Howdy partners. I did this sweet interview with former swat commander and executive bodyguard Mike Gillette who is the creator of an extremely kick-ass program called the Savage Strength Training System. Are you prepared to be entercated? That’s right you get entertained and educated at the same time…..boom! I said it. Enjoy.
Me: In your experience are strength and size of a muscle correlated?
MG: Research suggests that a larger cross-section of muscle tissue will yield greater contractile potential than a smaller cross-section of muscle tissue. But if this was all there was to the strength equation, then bodybuilders would also dominate the realm of strength sports. But they don’t. The chief strength variable that almost everyone overlooks is the Central Nervous System. Often-times a smaller but more neurologically-efficient athlete can outlift a larger one.
Me: Why do you feel it’s more important to train for strength than it is for looks?
MG: Because I need a body that PERFORMS. After having had so many big, impressively-muscled guys come up to me and say “What you do is amazing…” , it becomes apparent that deep down, what everyone really respects is CAPABILITY. Meaning what you can DO rather than just how you LOOK. I am 49 years old and I am still out on the road. And whether it’s for bodyguard work or a presentation of mind-body feats, my body has to be able to do WHAT I want it to WHEN I want it to.
Me: What would you say to someone that is intimidated by the Savage Strength program and claims to be too old, or has a bad back or just isn’t ready for something like this yet?
MG: I would say “Just try it out…” While it’s true that there are some very tough exercises taught in the program, I specifically included some easier ones too. And that’s because (as long as you pay attention to the detailed instruction) this program can be for ANYBODY. You just have to work within your present level of capabilities. You have to be smart about it. The program is self-calibrating. No matter how strong you are, you can adjust the intensity level by manipulating various training parameters which are explained in detail in the program manual.
Me: What are the advantages of becoming stronger and more functional?
MG: Simple… in a physical context you can do what you want You learn how to become the master of your body and not the other way around. Get strong and gain the strength to live the life you want… the life you’ve always wanted.
Me: Briefly differentiate between muscular endurance vs. muscular strength.
MG: Endurance refers to output capacity sustained over a period of time. The longer the time-frame, the lower the intensity level. Strength refers to MAXIMUM output capacity. In my world, endurance is a quality I associate with “wellness” or “health”, strength is a quality I associate with “taking action” or “saving lives”. Strength give you on-demand usefulness to the world around you.
Me: Mike, as former SWAT Commander was there ever a time that your strength training proved to be an asset?
MG: Too many to possibly count. For every meth-lab door kicked, every street thug I ever fought with, every suicidal person I wrestled a weapon away from and for every frightened child who took my hand and needed to know that everything was going to be okay… each one of those people needed to feel all my strength… for different reasons. And for all of them, it was my DUTY to become as strong as I could be.
Me: On page 28 of the Savage Strength manifesto you said that when you were in your early 40s, your body felt like it was training all the time, even when you weren’t. What did you mean by that?
MG: Primarily it was the time I had left law enforcement and I was working in the private sector running some very large training projects. Lots of deadlines and lots of travel. My training had unfortunately become routine. So routine in fact, I was sometimes losing track as to whether or not I was even doing it. I had lost some of the imperative to train, I had lost that edge. This was also around the time that certain overuse-related injuries had started to crop up.
Me: Do mentally tough people get stronger than those who aren’t?
MG: They absolutely do. Strength training is hard work. And strength training performed at the ragged edge of your own capabilities is even harder. It is the ability to develop mental toughness that separates the STRONG from the merely “fit”. You have to be able to break barriers to achieve something meaningful. And if you aggressively seek opportunities to REALLY break through to whatever your own “next level” is, you will likely get a glimpse of your best self.
Me: Tell us something most people don’t know about Mike Gillette.
MG: Between the scary resume, the bending and the breaking and the mind-power feats I do, some people have a hard time approaching me. It’s interesting that kids have no problem coming up and asking me for pictures or an autograph or just to talk. But a lot of adults seem uncomfortable making that same overture. So, while I understand that a lot of what I do strikes most people as “unusual”, it’s not unusual to me. This is simply who I am and what I do. And it is vitally important to me to share what I do and the things I have been so fortunate to learn… all these unconventional techniques, methods and teachings with others.
Me: In closing, why does the world need more strong men?
MG: Strong men, by their very presence, make their little corner of the world “better”. What I mean by that is they make things safer, more stable, more sensible, more… BETTER. Discipline of BODY, Discipline of MIND, Self-Control… the world is always a better place when more men possess these qualities.
Me: Thanks for your time.
MG: My pleasure. Check out the article below to get 4-keys to savage strength.
January 17, 2012 by Mike Westerdal
Filed under Bench Press, Bodybuilding and Muscle Building, Muscle Building, Powerlifting, Recent Posts, Reviews, Strength Training, Strength Training Reviews, Training
Ask most anyone that lifts weights what the three most critical lifts are and I can almost guarantee that he will say the bench press, the deadlift and the squat. Of the three, the squat is arguably the most important compound exercise you can perform because it not only works all of the major leg muscles but it strengthens the core and supports muscle growth throughout the body too.
Each of these three exercises is a compound movement that simultaneously recruits multiple muscle groups, making them all critical to explosive gains in strength and mass.
Even more important, all three movements push the body’s endocrine system into overdrive, triggering the release of powerful hormones such as testosterone that drive strength gains and muscle growth.
A guy named Andy Bolton understands this concept better than just about anybody. He’s spent more than 20 years figuring out what works and what doesn’t and has gotten really good at it. Andy is a 7-time WPC World Powerlifting Champion, a 2-time WPO Champion and the first man ever to pull a 1000 lbs Deadlift in competition. In fact, he’s squatted an unbelievable 1214 pounds, benched an incredible 755 pounds and deadlifted more than 1,000 pounds, not once–but twice!
