Podcast Transcript: Greg Anderson – A High Intensity Strength Training Icon (#187)

Please enjoy this transcript of Dave Durell’s podcast with Greg Anderson, Co-Founder of Ideal Exercise. It was transcribed and therefore might contain a few typos. When interviews last 2+ hours, it’s difficult to catch some minor errors. Enjoy!

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Dave Durell: Okay. Welcome, everybody. This is Dave Durell from HighIntensityNation.com and HighIntensityMuscleBuilding.com, and we have another high-intensity interview in our series, and our guest today is somebody that I’m going to be excited to hear from because I have not spoken to him before, although I’ve heard a lot about him before, and this is none other than Greg Anderson.

For those of you who have not heard of Greg, he runs a great training facility in Seattle, Washington called Ideal Exercise and is a zealous advocate of high-intensity training. Although he and I haven’t spoken, he is spoken of very highly by several people that I know and some of the people I’ve interviewed for this series. Greg, welcome to the call.

Greg Anderson: Well, hi, Dave, thanks for having me on. I really appreciate it. 

Dave Durell: Yeah, the pleasure is all mine, Greg. I know you’re going to give us some great information. I’m really looking forward to it. Let’s get right into it. I was wondering if you could just tell us a little bit about your background such as when you started training way back when, whenever that might’ve been, and what was that kind of got you interested in it, and then how you ended up becoming interested in high-intensity training.

Greg Anderson: Well, believe it or not, I have training records that go back to 1978. I was 12 years old at the time. I was messing around with barbels in the basement as kids do. My dad had a set. I was really never the proverbial 98-pound weakling. I reached my adult height of 6 foot 2 when I was 13 years old. Obviously, I was attracted to sports and wanted to train to prepare for football.

I was really fortunate that I had access to a racquetball club that housed the universal gym, and then I had my barbels at home. I had talked to the manager of the racquetball club, and I said, “Look, could I bring my barbel and a couple of dumbbells down here so that I can have everything all in one place?” He agreed as long as I allowed the other members to use my equipment. I was training along, as happy as could be, three days a week. Then one Saturday, I walked in from my regular workout and everything was gone. I mean, you got a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach when something tragic happens. My weights were gone. Then I saw a banner where the universal machine had been and said, “Nautilus is coming.” I’ll tell you, it was like that scene in Monty Python when the Holy Grail lights up the sky and the angels sing, “Nautilus is coming.” 

I ran home. It was about a mile from the place. It’s probably the fastest mile I had ever run in my life, and I spent the rest of the evening leasing through muscle magazines, looking at pictures of Mike and Ray Mentzer using Nautilus equipment. About 10 days later, the equipment arrived and I was hooked. I was hooked on high intensity from the very beginning, loved the idea of training hard into failure, didn’t know anything about the efficiency because I’m a 13-year-old kid. It’s not like I had a job. I had a lot of time. I just loved the feel of the equipment. I love the feel of the intensity, and as it turned out, it worked well in my preparation for high school sports.

Dave Durell: That’s fantastic. It sounds as though that was pretty much it. You just got into high intensity with the arrival of that Nautilus equipment. Did you continue to play football at that point? How did that end up going?

Greg Anderson: Yeah, I played through high school, and I was on the team briefly at the University of Louisville. I won’t ever claim to have played. Then I went on to play semi-pro ball for several years.

Dave Durell: Wow.

Greg Anderson: When the Nautilus arrived, Ellington Darden had written a little book, there’s still copies around there floating around called Conditioning for Football: The Proper Strength Training Approach. Being a kid, I stole it and I took it home, borrowed it, excuse me, took it home and read it, oh, I’m going to guess 15 or 20,000 times. Then found my way into the bulletin. I was actually training clients at that Nautilus facility while I was still in high school. I started taking clients and being paid for when I was 15.

Dave Durell: Wow. Wow, that’s interesting given what you’re doing now. You got an early start on that.

Greg Anderson: Yeah, I had a high school reunion a few years ago which I was unable to attend, but one of my old classmates got my wife on the phone and said in his Kentucky accent, “Well, that boy left the weight room since he was 10 years old,” and I guess that’s true.

Dave Durell: I love that. Wow, so that’s interesting. Now, you mentioned Mike and Ray Mentzer. It sounds like they were an influence on you as far as your training beliefs and philosophy goes, and you mentioned Ellington Darden. Who else might’ve been an influence on you as far as your training beliefs and philosophy at this point?

Greg Anderson: Well, Arthur Jones, obviously. Developing the equipment, and the bulletins were so hard-hitting. I’ll tell you. El Darden, he may not remember this, but when I was a high school kid, I used to pester him in his office. I would call him a couple times a month, and he was always super generous with his time. Mike Mentzer and I became pretty good friends throughout the years. I did go through the SuperSlow Exercise Guild certification, was a certified master instructor in 1994 by Ken Hutchins. 

