigger and stronger. I know that lifting weight’s going to do that. Where before I was just doing what I was told, “Hey, football players go to the weight room and train.” That’s why I was doing it.

 

Now I really wanted to get bigger and stronger, so I started lifting weights again and just became obsessed with the hobby of lifting weights. That’s what started it all, as far as falling back in love with it.

 

I just enjoyed being in the gym the same way that, I don’t know, someone enjoys going on a long run or someone enjoys playing basketball. I just liked going to the gym and lifting weights.

 

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

Gotcha. When you wanted to start your own gym, what gave you that push to do so? I feel like that can be a very scary thought, and I guess business to jump into, so what sparked that?

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

That’s a long answer to that question. I don’t think that the Marine Corps equipped me with any traits or characteristics that changed me into wanting to be a business owner. People often ask, “Do you attribute your discipline to being in the military?” I would say, “No.”

 

I’ve always been pretty disciplined and motivated even before the military. That’s why I wanted to join the Marine Corps because I felt like it suited me. I wouldn’t say that the Marine Corps did a whole lot to prepare me for opening my own business. It was the opposite.

 

I learned a lot in the military about what I didn’t want to do for the rest of my life and so that negativity pushed me to want to start my own gym. I had joined the Marine Corps mainly because I was confused at the time and I didn’t have any direction in my life.

 

I just wanted to do something, so I decided I was going to join the military. At the time, I wanted to be told what to do because I didn’t have the answers to many questions, and so I said, “I’ll join the military and just do what I’m told to the best of my ability.” I wanted that direction.

 

A couple of years into the Marine Corps, I realized that I absolutely hate being told what to do, and I was getting sick and tired of being micromanaged. I was tired of reporting to a bunch of superiors that I hated, that I did not aspire to be like, so I learned a lot about what I didn’t want to do, which pushed me to figure out what I do want to do.

 

Owning my own business or owning my own gym just became an obsession. It was very similar to me doing a hard time in jail or in prison and just sitting every single day and thinking about these dreams that I had and what I wanted to do. That just built more and more motivation to start this as soon as I got out of the Marine Corps.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to be negative and say that I hated the Marine Corps or anything like that. I’m glad I did it and I wouldn’t have changed anything if I could go back in time, but it definitely pushed me and gave me motivation, “I want to do this,” because I learned in the Marine Corps what I did not want to do.

 

That is report to someone every day. I just had a revelation that every single I was dreading every day in my life. I was just getting by through life hating what I was doing and I was just, “What a pathetic way to live.” That’s what motivated me to want to do this once I finished the Marine Corps.

Jake BolyJake Boly

That’s so cool. I feel like that’s how a lot of folks started. It’s either you fall in love with it or you find something that you don’t like, and that helps direct you towards what you end up liking. That’s cool to hear that you almost reverse-engineered everything to build Untamed Strength.

 

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

There’s some value in spending parts of your life doing things that you hate in order to figure out what you actually want to do. Whether that or still really uncomfortable and not doing things you hate, but whether it’s joining the Marine Corps or going to school for a long time, or just moving out of the country and just getting uncomfortable, teaches you a lot.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Yeah, 100 percent agreement. You hear so many entrepreneurs are like, “Oh, I was corporate. Then I was like, ‘Fuck that. I’m out.'” They ended up leaving and then they start something great like, “You’re done.”

 

I guess my next question for you, man. You decided to start Untamed Strength based off of things that you didn’t like, so you start building a life that you want to live based off of what you love. What were some things that you’ve learned along the way when you first started? I’m sure there were a ton of lessons you’ve learned because you said you weren’t that equipped going into it.

 

My next question is, what are a couple things you learned the hard way, and things that went a little more smoothly than you expected, and so forth?

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

 I went in to start my own gym with zero experience in business. I didn’t even go to school for it. I didn’t have any formal personal training experience. I’ve never worked in a gym. From the outside looking in, it was pretty irresponsible just to say, “Hey, I’m going to start my own gym.”

 

I was obsessed with wanting to open my own gym. It wasn’t that I wanted to necessarily be a strength-training coach, or be this world-renowned coach, in any way. It was just that I wanted to open my own gym. Coaching came as a necessity to owning a gym.

 

I lost my direction of where we’re going with this question. Go ahead and repeat where I’m going with this.

Jake BolyJake Boly

You go into the business not exactly knowing much about business, not exactly having a formal coaching background. You had to equip yourself with those things as you went.

 

In my mind, what I want to know, and I’m sure others do too is when figuring those things out, how did you figure them out in a hierarchy fashion? Was it like, I’d figure out the business then dial in the coaching? Or, was it like, “I need to get really great at both of these quickly.” How did you do it?

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

Things that I learned the hard way, once I opened the gym…beforehand, when I was telling a bunch of people that I was going to open this gym, there were a lot of verbal commitments of like, “Oh, I’ll be the first one to sign up.” “I can’t wait.” I thought that if you build it, they will come.

