by Scott Caulfield & Bert Sorin
Coaching Podcast February 2019
Bert Sorin, President and Co-Owner of Sorinex Exercise Equipment, talks to the NSCA Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, Scott Caulfield, about Bert ...
Bert Sorin, President and Co-Owner of Sorinex Exercise Equipment, talks to the NSCA Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, Scott Caulfield, about Bert Sorin’s upbringing and his experience being a collegiate athlete, how Sorinex is contributing to the field, and how TSAC is continuing to grow and improve.
Bert Sorin, President and Co-Owner of Sorinex Exercise Equipment, talks to the NSCA Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, Scott Caulfield, about Bert Sorin’s upbringing and his experience being a collegiate athlete, how Sorinex is contributing to the field, and how TSAC is continuing to grow and improve.
Find Scott on Twitter: @scottcaulfield
Or Email firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com
“Taking the science, taking the training, taking the strength gains and making them into something.” 4:12
“I learned pretty quickly that there are genetic freaks in this world.” 13:18
“My life revolved around gaining weight, getting strong, and throwing far.” 14:23
“How you do anything is how you do everything.” 17:25
“Two things that I’ve noticed from people who have become successful: one is positivity, I’ve never seen a champion who is generally negative. They always believe there is a shot. Two is curiosity, keeps you pushing the edges and always fighting for the last inch.” 21:08
“People get into business because they like what they do, not because they like business.” 33:19
“If you only have one source of knowledge or a group of knowledge, then you only have a specific source of experiences.” 39:52
“SET: struggle, eat, and talk.” 43:38
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[MUSIC PLAYING] This is the NSCA's Coaching Podcast, Episode 48.
Because I believe if you have only one source of knowledge or a group of knowledge, you only have a specific source of experiences.
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. With me today, Bert Sorin president and co-owner of Sorinex Exercise Equipment. Bert, welcome to the show, man.
Thanks for having me, Scott. I really appreciate it.
Excited you're here. You're here for this TSAC Leaders Summit. We got a real strong group of TSAC influencers, if you will. Without giving it away, I guess, too much, what are you guys delving into here?
Well, the tactical strength and conditioning that's under the NSCA here, we've been very active in for-- just about since its inception, which-- as you obviously know but may be that all the listeners don't-- dives into the survivability, durability, and training side of the tactical community, whether it be military, law enforcement, or fire. That community's very close to my heart. A lot of my friends-- although I didn't serve, a lot of my friends did.
And although I was an athlete, I'm finding a new love for people in the service. Because they're-- by design, they can't be selfish. And I don't want to dive too far down a rabbit hole so early. But regardless, we've been in this community a while. And I think we're able to come up with some great solutions. So I was asked to be a part of the-- to basically sit in on a seat at the table, per se, at the summit-- which they've brought about 40, 45 coaches, scientists, doctors that deal with the tactical population.
And then they brought in a few wild cards that were people that impact that community. And I'm thrilled that I was asked to be here. So it's almost surreal to be a peer with these folks. I'm certainly not anywhere near the smartest person in the room. I would say probably the dumbest if anything. But I've been able to learn a lot and hopefully able to give back as much as we can in our way. And I think we have our strengths at Sorinex. And hopefully, that we continue to show value to that community.
So here doing that and just getting to be downstairs and learn how do we make these fine men and women more durable and more effective.
Nice. Yeah, it's exciting. And we're going to get into some of that stuff that you guys specifically are doing a little later. For those people listening in and might not be familiar with you, I'd like to kind of kick off some icebreakers, make it a little more fun and get back to some easy ones. But how about, what was your sports when you were in high school-- coming, what were you--
I wrestled for a little while, until I started losing too much weight. And I was always a skinny kid to start with. But my first love of any type of sport was weightlifting. So when I was wrestling, they wanted me to weigh less and less and less. I think they wanted me to weight 112 pounds. I was 6 feet tall or 6'1. I was like, yeah. No thanks.
I already have a hard time gaining weight. I don't need to lose it. So I bagged that. And then just started lifting basically. That was my love. It was lifting, whether it be power lifting, Oly Lifting . I did a couple competitions during that time. And I've always been the outdoors, an individual sport person. I live near a lake. So shirt and shoes off, basically tromping around in the woods. And then later, my high school career got into throwing the discus. That was what my dad had done, how he had earned a scholarship to the University of South Carolina 25 years before.
And so I got into that because I enjoyed it. And it was that scientific side of taking the training, taking the strength gains and turning them into something. So I was a discus thrower.
Nice. We got we got more stuff to talk about there too. I know you've been in a lot of different places. We're trying to keep up with you on social media now. You might be in a different state every month. What's a favorite state you've ever been doing in your life-- our country? Could be outside of--
Sure, sure. I really like the West. I just love the freedom. I love-- I mean, it's awesome out here in Colorado Springs. It's just-- I love the mountains. I love the rawness and the trueness of it, meaning that if you screw up, it's going to pound you. I've been to Alaska a time or two. I'm actually going next week. Probably Alaska, because it's so wild and it's so-- it's so harsh and it's so true. It's such an adult dose that that just makes where I have to be better. And I love-- Alaska's hard to beat.
That's awesome. I haven't been that far. I've got to get there. Because every place I've lived farther west, I've enjoyed. I don't know.
Enjoy it more and more and more.
it's been better and better. How about-- this is a little interesting when I ask people-- but if you could only do one lift yourself-- not for athletes, not that you'd recommend to anybody-- if you can only do one thing for the rest of your life what lift would that be for you?
Probably a deadlift variation, if not just a regular deadlift-- maybe a deadlift lockout, slightly higher. I'm kind of tall. 6'3. So the low deadlift position tweaks my low back if I do it too much. I love a deadlift, because I don't need a spot. I could drop it if I need to. It's extremely functional. It works everything.
And you look back into the mid 1800s, they had a-- can't remember exactly who it is. I don't want to misspeak on this. But he called it the health lift. And it was a deadlift lockout variation that this man would do every day, every morning. It was between 300 and 400 pounds. He would do one or two reps. And that was just his buy-in every day. And he called it the health lift, because what he realized was-- he had this 25 things that he found from doing this that actually Dr. Terry Todd, who recently just passed, cited all of these findings in his doctoral thesis from 1967 that I just read.