Ken has had an influence on me in a couple of ways. He’s taught me a lot about the mechanics of exercise and a lot about how I cannot get along with people. I’m just kidding. If Ken’s listening, that’s a joke. There have been a few other guys. One of my best friends, this gentleman named Bradley J. Steiner, who has written for the bodybuilding magazines. I think he probably wrote his first article for strength and health on a stone tablet. I kid him about that. He actually upgraded to a computer just in this decade. He was banging it out on an old typewriter.

Then more recently, my good friend Doug McGuff and John Little, the authors of Body by Science, who have put out some fantastic material. I had known Doug for many, many years. He and Mike Mentzer and I actually hosted a seminar here in Seattle in 1998. We’ve been bouncing some ideas off one another for a long time.

Dave Durell: That’s interesting. Two of the names that you mentioned jumped out at me. Number one, I have, right now, on the front seat of my truck a CD that is probably from that demo that you mentioned with Mike Mentzer on there. I know it’s from 1998. I bet you it’s from that long if somebody was recording it. Number two, Bradley Steiner, I remember when I was a kid, I used to … I’m probably older than anybody listening to this call and definitely older than you. I read some of his articles in strength and health. I read some of his articles in strength and health. I don’t know if he used the stone tablet or not, but I was definitely reading them by, probably, by candlelight at that time. Yeah, he was always a really good, really good writer.

Greg Anderson: Yeah, and I’ll tell you from him. I actually, I’ve been a student of his martial arts system for 15 years. What I’ve really gotten from Professor Steiner is more a sense of how to work with people and how to teach in a very non-threatening, non-drill instructor like manner. Obviously, he is one of the giants in the weight training field, although I think some of the young guys don’t know who he is. I highly recommend anybody who can find his old books, particularly The Hard Gainers Bible, A Complete Guide to Effective Barbell Training. I mean, this is wonderful material. Even if you’re a machine-based trainer or trainee like myself, the principles are pretty much all the same. He’s into brief, infrequent hard workouts. In fact, he refers his martial arts students to me for training.

Dave Durell: Yeah, that’s awesome. I mean, that’s so big when you’re a trainer. If you can’t connect with people on more than just a technical level with the exercises, you’re going to have a tough time motivating them.

Greg Anderson: Very true. Very true.

Dave Durell: Tell us, I’m quite interested to hear about the history of your facility, Ideal Exercise, out there in Seattle, how it came into being, and when you opened, and just what the story is with your place because all I know about it is how well-equipped it is and that you train a lot of people there.

Greg Anderson: Well, let me tell you, this has been a long strange journey, and anybody who really wants all of the details, there’s an article that’s available entitled The Ultimate Retrofit, which details the trials and tribulations of what my wife and I went through. Essentially, I moved to Seattle in 1989. I had worked at a couple of Nautilus facilities here in town. It was great because I was constantly being fired by the sales managers because I was training people too hard. God, you’re working them too hard. They’re not going to want to come back. We want to sign them up and just forget about them.

I didn’t see things that way. I always believe that supervision is important, and I just wanted my own place. Unfortunately, I moved to the one city in the United States that already had an Anderson’s Nautilus. I was working for a chain called Nautilus Northwest. One of their locations was going to spin off. It became available for sale. My wife Ann-Marie and I took part ownership of it. About that time, I had gotten heavily involved in the SuperSlow movement. For those who aren’t familiar with the SuperSlow movement, it’s not just about slow speed of exercise performance, but also about the environment, no distractions, no music, nothing on the walls, no plants, instructor in a tie an dress shirt, which I no longer do, by the way, because it’s quite uncomfortable.

We were desirers of that kind of thing. We were very taken with it. It was a sharp contrast to the circus atmosphere that we’ve seen in the gym. The gym that we took over was indeed a circus. We slowly converted over. We retrofitted an entire gym. I suffered the protest of the people who wanted to continue with their aerobics classes and their cardio tools and some of the other things that we just wanted out of the gym. We wanted to be a pure strength training facility. We wanted to do one thing and do it better than anybody else.

After the storm passed, which took about a year. We changed locations. We were in a very old building, and we’ve actually changed locations a couple of times and didn’t lose a client in any of our moves, other than when people move away or run out of money. I have had people that have followed me from gym to gym since 1989. In fact, if you walk into the lobby of Ideal Exercise, one of the first things that you see is a series of plaques on the wall where we commemorate clients that have been with us five, 10, and 15 years. It’s a lot of names. It’s a lot of names.

Over the years, we’ve evolved our training approach from really strick, by the book SuperSlow to getting back to some of my HIT roots, the techniques, the old-school Nautilus stuff. We brought some of those things back. It’s been really productive. Our client retention rate is huge. I really thank my wife for most of that because I can be a little edgy or obnoxious at times, and I think she’s able to come in and kind of soften the edges a little bit for people. It’s a good mix, and I’m really lucky to have her onboard.

