The best kept secret in weight and fat loss

The other day in the last post I posted link to a video of Dr John Berardi talking about his two latest programs - Lean Eating For Men and Lean Eating For Women.

Far and away, the most frequent questions had to do with his $40,000 is prize money. $10,000 to the top female winner and $10,000 to the top male winner. Plus, 5k to each of a few runners up.

Click here to check out the blog post announcing this amazing prize:

Now, today, I want to share with you a post covering the flip side of the 10K prize. In other words, if the prize is the carrot, today's video talks about the stick.

You see, Dr. Berardi's a coaching expert. In fact, he's probably the most successful nutrition coach in the health and fitness business.

And after speaking with him, I realized that there's something powerful to this idea.

You see, the biggest transformations - body transformations or otherwise - are accomplished when people have big incentives.

And I'd say 10 thousand bucks qualifies as a big incentive all right. But big inspiring goals also need some potential punishment.

Or, some risk.

And in today's video, Dr Berardi shows you how to coerce yourself into sticking to the plan, even when the motivation wanes.

Enter "the best kept secret in weight loss."

So, if you're REALLY interested in changing your body and you'd like a little extra incentive for doing so, this is definitely a program you need to check out.

Again, this message is time sensitive. From what I hear there are A LOT of people clamoring to get in on the program.

So check out these posts. I know you won't be disappointed.

Could The Chance To Win $10,000 Help You Get In Shape?

The Best Kept Secret In Weight Loss

From Platform to Stage with Christian Thibaudeau

Q & A with Christian Thibaudeau

Precision Nutrition: Hey Christian, what are you up to?

Christian Thibaudeau: Actually I’m just typing an email to a friend of mine. The guy is a bodybuilding coach and he’s upset because one of his athletes placed lower than he thought she should have. He’s mad and thinks that the judging was “fixed” or something like that. So I’m trying to calm him down.

PN: He thinks his athlete got robbed?

CT: Well, he thought so. She’s a figure athlete and placed 4th out of 12 or something like that. He thought she should have placed higher as she had more definition than some of the other girls who placed ahead of her. He thought she should be in the top three – even first or second. He thinks that maybe because the other girls were friendlier with the judges, his athlete was placed lower.

PN: How much of a part do you think that plays in all of this? Do you have to befriend the judges to get ahead in fitness and bodybuilding competition?

CT: Well, that’s what I’m emailing him about. I don’t think it’s a huge part of winning, but it does exist to a certain extent. I don’t think judges favor an athlete because they’re personal friends, or because the coach is a friend. What I think happens more often is that a judge knows a specific athlete is coming, and so they might pay more attention to them. For example, if a specific athlete or athlete’s coach trains where a judge trains, they might chat about the upcoming competition. And it’s just human nature, on contest day, the judge looks for that athlete and pays more attention to them. And especially when there’s a big class of athletes, that can help someone stand out.

PN: Have you ever experienced that yourself? People in bodybuilding – more than other sports – seem to think there’s a lot of politics involved.

CT: Well, I think there are some politics there – especially on the women’s side of things, because the judging criteria are always changing. Some years the judges choose more muscular girls, other years more “feminine” girls. Some years “softer” women are chosen and some years “leaner” women are chosen. And when the standards are always changing, any judging decision can be justified. So specific judges could play favorites for sure, and get away with it.

So yes, I do see more politics on the female level. But there’s a bit of it on the men’s side too. The bodybuilding federations are interested in the growth of the sport and, by extension, more money. So they’ll often want to see certain people win, people who can make the sport more marketable or popular.

For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger won a few Mr. Olympia titles that perhaps he shouldn’t have. But of course, he was a charismatic guy and his victories were always good for the sport. So I believe some politics were involved in those decisions.

PN: Speaking of bodybuilding, you’re now training bodybuilders and even competing yourself. You’re also a former competitive Olympic lifter. Has it been hard for you to shift from an objective standard – you lift the weight or you don’t – to these more subjective standards?

CT: Personally, it doesn’t make a difference to me. I’m mostly in this for the fun of it and for changing my body. For me, winning or losing doesn’t really matter all that much. But I know how it is. I’ve been involved in subjective sports before. In fact, I’ve trained a lot of figure skaters, and there’s no sport more subjective than figure skating. So I’ve coached and participated in both types of events, and I understand the frustrations involved in subjective assessments. In Olympic weight lifting, there’s no subjectivity. You either lift the weight or you don’t. It’s clean. Cut and dry. Subjective sports are so different and leave a lot of room for argument and even error. So I look at subjective events less as “sport” and more as “competition.” But really I enjoy both, they both offer something to me as an athlete.

PN: I want to chat a little about your books. You’ve written two very highly regarded books: The Black Book of Training Secrets and Theory and Application of Modern Strength and Power Methods. Also, your latest book, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Body Transformation from Both Sides of the Force, is causing quite a splash. What inspired you to become an author and write about training?

CT: I think I got into writing more because of my creativity than my desire to be a strength coach. Training wasn’t even my first passion. My first passion was film. When I was 17 or 18 years old, I actually wrote 2 screenplays. One was for a movie and one was for a play. Now, I never ended up submitting either of them but I obviously loved and still do love the creative process. When I got more serious about my weight training, I found a way to combine both the training side and the creative side. That’s when I started writing books and articles on training. So it was the creative process that got me into writing in the first place. It just kind of grew from there, and now I’ve got three books published and a few more on the way.

PN: Tell me a little about your last book, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Interesting title.

CT: Well, the book covers training for body transformation from a few different perspectives. And, to be honest, I think the training material in there is the best I’ve ever written.

PN: Really? Given the excellent quality of your previous work, I’d say that’s saying something.

CT: Well, I really delve into the science of gaining size and strength in there. Also, the programs in the book are likely my best. But basically I wrote the training component of the book, the “good” side of the force, so to speak. Anthony Roberts wrote the other component, the “dark” side of the force: anabolic steroids. Now, I’m a strength coach first and foremost and don’t really want to be associated with anabolic steroids. But when Anthony pitched this idea to me, I decided to do it anyway, because I know that lots of bodybuilders do use steroids, often knowing nothing about them, and often in very harmful ways. So as steroids get more and more popular, I think it’s important to help people avoid some of the dangers associated with using them in an uneducated way. Most guys who end up using steroids just blindly follow the “big guy” at the gym. So Anthony’s idea was basically to make good, credible information available to show the people who are going to use this stuff anyway how to use it without killing themselves.

So that’s his side of the book. My side is the training side, and this book goes into much more depth than the Black Book of Training Secrets. It’s more scientific and really explains the process of muscle growth. It talks about what’s going on in your body to make your muscles bigger. And it also covers what you can do in the gym to stimulate those changes. In that regard, it’s much more thorough than anything I’ve ever written about hypertrophy.

PN: I know you’re a busy guy and always have a bunch of new projects on the go. Tell me something about what’s coming up next?

CT: The book I’ve almost completed is a body transformation book in written in French, so it’ll be sold in Quebec and in France. I have a lot of contacts in both places, and I work with many French bodybuilders as well, so this is a fun project for me to work on.

But I’m also working on a series of books I hope to finish next year all about body part training, and I think they’ll eventually be my most popular books. They’re kind of like what Charles Poliquin did with his arm training book, but I’ll have a different book for each segment of the body.

The first book is going to be about arm training, biceps, triceps, and forearms. The second will be about torso training, chest and back. The third will be about leg training, and the last one will be about training shoulders.

These books are more practical than theoretical. They’ll have two or three chapters on the science of hypertrophy, and there will be a couple of chapters about the muscles specifically and the role of each muscle in the segment you want to train. But the meat of the book will be the specialized programs – there will be about 20 or so – and readers will be able to chose the programs best suited to their level of development, body type, and goals. So they’ll be very thorough, and very practical.

PN: Those sound fantastic! You mentioned Charles Poliquin, another great coach originally from Quebec. What’s going on there, what’s that industry like in Quebec right now? Are there a lot of talented coaches in that area?