Oh, wow, wow.
And it's crazy because you could read them, and it sounds like some strength professional today talking about the benefits of weight lifting. And then you realize it was 170 years ago this guy figured it out from doing deadlift partials.
Wow. that's awesome.
Deadlifts are hard to beat.
Yep. I think I'd agree. Like you said, it's functional as it gets, especially when we're talking about tactical populations-- police, fire, military-- if you pick somebody up and drag someone or-- and you're going to end up probably picking something off the ground. And how many people-- yeah. If you live long enough--
--You're going to pick up something heavy.
How many times do we hear about somebody-- oh, I tweaked my back--
Yeah. Yeah. Take care of your back. You only get one.
And strength is never weakness, right?
Ever , Ever
I want to go back to when you touched on the throwing the discus in college. Just because I did hear this story from you the other day. And it was just super cool. But you talked about going to college and walking on the track team--
--and just getting the reality of like a base-- and your coach told you, look, you're at the bottom.
And either you're going to get up or get out basically.
Right, right. I still have such a love for the throwing events, because they gave me so much in life. And so I walked on to the University of South Carolina onto one of the better throws programs in the nation during the time. This was 1994 in the fall. It was right on the cusp of being one of the powerhouse throws programs. And I didn't know it. I'm from Columbia, South Carolina. I went to South Carolina, honestly, as a second choice in school. I was going to go there for a couple-- a semester and transfer out.
So I did what every good college boy that's finally away from home that's not an athlete does. So I drank and partied for the first six days of school. And then the last day, I was like, you know, I just feel like crap. I need to go lift. So I called my dad. And I knew we had made the weight room at the University of South Carolina the football room. I said, hey, I know they have good stuff down there. Would you mind giving the coach a call, see if I could train there?
This is, again, this is the 90s when you could pull stuff like this off.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
So he said, sure. He gives Rock Oliver a call. He said, yeah, no problem. Come down after the athletes are done. Well, again, I'm 17 years old. I don't pay attention to detail. So I just go down there after lunch. I don't realize it, but if anyone's been in a college weight room in August, the first week of school, the weight room is completely slammed, especially when there's only one on campus at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. That's the high time.
I walk in there. Don't say anything to anyone. Look around. There's a couple hundred athletes in there. I walk over the platform, load up an an Eliko bar, and start doing cleans. I say, this is great. I got a great place to train. So I look over and some people are doing some vertical jump testing. I was like, man, that looks cool. I'd like to do that. Because at my high school they never did that. So I went over and did my measurement, and jumped up. Touched 29, 29 and 1/2. I was like, all right. I guess that's good. I don't know if it's good or not. They're like, yeah. Pretty nice. I walk off.
I go back to-- I think I start benching. And then I look over and they're doing body fat testing. I said, that looks cool too. So I go over and there's a gentleman sitting down. And he's in this little office. And I walk up and get in line. And, again, I think it's like an amusement park. You could just ride all the rides if you want to. And so I'm like, that's cool. So I walk up. And I pull up my shirt to do the test. And he goes, OK, what's your name? I'm thinking, you're not supposed to ask that. You're supposed to just do the test. And I get to play this game. And I told him. And he said, well, what sport?
I, of course, started doing some white lies. I said, well, track and field. I was going to walk on in the spring, which was totally false. I was just trying to make this guy stop talking to me. And he goes, really, what do you throw? What do you do? And I'm like, this guy keeps asking questions. I said, I shot put and discus thrower. I wasn't very good in high school. But I was thinking about walking on, thinking I'm going to shut this argument down right now.
And he goes, well, how far did you throw? And I'm like-- I told him. It was like 44 feet and 132. He goes, well, that's not very far. And then I was kind of like-- I've got to be mad at this point. I'm like, all right. Yeah, I know. I already told you I wasn't very good. And he goes, well, practice starts tomorrow. I'm Larry Judge. I'm the throws coach at University of South Carolina. And I'm like, out of all the people I could lie to on campus, it was the guy that could call me on it. And he said OK--
--He knew exactly what distance those distances were.
I couldn't BS him at all. And so I said, OK. Well, I'll try to make it, coach. And he said, no. If you're going to be the team you will make it. And I said, well, isn't it a spring sport? He goes, you're in college now, son. This is how this works. I said, OK. And I walked off. And I went back to my dorm. And I didn't have a cell phone, because I was that long ago. I called my dad. He goes, how'd your workout go? I go, I think I walked onto the track team. And he goes, really? And I'll preface this with my dad was one of the highest recruited discus throwers ever at the University of South Carolina. So he had the legacy. I'm just some guy that sucked.
And he goes, well, are you going to do it? I said, yeah. Why not. I'll show up and see what it's about. And long story short, five years later, I was team captain, SEC record holder, four-time All-American. And my life had completely changed.
That's super cool. This might open up a can of worms. But what did you have to learn at that point from that next day and going into those guys to end up being--
--I learned probably the most I've ever learned in my life. So going into it a little bit further. So I show up. And again I'm terrible. Everyone else there is a scholarship or at least a recruited walk-on. And we got to the weight room. And the first day Larry Judge literally made me lift on the girls rack. Because I wasn't as strong as the recruited guys. And he told me, he said, when you could lift more than Dawn and Lisa-- Dawn Ellerbe and Lisa Misipeka-- who at one time were number two in the world in the hammer-- in the indoor hammer and on American soil-- when you're stronger than them, you could go lift with the guys.
And I remember to this day I had to squat 365 for five reps that day. And I beat Lisa by five pounds. And that was the only way I graduated off that rack. Now, I weighed 185, 200 pounds, which is pretty strong. But, again, she was like 200 pounds and a female and was smoking some big weights.
So I learned really quickly that genetics are-- there are genetic freaks in this world.
And there are people considerably better than any other humans I've ever seen strength-wise, size-wise. These people were enormous. They were recruited. These people had won state championships and national championships. I never met anyone like this before.
And I was absolutely enthralled. And it was just-- I'm talking to All-Americans. That's a thing? And then I realized one day, wait a minute. If they could do that, there's a chance I could do that. And that was so far beyond my capacity of what my mind had ever held my athletic career in, it immediately-- I was hooked more than any other drug I imagine you could ever be hooked on.