Dave Durell: Yeah, that is awesome. I can only imagine the kind of stuff you went through, especially in the beginning where people were doing what they do in most gyms which is circus atmosphere is a good way to put it to just do straight up, especially a SuperSlow type of thing, let alone a high intensity set up. That must’ve quite a transition for a lot of people.

Greg Anderson: Oh, I’ll tell you, one of the first things I did, I mean, this gym had a beautiful, beautiful collection of classic Nautilus. I went in, and as many guys do, especially the SuperSlow guys, I took the equipment apart, took all the bushings out, low friction the machines by putting needle bearings in all the articulation points, and really got them to feel just beautiful. I figured that the members of the gym would really appreciate my efforts. They actually resented my efforts to upgrade the equipment. I remember I took eight hours once to low friction a compound leg machine, remember the old leg extension, leg press, the big monster.

Dave Durell: Yeah.

Greg Anderson: I walked in my office, and I heard this horrible, horrible grinding, dipping noise. I walked out, and sure enough, the guy in the tank top with the loud bodybuilder baggies and the gloves and the headband. I think he was wearing sunglasses, he’s slamming that thing about a million miles an hour. I walked over and I said, “Hey, look, I put a lot of work into this. Could you please observe a five-second lifting, five-second lowering speed?” I can’t repeat what his response was. I can repeat what my response to his response was, which is, “You’re no longer a member of my gym.”

I just threw up my hands and Ann-Marie and I looked at one another. We said, “That’s it. That’s it. We’re converting to full personal training. That’s all.” We did a unique thing. I actually wrote a letter to the State Attorney General here in Washington, and I said, “Look, there are going to be complaints because I’m converting this gym over, but here’s what I’m going to do, anybody who’s got membership time can have personal training through the length of that membership.” 

We had people who were on the six-month for $149 specials that they had purchased before I owned the place. I’m having to dole out six months of training for essentially zero dollars and zero cents in my pocket, but it was the only way we could make the business survive and get what we wanted. Had we not gone through that, I wouldn’t be sitting here, talking to you today.

Dave Durell: Wow. That is very interesting. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, fast-forward to today, and you guys are just cranking them in and cranking them out with a bunch of high-intensity-loving clients at this point.

Greg Anderson: Yeah. I don’t know so much that they’re high-intensity-loving as they love the efficiency of getting in and out of the gym in under 10 minutes. Ann-Marie and I each run somewhere between 20 and 30 workouts a day. We actually carry a waiting list to get in here to see us. 

Dave Durell: Wow.

Greg Anderson: In fact, this morning, my last client before I left for lunch drove three and a half hours from Vancouver, Canada to come down and train with me, which she does once a week. The gentleman is a top-level fencing coach and just loves to train hard, and there’s just nobody in his area.

Dave Durell: Wow, that is awesome. Then how about now, you mentioned the Nautilus and all the work you went through to get that the way you wanted it. Give us a rundown, if you would, of all the equipment that you have in there at this point because I understand you have quite a bit.

Greg Anderson: Well, I’ll tell you, there’s a very, very smart fellow in New York named Robert Francis who told me I run high intensity’s attic, which I guess kind of used to be true. I downsized a little bit in the last year, but we’ve got just about every generation of Nautilus equipment represented. I think I’ve got at least one of every line. I’ve got an old rotary neck machine that’s in mint condition. I have some neat retrofitted equipment. I’ve got an old lower back machine with the SuperSlow systems, pedestal retrofit. I have some leverage machines. I adore the leverage leg press. I think it’s one of the best pieces I’ve ever been on. I have a line of the Nautilus Power Plus that they came out within the ’90s that really never caught on. I know Dan Riley really liked it. That sold me. If Dan Riley likes something, I like it.

We have quite a bit of that, although throughout the years, I tried to get away from loading the barbell plates. At one point, I was loading barbell plates 10 hours a day. You want to become the picture of overtraining, that’ll do it to you. We also have a line of next generation. I’ve got some Nautilus 2ST, some Nitro. The Nitro leg press, I liked very much. Basically, we’ve got all the body parts covered. I’ve got a lot of single-joint movements, although I prefer to use compound movements. It’s just a good collection.

Everything is not all the same color because I bought them at different times, and I bought some pieces used. I don’t have any MedX. I have, at times, wished I could buy MedX equipment, but it’s never worked out. I find the Nautilus equipment to be great. I have a very big fondness for the pullover machine. I own three of them. I have a Series 3, a Power Plus, and a Next Generation. Clients ask me sometimes, “Well, why don’t you sell one of them. There’s only two of you in here training at one time. I always tell them, that’s like asking me to sell one of my children. Excuse me, Dave. I don’t have any children. All I have are Nautilus machines. That’s it.

