Anthony Mychal is a guy with a unique perspective. While coaches are out trying to push their system, he sits back, watches and synthesizes information into a form that’s useful for all of us. I learned a ton from talking shop with him…so I’m excited to share this interview with you.
Todd: Thanks for taking time for this interview, Anthony. I know that you’re a busy guy–always cranking out new projects. Before we jump into the big questions, what do you think people need to know about you?
Anthony: Thanks for having me, Todd. It’s my pleasure. As for your question: there was a time when I was all about coaching. Throughout my undergraduate career, I made it a point to get experience when I could. I commuted to campus at 5:00AM for 6:00AM training sessions. I shadowed. I interned. And I met some very smart people that helped me understand and piece together what I now know. Even after college, I taught and coached at the high school level.
But after losing my job because of budget cuts, I don’t consider myself a “strength coach” right now. So although I coached a lot in my past (some guys that are now in the NFL even), right now it’s all friends, family members, and online clients. Right now, it’s learning the ins and outs of writing. And, honestly, I’m beyond content. I’m gradually accumulating equipment in my garage and preparing for anything the future brings.
But I like where I’m at, because I see everything from a different perspective. Sometimes I feel that, as a coach, there is a pressure to “originate” ideas. And because of that, everyone gets secluded on their own island. The way I see it, there are enough people out there trying to do that. So instead, I hover around and synthesize everything that’s out there: collaborating when needed, meshing ideas together, and connecting some dots that would otherwise be looked over.
So I’m just kind of a regular dude that breathes training and tricking (my “sport” of choice) that experiments and writes. It may decrease my “respect” level among peers, but that doesn’t bother me. There are a lot of people that gain value from what I write, and my focus is with them. No one else.
Todd: You have a great background and a great perspective. You’re spot on about pressure to originate and the resulting seclusion from other coaches. It gets a bit silly. I like your take on things–synthesize what’s out there and make it digestible. Can you talk about some of the cool ideas you’ve found lately? Maybe shed a little light on the research you’ve been working on?
Anthony: Working smartly tops the list—something I call “sketching” strength and performance. I think a lot of regular people get overloaded with so much information that they fail to take action. But action is the most important part. They think everything has to be a masterpiece, so they constantly look for the “perfect” program. But a lot of times, the most important part is picking up the pencil and getting something—no matter how bad—on the paper.
People see collegiate strength programs and athletes and they “want” the programs and exercise methods. But, instead, they should want the mandatory practices and lifting sessions. Because then you can’t flake out. You have to be there. You have to sketch, even if you feel like garbage.
Another facet of this is training intensity as a whole. At PITT, I witnessed dudes get sickly strong in eight weeks using loads primarily around the 70% 1RM range.
The max effort method is a tight rope because progress is all about consistency. Nothing kills consistency like injuries. And beyond muscular imbalances and all of that fancy stuff, I think a lot of injuries come down to simple stress and recovery.
What separates starting pitchers from catchers? They both throw the ball with about the same volume. Yet pitchers are the ones getting their flesh cut open every year. I’m not sure where muscle imbalance begins and simply “throwing too damn hard too damn much” begins.
Looking around, I see a lot of young bright guys that absolutely breathe training. Young guys that, at many points, were (are) destroyed with injuries. Ben Bruno. Mike Guadango. Bret Contreras. Myself.
All of us grew up on the powerlifting mindset. Yet most of us, even with how young we are, are now pushing the importance of staying healthy, not maxing so frequently, not doing exercises if they hurt, and all of that other stuff.
I should mention playing around with higher reps too, and solidifying a good mind-muscle connection. Bodybuilders tend to age “healthy.” Or, certainly healthier than most powerlifters. And I think that’s saying something. I’m not quite sure what. But it’s something.
I could also mention some experimentation with Evosport and extreme long duration isometrics, but I think I’ve rambled enough, hah!
Todd: No, please go on about your Evosport and long duration isometric experiments!
Anthony: Well, I don’t want to turn it into more than it is. Let’s just say I think that the long duration isometric lunge and push-up are two of the best motor reprogramming and stretching tools anyone could use. And I also think that the overall structure of Evosport was sound. (First teaching position and activation, then teaching force absorption, and then teaching force propulsion.) It’s just a shame that some erratic claims reduced it all to nothingness. But if you go back to 2000 or so, it’s all anyone talked about. So I’m just trying to go back and extract any semblance of usefulness from it.
Todd: Extracting usefulness—I like the way you phrased that. Although this is Beyond Strength Performance, our biggest emphasis is on getting people stronger. You know the glass analogy—everything else is better developed when a person is stronger. You’ve shed a little light on it, but I’m curious. How do you approach strength training from a movement and loading perspective?