And I trained-- everyone says they trained really hard, whatever. Still to this day, a lot of those coaches are like, yeah, you trained harder than anyone we've ever had. Because I had to catch up. I was 172 pounds at 6 feet 2 trying to be a division 1 SEC thrower. And they said, you got to gain weight. You got to get strong. And so my life revolved around gaining weight and getting strong and throwing far.
I believe you've heard one story. So I came back my freshman semester. And, of course, I went the whole gaining weight getting strong idea. And then I came back from my freshman fall semester with horrible grades. And so I get into the team meeting. And coach Greg Kraft, he was the head coach at the time. He pulls-- Sorin, come on over. This guy knows my name. This is awesome. Because I'm a walk-on. I'm Rudy basically. Literally, they used to call me Rudy.
And I would have to pick up all the water for practice. I was kind of the manager slash the guy that they didn't mind being around that much.
So he calls me over. And he said, hey, Sorin. I said, hey, coach. He's like, good to have you back. So you got your report cards. You got an A, a B, a C, a D and an F my first semester at college. I said, yep. He goes, well, you tryig them all out? I said, well, not necessarily.
He said, listen. And it was probably the best conversation that I've ever-- certainly at that time had ever been given. So he said, listen. He said, you seem like a nice guy. People seem to like you. Dad was a great athlete here. That's all fine. You're a local boy. I like it. It's great.
But your grades are terrible. And you're not throwing far. I think you could throw far potentially sometime. You're pretty tall. You seem like you like it a lot, whatever. There's a potential there. He goes, but we didn't recruit you. We didn't ask you to be here. Your value on this team is determined by two things. You throw really far and score at the SEC championships or possibly the NCAA's. Or you get really good grades and you bring up the average-- the team average of the academic scores. So the people who are really good at athletics, we could cover for those guys a little bit.
He goes, so those are the two things that you're here for. Right now you're doing neither. Get your [MUTED] together or leave. And it was the first time, first of all, that an adult had ever talked to me like that.
Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
And it hit me right between the eyes. And it made me a little sick. And I walked off going, am I in trouble?
And I didn't know if I was in trouble. And then I realized, no. He's just being very honest with you and authentic. And he's telling you exactly what you need to do to stay off the hot seat, and exactly what you need to do to be competitive on this team, to be valuable. And if I took it emotionally too much and said, well, he's being mean or he's doing whatever, I would have probably quit.
But when I said, oh, those are the two things I need to do. And then it's cool. And I'd like to say I did it right away, but I didn't. But the next semester is a little better. I threw a little farther. And I got a little better grades to the point where, again, my last year I had four 3.7 semesters in a row. And each one I got All-American. I was just hammering it. But what I noticed was how you do anything is how you do everything.
And once I decided that success mindset and being accountable and being-- that someone could rely on me and all of that started cracking. Because originally my thought was I'm not going to care about school. And I'm just going to do just enough to get out of trouble. And then throw really far and become a professional athlete. It doesn't work.
If you're on, you've got to be on. And what I noticed later was, wow. When I throw really far the coaches love me. And I get all the best, cool stuff. And then when I get really great grades, they love me and they don't give me any grief and I do what I want. And now this is pure freedom. It's kind of like Jocko Willink talks about discipline equals freedom.
Well, when I do all the great stuff I run the joint. This is great.
And it was a huge thing to teach me early on. And a couple of those conversations, I can't ever-- there's no dollar value I could put on that. And that's-- I have to thank a coach for just being real. And I don't know if that's something you could still do in coaching.
But I'll tell you it was valuable. And I've had to do it sometimes with my employees and even friends-- like hey, here's the deal. So it's a long-winded answer.
Right. That's Awesome
But that was my experience in college. And then I went on to throw for a couple of years after that.
Yeah. That's a great story or great takeaway too. Because it's nice to hear you say that you still have had those conversations. Because I don't think everyone today gets that same kind of real talk or honesty all the time. And we say, well, this generation, this or that. But to some degree, people aren't being either as critical or as honest with people as they need to be. Because I've have had a similar conversation with an intern. And it just reminds me-- because he came back to me. We had broke it off to him a little bit at his midpoint. And he said no one had ever told him that before.
No one had ever critiqued him that hard. And he thanked me for it time-- farther down the road.
But it was like, no one ever told me that I wasn't that good at--
Everyone told him he did a great job.
Right. And someone finally just told me that you suck. By the criteria we're judging you on, you are an F in both categories. He literally said, he goes, I don't care how much the people in the team like you. The girls seem to like you. You're a nice guy. But that's not what you judged on. And, man, that was a life changer.
And I talk about all the time-- if you don't realize that, whether it's in your current job, your coaching profession, or relationships, or whatever, as I say you'll get frustrated or fired very fast.
You'll either you'll either overvalue yourself and then wonder why no one else gets it. Well, if no one else gets it, maybe you're the one not getting it.
Right, right. Martin-- my buddy, Martin Rooney, he said, you better be fired with enthusiasm or you'll be fired with enthusiasm.
You were around a lot of good athletes as you mentioned. Are there some kind of-- who have went on to do really cool things too-- are there common traits that you saw in those people that you emulated and that you saw what made them successful that sets them apart?
Absolutely. I would say the two that come to mind the quickest and the most vibrant would be, one, obviously, positivity. I've never seen a champion who's generally negative. Maybe there are out there. I just haven't seen it. And as in positivity, meaning they always believe there's a shot. They always believe that winning is not even only going to happen-- maybe not going to happen, but they realize it's always a high potential if they do their thing. And they want the ball. Give me the ball with the buzzer. I know I could do this.
And I was around athletes that couldn't do that. And they never lived up to their potential. And then I was around athletes that blew their potential out of the water. And Adam Nelson was one of them. I believe he was the keynote speaker for the NSCA not too long ago. And I remember just being around him. And he was one of the most positive people I've ever been around.
And it was almost-- almost felt it was fake. But it was this mindset he'd created in almost like a third party-- this just crazy kind of deal where he created this storm of emotion and of this self-talk. He just believed that every throw was going to be the one. He believed that every time he stepped in the ring in 1 and 1/2 rotations, that ball was going to come out and go to the world record, no matter what the last one did, no matter what day it was, no matter what-- and it was shocking to me that how can the guy-- because every time it doesn't happen, that's evidence to the contrary.
