CB: Eric, thanks for agreeing to do this interview. I know we’ve been reading each other’s blogs for a while but this is the first time we’ve had a chance to sit down and get to know each other a bit better. And it’s been a great learning experience.
EJM: Chris let me just say that I feel very honoured to be interviewed on your blog. You have a great thing going here and the more people that read this the better off the fitness industry can be.
CB: So, Eric, we know from reading your blog that you’re an RKC, you’re a practicing physical culturalist, you take bold stances against stupid fads in the fitness industry and you’re ripped as hell. Tell us a bit about what you do and how you came to where you are now.
EJM: Well Chris I guess it all started when I was a kid. I grew up idolizing people like Arnold, Sylvester Stallone, Van Damme and other action stars. They made strength and fitness look cool. When I was a teenager I started doing martial arts and since I felt that just doing a couple classes a week wasn’t enough I started to train on my own using body weight and stuff I could hang off of. I also joined wrestling but sucked at it but I guess it gave me a pretty good sense to keep pushing on.
I made a lot of mistakes along the way but learned from them and used what I learned to become a personal trainer in a gym. The gym I was working for had a world champion powerlifting team who I became friendly with. When that gym was taken over by a new owner he tried to boot out the powerlifters because grunting and deadlifting “scared away the women”. Needless to say that pretty much took the joy out of working there.
When I left the gym I needed a new way to train and called up Arnel Ricafranca who was running fitness bootcamps. I wanted to help him “stick it to the man” and he introduced me to kettlebells which I absolutely fell in love with. I learned everything I could about how to use them for a variety of goals and an interesting conversation with then senior now master RKC Dave Whitley that ended with him bending a bunch of frying pans with his hands “inspired” me to join the RKC. As you can tell it worked.
CB: Fantastic. Hang on, while I’ll just go hide all my kitchenware. Anyway, talking about stupid fads in the fitness industry, you’ve recently ranted about the Skechers shape-ups, military-style boot camps, running for fat-loss, the Biggest Loser, the shake weight and a number of other crazy and idiotic ideas. What in your opinion is the very worst thing you’ve seen in the fitness industry and why?
EJM: Hmmm. That’s rather difficult to answer. There are varying degrees of bad. Most things are a waste of time. Others are just flat out dangerous. I would have to say that the methods they use on the show The Biggest Loser is pretty high up there.
Here you have a completely uneducated audience being told to do things like plyometrics when their joints and ligaments are barely ready for climbing a set of stairs. When you watch them swing a kettlebell in what could be listed as the worst swing on YouTube and people try it on their own, do it wrong (because it was demonstrated wrong) and injure themselves they blame the kettlebell instead of the trainer and that cuts into my business.
CB: Right. Technique is key for the swing and we’ll come on to that in a bit. Not quite as silly as the above, but close, a friend of mine has just started P90X and raves about it. How can I persuade him to do something more sensible instead?
EJM: You can’t. P90x has such a cult mentality and it is literally everywhere you go. I have had people unfriend me on Facebook because I said muscle confusion is a farce. Now don’t get me wrong p90x works, it’s just not the ultimate elite program it’s made out to be. If the worst thing people did was p90x then the industry is still a lot better off then people trying to take acai berry extracts and doing Hip Hop Abs (another Beach Body product).
CB: Oh well, it was worth a shot. As an RKC, you’ve recently talked in detail about the Turkish Get Up and you’ve also reviewed Master RKC Dave Whitley’s recent DVD on the subject. Can you remind us why it’s such an important exercise and give us a few tips to consider when we’re practicing it?
EJM: The Turkish Get Up will always have a special place in my heart. One of the things that got me out of continuing martial arts was I had returned from a torn ACL surgery and injured my rotator cuff, went to physical therapy to get it working again. Even though I had use of my shoulder it wasn’t normal again and the doctors and physical therapists told me it never would be.
I bought the book Enter the Kettlebell, saw the Turkish Get Up and thought it was the strangest exercise I ever saw. I tried it out and my shoulder quite literally became normal again during the session. It was practically magic. As for the other benefits of the getup is it promotes strength, flexibility and stability across the entire body while at the same time bringing it up as one unit with muscles that cooperate with each other and gives you better movement quality.
When doing the getup strive for perfecting the movement and don’t try to hurry through it. That’s a common error I see. Oh and keep the arm and wrist locked out at all times as well.
CB: I’ll concentrate on that. And obviously, you have some YouTube videos of that move anyway, so’ll be sure to review those. Talking about Dave Whitley, who do you see as your mentors in the industry and who have you been most influenced by?
