by Scott Caulfield and Matt Wenning
Coaching Podcast November 2018
Matt Wenning a renowned power lifter and strength and conditioning coach who has over 12,000 hours of experience as a Division I college strength coac...
Matt Wenning a renowned power lifter and strength and conditioning coach who has over 12,000 hours of experience as a Division I college strength coach in a variety of sports, including football, track and field, swimming, and baseball as well as United States Army Rangers, firefighters, triathletes, and general populations
Matt Wenning a renowned power lifter and strength and conditioning coach who has over 12,000 hours of experience as a Division I college strength coach in a variety of sports, including football, track and field, swimming, baseball, as well as United States Army Rangers, firefighters, triathletes, and general populations. Matt talks to the NSCA’s Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, Scott Caulfield. Matt’s discusses the obstacles he had to go through both academically (undergrad and grad school) and physically (powerlifting) to get where he is today.
Find Scott on Twitter: @scottcaulfield :
Instagram: @realmattwenning; Website: wenningstrength.com
“Sometimes, it’s complete strangers that you rub the right way that change the course of your entire life.” 11:22
“The jobs you have don’t make you, it’s the jobs you can turn down.” 26:28
“It’s not about optimal training, it’s about optimal training for you.” 30:20
“If you want to be a great coach, set yourself apart as many ways you can.” 35:28
“Be somebody that their opinion matters.” 39:00
“Education and experimentation are what made it get better.” 40:50
This is the NSCA's coaching podcast. Episode 41.
Sometimes it's complete strangers that you just rub the right way that change the entire course of your life.
This is the NSCA's coaching podcast where we talk to strength and conditioning coaches about what you really need to know, but probably didn't learn in school. There's strength and conditioning, and then there's everything else.
Welcome to the NSCA coaching podcast. I'm Scott Caulfield, and here with me today, Matt Wenning, director of Wenningstrength.com and the Ludus Magnus gym in Columbus, Ohio. Matt, welcome to the show, man.
Yeah, man, not a problem.
Super psyched to have you on. We're here at the 41st annual NSCA national conference, Indianapolis. It's a great crowd. You spoke already, three times. We put you to work here at this one.
Talk about how that went so far for you.
Yeah, I mean, you know the first one was just using the traditional tools as assessment tools. I think we get so caught up in doing-- assessing people, when we could probably be getting them strong and assessing them at the same time if our eyes were a little sharper and had a little bi tmore experience with the big lifts.
So a lot of times when you guys come and ask me, it's all about bringing some of the strength back down to the basics, which everybody seems to forget and want to go to the most complex things. In reality, we're just not prepared for that.
Super, super good point. Always the fundamentals, man. I always say that too. I always tell people like-- when they ask me about programming or whatever, and I'm like, honestly, you're probably not going to be impressed, because I do a lot of really fundamental stuff.
But just like you know, at the higher levels, you still have to have mastered the foundation. You still have to have a super, super foundation tobuild off to go any higher.
Yeah, before my programming, for myself, personally, got complex as far as understanding all kinds of things beyond fundamentals. I'd already had 12 years in the game. I mean, 12 years in the game at national caliber meets. That's when I had to get complex.
But I think everybody wants to go complex after the first year.
You know, which is just crazy. So I think that's one of the things that people like, is that we get scientific and we talk a lot about theory and thingslike that. But the type of stuff I try to do is, if I'm talking for an hour, I want them to leave with three key points. And I think three key points at thisconference, if I were to put all three of them together, was make sure that the posterior chain is prepared, right? To do the stuff the anteriorchain is capable of.
For not only injury prevention but performance increases. And then the next thing is being able to decipher what technical flaws are telling you what thing. So if you're seeing your knees come in or back shift or things, sometimes those aren't as easy to detect why they're doing that, as some would think. So that's an issue.
And then the other issue is just understanding the fundamentals of technique of the big lifts. You'd be surprised, at, like you know, in the assessment we had yesterday, we had four or five people get under the squat bar. And nobody knew even how to initiate the squat correctly.
And I think that's huge. I mean if you want to get an athlete better in the gym, increase their squat and their dead lift. And not only the weight they can move, but the proficiency of the movement. If you can do those things, you're probably going to get them better
Yeah, yeah, yeah. And you talk about your lifting. And you are a world-class power lifter, equipped and RAW now. You've been lifting for a long,long time. But you also started lifting young. Like you were in your teens when you became--
Yeah, 12 and 1/2 to 13 is when I started. I did my first bench press meet as a little charity meet, the YMCA, in 1993. And I'd already been lifting six months. And I was 13.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
So this isn't something you just decided to get into and--
And I guess when-- I think we've talked about this before. But you know, when did you kind of figure out that you were already pretty strong, and this was kind of something that was going to be for you for a long time?
Well, I think it started off like everybody else. It was external attention. I mean, I remember going into my eighth grade gym class, and Mr. Frankwas in there. He was the gym teacher. And we had this horrible Nautilus machine that was like a Smith machine press. You remember those old machines?
Yeah, oh yeah.
Weight stacks. And I could do the whole frickin' stack in eighth grade, which was like 250.
Which a lot of the grown men, teachers couldn't do. So that automatically-- Gary Frank was like-- or Mr. Frank was-- not Gary Frank. Mr. Frankwas kind of like, dude, that is crazy.
But he realized that I'd already been working out at the YMCA with some guys over there that were pretty strong. So the guy that taught me the fundamentals of how to bench press was named Tim Smith. He was a 500-pound bencher at 185 pounds body weight, raw.
In this little podunk town.
Which I just got really fortunate. It was two blocks away from my house, and I could ride my bicycle there. And he sees me and is, like, man,you're really big for a high school kid. And I'm like, I'm in seventh grade. And he's like, oh, shit. You know.