His “Explode” books (one for squats, one for the bench press and one for the deadlift) outline Andy’s techniques for making these critical moves the foundation of a training routine that will blast out more size and strength gains than you ever thought possible.
Although each book covers a different topic, the overall layout of each is very similar. In all three the first couple chapters offer some interesting and useful background information. First, in each book Andy starts out by discussing the spotlighted movement, providing a historical overview of his strength gains in each movement over the years–it’s pretty impressive.
In the Squat and Bench Press books he then moves into a discussion of raw movements, which means that you’re not using any equipment other than a lifting belt, knee wraps or wrist wraps. In the next chapter he moves on to talking about doing the movements equipped. In both cases, this chapter is primarily geared towards competitive powerlifters.
In the Deadlift book, he talks about what to wear and then points out the differences between a “Sumo Deadlift” and a “Conventional Deadlift.” This is excellent information because it enables you to determine which of the two is best suited to you. Some trainers favor one style over the other and try and force their beliefs on everyone, which can lead to injuries.
After these discussions, in all three volumes Andy launches into the heart of the matter, starting with proper set-up. Here he talks about how setting up is the most fundamental element of a solid movement. Obviously, if you aren’t on-target with this critical step from the start, you won’t get the results you want and more important, you set yourself up for failure and even serious injury. In all cases, Andy includes clear descriptions and a photo to demonstrate proper set-up.
In the subsequent chapters, he walks you through all of the various phases that make up the movements. I like the fact that his descriptions are clear, providing enough information so you can perfect the movement, but not so much that it’s distracting. Pictures help you to make sure you’re performing the movements properly. Throughout all three books he offers tips and suggestions to help you get the most out of each exercise.
Afterwards, he shifts to a discussion that to me, is one of the most important chapters in the book and a personal favorite of mine. Here, Andy talks about the importance of having the proper mindset. While yes, proper form and executive are both absolutely critical, if you don’t have the mindset of a champion, you’ll never see the results you want to see. It’s not a very lengthy chapter but Andy does provide his most important tips and suggestions for mentally positioning yourself to explode your squat.
One look at his incredibly impressive record of triumphs and it becomes very apparent that Andy Bolton knows what he’s talking about. Here’s your opportunity to learn from one of the best. So if you are really looking to experience explosive gains in size and strength like never before, check out Explode Your Squat, Explode Your Benchpress or Explode Your Deadlift (or all three) for yourself and see just how far you can go–you might be surprised!
Guest Post by Andy Bolton Creator of Explode Your Powerlifts
When people ask me how I train they very often don’t believe me.
I have lost track of the number of times in my lifting career that people have said – NO WAY Andy, you must train more than that to have gotten as strong as you have.
But here’s the thing – I might not have trained as much as some of those crazy dudes doing Russian Volume type programs, but I have always trained SMART.
And smart training (not work for the sake of work), has built me a 1214lbs Squat, 755lbs Bench and 1008lbs Deadlift.
With all that said, here are 3 huge mistakes I see people making that prevent them from building their squat, bench press and deadlift to their true potential.
Huge Mistake #1: Lousy Technique
Simply put, most lifters have room for improvement on the technical side of their lifts.
If you improve your technique, you get stronger and minimize your injury-risk.
By lifting with bad form you hold yourself back and risk injury sooner or later. I think you know what to do!
Huge Mistake #2: Over-taining
Some lifters do so much work that they can’t recover from it.
You have to remember that the body has a limited ability to recover from the demands you place on it in the gym. If you exceed these limits you end up over-trained and progress becomes impossible.
So by all means push yourself hard in the gym, but do not do so much that you can’t recover from it.
Huge Mistake #3: Weak Mind-Set
To get to the top of Powerlifting or Bodybuilding or even just achieve a high level, takes a strong mind-set.
As a lifter, you can not fear the weight – you have to believe that you can do whatever you set out to do.
As a bodybuilder you have to have the mental discipline to eat right and train hard at the same time.
Getting good aint easy and getting to the top is extremely hard, but if you want to get good or get to the top you have to develop a strong mind-set that empowers you and doesn’t hold you back.
Guest Post by 1000 Pound Deadlifter Andy Bolton
Whatever your goal – whether you want to get stronger for the sake of being strong, stronger to increase your muscular size and build a harder, denser physique or stronger to improve athletic performance…
The 3 powerlifts will help get you stronger faster than anything else you can do in the gym.
The 3 powerlifts are of course the Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift.
Now here’s the thing…
These days you are bombarded with choice when it comes to what you do in the gym.
You can do the 3 powerlifts, or you can do Olympic Weightlifting, or you can do Strongman training or you can lift Kettlebells.
But, when it comes to building absolute strength, the powerlifts RULE. They always have and they always will.
That’s not to say that the other methods of weight training aren’t valuable, of course they are – but when it comes to getting a STRONG AS POSSIBLE… you can’t beat the squat, bench press and deadlift.
Think about it…
The biggest Kettelbell is 48kg. Is that likely to build the same strength as squats with 500 pounds or more and deadlifts with 600 pounds +? I think not. And I use kettlebells myself, but they are an assistance movement, not my main thing in the gym.
The Olympic Weightlifts are awesome for building explosive power, but when it comes to limit strength, they are still second to the powerlifts.
Strongman training can build a ton of strength as well but not the same way as the powerlifts can.
There’s a clue here by the way… Many olympic weightlifters and strongmen use the powerflifts to improve their strength.
For instance, weightlifters tend to squat a lot and strongmen tend to squat and do a ton of deadlifting.
I think what I am saying is clear.
If you want to develop absolute strength and the kind of rock hard, tough as nails kind of physique that only strong dudes posses – you should be doing the powerlifts.
