Tuesday, July 20, 2010

An Interview with Mark Young

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

Hey Robbie, thanks for inviting me to do this interview!

Basically, I did my undergrad in kinesiology and planned all the way along to get my PhD and become a professor or at least remain in academia. I loved research and exercise physiology so I figured this would be a great way to blend the two together.

In the year between my undergrad and grad school I started doing personal training at a large commercial gym and I began to “battle test” the stuff I learned in school which was a big wake up call for me. Despite having learned all sorts of great stuff, I still got pinned under 135 on the bench press. This is where my “under the bar” learning began and where I started to meld theory with practice.

Shortly after I started grad school I was able to rent space from a colleague at his facility and left the big box gym behind so I was juggling school and a business which was pretty tough. However, about two months out from the completion of my Master’s my father passed away and I was completely devastated.

This was the real turning point for me. I had one of those powerful moments when you reflect on your life and ask yourself if this is what you REALLY want to be doing. In my case, it wasn’t. I couldn’t imagine life without training and helping others so I left school immediately and started training full time. I haven’t looked back ever since.

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

The biggest problem to me is the disgusting nature of the commercial weight loss programs being marketed on every TV station, web page, and Twitter account. Despite their growing numbers, our society is getting more and more obese. But, of course, the internet marketers and “fitness experts” don’t really care to change their practices as their primary interest is the almighty dollar.

The bottom line to me is that policies have to change and there are certainly many other areas that need to be addressed outside of the fitness industry, but we as fitness professionals have a responsibility to stop selling fad fat loss programs and diets to the public. To me, if a plan implies rapid fat loss it is a short term solution and I’d wipe my ass with it before I’d give it to a friend.

Wow...sorry. I get a little fired up about this stuff.

I too would rather wipe my ass with short term solutions!!

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

Every day my wife and daughter inspire me to continue doing what I do. They are the reason I get up every morning.

With regards to knowledge, my grad school advisors Dr. Stuart Phillips and Dr. Martin Gibala taught me to critically read the science behind any training or nutrition plan so I owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude as well. Everything I read or hear goes through the BS filtering system that I learned from them.

With regards to training, I’ve had so many influences over the past 10 years and many of the people I used to look up to have fallen from my list as time has passed. Currently, the people that influence me the most are guys like Mike Robertson, Mike Boyle, Nick Tumminello, John Berardi, Alan Aragon, Lyle McDonald and other up and comers that I get to talk to like Bret Contreras, Patrick Ward, Carson Boddicker, and many I’m probably forgetting. (Sorry guys and gals. You know who you are.)

Shirley Sahrmann and Stuart McGill’s books have possibly shaped the way I train people more than any other single text so I suppose you could consider them major influences too. When dealing with being overweight and obesity, Dr. Arya Sharma is incredible and I think anyone dealing with weight loss should read his blog.

4. Sometimes there seems to be a huge gap between some physical therapists and strength and conditioning coaches. How in your opinion can this gap be bridged?

To be honest, I’m not sure that there really is a large gap in terms of knowledge these days. More and more trainers are learning more about physical therapy and some are getting pretty damn good at it. I think the problem lies with the fact that some coaches are overstepping the perceived scope of their practice and it is leaving some PTs with a bad taste in their mouth.

To bridge the gap I think that coaches and therapists have to come together and have a symbiotic relationship where they benefit from one another instead of competing. Any trainer worth their salt will know when to refer out. The best ones even have a network of people to refer to. I think PTs also need to do the same. I’m sure the best ones do.

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

- Strength Training:I have to be honest here and say that I haven’t read a whole lot of books in this area. Most of my learning here comes from journals and experience. If I had to suggest content to read, I’d suggest anything by Dave Tate.

- Physical Therapy Rehabilitation:Shirley Sahrmann’s Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes. Hands down!

- Nutrition:Again, mostly influenced by journals here. I really love all the stuff I’ve read by John Berardi, Lyle McDonald, and Alan Aragon. Martin Berkhan is someone I’m really following too. He’s all about intermittent fasting and wicked smart when it comes to the science behind his methods. The guy is shredded all year.