So that's kind of how it started. So they saw potential in me. And then my gym teacher saw potential in me. And then by the time I was in highschool, that's when I started noticing, like, I was benching three plates as a freshman.
Then I was benching close to four plates as a sophomore. Then you start realizing that you go in-- I played football, but I never really liked playing football. I just didn't like team sports. But when I would go in and train with the football team, I would smoke them all.
That's when I started realizing that there was something there. So by the time I was 18, 19, I was doing national level meets. And 19, I won myfirst worlds.
Cool. And that's when I knew that I needed to figure out some way to do strength conditioning. But the problem is, being from a small school, Ididn't even know what that was.
Because you've got to remember, there was no internet. And the internet was very archaic, even at best, if I even if I remember it being around. But in magazines, there wasn't a lot of talk of strength and conditioning coaches. A fairly new field.
And the only strength coach that was in town was a guy named Wade Russell, which ended up being my first mentor.
And he was at Ball State. So he's in a dungeon, training these guys. He's not out in public. Nobody knows who he is unless you're at Ball State,and you're in the athletics. So I had-- my mom worked with a lady, and she had a son that was-- I don't know, about six or eight years older thanme. And he graduated with an accounting degree, and he got an accounting position at the Colts.
And my mom was talking about me at work, and they were like, well, what is he going to do for work? And it's like, I don't know. He wants to dosomething with weights. And I'm like 18. And she's like, well, there's a strength coach down here at the Colts. Maybe he'd want a job like that.
And I'm like, yeah. To work with pro teams? I was like, that would be sweet. So I did a job shadow with John Taurean.
And John Taurean sat me down and pretty much told me, this isn't a meatheads thing. You're going to have to be really smart, and you're going have to go to school a long time. And you're going to at least have a master's degree if you want this type of a job. So that set the profile.
So now I knew that I couldn't only be strong. I had to be smart. And I had to be educated. And I had to have the certificates. And I had to havethe CCS, and, you know, all this other stuff. And so I kind of go home disappointed, because I'm thinking being strong is enough.
Because I'm a kid. And I don't want to go to college. Because I screwed up a lot in high school, I didn't have the grades. So this actually is areally cool story. So the guy that was in charge of admissions at Ball State worked out at the Y. And I had no idea who he was. We never even talked.
But he saw me there all the time. And I come in and sit down, and I applied at school. And I get rejected.
I don't even get in on a like a probationary basis. It's just like, hell, no, you're not allowed to come into this school. Your grades are terrible.
I finally get the balls to go up into ad administration and ask them if they can let me in on a probationary basis to improve my worth. Well, it justso happened this was the guy that was in charge of admissions.
And he's like, yeah, I see you at the y all the time.
I'm like, yeah, I know I did poorly in high school. You know. I kind of told him my dad had passed away when I was a freshman. And screw withme, and I didn't have a lot of focus. And weights were the only thing that I knew that was going to get me out of this.
And he goes, well, I can't promise you anything because your grades in high school are so bad. But I'll see what I can do. I'll talk to the board.The next week, I get a letter of acceptance--
And I get it in and my first semester I get a 3.8 GPA.
Yeah, you just needed to be in the right setting.
And I knew that it was either, this is when I'm going to go get a job that I want. Or I'm going to have to go work a job that I need.
You see? Because at that point, I was already a good welder. That's why I like my bell squat and stuff. I made the first five models myself. Andthe thing of it was, is that I knew that I was either going to have to do that the rest of my life and be a fabricator, or I was going to be able to besome type of a strength coach.
My whole initial goal, though, like everybody else probably, was I want to be a pro strength coach.
I want to go work for the Colts or the Bengals.
I don't want to be in a high school. That wasn't me. I wanted to be at the top. And so school starts. I meet-- luckily, I'm at Ball State.
So the nice thing was I grew up in Muncie, where Ball State is in Muncie, Indiana. And John Taurean when I did my job sharing goes, We'll hell.You're at one of the best schools in the world for strength and conditioning. Because you have the best professors.
They start at the NSCA. Kramer. Volek. Yeah right? All these guys-- and pierce and all these guys that were the original founders, or at leastvery big parts of being the founders. And they were all my professors.
He's like man, you hit the gold mine. So I started going to school there. I got my undergrad from Kramer. And then I got my master's from Dr. Newton. Right? Another huge prolific person in power.
And you were-- in time you were there, also you were in school with some other people who've gone on to do some pretty cool stuff.
I [? fast. ?] Pete Bommarito trains probably the most people for the combine in the country. Wade Russell that played for the Dolphins and the Bangles. I mean, there were some masterminds that had come out of that.
I'd have to even sit down for an hour and think about it.
So it just attracted a lot of people, because we had some of the best professors. So I lucked out. That was pure luck. But what wasn't luck wasthe fact that my desire to be super strong got me everywhere that I'm at today.
Because if that admissions guy hadn't seen me at the YMCA-- seen me bust my butt. And train my butt off. And the first thing he asked me, he goes, well, creatine was brand new. At the time, he was like, well, what do you think about this creatine monohydrate?
He's asking me this to see if, not only do I go lift, if I study. And I go, well, I know that it brings water into the muscle cell, therefore helping with more ATP storage. So I started talking science to him a little.
He's like, you really want to do this, don't you? And I'm like, hell, yeah, I do. And that's what got me in.
So not only was I lifting hard, but when he asked me questions, he knew I was researching. Maybe I was only researching a magazine--
But I was still looking stuff up, and I was intrigued by human performance. And that's what got him to go to bat for me, a total stranger. That he didn't eve care about.
So if I look at one of the parts of my life, sometimes it's complete strangers that you just rub the right way, that changed the entire course of yourlife.