And then it's like, OK. one out of 1,000 throws, one out of 1,001 throws, one-- and then after a while you're like, OK. Is this-- the betting man would say, OK, this probably isn't going to happen, Adam. But every throw-- every year he'd throw a little bit further, a little bit further. And he always used to say, today's a great day to throw. And I love that. And just being around guys and girls like that that just had that mindset-- or Judd Logan who I-- he's a head track coach of Ashland University, four-time Olympian in the hammer-- he's probably one of the most amazing coaches I've been around in my entire life.
And he told me something, and I guess it's the second part of that. So I believe positive thought is number one. Curiosity would be two. And curiosity, I believe, keeps you pushing and pushing the edges and finding all the little rabbit holes or loopholes or whatever they may be that you're always trying to fight for that last inch-- to figure out what's the next-- and that's what the NSCA is. It's you're curious of how do we harness this science of human performance? How do we understand it? How do we then push the field further? And if you're not curious about that, then you're complacent.
And Judd told me, he said, 90% of my programming remains constant. I figured it out. I know what works. Now this is a guy, again, four Olympics. He's probably-- whether it's him or one of his athletes-- I want to say since 1984, he's had him or one of his athletes in an Olympics.
Just a dynasty.
And he says, 90% of what I do is-- I was known. He goes, but I spend 90% of my time trying to figure out the last 10%.
And he's 55, 60 years old. And still I get texts from him, hey, tell me about this, the new thing that just came out. I'm thinking, Judd, you forgot way more than all or most coaches will ever know. But he's going to try. He's going to put his own money towards it. He's going to turn over every rock to figure out what works. Because the journey for him and the process for him and the curiosity is what keeps him young. It keeps him excited.
And I see that and that just speaks to my heart. And I just go, yes. That's who I want to be. I want to be the old guy in the front row at the conference at 65, 70 years old still bright-eyed and going the next thing is going to get it. Today's a good day to throw. Today's a good day lift. Today's a good day to learn.
And I think if you lose that, you need to either look at yourself or you probably need to seek a new profession.
Because once that happens, it's poison. It's poison within your system.
I love it. I love that, especially the kind of knowing the foundation. You know this program works.
And now I'm going to take some other-- I'm not going to change the program every time I learn something new.
We're not going to not squat.
Its the Foundation, right. We know what works and we know how.
Now we're going to find other things that's-- a great lesson.
And the majority of the time is spent doing that other stuff. Because you don't need to rework. We're going to pull. We're going to squat. We're going to press. We're going to-- great. Now what? What recovery? What technology to capture and manage our data-- like all those little things. And when that keeps pushing forward-- and sometimes you get the big breakthrough that changes that 90%.
But if you're not looking--
--then this whole field is for naught.
Then just buy a program out of-- offline or in a magazine. Follow it. Just buy numbers and be done with it.
Reminds me of the other cliche. There's a difference between 20 years of experience and one year of experience repeated 20 times.
Like people that haven't changed. So did you know when you went to college and were getting out of college, did you know that like I'm going to go be president of Sorinex Exercise Equipment? Was that the plan all along?
The plan was to-- I would say probably close to junior year, I knew that I was in the teaching track. I was going to teach or coach. And I hate to say, I got out of it because I started seeing all the paperwork and the handcuffs that the coaches and teachers were under, and where the world was going with that. And I had the utmost respect for coaches. Because in many ways I'm shocked that you guys are able to deal with the bureaucracy at times. Both my parents were educators. Both of them were coaches and teachers.
And in talking to them, it was like, well, we used to be able to do this. We used to be able-- and that was kind of the mindset I was brought up in. And so I just felt let that my curiosity, my passion, and my gifts would be stifled in a system like that.
And, of course, I love strength. And I was starting-- because of my journey to throw further, I turned over every rock. And I had that curiosity. And I found that Sorinex was a way that I could continue to do it. And if I came up with some really great things then maybe other people could enjoy it. But it also gave me an ability under the flag of Sorinex that now I had an open door to some of the greatest minds in the world when it comes to training. So that was self-feeding in many ways. Because I was still throwing at two more Olympic trials after college. So I was still chasing that rabbit.
But because of Sorinex I was able to talk to some of the greatest minds. And they were invested, although slightly, in my success. So I was in an awesome position. So I knew I was going to go that direction. And I think it honestly just worked out really well timing-wise. Because that was-- I graduated in '99. So the mid to late '90s, if you remember, is what I would say is when human performance side really cranked up--
--especially from a barbell, power production standpoint, private training facilities-- like that whole model really came together. Prior to that, you had more the body building. It was more the machine world and that type of thing.
Commercial gym, right. So when I found myself being spit out onto the highway of our industry rather armed to the teeth because I just got out of-- and I was still in high-level track and field training where I was interviewing the best coaches in the world. I was doing it daily. My body was my lab rat. So I just hit the right wave.
I just happened to graduate right at the right time where my skill set was about to be very valuable.
I thank God every day. And I've talked to my wife sometimes. If I had graduated in 1984--
--I would have literally been the power guy graduating into a Nautilus culture.
I would've missed my window.
Or if I graduated now, well, there's a lot of me's out there now.
But I just hit it right. And I was at the beginning of the bands and the chains. And we were doing that stuff before many people knew about it. And accommodating resistance or velocity sensor units, I was the first-- Sorinex was the first dealer for the tendo unit back in 2002. We were writing and playing with different autoregulation conjugate methods that I was writing in 2005.
Bryan Mann and I, we used to talk. Of course, he's taken it to a whole other level.
But those early days, Brian was asking me stuff.
Now, again, it was-- he was asking me a little.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Let me make sure I quantify that. But it all came down to the positive curiosity aspect of it. I had to figure out how to get better. I was still that under undersized athlete that was playing catch up that I had to figure out how to play with the biggest guys in the world at a sport that I loved. So I think I just wanted it worse. Wanted it more than anyone.
And then that's at the same time that the company is growing, right?
So you're talking about also trying to learn more, be better, do better. But your company also was by the smallest company on the block at that time too.