- Business:The Emyth Revisited by Michael Gerber is the best business book I’ve read. If you are thinking of opening a training studio I highly suggest reading this first and do everything he says.

- Random:I love anything by Malcolm Gladwell. I took me too long to pick up one of his books despite numerous recommendations. Once I did, I was hooked.

Being a complete self improvement geek I also read almost any book in this area.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a must read. I also think everyone in a serious relationship should read and actually do The Love Dare. It has some big time religious underpinnings (don’t say I didn’t warn you), but it is great for any couple looking to further strengthen their relationship whether it is already strong or struggling. My wife and I are rock solid, but we found it fun and interesting to work through.

I also have a bunch of Dr. Phil books. (Yeah...I know. I told you I was a geek.)

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

Being that I live in Canada, I don’t do much travelling to the bigger seminars in the US. I do attend some smaller ones here, but I tend to rely more on my contact with others in the fitness industry than on seminars. I feel that I learn more from this type of interaction than seminars.

I’m more of a read (or hear) and test kind of person. I have the good fortune at this point in my career to chat and share resources with a lot of bright people. Once I have the information, I don’t need someone to tell me what works. If it sounds scientifically valid, I try it and measure the outcome. Experience really is the best teacher.

On top of that I read AT LEAST an hour per day and own literally hundreds of training related texts, ebooks, DVDs, etc.

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

StrengthCoach.com is a great place to start. Interaction with other coaches who have been in the trenches for years is priceless. I don’t think there is a time that I’ve logged in and not learned something. You can also connect with so many great people. I hear that Robbie Bourke guy hangs out there too. ;-)

As far as sites go, I read TMuscle, WannaBeBig, and a few others to see what’s hot in the industry and who is coming up.

I have a ton of blogs that I subscribe to and they pop up in my feed reader every time something is posted. I subscribe to Mike Roberston, Eric Cressey, Bret Contreras, Mike Boyle, Patrick Ward, Carson Boddicker, Charlie Weingroff’s just to name a few. I probably subscribe to at least 50.

Products are subject to individual needs, but I suggest everyone entering business read the Emyth Revisited and I’m a big fan of Assess and Correct by Robertson, Cressey, and Hartman as this system is very similar to my own.

8. If you could chose one exercise, and one exercise only, what would it be and why?

If I had to pick one exercise for the North American public it would be tricep table push-aways. Place palms firmly against table and push. Repeat as necessary. For everyone else, it would probably have to be the Turkish Getup.

Ah the old push away exercise. Great for losing body fat!

9. 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) ?

How about I fax you a novel? The truth is that I probably couldn’t write down my methodology as fast as it changes in my mind. Yet, the core principles remain the same and rarely change for any population I train.

- Assess
- Set long term goals (1 year or more)
- Break long term goals into short term benchmarks
- Create plan and focus on actions instead of outcomes
- Reassess
- Continue plan or revise based on outcomes in relation to goals
The specifics are where it gets messy and these are all dependent on who I’m dealing with.

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

Be passionate

Learn ferociously and never stop

Check your ego and avoid putting down others in the industry - it makes you look bad

Connect with others and learn from them - most are friendly and willing to help you out

Blog - writing stuff down will help you solidify your thoughts

Actually train people – there is no substitute for experience

RB:Mark, thank you so much for your time. Where can my readers find out more about you, and any projects that you may have coming up?

MY: Thanks for having me Robbie! It was a pleasure to do this. Your readers can find me and sign up for my newsletter at http://www.markyoungtrainingsystems.com/.

1 comment:

  1. "To me, if a plan implies rapid fat loss it is a short term solution and I’d wipe my ass with it before I’d give it to a friend. "

    what exactly do you mean by this? are you trying to say that you don't believe it is possible to lose fat quickly in any circumstances? i don't really understand this at all... i'm sure there are plenty of people that would agree that rapid fat loss is definitely possible in the right conditions. in fact, you mentioned you're a fan of lyle mcdonald and he even has a whole book dedicated to the sole topic of rapid fat loss.