Yeah. Yeah-- because you were there. You know, you ended getting your undergrad. Get master's degree. Lifting is still going super strong.
So lifting goes strong. I won two national titles in the USAPO. And keep in mind, at this time, there were some heavy hitters in the IPF for theUS APO. So to win a national title as a junior and have American records and national records as a junior was big.
Because we had guys that were doing monster things at this time. 2004, I go to a WPO qualifier in Iowa and become one of the youngest guys to squat 900 pounds. At 24 years old, which was a huge feat, and I did it easy.
Which was a complete-- I picked that thing up. I just said I want 903. And the guys are like, man, dude, you haven't had anything over 850 on your back. And I'm like, I'm getting it. So I did it, and you know, that started the ball and started putting me in the ranks, like, who is this guy?
Like I had done some waves in the USAPL, but now I'm on the big stage.
And so that starts that. 2005, I don't do a power lifting meet at all, because I'm at the last semester of my masters. And getting a masters from where I got a masters from was no joke. My thesis got turned in 15 times before it was accepted.
And it's not because I did a terrible job.
It was just--
The critical, man, was super critical. So long story short, '05 I graduate. Louis Simmons wants me at Westside Barbell bad. Because I'm one ofthe top younger lifters. And I'm pretty balanced.
I got over 700 pull. I got a 900 squat. I got a 600 bench, you know, so I'm hammering. You know, I'm one of the top probably seven in the worldat the time. And I'm only 25. And I have a master's degree.
So for Louis, when I got there, it brought his gym a little bit of scientific clout, because now he's got guys in there that have degrees. It's not bartenders and bouncers that have no future other than this little small blip of their life. I'm in this to win it.
So I tell, you know, Louis, I'm like I'm ready to give the next few years all I got. I want to get as strong as I can get. Within the next year, I squat1,000, bench 7, pull close to 8. And I'm like, look, Louis. I really like this parallel thing, but my initial goal is I want to be top-level strength coach.
So he introduces me to Buddy Morris, and Buddy Morris is at the Browns. Now for you that don't know Buddy Morris, Buddy Morris was DanMarino's strength coach.
So that's what made him initially famous, at least in my eyes, at Pittsburgh. He gets the job under Butch Davis at the Browns. He's there three,four years. I can't remember. And Louis talks me up so well, and Buddy is so intrigued with Louis's use of bands and chains and reverse hypers,and was a huge avid follower of him, that Buddy Morris wanted to get rid of his first assistant and bring me in.
Now keep in mind, this is a heavy-hitting crew of Buddy Morris and Tommy Molinsky.
So Molinsky is the head strength coach of the Jaguars now. So I was going to come in and work with those guys, which would have been amazing. So two weeks into saying I'm going to get hired, the entire staff gets fired when Romeo Crennel comes in and takes over the job.
So I never get to work a day in the Browns. And this was a huge pivotal point in my career, because I decided to say to hell with pro strength and conditioning. Because I want to be the guy, when I do a good job, I get rewarded for it. And I don't want my job to revolve around otherpeople's failures or progressions.
So if the whole team does bad, but I'm a great strength coach, I don't want to be fired for that. And I know that in the pros, that's how it's goingto be. Because I just watched Buddy Morris basically have to sit out of strength conditioning for two years to ride his contract.
You know, and I'm like, what? This is crazy. That's when I realize that at the pro level, it's not how good of a job you do, it's just the cards youget dealt. And I didn't want to have to go live it, you know, the New York Giants. And then get moved to Kansas City. And then get moved to SanFrancisco.
This wasn't me. And so what I did was I regathered my priorities. And I said, I'm going to be the baddest lifter I can be. I'm going to be so strong.And I'm like, I only have this window of maybe the next five or six years, because I knew that the damage was just going to be too great. And alot of that was watching the guys that were training me, being close to 40 or over 40-- And just busted up.
And their ribs are busted. Their knees need surgeries. And I'm like, look, OK, I'm going to do this for these many years. So I refocus my thought pattern, and that's when the military calls me out of the blue, asks me to come down and look at their stuff.
And this was not a massive contract. This was nothing special, other than it was a special forces unit right off the rip. Keep it in mind that I went down there for three days. I charged them $1,000. It wasn't a $100,000 contract. It wasn't anything--
Right, and at that time, you didn't even really know anything about negotiating contracts.
You were trying to figure out what to do.
And it's really like a shot in the dark, because I don't know anything about tactical.
You know, I mean I had guns and stuff like that. But I didn't know anything about these guys.
So I went in there with an open mind and not as a power lifter, but with a power lifter biomechanical background. And started looking at the stuffthey were doing. And going well, I mean these guys are kind of great at certain things, but they're terrible at others.
So my thought pattern always in training has been find the weakness, bring it out in the training, and make it a strength.
As good as you can. So I just apply the same philosophy to them. And over the course of the next two years with the Rangers from '06-- well,three. '06 to '09. Injury rates went down, performance rates went up.
Well, that impressed the general.
And the general-- the next thing he was in charge of from the Ranger Regiment was a larger group of infantry. So what they did, is he went from 700 Ranger Regiment guys to 5,000 ground troops. And that's when me and you met.
So I go out there and interview for 4th infantry's position, which is 5,000 ground troops. They love what I do. I already have the performance standards and statistics from the Ranger Regiment, so it was a pretty easy fit.
Well, basically what the generals and [INAUDIBLE] was testing me was to see if I was passionate and knew if I knew my stuff. Because this wasthe big contract.
So I'm thinking this is going to be another couple thousand dollars every time I go out.
I sit down and look at the paperwork and it's $335,000 for a summer. You know, like this is big bucks. And even at this time, this has only been eight years ago. And at this time, this was like life-changing money.