The next thing we should discuss is how to actually squat, bench and deadlift.
It is my experience that most gym rats are always looking for the ‘mircale’ training program.
The one that’s going to add 400 pounds to each lift in 8 weeks.
Well, guess what? It doesn’t freaking exist!
However, if there is something that is more important than you’re training program – it’s your technique.
Most guys have truly awful technique and could make rapid improvements in their strength by improving their technique.
I have seen technical improvements add 50 pounds to a lifters Bench in a single session.
The same cannot be said of a particular training program.
And you are probably in the same boat. You probably don’t have perfect form and you should work on it. It’ll make you STRONGER and reduce your injury-risk.
A nice ‘double whammy’.
I’ve been in the iron game over 20 years and I’ve squatted 1214lbs, benched 755lbs and deadlifted 1008lbs.
And do you know what?
I still work on my technique each and every time I train and I have my clients do the same.
Learn How to Train it RIGHT for Maximum Mass, Power and Strength
Guest Article By Nick Nilsson
I’ll start off by getting this right out in the open…if you don’t train your back and train it hard, you’re an idiot. And I’ll tell you why…
You see, back training is one of THE most neglected aspects of training that, when done properly, can actually have the BIGGEST impact on your overall strength and muscle development. Quite honestly, if you’re not training your back with maximum effort, you will NEVER achieve the strength or physique goals you’re looking for. It just won’t happen.
Do NOT neglect your back…and here’s why…
Want a bigger bench press? Train your back.
You need a strong back to provide a solid platform from which to press. You can’t press big weights if your back caves in the moment you try and lift heavy. And the thicker your back is, the shorter the range of motion you’ll have to press the bar through, which will immediately increase your numbers.
Want a physique that doesn’t disappear into two dimensions when you turn sideways? Train your back.
Nothing looks worse than a guy with a massive chest and arms with a hunched-forward posture and the back development of a little girl. I can promise this will get you no respect. When you’ve got a great back and a balanced physique, you will stand out beyond 99% of the people and 95% of the people who train in most gyms.
Want to BE as strong as you LOOK or LOOK even stronger than you ARE? Train your back.
A wide, thick back conveys power and strength. It shows that you have put in the time to develop your physique properly and that you are for real. Anybody who has been around strength training for any good length of time will tell you…the back is what separates the men from the boys.
Want to have more fun in the gym? Train your back.
There are tremendous numbers of exercises and techniques you can use for training your back. There are so many angles and options available to you with back training, you will NEVER get bored in the gym. And once you learn some of these variations and techniques, you’ll find your enthusiasm for training will skyrocket!
So why do people neglect back training?
There are a few reasons…
First, it’s hard. The muscles of the back require heavy weight and plenty of effort. Because you’re reading this via Mike Westerdal of Critical Bench, I KNOW you’re not afraid of hard work. So scratch that off the list for you.
Second, the back is not a “mirror” muscle. You can’t see it when you’re training it like you can with the biceps and the chest (depending on the exercises you use). To me, that’s the worst excuse in the book, so don’t let me ever catch you focusing only on the stuff you can see while leaving the back of your body to shrivel up into nothing.
Third, it can be difficult to feel the muscles of the back working and firing properly. The biceps and the shoulders can very easily take over many movements that should be working the back. Now we’re getting into a somewhat more legitimate reason. Once you receive proper instruction on how to fire the back muscles and how to put your body into the proper positions to force them to activate, that excuse goes away.
Fourth, you may not know the most effective exercises to work the back with…and believe me, there are a LOT.
You probably know the standard back exercises already…cable rows, dumbbell rows, barbell rows, pulldowns, chin-ups, pull-ups and deadlifts.
And these are all great exercises…don’t get me wrong. They’re also just barely scratching the surface of an INCREDIBLE number of variations of these basic movements that are available to you IF you know where to find them.
I’m talking about exercises that develop thickness in the upper back far beyond what you can achieve with normal rowing because you’ll be able to use almost DOUBLE the amount of weight. Or a pull-up that targets the extreme outer lat fibers so strongly it’ll feel like your lats are going to rip as you’re doing it (they won’t, of course, but that extreme tension is incredibly good for developing wider lats).
How about a breathing technique that instantly locks in your lats during ANY back movement. I’ll tell you right now, if you’re breathing wrong when you’re training your back, you will NEVER get full development (and it’s very simple…you have to breathe BACKWARDS when training your back…inhaling on the pull and exhaling on the lowering phase. The normal breathing pattern of exhaling on the exertion will collapse your chest and relax your lats just when you’re trying to activate them!).
The bottom line is this…the back is one of THE single most important muscle groups in your body. If you’re not training it hard or you’re not training it properly and with effective exercises, you’re seriously shortchanging yourself and the results you’re truly capable of getting.
Now, if you’re interested in checking out some very unique back exercises and techniques and really taking your strength and physique to the next level, I’ve got a great recommendation for you. I’ve recently put together a book containing 145 of my BEST back exercises…these are my most unique and most INSANE back exercises that will ATTACK your back from every angle.
They will give you the back you WANT and the back you truly NEED.
Guest post by Ben Tatar (www.criticalbench.com)
Part 1— What Is The Tough Mudder
Tough Mudder is labeled “The Toughest Event on the Planet.” Tough Mudder is almost a half marathon that includes 28 obstacles. One of the reasons why Tough Mudder is so hard is because it doesn’t matter if you’re a runner or a strength athlete, as one of your weaknesses will be exposed.
Runners are going to need lots of upper body strength to get through 28 grueling obstacles which they aren’t built for. As for very strong people, they will have to do a lot of running (which involves lots of slow twitch fibers,) that doesn’t work in favor of their muscle fiber make up.
