This week we have the pleasure of hearing from Tony Gentilcore. In his own words:
“Admist all the other blogs and websites out there, you happened to stumble upon mine. I don’t know anything about you, but it’s readily apparent you’re off the charts intelligent. And good looking.
For those who are actually interested, here’s a little bit about me:
Tony Gentilcore is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) holding a degree in Health Education with a concentration in Health/Wellness Promotion from the State University of New York at Cortland. Recognized as one of the premier trainers in New England, Tony has established an outstanding reputation due to his no-nonsense approach to training, unique perspective on program design, and corrective exercise experience.
Tony is also one of the co-founders of Cressey Performance, located in Hudson, MA. His ability to relate closely to CP student athletes, aspiring professional athletes, and experienced professionals, dates back to his collegiate baseball experience. Tony was named Most Valuable Pitcher in 1996 and 1997 for Onondaga Community College (Syracuse, NY), where he was also named 1st Team all Conference and 1st Team all Region. He earned an athletic scholarship to play baseball at Mercyhurst College in Erie, PA where he was also named a “Division II Player to Watch” in 1998.
Additionally, Tony loves lifting heavy things, telling other people to lift heavy things, eating dead animal flesh, hanging out at bookstores (nerd alert), talking about Star Wars, and Matt Damon.
The Slim Is Simple.org Non-Profit Nutrition Education Effort
Jonathan: Hey everyone, Jonathan Bailor back with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim podcast. Today, definitely is going to be a good one, a wonderful lighthearted, kind, and intelligent and strong man joining us today. He is the co-founder of Cressey Performance located in Hudson, Massachusetts, right outside of Boston. He is a regular contributor to Testosterone Magazine. That’s a pretty cool name for a magazine, Livestrong, Men’s Health, Women’s Health, basically if you know what you are talking about in the area of strength and wellness, you are talking to Tony Gentilcore, and that’s who we are talking to today, Tony welcome to the show.
Tony: Hey Jonathan, what’s going on. First, can I just say I need to hire you as my new hype man. That was like the most baller introduction I have ever had. Seriously, every time I do my speaking engagements, I am just going to replay that before I start talking.
Jonathan: You should just cut up the podcast and just play it in the morning as an affirmation to yourself. [crosstalk 00:58].
Tony: Add a laser show, and we’ll be all set.
Jonathan: I forgot to mention, you are Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist or CSCS, for short.
Tony: Yes, thank you for having me. This will be fun. It’s great to be on.
Jonathan: Well Tony, it is a pleasure to have you on. Folks, if you want to follow along as we chat here, you can visit Tony’s website at tonygentilcore.com and Tony, just right from the get go, how did you get so… because you are working over at Cressey Performance, one of the premier [inaudible 01:32] in the country and this is a crowded industry. There’s a lot of people in this industry, so one, what spurred your interest to dedicate your life to this in the first place? And, two, how have you been able to differentiate yourself, because you certainly are?
Tony: Number one, like yourself and a lot of people in your audience, fitness is basically a part of my life. I can’t remember a time where I wasn’t playing some kind of sport outside, whether it be baseball, basketball, football, wiffle ball, kickball anything like that. My parents got me my first weight set when I was 13, and the rest is history as far as that; but as far as the fitness industry itself, I played baseball all through high school. I was lucky enough to play four years in college. I had a couple of pro prospects, but unfortunately there was not a huge market for right-handers that throw 85 miles an hour.
So, I ended up going back finishing school and got my degree in health education, but also decided… I got a concentration in health wellness promotion, so I made a good call of deciding not to go into academia and thought it would be way cooler to spend my times in the gym. I have been doing it since 2002, so little over a decade now which sounds surreal saying that. But as far as like what I feel differentiates myself is like, I have pride in myself and surrounding myself around a lot of smart people. I also pride myself in continuing the education, so I just didn’t get my certification and was like, “Hey, let’s start training people.”