 

Once I started the gym, and nobody was signing up, even people that I knew was guaranteed, I knew they were going to sign up, weren’t signing up. It took a long time to really convince people to come sign up for the gym, or to come train at my gym. I think the biggest mistake I made was trying to appeal to everyone or cater to everyone.

 

My first business cards said, “Untamed Strength, powerlifting, Strongman, weightlifting, athletic training, general strength training.” I was trying to do everything. I was great at really none of those.

 

It just left a lot of people confused as to what exactly is this gym? How is this any different from the commercial gym? It’s not CrossFit, I know that. There was really no direction to it.

 

It wasn’t until I started actually pursuing marketing towards Strongman that it started to take off. I hosted my first Strongman competition in the gym. That, I would say, was the turning point of figuring out where I need to take this place, and where I need to go in terms of direction.

 

The first thing that I learned was actually find a goal, have a target audience or target market, and go for that as best you can. If that needs to change along the way, that’s fine, but don’t try to appeal to every single type of person.

 

I was under the impression that if I make this huge target, this huge shocking effect, a bunch of stuff is going to stick, but nothing really stuck. It wasn’t until I figured out where I was going that I could actually go in that direction, which I would say was the biggest thing that I learned early on.

 

Jake BolyJake Boly

That’s awesome. I guess when you first started, you finally dial in and figure out your target audience. You really hone in on focusing on that group, and you start to grow and build upon that. Where did you go next?

 

You dial in on Strongman, and get really great in focusing on that audience, and building that training style, and other strength-training principles within that. Where did you go after that?

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

 I actually flipped all my business cards and my website to say, “Untamed Strength, the only Strongman gym in Sacramento.” I was really riding on that. It was not an Olympic weightlifting gym, it was a really crappy powerlifting gym.

 

I didn’t have the necessary equipment, and really, Super Training was 20 minutes away from me. It wasn’t any better than a commercial gym. It was far worse than a commercial gym. I said, “I’m going to run with this Strongman thing.” I really played on, “Sacramento’s only Strongman gym.”

 

Eventually, as more and more strongmen started coming into the gym, there were more people who were just passionate about strength. More specifically, powerlifters started to come into the gym. They were wanting, “Hey, do you have any good power bars?” I’m like, “What the heck is a good power bar? I’ve got barbells.”

 

Then I started to learn you can have better knurling, you can have an actual power bar. I started buying these power bars. I remember three power lifters came into the gym one time, and the guy walks up to me and says, “Can I look at your barbells?” I said, “Sure.”

 

I had a couple of hollow power bars, and he signed up. Those three signed up, just because I had hollow power bars. People do care about equipment, especially power lifters.

 

I got some better racks, actual deadlift platforms, and better power bars. I got a deadlift bar, and then way down the road, I eventually got competition benches. More power lifters started to come into the gym.

 

Then it shifted from Strongman to powerlifting. Even now, it’s more of Strongman, powerlifting, and general strength training.

 

A lot of people who sign up in the gym are just sick and tired of training at 24-hour fitness or California Family Fitness, or any other commercial gyms. They’re like, ” I just want to come to a gym where I know there’s going to be a squat rack. Nobody’s going to hassle me for doing deadlifts.”

 

It’s just general strength training, people doing barbell work. It just grew from there.

 

From a business standpoint, to better answer your question, I think that once I really started to struggle with getting members, once I had exhausted every form of marketing I can think of to get more members in the gym, I noticed, I’m not really getting any more members. I’m not just going to sit here in the gym all day. What else do I need to do?

 

I started making YouTube videos, actual YouTube videos that could reach outside the gym. I was making YouTube videos for a while, but it was just promo stuff, highlights of people working out at Untamed Strength. I’d put it in a video and post it on YouTube, but nobody would watch that.

 

Once I’ve figured, I’ve done everything I can to get more members, what do need to do now? I started making instructional YouTube videos. I made a how to squat, how to bench press, how to deadlift, and how to overhead press video, and those videos got really popular.

 

That was my next step to figure out. I need more avenues. Not just revenue, but more avenues to market, because I didn’t get paid on YouTube for a long time before I realized I could.

 

I’m trying to get members. I’m not really getting many members. Now I’ll try to make some YouTube videos. Hopefully, someone in the area will see that on YouTube and want to come to the gym.

 

From there, once I got a bigger following on YouTube, I said, “I can take advantage of this and start doing some online training.” I’d advertise online training to get members outside of the gym to pay me for training.

 

Then I said, “Maybe I should make some Untamed Strength T-shirts and sell that.” Eventually, different avenues came that I could either put my energy towards when other things weren’t working and, ultimately, get a little bit of income from all of these things.

Jake BolyJake Boly

That’s so cool. You almost stumbled into scaling it in a very strategic way. That’s really cool. I guess my question next would be, what drew you to YouTube in the first place?

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

 

What did what?

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

What drew you to YouTube in the first place?

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

I remember someone in the gym showing me. I don’t remember what the video was, but showing me a video, because we were talking about the squat. He was like, “Oh, I thought I should do this and this and this.” I was like, “Well, that’s the worst advice ever, who told you that?” He’s like, “Well, I saw it on this video.”