Tough Mudder also has challenging obstacles that tackles mainstream fears such as jumping off planks, (the fear of heights,) electric shock therapy, (feels like you’re getting punched in the back by Ray Lewis,) running through fire, (we saw people on the course complain about this,) going under water in pools of of ice,(which is uncomfortable and can make you sick,) and going through small dark underground tunnels and many other similiar yet crazy Tough Mudder extravaganzas.
Part 2— Tough Mudder vs the Warrior Dash
I did the Warrior Dash last summer. The Warrior Dash is a 3.5 mile run that has lots of obstacles. The Warrior Dash is marketed as a really tough event because for the average person, the Warrior Dash is very tough. When people finish the Warrior Dash, they wear T-Shirts that say “I SURVIVED THE WARRIOR DASH.” The Warrior Dash is pretty mainstream and it’s something that the Average Jane or Average Joe can pretend to be tough off of to people who don’t know better.
I did the Warrior Dash, and I did Tough Mudder. Tough Mudder was THOUSANDS of times harder than the Warrior Dash. In my eyes, The Warrior Dash was just a party with costumes and a fun dash through obstacles. Tough Mudder on the other hand was like “torture entertainment!” Some people assume that “Tough Mudder is probably like doing the Warrior Dash 4 times,” but in reality it was much harder than that because every extra mile you go in the Tough Mudder Event, you’re beat up that much more. In the Warrior Dash at mile 3 you’re finishing, and you’re feeling really good. As with Tough Mudder, at mile 3, you’re just getting started! Then each mile takes that much more life out of you. Tough Mudder really does test your mental grit.
I remember doing the Warrior Dash and during the Warrior Dash I relaxed during the first mile, then during mile 2 and 3 I passed thousands of people as I was never passed even once! This made me believe that Tough Mudder would just be another joke like the Warrior Dash was, boy was I wrong.
Part 3— Perception vs Reality
Before Tough Mudder started, I was very cocky. I didn’t really practice 9 mile runs or anything, I was just like “I’m the Tatar Monster, there isn’t anything I can’t handle, and bring it on!” I was like “there are people who dont look like long distance runners finishing this, and there are people who are a lot older than me finishing this, so whatever. This is just like going to an amusmenet park.” These were all misconceptions that I had. The truth is, just because someone doesn’t look like a runner doesn’t mean that they aren’t doing super long distance runs every week!
Then again, when I did the Warrior Dash, there were people who looked like runners and I passed and beat thousands of them. Therefore, you can’t judge a book by its cover, and you have to depend on your own training in contrast to the event. If youre not running a half marathon at least twice a week, or if you haven’t been weight training your whole life, Tough Mudder is no joke.
In fact there are THOUSANDS of competitors on Tough Mudder day who don’t finish the Tough Mudder Challenge. You know, thousands of people go into Tough Mudder saying “I can run 12 miles, and Im serious enough to do these obstacles,” but the numbers show that over 20% of the people who think they will complete Tough Mudder, don’t complete it.
Part 4—The Beginning
When I did Tough Mudder, I felt happy just for taking on a badass challenge. I was actually relieved psychologically during the event because I knew the hype of doing tough mudder was over and the challenge had begun. During the event, I always remembered my dad’s message “Always leave some fuel in your tank.” However, I must admit that since I wasn’t running on a consistent basis, my legs were a bit sore after 2 miles.. Which was nuts because as my legs got sore only 2 miles into the run, I knew I had 10 miles to go. hahaha.
Part 5— Getting Hurt
Around mile 7, I went to the ground as I popped my calf muscle after lots of running and sprinting up a mudhill. I was like “Okay, I have a popped calf muscle, and I have another 5 miles to go!” I was like “TIME OUT,” and I stopped some people, where I took a gel pack. It felt like my calf muscle ripped off my socket, but like in the NFL, you massage it a bit, take a gel pack, and the sharp pain fades. Then I remember at mile 9 doing the same thing to my hamstring! I got a sharp pain, where two ladies ended up stretching me. (Showing some tough Mudder Camaraderie.) I kept going though, and despite my physical pain, I still felt happy inside (I was smiling,) because I knew that the Tatar Monster could handle this, that he could handle any physical challenge as long as he was conscious.
Along the way, I did see other fit people getting hurt, screaming they couldn’t continue. I would look at them, and be like “my hamstring is pulled and so is my calf muscle, but it’s fun” I would go..”GET INTO THE PAIN, in Pain there is GLORY!”
Part 6—- The Obstacles
One of my favorite parts about the Tough Mudder challenge was that no matter how much pain I thought I was feeling physically, I could always kick the obstacles ass! There were like 30 monkey bars, and lots of people couldn’t make it past two of them. I would storm through obstacles like the monkey bars with ease. Even at mile 11, where my calf was cramping and my hamstring felt like it had a knife inside, I remember having to go up that ramp that is seen in the video below and stacks of hay. I just remember blocking the pain out, going off adrenaline, and smashing it! I was able to embrace all of my adversities into excitement. Completing all the obstacles well despite pain, would always keep me smiling through everything.
Part 7—– The Finish Line
At the finish line my teammates Mike Westerdal and Chris were happy drinking beers. They were celebrating pretty hardcore. They had trained much more than I did for this. They worked hard for this and celebrated hard. I remember finishing and the finish line kind of surprised me… I was pretty beat up and I was like “I’m done?” For me, after you go so far, youre expecting such events to never end and they do end. I felt like I was in a car wreck, but I was also ready to keep going because for me personally, when youre going so far, you never think you’re going to just stop until you die.