CT: Well, the environment is still a bit like Siberia in terms of training. Especially in smaller towns. In Montreal, there are some good trainers who are charging a lot of money ($50-60/hour) for training. But then again, to do that you have to rent space in a big gym, which can be costly. For example, the Pro Gym in Montreal, which is one of the biggest gyms in the world, rents space to coaches who want to train clients there, and I think it costs about $800/month for a small office. And in the smaller towns, if you charge more than $15/hour, you’re considered a crook. [Laughs.] So it’s hard to make a decent living as a personal trainer or strength coach here. But it’s a little better as a strength coach, and that’s an advantage I have, because although I’m writing a lot about bodybuilding lately and coaching a lot of bodybuilders, my biggest clientele is still athletes. I work with a big sports study program, training athletes from 26 different sports. So most of my income here in Quebec comes from being a strength coach and working with athletes.

PN: That’s interesting – if most of your work is still with athletes, why have you shifted your writing toward bodybuilding? It seems like lately a lot of your writing is moving in that direction and you’re working with more and more bodybuilders through your coaching. What prompted that change?

CT: Well, to be honest, personally I’ve always liked bodybuilding more than performance training. Even when I was a football player, I always did more arm training than anyone else on the team, just to look good in my jersey. [Laughs.] And even before football training, I was using the old Weider plastic barbell set to build my body for aesthetics. I’d even pump up before school in the morning because of course you can’t go to school without being pumped up. [Laughs.] And then I’d train during lunch. And when I got back from school I would be training again. And I always liked muscular bodies. But even training three times a day, I never built the body I wanted. And even after over a year of training, I was what you would call “skinny fat.” And I kind of gave up on my goals of having a lean aesthetic body.

But the thing was that, even though I was training 3x per day, I wasn’t eating well. I would eat chips and candy bars, I would eat pastries, I would skip meals. It was a mess. So with all that exercise, I got maybe 2,000 calories all day long, and most of that was junk. [Laughs.] So it’s no surprise that I didn’t look good. No amount of training could make up for my diet. But rather than learn about and improve my nutrition, I was stupid. I just blamed my genetics and assumed I was just built for strength and not muscle size. So I decided to concentrate on training for strength. And after some success in Olympic weightlifting, I became pretty strong.

It wasn’t until after an injury to my biceps retired me from that sport, that I decided to learn how to diet properly. And when I did, I built a pretty decent body. Funny how that works. [Laughs.] It takes both good training and good diet to build a great body. So after seeing that my body had some potential, I decided to learn all I could about training and nutrition for aesthetics. And that’s what I’m teaching now.

PN: Do you think a lot of people make the same mistake? Do you think they confuse poor genetics with poor nutrition?

CT: Oh yeah, definitely! I’d say that 95% of the people who say they have bad genetics simply don’t eat what they need to eat to improve their bodies. I see it every day – hundreds of people of all ages who train pretty hard but don’t look like it because they eat poorly, stay out all night, and ignore 2 parts of the training puzzle, nutrition and recovery. So these people think that they’re “hard gainers,” and they end up either giving up or going on steroids because they think their genetics are to blame. But really, if they slept more than 4hrs per night and ate more than 1500 calories per day, they would see better results. I think that nutrition is the biggest problem for most people.

And not everyone is built the same way. I don’t need the same amount of carbs that JB does. And we probably need different amounts of total calories, and so on. So even if people try to cut and paste a good nutrition program that a friend or expert uses themselves, they won’t get the same results. So again they figure that it must be their genetics. They figure that they’ve got poor genetics, while all their friends must have got the good genes. But that’s not it at all. It’s that they simply aren’t using a nutrition program built around their own needs. So identifying what your body needs to grow or lose fat is the key to great results. And that’s what I think Precision Nutrition does so well.

PN: Okay, let’s go the next step from being lean and muscular to actually stepping on stage and competing. When someone wants to make that step, how does their training have to change? Or does it?

CT: Training probably shouldn’t change too much when leading up to a contest. I think the biggest mistake that most people make is that they change their training drastically leading up to a show. I actually made that mistake myself leading up to my first competition. I figured I had to up the volume, do more drop sets, do more reps, things like that. But the body actually has a reduced capacity to recover from training when dieting down with lower calories and carbs. So that needs to be taken into account.

I think your volume should actually go down when you’re getting ready for the stage. But, then again, if you decrease volume and intensity, then you’re going to lose muscle mass, no question. So I think the first priority is to maintain or gain strength, that’s the best way to stop muscle loss during a dieting period.

Now, let’s be clear on one thing. When we’re talking about serious bodybuilding, there’s a big difference between looking “jacked” and training for the stage. If you just want to look good naked, during the off-season you can train all muscle groups the same way. But when you really want to be competitive on stage, your training needs to correct weaknesses, or at least hide them. If any body part is lagging, you have to focus on making it bigger and in proportion to the rest of your body.

So the biggest difference between serious bodybuilding and just training for looks is emphasizing what the judges what to see and being able to identify your own weaknesses and work on them. And these things should be considered year-round.

PN: How do you identify your own weaknesses? Do you write your own training and nutrition programs or do you have other people help you?

CT: I write my own training programs with the help of a friend, who’s also a bodybuilding coach. He doesn’t tell me what exercises to do, but he does tell me what parts of my body to work on – whether I need more deltoid mass, or lower lat size, or whatever. Then I take that advice, and I select the exercises I think will best work on these areas. Because I don’t think you can be 100% objective with yourself, you’ll end up focusing more on what you want than what you really need. So you need an external eye keeping you honest.

Now that’s training. But when it comes to nutrition – you cannot do your own nutrition plan! [Laughs.] You will always freak out as the contest approaches. You’ll look at yourself in the mirror and start fearing that you’re not lean enough or big enough or whatever. And then you’ll cut calories or carbs or make some dumb decisions and ruin your physique progress. You step on stage, place poorer than you should have, and then all that time you spent is out the window and you have to start again. So ideally you shouldn’t be your own coach for something like this. It’s possible, you can be your own coach and get decent results, but you’re unlikely to get peak results without someone else helping along the way.

PN: We’ve talked about training and nutrition for competition. How about lifestyle, attitude, etc? How does that have to change when getting ready for the stage?

CT: You become egotistical – there’s no way around it. [Laughs.] It’s very important to have either no life at all or a very understanding life partner – especially in the last few months, because you can really become an asshole. [Laughs.] I know I did. And actually my relationship was in danger at one point, and I had to take a break because of it.

When you’re cutting calories you get freaked out about getting into shape and you always want to do more. Lower calories, drop carbs, cut fat, etc. So it’s very difficult mentally. Further, if you get invited out to the bar or the movies, you often say no because people will be drinking and eating popcorn and you can’t – so you stay home to avoid the temptation. So there are some mental and social things that have to change leading up to the show.

The truth is, though, that the leaner you stay in the off-season, the less impact it has on your lifestyle. If you stay 8-10% body fat or less during the off-season, you can still go out, still have the occasional cheat day, etc. You won’t have to do cardio twice a day to lose the fat because you’re staying pretty lean. And the mood swings can be minimized when you stay in better shape, because your diet doesn’t have to be as severe, the carbs can stay higher, etc. So not going to extremes is key, and you have to start off lean to avoid these extremes. The biggest problems arise when people get way, way out of shape in the off-season. When you have to lose 50 lbs or so to get in shape for the stage it’s a miserable pre-contest period.

See for some people, bodybuilding is life. They want to be professionals, and so they have to live like a professional should live. Training and eating becomes their job. But for most people, bodybuilding is just a fun hobby. And I think that if you want it to stay fun, you’re going to have to have a life outside of your preparation.

PN: Now that you’re both a coach and a bodybuilder, how do the two affect each other? Does being a good coach make you a better bodybuilder or does being a good bodybuilder make you a better coach?

CT: Being a good bodybuilder makes me a better coach. But I think that being a good coach actually hurts me as a bodybuilder. I think that sometimes being a good coach, having a good reputation, and getting good results tends to make me believe my own crap, you know? [Laughs.] I start thinking I don’t need to go look for outside help. And that leads to mistakes and problems. So I always remind myself to keep an open mind.

But I think that on the other hand, competing, stepping on stage, feeling the pains of preparation, all that stuff, that’s helped me with my athletes. Some athletes have eating disorders, some athletes have to make weight for their sport, some athletes are stressed about competition. And my own preparation helps me understand what they’re going through.