Because now, it's kind of like, OK, that master's degree you had to spend a lot of money on and be super broke--
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
But the thing of it was they liked me, because I had the hands-on records, and I was strong. And I had the degrees--
To back it up.
And I had the proper resume because I had done the right internships. Right? So when that happened, that was a game changer. Well, we didso well there. Injury rates dropped dramatically. Performance rates went through the roof. And it solidified my standard as one of the premier strength conditioning coaches in all of the military, in any shape, way, or form.
And you were able to work-- kind of change their thought process too on the things you were testing guys on. I mean, they still had to do thearmy PT test.
You know, but you got them to look a little bit more sensibly, a little bit more at like, real tests that actually mattered.
They were tests that were going to actually measure abilities on the battlefield versus stuff that somebody had chosen to do in 1960 with no realphysiological thought pattern. So the big thing was, is if you look at the testing now that people are talking about they're going to convert to in 2020, I have some role in what exercises they've selected.
So I was on a Pentagon advisory board for two years. I was one of the few people that told him that females were allowed to come on the infantry. And it wasn't because females are stronger than males.
It was the fact that our males in the army have gotten so weak that it's not hard for the females to be equal. 1960, that would have not been thecase.
But now, there is not-- you could take a female, you train her for eight or 10 weeks smart, she can be strong as an average male.
And at around the time, I guess, probably right? 2010, somewhere in there, you were opening your gym in Columbus.
2010, so I split from Louis. I was starting to get so busy that my clientele just wouldn't stand in there. And it's not really an environment-- it's an environment of very cutthroat. So in that gym, it's kind of like--
--Russian training or Bulgarian, you know. There's no hurt.
Like you're hurt, you're gone. And it doesn't matter if it was somebody's fault or your fault or-- you don't perform, you don't stay. And I didn't have a problem with performing. But now my career was starting to outweigh--
Right. Right. You're starting to coach more than you are training yourself.
So what I found was is that now, because I was coaching a little more, and my jobs were getting a little bit more higher level and more money,that I was actually recovering better, because I wasn't training as hard. So I started to realize that I was overdoing it.
Well, in the first six months of not overdoing it, and keeping my focus there, but a little bit pulled away from another area, my squat-- when Ileave Westside was 1,085. And when I did it my own way for a year and a half, it went to 1,200.
I mean just because I was recovering.
And I started to realize that it had nothing to do with my periodization, or nothing to do with my style of training. All of that stayed pretty much thesame. I was sleeping better. I wasn't worried about when I was going to have to eat, because I didn't know if I had enough money. Now all that was taken care of.
So that started to put me in a good position. So fast forward 2011, I start realizing that the RAW stuff is starting to hit storm big. And the equipment stuff is starting to get kind of a bad rap. Well, most of my training was RAW already. So I flipped over and then broke some world records RAW. So had a few world records in equipment, and a few world records RAW.
But the military stuff is what caught the attention of the fire department. So as you can see, this snowball effect started from a passion of liftingheavy. Then went to military attention, into fire department attention, into general population attention, to the point that it created the perfect snowball down the mountain. And it's still getting bigger.
Right, right, yeah. Talk a little bit about that. So the fire department thing is locally in Columbus and the townships around there. Talk about some of the numbers too, the reduction in injuries and, you know, workman's comp savings that you've had.
So what happened was that 2006 or '07, they did a big article on me working with Ranger Regiment, right? This was in Muscle and Fitness,OK? So we laid out a little bit of the training protocol. We showed some injury reductions. We showed some performance standard increases.
Well, Chief Al Woo, one of my great friends now, you know, I'd do anything for him. He saw that, because he was an avid workout guy. And he knew a little bit, but he would read Muscle and Fiction, you know what I mean? What we call Muscle and Fitness.
Well, I had a big article in there on training special forces guys. He saw it, and he saw it said I was from Columbus, Ohio. So he's like, holy hell,this guy's right here in town? Now keep in mind that Dublin, Washington township, is the most financially stable and expensive places to live in Columbus. So we're talking like the highest paid firemen, nicest houses. They have a lot of extra money is my point.
So they somehow get a hold of me and find me, interview me, and go, you think you can do this with a small fire department? I'm like, I don't know. We could try.
Well, fast forward five years later, after we get every department-- this is five fire departments in the township. We get every one of them with belt squats, reverse hypers, glute ham raises, we get them focused and get all their stuff down. They're saving a quarter of a million dollars in insurance premiums a year.
Because when I got in there, the average dead lift-- I am not exaggerating one bit-- the average dead lift was under 200 pounds. It was around185 pounds is what the average fireman could pick up.
We just did the retesting-- we do it about every two years-- in 2016, the average dead lift was 395, out of 130 guys.
Pretty big. And double--
For an important movement, like you were saying in one of your talks the other day. That these guys are pulling usually people who are wedged in between the toilet and the bath tub, or falling down behind a bed, or whatever.
Well, what makes the strength training so important in that field-- and it's even now above cardiovascular fitness, which has been the staple formany of these departments, is the fact that society is getting heavy.
Very heavy. And the average population age is 50, 55. So the baby boomers are all getting older. They're the ones that have ate like crap their whole life. And they're the ones that are weighing 250 and 300 when they're getting old and diabetic and strokes, and all these other things.
So the problem is now, is because fire protection, i.e., sprinkler systems, alarm systems are getting so digitally and so technologically good.That the big killer of the fire department now is the EMS runs.
Because you're lifting a heavy patient. You're carrying them in awkward positions. And you've got a below average strength guy that has allthese imbalances and weak muscle groups. So it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that strength training is what's going to fix thisproblem.
So once we build up that-- made him twice as strong as they were when I got there. And then increased the conditioning, because you can't build compressive conditioning with no strength.