Oh, by far. Yeah, yeah. We were still literally maybe not a mom and pop, but a son and pop for sure. It was two of us. And we just had a couple little things going. We started in 1980 in a garage.
And the intent was never to take over the strength world. It was never to-- it was my dad. He was a strength athlete. He loved strength. He loves strength and even performance even more than I do. He's made his life around it. And it was a cover charge for him to work in the world that he loved.
And, again, 1980-- you're talking about a barbell guy working in the height of the machine world. And that's part of the struggling in those days. Because he was going to remain into what he was-- what he believed in. And I remember going back to 1992, I was in high school. And I was doing high pulls. And my high school coach that was in our weightlifting class, he said, hey. Stop doing them that fast. Anyone could do that much weight if you cheat like that.
And he thought I was doing an upward row. And I was doing a clean grip high pull at 15 years old. And I went home. And, of course, I'm using my legs in triple extension like you're supposed to. But that was the education level. And he was he thought I was doing an upward row and wanted me to slow down and feel the burn.
And I went home I told dad that. And he goes, well-- back-handedly-- he says, tell your coach that I'll let you lift slow when you tell me a sport that it's better to be slow.
That was 1992. I've yet to change. But that was his mindset. And that was what he was always pushing. And so I was, thankfully, in a position in time where I could start growing Sorinex from a re-ignited pulse on what was happening in the training world as it was happening. I just happened to be there doing it too.
But strangely enough, it didn't really, really take off until I retired from sport. Because time that you're training is time that you're not managing the real business side of it. And that was-- it was vital for our history. But for the business to grow-- people get into business because they like what they're doing. They don't get into business because they like business.
And I don't really like business. I've found myself having to get better at it, because when you have employees and you have production facilities and you have marketing divisions, you have to get into that.
But I couldn't continue to be a professional athlete after work and do that. It was just taking too much time.
Yeah. And you guys have built this-- I like that shirt that says physically cultured. You've built this culture and this community around strength and barbel and stuff that I don't-- it definitely wasn't there 10 years ago. And it seems to be growing.
And it's diverse. It's super diverse.
Yeah. I think it was there. It was just like a small tree in the forest isn't really noticed.
I've kind of laughed going back-- some people say, man, you guys are actually-- y'all are lifting at the conference? And I thought back. And I found an old picture from 1997 for the NSCA coaches conference in January. And I remember that day because I'd done my-- it was my best set. I had a 95% for two sets of five. I did 232 in the snatch for two sets of five, which at that time was one of my better lifts. And I found the picture from it, from the 1997 conference. I'm going, we were still doing the same thing. We were just little. And no one noticed it.
And I remember Roger Marindino talking one day in 2001, 2002. And we were doing speed squats with 405 in the booth when the first Tendos were out at the conference. And I remember Marindino bringing that up. And he even said, those guys at Sorinex are over there training right now doing this stuff. And so I look back and say, I pushed back a little bit and say we've always done it. But we weren't maybe good at marketing. Or we weren't successful enough for people to take us seriously. And the culture that you're seeing is just really the culture that my dad started and that I've always wanted.
And I guess it comes with success. You could start making your own rules.
So that's what's happened. And you know you'd look at an Aaron Ausmus, 16-year Division 1 strength coach. He's certainly what we consider a tree guy. He has a tree of coaches they've come out-- and he was a Moffitt guy. And then he's had a tree of coaches behind him. And people say, oh, wow. You hired strength coaches. I said, no. I hired my buddy.
Aaron and I threw against each other in college. And when he and I-- he was at Tennessee. I was at South Carolina. Between throws, we're 20-year-old kids discussing how much you front squatting right now? OK, what percentage of your snatches is your clean and all this stuff. We were very, very interested in having those conversations. I went to the Sorinex side. He went to University of Tennessee, Southern Cal, and had a career of it. And so it's fun now that we're large enough and have enough power that we can start pulling these people from our former life, that culturally we got along with great, that just so happened to go and be successful as well.
And then we said, hey. Let's maybe do some things and tweak it and change the strength world. Because this is what we've always believed it should have been or what we wanted it to be. But now we have the momentum and maybe the artillery to do it. So in some way, it's been a seed that just didn't have the right water or the fertilizer for a long time. But, of course, now that we started doing it then it's just pour the gas on.
Yeah, totally. No, it's been cool to see. And it's definitely been growing like events like Summer Strong.
Started off as your dad's birthday, right? He's getting some guys together to have a barbecue and train. And now you just had the--
--11th one. It was the biggest one.
It was the biggest.
You got a new headquarters.
Yes. Maybe talk a little bit about the growth of that and just like what it's become, what it represents to you guys.
Sure. Well, Summer Strong, like you said, started this Pop's birthday party. And again, that just kind of goes back to the ethos of what we've always done. I said, what do you want to do for your birthday? This was 11 years ago, almost 12 now. He said, let's open up the gym. Let's get the grills out. Lets cook some burgers, have a couple of kegs or whatever and just do it like we would always want to do in the old times.
And it was just interesting. We just lifted and hung out. Well, a lot of people showed up from different spots in the training world, not geographically. But we had Josh Henkin with sandbags. That was pretty early in the sandbag world. And then we had Mike Schrock who was teaching Oly lifting. We had some professional strongmen, some professional powerlifters that all just showed up.
And for about an hour we would do-- everyone would do sandbags. For about an hour, everyone would do Oly lifting. Well, I shouldn't say everybody. But the people who were interested in it. And there'd be a couple people that said, oh, I haven't done this before. I'll try this. And I'll let you coach me. And everyone started coaching each other.
And then it just happened. No one programmed it. We just looked around. And when I realized we had 38 people in the room, that everyone was really, really passionate about human performance and physical culture. And they weren't tied up in I'm really good at this, so I'm not going to show my weakness by playing in your pool. I'm going to stay in my lane.
People started getting in each other's lane and saying, OK. Yeah, maybe I've squatted 1,000 pounds, but I don't know how to snatch. Please teach me.
And by the end of the day, we just went, whoa, that was a really, really interesting experience and almost an experiment. The next year it grew. The next year it grew. And from 38 people it was-- we had capped last year at 600 and still had tricklers coming in and had to turn down a number of people. And then it kind of eventually grew into specific speakers we brought in. Because we had to have some-- when you have 500 people show up, you have to have a structure.