For example, when you’re on stage or during the period leading up to it, you look fantastic. You’re lean, there’s no fat. You look the way you always wanted to look. But of course, there’s no way to hold onto that year round. So after the contest is over, you gain fat and pretty soon you start to dislike your body, and that can be really hard. And I think that’s similar to a figure skater who thinks she’s fat even though she’s only 90 pounds. So you start to identify with what causes eating disorders and body image problems in young athletes – especially females.

PN: You mentioned that sometimes coaches need to keep an open mind and look for outside help when needed. What else makes a great coach?

CT: A great coach is someone who’s not self-centered, someone who doesn’t think that one piece of advice is the only way to go. It’s interesting to me that many complaints I receive are based on my advice changing over the years. Sometimes I hear things like, “That program is different than the one you wrote 2 years ago!” Or, “What’s with the carbs? You used to recommend low carbs!” But, I think those changes highlight my strength, which is keeping an open mind. And I think most coaches should strive for that. We have to understand that we don’t always have all the answers. So if I read a book or article by a coach, like say Chad Waterbury, someone with different methodologies, I’m looking to learn something. I like to try out what they say. And if it works, I try to incorporate it into what I do. So I think a great coach is open to changes, is always learning, and is willing to adapt his methods in order to get the most out of his athletes.

Take a sport like football, for example. The difference between the good football coaches and the great football coaches is this: the great coach builds his offensive or defensive system around the athletes that he has. So if a great coach has a great running back and a mediocre quarterback, he won’t use a run and shoot offence, he’ll use a ground-based attack.

Well the same is true with training. You have to work with the athlete’s strengths and weaknesses. So as a coach, you need to understand what your athletes need, and train them accordingly. Your long limbed athletes will have to train differently than your short limbed. Your ectomorphs need to eat differently than your endomorphs. There are all kinds of differences. So the great coach quickly assesses the needs of the athlete as an individual and changes his program accordingly.

PN: Over your career you’ve worked with a large spectrum of clients and athletes and have probably observed certain characteristics that most successful athletes share. What do you see as the common denominator between those who succeed and those who don’t?

CT: Cockiness. I think the common factor is that those who succeed, whether it’s in bodybuilding or sport, are very self-confident. But it’s a very strong self-confidence, it’s unshakeable. And it’s not really arrogance. Successful individuals are just very confident that they’ll succeed. Like in football, the cockiest guys on the field are the defensive backs. They have to be, because even if they’re burned for a long touchdown pass, they have to come back on the field with the same confidence they had before. That’s the mindset that most top athletes have. Nice guys are fine and well as teammates, but if you want to reach the top, you have to believe that you’re never going to fail.

PN: Okay Christian, I’ve gone through most of what I wanted to ask about. Now, I know you do a ton of these interviews and I know that often times the guy doing the interview is asking the wrong questions. So, if you were in my shoes and had to ask yourself one question, which would you ask yourself and what would the answer be?

CT: How do you look so good? [Laughs.] Actually, one question I get from a lot of people is, “Where did you get your knowledge from? What sources do you have?”

A lot of strength coaches base their information and methods on the Russian literature. Others will base it on what they learned in college. Others on some coach they’ve interned with. Me, I’ve accumulated knowledge by learning from everyone. Everyone can teach you something about training. Even the smallest guy in the gym may have some method that can be used successfully. This is where keeping an open mind comes into play. But beyond that, I think you have to read everything you can get your hands on. And if you learn only one new thing in a book, that’s one more thing that you knew yesterday, so the book was worth reading. You do have to be able to understand what’s going to work and what’s not, so that means developing your critical thinking skills. But reading helps with that too. So as a coach, or even as an athlete, you can never stop learning and can never be satisfied with your current level of knowledge.

One thing that always impressed me about the Soviet system was that they also trained their athletes to be coaches, even while they were still just athletes. After coaching sessions, they got physiology lessons, periodization lessons, biomechanics lessons, this great education. So they learned about why they were doing what they were doing, why they were training so hard, and more. And they learned about the differences and similarities between theory and application. Well, no surprise, those athletes made great coaches because while they were building their bodies, they were learning the fundamental knowledge that training is built upon. So anyone with coaching aspirations should do the same.

PN: Christian, this has been awesome. Thanks so much for taking the time out of your day to talk with us, and thanks again for the great program you’ve designed for our Precision Nutrition members!

CT: No problem!

On behalf of all the Precision Nutrition members, a big thanks to Christian for putting together such a thorough training program. To read more from Christian, browse the archives at, where you’ll find years worth of his articles. And to find out more about his books and to order a copies for yourself, visit

Under The Bar with Dave Tate

Q&A with Dave Tate

Precision Nutrition: You’ve spent a career in powerlifting. You’ve been an elite-level competitor, you’ve coach hundreds if not thousands, you’ve written books and hundreds of articles, you’re an entrepreneur – all around if not directly in the world of powerlifting. What drew you to the sport?

Dave Tate: Chaos, I guess. When I was eleven or twelve years old, I got a weight set for Christmas. It was one of those plastic sets. I think it was an uncle that got it for me. And I loved that shit. That was all I did, I trained for like 8 hours a day, did every exercise I could possibly think of. My dad noticed that I really enjoyed doing the stuff, and he happened to be the friend of the chief of narcotics in our town. And this chief was part of this club, called Findlay Barbell Club, which was maybe 800 square feet, a hardcore powerlifting club kinda like a Westside Barbell Club. They set it up so that I could go in and train with these guys. I think I was 13 years old at the time. And when I went in they kinda took me under their wing, and within six months or so I lifted in my first meet. I never really trained with anyone my own age. Everyone was always much older than me. So really from the get go, aside from that time training in my bedroom with the plastic weights, I never really had a time when I would just go into the gym and fuck around. I would go into the gym, and that was it, that was what we were doing: we were training for powerlifting.

For me, I used it to train for wrestling, or to train for football, but then I fell more in love with powerlifting. It got to where I couldn’t wait for the other sports to be over so that I could get back to the gym. So I guess I was just thrown right into the sport at a young age. I loved it.

PN: You started as such a young guy, do remember feeling intimidated walking in to the gym with a bunch of big guys lifting huge weights?

DT: No.

PN: Not at all?

DT: None. I mean, it was a small club, there were only five or six guys. They were strong, but the thing I remember when I walked in there, seeing these guys lift these weights, they seemed like big weights, you know 600 pound squats or whatever it was. But I just wanted to do it. I wanted to be able to be better than they were, stronger than they were. In my twisted 13 year old mind, I figured, “I’m younger than they are, they’re just a bunch of old guys,” you know? I figured that I should easily be able to beat them, and I strove to do that. So they really didn’t intimidate me, but at the same time, they also embraced me. From the minute I walked in there, they were like, “You’re Dave, right?” “Yeah.” “Skip’s son, right?” “Yeah.” “Play football, right?” “Yeah.” “Do you have any idea what you should be doing in here?” “No fucking idea whatsoever.” [Laughs.] Or they’d say, “Do you read the muscle and fitness magazines?” “Sometimes.” “Well don’t read them anymore.” And I’d be like, “Okay, well what are we doing then?” “We’re squatting.” And they just took me in and showed me how to squat, how to bench, how to deadlift. I’m not going to say I picked up on it quickly, it took a while to really get the form locked in, at least to where we thought it was good at the time. I learned 12 years later with Louie Simmons that it wasn’t that good. But it got me going. I just felt like I belonged.

PN: Do you remember your worst day in the gym?

DT: Nah [laughs.] Everyday is a good day in the gym. I mean, I remember injuries, bad workouts, you know, stuff like that. But I can’t remember any specific event that strikes me as bad. And I’ve kinda got this philosophy anyhow that it’s the bad days that make the good days what they are. If they were all good days, then what would a good day really be worth? I remember tons of funny stuff, though. And I guess funny can be bad. I remember doing some chins a long time ago, this was way back in high school, and I threw a bar over the top of the power rack for my chin-up bar. I did the set, no problem. So then after the set I’m standing there talking to one of the guys, and the bar rolls off the rack, hits me square on the head and knocks me out. [Laughs.] That was kinda bad.

PN: How about your best day?