I really made it a point of seeking out people who are smarter than myself, learning from lots of different people whether it be on biomechanics, whether it be an anatomy, whether it be on performance-based stock, whether it be nutrition. Luckily, Eric and I have been friends for a long, long time. Another friend of ours Pete Dupuis, the three of us started Cressey Performance back in the summer of 2008, and it has been an awesome journey. We have grown from a 2000 square foot facility to little over 15,000 square feet now. We are known as baseball guys, like we train a lot of baseball players. We had roughly 80 professional baseball players training with us last off season. We are expecting well over 100 this off season, and we are talking about big leagues, minor leagues all the way through college, high school, and even some little leaguers, too.
We also trained a lot of general fitness enthusiasts, people who take their health and wellness a little bit more seriously, aren’t really concerned of getting on a leg press machine, but they wanted to lift heavy stuff, throw some balls, move some chains, push some prowlers, it is just a fun atmosphere, but an atmosphere that we kind of call it science-based meat-head training. We get after it, certainly, like my foray is definitely to get people stronger, but to do so in a safe and efficient manner. We are working around a lot of injuries and just making people healthier in general. It has been fun for sure.
Jonathan: Tony, when you look at your facility, and you hear the way you describe your facility, I imagine some listeners could get in their mind, “CrossFit,” and say, “Okay, this is a CrossFit place. This is a place where you CrossFit.” Is that accurate? Is that inaccurate? And, if it is inaccurate, why is it inaccurate, and what are you doing differently?
Tony: It is inaccurate. What differentiates us between, let’s get this straight. I have my qualms about CrossFit, but there’s lot of things I like about CrossFit. What I like about CrossFit is that they get people to work hard, which I think is fantastic; and they build an awesome sense of camaraderie, which are two things that we do as well. What differentiates us from CrossFit, and what I don’t like about CrossFit and this certainly doesn’t apply to every affiliate because there are certain affiliates in CrossFit that do do this. We make it a point of assessing every client, taking them through screens, taking them through proper evaluation, and writing individualized programs for every single person that walks through our doors. So, whether we are dealing with a minor league hero who has been in no-man’s land in the minor leagues for three years and is just trying to increase his performance, whether we are dealing with a 45-year-old CEO who has back pain, whether we are dealing with a 14-year-old kid that is coming out of a back brace and dealing with a major case of spondy — every client is getting assessed. Every client is getting an individualized program that they hold in their hands and they get coached through at our facility. That is what I feel differentiates us from CrossFit.
Jonathan: Tony, there seems to be two competing schools of thought, and maybe they are competing, may be they are complimentary and that’s why I want to get your geek out here a little bit with you on. There is the CrossFit… often when I was involved in athletics, I was involved in football, and there was certainly these explosive, move quickly and those seem very athletic focused and then on the other end of the spectrum you have intentionally slow movement. They are like super slow-type training, slow burn-type training, what do you see as the pluses and minuses of each, and who should be interested in each?
Tony: I think when it comes to the slow, controlled movements, it’s just learning appropriate movement patterns, I always police the people that need to be explosive and we need to have good bar speed and I am really not a fan. To me, if you are especially being more of an athletic-based facility, if you train slow, you are going to be slow.
Jonathan: Tony, to clarify this is because you are an athletic-based facility, if I am a 60-year-old woman whose goal is to reverse my diabetes and to shrink my waist, would you be giving her that same advice?
Tony: We certainly have had those types of people that walk in. I think it is never a bad thing to get people to move well and to be a little bit more athletic, certainly I am not going to take said 60-year-old grandmother and say hey let’s do our max effort dead lifts and start throwing stuff really fast. She is just not going to be prepared for that. But certainly I would love to teach her a proper squat pattern, a proper hip hinge pattern, may be work on a pushup pattern. Certainly discussing nutrition components, like we have nutritionists at the facility. We have a massage therapist at our facility. We have a manual therapist at our facility that does lot more intricate manual therapy-type stuff. We have a team of people that regardless of anyone’s background or sport or interest, we feel we can do that, but
I think when it comes to your general person who wants to look good, they want to look good with their clothes off. Let’s be honest, most people want to look good with their clothes off, they want to have a little fat loss, maybe get a little bit stronger, there are certain things that people want, but their training doesn’t reflect that, It is kind of like what a very good mentor of mine, Dan John, always says, “Your goal is to keep the goal, the goal.” Does your training reflect your goal? I think the way most people approach their fitness plans, whether it is fat loss or getting little bit stronger and moving well, their training doesn’t necessarily reflect what their goal is, if that makes any sense?