Anthony: Some people think I’m anti-strength. I’m not. But I’m anti-strength movement dogma. What I mean by this is that I don’t think there is one single lift that any one athlete needs to do. (Unless you’re a powerlifter or weightlifter, in which case you better be doing the competition lifts.)Some lifts are better than others, no doubt. But from a general perspective, you aren’t going to be able to look at an athlete on the field and say, “He does front squats instead of back squats,” or, “He power cleans.” It just doesn’t work that way.
We overlook the important part of simply overloading the movement pattern. So get a strong squat. Does it matter which one? For most of us, no. Zercher. Back. Front. Goblet. Whatever. As long as you can make progress with it over time.
I’m a big fan of Dan John, so I’m going to drop an Easy Strength reference. The majority of us are QIII athletes. Those who aren’t are likely QII athletes. Even less of us are QIV athletes.
Now, picking certain strength movements for QIV athletes (a discus thrower, for instance) is a touchy subject. That might be an instance where something like an incline press is preferred over a flat press. But few of us are that specialized. For QIII and QII athletes, just get better at something over time.
As far as philosophy, my old mentor used to say, “Getting these guys (referring to his athletes) strong is like falling out of a boat and hitting water. It’s just going to happen.” His athletes trained with sub-maximal loads, around 70% 1RM. A lot of people would say that the workload or intensity simply wasn’t “enough.” But I witnessed some crazy strength gains. Honestly, I didn’t believe them. I spotted some guy that had a previous max of 275 on the bench press at a bodyweight below 200, and we worked up to a max of 320. This was with eight weeks of training.
Ever since then, I’m a big fan of what I call “sketching” strength. Every strength session is a canvas, and most people try to paint a perfect picture every session. They want to hit a new RM or train until their eyeballs dangle from their optic nerve.
But most times it’s better to just “practice.” Scribble something down. Get the hell out. Masterpieces are better served for rare occasions.
Todd: Great stuff, Anthony. That’s a really fresh perspective on strength training. I’m also a big Dan John fan. I got to hear him speak inRhode Island and I felt like a little kid watching his favorite ball player hit a home run. He’s an amazing guy.
So I know you just put out The Myth of HIIT and are a big proponent of aerobic work. How did you get started down the path toward including more aerobic work in your training—and where is it leading you now?
Anthony: Yeah, the Myth of HIIT is one of two free eBooks I recently released (the other being The 242 Method). As far as the aerobic work is concerned, here are three anecdotes that help illustrate the concept. The first was a post I wrote for Freak Strength. The second is an observation. The third, an anecdote.
1. “Did anyone catch the Fiesta Bowl last night? With about three minutes left in the game,OklahomaStatewas down by one touchdown. They went into a hurry up offense and thrashed through Stanford’s defense. By the time they got to the 50 yard line, the Stanford defense was SHOT. The announcers kept commenting on how out of breath they were. Even Blackmon, Oklahoma State’s star receiver, had to sit out on the side line the last few plays of the drive, huffing and puffing for air. This is what no regard for energy systems work does. People bash aerobic work, but last night is a prime example of why it’s so important.”
2. Just watch sports and evaluate the work-to-rest intervals. I used to think that it would be idiotic for basketball players to jog. But when you watch a game, most of what they do is jog up and down the court. There are sprints mixed in, yea. Some cutting for point guards. But most of it is jogging. Same with soccer. And football? Six seconds per play, maximum. The rest period, 30ish seconds, most of which is spent jogging back to the line of scrimmage or to and from the sideline. How in the world does the high intensity interval methods with negative work-to-rest intervals optimally prepare for this stuff?
3. I mentioned a previous mentor in some of the earlier questions, and this anecdote once again comes from his (and his partner’s) regime. The football team they took over for was the one of the worst fourth quarter teams. After their system settled in, they began to dominate the fourth quarter. They were recently let go (new head coach), and ironically enough, their fourth quarter performance became horrid once again. Now, I know this can be due to the overall system and coaching calls, but sometimes you can just tell players are exhausted, making bad mental decisions, and just getting outplayed.
As far as my own training goes, you have to consider that I’m a trickster. I’m benefitted by having ultimate control, so the aerobic part kind of gets thrown out of the window, which is nice, haha.
I’ll include some here and there though. During the winter I’ll do gymnastics holds intermixed with tumbling. Right now, I run through basic tricks quickly at an “easy” intensity. Just mixing and matching things that fall within my interests.
Since I broke my foot last January, both running and jogging are tricky. (So is tricking, but I find a way) I have this unsightly nerve pain, so I try to cut back on the ground contacts.
Todd: Anthony, again, I want to thank you for your time. This has been a very enlightening interview–you bring a perspective that our readers aren’t accustomed to. Is there anywhere that you’d like to direct people to, or give some information on how to reach you with further questions?
Anthony: Thank you for letting me answer the questions, Todd. It’s been a blast.
If interested, you can check out my website, http://anthonymychal.com. You can e-mail me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org, or get at me on any social network. Or you can just drop a comment below. I’m sure Todd and I will be all over that, so that’s you’re best bet!
Thanks again. (6715)