But what we've done, we tried to, again, stay with that ethos of pulling extraordinary people from the human performance field, not just strength and conditioning or college strength and conditioning or high school, whatever it may be. Because I believe if you have only one source of knowledge or a group of knowledge, you only have a specific source of experiences.
So now we'll make sure when we invite our Summer Strong speakers, number one, they have to be extraordinary. Number two, they have to love it. They have to be a person that just as willing to be in the audience as to be a speaker.
And if they're going to show up, and they're going to big time it or rock star it, as I call it, and get there an hour before they speak, do their thing and roll out, it just tells me that-- it's not that they're bad.
It's just that they don't quite get it.
So the event becomes a speaker goes up there, speaks for roughly 50 minutes. Maybe they go real deep. Maybe they say something super personal that has turned into a time. Sometimes they go super Yoda, like a Cal Dietz.
Sometimes it's a workout. I give him that hour. They do what they're going to do. But we program it where we know that different style of people are going to come up and give you a different experience in many ways.
Some people have called it the Woodstock of strength and conditioning.
And we try to go places that the strength world has not gone before or the human performance world has not gone before, or they're afraid to go. Or no one's given them the go ahead to go. So like this year, we had college strength coaches, pro strength coaches. But we also had a survivalist-- a homeless survivalist. And she travels all over the world and goes on adventures that leave her near dead a lot. But learning her mindset of how she gets through some of the most difficult conditions and does it with glee, in my opinion, was worth the whole weekend.
Because if you could bottle that and teach that, I don't care what you're doing. I don't care if it's a girl that lives in a car and goes around the world and sleeps in a woodpile, that's a valuable skill set to understand. And so that's what-- and because of Sorinex I get to meet a whole lot of really interesting people.
And so that's kind of the cover charge. And then from that we could-- myself and my group-- could look at these people, these amazing humans that we have in our life and go, wow. I want to share you with my favorite people as well.
And that's probably one of my favorite things to do is almost scout and find these amazing people. And then introduce them to another group of amazing people. And then just step back and see what happens. It's kind of almost like a little bit of a chemist where you put different elements together and you step back and see what compound it makes.
No. And I think having attended one too myself, I think that's what makes it so cool is the experience of it not being the same conference. Because there's just so many let's share a PowerPoint. Stand there.
And we even struggle with that. organizationally as how do we better-- how do people better learn? We know we know that people don't-- coaches preferred method of learning is not listening to someone lecture with a PowerPoint for 50 minutes, right?
It's all these other things. And so how do you change it up, give people different mediums, allow us to be more fluid and more holistic, whatever words you want to use?
Change the context of it. And what we talked about yesterday was-- some friends and I, we were discussing relationships and how they were built. And one thing we-- I don't remember who came up with it. Maybe it was-- I don't remember who it was at the table. But it was the acronym of SET, S-E-T, which was Struggle, Eat, and Talk.
And we talk about well, how do people learn the most or how relationships were built? We figured that out through anecdotal evidence that a struggle, a workout, a run, PT, whatever it may be-- something that's hard that we all had to get through together. And we got to be vulnerable in front of one another. We showed our strengths. We showed our weaknesses. And we got through it. So there's the struggle.
And then eating. Of course, that goes back to caveman days. They sat together. And what is eating a lot of times? It's the eating and talking. It's the debrief. Hey, that really sucked. Or hey, you did really good at that. Or back to the caveman days, wow, you stuck that woolly mammoth with that spear. And he almost trampled you. That was wild. And that's how that community is built we found. So, yes, there's classroom sessions. But also this past year at Summer Strong we went through 1,500 steaks, 500 pounds of Boston butt, 35 kegs of beer, 150 bottles of wine, and probably 1,200 potatoes among other things.
So we realized that's such a big part of-- get people to sit down and just be together as a family. And it's a three day event. So when you walk away from it-- I've seen people cry leaving there. Because it's like when you're at summer camp, you're like, I don't want to go home.
And so I think we've cracked the code a little bit of how people learn the best. And I saw it a lot at NSCA conferences and at other conferences as well. Some of the best conversations were going on in the leather couches in the lobby.
And that was what we saw. And I said, OK, how do we capture that and turn it into a weekend of that? Because that was the stuff that I had some of the best conversations-- maybe I had two or three many beers. And I half was remembering. And I halfway couldn't understand what so-and-so was saying. Because he was way smarter than me. And I was a little bit tipsy.
But I took two things away from it that changed my training. And that was, honestly, how I used to find out a lot of stuff. I would just find the people who beat me on the field.
And then I would invite them to dinner. And then I would buy beers until they would tell me how they beat me. And I would sit there as long as they wanted to talk.
And I would just do that for a decade. And you figure out a lot of stuff.
Yeah. Well, it's such a great-- the breaking bread with people-- that whole eating experience, it's-- yeah. It's tried and true. And, yeah, like you said, from a caveman time, every culture and--
--generation has utilized that to deepen relationships and the way that we open up to each other.
Of course. And the struggle is a big one too. That way you're getting up. You're getting the oxytocin release. You're getting the dopamine release. But you're also-- again, there's another way to see the fellow man beside you. And I saw it yesterday at the conference downstairs. He had the-- it was like an eat and lift. It was like a 90 minute deal.
And a lot of us went out into the gym and trained. And someone that was sitting across the room that had no interaction with earlier, I was beside on the platform. And we got to talk. And I got-- I was like, when I walk away I'm like, that guy's really strong. And now I have another level of respect for him besides what he was saying in the conference. Wow, he's the real deal. He's very strong. And he understands what he's talking about. And then we sat down and talked a little bit about lifting and training. And then it was like, wow. Now I'll consider us friends versus acquaintances.
You guys did a great job with that.
Thank you. It's super cool. It's good to build that in. Even I know at the conferences we try and still encourage the early bird workout, the training throughout the day or getting-- at some point-- to get those workouts in. And it's great when they can still see some of the board of directors in there.
So they know this is what this organization was built on.
It was strength coaches doing this. And it's still our core values.
Yes. And I'll hit it hard, but I believe if you're in this profession and unless you're injured, if you're not actively training, you're being negligent. You're being negligent to the profession. That's my-- I might make someone mad with that. That might be the conversation that guy gave me years ago that you just needed to hear. And I know I'm not talking to you with that.