Jonathan: It absolutely. Actually, Tony could you repeat that saying you just said about? What was that?
Tony: It is one that I stole from my strength coach, Dan John. He always says “Your goal is to keep the goal the goal.” Essentially people will have a goal, whatever it may be, and they don’t stick to that goal and their training doesn’t reflect that goal.
Jonathan: That is such an important point, Tony, because I got to tell you, I see so often we become bombarded with… let’s talk to this here. Training is very specific. It’s sports specific. If you train to become a better baseball player that is very different than the training you would do. So, knowing your goal and being focused on that goal and sticking with that goal, that’s incredibly important, isn’t it?
Tony: Absolutely. There are certain things that we would do with a professional baseball player that we wouldn’t do with a football player or that we wouldn’t do with our said 60-year-old grandmother. Certainly, there are some common denominators. When it comes to movement quality, course ability, what have you; but like you said, there is so much chaos out there as far as the information that we are bombarded with. I don’t fault people for not knowing what the hell to do. This goes for nutrition aspect, too. It is like there is a new book coming out every week saying that carbs are bad, carbs are good, fat is bad, fat is good.
The same thing in the fitness realm. It’s like when we CrossFit, it’s great. The next week someone is saying CrossFit is the worst thing for you. One week, dead lifts are the bees knees, the next week they are the worst things for your spine. There are so much information out there, but what I would like to feel and admittedly I am a little biased is that we kind of like beat out that chaos at our facility and try to get people on track and get them to train correctly for their goals, given their needs, given their weaknesses, their imbalances, etc.
Jonathan: That focus on the goal, it seems obvious, but I do think we very much miss it. A simple example for that is there is so much, as you said, debate out there about is X good or bad? Is Y good or bad? If anyone makes that statement even that logical structure is X good or bad, that logical structure of thinking is leaving out the goal. Is X good or bad for… there has to be something… like there has to be a something for ‘blank,’ and I think that’s why there are so much debate. Is this good? Well, what are you trying to do? If your goal is to become a wonderful marathon runner, then you are going to do the thing which is good for you, will be bad for people who are pursing something different. Is that correct?
Tony: Yes, it is very true. You get people who… and that’s kind of like where we come in, because we will get plenty of people who come in who are interested in fat loss. Let’s just use that as the umbrella of the conversation. I will sit down there and discuss their training history, discuss their injury history and what have you and they will describe to me how they have been training… because to me when we are talking about fat loss, like doing long durations, steady states, low cardio is not a very efficient way to go about fat loss; but that’s what they have always been told, that’s what they read.
I will take the opposite direction and listen, we are going to get you more athletic, we are going to get you strong. Really, at the end of the day, I want to get people stronger. I think strength is the foundation for everything. If you can’t have agility, you can’t have power, you can’t have endurance without first having a base of strength. So, at the end of the day, my main goal no matter who I am working with, is to get them stronger. Within the context of what their goals are and like their sport, there’s certainly a… to me there is a rate of diminishing returns if I am working with a pitcher, it is like there is really no benefit in me taking their dead lift from 500 to 550 pounds, like that 50 pounds isn’t really going to do anything, may be increase the risk of injury. That’s what I think, dead lifting 550 pounds is dangerous, but the work that it would take to get there probably isn’t worth it, you know what I mean? But either way, at the end of the day, I want to get people stronger. I want to take our 60-year-old grandmother and prove to her that yes you can do five to ten unassisted push-ups. Yes, you can do squats with a load on your back. Stuff that they thought were impossible and show them that it is possible.
