Inside Lane Johnson’s “Bro Barn”
Getting Better in the Bro Barn
By Dave Spadaro

Photography by David Michael Howarth

Nestled in the 2-acre oasis that is Lane Johnson’s backyard in Moorestown is, among other things, a fire pit with chairs for 6 people, a hot tub in an expanded patio area, a large grilling area, a basketball hoop and, way out there in the back, a standalone building that at one time appears to have been a horse stall and a greenhouse combination. It’s a 2-story structure that measures approximately 1,200 square feet, and it is Johnson’s happy place.

It is The Bro Barn.

“The Barn is a place where my guys come and push themselves to the limit and sometimes beyond,” says Johnson, right offensive tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles. “We have a great workout facility at the NovaCare Complex with the team and that’s part of what I do, but when I’m not there and, particularly in the offseason, I’m here working out with a group of guys who want to get after it. That’s what we do here – we get after it.”

If you are expecting The Barn to be a workout facility with the latest, fanciest, most sparkling workout stations, you’re going to be disappointed. The Barn, instead, is a collection of some raw and, in some cases, primitive workout equipment. It has a medieval feel to it with training areas spread throughout the main room on the ground floor – chains mixed in with mountains of steel, a squat rack adjacent to a leg press machine and a reverse hyper machine that stretches discs and strengthens the back. Some of it is branded with an Eagles logo and Johnson’s jersey number (65). On the wall to the left inside the entrance is a large painting of some players who have left their mark at The Barn, like Eagles center Jason Kelce, quarterback Jalen Hurts and left tackle Jordan Mailata.

There is a small room to the right that houses a series of stretching bands, pads to use for mobility drills and a massage table. Outside, Johnson has put together some explosive-movement stations, including a blocking sled set up on an incline where the workout involves pushing the sled up the 20-degree incline for 15 to 20 yards. A squat bar that weighs 310 pounds is in a separate area and has enough space around it for those who want to test their leg and back strength.

“It makes me happy to have this out here. I take training seriously. This is my profession, and I think you have to work at being the best you can be every day of the year,” Johnson says. “There are some days when we might have a guy come out here at 5:30 am and get a workout in. I really enjoy pushing my body, and building and preparing for the season. We’re also going to work out and then hang out, maybe have some dinner and sit around, talk and have a great time.”

Johnson moved here in 2018 and wondered what he could do to make the barn into something special. It became what it is now after a lot of thought and a sizeable investment – Johnson estimates he spent $60,000 to $70,000 on all of the equipment and the ambiance that includes framed and autographed jerseys from some of the players he’s faced over the seasons, like New Orleans defensive end Cameron Jordan, former Texans star J.J. Watt, Minnesota’s Danielle Hunter and Rams offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth. Johnson also installed a flat screen television with a banging audio system to really – and literally – pump up the volume with the sounds of Nirvana, Metallica and AC/DC peeling the wood off the exposed beams and high ceilings. His is a mancave, but not the kind most men enjoy. There is no bar, nowhere to settle down and put your feet up. It is an open-to-everybody gym with a fair warning, which is posted outside and visible to everyone: “Use of this product may cause Prowler Flu (vomiting, nausea, fainting, body aches and/or upper respiratory distress) caused by Pushing, Pulling or being a Prowler. EARN IT.”

As for the workouts themselves, Johnson employs Gabe Rangel, whom he met shortly after the Eagles used their 2013 first-round draft pick on Johnson. The pair were in Los Angeles at a gym and started sharing workout ideas. Johnson had been a 202-pound quarterback only a few years earlier at a Texas junior college before transferring to the University of Oklahoma as an offensive lineman. He was drafted No. 4 overall and reported to the Eagles as a 325-pound super athlete. “A freak,” most people around the league call Johnson because of his rare size/strength/quickness/athleticism combination.

Rangel has helped build that package with a specified program that he tailors for everyone who works out at The Barn.