Dave Durell: Well, there you go. All right, now, let’s say I’m coming to you, or I call you, or a friend of mine at work is working out with you, getting great results. I’ve never worked out before and I want to get started with you. No, I’m not participating in any sports, none of that kind of stuff. I just want to look better, feel better, what am I going to go through? What type of a routine or process am I going to go through as a beginner coming in and starting out at your facility?

Greg Anderson: Well, what I do with introductory workouts, I block out a pretty good chunk of my time, generally 40 minutes to an hour. The client comes in, and it’s always a different dynamic depending on how they found out about us. If they’ve seen us mentioned in a book, they come in assuming that we’re the expert, and they just want to know what to do. If it’s a referral from another client, well, that could go a couple of different ways. For example, I don’t do what I call hired gun workouts where somebody’s spouse, roommate, best friend, cousin, or whomever is telling, “10 minutes, that’s nothing. That’s nothing.” Then my client say, “I’ll take you down there and he’ll show you a workout. You’ll be passed out on the floor.”

I don’t do that. I only work with people who really want to be here and really want to learn how to train. They come in for an orientation. I spend about 30, 35 minutes going over the history of high intensity and abbreviated training, why we abbreviate the training. I tell them it’s 10 minutes because the 11th could kill you stone dead. Then I give them a pretty extensive safety orientation as to how to behave in the gym, both with regards to other clients, and how we move through the gym to not distract one another, and also some important technical discussions of things like head and neck position, how to breathe properly, the basic avoidance of extraneous movements.

What we’re looking for as part of movement speed, and I will say, although I used to be a pretty outspoken and hardcore SuperSlow guy, what I tell clients now is, I’d like to see you train at a slow speed, but you’re here to train hard, not to join a political and religious movement. Once we get that orientation done, I start everybody with … Unless we have a medical detour or some other special need, I start everyone with the big five workout that’s represented in the book Body by Science, which consists of a leg press, a horizontal pushing, horizontal pulling, vertical pushing, vertical pulling movement.

I go ahead and jump right in and try to get the client to failure on the first workout. I think that if you try to ease people and break them in, I think you’re delaying the inevitable. They’re going to have to work hard at some point anyway. I know if I can keep them breathing, keep them controlled as to head and neck position and not thrashing about the equipment, I’m not going to kill anybody. They’re going to get a good workout. I would say I’m like a mugger. I’m just going to beat the hell out of you and take your money.

Dave Durell: That is awesome. Obviously, they’re sticking around. You got a waiting list going and the whole deal there.

Greg Anderson: It’s really a lot of fun. An average client has been with me, I think, eight or nine years. We get to know these people. As much as I respect the attitude of some trainers who feel like this is a clinical relationship. You have to come see me for your exercise, and then, all right, I’ll see you next week. No, I have a little bit different approach. I take my clients to ball games. We take them out to dinner. We give a lot of stuff away. We just have a good time with them.

What I tell them is, “Look, the actual exercise itself if brutally hard, and sometimes, you don’t want to come in here. You don’t like it, but the experience of being an ideal exercise should not be unpleasant. You should feel like you want to be here even though you don’t want Ann-Marie to put you in that leg press, or worst yet, the Tru Squat.” She puts people in the Tru Squat, just smokes them. It’s really a good relationship we have with them.

We’re all over the place as to people’s ability train hard. If you walk in here on any given day in the summer, you might see an athlete that you just watched on TV during the basketball season, and then you might see me take in an 80-year-old lady after that. You’ll see everything. We train everything from eight-year-old kids to 90-year-old.

Dave Durell: That is awesome. Obviously, that make sit a little more fun a little bit easier for you to motivate yourself to work long hours by developing these relationships with the clients.

Greg Anderson: Yeah. Yeah. Somebody asked me yesterday, “Well, don’t you ever get bored?” I said, “No, I don’t. I must be simple-minded because I just simply don’t get bored with it. It’s what I do and I like it.”

Dave Durell: Yeah, that’s a perfect situation. Now, let’s say I’m coming to you again for training but I’m a little bit different of a person now. I’m the guy who’s been … I want big muscles and so forth. I’ve been working out for a couple of years with the standard muscle and fitness type of deal, split routine, multiple sets, four, five, six days a week, whatever it is, and I’m at a point where I’m not happy with the results. I’m confused. I don’t know why it’s not working for me, and it works for everybody else in the bodybuilding magazine. First of all, do you get those type of people, and if so, how do you handle that situation where you’re going to take them from all that tons of volume down to a 10-minute deal?

Greg Anderson: Yeah, over the years, I’ve seen a little bit of that. Well, more than a little bit. The reality is, and if I get somebody who’s in that situation, I try to get them to understand that, first of all, the bodybuilding magazines are supplement catalogs, and they’re largely works of fiction. It’s not even very good fiction because these exercise routines that are offered aren’t really routines. They’re a list of exercises.