When I was going that far, I was no longer think in reality, you think of making friends with pain, conquering obstacles no matter what, and then when all the craziness just stops, youre just kind of shocked. Even Championship Pro Athletes often say, “We worked so hard this year, and we won the Championship, Although we have won the championship, in our minds, it’s like we are getting ready for the next series, and i’m surprised this series is over.” Tim Thomas, the goalie of the Boston Bruins stated after he won the Stanley Cup last year “It still hasn’t kicked in, if I’m completely honest,” Thomas said. “I can’t believe it’s over. We’ve had our battle meter up so high for so long; it feels like we’re moving onto the next series or something.” You know, I felt like I was ready for the next mile, just in a more beat up form than my previous mile.
When I did finish though, I loaded up on a protein shake, ate some Burgers, and then my mindset was back into reality again
Part 8—- Tough Mudder Quote
Mike Westerdal told me that I was probably the only contestant to finish Tough Mudder who wasn’t practicing long distance runs.
I conquered an event that has a label of being “the toughest event on the planet,” just through my own guts, persistence to fight guts, and toughness. Through the physical intensity of it all, I felt glory after every mile and obstacle during the event..
I heard some marathon runners say that Tough Mudder was harder than marathons because they struggled with the obstacles, and the obstacles took them out of rhythm. For me, the obstacles were a nice distraction from the running, and made me feel glory between each each obstacle. They made the event entertaining.
Part 9—-My Advice For Others
Tough Mudder was a day of pain, glory, entertainment, and camaraderie! You can’t anticipate what will happen before Tough Mudder starts until you do it. There is one thiing we know though, Tough Mudder is a challenging MYSTERY, but as long as you stay strong and complete it, youre one of few who have made tough mudder HISTORY!
If you think you’re ready for Tough Mudder, I suggest you bringing 3 gel packers, drinking lots of water to prevent cramping, and having enough nutrients before the event. A lot of it is nutrition as well. Most of all get ready for an epic challenge with friends and let the games begin!
Part 10— Looking back at Tough Mudder–
I was glad that I completed Tough Mudder. It was a very challenging ride, but I will always have my glory and pride for doing it.
…If you want to get out of your comfort zone, and prove you are tough in all areas, give tough mudder a try. Only the strong survive.
Free Insiders Report: Maximum Muscle Size in Minimum Time
by Mike Westerdal of CriticalBench.com
4 Critical Muscle Building Confessions From a Former Skinny Guy
In This Special Report I Reveal:
-My best 3 tips for someone starting out that wants to build maximum muscle strength and size.
-The 3 biggest mistakes you MUST avoid when trying to get BIG! pg. 8
-The proper way to introduce muscle building supplements so they HELP your already effective training and nutrition regime…not hurt it! pg. 17
-And Much more….
Luke Alisson of CriticalBench.com Interviews Chris Barnard
LA: This is Luke Allison here with the CriticalBench.com weekly Muscle Building Expert Interview series. Today I’m here with Chris Barnard. Chris, how are you?
CB: Good, good, Luke. How you doing?
LA: Doing all right, man. I appreciate you joining us. We have a sort of special topic today that I know people are going to be interested in hearing about, Total Xplosive Training. Give us some background; talk a little bit about that.
CB: About the training itself or how it came about?
LA: Wherever you want to begin.
CB: All right. Well, basically, Total Xplosive Training was… Basically, I kind of just fell into it. I was training… I played football my whole life. I’ve played baseball my whole life, basketball, you know what I mean? Any sport out there, you name it, I kind of was trying to get my hand in anything growing up.
I really tailored-in in football and tried to pursue that after high school. I actually went to a junior college and ended up getting like basically a career-ending injury. I broke my shoulder in a game and I think I separated almost every tendon in the shoulder. And while rehabilitating, I really started to look into different types of training and how I could get my body back into peak shape and basically I wanted to take it to the next level. That’s every kids’ dream is to really use training, you know what I mean? Especially if you have the bad genetics, as they say, to make yourself something, get yourself to that NFL dream.
So, basically what I ended up doing was I started training with Elliott Hulse over here at Strength Camp, and I started doing a couple of different methods and reading online and figuring out all these things. And it wasn’t until I actually started to study it in school to where I started applying that knowledge into my training.
So, when I developed Total Xplosive Training, really what I was doing was I was preparing myself to play Division I football at the University of Miami. So, basically, I just took my workout, along with Elliott Hulse’s, you know, he’s got the meal plan and the Strongman… If you guys aren’t familiar with him, he does a lot of Strongman for football, and things like that. And I took my speed training and kind of just put it all in a pot and really tried to mix it up and make it work, basically for myself.
Well, what ended up happening was I got awesome results. I think I was like… After surgery I was probably like under 200 pounds. I was able to gain all my weight back, all my strength back. I got up to about 235-240 pounds and I was just pure muscle. My strength was through the roof. I was squatting extremely heavy. I mean, I was able to do like five plates for reps, you know what I mean? I was able to bench close to 400 pounds. And this was… We’re applying this to sport training. So, I know I’m not powerlifting numbers, but for sports training that’s pretty good. My 40 time was really reduced. I was able to run the 40 in a 4.58 and for 235 pounds, that’s pretty impressive. I could jump amazingly.
So, I mean, everything was just working for me. So, I though… In my head I was thinking, okay, this is just for me. So, when I was doing this, working alongside Elliott, he gave me the opportunity to work with some of his athletes. Well, my second guess was, okay, I’m just going to see what I can do with these athletes and get them the training that I was going through.
To my surprise, what ended up happening was, these kids who were kind of like weak and scrawny and didn’t really have a hope for getting to the next level, they all started becoming beasts in the gym.
That’s kind of when I just realized, wow, I’ve really got to start putting this stuff on paper and really got to start getting it out to some people. Because, I mean, it’s working really amazingly. Like, the proof is in the pudding, as they say.