 

He showed me a YouTube video and I’m like,” This advice is terrible.” I went and started looking, because I didn’t spend any time on YouTube, other than the videos that I posted at the time, the highlight videos at the gym.

 

I watched more and more videos and I was thinking this information sucks and production sucks. It’s like 10 minutes of some guy in a warehouse without a microphone or anything, just talking about the squat. I thought they’d be more clever way to do this, you know.

 

I was thinking about the production and the great information I thought I had. I said, I’m going to kind of put these two things together. I had ideas of, all just talking to my camera, like pretty much read into my camera, and then I’ll put actual video on top of that.

 

If I’m talking about stance. I’m going to put the camera on my feet and show my feet. I’m going to break it down, pretty much how videos are made nowadays, have this B roll and then there’s actual showing what you’re doing. That was kind of creative outlet for me. I thought I’ll create this cool instructional videos.

 

That’s what drew me to YouTube really was, I watched all these other videos and thought this information sucks, production sucks. I think I could do a little better job.

 

I didn’t do it as, “I’m going to do this and get a million subscribers. I’m going to be the next biggest thing.” I didn’t even really understand that stuff at the time. I just said, maybe someone in the area and Sacramento will see this, and say, “What good information, I want to come to this gym.” That’s why I posted it.

Jake BolyJake Boly

That’s insane. It’s kind of a parallel in my opinion, like how you started the gym. It was based off of the things you didn’t like. You start making videos based off of videos you didn’t like. Now, I feel like if you’re into strength training, you’ve probably seen your videos at least once.

 

It’s just bizarre thinking like, “That it’s grown to this.” Did you ever think you would reach this level of like subscriber base, viewership and so forth?

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

 No, not at all. I’ve never really had a goal on YouTube to say, “I want to have a video with a million views or I want to get this many subscribers.” I see it and I’m really thankful for it and it’s really cool to see.

 

I’ve never had these goals of, “I want to get this many subscribers.” I often say that I’m a gym owner first and then a YouTuber would be second. It was more of I want to keep making these videos, because I noticed, one, that as I made more and more videos, and the videos got more views, that more people were stopping by the gym to check it out.

 

I was like, “Oh man, I need to keep making these videos, because people are coming to the gym for or I need to make more videos, because more and more people are coming to me to ask for personal training.” I need to make more, more videos so that when people google powerlifting, strongman, strength training in Northern California, my YouTube videos pop up.

 

It was more of marketing that motivated me, because I saw the gym growing. As the YouTube channel was growing, way more than ever, than just putting all this effort into YouTube, because I want to do well on YouTube. It always has and still is about the gym, more than is about YouTube.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Got you. At least from like a viewer point of view. It’s like when you look at your videos, you very rarely see any form of drama or people like being negative. That’s because that your values lie in education and gym owning first, and then this is a byproduct of what you believe in and teach.

 

That speaks volumes to the whole value that you give to the community. It’s kind of funny when you think about it, because what was that? I think NBC just published an article about how more kids want to be YouTubers, than astronauts now. You’ve created this huge platform without even meaning to do it.

 

I’m sure there’s a bunch of kids out there like, “What the hell is this guy doing, [laughs] man? How did you do this by accident?” It’s crazy.

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

Well, I appreciate that. It means a lot. I’m sure that it was easier to do well six years ago than it is today. It’d be tough today to start from scratch and move up. My wife just showed me an article about some, I don’t know, eight- or nine-year-old kid who made $26 million last year on YouTube.

 

Not to discredit him at all. I don’t even know who he is, but I’ll guarantee that he didn’t just start with his flip-phone videos and post them on YouTube. He probably has a huge production team to do this.

 

Again, not discounting what he’s doing, but to stand out from scratch, that’s a high standard. I would say that it was easier for me to get to 100,000 subscribers six years ago maybe than it is now. I’m just guessing.

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

Yeah. I feel like as expertise grows and as more outlets become available, it all becomes strategy and it becomes a lot tougher, so I think you’re on the money with that. I’m going off of YouTube videos, man. What has been your favorite video published today? Do you have a personal favorite that just hits home for you?

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

I think so. I would say a video called…I think it’s just called “How to Build a Weightlifting Platform.” It’s not the deadlift platform, but it’s the weightlifting platform. It’s me creating this platform, and I’m playing on the platform, and it’s just music.

 

I would say that that was my favorite video, and that doesn’t even have that many views but I was most proud of it when I was done. I would say that was probably my favorite video. What’s funny is I don’t even get…I’ll look for the video right now, but I don’t even get ad revenue from that video we had. It’s not a very popular video, but I would say it was my favorite. I only find it, so I can say what it’s called.

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

Why I don’t get ad revenue from it?

Why do you think that is, by the way?

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

Why I don’t get ad revenue from it?

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

No. Why that’s your favorite?

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

 I don’t know. It’s just the most artistic video I’ve made. If you watched the video, it took a lot of work to, one, to make the platform, but to do all the different camera angles. I had made it trying to tell a story.

