Kris Gethin needs no introduction to many Bodybuilding.com readers. This Welsh fitness personality has been a regular face on our site for nearly a decade, and his high-volume, soul-testing approach to training has resulted in several popular programs, including the 12-Week Hardcore Trainer, DTP: 4 Weeks to Extreme Muscle Growth, and the Kris Gethin Muscle-Building Trainer.
But if you watched the video "One Day in the Kage: 24 Hours With Kris Gethin," you know that the king of pain is no longer all about darkness. There's now a pronounced meditative yin balancing out his hard-training yang, and its emergence coincides, Gethin says, with his decision to start his own supplement line, Kaged Muscle.
Wondering what makes this lifting iconoclast's products different than all the others? He sat down with us recently to discuss Kaged Muscle and to champion his latest project, a reboot of the 12-Week Hardcore Daily Trainer.
In your first big training programs for Bodybuilding.com, you chose your favorite products from other companies. When did that stop being sufficient?
I wanted certain dosages that I knew were efficacious to match with each other, but then I started actually testing those supplements. Sometimes, something that was very cheap and unknown contained exactly what it said on the bottle, but then I'd have other products that were bigger sellers where I'd end up saying, " Fuck, I'm putting that in my body?"
As you get older, you get a little bit wiser, and you want to be healthier. So, I thought, "OK, I'm eating a certain way to be healthy, I'm training a certain way to be healthy, and I'm trying to live a healthier lifestyle. I need to supplement in a healthier way. How can I do that?" That's why I'm working on Kaged Muscle.
Did you give much thought to purity as well?
With the purity comes the performance, there's no doubt about it. If you've taken any of my products, you get the performance, but that's because a lot of effort is being put into the purity of it and making sure that the ingredients are well-sourced and efficaciously dosed.
Having taken so many brands in the past, what did you know you wanted to do, or not do, with your own brand?
I didn't want to replicate what someone else was doing; there's no point in that. I might as well just take that brand's supplement. For instance, I'm not going to try to do another Vitargo, because Vitargo does a great job of what they do.
I really just wanted to make sure that my products were naturally derived. There are a lot of products out there that use artificial colors and flavorings, and a lot of manufacturers who go the cheaper route when it comes to ingredient selection. I thought, "Well, that's not the route I want to take." That's why I went the fermented route rather than the animal-based with my amino acids. I had to make sure everything was still high quality, but I wanted to do it plant-based.
I also wanted to use natural flavors and natural colors. Of course, if I went synthetic, it would take me 10-14 days to flavor, and instead it takes me like nine months—and it costs a lot more. But in my mind, it's worth it.
The only thing I didn't want to include, but I've still got at the moment, is sucralose. When it came to testing and tasting it, I was like, "It's fine," but when it went to the focus group, they said, "No it's too bitter." We needed to add a little bit of sucralose in there to disguise the bitterness of the stevia. So reluctantly, we've had to put a tiny bit in there, but still I hate looking at the ingredients and seeing sucralose on there. So I'm working every single day to rid my formulations of sucralose.
Some other brands seem to bank on their numerous flavor offerings. You only have one flavor of most products right now. Is that deliberate?
That's only because it takes us so long to flavor. We are coming out with more flavors, but it just takes a long time when it's naturally done. It's definitely a priority, but these things don't happen overnight if you are going to do it the right way.
So if somebody is looking for one product in your line that they should buy, which one do you recommend?
Hydra-Charge, because hydration is a huge issue. When I train clients who are underperforming, it usually isn't just their food choices. If you're dehydrated by 5 percent, strength and power performance can significantly decrease.
Of course, no supplement is really going to help with that unless you're drinking more fluids, period, and the good taste of Hydra-Charge helps with that.
You've long been associated with bodybuilding. With Kaged Muscle, are you expanding your interests to other types of athletes as well?
For sure, but I still keep to my roots. I'll destroy anybody with my workouts. I'm currently refilming and updating the Hardcore Trainer, and the workouts in this program are tough. But it's not just heavy lifting. For instance, yesterday morning, I raced motocross, then I mountain biked, then I deadlifted five plates a side in the gym, and then I did a spin class. It's a combination, and I want to be versatile.
While the workouts are still hard, the discipline still needs to be there. But I recommend being a little more open-minded to what's around you and what's available, and how you can use that to your advantage.
I definitely want to reach out to others. One of the athletes my brand sponsors is Jesse Norris, one of the strongest powerlifters in the world pound for pound. I also sponsor an Ironman athlete, Matt Pritchard. He just did 30 half-Ironmans in 30 days for charity, and after that, he did three Ironmans back-to-back in 54 hours with three hours of sleep. He swears by taking Kaged Muscle supps every day: the Hydra-charge, glutamine, and citrulline.
By November, I want to do an Ironman myself. I just need another challenge, because mentally, when you're doing this and you're so disciplined, you get depressed if you have no goal and nowhere to go. You need to move on to something new. I always think about the next goal. I'm reading every book I can on triathletes, Ironman, and how to keep from overtraining. I need to educate myself.
How has the trainee you're trying to reach with your articles—and now, your supplements—changed over the years?
Whether it's my previous video series, my articles, or my books, I know I oftentimes get the beginner—maybe not the real beginner, but somebody who has just been doing recreational training. I don't get many athletes or professionals or anything like that. Yes, I do get them, but not many. It's always been like that.
People always come up to me or message me to say, "Hey, you were the one that got me started," and I still get that. I'm lucky and fortunate that I do have mostly educated consumers. For the most part, they are very interactive and very loyal. I'm blessed to have that as opposed to just a huge amount of faceless numbers.
For the people who have been loyal to you, what will the experience of the new Hardcore Trainer be like for them?
It's definitely going to be harder. What I used to need 12 weeks to do, now I can do in just 8.
For one thing, I've got DTP Extreme in this. I'd say for the first four weeks it's manageable, but it's completely different. Different exercises. One week, you're using bands; the next week, you're doing unilateral training. That is all to prepare your core, stability, and connective tissue for what's to come in the last four weeks, because it's that tough.
However, as I always say throughout my video series, these are fine for beginners; use the intensity and weight that's appropriate for you. Don't compare yourself to me and what I'm doing. It's going to demand a lot of mental focus, but it's doable, and hopefully I'll be able to educate and motivate more people to do it every day.
I'm also making it a little bit more feasible for people who worry they'll fall off track. In the other trainers, I had no compromise. It was either you fucking do this, or you don't.
But on this program, I'm going wakeboarding tonight, I did motocross yesterday, I go paddleboarding, mountain biking, all these things you can do outside, and then spin class this morning.
If you feel like, "God, the cardio is just so monotonous, and I can't stick to this," then I would prefer you go play basketball or tennis or go for a hike. It is doable, but you are going to have to find whatever keeps you consistent. Yes, it's a great program, and it's got a nutritional protocol, but without your consistency, it's useless. I don't want people to fall off because it's too rigid.
I want people to finish this, because I feel they can get so much more from this program than just physical transformation. They can feel so much better about themselves and be able to apply that discipline to so many other areas of their life. If they feel better, then they are much more likely to seek opportunities in other areas, educate themselves, and inspire others to be healthier.