by Bret Contreras December 21, 2009
The following is an interview I did with Mark Young, an excellent personal trainer out of Canada. He’s written some good articles for TMuscle. Mark was kind enough to interview me, so I was eager to return the favor.
1. Briefly Tell Me About Yourself, and Include What Type of Trainer You’d Label Yourself.
First off, let me thank you for inviting me to do this interview.
I’m a personal trainer/strength coach based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and have been in the fitness industry for about 10 years. At the risk of pigeon holing myself, I tend to focus mostly on fat loss or physique training, but have interests in various sorts of athletic training.
As some may be aware, I am quite focused on corrective exercise, but this actually came about mostly by chance. If you train people long enough I believe you’ll eventually stumble across those who have nagging pains or those who develop acute problems that need to be dealt with to allow that client to achieve optimal results. Not having the skills to help them means they’re eventually either going to go somewhere else.
As a result, I made a commitment to really understand movement at a level that would enable me to treat current issues and prevent new ones from occurring in my clients. In doing so, more and more people have come to me to help piece them back together. The better I get, the more interesting cases I see.
To give you an example, I recently dealt with 60 year old client who had a total of 3 previous heart attacks, 3 arthroscopic shoulder surgeries, 9 arthroscopic knee surgeries, and a compressed lumbar disc. His primary goal was fat loss, but without sorting out his problems he never would have been able to exercise at the level required for the results he wanted.
2. What are the Most Common Mistakes You See Guys Doing in the Gym?
I honestly haven’t been in a commercial gym in several years, but I’d be willing to be that most guys are making some of the same mistakes they were then.
Many novices are following the advice of the typical newsstand “guns and buns” magazines and attempting to do routines created by or for professional bodybuilders. Unfortunately, these routines are usually far too high in volume for a natural lifter with average genetics. Others who are following better routines could theoretically have better results, but many people have exercise ADD and flip from program to program based on what is the “next big thing” that particular month.
Probably the biggest mistake though, is not having a specific measurable goal at all times. If I walked up to you in the gym and asked you what your current goal is (and the date you expect to achieve it) and you couldn’t give me an answer, you might as well pack your shit and go home. Trainees should ALWAYS have a goal in mind. Without that you’re just wasting your time.
3. What are the Most Common Mistakes You See Girls Doing in the Gym?
I don’t quite understand this with all of the information out there today, but most women are still spending far too much time on the cardio equipment and too little time hitting the weights. And when they do train with weights, many women train like 5 year old girls because they’re afraid of bulking up.
Quite frankly, if you’re a woman and you want to lose fat and look smoking hot, you need to lift weights that are heavy enough to force the muscles to adapt. Regardless of what Tracy Anderson says, women MUST lift weights heavier than 3 pounds.
4. What’s the Quickest Way to Get a Typical Athlete More Powerful?
Send them to see Bret Contreras? Do I get my cheque now?
Okay…honestly, the primary difference between strength and power is speed. Whatever the movement, the key is to emphasize maximizing speed. I think that because of their egos a lot of athletes (and lifters in general) fixate on lifting the heaviest weights possible. To get an athlete more powerful, a CNS driven warm up followed by explosive movements is the most beneficial solution. I personally don’t agree with magic formulas or percentages because I don’t bring a calculator to the gym. The exact nature of the exercise selection depends on the client and phase of training.
5. If You Could Only Do Five Exercises for the Rest of Your Life, What Would They Be?
Exercise selection is entirely dependent on the person I’m training so it would be hard to pick just 5 that would remain the same for everyone. However, if I were talking about myself I’d choose seated rows, pull ups, incline dumbbell press, Bulgarian squats, and single leg Romanian deadlifts. I would also sneak in static core training variations when you weren’t looking. Take that ass man. 8)
6. What Does the Typical Personal Trainer Need to Learn More About in Order to be More Effective?
Most trainers need to learn more about identifying their strengths and weaknesses. While we’re all inclined to study that which is most familiar to us, it is important to spend the most time on the areas where we are weakest. If you are good at hypertrophy, but suck at corrective work then focus your efforts here. If corrective work is your specialty then you might want to allocate more time to performance, personal development, or even the business elements of this industry.
All in all, most experienced coaches would agree that it takes 10,000 to become and expert in your field. Reading something related to fitness or nutrition for at least an hour per day will take you a long way towards reaching this number.
7. Who Would You Consider Your Mentors, and What Books/DVD’s Have Shaped Your Philosophy the Most?
I’ve had far too many influences to count, but guys like Mike Robertson and John Berardi have always been good enough to take the time out to chat with me and give advice.
As for books, the three that have had the biggest impact on me are:
– Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes by Shirley Sahrmann
– Muscles: Testing and Function with Posture and Pain by Kendall
– Low Back Disorders by Stuart McGill
Honorable mention goes to: Bulletproof Knees, Assess and Correct, Combat Core, and Black Book of Training Secrets. I’ve yet to see Mike Boyle’s new Functional Strength Coach DVDs, but if they’re as good as the last set I’d suggest those too.
8. Word Association Time:
Squats: Great for some and terrible for others. It really comes down to the goals of the client and the assessment abilities of the trainer. I don’t think they’re essential for fat loss, but if you’re a powerlifter you’d better get under the bar.
Deadlifts: A great movement for development of the hip as a hinge. Crazy upper back development and huge thoracic erectors are additional benefits. If a client doesn’t have any contraindications, this movement is definitely in their program.
Hip Thrusts: Very enjoyable. Always use protection. Oh sorry…you meant the exercise didn’t you? These are definitely a valuable addition to any trainer’s arsenal. I suspect that females with lagging glute development could significantly benefit from this exercise.
Chops/Lifts: I love rotational core variations, especially when they’re in a diagonal pattern. Sadly, most people do these incorrectly since they rotate the body as they move through the movement. Static core and movement of the limbs creates a huge moment arm and incredible rotational stability.
Corrective Exercise: Incredibly valuable for prevention and treatment of injuries which allows people to train harder for longer. This is often confused with the only thing that a trainer does when it is actually only one of many elements in their programming.
9. That’s great Mark. Thanks. Where can people learn more about you?
No problem Bret. People can check me out on my blog at www.markyoungtrainingsystems.com, or Twitter www.twitter.com/markyoungtrain. They can also sign up for my free newsletter on my site to get additional “subscriber only” info.
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