There’s no bigger thrill than being able to talk with one of the legends of an industry, and today I have that opportunity with this interview with Michael Boyle.
Michael’s been responsible for a lot of the concepts utilized around the world by strength coaches and perosnal trainers alike. He’s published books such as Advances in Functional Conditioning, Functional Training in Sports, and dozens of others, including DVDs, workshops, seminars, and all sorts of other material. His Facility, Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning, is consistently ranked by Men’s Health magainze as one of if not the best place to train in America, so yeah, he’s a pretty big deal.
DS: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview with me, Mike. It’s always a great experience to talk with someone who has had the chance to shape much of what’s going on in a profession, and I feel you’re such a person. Could you start by telling those reading who may not be familiar with you a little about yourself?
MB: I’m actually a Certified Athletic Trainer so I started out on the sportsmed side of things. I have a bachelors and a masters from Springfield College. I’ve worked in the college environment for 25 years and also worked in the NHL for 10 as head of strength and conditioning for the Boston Bruins.
For the summer I have about 20 National Hockey League and minor league players training four times a weeks as well as my Boston University Hockey players. In addition we have about 300 collegiate and high school athletes working out in our two facilities.
In the early eighties I actually competed as 181 lb powerlifter. I only say that because many think I’m a skinny geek who never lifted a weight. I must confess that I currently resemble a skinny geek who never lifted a weight. My primary business is Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning in Woburn, Ma (outside Boston). I also am the strength and conditioning coach for ice hockey at Boston University as well as a speaker and writer. I speak primarily for Perform Better. You can check out lots of my articles and products at www.strengthcoach.com
DS: Aside from you educational and professional background, what other experiences, personal, educational or professional have helped form your thought processes?
MB: I think what describes or defines me is my whole life. My father was a coach, I was an athlete first (although an average one), and have been a coach almost my entire adult life. I am now a writer, a mentor, a teacher, a husband and a father. Lots of roles.
DS: Since you train a lot of different athletes from a lot of different sports, you obviously have your hands full designing so many different programs and making sure you balance work with rest. What are biggest tips for keeping your athletes healthy and fresh?
1-Get lots of frequent, brief and intense workouts. In-season training looks a lot like HIT training.
2- Fitness is relative, Guys that play a lot of minutes need more rest, not more work. Guys that don’t play a lot need to get extra work in on game day.
3- Make post-workout nutrition a priority. Shakes post game are key.
DS: How far do you push your athletes and clients without causing them to break down?
MB: Depends on age etc. With my personal training clients I work on feel. I ask them about their day, their week etc. With my pro athletes we start very easy and build every week. I work on a work capacity model where we just keep adding more and more each week. It’s only a 10-12 week off-season and we have a lot to do. We roll, stretch, and do lots of mobility work. I think you need to care for your tissue and your joints. I also harp on my athletes about nutrition. Postworkout nutrition is a big deal.
I learn the most from my college players that I work with year round. I really need to manage them to keep them fresh. It’s much harder.
DS: What has made you successful in your career?
MB: I think never wanting to fail and never being satisfied. I always said what makes you a success is also what makes you crazy. I struggled for a long time to find balance. I think my kids coming along helped me do that. I think Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Successful people also helped. Covey asks if you live your priorities. I think at times my job was treated as a higher priority than my family. I’ve worked to correct that.
DS: Who are your go-to’s for new information to keep you growing intellectually?
MB: Truth is, it gets tougher each year to find new info. In the past 5 years most of my new ideas have come from the physical therapy world. Mike Clark, Gray Cook, Mark Comerford, Shirley Sahrmann. However, I think we have gone too far with the therapy side. I think these folks are brilliant but, they don’t do what we do. They can provide ideas but, they don’t actually work with athletes for a living.
I’m really lucky to be on the Perform Better circuit. I get to hang with some of the best in the business and talk training. Mark Verstegan, Alwyn Cosgrove and Jason Ferrugia really get me thinking, Todd Wright, Al Vermeil. The list is endless.
DS: Hopefully Dean Somerset can get added to that list one day. If Chris Poirier is reading this, gimme a call!! I want to come and present with all these crazy guys and gals!!
DS: There seems to be a real boom in ‘old school training’, tire flipping, car pushing, gymnastics rings, etc. What’s your thoughts on it’s application to development of sport performance?
MB: I think it’s a dangerous waste of time. I like heavy sled work as I can see its application. Beyond that, I don’t have much use for it.
DS: So I guess you’re not too big on the whole CrossFit trend?
MB: I can’t stand it. Lots of injuries and lots of false bravado. I’m all for hard work but it needs to safe and smart. In my opinion, Crossfit is neither.
DS: What are your goals as a coach?
MB: I want to be remembered as an honest, ethical, hardworking guy who gave people good value. Beyond that, I’m not too concerned.