DT: It’s tough to say, there are always days where everything seems to click, everything feels right. But the more experience I got in the sport, the more I realized that when those days come around, those are the days to stop and pull back the reins a little. On those days when everything was going, when you’re on fire, when you’re on top of the world, a lot of times I just closed it down. Because that’s a really strong indicator that everything’s going in the direction you want, and there’s nothing you can do to make it better. All you can do is ruin it, you know, by overtraining or overreaching. Or just by taking advantage of it. A lot of people will have a day where, say their best bench is 405 and they’ve got a meet coming up in six weeks, and they just mash 385. I mean, kill it. The natural tendency is to go 415, 425. But the meet isn’t today. So sometimes it’s better to just pull back on the reins and put it in the meet, which is where it’s supposed to be. There were a lot of days like that.

PN: You’ve had to overcome a ton of obstacles. Even your injuries alone, I can safely say that almost anyone else would have just given up. What keeps you going when things aren’t going your way – when it looks like the deck is totally stacked against you?

DT: That’s interesting, you know. Let me step back a second and say that the injury thing has kinda been taken out of context. People need to remember that I started competing in 1984. I totaled my Elite sometime around ’87. I didn’t have an injury, outside of one pec tear which was actually a result of taking an air conditioning unit down from the ceiling in a bar, I didn’t really have an injury until 1999 or 2000. So you’re looking at 15 to 16 years, totaling elite, with no injuries. So the injuries are more a function of time, in terms of years under the bar, than it is a lack of mobility or warm-up or whatever. And I will challenge anyone who thinks any differently to compete at the top of their game for 16 years injury-free. But the injury thing, it’s just part of the game. It’s a shitty part of the game. Pulling muscles and little mild things like that, it’s more a matter of managing them, because you know they’re going to come. It’s just the severity and the timing that changes. There’s nothing worse than straining a pec four weeks out from a meet. I’d rather strain it two weeks after. But to answer the question, I think it’s just part of the game. If you’re involved in any sport that involves extreme overreaching, and powerlifting is one of those, you have to be able to walk to the edge and see what lies beyond. Too many people don’t get close enough to the edge, and so they never excel. The difference between first place and third place is a really, really fine line, especially in extreme sports. I would say that extends to things like skateboarding, BMX, motocross, anything like that. That edge is there. Now obviously a football player doesn’t want to go to that edge in the weightroom, he wants to be on the edge when he’s on the field. But it’s there, it’s part of it. That’s just how I operate, I guess.

PN: Well even outside the injuries, you talk in your book having a learning disability, but then you’ve gone on to accomplish so much, not only in powerlifting but also as an author, in business, and so on. Do you think that ability to walk to the edge in powerlifting translates to the world outside the gym?

DT: Yeah, I think it does. But it goes beyond that, too. A couple of weeks ago, I was asked what the secret to success is. And the first thing that crossed my mind was, “What the fuck is success to you?” If you think I’m successful, man . . . I don’t. So that may be the first secret, if there is one, that you’re never satisfied. But there are a couple of other things that have helped me over the years. The first is that, well, I know I don’t know anything. While I may think I do from time to time, I don’t. The only thing I really, truly know, is how to test what I’m doing. I know how to quantify it. So be it training, nutrition, business, whatever. I go into everything thinking that I don’t know a fucking thing. Then I start talking to people who claim to know, and I’ll implement what they say. And then I’ll test it. I’ll have indicators I measure to tell me if it’s going in the direction I want, so I can tell if it’s working. And because I don’t know anything, because I don’t allow myself to make intellectual decisions, if those indicators don’t go the way I want them to, I change things! I try to remind myself that I don’t know anything, I try to stay detached enough to view things objectively. If you don’t do that, you’ll never change things, even when they’re not working. You just get stuck in, “It’s gonna work, it’s gonna work, it’s gonna work.” And it’s not.

And in business, everything I’ve ever done, I started by getting in way over my head. I just figured I’d find the people to help me if and when I needed it. And I did. I found advisors, I found mentors, I found consultants. I paid who I had to. I built relationships with who I needed to. And this is key: I don’t take their advice with a “grain of salt.” I don’t pick and choose what to use and what not to, or modify it or whatever. I just listen to them and put it all into play, then I test the outcome. If the outcome is going in the direction I want it to go, we’re good. If not, well, how can I say this politely? “Fuck you. See you later, I’m finding something else to do.” Life’s too short to be banging your head against wall.

A lot of this I’ve learned through the weightroom, most definitely. That’s what strength training is. It doesn’t matter how you lift the weight when the meet comes around, or how you trained to do it, all that matters is whether or not you did it.

PN: I remember back at SWIS last year, you had this great way of categorizing people into four categories, four levels of excellence — or lack thereof, in some cases…

DT: Shit, suck, good, great.

PN: Yeah, that was it. [Laughs.] Can you tell us about those four levels, the difference between them, and how you get from one to the next?

DT: I think that no matter what you’re doing, you fall into one of those levels. Now, I mean, within the realm that we’re discussing, that is. This isn’t a blanket judgment of the person as a whole, like the person is totally shit or whatever. I mean within a specific area, or skill set, or endeavor. Their training may be totally shit, but their diet may be great. Or vice versa. So we need to establish that we’re talking about specific skills here.

But yeah, shit, suck, good, great. I’ll use the example of general fitness. Most people in the United States are shit. I mean, diabetes is on the rise, and . . . well, never mind, everything that could possibly go wrong is going wrong. Diet is definitely a huge problem. And it’s not the only problem. These people aren’t doing anything! They stay indoors, they’re not active, they watch TV, they don’t even walk to their neighbor’s house to talk or maintain any sort of relationship with those around them. If you ask most people who their neighbors are, they don’t even know their names. Everyone is becoming a house rat. Which, by the way, if you’re in the e-commerce industry is not a bad thing. [Laughs.] But that’s kind of what we’ve become. So their fitness is complete shit.

Now if they take the first step, join a gym and so on, well yeah, then they go to suck, because the first step is a big thing. But personally I don’t give a shit about the person who took the first step, I really don’t. [Laughs.] I don’t praise them, and I don’t want to praise them. I know that 99% of people that take that first step are never going to go any further. In fact, they’re probably going to regress. I’m sure you’ve seen this, every trainer or weightlifter in the world has seen it: you’re sitting around the table with some friends and they start asking you about training or nutrition or whatever. First thing that goes through your mind is, “Is this guy really serious, or is he just wasting my time?” because you know it’s going to take more than two minutes to answer the question. So right off the bat you’re trying to gauge if he’s even willing to do what it takes to move past the first step. 99% of the time you’re going to give him the short answer, because you already know it will never go past that. You’ve already spent thousands of conversations laying shit out for people, family members, friends, whoever it is, to have your time just essentially fucking wasted. [Laughs.] Which is what it is! And to make matters worse, they don’t understand that your time is of value, and that it’s what you do for a living. So that’s why I don’t care about those people. You say you’re going to start working out? Great. Your New Year’s resolution is to start working out? Great. I don’t give a shit. In fact, in my business I don’t even target those people. That’s where the biggest market is, by the way, but I don’t want to deal with them.

Now “good.” These people have stuck for a while. They’re actually going to the gym, three or four days a week, for a couple of years. And they’re good. You go in the gym, you’ll find ‘em. Just sit there at five o’clock, during the busy time of any commercial gym. You’re going to see “shit” out the ass. You’re going to see “suck” out the ass. But you’ll also find about five or six “good.” And by “good” in the weight room, what I mean is you’ll see movements that are fluid, that look like they have purpose, they’ll have muscles that are actually contracting, they have control of their body. You could go over and ask them, “Hey, flex your triceps for me,” and they can do it without moving their shoulder or biceps. These people have been doing it for a while, and they’ve got a bit of a passion for it. Those are the people I like. Because those are the people that will take the advice that you give and actually try to use it. Those are the people that you can take from good to great – if they’re willing to put the effort in. But here too, most of these people will just stay at “good,” they won’t be willing to go the distance.

Shit to suck is say 50 or 60 stairs, big stairs. And suck to good, that’s another 50, 60 stairs. I mean, there’s a big difference between the guy who just walked in the gym and says, “I’m gonna do this,” and the guy who actually does it for a few years, and has fluid movements and knows how to control his body. That’s going from a beginner to an intermediate in weight training, and that can be three to five years for some people. More, for others. And a lot of people are content to stay there, and I’m happy with that. I’m cool with that, because for most people, it’s not their life, it’s not their driving passion. It’s just something they really, really love to do. And so that’s where they stay.