 

Like, I’m standing in the gym and I’m trying to do Olympic weightlifting. I’m trying to a split jerk and I can’t on my [inaudible 26:01] platforms. I’m looking around thinking, “What am I going to do?” and then I see a spot where benches. I moved the bench out of the way.

 

I build this platform and that I’m building a platform, but the angles are so close that you can’t tell what I’m doing until the very end when it reveals the train and tames on the platform. I was just proud of making that platform and then being able to paint that train untamed on it. Then the whole video, it just…I don’t know. It was just my favorite video that I’ve made.

Jake BolyJake Boly

That’s cool. If I could share my favorite that you’ve ever made, that has just been super impactful with just how you presented, it was the RPE video. When you had up the numbers and you were walking back, I thought that was so well-done and so cool.

 

I could be somebody who has never even heard the term RPE and I’d be like, “All right. I get this. I think I could start using this.” That was a cool video. How did you come up with that idea, by the way? I was just curious.

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

 I don’t remember exactly how I came up with the idea. I was just thinking of how to present this. Originally I was like, “I’ll do this on a whiteboard,” because if I can, I always want to do a natural visual presentation versus just text on the screen.

 

I sometimes use text, but if I would have done that and just put a one, and a two, and a three, very boring, so I try to go the extra mile to make this. Even if someone’s not understanding or if they’re not even into the video, at least they’re sticking around because they’re watching, “Where is this going?” and they’re like, “Oh, how did he put himself side-by-side?”

 

I just wanted to do something like actual whole numbers and just cutting those numbers out of cardboard a little bit of every day. It took like two weeks to just to get the numbers.

 

What I had actually done was, I framed it with my camera. I set it up here and then if you look on the ground there’s little tiny pieces of duck tape. That’s where I stand so that’s 10 spots. Off to the side out of camera I had a huge pile of clothes.

 

I had 10 T-shirts, a few pairs of shorts and so I would put one outfit on and then I’d walk in and I’d stand there with the one for 10 seconds. I’d hang out and then I’d leave. Stop the camera, start it, change my clothes, hang out on the two.

 

It’s 10 different frames and then I’d crop them all to where I’m standing. There’s 10 of me standing next to each other. That was how it was done but it was mainly because I didn’t want to put text on the screen. I wanted to do something that was cool to watch.

 

I appreciate that because that video also took a long time and I was really happy with that video, too. The video is called building a weightlifting platform. It has 70,000 views which is good but it’s not one of my best videos. I would say that’s the video I enjoy watching the most. I like the song that’s on it, too.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Got you. Listeners, I’ll link those videos down below with the RPEN, the weightlifting platform.

 

My next questions for you man. This is kind of coming from a creative standpoint. When you ventured into making YouTube videos and your jam, it doesn’t sound like you had a huge creative background. Obviously, correct me if I’m wrong. How did you develop that?

 

When you think of videos, like how you just explained that, how much time do you spend thinking about how to visually present topics? Is it based off of how you’d want to learn objectively if you were the audience you’re trying to target? Is it something that you have seen from others that you think you can improve on? How do you go about your creative flow?

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

I’ve always been a bit artistic. I don’t do it anymore but I do like drawing. Something that’s fun to do also is writing songs like parody joking songs like weird out stuff. I’ve always done that, where I’ve taken lyrics from a normal song and changed the words to something.

 

That plays into how I make my videos. I remember again after watching all of those bad videos thinking this is really boring. I don’t care if someone is making a YouTube video explaining how to make one million dollars in a week. If it’s just boring and dry, a lot of people are going to check out.

 

Even if the information is good, not a whole lot of people are going to watch it. I originally go into my videos thinking that. So I thought, “Let me figure out how to make this visually appealing.”

 

Maybe throw some jokes in there so that even if people don’t really like the video, they’ll at least laugh and then maybe like the video, give it a thumbs up. Segmenting everything so that there are multiple levels of learning.

 

You’re going to hear me talk about it, you’re going to see it visually in a skit or zooming in on my feet, having text on the screen or giving an analogy. Someway to get it across. I went into my videos thinking that. I remember one, throwing jokes into it.

 

Two, to actually put some video to my jokes. In my original, “How to Squat” video, I say — It’s really dumb advice but I say — “Your stance width should be the stance width you would take if you were going to take a dump in the woods.”

 

I went out into this wooded area and pulled my pants out and sat down like I was taking a dump. It’s the little things like that, one, going the extra mile to do that. I think that people laughed at that and they were like, “Oh, this is a great video.”

 

Even though the information might be the same as everyone else just presented differently. The approach to it is one, I want to be as real as I can. If I think there’s something that’s funny in a joke, I’m going to throw it in there and not think much about, “Are people going to think this is funny?”

 

“What if people think this is dumb?” “What if people don’t get the joke?” I don’t really care, I’ll just throw it in there and not worry about how it’s interpreted. That’s the approach I have to making these videos.

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

Got you. How do you come up with your topics? I feel like you’ve covered so many at this point. Do you have certain ask that you look for like re-commenting? Like, “Oh, that would be a good idea to make a video on,” or is it just internal?