So if you want to do lots of kettlebell swings and sled drags and dummy carries and carrying hoses up-- you know, it's like, well, I mean, when I first got there, I remember the guys bitching and complaining because they're like, this isn't job specific.
I'm like, if you can't dead lift 225, you can't carry a hose up a stair. They don't realize there is segment points to getting, stepping points togetting there where you want to be. So once I got them back into specific training, because they were generally strong enough to do it, that'swhen I realized that these injury rates were massively changing. And we were saving the department hundreds of thousands of dollars, even after they'd already paid me.
Right, that's huge.
So that's where the tactical stuff solidified. That's what kind of got me famous, outside of just being a strong guy. And that's kind of how it allbegan, you know. Now it's nice because, you know, it's like Charles Poliquin says, it's not-- the jobs you have are not what makes you. It's thejobs you can turn down.
You know, if you can turn down jobs that don't fit you because you don't need it, you start finding yourself in the optimal positions for things.
Right, and you're probably a lot happier too.
Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Think about, too, I guess, being a business owner, you've seen the evolution of your business, and you get to-- you don't just train high-level athletes, or only fire fighters. You train kind of everybody.
And you've developed your own, even your-- maybe talk a little bit about that, as well as your own lifting partners. Some of the guys you train who train with you now have become really good lifters on their own.
yeah I mean the big thing is, like I-- maybe it's just my personality-- I hate doing the same thing every day. So I like training firemen, but I'd hate if I did it every day. I like training general population, but I'd hate it if I did it every day.
Same thing goes with military, athletes that I've trained, everything. So for me to stay in this job, I love to be multifaceted and have multiplefaucets. And I think that's one of the big things that people miss out as coaches, is they become so compartmentalized that they're only one faucet.
And then that problem is, one faucets have seasons.
So if all I trained was football, I'd be busy as hell right now, but in the fall I'd be dead. So how do you live that way? And then if all I trained was firemen, it takes a long time to get a lot of fire departments. Because you're dealing with contracts. You're dealing with trustees. You're dealingwith funding issues. You're dealing with levees.
So the thing of it is, if I got a department, and then I got a couple of football players, and then I got a few general population people, I alwayshave a source of income. And it's always steady because everything is volatile, but because it's all together, it's stable.
It make sense?
Yeah, that's huge.
So that's what made me start branching, and I started realizing there was this niche in the equipment industry. That people started making things cheaper and not correctly, and they might engineer it right, but they don't use it enough to understand how it's supposed to work.
And that's kind of when I got into the equipment side of things. So now I have the equipment side of stuff that I can sell, which gives me a littlebit of a cushion.
A little stability too, yeah.
A little stability at that. And then the online coaching, realizing that not everybody is going to be able to come to your gym. So how do you outreach to other people? So what we do is we created probably one of the most extensive online coaching 12-week cycles that we couldpossibly create.
Because we take your videos. We base your training on not only your personal equipment, but your weaknesses. So I don't hand somebody abasic workout. It's saying, oh, this workout is for 12 weeks for hypertrophy.
Well, no. The thing of it is-- that's the most frustrating thing, is people think they can take a workout and copy it verbatim. Well, you haven't done all the work previous to get to that workout. So that's why you have to have custom workouts.
Because the workout can be good. Any workout-- well, within reason-- any workout can be good. But it's dependent upon if you're ready for that workout, physically and mentally. And recovery.
So if you're like, well, I work 60 hours a week, dude, you're not going to be able to train the same as a guy who works 20.
Right, right, right.
Because of the emotional and physical beat down. So I think people don't look at their training as like a glass of water. You can only pour out so much water before you have no water. And your stress, your family, all of these things are things that take away water from the training.
So you have to make sure that that stuff is looked at in a holistic approach. So the first thing we do when we take down your programming is wefigure out what kind of equipment you have. We figure out what weaknesses you have. And then we look at the holistic approach of yournutrition and your work schedule and your family.
And that dictates whether you train four times a week, two times a week. And what I started realizing was, it wasn't about optimal training. It was about optimal training for you. So that's-- and this is where it gets into my training partner. So I have a friend and training partner for the last six years, Rob Mazer. People call him the world's strongest hipster, because he has, like an old Cadillac, and his hair is all parted. And he's agoofball.
But the thing of it was is I first got a hold of him, he had just got out of testicular cancer.
Chemo, all that shit, right? So he's weak. He's fat. He's out of shape. So I'm realizing immediately, he can't work out four times a week. There'sno way. He worked out one time a week. So he worked out one time a week for six months, and then two times a week for a year and a half.
After that year and a half process, which was almost two years when you calculate it all together, take him to his first meet. Benches 550, pulls 700. Now I'm pissed, not because he did successful, but how much work it took me to get there.
And then I start realizing, did I need to do that much work at that strength level
But what I started to realize was, and this is about 2013, so this is five years ago, what I started to realize was, is that Rob was recovering from every workout. So he was building every time he was coming in. He wasn't coming in sore. He wasn't coming in tired. He was coming inprepared for more progression.
And I think that's where a lot of people don't sit down and analyze. It's not what program makes you better, it's what program makes you bette rright now. And less can be way more.
Right, right. Less is always way more, I think. Yeah. Everybody always thinks there's something new or better. And--
It's only better if it's more in tune to what you need at this time. That's it.
What you need. What about, you have interns and staff now. Talk a little bit too about kind of being a manager of those kind of employees, and what are you looking for in people that might become your employees or that you're going to hire on-- have as an intern even.
You know, for me, like the guy that's my go to guy now is Ted Cox. And Teddy's got his master's degree, and I forced him to go get it. Because the type of people we work with, you know, firemen, policemen, special forces.
When you have to go sit down and have meetings with fire chiefs and generals, if you come in as some slaphappy, just out of undergraduate college, these guys look down on you. Whether they feel like they do or not.