Jonathan: I love, Tony, that you described the strength as being foundational, because it really is in the broader sense of the word; and what I mean here is that we talked about the confusion of goals and we talked about how strength is so foundational. Sometimes people say to me, well, Jonathan, are you saying that running is bad for you? Doesn’t running improve your health or your cardiovascular risk factors, etc. The question is may be it does, we can dig into that if we want to; but there are other ways of training that also do that and a bunch of other stuff and don’t have any negative side effects and permeate the secondary benefits all throughout your life. Meaning, if you run a lot, you will probably become a good runner. If you become stronger, you will become… just everything is easier, and in fact even your perceived cardiovascular skills will get better because if your leg muscles are stronger, it is easier to walk upstairs.
Jonathan: Tell us a little bit about that.
Tony: Being in Boston, there is a large endurance-based community here, especially with the marathon. We do get a fair amount of endurance athletes that come in, whether there are tri-athlete or they are training for a half marathon or 5K or even just the Boston Marathon itself. What’s nice about our facility is by the time somebody reaches out to us or contacts us, they usually kind of know what they are getting themselves into. They might have read my stuff, they might have read Eric’s stuff. They kind of know what we are about. But even outside of that sometimes we do have to de-program people.
I am always telling them, “Listen, getting you stronger is going to help your running efficiencies. It is going to help your time. It is all about force development, putting force into the ground to propel yourself forward. No matter what race we’re talking about, it is a matter of who finishes first, it is not who can go the longest. So, exactly what you said, when it comes to running, yes, there is some sense of specificity, like in order to become a better runner you need to run, but I would also argue that when it comes to joint integrity, endurance athletes are notorious for beating up their bodies. They are what keep a lot of physical therapists in play, because they get banged up, they go to physical therapy, they get better, they train, they get hurt again, they go to physical therapy. The wear and tear that they put on their joints, I would argue that much of the time, I will take away a little bit of their running volume, replace that with strength training and then more often than not, they see increases in their time because A, they are stronger, they are hopefully preventing more injuries from happening in the first place because they are stronger.
At the end of the day, like I said, it is about force development, putting force into the ground to propel us move forward. They buy into it. Once they train for a month or two and they see that their mile time went down, they are in. Once I can show them results within the first month or two, and they feel better, their times are going down and they start to get it. So, it is always a nice win-win for both parties.
Jonathan: Tony, what do you think about the analogy that crossed my mind as we were talking here in terms of strength being so foundational is, imagine there was a method by which you could just boost your IQ. Like it wouldn’t necessarily make you better at any mental scale necessarily, but it would just give you 20 additional IQ points, then they will say oh crap whatever that is, sign me up right away because while it may not make me better at learning Spanish directly, it totally will because you know I have 20 additional IQ points, and your brain is just better, is strength training almost like you boosting your bodily IQ, because it just makes you better at everything?
Tony: Yes, you can argue that I think, it is about efficiency. There is another thing that we like to use at the facility is that getting stronger is corrective. We get a lot of people who will come in beat up, whether their shoulder hurts, their back hurts, their knees hurt, what have you. Certainly, we are going to address those issues whether it is tissue quality, movement patterns, biomechanical issues, what have you. Getting stronger is going to take a lot of the burden off the little tendons and ligaments that are getting all beat up, and we are making the muscle stronger; so it’s going to take the pressure off the joints, and it is going to be corrective in nature.
Jonathan: I love that strength is corrective, Tony, and I want your opinion on this because it seemed almost miraculous in my life. Just a quick personal story is, when you talk about strength being corrective, I tore my ACL and my MCL and both meniscal discs in my knee at this point 13 years ago. Then they took a ligament from my hamstring and grafted it to the knee for the ACL because it is a total tear. Whatever the other, it was PCL or MCL, it was torn in half, they repaired that. Then I tore my meniscus again. They had to just remove it because it was so damaged. Then I tore the ACL grafts. So today…
Tony: Please tell me it is a cool story, like you are fighting for a good cause or something.
Jonathan: It was football, football, and then basketball.
Tony: We will take that.
Jonathan: The reason I bring this up is, I elected not to get the third surgery, because I said to myself the first two didn’t stick and by getting the surgery just made me think, “Oh, I can go back to doing what caused the injury in the first place.” ,The reason I say this Tony is I have functioned in a relatively robust capacity for over a decade with no anterior cruciate ligament in my right knee and no left meniscal disc because of strength training. What do you think about that?