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

About comments, I stopped looking at comments on videos a long time ago. The main reason is I just don’t…everyone always has something negative to say. Especially as the channel gets bigger and bigger the comments become just like huge social back and forth whether they’re arguing with me or whether they’re arguing with each other. I hate to focus on the negative but it’s really hard not to.

 

I can see a hundred comments of, “Great video, great video,” and then one comment that’s like, “This is dumb. F*** you, whatever.” That sticks out so much and so became this addictive habit to like, ” I want to go see what’s the comments.” “I want to go see what they say.”

 

I would put something out there and feel really good about it and then see some negative comments and second guess myself. I would honestly start influencing the next videos because when I’d make other videos I’d think or I’d remember those comments, “What if they interpreted this…what if this and that.”

 

The videos weren’t organically being made. I was thinking way too much about what people were going to think. I was like, “I’m done looking at comments.” I just want to make a video because every time I make a video, I feel really good about it. That’s why I post it.

 

I’m like, “I’m proud of this, I think it’s good information.” “I’m going to put it out there.” I’d rather be naive and say, “Yeah, that’s a great video,” and just not go look at comments. With that said, I don’t want to say that I completely ignore everyone.

 

There are a lot of people who email me. Usually, people email with positive stuff. There are sometimes people who email a negative comment but it’s usually like, “Hey, this was a great video.” “I really appreciate it,” or they give a real life example of, “This was helpful to me for these reasons.”

 

In fact, one guy contacted me and said that he wants a…there’s a lot of home gym essential videos on YouTube but there’s no home gym essentials for Strongman. He’s, “I got this cool video. I was like, “That’s actually a good idea and I’m going to do that.”

 

I do listen and I appreciate the comments but I don’t like spending that much time looking at YouTube comments. I avoid that but as far as where I draw inspiration for these videos, you can see the evolution of my channel based off of how I approach training or what I was going through in that time period.

 

For example, when I was a starting strength coach, all of my content was starting-strength-related. Now, at least recently, I just take whatever’s on my mind most.

 

At the beginning of the year, I had my first kid. I had my son. I knew that training was going to be affected. It was going to change a little bit, my approach to training. I thought I’m going to make a series about the dad bod and about training with kids. About just doing what you can with limited time in a gym. I would make videos about that.

 

More recently, I signed up for a Strongman competition that I competed in earlier this month. I said, “Hey, leading up to it, I’m going to document my training for the Strongman competition. In each training vlog, I’m going to talk a little bit about whatever’s on my mind.”

 

I had a training series vlog up to my competition, and then it finished with the actual competition. A lot of it is pretty much what I’m going through in life at that time.

Jake BolyJake Boly

 I love that. I think sometimes content creators can get so focused on the next best thing that they don’t realize what’s going on in their lives is usually really good information. That’s really cool. That’s valuable information.

 

Also, I like what you said about not reading the comments and focusing too much on the negative. I feel like with most coaches and athletes and content creators of that that can really influence your creation, especially when you’re first starting out. I do want to touch on that really fast before we kind of switch gears.

 

When you realize that the negative comments were influencing your mindset towards future videos. How did you objectively tell yourself like, “hey, that’s gonna always be there, it’s going to fucking happen. I got to make true to myself with my videos and go with what I want, that I think is quality.”

 

How did you work past that, because I think a lot of folks get hung up on that and they can kind of almost limit them from what they want to create. I would love to hear your mindset and working around that?

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

I would just tell myself that I’m not special. I think that those negative comments are on everyone’s YouTube channel, not just mine. I would also remind myself that a lot of times pretty much, why do I care so much about this random person who I’ve never met? They’ve never met me.

 

Why am I getting so bent out of shape for something that he or she said? Doesn’t make any sense. Now, if it was my mom leaving negative comments, I’d be like, “Mom, what’s going on?” This was like, “This upset me” like, “Why is she…?” But it’s just some random person. Who cares? I also, tell myself that happens all over social media. It’s not just me.

 

I think there’s always going to be someone who disagrees, which is fine. There’s always going to be rude people, but this the best thing for me was cold turkey and just ignoring comments altogether rather than saying, “Well, I’m going to read comments, but if I see a negative comment, I just won’t let it bother me.” I’m not even going to do that.

 

I’m going to completely ignore the comments and move on. Actually try to be a bit naive and say, “Yeah, this was a great video, everyone loved it.” That’s what I’m thinking, I don’t know if that’s true. I do sometimes check and see which videos do well. I say, “Wow, this video was really popular, maybe more people want to see that.”

 

I learn from that, rather than going and looking at comments. Seeing what’s your podcast if you were thinking, “Man, for whatever reason, every time I host a powerlifter, downloads are way…everyone’s always downloading these, maybe I’ll do more powerlifters.”

 

Something like that is an example of how a little bit more objectively figure out what videos I’m going to make. First and foremost, it is just what I want to make right now more than what do I need to make? What do they want to see?

 

Jake BolyJake Boly

I do want to shift gears a little bit and talk a little bit about your coaching methodologies and mindset. You mentioned that your videos have shifted with what’s your most interesting part of your life or how you’re currently training.