So, basically with the training, we’ll talk a little background on that, what we do is we basically start them off by giving them some kind of heavy, like high intensity plyometrics, something to really get their motor system working. The whole thing about Total Xplosive Training, the whole science background, I don’t want to give you the whole textbook hoopla. But basically for people who want to know, we’re training the nervous system. We’re not just training your muscles; we’re training movements. As an athlete and as any person in power training or any kind of athletic performance, they need to tailor-in certain movements.
So, it’s not necessarily what the muscles is doing, how big it is, but it’s more or less what the muscle is doing for you on the field, on the court, you know, in the pool, whatever it might be that your sport is.
So, basically, like I said, that’s the plyometrics. We’re training certain movement patterns that you usually see in your natural sport. So, we can say, for instance, basketball, football, baseball, soccer, MMA, any of these sports, they’re obviously very different as far as the movements go, but then when you look at the underlying, the base features, a lot of it is still the same thing. For football, for basketball, for baseball, for MMA, you still need strong, powerful hits in anything you do. You still need a strong, powerful shoulder joint, everything you do.
So, what we do is we go ahead and we train that at the highest intensity it can go, which is power. It’s your force times your velocity. So, how strong it is times how fast you can move it.
So, we go ahead, like I said, we start off with a speed movement, like a plyometric or some kind of high velocity movement where we’re getting those base movements from each sport to really move, and then what we’re doing is we’re going to then in turn go ahead and train the strengths. So, we’re going to go ahead and move to strength movements where we’re really using some of that brute force to really move some heavy weight.
For instance, I think some of our workouts will consist of something, say like, a couple of different high intensity box jumps. And then, we’ll move into the gym and go ahead and train a couple different variations of the squat, deadlift, maybe some kind of bench press, really heavy.
That basically is the foundation. Like I said, I don’t want to get into too much scientific, some kind of hoopla for you guys, but just to give you the general background of Total Xplosive Training. Does that help you out, Luke?
LA: Absolutely. I think that’s a good start. It sounds a lot like you’re training the power and the velocity like skill work. Usually the idea is do skill work first before you get tired, and then you can sort of move heavy things slowly after that. Is that right? You’ve sort of got your priority…
CB: Yeah. Well, basically what… I mean, a lot of scientific people believe in something called PAP, which is post-activation potentiation. What that is is basically say you lift something heavy and then you go ahead and… A lot of people call it complex training, too. You’re lifting something heavy, you’re creating a stimulus, you’re turning on your muscles, basically. And then, you want to go ahead and use the same muscles to go ahead and do like a powerful jump. Because, what they’re saying is it’s activating your muscles. Now, you can go ahead and do a more high velocity thing.
What I’ve done and what Total Xplosive Training is, basically just flip it. I want to get the most powerful movement that you can, you know, the velocity, in the very beginning while your muscles aren’t fatigued whatsoever. Because, basically what happens is, you have motor units connecting to each one of your muscles. You might have, depending on the size of the muscle, depends on the amount of motor units you have firing. Well, with this, we want to go ahead and activate the most amount of motor units we can. So then, you’re going to get the most out of each particular muscle.
In addition, we want to go ahead and make sure that we are firing efficiency, as we could say, is on point. So, basically, they call it rate coding. We want to make sure that each one of your…the signal being sent for the muscle to turn on is as fast as it possible can. So, that’s why I went ahead and I trained the velocity first.
So, what we do is we, you know what I mean… Like I said, your muscle isn’t going to be fatigued whatsoever. We’re getting down to the correct motor patterns of the muscle to where it’s firing immediately fast and you’re able to get the most power out of it at that point in time.
Then, like I said, as we go into the gym, the strength component is basically to supplement the power. Anything you do… I mean, you think about any sport, unless you’re talking powerlifting or Strongman or something of that nature, you’re not going to be lifting a maximum amount of weight and taking you five seconds or something. Everything is a quick, sudden burst.
So, the strength is there to compliment the power output. And obviously, if the strength is a component of power, if we increase the strength, we’re going to increase the power.
LA: It makes as lot of sense. I think people think of sports and they go, oh, speed is speed and you’re faster or you’re not, and that’s just not the case, is it? You can get faster and jump higher and do all of those things. I think you’re certainly an example of that.
CB: Right, exactly, exactly. Well, yeah, the thing is, like I said, when I got a handful of athletes, I, myself, actually was somebody who… There’s this aura going around that if you have bad genetics you can’t train speed. And I kind of just grew up with that. I saw in my head everybody said… I remember through school, the gym teacher would tell us that. So, I mean, either you’re born with speed or you’re not, and that seems to be the belief that everybody grows up with.
Well, me growing up with that, I wanted to figure something else out. Now, don’t get me wrong, genetics does play a role. I mean, if you look at kids on the playground, and you take two five-year-olds, one of them is going to be faster than the other. You’re going to look at it and say, okay, did one train harder than the other? No. I mean, there is genetics played in every aspect of our life. But, for us to say that genetics can’t be manipulated, or for us to say that training cannot improver your speed, I just… I think that’s a total false statement.
LA: So, you’re trying to give people hope, too. You’re not trying to put people in boxes and say you can’t do this and you can’t do that. Work hard, see what happens.
CB: Exactly. Because, like I said, I was once the underdog. I, myself… I mean, I’m not coming from reading this in a book and trying to tell somebody they can do this. I actually did it myself. Like I said, I had a career-ending injury. I went ahead and I came back and I got on the team for one of the most prestigious schools, you know, out there for college football, the University of Miami.
So, like I said, I took my 40 time from high school, when I was like 180-pounds, from probably like a 5 second 40, and I went ahead and I brought it down to a 4.58, which is pretty fast if you’re watching the combine these days. And that’s just through training speed and strength.