If you walk into a Gold’s Gym, and you take a look around, and actually, I can’t recall the name of the gentleman who did this study. I read a piece of research, a study that was done years ago where the average workout time, say, of 90 minutes to two hours that a gym training was undertaking, really only contained about 12 minutes of actual hard work. My feeling on that, and I try to get the guy that’s been with the multiple set, multiple day approach to understand that, look, I’m just going to distill it down to the 12 minutes for you. We’re going to get to the good stuff.

I also congratulate them on the willingness to commit to a program that requires such a big time commitment. The other thing that I leave everybody with, obviously, I feel like what I do is the best way to train, but I often say this, it offends my libertarian sensibilities to prohibit you from doing things you like. If you want to be in the gym every day, there are a lot of places around here that cater to that. There are five of them within 400 yards of my front door, and we don’t compete with one another.

Having said that, I really hammer on the issue of recovery. I try to make the prospective client understand that it’s not what happens in the gym. It’s what happens as a result of what happened in the gym that we’re after. This is just a stimulus. Doug McGuff uses a tanning bed analogy. The tanning bed industry has distilled the key stimulus down to the elemental force that produces a tan. It’s very efficient. You go in. You lay in the thing for, I don’t know. I’ve never used a tanning bed. I guess you’re in there for 10 minutes or whatever, and then you’re out and about your day.

If your goal is not to make weights go up and down as a surrogate for sport or other activity, and you can get behind the idea that this is just a stimulus, then Ideal Exercise is the place for you. I will admit that when I get those types of people, I do feel like I have to overly hammer them a little bit on the first workout because they really do have to feel it. That’s where some other techniques might sneak in. If a guy wants big muscles, well, I know what he means by that. He wants big arms.

I may put him through four compound movements, and then hit them with multi-biceps, and then isometrics, and then negative chin-ups. Let him feel what can be done in about two and a half minutes of work. Really, if I can get them to understand what we’re trying to do here, a couple of compound movements, three to five compound movements, push them hard, get to failure, then get out of the gym. Forget about it. Go enjoy your life. Don’t go read bodybuilding magazines.

My good friend Bill DeSimone says, “A lot of guys have very time-efficient, abbreviated programs, and then as soon as they’re done with their time-efficient, abbreviated program, they go spend the next three hours on the internet or with their face on a muscle magazine thinking about training.” Well, what’s the point of that? Go to a library. Go to something else.

Dave Durell: Great. Good. Yeah, and your point is … That’s huge where these guys that are working out for 60, 90 minutes, even two hours. I mean, if you just take out all the sitting on the machine and texting their friend and talking to somebody and waiting for their two training partners to go. You took all that out, I’m sure that your assessment is accurate. It’s probably about 12 minutes back to a hard work.

Greg Anderson: The hard work is the key. That’s the key.

Dave Durell: Yeah, that’s it. That’s awesome, man. I know what you mean about two things. You got to take extra time and really break it down for these people, which they have never probably heard before, they wouldn’t be training that way. You got to kind of let them have it on the first workout, so they know it’s not-

Greg Anderson: Yeah, you got to get at them a little bit.

Dave Durell: Yeah.

Greg Anderson: A lot of these folks that have been training multiple days and doing these long routines, they’ve never given a thought to the issue of progression. They don’t know if they’re getting stronger. They’re going in the gym and essentially just getting some dumbbells and making sure the numbers are going to match. Then looking around the room, and oh, that guy is pretty big. Look what he’s doing,” he’s doing alternate dumbbell curls.” Well, I’ll do alternate dumbbell curls. Well, wait, that guy is even bigger. He’s doing incline dumbbell curls, maybe I ought to do that.”

There’s really no thought to it. There’s really no thought to it all. Once you get somebody to understand, “Look, wouldn’t you rather come in the gym and train hard and have five big movements that we’re able to add somewhere between one and a quarter and five pounds of wheat for the next year, then you go back down to Gold’s Gym, and you ask the biggest guy in the gym. Hey did you put 50 pounds on any of your major exercises this year? The guy probably will just look at you and stare blankly and walk away.

Dave Durell: Yeah. Exactly, and he thought he wouldn’t know if he has or not because he’s not writing anything down.

Greg Anderson: No. Very seldom do you see a logbook kept in a commercial facility. 

Dave Durell: Yeah. Absolutely. Now, with your clients or in your own workouts yourself, you kind of alluded to the with the multi-set guy. You might straighten them out with some isometrics and some negative chin-ups and things like that. The clients that have been with you for a while, do you use any “Advanced High Intensity” techniques, pre-exhaust, or rest or any of these type of stuff?

Greg Anderson: I do, but there’s a little bit of a cognitive dissonance there in that … What I try get people to understand is as they get more advanced, they need less. One of the first steps that I take along the ladder of progression is. When you stalled out on those big fine compound movements, what I will do is I will swap out some maybe less metabolically demanding movement, maybe some single joint stuff. We are not going to use as much resistance where you don’t have the stress spread out or larger into the body. For example, your overhead press may become a lateral raise.