 

Something is so interesting about strength coaching specifically is that as we grow, our methodology is improved. We see things from a different angle. You’re working with Barbell Medicine right now, right?

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

Yeah.

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

My question for you is, when you first started versus where you are now how did you shift gears with coaching methodologies? How did you take on different approaches and share a little bit into the mindset that it takes to grow and learn, and not always just bucket yourself into one thing all the time?

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

Yeah. I can say with 100 percent confidence that the turning point in my strength-training history, of when I actually learned how to effectively program was when I started working with Austin Baraki. I originally was resetting him for online coaching.

 

That’s how we met and just going through it firsthand and actually have him coach me. I learned a ton, whether directly from him actually explaining things or indirectly from just, “Oh, OK, I’m starting to see what he’s doing here.” I learned about programming at that point, and from there, I continuously learn from him even though I’m not working with him right now directly.

 

He’s not coaching me anymore but was the turning point when I started to learn how to coach. Previously, the extent of my coaching knowledge was solely from other programs that I’ve done online. Meaning I was doing five-three-one. I was doing the Juggernaut method. I was doing the Texas method. It was just all anecdotal from my experience.

 

Yeah, I’ve done these programs, so I get a new client and I would have them do something that looks pretty much the same thing. I didn’t know a whole lot about coaching. I just had some experience with different programs, and that’s how I would program.

 

If I came into a situation where they needed more than that, I didn’t know where to go from there. What’s nice about working with primarily novice lifters, or people are like, “I want to get into lifting weights? Can you teach me?” there’s a lot of things that’ll work.

 

It doesn’t become as important as when someone says, “Hey, I squat 500 pounds. I’ve been training for a while. I want to squat at 525.” It’s a little more complicated than someone who’s never squatted before.

 

Once I got more people in the gym, more and more clients that were a little bit more developed, I didn’t know how to train them. That’s where I learned after working with Austin. I guess that would be an actual shift and when I learned how to program or at least learn how to program how I do now.

 

I’m not saying I know everything about programming or that my method of programming is the only way to program, but that was a turning point for me.

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

Gotcha. The moral of the story is it’s very important to have a coach, even if you are a coach.

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

Yeah, or at least pay attention to someone and even now you can indirectly learn without having a coach. If you were to say, “Hey, I love Austin and Jordan’s stuff. I love Barbell Medicine stuff. I want to learn more,” go and get some of their templates or their programs. That’s how they train.

 

You can learn a lot from that. You can learn a lot from watching YouTube videos, listening to programming podcasts, buying their programs and just looking at how it’s laid out, can teach you a lot.

Jake BolyJake Boly

When it comes to training for different strength sports, how do you navigate that and how does that change your mindset? You’re Strongman, and you’ve competed in powerlifting and then you do competitions that also have the overhead press.

 

When it comes to programming for those and effectively leading up to them, how do you shift gears in terms of your training and your coaching style?

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

I would say that it depends on the individual. For example, if someone came into the gym and they were extremely strong, they were maybe prior powerlifter and they said, “I want to do Strongman,” I’m probably going to spend more time working on conditioning their endurance, getting them a little bit better with different rep schemes, rather than just wondering maxes.

 

I’m going to get them some exposure and practice with the implements to learn the skill of strongman. Whereas, if a complete rank novice beginner showed up to the gym and said, “I want to do Strongman,” I’m probably going to have them do a lot more basic barbell work.

 

We need to get your leg start with the squat. We need to get your back to look stronger when you get your pressing stronger. It’s going to be a lot more powerlifting, barbell-training type of exercise. The approach is certainly customized to the individual.

 

Past that, I think that it’s pretty clear cut how to get better at Strongman if you’re competing because you can know, “Hey, this event has or this competition has five events. I need to practice those five events leading up.” It is a little bit easier than you might think.

 

If someone just generally says, “I want to get better at Strongman, I’m going to ask them, ‘What equipment do you have available?'” because they likely don’t have every strongman implement imaginable. They say, “I’ve got a sandbag. I’ve got a sled. I’ve got an old tire.” All programs, Strongman is based on what they can do with that.

 

In my experience, pretty much everyone that I work with add on team strength or through Barbell Medicine, they all have very similar goals. They all want to get better at the squad bench, deadlift, some overhead press. A lot of them have barebones, home gyms setups. I’ve got a rack and a barbell and plates, so I’m going to program based off that.

 

With all that said, the majority of my training is barbell movements. If you don’t care about the barbell movements, if you’d rather not do the barbell movements, I will say that I’m probably not the coach for you. You should go somewhere else.

 

It’s like self-selecting. Coming to me, they want to get better at the barbell movements, and so that’s almost all of my programming centers are around barbell movements. Whether they’re general strength-training, powerlifting or Strongman competitors, a lot of it is just barbell movements, getting better at those movements.

Jake BolyJake Boly

If you have somebody that comes to you that he’s interested in barbell training, but doesn’t necessarily have a strength sport that they want to go into immediately.