Tony: I think that just kind of goes along with my point, like you’ve made your active restraints stronger; and by active restraints I mean your actual musculature which is taking the burden off of your passive restraints which is the ligaments, tendons and stuff that you don’t even have there in the first place. But, by the sheer nature of making our active restraints stronger, it has basically protected your body and made it more efficient which is kind of like it is really the analogy I use a lot of our endurance athletes as far as the repetition in the wear and tear they put on their joints from all the running that they do. By getting them stronger, if anything I am trying to keep their mind on… well, I’m trying to keep them on the pavement more, so they are able to run longer and to do well on the races rather than go to the physical therapist every three or months whatever the ritual has been. But no, I think it definitely plays into the point I made, the fact that you have done it for a decade with no ramifications, that seals the deal right there.
Jonathan: Tony, what are your thoughts? It almost seems like someone could be hearing and maybe they are hearing correctly, certainly when we talk about strength training and resistance training, we are talking about developing our muscles. We are talking about building up the body. We are talking about strength is corrective, and it seems like that’s almost the opposite… or is that the opposite of when we do this endurance-type training which seems like it is breaking down even the hormonal response like one is releasing testosterone and growth hormone, the other is releasing more catabolic hormones. Is strength training a building activity while as endurance training is a breaking down activity here?
Tony: We are not even factoring in recovery and nutrition. When we are strength training, we are still breaking down the body. We are ripping muscles, like stuff is getting broken down. It is not to the quantity of when people are out there running three, four, five miles a day. To me it is all about quality of training, not so much quantity. I am along the same line as you, is that I understand that running is a part of the equation. When we talk about heart health, or we talk about the mind-body connection and the endorphins… I mean, I get it, I understand why people do it, but certainly I always find it comical when some people look at the programs I write.
For example, I had a female client who trained with us for two to three years, and then she went off the med school. I was still writing her programs when she was in Philadelphia, and she wrote me a story saying how there was one day she just got done with a brutal set of squats, it was a squats session and some guy walks up to her and was like, “Oh, wow, you’re really getting after it,” and looked at her program and was like oh but where’s the cardio? Meanwhile, as he was asking, she is literally bent over like huffing and puffing. I am like what you mean like that anything that elevates your heart rate is cardio, you don’t have to be on the treadmill in order to elevate your heart rate. I challenge anyone to go into the gym and do a 20 rep set of squats of challenging squats and tell me that your heart rate isn’t elevated after the fact. You don’t have to be out on the streets or running on a treadmill in order to get your heart rate up. Anything that elevates your heart rate can be cardio, but not everything that is cardio is aerobic.
Jonathan: That is such a profound… literally that in and of itself I think if people really understood that point that you just made which is, don’t get so hung up on the means. Focus on the ends. If the ends is to elevate your heart rate then you can say okay, my goal is that, so what is the way to do that while minimizing destructive or unnecessary stress on the body and certainly a controlled set of 20 squats is much less wear and tear it would seem on one’s joints and ligaments than running on pavement and breathing in car exhaust for an hour.
Tony: Well, yeah. You have to factor that in, too. Certainly, there are plenty of people that… when I go to commercial gym and I watch people squat, my eyes start bleeding. Believe me, squats can be just as detrimental as running, but also I am under the sentiment and under the mindset that you need to get fit to run not run to get fit.
Jonathan: I love that, you should just get some T-shirts up on your website with these things.
Tony: I know I am throwing off some gems here. People are getter that from other people. It is certainly like there are plenty of people… like running is fairly advanced, like you look at foot contacts per mile. Like if we are working with an elite athlete, and we are doing plyometric training and I say that in quotations like “We are looking at maybe 30 to 60 foot contacts per session.” And then new factor what most people do when they want to get healthy and they want to get fit, they buy a new pair of white sneakers and they put them on, they lace them up, put their iPod on and then they go out and they run two to three miles. We are talking about 1500 foot contacts per mile. You take someone who is not well prepared. They don’t have good movement quality. They have poor tissue quality. They’ve been sitting at a desk for 10-12 hours a day for the past two years in front of their computer. They just are not prepared to take on that much pounding. So, that’s why I always say people need to get fit to run, not run to get fit.