I’ll first do things like that to continue progression. At some point, at some point, somebody is going to get advanced to the point that they just want to enjoy the efficacy of seeing what they can do with their body. I think this is part of the popularity of things like CrossFit. I don’t think CrossFit is a very good way to train. I think a lot of what they do is flat dangerous, but there are people who are really enamored of that big metabolic hit.

Yeah, if you’ve been with me for a little while, every once in a while, you may come in and I just have something for you. Often, it’ll be, “Well, look, let’s do two cycles through of Mike Mentzer’s heavy duty split routine, where you have pullover grouped with rowing or chin up or pulldown, and then you have, obviously chest fly, I use a 10-degree chest grouped with dips or bench presses or incline presses. It’s refreshing to the client, although it’s, in my opinion, probably not as necessary.

I will tell you this, one use that I have for pre-exhaustion is quite often, I have college athletes return to me with injuries. Several years ago, I have a top-level softball player who is no coaching at Arizona State University came to my having had hand surgery. We did all the things to bypass the hands-free workout, rowing towards the 10-degree chest, pullover, that type of thing, but I knew that she needed to be able to get back into those compound upper body movements.

Pre-exhaustion allowed us to kind of … Excuse me, fly under the radar, so to speak, to fly under the threshold of resistance on, say, a bench press that irritated that injured site, but still allowed her to work back into using that movement. Part of it is I want these kids to stay skilled at using those compound movements. Although there’s not a tremendous amount of skill with a machine, you still want to maintain that feel. For her, I was able to go pullover 10-degree chest. By that point, your chest is pretty well wiped out, and we could use a moderate resistance on a bench press and actually get something out of it without aggravating that injury. I think that’s a valuable use or pre-exhaustion, much, much more so than any bodybuilding application.

As to the other techniques, yeah, rest-pause, we have clients that respond very well to it. Static contractions, John Little is a friend of mine. I’ve actually been experimenting with a protocol that he’s just come out with called the Max Pyramid Protocol which involves a series of ascending and descending resistance, 20-second holds with varying resistance up and down the ladder at the mid-range or maximum moment arm for each muscle group. It’s an interesting protocol. For people who want to know more about it, BodyByScience.net has an article about it. Sorry, Dave, I had to anybody else’s site, but that’s where it is.

Dave Durell: Perfectly all right. 

Greg Anderson: The approach is kind of a confluence of his ideas on static contraction and Bill DeSimone, who to my mind is the foremost expert on biomechanics on the planet, his ideas about manipulating the moment arm and how to get maximum loading with minimum wear and tear on the joints. It’s been a very, very interesting little experiment that we’re doing here. The client satisfaction is huge, and I do consider that an advanced technique. That’s not something I put grandma in when she comes in for her first workout because I would like her to come back. I want the ranked beginner to just learn how to train hard.

Dave Durell: That’s very interesting. How long have you been using that static technique with your clients? I mean, are you able to tell yet the effectiveness of it or what kind of results they’re getting, or are you just kind of getting going with them on that type of thing, the John Little technique.

Greg Anderson: Well, he had told me about it a couple of months ago, and I immediately had a couple of clients come to mind that I … Kind of the usual suspects, my people who are very coordinated, very disciplined, motivated, and really like to work hard. They really relish the feeling of working hard, to the point where I’m sometimes reminding them, we’re not here to feel that we worked hard. We’re here to actually progress.

I called out a few clients, and in one example, a young lady that’s been with me for five or six years, I used the Max Pyramid Protocol on her leg press. I only used it on the leg press every fourth workout. She would see it maybe three times a month. This morning, she came in, I put her on leg press for her standard single set to failure, slow repetitions, keeping track of time under load, and the time under load at an increased resistance from her last workout. I believe we increased it by two and a half pounds, the time under load increased by something like 38 seconds.

She got off the machine and she said, “Did you lighten the weight? Well, my legs are shaky, but did you lighten?” I said, “No, look at it. You’ve made great process.” Yeah. Now, I don’t know if that’s going to continue. I feel like with techniques like that, the specter of overtraining is ever present. I do things like that very sparingly, but it interesting to experiment with, and it is interesting to see how different people respond.

Dave Durell: That is very interesting. I was talking Fred Fornicola recently. I don’t know if you know Fred or not, but he’s-

Greg Anderson: I spoke to Fred for the first time just this morning.

Dave Durell: Yeah, he’s a really cool guy. I just got to know him just in the last few months. I know he’s very involved with that. He really loves that type of protocol, that static contraction thing on both for himself-

Greg Anderson: Yeah, we were discussing some things that we do with the leverage equipments that he and I have in common that I … What do they say? Great minds think alike, or in this case, maybe it’s twisted minds. Fred has been using a protocol where he does static holds at different positions in the leverage press because that machine has got such a great ascending strength curve. I’ve been doing the same thing, and our individual applications are slightly different, but it was great to hear him talk about how he does it and his perspective on how he deals with clients and then with his place. Yeah, Fred is a very bright guy, and I hope I get to talk to him some more.