Now to go from good to great? That’s only three or four steps. But they’re three or four steps that people aren’t willing to take. Getting down to 10% body fat is no big deal. Going to 3%? That’s a big fucking deal. But the process isn’t any different. The suffering is. You just have to suffer more, suffer longer. You think 30 grams of carbs is bad? Wait until you drop down to none. You’re suffering. Those three steps are when you’re sitting there at night, with cravings out the ass, and the best you can do is cheat and have a sugar-free popsicle, and you have to be content with that. Those three steps are the difference. And those three steps are what make the competitive athlete.

Now there is another step: the extraordinary. And that’s a whole other world. That’s only about half a step. Those are the great athletes that step up and those who go out and change the landscape. And obviously, they’re rare. Real rare. It’s not even another step, it’s just a different intellectual level that most people will never, ever get to in anything they ever do in their lives. But we can see it, we can admire it. That’s when you get the goosebumps, the feeling like you’re watching something truly special. That’s the epitome of sport, the epitome of fitness. And it really has nothing to do with fitness, it’s just heart. You can have a Michael Jordan, who makes everybody want to stand up and say, “wow,” and you can have a Special Olympian do the same thing. It’s just heart. It’s a level you can’t teach, you can just observe.

PN: If you had a dream client or athlete walk into your place, what kind of attitude would you want them to have?

DT: Well, I don’t train anyone any more, I’m done with clients, so there is no dream client for me, mostly because there’s no such thing. [Laughs.] I’ve done that, I’ve worked 40 odd hours a week for seven years doing that, and that’s why I don’t like people in the “shit” category. I love ‘em to death, they’re great people, but… I’m going to change your question and ask, “What would I look for in someone I’d actually train with?” That’s what I’ve always cared about more. Louie told me one time that he’d never train with someone who didn’t scare him a little bit, and I agree with that. In other words, if I’m training with you, and at some point during the workout I think you might snap and hit me over the head with a five pound plate, that’s a good training partner. [Laughs.]

PN: Your book, Under the Bar, was as much about your life as about powerlifting or sport – it was almost a compilation of lessons learned. What compelled you to share those lessons, and your story, with others?

DT: My kids. At the time time that it was written, my health variables weren’t really that good. But my injuries were okay. So I didn’t see “not competing” any time soon. And I’ve been in the sport long enough to know that I’m not that strong, and that the weights that I lifted had a lot to do with mental fortitude and leverage. So I wasn’t going to be competitive if I went down in body weight. And if I’m not competitive, after 20 years, I don’t want to be a part of it. It’s time to step away. So I basically wrote that thinking, my blood pressure’s through the roof, my cholesterol’s through the roof, my enzymes are through the roof – I may not be around that long. And the sick part is that I just accepted that. And I figured, if my kids could just see me compete, then it would be okay, because the greatest lesson I could teach them would be just letting them see me compete. And it took me a long time to realize that this isn’t about me. And when that finally started to come into focus, that’s when I wrote that book. Because who knows what could happen, or when it could happen. Hell, I’m healthy right now, but I could walk out right now and get hit by one of our forklifts. So I wanted to be able to pass on the things that I’ve learned, because nothing for me has been easy. Nothing. And to be honest I don’t think it is for anybody. Some people act like things are easy, and maybe there are a small few who really do have have it easy, but for the vast majority, it’s not that way at all. You’re going to struggle for everything you get. You’re going to have to work for everything you get. So I thought I would write down some of the things I’ve learned, so they’d be able to read it and say, “Here are the values I should build my life around.” They’re the same values I talk about on my website, the same values I built my company around, the same values my employees live by. So that’s how it came about, it wasn’t written to be sold, or even given away, it was written for them. But then a few people read it, and they said, “You have to publish this.” And that’s kind of how it came about.

PN: Not too long ago, you contacted JB and started basically a complete body transformation: from elite powerlifter to a leaner physique built primarily around aesthetics, rehab and getting healthier. What prompted that change?

DT: Actually, I wasn’t an elite lifter when I started, I had already stopped competing. I wasn’t going into it as awful as I might have, but I wasn’t going into it in great shape either. My metabolism wasn’t as high as it once was, but I was consuming the same amount of calories. I feel great now, it’s just different. It was a huge challenge, and I like that, that’s what drives me. For me, I have to test myself, or I won’t stay focused. Even after dieting for 14 weeks doing the Precision Nutrition stuff, I still had to try John’s Get Shredded Plan . I had to. And I’ve learned more from that phase than anything I’ve done diet-wise in my entire life. Because I learned how to get flat. [Laughs.] And how to reload. And if somebody is dieting and worried about how they look, and I know you guys are big on individualization and it’s one of the hardest things to teach, but if you can learn how to push to getting flat, and then stop right at the point right where you don’t get flat, but you’re about to, and then add the carbs to reload, you’ll maintain the same energy but you keep burning fat. I also learned that when it comes to reloading, my body does way better on simple sugars. When I tried reloading on Fruit Loops, my god, it was insane how I looked the next day. But when I tried to reload on rice and pastas, it hardly did anything.

And when that phase was over, I was so depleted in calories that I freaked. My body went from 257 to 285 in three weeks. Which is actually kinda fun. [Laughs.] I remember an email from John saying something like, “Holy shit, you would have had to have eaten in excess of 5500 calories per day, above your actual daily requirements.” And I just thought, “Yeah, that sounds about right.” [Laughs.] But that was also a lesson learned though, because when I started getting ready for this phase, I thought it wouldn’t be hard to get back to where I was. Boy, that’s a crock of shit. [Laughs.] You can put on 30 pounds of pure fat in three weeks. But it’s not coming back off in three weeks. [Laughs.] It took like 12 weeks! Of serious shit! [Laughs.] So I also learned this time through to not get so extreme in the final few weeks so I don’t freak like that. And I had the Get Unshredded Plan, you know. [Editor's note: The Get Unshredded Plan helps you come out of an extreme, temporary diet without rapidly putting weight back on.] You think I’m going to fucking follow that? [Laughs.] When there’s an end date, and I know there’s caramel apples around the corner? [Laughs.]

But I learned a lot, I do feel good. And the one thing that I really noticed is that before I used to basically fall asleep throughout the day, just have crashes all the time, eating like shit. I just didn’t have the energy. But now I have tons of energy. And even though I do take in carbs, it’s still not more than 150 or 200 grams per day, on a high day. It’s funny because people are saying I’m now on a high carb diet, and I’m thinking, what the fuck do you consider high carb? [Laughs.] Because if you think 150 grams is high carb, you’re out of your mind! I’ll show you high carbs! [Laughs.] So yeah, I do feel better, a lot better.

Strength-wise, I don’t have comparisons, because I don’t do anything that even resembles what I used to do. I don’t squat, I don’t bench, I don’t deadlift. And a lot of times people are shocked to hear that. I explain it this way. I heard Jack Nicklaus say in an interview the other day, someone asked if he was playing a lot of golf now that he’s retired. And he just rolled his eyes. He said, “No, I spend time with my kids.” He said, “I might go out on the golf course a couple times a year, that’s it. I spent my whole life golfing.” Well I spent my whole life squatting, benching and deadlifting. So aside from the fact that my shoulder can’t handle them, I really don’t even have a desire to do them. Plus I know now that if I tried to, my strength would be way off what it was before, because now the focus of my training is completely different.

PN: Looking at your journals, looking at your progress reports during that transformation, it’s a pretty amazing change – cholesterol and triglycerides, body fat, all way down. What role did nutrition play in that transformation? How important is nutrition when you’re trying to get healthy and basically transform your entire body?

DT: From a body transformation perspective, it’s fucking huge. It’s huge. People need to have guidelines to help them get going, like the Precision Nutrition kit. They have to have something to get them going. And they also need to pay attention to how they feel, to watch their body fat levels, to watch their skinfold measurements, to watch their circumferences, watch their strength measurements. And to watch the circumference of your leanest body part. Say your skinfold measurements show that your arm is the leanest site on your body. You want to watch the circumference of your arm, because that’s going to give you a great indication of how your muscle mass is changing. There’s not a lot of fat there, so if it gets smaller, you’re fucked. [Laughs.] So you gotta pay attention.

