• TrainerTalkBannerTrainer Talk | Matt Berenc

    Matt Berenc, BS, CSCS, NSCA-CPT 

    Matt Berenc earned his Bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science with an emphasis in Exercise Physiology from the University of Missouri – Columbia. Berenc has been certified through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) for 12 years as a NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer® (NSCA-CPT®). He also has been certified through the NSCA as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® (CSCS®). Berenc is also a Functional Movement System (FMS) specialist, a Precision Nutrition Level 1 coach, and a StrongFirst Kettlebell Instructor Level 1.  

    For the last nine years, he has worked for Equinox Fitness as a personal trainer, personal training manager, and educator. In these various roles, Berenc has had the opportunity and honor to impact many people, whether they are clients or other personal trainers. 

    1. Describe a typical day in your life 
    My normal day starts at 7:00 AM and lasts until around 6:00 PM. During that time, I am doing everything from working with clients, to meeting with members of our gym to discuss their goals, to educating my training staff. I will generally train 2 to 3 clients a day and work with another 2 to 3 of my personal trainers on education or programming.  
    During this time, I am also trying to fit in my own workouts, some time to read or study so I can stay on top of my game and, of course, time to eat. Each day tends to be pretty packed but it is also fun, you cannot help but to enjoy yourself when you spend your day in a gym helping people move, learn, and better themselves. 
    2. What attracted you to a career in personal training? 
    I would say the biggest initial driver in getting me to be a personal trainer was my family. I am the youngest of four boys and grew up in a military family; needless to say we were a very active group. My parents always had us outside playing sports and being involved in anything we could.  
    When I was about 10 years old, my brothers instructed me that I had to start lifting weights or else and with that wonderful encouragement I picked up my first barbell with the cement filled weights and never looked back. I took the strength I gained to rugby, wrestling, boxing, and running, and along the way would help my friends and teammates with their workouts.

    It was this ability to help other people reach their goals and better themselves that really attracted me to become a personal trainer.  
    When I went to college I focused my studies on exercise science and nutrition and realized that personal training could really be a long term career. Knowing that I could not work in an office, I decided right then that the fitness industry was for me. After graduating, I started working as a personal trainer in St. Louis, MO until I relocated to Los Angeles, CA and began my career with Equinox Fitness. 
    3. Why did you decide to become an NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer? Has your NSCA membership and/or certification helped you? If so, how? 
    The reason I decided to become a NSCA-CPT® is simple, it was at the top of the food chain when it came to certifications. The NSCA is seen as a leader in the world of personal training and strength and condition so it made sense to go with the best. It is because of this certification that I was able to get some of the jobs I have had. 
    4. Who has had the greatest impact on your career? 
    It is not a “who” but a “what,” Equinox Fitness on the whole has had the greatest impact on my career. I list the entire company because as a result of working for Equinox I have had the chance to meet and work with so many wonderful people that I consider both friends and mentors. I can honestly say that if it was not for Equinox that I would not be the trainer I am today, and I am not saying this because I still work for the company.  
    I do not know anywhere else that will provide such a laser focus on education and improvement for their trainers–and it is not only education, but opportunity as well. I have had the chance to meet with the best of the best in our field and work directly with them. This has led me to understand, on a much deeper level, what it is to work with clients and how to change their lives. 
    5. In your opinion, what are the three most important qualities that a successful trainer must have?  
    The three most important qualities a trainer can have are 1) Humility; 2) An open mind; and 3) Passion for improvement. There are many other qualities that help but if these three are present you can cover a lot of ground and really push the limits of your abilities. 
    6. What does a typical training session with you consist of? As a personal trainer, what are your key strengths? Are there any areas you would like to improve? 
    A normal training session is an hour long and is based on the goals and needs of the clients. We normally start off with our prep work and corrective exercises based on the information gained from their FMS. From there we go into the body of their strength training program.  
    The movements chosen for their program are based on the fundamental patterns of human movements and are geared towards keeping them engaged in what they are doing. My goals is to get intensity from the training but also the ability to develop a skill. I want the client to be focused on what they are doing and learning so it has the greatest carryover to their daily life.

    I would say my key strength is in the observation and understanding of basic movement patterns largely using the FMS. There are so many compensations that the average client builds up as a result of their daily stresses (e.g., office, car, family, sports, etc.) that we need to make sure they can move well before we start to give them intensity. One of my favorite quotes from Gray Cook is “don’t put fitness on top of dysfunction.” I think the more we teach this to our clients, the better they all will be.
    7. How do you stay current on what is happening in the industry?  
    There are a couple of ways I try to stay current in the industry. For one, I try to attend as many workshops and seminars as possible. The best way to learn is to get the information directly from the expert; this can be in the form of a lecture or hands-on work. I also seek out those experts that are local and open to meeting.  
    There are a lot of people that are the “quite leaders” that you can learn tremendous amounts from; you just need to find them. Lastly, I read and read and read some more; and I do not mean just training books but I read everything. I want to learn about all elements that can impact a client’s success: nutrition, program design, coaching strategies, behavior change, anything.  
    There is always something that can be learned and applied, you just have to be open to accepting the information and utilizing it. 
    8. Fitness trends come and go, how do you decide what to use and what to discard?  
    I try to use a couple of different tactics to help determine what I incorporate and I what I discard. First, I look at the research—has anyone anecdotally or clinically proven that it works? It does not have to be in a lab somewhere with researchers, but I want evidence that it is the real deal.

    Second, I look to my colleagues and mentors; there are a lot of people in the industry that I trust and respect and that have a lot more experience than I do. Their opinions carry a lot of weight with me and help me to look as some aspects of the trend that I may not have otherwise seen.

    Third, I use the longevity test—simply put, how long has this thought process been around? Now, I do not mean that if it has been around for 10 years then it is good, I mean if it is based in human nature and how we are designed to work, then I am pretty good with it. One of the “coolest” things you can think of is human development and how no matter where you grow up, you go through the same movement stages. 
    These stages are the foundation of our training. To me that is longevity of a fitness trend. And finally, I try it out—no matter what it is, I want to try it myself before I form an opinion. Until I do that and gain some experience with it, I would never use it with a client. 
    9. What has been your favorite experience as a trainer?  
    To date, my favorite experience as a trainer has been running a 5k race with one of my clients. When she started working with me, her activity level was zero. She never went to the gym, and the longest distance run she had completed was half a mile and that is being generous. But, she was determined, set her goals, and was focused on achieving her goals.

    We would spend some of our sessions running together and the others working on her strength. There were times when she wanted to stop but she never did. In the end, she finished 5 min ahead of her target time and never stopped once during the run. She was proud of her accomplishment, and I was just happy that I could be there to help her reach her goal
    10. Tell us about yourself - what catches your interest, what do you do for fun? 
    I try to get involved in as much as I can. Since I have moved to Los Angeles, the main attractions from an activity standpoint have been surfing, snowboarding, hiking, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. But really, I will do just about anything once, sometimes even if I should not or do not have any prior experience, which takes us back to my first snowboarding trip. Let’s just say, with a solid one hour of practice I thought I was ready for a double black diamond run.