DS: What are some points of advice you would give to new trainers and strength coaches entering the industry?
MB: The list is long. Get ready to arrive early, stay late and give people more than they asked for. Read an hour every day. Divide the time between professional reading and self help reading.
DS: What is your professional/personal philosophy?
MB: I think they are the same. Treat athletes or people the way you want to be treated. The Golden Rule is always good for starters.
DS: What are some professional goals that you have for yourself?
MB: I’m getting a little old. My goals are more personal than professional. I want to be a better father and a better husband. I think I’m doing a pretty good job coaching.
DS: You have written numerous books and created countless programs, could you give us three books that all trainers looking to expand their knowledge must read?
1- Training for Speed – Charlie Francis
2- Starting Strength- Kilgore and Rippetoe
3- Functional Training for Sports- Boyle ( I just looked it over and I still like it)
DS: You have mentored and produced some of the worlds best strength coaches. You have a winter mentorship program coming up in February as well. What are some things that people can expect from your mentorship program?
MB: The opportunity to see a great system at work. The opportunity to actually participate and, about 16 hours of my undivided attention. At the last mentorship we were together for 4 hours a day. The day lasted 6-8 hours but, we were together as a group for at least 4 of those hours. The other high profile mentorships don’t give you that access. If you are going to pay to go to a facility and to work with a person, ask how many guaranteed hours you get with them.
DS: With training so many different athletes at one time in your facility, how do you organize your training information so that each athlete receives necessary treatment for further development?
MB: It’s easy. We have a basic core of stuff we want to get good at which has no relation to sports played. You need to get proficient and strong in basic single and double leg exercises. You need to master basic upper body exercises. You need to sprint, jump, push/pull a sled , and condition. If you want sport specific training, go practice. You won’t see any silly “fake specific” stuff in my facility.
DS: So no 1-leg bosu squats while pressing an elastic sideways and twirling a baton? Dang.
DS: How do you incorporate research into your training program?
MB: Carefully. My good friend Alywn Cosgrove is fond of saying “sports science is actually sports history”. Researchers test what we are doing to see why it is working for us. The cart is consistently ahead of the horse.
DS: How do you find the time to work on all the projects you have going at once, and balance family time plus your own workouts?
MB: I work a lot and don’t work out very long.
DS: What trends do you want to see killed, and which actually have some meat behind them and some sort of staying power?
MB: I hope people eventually see through Crossfit POx90 etc. I think all trends go away. I want to see the “microgym” movement like my place continue to flourish.
DS: Can you give some info on the concept of the “micro-gym?” This is a term I’ll have to admit I’m not aware of. How is it different from a personal training studio or a commercial facility?
MB: Micro-gym is a term that is used to describe places like mine, Cressey Performance, IFAST etc. A facility that competes with the big chains in the local market but, is not a normal $10/mo place.
DS: You’ve been doing this for a while, so something must keep you going and wanting to push your own intellectual and professional boundaries. What makes you want to do what you do after as mnay years as you’ve invested?
MB: I love the process. I love trying to find ways to do it better. Whether it is athletes or personal training clients, I love trying to find a better way.
DS: I’ve always felt there was a grey zone between rehab-based therapists and personal trainers/strength coaches. Most of my clientele come from that grey zone, where they have been recently discharged but have very specific concerns to continue strengthening and improving function. I’ve worked at building a company-wide program that focuses on this market and have seen
tremendous growth and improvement over the past three years. Do you see this becoming more popular across the fitness industry, or is it still a small segment of specialization?
MB: I think it will become more and more popular. There are just so many unhealthy, in pain clients out there that those of us who
can help people to exercise without pain will continue to prosper.
DS: There seems to be a trend of bald strength coaches out there. What gives? I think I’m even getting closer to a five-head than a forehead. Think it might have anything to do with a high lifetime exposure to Human Kinetics textbooks?
MB: My father used to say grass doesn’t grow on a busy street.
DS: Any thoughts on the NSCA after 2010? How about JC Santana? Don’t worry, I don’t think either of them read this.
MB: I’ll leave the Santana one alone. As for the NSCA, Jay Hoffman is causing it to implode.
DS: As a whole, who works harder: personal training clients or athletes?
MB: I think personal training clients and athletes are about the same. Both groups follow a bell curve.
DS: Finally, I’m getting married in August, any tips on how to survive marriage while working as a personal trainer? My system involves buying her shiny things occasionally and going to sperm-killing chick flicks once in a while. What do you do?
MB: If you are concerned about this you might still have time to reconsider. The right woman is the biggest decision of your life. If she doesn’t understand your passion for what you do life will get harder before it gets easier.
DS: Where can people read more about your theories and programs?
MB: They can go to www.strengthcoach.com and get a 14 day trial for $1. It’s the best website in the industry. I have great contributors and some podcast that are worth the price of the site by themselves.