PN: And what if you were still competing in powerlifting, how important would nutrition be there?

DT: I would tend to say that, at least for the super heavyweights, it’s not important at all. I just know what all the guys at the top of the game do. You tell some super heavyweight to eat vegetables, well that’s fine, but they eat the vegetables, which have a low caloric density, and they end up replacing high calorie foods with low calorie foods. And what works for you in things like bodybuilding, body transformation, fat loss, or whatever, that works against you in super heavyweight powerlifting. Plus, the big guys, they’re taking in 10,000 calories. So if they’re not getting the nutrients they need in 10,000 calories, something’s wrong. I mean even a Ho-Ho has to have vitamins in it somewhere. [Laughs.] The one thing I do tell them is, “Look, I’ve been there. I know you’re not going to eat vegetables unless they’re on your hamburger. But let’s at least put some Greens+ and some fiber caps in there. Let’s do something.” I think that’s the first step with these guys, to supplement what they’re not getting. And it’s a band-aid solution, but I think it’s about as much as you’re going to get out of those guys. Now the lighter guys, they need fucking education. Because these are the guys that will wake up, have a hamburger patty for breakfast, a hamburger patty for lunch, and a hamburger patty for dinner. And not eat anything else all day. Because they’re so afraid that they’re going to gain weight and grow out of their weight class. So they need some serious help to get that metabolism back up. So it’s much more important for the lighter guys.

PN: When you got Precision Nutrition, what were your first thoughts about it?

DT: [Laughing.] My first thought? “Fucking John. Why didn’t he just give me the diet? I don’t want to read this shit, just tell me what to do.” [Laughs.] That was my first thought. But then I started looking through it, and reading it, and I really liked it. What I liked is that it gave me choices. Which is kind of a fun thing, because you have all these meals to choose from, all these different ways to get the food you need. I’m a creature of habit, so no matter what choices you give me, I’m still eating a fucking apple every day. [Laughs.] But I know, and it’s refreshing to know, that when I want the choices, I have them. I’m not stuck eating a certain thing, or eating a certain way. And I like how it’s presented in short chunks, because it’s easier for me to digest the information. That’s where Precision Nutrition stands out. The other cool thing about it is the backup services, the forum, the add-on items that you guys keep posting, I mean it’s much more than even the manuals and the cookbook you get in the mail. I’m a raving fan, I’m all about Precision Nutrition. I recommend it to everybody. It’s not about gaining muscle or losing fat, it’s about all of it. It’s about building the baseline for all of those things, and once you’ve got the baseline, the rest is straightforward. People say, “Dave, you’re not on it right now though.” The hell I’m not! It’s the baseline, and I just make adjustments to the baseline to achieve my goals. That’s it.

PN: Last couple of questions. Tell me a bit about the history of your website, By now it’s far and away the best site for strength training equipment, books and products, and you guys supply some of the top training centers in world. How did it come about, and why did you start it?

DT: Years ago, I’d have to say ’98 or ’99, I didn’t even own a computer. I didn’t even really know what a computer was. But my brother worked in the networking department of a major company, and he built a computer for me from spare parts. I think it had like a 486 processor or something. [Laughs.] So I got used to the computer, figured out how to get online, and I start searching for strength training information like any meathead would do. And I find stuff on Westside Barbell and Louie Simmons. And the best site for that at the time was called So I start reading this, and a lot of the information was kind of fucked up. It wasn’t what we were doing. And I knew it wasn’t what we were doing, because I was doing it. [Laughs.] So I sent Jason Burnell an email and said, “Let me send you a template on what we’re doing.” And then that turned into a little Q&A thing where he would send me questions and I would email him the reply. From that Q&A, I was contacted to do a seminar in South Carolina, and at the seminar a bunch of us went out to dinner and a guy asked me if I had ever thought of doing a website. And I said, “Yeah, I’ve thought about it, but I don’t even have a computer that’s worth a shit.” But he told me he had a buddy who had just left a major web development firm to start his own, and he was looking for a project, a beta site or something to use as a portfolio piece to build his business. So he told me he could work something out that would be extremely affordable. So we set up this website, and it was basically Q&A, a lot like the format we still have now, except it was just me answering questions. And after a while, people started asking about products that we used. And I thought, well, why don’t I just get the products? So we put together an online store, and I borrowed some money to buy my first inventory. I think it was something like $500 from my mother-in-law. And so we got started. And then from there, over the next three years, I didn’t make any money, I didn’t lose any money, I didn’t borrow any money. I just did it all myself. I reinvested everything I made in the company. Every dollar that came in just went into new inventory. And new inventory. And new inventory. Then I sought out some good consultants. And we just kept building on the idea that the business we’re in is not the fitness industry, it’s not the equipment industry, it’s not even training. We’re in the PR business: we help people set personal records. That’s what we do. We do that with our equipment, we do that with our articles, we do that with our Q&A. That’s the essence of it, and we’ve stuck to that framework. There are other companies selling equipment. We’re selling a lifestyle. We’re helping people achieve what they set out to achieve, and we help them every way we can.

PN: Well it looks like it’s working, because it’s grown tremendously.

DT: Man, I’m totally amazed at what I’ve been able to accomplish. I believe the more you give out, the more you get in return. I really, truly believe that. And my life is an example. So I’m huge on contribution, and giving back what I’ve been given. Most of things I’ve learned in my life, whether in training, or business or life in general, were gifts given to me by other people. It was the guys taking the 13 year old and not making him feel intimidated in the gym. It was all these people in my life, stepping up at the right time, and saying, “You know what? You’re not stupid. You’re fucking lazy.” And being there for me, helping to guide me along the right path. So I owe them so much. And every time I walk in to work, or I go home, or I get in my car, or I look at my kids and my wife, it acts as a reminder. It’s like a knife twisting in my back, constantly reminding me: “Pay those guys back. Pay them back, pay them back.” Because without that help, I wouldn’t have anything right now. That’s why the Q&A on the site is for free, that’s why I try to help as many people as I can. I try to express that gratitude every day.

PN: Well you’ve definitely shown that again with this program for our members. Dave, thanks again, and thanks so much for taking the time out of your day to talk, I know you’re a busy guy and this is the busiest time of year for you. This has been a real pleasure for me.

DT: Hey, no problem at all. My pleasure.


Our thanks to Dave for putting together this fantastic program. To find out more about Dave, to read his free articles and Q&A’s, and to browse the most comprehesive catalog of strength training equipment and products on the web, visit his site at

Off-Season Training for Athletes with Eric Cressey

Q&A with Eric Cressey

Precision Nutrition: I remember, years ago now, you wrote an article for called Budgeting for Bodybuilders. I loved that article, because a lot of times that’s people’s main excuse for not doing this stuff: “I can’t afford it.” You always seem to be coming up with these cool ways of approaching problems, even tackling the problem outside the gym. I think “strength coach” doesn’t quite capture what you do. If you had to give yourself a different title, what would it be?

Eric Cressey: That’s a good question, I often get another one that gets tossed around a lot now, “Performance Enhancement Specialist.” But even then, I’m not sure that expresses the right sentiment. [Laughs.] But you do these days end up going beyond strength and conditioning, you do end up doing budgeting, because there is a cost associated with this stuff, or sports management, or sports psychology, and you’re working with athletic trainers and head coaches and so many different specialists, and you have to be able to understand where they’re all coming from. So the fitness industry does need to find some way of better classifying people, but I’m not sure there’s an easy way to do it. But it’s funny, when I wrote that article, I actually wanted to be an accountant. [Laughs.] But I realized about two years into business school that I was more interested in counting plates on the bar than numbers and figures in an office all day. So it worked out well, I got into sports management and exercise science, the things I was more passionate about.

PN: What did your counselor in high school tell you you’d be?