And a college degree in the fire department still means a decent amount. Still means, OK in the Army. But when you have a master's degree, generals tend to look at you as an equal. They don't tend to look down on you, because you have high-level college. And chances are, you probably have more college than they do.
So the point is that you have to have a trump card walking in for respect. And I think that's where people don't realize that the master's-- I know people that don't have any degrees that are super smart. But they don't have the respect. You know I mean?
And you got to be able to have the respect of the people that can sign checks. That's what people don't understand.
But what I look for in interns now, because when we do interns, it's a little different than you guys. I charge my interns. Because I look at it this way, if you don't have skin in the game, then if you waste my time, it's a waste of your money.
But if you come in and waste my time, and it's free, now all the stress is on me. Well, I've got all this stuff going on as far as departments andgym to run and everything else. I don't have time for you to be stressful to me. So if you come in and waste your money, I have your money.
But you could learn a lot from that. Does that make sense?
So the point is, I do unpaid. I do interns pay me. And then if somebody wanted to come in as a helper, an assistant, or somebody that trains under me, then they're going to have to be willing to go to school for a long time. They're going to have to be willing to mentor under me a longtime.
So Teddy's been with me for six years. Because I want to know that right now, here at this conference, he's at my booth. If you go ask him a training question, I'll bet you he'll answer it about 95% the same way I would.
Right, yeah, yeah. He's totally on the same page.
It's very different, you know, because-- the problem is, when your business-- my business is WinningStrength.com is my name. So I want to make sure that people that work for me are going to do things the way that I would do it. Maybe not even by the NSCA book, or by the way Ithink.
And I think that takes a lot of tutelage, it takes a lot of experience, and it takes a lot of just grinding, you know. But Teddy can recite a lot of thebooks. I gave him a lot of books to read, on top of him getting his degrees.
He's trained my firemen, he's trained my general population. He knows how to deal with problems. And I think if I were to say you want to be agreat coach in this, you've got to understand that being a great coach in strength conditioning is going to be about a 10-year process, no matter where you look at it.
Because you're going to have to have 10 years of experience to be recognized in the field. Or you're going to have to have six years ofschooling and then four years of experience. Or you're going to have to have something, you know, something that's going to set you apart. Sowhat I try to do, if you want to be a great coach, is set yourself apart as many ways as you can.
Do it with education. Do it with your strength level and your technique in perfection. And do it with your experience level and the people you worked with. And if you follow one of those as far as you can go and not ignore the others, people find you.
Right. Right, right.
People find you. And that's the thing is, I think people always go look for success. Success is waiting for you to put the right cards down for it toappear.
Yeah, no, that's great.
You know what I mean?
That's good advice, yeah. And you're social media has really taken off in, honestly, I think, the last couple of years. I've known you for close to adecade, anyway.
But I feel like just in the last two, three years, you've had a huge surge-- and granted, social media is more popular now too. But you're doing more of a better-- you know, you do a really good job of connecting with people--
And putting out information through your social media. So how big has that been for you?
That's huge. Because the thing of it is, that really affects the draw of different types of people, especially for the online coaching, equipment sales. And how I do it is, I don't put out any BS. You see me post something, that's exactly what I do. And I explain it.
I tell people all the time, you want to research my Instagram page, you could probably figure out pretty well on how to train pretty good. But you'd have to be smart enough to see what I'm talking about. You'd have to have experience to set it up. And you might have to be strong enough to even do it.
But the point of it is is that, I think, my ability to-- and this is what the military and the fire department gave me-- the ability to take high-levelthings and explain them simply that other people can use it. And you know, it's just like Dr. Newton used to tell us all the time in Kramer, if youcan't take a complex thing and explain it to someone that has no background in it and get to understand it, you probably don't know what you're talking about.
So my stuff's very clean cut. It's very hard core and RAW, but it's also very backed and very experienced. And that's why I think it's gaining so much momentum. Is because there's very few guys in any field that have done what I call the triangle, which is education, longevity, and strength.
Like how strong did you get? How much education did you get while you were getting strong? And how long did you last?
Right, right, right.
So this is in my almost 27th year of competing. And all I've ever had is small pulls and strains, like where I had to back out of a meet because I just knew I wasn't going to feel good the next day. But it's not like surgeries.
Right, not getting operated on--
I'm not going to miss it out.
Blowing six months of training. That's huge.
Yeah. Because the thing of it is, if I can't go to work the next day, it's not good.
You don't get paid.
You know what I mean?
Yeah, yeah. I think that's the thing, is if somebody can look at a triangle and try to make that triangle as big as they can on those sides, which is longevity, strength, and education. Those three are the pillars of making sure that success will follow in this field.
I don't look down on strength coaches that aren't super strong. But I really don't think you can understand what I try to tell you if you haven't feltthat before. You know, you've got to put in the years. We're not talking the cycle, we're not talking a year. We're talking the years.
You've got to put the years into training so that you have the street respect. Because when I go teach these dead lift classes, people are goingto listen because I pull over 800 pounds. And I've done it safely for years.
People are going to listen when I talk about squatting, because I've squat world records. And people are going to listen to me about benching because I've done 600 pounds. So the point is, like if you want to be recognized-- I always look at it this way. Be somebody that their opinion matters. And that triangle is what makes your opinion matter to a lot of people.
And for you too, it's been a constant evolution of seeking out ways to get better, changing training, but also education too. You're still-- you'vepursued PhD. It's an on going PhD. It's going to happen. We were just talking about earlier. When you find the time and place, it's going to happen.
It's not like you just stop, and at some point, that you got good enough. Right?
There's never good enough. And I would say that my training, in probably the last 10 years, every year my training has evolved 5% to 10%.Something's changed. I got smarter. I figured out something that worked really well.
