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Box Interview : Alan Thrall from Untamed Strength

by Caveman Evolution February 23, 2016

Box Interview : Alan Thrall from Untamed Strength

Gym Name : Untamed Strength

Owner : Alan Thrall

Questions:

Introduce yourself and tell us what you did before opening Untamed Strength.

My name is Alan Thrall, I am the owner of a Strongman gym called Untamed Strength located in Sacramento, CA. I have owned and operated Untamed Strength for almost 2.5 years now. Before I opened the gym I served 4 years in the United States Marine Corps. During my time in the Marines I was selected for Presidential Security. I served in Washington D.C. and at the Presidential retreat Camp David for about 3 years. My last year in the Marine Corps was served back in Washington D.C. as a Marine Corps Body Bearer. Marine Corps Body Bearers are pallbearers who preform funerals for fallen Marines at Arlington National Cemetery.

Before I joined the Marine Corps I was always involved in sports and physical fitness in general. I remember as a kid riding my bike for miles and miles, racing my brothers up the steepest hill on the bike trail. I loved a physical challenge and I would actually chase “the pump” that I got in my legs from pushing my pedals harder and faster. Eventually I transitioned to Skateboarding and found myself obsessed with becoming better and better. You could find me riding all around town on my skateboard. I would stay up late at night with a flood light on in the backyard practicing my tricks. Eventually I was introduced to football. Once I started playing football (in elementary school) I found the weight room. My passion for Skateboarding transitioned to playing football and lifting weights to get bigger, faster, and stronger. I was extremely passionate about lifting weights, sprinting, jumping, and playing football. Without a doubt, all of this that I just mentioned is why I am where I am today. I built my foundation (strength, athleticism, discipline, work ethic) at a very young age. My parents were very supportive but they never pushed any of this on me. I’ve always had a drive to do what makes me happy.

My love for physical activity has not always been limited to Squats or Strongman, I’ve actually trained for Marathon races and ran long distances exclusively. I’ve done P90X, Calisthenics, and boot camp style training. It wasn’t until recently, about 5 years ago that I really fell in love with Strength Training. While I was in the Marine Corps I met a guy who changed my life. His name is Josh Clark. I would go to the gym and lift weights but I wasn’t strong. Josh weighed around 200 lbs. and deadlifted 605 lbs. One night while working with him I asked him how he got so strong. Josh Clark taught me how to intelligently train with a barbell, program, make progress, recover, and get stronger. Josh Clark was also the man who introduced me to my first Atlas Stone and that’s when my love for the sport of Strongman started.

There were times in the Marine Corps when our chain of command would close the gym as a punishment. My roommate and I found an old heavy tractor tire and a broken telephone pole that we would train with whenever the gym was closed. This led me to search for amateur Strongman competitions near me. I found one, signed up, and drove a few hours away (without my chain of command’s permission) to compete in my first Strongman competition while I was in the Marines.

Here I am now.

Tell us more about how you opened Untamed Strength? When did you open the gym and why focus on Strongman training?

Untamed Strength was a thought in my mind every second of every minute of every hour of every day for almost 2 years before I took any action to actually make it happen. I was in the Marine Corps so there was nothing I could do until I finished my contract. I had a lot of time to think about opening my own gym while I was in the Marines and, honestly, it was not a tough decision at all. There was something burning inside of me to do this. I could not ignore it. Nothing inside me had intentions of playing it safe and not acting on this dream. I refused to look back and wonder whether or not I could have done it. I was willing to lose everything I had, crash and burn, and embarrass myself as long as I tried. Not opening Untamed Strength and wondering “What if” would have bothered me much more than trying and failing.

Untamed Strength is currently at its 2 nd location and I’m actually looking to move to a 3 rd, bigger, better location. The original location for Untamed Strength was extremely small and bare bones (it’s still not that big but it’s definitely bigger than the original) because I started from complete scratch; no members, no cash flow, no real business plan. I literally jumped and learned how to fly on the way down.

When I first opened I didn’t call Untamed Strength a Strongman gym. I just called it a warehouse gym. Overtime I realized that the gym was

  • Not a great powerlifting gym; I had cheap used barbells, mismatched old iron plates, crappy Squat racks, benches made for middle schoolers, no monolift, and no deadlift platforms. Hell, Mark Bell’s SuperTraining gym is less than 20 minutes away! You might as well go there.
  • Not a great Olympic lifting gym; again, crappy barbells, a couple bumper plates, no kg plates, no platforms, and no coaches.
  • Not a commercial gym. No machines, no pool, no spa, no sauna, no treadmills, etc

But Untamed Strength WAS an awesome Strongman gym! I had tractor tires, kegs, sandbags, axle bars, atlas stones, sleds, and a yoke. Strongman equipment was the only exclusive equipment featured at Untamed Strength. Once I started to realize that Untamed Strength had a lot of potential as a Strongman gym I ran with it. I hosted my first Strongman competition and it was a huge success! People wanted to train with Strongman equipment and Untamed Strength was the only place you could find it. Since then I have upgraded almost all of the equipment from barbells to plates to Squat racks because there are some powerlifters who train at Untamed Strength but Strongman was, and still is, my niche. Not to mention I love strongman and it’s a blast to teach others about.