EC: Actually, it’s interesting because I didn’t take any science classes in my last year of high school. I was pretty dead set on accounting. I have three accountants in my family, so it might have been genetic or something. I just liked the black and white, crunch-the-numbers aspect of it, and I remember my counselor was all for it. Accounting is a career path that counselors feel comfortable recommending and supporting. I did well in math, I did well in accounting classes, so studying to be an accountant was the next logical step. But I had some health problems near the end of high school and in my freshman year of college, and as a result I lost a lot of weight. It was one of those critical life experiences, and I wanted to gain it back and gain it back the right way. And in doing that, I started to realize how passionate I was, not only about the exercise part of it, but about nutrition as well. So I started to figure out how to put it all together. And ultimately I discovered, and I started talking more and more with John Berardi, and that led to that first article. And it just kind of snowballed from there. It’s been an interesting couple of years, that’s for sure.

PN: Do you remember the first day you picked up a weight?

EC: I do, actually. This is the irony of it all. I was in eighth grade, and my brother, who was a senior in high school at the time, he was a pretty big guy at the time. He was into lifting and everything. He brought me into the high school weight room after school one day. And the irony of it is that now my brother’s an accountant, and he weighs about a buck thirty-five, a buck forty. [Laughs.] He doesn’t really lift any more, not as much as he should, and here I am making a profession of it, and competing as a powerlifter. Times change I guess. But that first day, yeah, it was during one of those stages where you want to piss off your parents, whether it’s right or not. And so I had grown my hair out nice and long, and I have really wiry, curly hair, so it was pretty much a big afro. And I was kind of a pudgy kid at the time. Sure enough I go in and get on the bench press, and it was like a 45 pound bar, and I just got pinned. So here’s this big kid, big afro, beet red face, just squirming like a fish out of water under the bar. [Laughing.] So I’m sure they got a good laugh out of it. But in retrospect, it was a pretty influential moment.

PN: Do you remember maybe your worst mishap in the gym?

EC: Oh yeah, sure. I’ve done some silly stuff. But looking back, it’s always taught me something. I’d say probably the biggest downer was when I pulled 400 pounds for the first time back in 2002, and then about a week later I was in the gym doing my warmup sets on a cold November day, and I was anxious to get back to the house and watch some football, so I didn’t warm up like I should have. And I ended up herniating my L5-S1 disc doing a warm up set of 185. [Laughs.] A long story short, I ended up learning a lot about lower back rehabilitation, I did all my own rehab, and I wound up bouncing back. And I’m pulling right around 650 right now. So in retrospect, it was really a blessing in disguise. You never think it’s going to be like that, but that’s how it goes, you know. I learned so much about how to warm up properly, and it turned out that I had some imbalances that were predisposing me to the problem in the first place. But hindsight is 20/20. Like I said, I learned a lot from the experience.

PN: Do you remember maybe your best day, a day where you thought to yourself, “Yep, this is what I want to do”?

EC: Oh yeah, I have those all the time. A lot of them for me have been as a coach, and not just as a lifter. I mean, I’ve had meets where I went 8 for 9, you know, really performed well and everything. Times when I really felt in sync. But I’ve felt it more so as a coach, you know, you get in the groove, and you barely realize you’re having so much fun, because you’re so into what you’re doing. But from a lifter’s standpoint, my first meet stands out, it really had a big impact on how my career went, and it forced me to look at how I did things and really change for the better. I had a lot of experienced lifters who I’d never met before take me under their wing, teach me things I didn’t really know. I learned about the fitness-fatigue model, and how you know, I had accumulated a lot of fatigue over the years, and maybe that bodybuilding stuff had caught up to me. So it was really critical to just get out there and compete for the first time, to go through the whole process.

PN: You work one-on-one with a ton of athletes as sort of a cross between strength coach and physical therapist. Where do you fit in along that spectrum?

EC: Well I’m not a therapist, I’m not a PT or anything like that, but that’s a good question because a lot of what I do does fall somewhere between the two ends. I think I have a keen eye for dysfunction, and helping out with that. I mean, if someone tears a labrum, there’s not a whole lot I can do about that, but what I can do is look at someone and see a scapular dysfunction that might make them susceptible to a tear, and I can definitely work with that. And at the other end of the spectrum, you know, often you have people getting acute treatments from the medical profession, and you still have to know how to produce a training effect in the meantime. You still have to shore up the weaknesses and deficiencies that got them there in the first place, and that’s where I come in, I think. A lot of people don’t realize that 80% of Americans have back pain at some point in their lives. But we can’t send 80% of the population to physical therapy. There’s a lot we can do to address that in the gym, so I see myself covering that gap. But at the same time, I’ve got plenty of athletes who are healthy and just looking to improve their performance, so that’s still a big part of what I do.

PN: Who are you doing most of your work with these days?

EC: Everyone from elite athletes to weekend warriors, I’ve worked with NBA guys, NFL combine guys, D1 baseball guys. Athletes of all ages, really. Boston has a big endurance training community, so I work with a lot of cyclists, runners, and triathletes. And I really enjoy working with my high school athletes. Actually we’re just going to start working with the Blue Man group next week, so that will be interesting. So it’s not even just athletes. I’m lucky, I get a lot of variety in my day.

PN: Were you always strong and athletic growing up?

EC: No, I wasn’t necessarily your typical athletic kid. I didn’t really eat very well. But I was always out there, moving around, doing a lot of different things, so I was athletic, but I didn’t really get into weight training until after high school. So I didn’t have that early start that some people had. But I feel like I’ve still got a lot of good years ahead of me, I’m still making good progress. And I find it exciting, you know, because I’m always trying out different methodologies and things like that. I do consider myself an athlete first and a powerlifter second. I’m not really sure that I want to be a powerlifter forever, I might want to try some strongman soon, or do some vertical jump stuff, you know, I just want to go out there and enjoy being athletic. It’s cool training around here, because I’ll jump in with the athletes and train with them too. I just want to keep pushing myself, keep trying new things, and keep going for many years to come.

PN: Yeah, you’re still pretty young – what’s your secret to national recognition at such a young age?

EC: Probably sacrificing the social life, I’d say. [Laughs.] No, I’ve just been really fortunate, and I’m lucky enough to have a job I love. I get to train athletes. To me, there’s nothing better than that. But if there’s one thing, I think it’s that I keep trying to learn more. I’m not satisfied with what I know now. One of the problems with training clients and charging an hourly rate is that you get working so hard, you’re training clients all the time, and yeah it may be all well and good from an income standpoint, but you’re not really continuing to educate yourself. You train people all day, go to sleep, wake up in the morning and do it again. And that does you no favors. Where’s your chance to read? Where’s your chance to call other coaches, or attend seminars, or things like that? So for me, the Internet has actually been helpful in the sense that it’s opened my life up to other opportunities to get better as a coach. So I’ll try to regularly set aside a day to go travel, maybe up to UConn or to see Mike Boyle over at BU, or even set aside a day to call other coaches just to talk about what they’re doing, what I’m doing, what’s working and what’s not working. So that’s helpful. A lot of trainers can get swept up in training people and don’t leave the time for continuing education. But apart from the time commitment, I think I also approach things from a writer’s mindset, I’m always looking for new ways to do things, new insights and interesting ideas to bring to the public, and I think that forces me to stay on the ball. And the thing about writing for the Internet is that you get instant feedback. I mean I’m sure you guys see this, you publish something and you can get people from all over the world giving you feedback instantaneously, and it pushes you to respond to them, to address their questions and to refine your ideas. There’s no other way I could get that kind of feedback in person, and I definitely couldn’t get it in those kinds of numbers. There’s no other way to test your programs and ideas on a sample size that large. So on the Internet you have more opportunities to test out your ideas and see if they have merit. And it’s iterative, you can go back and forth, bring things from the net into the gym with your local athletes, and from the local athletes back to the net and that huge sample size, constantly testing and refining. You guys have probably found the same thing with nutrition. So the web has played a big role in speeding up the process for me, for sure.

PN: Speaking of nutrition, how big a part does nutrition play into what you do on a daily basis, both personally as an athlete and professionally as a coach?

