Brandon Graham: The sci-fi making of the world's strongest Eagle

Thanks to his high-tech offseason training methods, healthy diet, and supplement intake, Brandon Graham has become a beast in the Eagles' weight room. Photo courtesy of Barwis Methods

Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson likens the experience of going up against defensive end Brandon Graham to "getting hit by a damn car."

"Somebody that strong and that quick, you better get ready, you better get your hands on him or you're going to get embarrassed," Johnson said.

"Little f---ing bowling ball rolling off that f---ing edge," added guard Brandon Brooks, who couldn't resist the urge to chime in from the next locker stall over.

Given his 6-foot-2, 265-pound compact frame, Graham might not be your first guess when trying to figure out which of the 53 players in the Eagles' locker room is the strongest. But the numbers don't lie: With an ability to bench press over 500 pounds, squat over 600 pounds and power clean over 400 pounds, it is not uncommon to see Graham listed as the winner of the team's regular weight-room competitions.

Part of his secret lies in his home state of Michigan, where his longtime trainer, Mike Barwis, incorporates some sci-fi technology into his grueling workout regimen. For example:

  • During warm-ups Graham dons a device called a Halo, which looks like a set of high-end headphones but actually is equipped with soft spikes under the headband that send an electric current through the skull and into the brain. By stimulating the motor cortex, the product aims to "unlock accelerated, brain-driven improvements in strength, skill, endurance and explosiveness."

  • When that is finished, they put a blood-flow modification device on Graham, a practice known as Kaatsu that, among other things, is said to cause an increased release in testosterone.

  • When the workout is finished, Graham is fitted with something called an ECP (External Counterpulsation), a medical device that's used for cardiac patients. They lay him down, put the ECP on his legs and hook him up to an EKG machine to monitor his heart. When his heart is in the relaxation phase, the device will compress, which apparently "enhances oxygenated blood flow through the coronary arteries to the heart muscle" and, according to Barwis, promotes quicker healing.

Barwis said all of this is typically done five days a week during the offseason. Graham's training sessions go upward of two-and-a-half hours a pop and, beyond weight lifting, feature bioenergetic conditioning, agility and speed training as well as boxing. All of his meals are mapped out by a nutritionist and given to him on site along with time-release supplements designed to kick in "at the most opportune time," as Barwis put it.

Graham first started working with Barwis while attending the University of Michigan and credits his longtime trainer for tapping into his potential. Barwis said when Graham first came to him, he was 315 pounds and in need of some sculpting.

"He was a young kid, he had eaten a lot and he had put himself in a situation where he was heavy. He wasn't as strong, wasn't as flexible, but he had the genetics. He just had never done the work. He's from inner-city Detroit. It's not like he had a phenomenal scientific strength program at that point and he didn't have the guidance and direction," Barwis said. "I talked to him his first day here and I said, 'Son, this is going to change.' And he said, 'Understood.' I hammered him pretty good. I'm not going to lie, he probably wanted to shoot me his first year."

But the results were evident. Graham went from 315 to 278 pounds that year, Barwis said, while his bench press jumped from around 315 to 450 pounds.

"He brings a work ethic and an energy to a room that other people just don't possess, and he matches that with genetic ability that is just not seen," said Barwis, who is equally impressed with Graham's ability to outduel NFL wide receivers in the 10-yard burst as he is with his weightlifting feats.

That combination of strength and explosiveness helped him record 29.5 career sacks at Michigan en route to being selected 13th overall by the Eagles in the 2010 NFL draft. Injuries factored into a slow start at the pro level, but he started coming into his own last year. While he totaled just 5.5 sacks, he had 83 total quarterback pressures in 2016 per Pro Football Focus, good for third in the NFL.

Off the field, Eagles coach Doug Pederson set up various competitions during the offseason, some of which was based on weight-room performance. Graham, who is able to rep 500 pounds four times on the bench press, is typically the leader in that department, even if his teammates are reluctant to give him the title.

"He's got those alligator arms, though," joked defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. "When you've got alligator arms like BG, man, you ain't gotta go far. Person like me, long arms, it's hard to get that much weight and guide it back up. BG, he can really go a couple inches off his chest before his arms are stretched out."

His counterparts, though, know the power is legit.

"He is a guy that can do it in the weight room and on the field. Go back and watch the film from last year, what he does to people," Johnson said. "People look at stats and sacks, but I think he had some of the most disruptions among the league as far as pressures. He's made me a better football player, going against him every day.

"Like I tell other guys [about to face him], 'Hey, you'll get a good baptism.'"