“We always go over mobility pieces first and after that we get into movement, our activation,” says Rangel, a former head trainer of the band Maroon 5, whose official title is now Head Trainer at LJ65 Inc. “Then we go into plyometrics, then strength and then conditioning. Lane is a special athlete, and athleticism is what separates him from other offensive linemen in general. He’s 335 pounds, and he has the ability to change direction, the ability to move people and absorb contact. He’s going against amazing athletes as well, so we’re always looking for an edge.

“Lane has it all, and he’s driven to be the best. That’s what attracts other players to The Barn. They want that kind of workout where they can push themselves to the limit and sometimes beyond.”

While Johnson works out to stay in the right shape for his profession, he also understands the other health benefits of getting in and staying in shape. He’s been open with his struggles with depression and anxiety, which caused him to miss 3 games with the Eagles last year. His fitness routine has helped improve his mental health.

“Working out, no matter what you do, it makes you feel great. For me, I have to do something every day. It just makes me feel better about things,” Johnson says. “I think when you feel better, your quality of life is much improved. You feel like you’ve accomplished something, and it just feels good to get your body moving. Go out and take a walk and find a great podcast and just lose yourself for a little bit. That’s great therapy for everybody, and when you do it a few times you start to want it more and more and then you find that one of those days when you aren’t taking a walk, you crave it.”

Rangel agrees. “Sleep and what you’re putting in your body are so important. I think those 2 components are even more important than physical fitness. Whatever way you want to do it, just do it. Just make the commitment at your own pace and your own time to make yourself better.”

Johnson has his way in his own treasured workout sanctuary. The Barn is unique with its gritty and hardscrabble environment. Maybe the greatest testament to the value of The Barn is a hanged jersey signed by former Eagles defensive end Chris Long, who wrote to Johnson: “To the best RT in the game. Thanks for keeping an old man sharp.” In those few words, Long described what The Barn is all about – a place where the best of the best go to become just a little bit better by pushing themselves past boundaries they didn’t cross before.

“Yup, that’s it,” Johnson says. “You don’t come here to mess around. You come here to get better. Sometimes it hurts. But in the end, it just feels great.”

“There are some days when we might have a guy come out here at 5:30 am and get a workout in…We’re also going to work out and then hang out, maybe have some dinner and sit around, talk and have a great time.”

Food First

Lane Johnson isn’t like us. He wants to pack on the calories – as many as 5,000 per day, he says – and keep his mass because, well, working in the trenches in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles and bumping bellies with other men who are 325 pounds isn’t quite the same as the 9-to-5 routine the rest of the world has. Johnson’s work isn’t virtual in any way – it’s straight-up tough stuff.

And as much as Johnson puts in the daily work preparing his body for the artillery fire of professional football game days, he’s making sure to take care of his body in other ways that all of us can understand: For Johnson, it isn’t how much he’s eating as it is what he is eating every day.

“For everyone,” says Justin Massie, Johnson’s full-time chef, “you have to determine what kind of body you want. Food helps shape you – both in the quantity you consume and in the quality of the meals. My job with Lane is to cater to his needs. If he’s feeling too lean, we’ll work on that and build some bulk. If he wants to go to a Keto program (low carbs, high fat), we will do that, too. Our bodies all change, and they change throughout the years, so you really have to know what kind of body you have, what you feel and what goals you have.”

On this day, Johnson is chowing down on tacos specially made for him with lean beef, chicken, tomatoes, onions and every topping you can imagine. The meal is a delicious one. It’s the kind of fuel that Johnson will carry with him for a few hours. Then it’s time for another meal. And another.

“My advice is to keep eating good food,” says Massie, who posts some cool and helpful meals and recipes he prepares for Johnson and his Eagles teammates on his Instagram account. “Anybody can shape their body the way they want if they take the time to prepare the right food, stay disciplined and begin some kind of exercise program. It takes a lot of work and dedication, but it’s worth it. You will feel so much better at the end of the day.”

“You aren’t going to be a Lane Johnson, because he’s a one-of-a-kind athlete. But you will be the best version of you, and isn’t that what we all want?”

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro has covered every Eagles game since 1987 and is seen and heard throughout the year on television, radio and Eagles coverage everywhere. You can hear his Eagles Live Podcast on iTunes.

January 2022
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