EC: It’s huge, in fact I don’t think people realize how important it is to their overall progress. The overwhelming majority of problems we see in our society are related to systemic inflammation to some degree. Just look at omega-3 to omega-6 ratios, I’ve seen people dramatically improve arthritis and a number of other conditions with just the addition of fish oil. And really it just comes down to this: if you put junk in your body, you’re going to get junk results. When I was writing this program for the Precision Nutrition members, one of the first things I say in there is that, you know, this is a good program, but it will be an incredible program if you dial in your nutrition. And that’s what Precision Nutrition is all about. We sit down and have conversations with all of our combine guys, and we say to them flat out, “For the next couple of months, you’re going to drop what you’re doing now cold turkey, and you’re going to eat the way we tell you to eat.” We have this one kid who just started up with us, and the first meeting, he walks in with Twizzlers in one hand and M&M’s in the other. [Laughs.] And the thing is sometimes they can get away with it for a short time, or while you’re young. This kid in particular is lean, he’s a monster in the gym. But so is everyone else at the highest level, and if you want to beat those guys, you can’t leave any stone unturned. You’ve got to provide your body with the raw materials it needs to push the outer limits of human performance. If your nutrition is poor, or mediocre, or just okay, and really for most athletes it is, then you have a lot of untapped potential in there. There’s a big difference between acceptable and optimal, and it’s those who realize that and take that step who really set themselves apart.

PN: You have almost an obsession with biomechanics. Were you calculating joint forces on your GI Joes at age 6?

EC: No, I hope not. [Laughs.] Maybe subsconsciously I was. But for me the real turning point was when I transferred out of business school to do my exercise science degree at the University of New England, which happened to have one of the best medicine programs in the country. And so I got to take Gross Anatomy, and I spent 6 months of my life working with cadavers. I was surrounded by physical therapists, athletic trainers, occupational therapists, pre-med students. I was immersed in an environment where anatomy was first and foremost. And then I started to learn how the body moves, I started going beyond the anatomy itself. Structure dictates function, and function obviously dictates dysfunction, so it’s important to differentiate between functional anatomy and the stuff you find in an anatomy textbook. The body isn’t a two-dimensional sheet of paper. You also have to understand compensation patterns, things like that, and the only way to do that is to look at a lot of different athletes, to experiment and see what works and what doesn’t. And that’s led to a lot of the things that Mike [Robertson] and I have done, like the seminars and DVDs. It’s not just about origin, insertion, innervation and action, it’s also about what happens when muscle A doesn’t work. What does muscle B do to compensate? Does it shut down, or ball up, etc? And most importantly, what can you do to correct it?

PN: Speaking of which, you guys have put out some great stuff. We recommend the Magnificent Mobility DVD and the Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual to all our athletes. What inspired you to put these together, and what else can we expect from you in the future?

EC: Well, I guess the Mobility DVD was kind of the first step in all of this, and for Mike and I it was our first venture into information products. There’s a lot of stuff that we use with our clients and athletes, and also just stuff that we picked up from our interactions with physical therapists, chiropractors, and a lot of others professionals. And so this was a comprehensive way to bring all of those ideas together. The cool thing about it was, when we originally introduced it, it was intended to be sort of a warm-up DVD, something to teach people how to get the body moving more efficiently, something to get people prepared before they lift, but after the fact we got all this feedback and email from people saying things like, “Hey thanks guys, my hamstring problem is gone,” or, “Awesome, my back doesn’t hurt now.” And we never intended it to be a rehabilitation program. We hoped it would have a moderate impact, but we never promoted it as some sort of way to treat injuries. But sure enough people were contacting us and thanking us for having solved this or that problem. That was a little unexpected to be honest, but very cool. So it’s been pretty successful. You know, it’s funny though, after that was published, I kind of got labeled, “The Mobility Guy.” People want to pigeonhole you. So the Off-Season Manual is nice because it allows people to see the overall programming for athletes, and mobility work is maybe 3-5% of that. The Off-Season Manual opens people up to the other 95% of what I do with our athletes. Everything has its place, and it’s important to get perspective, to see what components are involved and to see what the place is for each component that goes into preparing an athlete for elite sport. So that’s what the Off-Season Manual does, it looks at the complete program, and that’s been a lot of fun for me.

PN: What are your ultimate career and athletic goals?

EC: Well, athletically, I think competing as a strongman would be fun. I mean, ultimately I’d like to be a guy who can say I deadlifted 700 pounds, I had a 40” vertical, and I competed as a strongman. To me that would be ideal. I like the variety. And also, I train athletes with a lot of different goals, and I want to have a frame of reference for everything that they have to go through. So I think having that experience and staying competitive will help me with my athletes. Professionally, you know, I never expected the Internet stuff to take off like this. I actually had to bring someone on to help me with it, because I don’t have it in me to be an Internet-only kind of guy. I need to be in the gym, or on the field, I need to be working with athletes. I have to train people. I’m a coach first and foremost, a writer or whatever else second. I would ideally love to work with athletes all day, and that’s pretty much where I’m going. So I’d just like to stay the course and see where it goes, keep giving everything I’ve got to any athlete who’s motivated enough to put in the work, and just let it snowball from there. Hopefully that somehow that results in a huge empire. [Laughs.]

PN: If you had a dream client, what kind of attitude would you want them to have?

EC: If you read Brian Grasso’s stuff, he talks about how you can classify every athlete according to motivation and skill. So obviously your high motivation, high skill athlete is ideal. The low motivation athlete, you definitely don’t want to work with those. They need to convince themselves that they need to be there before you can help them. Personally, I like any athlete with high motivation, whether they’re low skill or high skill doesn’t matter. The difference is that it’s pretty easy to bring the low skill guys up if they’re motivated. And I like a challenge, so I really enjoy working with the high skill guys because it really pushes you to be that much better. Because really if you’re working with low skill athletes, you can give them mediocre programs and they’re still going to get better. But I’m working with a kid now, for example, who squats 675 at just under 200 pounds. He’s a D-III kid who wants to go to the NFL. And it’s going to be a big stretch for him. He’s a great weight room guy, great attitude, but he’s coming from a D-III program, so he’s not going to get the attention he deserves. So he’s high motivation, high skill. So that pushes me, I’ve got to put together an optimal program for him. It’s not going to do much for him to take his squat from 675 to 700. Does that really matter in the grand scheme of things? Not really. What I need to do is look at the other components that are really going to make him better, because he’s so strong it might actually be slowing him down out there. So we’re doing a lot of work with rate of force development, hit mobility, pure soft tissue work, a lot of reactive stimuli, things like that. What would work for a high motivation, low skill athlete, there’s no way it would work for him. So it forces me to really be on the ball with my program, to adapt my programming a lot quicker, and I like that a lot. And typically a high motivation, high skill athlete will come in and they’ll have questions. They don’t just want to know what, they want to know why, they want to know when, they want to know everything they can do to get better. And luckily we’ve got a lot of guys down here who are great like that.

PN: What’s the common denominator among those who achieve the lofty goals they set for themselves, be it in strength training or athletics, fat loss, whatever — what separates them for the rest?

EC: I think the key is synergy among all the different components. They understand how the nutrition interacts with training, how it interacts with supplementation, with warm ups, soft tissue work, all that. Everything. And that to a large extent is how we try to model our business. Working with Carl Valle, Carl’s an excellent strength coach, obviously, he’s excellent with recovery protocols, regeneration, etc., and that really complements my abilities, like biomechanics, building maximal strength, working with athletes in the weight room context. So I know that in a combine situation, for example, we might have a kid in, and I can help him with his diet and do all this weight room work, and when the time is right, we can pass him out to the track and Carl can do more work with him out there. And all along, Carl is optimizing his recovery. It’s critical to have your bases covered, to have that synergistic process. These days, the ones that don’t have that are likely going to fall short. And for the lay population, people who don’t have one-on-one coaches covering all these different facets all the time, those are the people who really need to go out and get smart about all these areas. They need to learn everything they can about nutrition and nutrient timing, training methodologies, supplementation, and how they all interact. If you can do that and put it into practice every day, you’ll accomplish way more than you ever thought possible.

PN: Eric, thanks again for taking time out of your day, and thanks again for the fantastic program you put together for the Precision Nutrition members. We really appreciate it.

EC: No worries, great chatting with you. It’s been my pleasure.

Our thanks to Eric for all his hard work in putting together this program for our members. To learn more about Eric, visit his website at Eric can also be found training clients at Excel Sport & Fitness in the Boston area, and is the co-creator of the Magnificent Mobility DVD and the author of the Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual for athletes, both of which are uniformly excellent and highly recommended.