But the problem is, I'm always experimenting. And that to some people, I think, with not having a growth mindset, it's frustrating. Because youthink you find the answer to the question, and then your body changes the answer. You know what I mean?
It changes the question. And you've got to find a new answer all the time. I find that to be fulfilling because I find out that training isn't adestination, it's a journey. And your education is never going to be enough.
But for some people, that's a massive negative. You know, because they want to learn enough to get better, and then that's it.
Well, that never works that way. And what gets you somewhere may not get to the next place. So how I learned to get to a 500-pound bench, Ilearned 1,000% more to go from 500 to 600 because I had to.
I was having shoulder problems at 20 years old because I was benching 500 incorrectly. And now I bench 611 on my shoulders feel better thanwhen I bench 500. And that's 16 years ago. So my point is is that education and experimentation and those types of things is what made me get better, you know.
And that's what makes it fun for me, is it's always evolving. It's always changing. But for a person that doesn't have that attitude, it would befrustrating. And I think that's drives a lot of people out of coaching and out of just progression. Is they want to think that they've got it all figured out, and then all of a sudden, everything changes. And now it's starting all over again. And that's a negative to me. To me, that's fun, you knowwhat I mean?
That's what it's all about, yeah. And you've done a good job too, and maybe that's why you've been able to do it longer and not get injured,really of having other interests, getting outside of the gym. I know you do a lot of work on different vehicles and motorcycles. You take a motorcycle trip every year, and you don't train for a couple of weeks.
How huge has that been in your longevity and keeping your mind fresh too.
I think more of that is a physical, it's a mental progression, or a mental refresher. Because physically, riding a motorcycle across the country is 10 times worse than lifting, in my opinion. I mean, I went from LA all the way to-- Pacific to Atlantic, and then all the way back up to Ohio is 4450miles.
And my back didn't feel right for two weeks training, you know. So I wouldn't say it's a physical-- but when I get home, my mind is recovered.And I think that mental staleness is a billion times worse than physical overtraining.
Because mental-- the mind is a control over everything.
So for me, when I come back, I'm itching to work out. But when I left, I'm like, man, I'm tired of working out.
Yeah, totally, totally.
And it doesn't mean I don't work out on the road. I screw around. But I don't-- I'm not putting anything over 405 on my back or in my hands. You know, unless Mike O'hearn at Golds wants to do something crazy.
Unless you're dropping in, doing something fun.
Yeah, the point is it's having other hobbies that keep you separated, you know. I mean, my dad was a diesel mechanic, so I was always around engines and cars and stuff like that. So that's kind of what gave me that. And my uncles were all big into motorcycles, so that got me into that.
Some of the other hobbies I have is I love-- and I guess it's not really a hobby-- but I love doing restoration stuff. Like I really like doing hot cool contrast massage therapies. Which, who doesn't? But the point is, I force-- my recovery means and layouts in a week are just as important tome as my training.
And you know, what's funny is, I talked to Stan about this with Hafthor, you know, the guy that just won the world's strongest man. And we were talking, and he goes, you know, what's funny? And we were talking about this.
And he goes, when I first sat down and was helping Hafthor, he goes, everybody thinks that the first thing I'm looking at is his training. He's like,I don't care about his training. He knows how to get strong obviously.
He goes, I'm looking for the holes in his nutrition and his recovery. Because he's like, he's 50-- he's about 15 years older than me. He's like, outof everybody I have ever worked with, the problem was not the training. The problem was the recovery and the nutrition. And he goes, once he fixed all that, Hafthor has won everything he's been in the last year.
But he's eating eight times a day, he's sleeping when he's supposed to. He's doing all of his recovery means. The point is is that sometimes the things you're not thinking about are the things that are biting you in the butt. And he's like, dude, every time I'm looking at somebody, he goes, Idon't look at their training. I'm looking at--
And I think that's a big kick in the butt. So like, as coaching or future coaching, whoever may be listening to this, look at everything as a holistic approach. Because if they're dehydrated and they're not getting enough salt, and they're not eating correctly and getting enough proteins to recover, and they're not sleeping enough, which is huge.
You're spinning your wheels. You can have the baddest program that anyone has ever seen. And if this kid is getting four hours of sleep a night,it's over.
And that's tough. I mean, you see that in every training program-- a lot of people do different training programs, you know, whether it's a different methodology, a different style of training. Some people do Olympics. Some people do power lifting. Some people do more high-perch bodybuilding. You know, I'm not saying everything works, nothing works forever. It's so true about training.
And let me tell you something about that situation, is the fact that recovery, as far as sleep and those types of things, tend to be more and more important the better you get. So what I find is that more of my thought pattern is figuring out how to recover and not how to train now. And theolder I've got, obviously, the harder it is to recover.
So you have to always have that in mind. But one big thing that I always think about is that I can always tell if a program is subpar, not by its volume, not by its exercise selection, which that is a huge proportion. But I don't look at that first.
I'm looking if the program has detail lists of a weekly program of when they recover, of what they do. Like is it saying, OK, I want hot-cold contrasts on Wednesdays. I want one hour nap on Thursday. I want high doses of magnesium after leg training for-- you know, whatever youlike to use.
But my point is if you have a training program in front of you, and there's nothing listed for recovery, I find that most of those programs are ridiculous. And they don't like-- there are huge red flags. If you don't have programs, you need to have your recovery means laid out as extensive as your volume on your lifts.
Yeah, It's huge, it's super cool. How about what kind of advice would you have for someone just kind of getting started, if they want to get involved in being a strength conditioning coach. And maybe, we don't even have to say what level. But like, what's kind of the key tenants, likeyou've got to do this. I mean, we talked a little bit about it, but--
OK, so you got to have a mentor. So you know, even though I came from a small school, they had a small D1 school there. I went out and found the head strength coach and gave him as much of my free time as I could. The first year I did that, he paid me as an undergrad the next three years.
