Interview: Bret Contreras
July 13, 2010 Leave a comment
Insights Interview: Silver Linings and Forecasting of the Industry
Hi Bret, I want to thank you for your time and effort in making the interview happen. I have looked up to many great people in the health and fitness industry over the last 15 years and one name that I keep seeing more and more of is yours. Tell me how old you were when you started becoming interested in the field and also what your background is.
Hey Anthony, first of all I want to thank you for allowing me to do this interview. To answer your question, at fifteen years old I started reading every muscle mag I could get my hands on and training using bodypart splits. At twenty-four I stumbled upon HIT training. Before that I seriously didn’t know there were other “methods” out there other than HVT. Shortly after that, I stumbled upon sport-specific training and never looked back. Over the years I’ve taken a hard look at nearly every method, system, and style imaginable. I’m a 33 year-old CSCS with a master’s degree and a background as a high school mathematics teacher.
We all go through tribulation and trial and if you haven’t you will. When you first started doing your job and focusing on your work, what were some of your biggest let downs, failures, and/or rejections? What did you do to overcome this negativity?
The most difficult struggle I ever went through professionally was when I had to let go of the idea that my invention was going to make me a lot of money one day. In late 2006, I invented a glute-apparatus called the Skorcher. I thought it would take off especially considering the compelling EMG experiments that were conducted showing it’s effectiveness. However, the world wasn’t ready for the invention, the economy plummeted right around the time I was able to raise money to launch the product, and my dreams of “making it big” came to a screeching halt a couple of years ago. I became quite bitter and distrustful after this experience and am not sure if I’ll ever fully “recover” from the let down. I was lied to and taken advantage of by unscrupulous investors.
As time goes on, it becomes easier to see that everything happens for a reason. I gleaned some great business lessons and learned an awful lot about what type of person I never want to become. Best of all, I own one of the few Skorchers out there and can use it in my own training! Here’s my friend Keats Snideman using the Skorcher to do a single leg hip thrust.
Many people often get, “tall poppy” syndrome (where the person tries to cut another down for their own gain). I am sure this happens to you at some time or another but what do you do to keep your mind focused away from this sort of stuff?
Tim Ferriss wrote an excellent blog about “dealing with haters. Here’s the link:
Here’s what I try to focus on:
1. The more popular your work, the more haters you’ll likely develop
2. The more cutting edge and innovative your work, the more haters you’ll likely develop
3. The Strength & Conditioning profession is male dominated and often ego-driven. Getting hated on comes with the territory and many don’t like “newcomers”
4. All publicity is good publicity
5. If you put yourself out there and your stuff works, you’re going to positively impact thousands of people. I’m one of the few trainers I know of who have invented and popularized exercises and created terminology that “caught on” in the industry. Focus on the good you’re doing and resist the temptation to get enraged by comments written on blogs and forum threads
6. Strength training attracts a lot of “meatheads” who love to pick fights on forums and say horrible things. Once again, getting hated on comes with the territory.
7. All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. – Arthur Schopenhauer 1788-1860
8. Nobody likes a negative person. If you can’t learn to deal with adversity and be positive most of the time, then doors aren’t going to open up for you and you’re not going to be able to spread your message and positively impact nearly as many people as you could if you were a happier person.
9. Our profession needs critical individuals who aren’t afraid to call it like they see it. Learn to appreciate these highly critical and opinionated folks as they’re a natural “checks and balances” system for our profession
10. Every negative situation that occurs is an opportunity for you to display your positivity, professionalism, adversity, and determination
I find that after considering these thoughts I’m able to calm down and not be deterred by haters.
How do you, Bret Contreras, motivate the unmotivated? How do you make someone who is in denial about their health to come to terms with themselves?