Dave Durell: Yeah. The thing that he said, somebody in his area showed it to him, some old-timer, Yoda-type guy with a bunch of wisdom that guys like you and I have never heard of. He’s got a lot of injury problems, and this type of training enabled him personally to work around some of his injuries and do things that he hasn’t been able to do for years.

Greg Anderson: Yeah. I’m guessing that he got some of that from Joe Waldman who’s in Belmar, New Jersey. Anybody who has never … Well, if you’ve seen Joel, I don’t need to experience this. He may have the largest, most muscular neck on any human being anywhere on the plant. In fact, on Ellington Darden’s website, there is a photo of Joel’s sternocleidomastoid musculature. It looks like two thighs on the front of his neck. Yeah, he’s an old-timer. Yeah, he’s a great, great guy, and I was very jealous to find out that he took up the sport of long drive in golf and hit a golf ball, something like 415 yards, which is the goal equipment of an 800-pound squat super guy.

Dave Durell: Yeah, that’s man. Yeah. Yeah, that’s awesome, man. It just becomes mean, it just becomes fun when you start to crisscross with these people and find out what different guys are doing and so forth and try it out. Like you said, maybe twisted minds think alike as we all like to experiment with all this crazy stuff.

Greg Anderson: Yeah, it’s fun.

Dave Durell: Definitely. A little off the training path here, not totally off of it. I was wondering what your views are on the subject of nutrition and its role in the fitness programs?

Greg Anderson: Well, that is a little bit of a tough one. Here is how I approach that with clients. What I explain to them is, first of all, I don’t really want to discuss food supplements because I don’t want the liability of telling somebody what to ingest. Secondly, I become very, very impatient when a dietitian or a nutritionist provides exercise advice. As a professional courtesy, nutrition is outside my scope of practice. Okay, that being said, I tell clients, “But, for me, personally, what I favor is a hunter-gatherer diet.” The call it Paleo diet.

I started with the Paleo diet about 18 months ago on the advice of Dr. Doug McGuff, and I did it primarily to get some relief from some arthritis I have from old injuries. It worked fairly well for that along with vitamin D3 supplementation and some high dose fish oil. Again, I’m only telling the client what I do, not what they should do. Your mileage may vary. I found that to be very helpful, and I’ve also dropped about 30 pounds of unwanted fat, which is a tremendous side benefit.

Meat, leaves, and berries, the hunter-gatherer approach, but I know there are a lot of approaches to diet that work just fine. I’ve seen the Zone diet work. I’ve seen the very low carbohydrate diets work. I’ve seen low-fat diets work. Everybody knows Ellington Darden promotes a 60% carbohydrate diet, and we’ve seen those work. I tend to think that with the life sciences, it’s kind of a moving target or a bell curve. There may be little tweaks or variations that are going to work for different people, differently.

It’s like Ted Nugent who’s a famous hunter as well as rock musician once said, he had a vegetarian in his band, and somebody said, “Well, how do you handle the fact that he doesn’t eat meat?” Ted said, “Well, meat is just not on his menu. It’s not an issue.” I have a soft approach to advising nutrition. I’m fearless about telling clients, “Look, you need to eat less. You’re too fat.” I’ve been through it. In my life, I’ve been through periods of time when I needed to eat less. Clients sometimes needs to eat … No, you got to figure out some way to control your intake, but how you do that is really an individual matter.

Dave Durell: Very good. Very interesting, and congratulation on losing 30 pounds of fat. That’s quite a chunk. 

Greg Anderson: Yeah, well, I was 300-pound offensive lineman. When you’ve been a 300-pound offensive lineman, it’s not easy to … Well, I’m about 215 today.

Dave Durell: Wow. 

Greg Anderson: That’s taken me 20 years to whittle that off. I’ve had people throughout the years ask me, “Well, don’t you think that hurts your credibility as a trainer a little bit?” No, I don’t. I know what I’m doing. It is what it is.

Dave Durell: Yeah, there you go.

Greg Anderson: It does feel good to be lighter. It’s easier around the knees, I can assure you.

Dave Durell: Yeah. Yeah, I can definitely believe that one for sure. All right. Well, Greg, I got to tell you, you’ve given us some fantastic information. Since I’ve been listening to you, the little sheet I got in front of me here with your phone number on it is now full of notes that I’ve been taking as you’ve been talking. This has really been fun for me. I’m going to hit you with a curveball. You didn’t know I was going to ask this question, but I forgot to get it in there. I ask everybody this. Based on your history with your gym, you may not have an answer for this. I always ask people what the funniest thing they’ve seen in the gym is, and usually, they come up with some weirdo technique that somebody was using that just made their jaw drop. Now, you don’t get that in your facility, but I wonder if you have any funny stories.