So every hour that I came in and worked, he would-- I was making $12 an hour, hanging out in the weight room, learning how to coach,because I gave him a whole year of my time for free. So I bought-- or I paid for his respect.
And he was an ex pro football guy. And he had a lot of cloud in the MAC and in the strength conditioning. He was one of the first master CSCCguys, right? The point was, is that go and out source and earn the respect of whoever a mentor in your area at the highest level they could ossibly be.
Maybe you're lucky, and you are growing up in San Antonio, and the Spurs stadium's right down the street. I'm telling you that a person, even atthat level, if they see some kind of spark and some kind of ability for you to help them, and you're genuine, a pro strength coach would take akid at 20 years old, right off the street, and he would have him help.
Now maybe you're not doing the exact stuff you want to do at first.
But you could pay your dues a little bit. And I find that most people think, well, I'll go to school, and then once I get the degree. That's not goingto help you at all. You're going to have to have that, but that is not going to get you an entry level job at all. So my point is, that first thing I think you need to do is find a mentor.
The second thing I think you need to do is look at a long-term plan. I think people tend to overestimate what they can do in a year, but they underestimate what the plan is in five. You need to have long-term goals set up to where, OK, this is when I'm going to have my undergrad. Thisis when I'm going to have my master's, and this is how strong I want to be, in five years. And this is how I'm going to get there.
You know, so people say, well, I didn't get this done in this year, but they didn't look at it in a five-year plan. You know, so have long-term plans. Have a mentor. And then work on your weaknesses, whatever those may be.
Are you terrible at speaking in front of people? I used to be terrible.
Why did I hate football instead of power lifting? I like power lifting because I didn't have to talk to the weights. I didn't have to have a coach yelling at me. I had to bring it inside. So I had to learn how to be extrinsic.
And I think that was automatically-- gets rid of a lot of people that could be good, because they don't want to work on their weaknesses. So Iwas terrible at public speaking, as you can see today, I'm really good at it. And I don't even care any more. Like, to me, I just have fun, and it makes it even better.
It's not an awkward or stressful environment.
Right. An awkward-- you need to work on awkward. and stressful. People grow in pressure. They do not grow in relaxation. So whatever ispressure for you, play with it. Get better at it. And work on your weaknesses. Just how I approach my training.
It's totally good. It's good stuff. I got some kind of fun, off-the-cuff questions, just like get to know you a little more. Let people see your guard--how about, what's the first car that you ever had?
I had a 1981 caprice classic four door, like an old school cop car. And it had a 400 small block in it. So it was pretty fast. But my mom didn't know it had a four-inch small block in it when I bought it, so she would have not let me have--
I like this one just because I think it's a little different. But if you could only do one exercise for yourself, this is for yourself, not training people,for the rest of your life, what would that exercise be?
I guess it would come down to what my goal would be at that time. But if I would say life, I would probably have to say squats. But deadlifts would be a nice second. Just because of the amount of muscle tissue it's going to hit at one time. And you know, you could probably maintain--
Like right now, if I had to choose one lift, I would do squat. Because I know it would maintain my back thickness and my leg size. And all that stuff that I would want to keep into my older years.
How about best place you've ever visited in your life? Anywhere in the world.
I would say that, I have a few. But I would say that Sydney, Australia, and Bondi Beach when we went over there at the ASCA, and I spoke for their NSCA. They treated me like awesome. And that coastline, if nobody's ever been to Australia and seen their coastline, it's a must.
Because once you go back to the Pacific or Atlantic, it just doesn't have that type of feel. I would say the next place would be-- I loved Prague and the Czech Republic.
And I thought London was amazing. But all for different reasons.
Very cool. This is another fun one that I stole from another podcast. Guy's name is Mike Ritland. He's a former SEAL. He has a mic drop podcast, so if he ever gets hold of this, I'm giving credit. But three things that you're most grateful for in your life.
Yeah, I've heard that question before. I would say just health. You know, I've been extremely smart but extremely lucky that I haven't been injured, and I can show people this stuff and have done it at a high level.
The other thing I think I'm most grateful for is that, somehow, I developed a passion for working out and training, which has pretty much brought everything positive in my life. So the working out, and passion to work out, and the consistency and dedication of work-- so all of that, workingout has been the big door opener in my entire life.
And then I would say probably just the luck that I've had with the mentors that I've been able to have. I mean, being able to study under guys like Kramer as an undergrad was awesome. Being able to have guys in biomechanics as Dr. Newton was awesome. Having the respect of a lotof the veteran West Side guys when I first got over there was amazing. And they taught me so much.
I would say, Yeah, I would say, just the mentors I've had. The dedication and perseverance I've had with lifting. And just the work ethic. You know, just somehow got this work ethic. I don't know, you know what I mean?
That's super cool. We already mentioned your social media as hot as it gets. How can people reach out to you if they don't already know about you or follow you?
Yeah, the easiest way would be to get on Matt Wenning's community page, because my normal one is full. And then @ Real Matt Wenning on Instagram. My websites WinningStrength.com. And that's where we do a lot of equipment sales, online coaching. We do assessments onindividual lifts, not the whole program.
We have apparel line that's pretty cool and got some really cool graphics. But yeah, I mean that's how you can pretty much get a hold of me,website, Instagram, or Facebook.
Awesome. Good stuff, man. And we'll publish all that in the notes as well. Really appreciate you being on the show and being at the conference.And we'll be talking soon. I need to make another trip to Columbus. It's been a while. So I've got to come hang out. But thanks, man. Iappreciate it.
Yeah, no problem.
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