Thursday, July 1, 2010

An Interview with Anthony Renna

1. Anthony thank for your time. Could you give my readers your background, and how you came to be a strength and conditioning coach?

I was in the bar/restaurant business for a long time, and as I got older, I got really tired of being in that atmosphere. I grew up playing a lot of different sports, loved being active and worked out with a trainer a little in my early 30’s. I decided that I would get certified as a trainer, just to see how I liked it. I figured that in the very least, I would learn how to workout better. Once I got certified, I was fascinated by what I was learning and I started to go to a bunch of continuing education workshops, anything and everything. I got a job with a big chain that had great in-house education and continued to attend whatever I could. I went to a Gray Cook lecture and he mentioned new books by Mike Boyle (Functional Training for Sports) and Mark Verstegen (Core Performance). I got them and that changed everything for me. Those books shaped the direction I would go with my training.

2. What, in your opinion, is the biggest problem you see within the fitness industry today?

Trainer impatience. I think trainers don’t spend enough time learning and exploring different philosophies and styles because they just want to get into it, train as much as they can and make as much money as they can. Going back to Coach Boyle’s “Should You Stick to the Recipe?” article, trainers are trying to be Chef’s before learning how to cook. It’s a process. Everyone wants take the short cut right to “expert.” We can talk about a central governing body all we want, but we need to hold ourselves accountable as individuals and as an an industry.

3. You recently opened a new facility (congrats by the way). Could you give us a summary of what it is like to run and own a business?

Thank you. Having the facility has been an amazing experience. It’s a lot of hard work and there are a ton of suprises everyday, but it’s very rewarding. I think it has to be in your DNA to have your own place. I’m a little bit of a “know-it-all” so I like being the guy making the decisions. The cool thing is that there are so many resources and opportunities to learn the business part of fitness, from guys like Alwyn Cosgrove, Thomas Plummer, Coach Boyle and Pat Rigsby, that it is becoming easier to make it work. We used to have a saying in the bar and restaurant business. “Just because you know how to cook, doesn’t mean you should open a restaurant.” You need to learn basic business principles. I don’t care if you run a pet store, the fundamentals of business are the same, you have to understand that. Training is the easy part.

4. Who has had the biggest influence on you as a coach?

Mark Verstegen and Gray Cook are up there but definitely Coach Boyle. It actually has nothing to do with his training philosophies and programs, although if you looked at my program design you would know where it came from. It has more to do with who he is as a person and how he handles himself in every aspect of his life. His ability to admit being wrong and change, his willingness to help anyone and everyone out at any time, his commitment to his family and his ablity to separate “disagree from dislike” (which I still struggle with) have all been qualities that I have tried to replicate and have made me a better person and coach.

5. What are you all-time favourite books in the following areas:

- Strength Training: Functional Training for Sports, Core Performance, Advances in Functional Training
- Physical Therapy Rehabilitation: Athletic Body in Balance
- Business: Purple Cow- Seth Godin, 55 Strategies- Alwyn Cosgrove
- Nutrition : Precision Nutrition, Food Rules (Michael Pollan)
- Random: Tipping Point- Gladwell, Blink- Gladwell, On the Road- Kerouac, The Zen of Oz, The Tao of Pooh

6. What do you do to for your continuing education (Seminars attended etc)?

I consider the Perform Better Summit an absolute must. It is the greatest collection of coaches, trainers and therapists and Perform Better runs a great show. It helps being the host of the Strength Coach Podcast because I get to speak to: a) Coach Boyle once every 2 weeks just about training, b) a different college or professional strength and conditioning coach about what they’re doing, c) Alwyn Cosgrove about business and d) Gray Cook about movement! It’s pretty crazy. Doing has been great as well because I get to see 3-4 presentations a month from the worlds top strength pros. The articles and the forum on has been an amazing way to keep up with current info. I consider the forum “the best place to learn from the best strength coaches and therapists you’ve never heard of.”

7. What resources that are out there, would you recommend to young up and coming coaches (Podcasts, Websites, Blogs, Products)?

I think anything that’s free for young coaches is the best place to start. Kevin Larrabee’s “The Fitcast”, Patrick Ward and Keats Snideman’s “Reality Based Fitness”, Mike Robertson’s “In the Trenches” and “The Strength Coach Podcast” are all free. There is no reason to not be able to listen to all of those. There is no excuse not to have every episode in their iPod’s. Same thing with blogs. You can get a ton of info from Coach Boyle, Eric Cressey, Alwyn Cosgrove, Mike Robertson, Jason Feruggia and the list goes on.

8. Could you give my readers a basic summary of what your methodology on training is (eg. how do you assess, and design, and periodize programs)?

I mostly work with golfers so I use a modified version of the Titleist Performance Institute assessment first. I take the results of that assessment and plug in some of the things that I feel the athlete/client needs into my template. Basically, I have everyone working on tissue quality as soon as they walk in, then move to some joint mobility exercises for the ankle, hip, thoracic spine and shoulders. After that I combine more mobility exercises with stability (bridges, planks, quadruped, farmer’s walks, belly press) and activation (standing T’s, mini-band activations, lateral & Monster walks) exercises with the exercise selection based on the assessment. This will take about 20-25 minutes. If they have built a good base of mobility, stability and strength, then go into some plyos for for lower body power and med ball throws and upper body power. (With my clientele, it’s rare that I am using O-lifts). After power, I go onto my strength circuits, basically working 2 quad sets in phase 1 of 1) upper body exercise paired with a 2) lower body exercise, 3) a corrective stretch or movement pattern and 4) a golf pattern drill. I save my ESD work for the last part of the workout, working some intervals in.

9. If you had to pick one exercise, and one exercise only, what would it be and why?

Kind of a combination Turkish Get Up with Waiter’s Carry, (basically an overhead farmer’s walk). When you think bang for your buck, I am not sure if there’s anything better.

10. Last question. What advice would you give to other young coaches, like myself getting into the field?

1) Keep learning. Beg, borrow and steal to go to every workshop or conference you can. Visit other coaches or in the very least call them or email them. Most coaches are cool. Try to network as much as possible and think outside the box by reading all kinds of books- business, self help, biographies, etc.

2) I love what Thomas Plummer says, “Bring It All.” Show some pride and try to be the best you can be.

3) Most of all, be patient. Do your thing, keep your nose to the grindstone and good things will happen. Keep your eyes open for opportunities and they will come. A good example of that in my life is when Coach Boyle switched over from a free forum, to a paid membership site. Everyone was bitching and moaning to him because they didn’t want to pay him a lousy 10 bucks a month. Instead, I saw an opportunity and called him to tell him that he should have a podcast for the site and I could do it for him. It would give him lots of exposure and we could get a sponsor so it wouldn’t cost him anything. He was open minded enough to just go with it even though he had no idea what a podcast was! The podcast has led to so many other opportnities for me that I was able to open a studio because I knew I had additional sreams of revenue to fall back on. I was patient and a jumped on an opportunity that has paid off incredibly.

RB: Anthony, thank you so much for your time. Where can my readers find out more about you?

AR:You can see my studio at, the podcast at, and the online continuing ed resource,

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