Jonathan: Tony, it seems like that it’s almost analogous, people come back and say, “Oh, I know these people that ran and they got fit.” My response to them, and I am curious what your thought is, that’s a bit like cutting your hair with a chainsaw, like you can. It will cut your hair, but why would you first turn to a chainsaw to cut your hair? That’s not right.
Tony: Still like we can’t forget that it is a part of the equation, but I am biased. I am a strength coach, I am a strength coach, so, of course I want to be like, “Yes, people need to lift weights.” I feel like that’s the direction most people need to go, and to me, even when I am working with a lot of female clients, I have to de-program them because they have been told that they need to eat low calories for longer periods of time. They should lift light weights for high reps, and I take the opposite approach. I am like, “Listen, we are going to get you strong, and we are going to increase your calories a little bit. We are going to de-program you, and good things are going to happen.” I feel like for what most people are looking to do to their bodies, I think strength training is going to trump just about everything else, whether we are taking about yoga, Pilates, running; and, I have done all of them.
So this is a stuff that I have done myself. I have gone to yoga class, and I have written about it. I have gone to a yoga class. I have gone to a Pilates class. I have stated what I liked about them. I have stated what I disliked about them, and at the end of the day in my opinion, I still feel like strength training and lifting appreciable weight like getting after it is going to trump anything that anyone can do whether as far as anything else. I am biased. I know that’s a very closed-minded way of thinking, but I truly do believe that.
Jonathan: Tony, I agree with you, and I think to your credit and hopefully to my credit as well, you are also not saying everything else is stupid, only strength train. What I hear you saying is much more, like I talk about non-starchy vegetables should be the foundational element. If there is just one thing I had to say, it is like increase non-starchy vegetable intake from a nutrition perspective. What I hear you saying… and that does not mean I don’t like protein. I love protein, but I just like non-starchy vegetables that is the base and what I hear you saying and what I would agree with is strength training is the non-starchy vegetables of fitness.
Tony: That’s a good analogy. I like that. I think like it is the base. I think as long as they get, like if I am working with the female client, like you get your three strength training sessions in a week, I don’t care what you do after that. Go to Pilates. Go to yoga. Go run your three miles. Like do it, but you are coming to me to get your result. I know it is going to get you the result. You need to lift some weights, because that’s going to increase body mass. It is going to take some fat away. It is going to increase bone strength, not to mention all the hormonal stuff that’s going on; like that’s going to get you where you want to go, and then anything after that you are at your own discretion. You can do what you want, but you are coming to me for my expertise and my insight. This is what you need to do.
You are going to do it, and then after that, if you want to go to yoga class at the end of the week because you like sitting in a quiet room, listening to music and relaxing, I get it. I did it. I understand it, but certainly sitting in a room sweating does not mean you are going to be shedding seven pounds of fat in a week. So getting into the gym and getting active is going to lead to that. But I totally agree with you, it is the base. It’s not the poo poo on anything else. I am just very biased towards people lifting heavy stuff.
Jonathan: I love it, Tony. Well, thank you so much. Certainly, you mentioned that your clients come to you for your experience and expertise since it is very clear that you have a lot of both of those. Just to close, I want to recap on the three of the wonderful things you said today which is, remember folks, Tony is sharing some insights with us, and the first is the goal is to keep your goal your goal. The second is that strength is corrective, and the third is get fit to run, don’t run to get fit. Tony, that’s just like one, two, three strikes we are out because I don’t think we can get any better than that.
Tony: That is a pretty good ending point I think.
Jonathan: Tony, thank you so much for joining us and folks, if you want to learn more about Tony, there is a bunch and bunch of free content on his website. He is a smiley guy. You can tell that he is a happy, friendly person, and his writing always makes me smile, so check him out.
Tony: I am a cool dude.
Jonathan: He is a cool guy. His website is tonygentilcore. He has got a gentle core, he is gentle core. Tony, thank you so much for joining us and folks check him out at tonygentilcore.com and remember, this week and every week after; eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. Talk with you soon.