I'll have to have a pretty convincing argument to why someone isn't training if they're in this profession.
Yeah. 100% I agree. So you talked about how great-- how big it's grown and what is there. is there another level? How do you-- each year you go back and you're like, OK. We debrief. How is either A, how are we going to pull this off again? Or how does it-- how do we make it better?
Yeah. We've gotten this-- it's terrifying, first of all, doing it. Because you know that last year crushed it. And every year I do believe breaks the year before. And so you're on this roll. So there's one part of you that feels like the unbeaten team, that you know that next Summer Strong 12 is going to be better, because that's just how it works.
But then there's the other part of reality where you go, OK. There has to be a ceiling to this. And so you always have to come up with, I believe, slight-- going back to the 90%. 90% of the planning is figuring out that last 10% that people don't expect. But it's going to still hit.
Because the main focus of it is to give the people, the speakers, as well as the audience-- not just the audience, everyone in the room-- give them an experience that they would rather be nowhere else in the world for those three days. And then they walk away and their life-- it's cliche-- but their life in some way is changed. Maybe big, maybe small. Maybe it's a relationship they made. Maybe it's something. But how do you package and do that? And that's what 90% of the effort goes towards.
And I hope we can do it again. It's getting pretty tough though.
That's cool. That's cool. So the third week in May every year, that sort of weekend?
Generally. It's close to Labor Day as we could get without being Labor Day. This year it's May 17, 18, and 19. You guys have been awesome-- the NSCA's been awesome to do CEU's the last few years. And it's huge. Because I do believe there's certainly continuing education going on.
I get what you're saying.
It may be different than what people normally expect. And I've had a number of people walk in there and they go, I didn't know what to expect. I literally came for the CEUs. And I'm blown away.
But that's great. I'll consider that a convert.
And if you remember the old movie The Game. Remember, he does the thing. And it's like the whole game is around his reality. And they build it all out. Remember in the beginning of it, the guy goes, gosh. I remember the first time I got to do it. Because it was the surprise. And so when I see new people come, I tell them, I go, enjoy it. Because your first one is the one that's the eye opener.
And get your rest, because it's going to be a fun ride.
Yeah. No. I agree totally. That's awesome. I do want to quickly touch on-- because we alluded to it at the very beginning-- but Sorinex Tactical is a branch now of you guys.
And in very infant stage but growing. And you've got some cool stuff--
--building out. And maybe give us a little glimpse behind the curtain on that project.
Sure. Well, as many people well know, we do a lot of work in the government space and the tactical space. From weightlifting equipment side, I'll call it the indoor stuff-- racks, benches-- the normal stuff that we're doing for the college football teams as well. But then there's this side that bridges the gap between the weight room and then the battlefield or the fire or whatever-- the street.
So we've moved some of our technology and some of our application to outside. And our group is called Tag Tactical Applications Group. And that means tactical not in the way of Molly and Velcro and everything in olive drab. But tactics that are used. And that could be anywhere from military style tactics all the way to hunting, fishing, outdoors, capability courses-- things that are just more hands-on maybe in a more open space of the world.
And so because we have a large reach to extraordinary people that have those values and those skill sets, we're able to pull our friends and teach courses and tie in different products that hopefully we can make-- and solutions for the industry that maybe weren't seen before or were a rub point-- just as things we fixed in the weight room can now be done outside the weight room.
And I'm an avid outdoors person. So it speaks to my heart. It's what I'm interested in. And I think passion has to be one of the big driving forces to anything you do. And it's something that I and some of my team is very passionate about. So we're here as a service to the industry if we can be.
That's cool. So what can we look for you and I talked about a little bit-- that we can-- that might mean some other courses or one-day clinics or stuff like that--
--at headquarters-- at the the Sorinex Tactical Headquarters?
Yep. The Sorinex Tactical headquarters, which is-- we have a farm-- a couple hundred acre farm that's about 15 miles from Sorinex HQ in Lexington, South Carolina. So we have our gym and our museum and everything at HQ. And then we have the farm outside. It has a 22 acre lake. So we have different water, whether it be fishing, things like that. But we also have little boats. And we could do some water iterations of training.
We have 1,000 yard rifle range. So we're doing a precision rifle course there with Leupold Optics, one of our partners. Two 360 degree bay. So we could we could do a number of shooting iterations tied into a gym-- an outdoor gym that will be their conference center, things like that.
So it will be-- it could be rented out by different government entities or private entities if need be. We could utilize it for some of our training R&D, things like that. But I would love to have a TSAC course-- a practitioner's course that takes that one step further outside the weight room that literally ties into the actual rubber meets the road in those scenarios. And to get some of the massive brains and amazing coaches that the NSCA and the TSAC community has. And to maybe put them in a slightly different context that could be-- we could test out more theories, and to just basically to be an asset to the community.
Yeah. For sure. It seems like, especially with the kind of growth of the strength and conditioning and the tactical setting, that seems like a perfect evolution of where TSAC is going.
Yeah. I hope it is. I hope it is. And I'm very interested to see what the gentlemen and ladies downstairs in that conference right now, what their mindset and what they could put towards something like that and how they could utilize a tool. Because I know that we're maybe only seeing a corner of the iceberg on that.
Right. Right, right. And also, though, it does branch across, like you said, all of the different branches of military, first responders, firefighters. It's not just where TSAC started-- just the SEALs had the strength coach.
And then maybe it branched out to Army and Air Force. But now we're seeing and we're hearing, at least from this group of people, it's trickling down into the big-time regular Army. And it's going to have an effect across the whole-- probably all the branches of the military.
All the branches and even across the world. We were in Germany last year with NATO doing some stuff with those guys. And so you're talking all the freedom countries out there are doing a similar model. I'll wave my American flag for a moment and say how amazing we are in that space. It's pretty evident.
I believe there's a couple of countries that are really doing it right. I would say America is at the top of the list. And that's because of stuff like TSAC going on. And the information is being shared. And the money's being put behind it.
So it's just been fun to see it develop. And what's better to make sure our men and women that are serving our country are taken care of with the highest level of technology and application. And that's what we want to make sure we remain to be relevant and able to help that fight.