So, what I felt is…what I tell everybody is, there is numerous ways that you can manipulate, depending on what you want to do. And I think that, like you said, if I’m giving people hope, they’re able to understand it can be trained. It’s out there. It’s just what are you willing to do to get that?
LA: Right, and that’s also a matter of if you’re not satisfied with the information you’re getting from your high school program or your college program and you think about changing, look at what Elliott’s doing, look at what Chris is doing. This is serious stuff.
Talk about some of the equipment that you use. Get into some of that. Give people an idea of sort of what this might look like if they pick up the program.
CB: Okay. Well, basically anything that I have in the Total Xplosive Training you can acquire at any gym. I made it with the thought of thinking, okay, there’s going to be those high school athletes, there’s going to be those older guys who want to get back in athletic shape, because obviously everybody wants to look like an athlete. So, I said, you know, it’s nice to have a gym like Strength Camp where we have tires and all kinds of stones and stuff like that and pegs. But, the average, every-day guy isn’t going to have these kinds of things available to him.
So, what I said was, what I’m going to do is I’m going to create this to where wherever you are, I’m going to give it to you to where you can do it in a normal gym setting or you can do it in… Say you have a barbell and some weights in your back yard. You can take care of it the same way. You’ve just got to be a little bit creative.
The most things that I think that we have, you know, people come to me and say, oh, I don’t have boxes for box jumps. Well, I remember being in high school and jumping off of a trash can or jumping over stuff like that just to go ahead and… Because, I, myself couldn’t afford the boxes that they make just for jumping. But, people realize you don’t really need those kind of things.
CB: There you go, exactly. Well, I remember we started doing it off my own truck. So, I mean, people can’t really say too much about not having the right equipment. Like I said, as far as the weights go, a squat rack, a bench, anything with a barbell with some weights on it, is sufficient enough. I think I do have a couple of machines connected in with the training, but they’re nothing more than like a cable or something like that that you can find in your everyday gym.
LA: That’s good. I think that’s what people need to hear, because I think they sometimes get confused about well, if I’m going to be serious, then I have to have all this serious stuff. And that’s kind of not how it works. You have to work your way up to needing all of that. Right?
CB: Right. Exactly. I mean, people think that you need to jump into it and have the best things. And honestly, like we always say, I could give you the best workout in the world, but if you follow it 50%, you’re going to get 50% results. I could give you the worst workout in the world, and I you follow it 100%, you’re going to get great results.
The thing with TXT is, the workout I’m giving you is tailored in for you to get the most out of your athletic potential. So, if you go at this 100% and you have the right setup in the off season for your upcoming season, there’s no way you can lose with it. You’re definitely going to go ahead and increase your athletic performance.
Like I said, I’ve had a basketball player, I’ve had a baseball player, I’ve had a football player. I put them all to the test with it. I was nervous because I said, you know, everybody says one key doesn’t fit all locks. So, I said, okay, this is my training. It’s not going to fit everybody else. Let me go ahead and give it a shot.
It’s kind of like I had some lab rats. Well, each one, you know, the basketball player increased his vertical jump and was able to move quicker and more efficiently on the court. The baseball player went from not hitting one homerun to hitting…I think he hit seven that season. And then the football player was just completely just a beast and went ahead and made the University of South Florida team as a walk-on.
So, I mean, each and every player went ahead and improved their athletic performance, and it’s all from the base foundation of increasing your explosive power.
LA: And that’s exactly what people… I think when people are in the market, that’s what they want to hear, is this has worked. It’s something you thought about and then you did it and then it worked. It’s been in all of the different phases.
Give people an idea how long of a program it is, how many days a week. Go into a little bit of detail, if you can, on that.
SC: Yeah, sure. So, basically, Total Xplosive Training is a three-phase. It’s a base phase. And what we do there is the first month we go ahead and create a foundation. So, what we do is we make sure your hip joint is completely stable and able to go onto the next phase, which is developmental phase. And there, we start developing certain aspects of your game and we increase the intensity and drop the volume. And then, after developmental phase, we go into the peak phase, which is the third and final month. And what that does is basically we increase the intensity and we drop the volume and this is basically what it says. We’re going to be peaking. By now, your numbers are going to be extremely high. You’re going to be breaking all your one-rep max records, your personal records. You’re going to be protecting everything at this time and it’s going to be getting you ready for that season.
So, to sum it up, it’s three-phase, three-month. And each one conjugates with each other so you’re moving slowly into the next phase of being able to get the most out of your training.
As far as how many days per week, we go ahead and we train four days. There’s a lot of…how should I say it? People use these terms with each other, over-reaching and over-training. I think a lot of people get this mixed up with what they’re doing in their training and I believe that over-training, basically, if you’re recovering enough, there won’t be over-training. So, what we do is we give you complete recovery sessions, the complete nutrition to follow and exactly how much sleep you should be getting as well.
So, what we do is we train four days a week and it’s very intense. But, like I said, we do have the recovery and the nutrition included. And so, basically, with the four days you’re able to take off of each movement pattern or muscle being used so that you’re able to develop the next one. Kind of like what they call like a block periodization micro-cycle. So, you’re not using the same muscle each day, but you’re able to go ahead and improve on them throughout the week. If that makes sense.
LA: Oh, it makes sense to me. I’m just making sure that we cover it in enough detail for people that might not. Block periodization, I think that was what you described before, where you have the different sort of monthly blocks, which is just a group of training that’s similar, but that also builds on itself. Because, you’ll be going… You’re not trying to go like three months of distance in one month. You’re trying to go three months of distance in three months.
CB: Right. Well, there’s so many different, you know, after studying this, there’s so many different methods of periodization. I started looking at some of the ones, obviously the traditional western linear, where you’re continuously moving up. I looked at block periodization where you use certain effects, reciprocal effects, to go ahead and build on top of each other. And I’ve also…what I’ve adapted from Elliott Hulse is the Russian conjugate.