 

Let’s say they hint at like, “Oh, I want to do Strongman. I want to do powerlifting,” how long is that period of teaching them how to get great at the main barbell movements before you start giving them a little bit more specific strength sport-training?

 

Is that based off of maybe their goals, maybe they have a competition timeline? How do you scale that because that’s always interesting? It’s bringing in a novice from giving them the general tool set and building their foundation into a strength sport. What do you think is the right timeline for doing so?

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

That depends on their level of experience with physical activity. Some people who come to me were prior athletes, so they just pick up barbell training on day one. Their squat looks good. They’re relatively strong. Even if they are considered untrained, they haven’t trained with a barbell, but they’ve progressed rapidly.

 

Other people it just takes a lot longer to smooth out all those wrinkles. As far as powerlifting, your start time can be whenever, because you get to pick your own numbers. If you want to go and say, “I want to squat 50 kilos,” they’ll put 50 kilos on the bar. You can start to compete whenever you want.

 

With that said, a lot of people were uncomfortable. They’re not confident enough in their lifts to go perform them in front of a bunch of people, so they would wait a little bit longer.

 

Some people have goals. Even if they’re arbitrary, they’re still meaningful of saying, “I want to compete in a parallel to meet when I can squat 400 pounds and I don’t want to go any time before that.” “All right, well, let’s get your squad to 400 and then you can go compete.”

 

With Strongman it’s a bit different because you are stuck. There are weight classes, but you’re stuck with set weights, standard weights. Let’s say it was, “Hey, you’re going to compete as a lightweight Strongman. They’re doing a 400 pound deadlift for max reps in a minute,” and you say, “My deadlift is only 300 right now.”

 

Then those are actual goals that we need to strive to work towards. Once you can do that and you’re confident enough and competing, then you can go ahead and compete. That’s the timeline that I would go by.

 

I would ask them if they say, “Hey, just bought my first barbell. I’m starting from scratch. I’ll really want to do power things. I saw one of your videos. It looks really fun. I really want to do it.” I wouldn’t say, “Well, we can do it. In a year of good training, we’ll start.”

 

I would say, “Hey, take a look at the schedule. Find a meet in your area and we can talk about when it is.” I wouldn’t really put a limit on. Six months is not enough time. I would say, “Yeah, let’s do it,” but I would be real with them if they were to say, “I wanted a Strongman competition.”

 

I would let them know, “You’re nowhere near ready to even stand a chance to compete, so that would take a little longer.”

Jake BolyJake Boly

That’s cool. I like that shift in mindset depending on strength, sports and the specificity there and how to build around that. Throughout your coaching career, you’ve interacted with a ton of different minds. I know you mentioned Austin was a huge pivotal point in your coaching career.

 

Do you have any other mentors or folks that you’ve looked up to that have helped your career along the way?

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

Not directly. I would watch a bunch of stuff on Facebook or some stuff on YouTube and learn from it or be inspired or motivated by it but I’ve never worked with anyone directly up until Austin. I should mention that when I was in the Marine Corps, I was watching all of Elliot Holsters’ videos.

 

This was seven, eight years ago. This videos were quite a bit different than recently. At the time, the only guy that I had seen, the only concept of a warehouse gym that I had, and I thought, I just knew either athletic weight room or commercial gym. Once I saw his warehouse gym, that motivated me and I would just follow all of his stuff.

 

He was a bit of the reason why I got into a Strongman because he was doing that at the time. I went to an Elliot a whole seminar in New York when I was on the East coast. I’ve followed him for a long time and I was motivated by what he was saying. Especially with regards to owning your own business and starting your own gym.

 

He was certainly a mentor without having met him other than once before I opened my own gym. Then from there, nobody directly until Austin, when I started working with them.

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

How’s it been working with Barbell Medicine?

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

That’s great. I originally, like I said, started as I reached out to Austin for coaching, and then the online coaching with him while he was a starting strength coach when I was working with him. I decided that I wanted to be a starting strength coach also.

 

He never pushed me to do it, and he never said, “You need to become a starting strength coach, or maybe you should.” It was more of, “I think I want to be a starting strength coach.” Then Mark Rippetoe called me and said that he wanted to invite me to a seminar in Wichita Falls.

 

I thought, “If I’m going to attend this seminar, I should try to go for my coaching credential because I want to do it eventually, so I’ll do it now,” I started training coaching credential, anyways. Then eventually Barbell Medicine broke away from starting strength and I went with Barbell Medicine.

 

Now I do online coaching with clients that go to Barbell Medicine and I attend the seminars that they do nearly every month, it seems. I go there and I’m a platform coach. During those two day seminars, there’s instruction on the squat, the bench, the deadlift, and the overhead press. I’m one of the coaches who teach the movements and works with a group on the platform.

Jake BolyJake Boly

That’s cool, man. I love that natural progression from that and how you’re still working with them. That’s cool. I want to take a moment to call something out fast.

 

When doing some research on you before the podcast, outside of just knowing your whole background as a strength coach, I did find some information on celebslifereal.com about Alan Thrall going into a little bit of your career, whatnot. I would love to confirm some things with you, if that’s OK.