Greg Anderson: Well, I actually got two for you.

Dave Durell: Okay. Good. 

Greg Anderson: I got two. The one from my facility, men being what they are, being the kind of animals that we are, we like to be the best. We’re competitive and we like to one-up one another. I often think that’s ridiculous. We’re all about who’s making their claw marks higher in the tree. When I started talking to people about … I have always been a real low volume, infrequent kind of guy. I mean, that’s how I’ve always trained, and that’s what I’ve always taught. Well, as some of my guys started to absorb the message that if you get more and more advanced, you do less and less and less. Instead, of the, well, I bench press 400 pounds. What did you do? Well, I squatted 600 for 14. It’s filling the air with sounds about these fantastic feats that may or may not have happened.

I had a couple of guys sitting in my lobby, and one says to the other one, “Well, I’m so advanced. I only leg press once every three weeks,” which may or may not have been true. I don’t recall at the time. The guy he was speaking to said, “Well, I do pre-exhaustion for my upper back but only about four times a year.” A friend of mine who happened to be sitting in my office heard this going on, and he walked out and he said, “Guys, you know what, Greg only allows me to walk up to the leg press about every six months. I don’t get on it. I only glance at it briefly so as not to overtrain.” He walked out off the room, and these two guys just looked like they’ve been slapped in the face. I couldn’t come out of the office for 10 minutes. I was laughing so hard.

Dave Durell: Oh, man, he was the winner. 

Greg Anderson: He was the winner. The funniest thing that I’ve ever seen in a gym. I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and I trained off and on at a somewhat famous gym, actually, Brooks Kubik, the author Dinosaur Training used to train there as well, a place called Walt’s Olympic Gym. It was in the Mid City Mall in a really seedy section of Louisville. The place was just a black iron pit. It was just a powerlifting, hardcore, a few bodybuilders, but mostly powerlifters, big, big strong guys.

Great environment. Walt had put in a nice line of Nautilus equipment. He had some good leverage machines. God, I think the place had six squat racks. It was incredible. It was a tiny little gym. It’s probably the size of my personal training center now but crammed into the basement of the strip mall. I was in there one afternoon, and I had just finished probably squat, stiff-legged deadlift and incline press, and I’m ready to get out the door. The radio was playing, and this very, very beautiful song by The Beatles, Hey Jude was playing. As I walked out the door, it occurred to me that all these big 300-pound monsters were between their sets, and they were all sitting on benches, singing along with the chorus. You know the chorus? (Singing). Sorry, I’ll spare you my singing. Absolutely hilarious. That was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in a gym.

Dave Durell: That sounds like it would be on a credit card commercial or something, all these big guys sitting around, humming or singing that melody there. That must’ve been a riot.

Greg Anderson: If that happened today, somebody would whip a cellphone out, and that thing would be on YouTube within 30 seconds.

Dave Durell: No question. It would have a million views by next week. That is very true.

Greg Anderson: Yeah, indelibly burned into my memory.

Dave Durell: Wow, I like that. That is awesome. Well, Greg, I really appreciate, like I just said a minute ago, all the information you’ve given us, for me, and I’m sure for all the listeners. It’s been an absolutely fascinating interview. As far as people who may live in your area or people who may want to come to your area, or get some more information from you, or I don’t know if you have any products available or anything like that, but if they want more Greg Anderson, how do they go about doing that?

Greg Anderson: Well, the product is hard training. They can certainly call us at the gym, call myself or Ann-Marie at 206-364-9944. The website, it’s going to be undergoing some construction here pretty soon, it’s SeattleHIIT.com. We love out-of-town visitors. I just had a fitness blogger from New York out here for a couple of workouts. We’ve actually had people come from as far away as Bombay, India to train with us, love having out-of-town guests. Anybody who wants to come and hang out at Seattle’s home for HIIT, you’re more than welcome.

Dave Durell: Well, I am definitely going to put that on my own list because my wife and I have never been to the Pacific Northwest, and that is on our big list of things to do is to get out there. Obviously, your facility will be right in there with that one.

Greg Anderson: Oh, we’d love to have you. It’d be great.

Dave Durell: Yeah. Yeah, that would be great for me as well. Any parting comments you might have for the listeners before I let you go?

Greg Anderson: Parting comments for the listeners, I would advise the listeners to train hard, eat well, and remember that no matter where you go, there you are.

Dave Durell: There we go. Perfect. All right. Well, thanks a million, Greg. Once again, I really appreciate it, an absolutely fascinating interview. 

Greg Anderson: Thank you, Dave. It’s been fun.

Dave Durell: All right. This is Dave Durell from HighIntensityNation.com and HighIntensityMuscleBuilding.com, and we will talk to everybody soon with another high-intensity interview. 

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