First of all, it’s important to realize that you can’t motivate everyone. As a young personal trainer I used to give discounts and train so many people for free to the point where I went overboard in my quest to “save the world.” Now I reserve trying to “motivate the unmotivated” mostly to family members and dear friends. For these people, I try every angle imaginable. I beg, plead, bargain, write simple programs, print articles, email links to journal study abstracts, and try to find an “angle” that will do the trick. Sometimes you just have to accept that a person isn’t ready to care about their health and be proud of the fact that you may be “planting seeds” that will sprout later on down the road. Just never give up!
Who is the one person who has motivated you the most in your direct family? How about in your field?
Although I have the greatest Mom and Dad in the world, I have to go with my Gramps on this one. He was an engineer and always bought me all kinds of math and physics books when I was in high school and college. I was probably the only kid in my high school who read Steven Hawking books and understood the theory of relativity. He would give me his Discover Magazines and talk to me about science all the time. This affected the way I approach everything in life.
As to my greatest influence in the field…that’s really tough. I’m a very unique trainer and don’t always follow the norm. I’ve been heavily influenced by Louie Simmons, Charlie Francis, Mike Boyle, Christian Thibaudeau, and Gray Cook. However, my training and methods are quite different than theirs. My number one influence would have to be Mel Siff (although I didn’t read his book until after he died so his influence on me occurred post-mortem). He was in my opinion the brightest guy to ever care about fitness. Although I’ll never come close, I aspire to think like him on a daily basis.
Where do you see the gym and fitness industry heading? What will be the next big step for the fitness industry?
I thought long and hard about this one and have realized that I’m no prophet. My friend Carl Valle offered some insightful opinions on this topic. Here’s the link:
I’m curious to see if our profession ever enacts stringent licensing procedures for personal trainers. I’m curious to see if gyms keep becoming “fruitier” or if “manly” gyms will be resurrected. I look forward to the time when our profession has a better understanding of what “functional training” entails, as well as what best practices are for assessment/screening, gaining mobility/flexibility, maximizing transfer of training, and optimizing core training. I look forward to the time when we have a better understanding of program design as it pertains to manipulating training variables for various populations. As the different fields of Physiology, Biomechanics, Physical Therapy, and Psychology converge, we’ll gain a much better understanding of the “Big Picture.”
If you could train anyone who would it be?
Definitely Usain Bolt! I would love to conduct all sorts of analyses, experiments, and studies on him in hopes to figure out exactly what makes him so special. I would also love to see if I could help make him even faster. It’s easy to make a novice better. But getting the best in the world to be even better takes someone who really knows what they’re doing.
What’s your biggest advice for a new student or trainer?
As Rob Panariello, one of the brightest minds in the fitness and physical therapy fields likes to say, “Know the difference between fact and opinion.” Strength & Conditioning is an arte scienza. It’s a blend between art and science. There are too many variables to ever allow us to boil it down to an exact science. Much of what we do is based on opinion. No expert has all the answers. In fact, no expert even comes close. Many roads lead to Rome and there are many methods that can lead to success. Learn from all the experts via books, textbooks, articles, blogs, DVD’s, journals, seminars, college courses, and internships. Have respect for those who know what they’re doing but don’t put them on a pedestal. No matter how smart you think they are, they don’t have all the answers. We don’t have much figured out so always remain open-minded yet at the same time be highly skeptical. Try to be evidenced-based while also remaining innovative and staying on the cusp on scientific advancement. Don’t be afraid to try new methods as that’s how we learn. Don’t be afraid to fail. Develop your own philosophy based on evidence, theory, anecdotes, and opinions. Always err on the side of safety. Learn from a variety of fields as that sparks creativity. Make friends in the profession. Never stop training yourself!
That’s awesome advice Bret. Thank you Bret for your time and input, I am really excited to keep following your work. Although I have been through a decade or so of school, I am really new to the field and like everyone, I am always learning. I am really inspired by your drive and work ethic and applaud you for your effort. Thanks Bret, I appreciate you.
Thank you very much Anthony! I appreciate those words very much. It’s very nice to know that I’m inspiring others. Excellent and unique interview questions. Thanks again!