So, basically what I try to do is just basically mix these up to where I’m using each one, a particular little piece of my favorite part of each method and building it into its own training program.
So, like I said, it will move you through certain phases like say block periodization. But, at the same time, you are staying strong, you are staying fast, you know what I mean? Because it is three months.
People know, and athletes know, how important this off-season is to them. Like, your off-season is almost everything, because you want to come back that next season and you want to be that person. You want to be that athlete that just stuns everybody and says, you know, look what I did this off-season. I turned my life around, I turned my game around and I’m ready to go.
So, people know that the off-season is short, but they want to get the most out of it. And that’s exactly what Total Xplosive Training does.
LA: And that’s the key. I absolutely want to emphasize that, because the difference between an athlete and someone that’s just lifting is, an athlete has a sport, and that person has a very specific period of time where they can have an off-season and then they also have a specific period of time where they have to get back on the court or back on the field.
LA: It makes all the difference if you do the right thing.
You’ve mentioned MMA fighters, basketball players, football players, anyone else you have experience working with or who you think Total Xplosive Training would be appropriate for?
CB: Like I said, I’ve been… I hate to say this, but even before the whole football thing, I remember in high school I worked at World Gym and then after that I was a trainer at LA Fitness. I don’t like to bring those out, because I don’t like the fashion show gyms too much. I like kind of the hardcore stuff. But, I’ve been working with… You know, I’ve always been attracted to the athletes, because I, myself, have always been one. And I just was able to connect. I understand the intensity they want to go. Now, I’m not taking anything away from the average day lifters, because there are those guys out there who used to play the sport and realize that I’m not going to get anywhere unless I train like an athlete. That’s the beauty about TXT.
I apply TXT to the average-day guy. And what they do is they end up looking back like they used to look when they were playing football or they were playing basketball. You know, that look that they want to get when they’re 30 or so years old, and they realize wow, I can’t just lift, I’ve got to go back to training like an athlete. That’s how I’m going to look my best.
In addition to that, I’ve worked with, like I’ve said, I’ve worked with basketball players, I’ve worked with baseball, football, soccer, swimmers, actually. That was a new one for me. MMA was pretty cool because those are some of the most… I thought football was pretty intense, but MMA guys really love to push themselves. Let me think here, just an overall of sports. I worked with a boxer before, I think.
And the funny thing is, there really isn’t a sport that I’ve helped people out with… You know, I’m actually working with some people in rugby and lacrosse right now, too, as well. But, like I said, there’s not a sport that can’t benefit from it because there’s not a sport that doesn’t have an underlying movement that they can’t… Now, I understand that sport-specific training, meaning if you’re a quarterback, you’re obviously going to throw the ball. If you’re a pitcher you’re going to be practicing your pitching motion and your mechanics. That’s sport-specific training.
But, besides that, each sport has their base movements to where they’re going to want to get the most explosive power and strength out of their body that they can. And by improving that, it’s going to improve every aspect of your game.
If I take a pitcher and he just throws all day long, he’s going to get his mechanics down. Now, say I take that same pitcher and go ahead and apply Total Xplosive Training to him and make him more powerful. Now you see his hip, now you see his rotational muscles, basically his obliques and transverse abdominis getting extremely strong. So now, he’s able to throw that ball a lot harder and a lot more powerful. That’s all it’s doing. It’s complimenting your sport-specific training to basically increase your overall athletic performance.
LA: The two things that I think of when you just said that was, the ability to decelerate, to slow down after you’ve sped up, and then it’s the ability to change direction. And those seem like the things that go, you know, everyone is interested…or should be interested in that if they’re interested in performance. Is that right?
CB: Right. And that’s the whole thing about explosive training. You want to be able to stop… It’s all body control. That’s what athletics are all about. I don’t tell somebody to be the biggest and the craziest looking athlete, but if their body is completely under control at all times, that’s how you train your body, your nervous system to move efficiently and to move as swiftly as possible.
So, I mean, the biggest athlete isn’t necessarily the strongest. So, what you’re doing here is you’re basically teaching an athlete to come to speed, you know, to get the maximum speed as quick as they can and to stop as quick as they can, or make that move as quick as they can.
Say somebody in basketball is crossing-over. Say a baseball player is hitting a fastball, or say an MMA fighter throwing a punch. It’s all moving as fast as you can. As you look, some of the most…the best players in each sport, in every sport there is, I guarantee you they’re usually the fastest or most powerful player. There’s something about them that’s more than the rest. Yeah, there’s technique, obviously involved. But, like I said, the best ones, the best of the best, they usually have, like you said, those two. And that equals they’re the most explosive.
LA: Absolutely. Make it simple. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be.
CB: Right. Exactly.
LA: Fair enough. Chris, if people are interested in getting the program or sort of getting some more information, give them an idea about where they can go and sort of what they can find.
CB: Yeah. Basically, I have it on the website, it’s at TotalXplosiveTraining.com. I believe that Mike here will have a link to it in on his thing that you guys could check it out. I urge people who are serious about their athletic performance to definitely give it a shot this off-season. It’s definitely something to look into. And like I said, I’m always available. I’m not somebody that’s trying to be one to make a quick dollar or anything like that. I really want to help people out.
So, even if… I want people to email me. I love working with people. I’m working with people all across the world right now. And I, myself, am also training, got some things in the woodworks to go ahead and do. So, I just want to create, as far as like a community, to basically help athletes out to get them to their goals. I think that would be pretty neat.
LA: Sounds great. Chris, I appreciate the time. Thank you again.
CB: Luke, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
LA: All right. Take care.
CB: Have a good one. Bye bye.