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

Yeah, you can to go for it. I’ve seen that website before. I don’t remember what it was on it, but yeah, dude, ask me if you want. I’ll tell you if it’s a true or false.

Jake BolyJake Boly

It’s pretty crazy about how much they have. They say that your body type, “He has a bulky physique. His muscles are finally toned, which makes him attractive.” [laughs] Confirm or not confirm.

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

 

I would say no. I do not confirm on body. [laughs]

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

“On body measurement, he has…”

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

 

Enough. [laughs]

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

What’s up?

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

 

[laughs] No. Go ahead, go ahead.

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

He says he has an athletic body. He is 6’4″, however the detailed statistics regarding his body measurements remain unknown. [laughs]

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

 

6’4″?

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

Yeah, they have you at 6’4″. Is that…

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

 

No, I’m six feet tall, six feet even.

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

Yeah. Oh my goodness, and they say, “At the moment the information on your weight is unknown.” It’s like a very unknown in this world that we live…

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

 

That’s funny. Sometimes I think that it sounds like this was maybe created by someone whose first language is not English. Maybe there’s like some little bit of loss of translation. Say like, “His muscles are toned and athletic,” whatever it says, it’s what it is.

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

 I’m imagining that their site has a list of folks who have maybe a certain weight to their name when it comes to social platforms. Their job is to research you. They’re pulling all this information, as much as they can from what they’re presented. I wish something online said I was 6’4″ and toned and muscular.

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

Yeah, I don’t think we’re going to be upset when they see me, “Oh yeah, that big.” Maybe what it is, again, they just did their centimeters conversion wrong or something. [laughs] Who knows?

Jake BolyJake Boly

That’s so funny, man. Before we wrap up, I do have one more question. What are the future plans for Untamed Strength? The YouTube continues to grow, the gym seems like it’s continuing to grow. Where are you going next?

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

 I can say, finally, that Untamed Strength is what I wanted it to be originally in terms of size and equipment and layout. This is what I had planned seven years ago. This is what I’ve wanted. I couldn’t open that right off the bat and I’m glad I didn’t. I started very small and grew from there. It was always wanting more. Being happy with where I was at, but I wanted more with the gym.

 

Now, I’m finally at the size and how equipped the gym is, and the members and the culture at the gym is what I had envisioned. Now, because we have more space, I can grow from there. I’m really just set on continuing to grow membership at the gym, continuing to outfit the gym and make some small adjustments to the gym. Before, I was limited to the space.

 

Every gym I’ve had. I had the first location, we moved to a second location, moved to a third location. Now that third location has expanded to a bigger spot.

 

I had always said, “Man, I’d really like 50 more members or I really like this number of members,” but the gym couldn’t handle that, it couldn’t facilitate that. Eventually we got to the point in each gym, where membership’s getting to be too much, we can’t fit in here anymore. We need a bigger gym.

 

That’s finally grown to at the point now I have some more room. I can actually fulfill a membership quota of what I would like and actually fit it. I’m pretty happy with where the gym is at now and I’m going to continue to grow from there.

 

As far as outside of the gym, no huge plans for YouTube, other than continuing to make YouTube videos. With just trying to stay relevant and continuously posting, the channel will naturally grow from there. I would like to streamline the Untamed Strength apparel process.

 

Probably now that I have more space at the gym, stock some of my own inventory. Right now it’s all online with T-strength. To stock some my own inventory, and just continue working from there. Then promote more competitions at the gym also.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Awesome. Would you ever do two Untamed locations, maybe an Untamed East Coast out here in Brooklyn?

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

I would never say never, but I don’t have any plans of doing that. Untamed Strength is very much still, my second baby, outside of my first real baby. If I did, it would be so much work to look over someone else’s shoulder, and make sure that it is what I want it to be.

 

I feel like I have a lot more potential and a room for growth, now, than if I open a second one, but maybe the future. It’s still just me, I don’t have any employees. Maybe in the future, if I did want to take a step back and say, “I’m going to let some other people run this show,” and I might expand it.

 

Maybe but I don’t have any plans to do that. In the next five years at least.

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

Before we say our goodbyes, man, where can people find you? Where can they follow you? Where can they learn more from you?

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

 

On YouTube, they can find, just search Untamed Strength or Alan Thrall, you’ll find the YouTube channel. On Instagram, it’s @untamedstrength. If you’re in the area, in the Northern California and you want to check out the gym or you want to possibly become a member, the websites is trainuntamed.com

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

Listeners, we will drop links down below, as always. If you want to follow Alan, obviously we will link him down below. Alan, thank you so much for the time, man. It’s been a pleasure. Despite having 20 minutes of technical issues, it’s been a pleasure having you on.

Alan ThrallAlan Thrall

 

Yeah, man. It was a good chat.

3 thoughts on “Alan Thrall: Where Can Powerlifting & Strongman Grow?”

    • Hey Jim — we’re editing and good catch! Sometimes the transcript translation service doesn’t always come through perfectly. Amended — great eyes 🙂

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