That's great. You see so many different coaches, like you said, and even throughout all these different groups you work with and different people from different backgrounds. Any recommendations-- this is going to be a kind of a broad question, so I'm going to apologize in advance--
But for somebody just coming out of college or somebody who's new to-- maybe a couple of years in and trying to find their way-- any just golden rules, things you have to do to be successful as a strength and conditioning coach from all these people that you've seen and learned from and get experience with?
Burn the gas. That means get in your car, get on a plane, and go see them. You can only get so much. I love podcasts. I listen to a ton of them. But that tells me who I want to go see. Articles-- great. Read them. That's an avatar. And I look at some of the folks that are close friends of mine that have gone really deep into this industry or that are highly sought out or some of the greatest minds. And what I've noticed is they were there for a lot of the stuff. They weren't just textbook people.
One of my friends, Matt Vincent, we call him the drifter lifter. And that guy has probably lifted in every great gym in the US. And he had a sales job that allowed him to go all over the country. But he made sure that everywhere he went-- he saved his money from the hotel rooms and just got crappy hotels-- and made sure that he got extra time to go to these gyms, meet the people there, take them out to eat. Give them-- the same model that I use. And now the guy. absolutely knows everyone. And he has the firsthand story to almost the entire training world right now. And he's lifted with everyone. He's welcome in everyone's gym.
And you go, man. In one way it sounds like he hacked the system. But the other way, you just put in the work.
You just got out there and did it. And that's what I did early in my career. Even my dad did early on-- there was-- I want to say in 1990, '92, believe his name was Goldstein? that was brought over from Russia. And some legendary strength coaches pulled their personal money together and brought him over. And it was one of the first times a Russian coach come over. They gave the playbook.
And you look back, it was Johnny Parker Al Miller, Doc Crease you had some you know Boyd Epley some hitters of the day. My dad was the only one who wasn't a strength coach that threw in his personal money. Because he was that interested in that lifestyle and understanding it.
And so I look back and see how many times that he put in his personal money to be places and to see-- he got to see the first 1,000 pound squat by Bob Moran in, I believe, it was Dayton, Ohio. He was 10 feet away from it when it happened. And I said, what the heck were you doing up there? And he goes, I knew something big was about to happen. So I got my butt in the car. And I drove to Ohio.
And you look at it you go, OK. So part of it is you just got to commit and burn the gas and go there. Because you only get a tenth of the story when you read about it, when you hear about it. And you can't ever dive in with that person and see the look in their eye and the fire or the tremble in their voice or whatever when they're talking about their passion. And ask them that question that maybe you never thought to ask them until that exact second. And if you don't do it, you'll never get that.
And the coaches that I see that do it are the ones that seemingly come out of nowhere and then are all of a sudden in this position. And you're like, how the heck did they do it? Because they were building real relationships with real people in real time. And then the other ones aren't.
No. I love that. I think I almost-- I learned a lot of that by default growing up in Vermont.
I grew up in Vermont. And I lived in small towns.
And when I started realizing this stuff in the strength and conditioning world, I had to learn from more people. None of those people lived in Central Vermont. I had to drive-- I had to drive a lot to go-- I had to go visit a good friend, Liane Blyn to learn how to do strongman. She lived in Massachusetts.
I drove four hours.
I didn't think twice about it. It's funny.
No one ever told me this is what you should do. You figure it out.
Your passion told you.
Your passion told you that that four hour drive was OK.
You have to figure it out. Yeah.
Yeah. I talked to Brandon Lilly. He said, I used to drive three hours to West Side each way a couple times a week. And people go, that's six hours in the car? He goes, yeah. But I was lifting at West Side with Louie.
And you hear these time and time again, I had Uri Seddick or Judd Logan or all these great hammers throwers, if they were doing a clinic in the US, I was figuring out a way to get there.
And didn't have the cash to do it. But you could always find a way to do it. Everyone says, oh, I don't have the money do it. BS. You could always figure out how to do it.
And if you're a person that just defaults to that I don't have the time or money to do it, then you've just told me-- I think I did a post the other day-- your excuses tell me everything I need to know about you.
You've just told me that you're going to give up that quickly.
Yeah. It's such a great-- such a great-- if you take one thing away from this entire podcast, that's the thing you better take away.
I would say so.
What's the rest of your year looking like? Kind of winding down or ramping up?
It's an undulating ramp up. [laughter] undulating periodizes . No. We're pretty heavy-- hot and heavy into the world of making sure things go out the door. Our summers are always really, really busy with conferences. And towards the end of the year-- we do a lot in the football world, so it slacks off a little bit, because everyone's trying to win games and keep their jobs. But then the military comes in hot and heavy. So we've got to make sure those guys and girls are taken care of.
I do a little bit of outdoor adventuring. That's my passion. And when the weather gets cold and the leaves start turning, that's when my little tail starts wagging.
So I get to go out and do that. And thankfully, as we're doing more things in the physical culture side of that, I want to tie in some of that mountain hunting and adventuring and things that, again-- because in my opinion, it's still a sport. It's still something you're training for. If you're going to go hike up a 10,000 foot mountain and then haul out an elk, you'd better be in shape.
And it's a sport. You just better train for it. So I'm very interested in that.
And so the more I engulf myself in there, the more I understand the sport, the more I can help out.
Cool. Great. Well, if people want to reach out to after this show, what's the best way? I know you're on social. But
Yep. Social-- Facebook or Instagram Bert Sorin, B-E-R-T S-O-R-I-N. You can follow us on Sorinex. That's our main thing or Sorinex Tactical is also on IG. We're probably most active on IG. You could shoot me an email. You could do info@sorinex or email@example.com. Reach out to any of our people. We have reps in just about every area of the country if you need some help. But besides that, relatively easy to get a hold of I think.
Yeah. we'll put all that in the show notes. And thanks again for coming to visit us here at HQ.
It's an honor.
Being out here. Look forward to seeing you again soon.
Absolutely. NSCA's an awesome job for so long. We were looking at the-- looking at the hallway on the way in. And you guys have done so much for the industry. It's just a huge honor to be here. Thanks, man. It's an exciting time for NSCA and for, I think, strength and conditioning and coaches in general.
It really is.
Looking forward to the future.
All right, thank you.
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