Who are the members? Strongman Athletes? People interested in strength training? People new to fitness?

All of the above. We have high school athletes, college students, moms, dads, retired folks, grandparents, men, women, beginner, intermediate, and advanced lifters. Right now we have members from ages 14-68 years old. Some of the members compete in Powerlifting, some love strength training but can’t stand commercial gyms, and a good number of amateur Strongman Competitors. The great thing is ANYBODY can compete in a Strongman competition. A lot of people come to the gym with no intention of competing in a competition until they soon realize they can flip a tire, load a stone, and carry a keg. Before they know it they’re signed up for their first competition. It makes me smile when I think about all of the people who competed in their FIRST Strongman competition at Untamed Strength.

What is a typical workout like?

I don’t program for every member of Untamed Strength. I don’t work with most of the members so they do their own programming. The majority of members use the gym to train on their own. I don’t teach classes all day long. For the individuals I work with we stick to basic barbell training; we squat, deadlift, bench, and press overhead. We do some sort of conditioning with the strongman equipment after each workout. Saturdays are strictly Strongman events.

I usually structure a training session like this:

  • Explosive movement such as jumps or medicine ball throws
  • Main lift: Squat, Bench, Deadlift, or Overhead Press
  • Assistance work: Main lift variation or a unilateral exercise
  • Conditioning circuit with Strongman equipment/sled

Is there any misconceptions about Strongman training?

Yes. People think that Strongman training is reserved for the 7’ tall 400 pound monsters you see on CBS Sports; that’s not the case. At Untamed Strength we have a 50 pound mini log, an empty keg, a 200 pound tire, and a bunch of other implements that any beginner can start with. Once you feel you are strong enough to compete they have men and women’s divisions and even weight classes to make the playing field even. In some competitions men can compete in 161 lbs. and under class! There is also a Novice division for first timers in most competitions.

6.) You participated in your first weightlifting meet? How does strongman training prepare you for this type of meet or other events?

Competing in general helped prepare me (Strongman and Powerlifting) for my first Olympic Weightlifting meet. Competing can be very nerve wracking; unfamiliar equipment, unfamiliar location, strangers watching you, listening to a judge’s commands, time limits, order of competitors, meets that last several hours, etc. are all factors that can negatively affect your performance. So, being familiar with how competitions work was a huge leg up that allowed me to focus on my performance.

As far as the actual skill of strongman helping my performance as a weightlifter, I don’t think there was much of a carryover. However, I think the Olympic lifts have a huge carryover to my performance as a strongman. Explosive training (cleans in particular) were a part of my training at a very young age. I actually had the School record in the clean while I was in high school. I knew how to perform a clean well before I lifted an atlas stone or pressed a log. Years and years of jumping, sprinting, throwing, and lifting weights taught me how to move and how to use my body to move weight (I performed my first Snatch 4 months before this meet and I feel I picked it up fairly quickly). If there was one thing that did carry over from strongman training was the amount of experience I have with putting weight overhead (axles, logs, kegs, dumbbells). So when I am asked to put a barbell overhead it seems easy in comparison to standard strongman implements. A lot of people have to build the courage that it takes to jump under a heavy barbell; I felt like I already had that courage.

What are the top 2-3 pieces of advice that you would give to someone just getting into strongman or similar competitions?

Deadlift, Press Overhead, Carry Odd Objects

People always ask me what they need to work on to get better at strongman. You need to get better at deadlifting. A strong back and strong hands is the foundation of a good strongman. Also, start pressing overhead; strict press, push press, jerk, one hand, two hands. A lot of people avoid pressing weight overhead and just work to increase their bench press. Bench press is important but if you can’t put weight overhead your bench press strength is useless. Lastly, get better at carrying odd objects; sandbags, kegs, stones, farmers handles, yoke, etc. This will improve your conditioning and every strongman event will have some sort of carrying medley in it. In order to be a good strongman you have to be able to move with weight. Start carrying.        

Be Patient

Strength takes time. If you aren’t where you want to be right now, be patient, continue working hard and learn from others. You have to enjoy the process of getting stronger. I see a lot of people shy away from competing in certain competitions because they think they won’t do well. Competing in tough competitions is what makes you better, it’s how you learn, it’s how you grow. Learn from every experience. Besides, who wants to compete in a competition with no competition?

Have Fun

I’ll just leave it at that.

If your in the Sacramento area definitively swing by and check out Untamed Strength.  Great coach and complex if your interested in Strongman training.

 

Caveman Evolution
Caveman Evolution


2 Responses

Mais
Mais

October 25, 2016

Very impressive and inspiring. I can’t perform a single move of all of that but found the whole thing pretty interesting because of Alan Thrall. He has changed the entire view of this field. All the respect.

Vikram Purohit
Vikram Purohit

July 17, 2016

Hi Alan, I am an amateur bodybuilder who just happened to see your videos on YouTube. They have helped tremendously. It’s like I have I have discovered a hidden source of power. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. Unfortunately I am in India otherwise I would have trained at ur gym for sure

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