EJM: Hmm that’s a rather long list. Pavel and his evil minion’s have always been a valueble source of inspiration and information especially since it directly pertains to what I do. Dan John has a great way of conveying life and lifting lessons. Alwyn Cosgrove is who I look to for fat loss info. Smitty and the other fellows at Diesel Crew are very innovative. Scott Sonnon, Mike Boyle have some interesting approaches. Zach Evan Esh has great stuff. Also a lot of the guys on T-Nation have something worth saying as well (the coaches that is). Bret Contreras’ article “Dispelling the glute myth” got me trying out an exercise I normally would have laughed at.
CB: Too right. Mr Contreras has rocked the industry with his glute emphasis. And in a good way, I’m certain. What do you do to make sure you keep up to date with your continuing education and skills? What do you read and who do you seek advice from?
EJM: I try to stay active on specific forums. Being an RKC I have access to the RKC forum which is like a collective intelligence from some of the brightest, strongest and forward thinking minds in the fitness industry. You might find when I update my blog it tends to be pretty late at night because I am constantly scouring the net for new info. I have made a lot of mistakes over the years and learned from them so I have a sort of built in BS lens to filter the bad from the good and have built up an intuitive sense. Another thing that happens is that I am always using myself as a guinea pig as well as some of my clients. Sometimes things pan out, sometimes they don’t. In either case I learned something from it.
CB: On a lighter note, you’re a big fan of classic heavy metal from the 70′s and 80′s. Can you give us some tips for the best workout music that we might not have heard before?
EJM: Overlorde is an awesome band that almost nobody has heard of. I became friends with the guitarist there because I wanted to merge two different kinds of heavy metal. His brand and a style of lifting that has it’s roots going back over 300 years. My all time favorite band though is Judas Priest. If they are touring you have to tie up, gag and drug me to stop me from going.
CB: Sounds like a great party! Anyway, back on track, now. You’re a relative strength fiend, with a fairly chunky weighted chin-up and weighted pistol to your name. What are you most proud of when it comes to your own lifting achievements and what is your favourite lifting goal right now?
At the moment I am most proud of the weighted pistol because that is my most recent accomplishment. When I finished the infamous 300 workout in 16:10 it was that. When I did the 48kg double Get Up (24kgs in each hand) that was my favourite. Every time I set a new personal record then that becomes my favourite because it is a sign that I continue to become stronger. The name of the game is progress and as long as I continue to step forward then that means we are getting somewhere and somewhere is a lot better then nowhere.
CB: I recognise that mentality. Still talking about relative strength, I think I’ve read that you’ve done a one-arm chin? I’d be really interested to hear how you got yours. (I got mine in two phases: firstly, building up to a decent weighted chin and secondly, doing assisted one-arm chins using a counterweight on a pulley, looped over a pull-up bar to take some weight off.)
EJM: At the time I was doing a lot of single arm overhead pressing and weighted chins in a sort of superset fashion. It’s not real super-setting because I am getting rest in between (critical for strength). One of the things we have in the RKC system is during the overhead press we do something called an active negative.
When you have locked out the press and want to lower it into what’s called the “rack position” you don’t just simply lower it. You imagine pulling it down by tensing your abs and arms which is actually meant to keep your joints safe but neurologically it is very similar to a one arm chin. With the combined power of that and the weighted pull up/ chin up it would just be a matter of time before the one arm chin up is accomplished.
CB: Interesting. I found that even moving massive weighted chin weights, I couldn’t get the one-arm chin without specific one-arm movement practice. I guess you got that doing the one-arm press. Moving nicely on to kettlebells more specifically, one of the things I really like about kettlebells, having only just started using them in earnest, is their versatility and the strange and wonderful things you can do with them, like bottom-up pressing and halos. Do you use any slightly unusual kettlebell lifts with your clients? If so, why?
EJM: I try to have them stick to the basics as much as possible but every once in awhile you have to give them something flashy just to keep them interested. I am convinced that one of the things that separates the elite from the rest is the willingness to stick to and perfect the basics. Sometimes we have what I like to call physical challenges where we come up with something like the pistol sots press or just take a difficult exercise that we haven’t practiced. It adds a little bit of fun and tests out there non specific strength at the same time.
CB: Cool. Sounds like fun. Still on kettlebells, how do you start your clients out if they haven’t even seen a kettlebell before? How do you progress them?
EJM: It all depends on the client and how the answer their health status questionnaire. A lot of times you can tell the abilities of someone just by looking at them. When it is a severely deconditioned client I’ll have them practice bodyweight half getups and have them practice just holding the kettlebell in the bottom of the Turkish Get Up.
If I have a cage fighter a lot of times I can just do a monkey see monkey do type of deal where I just do one and say “your turn” and then just make the necessary corrections as they go. Most of the time my clients are in between those two extremes and I like to unleash something that I stole from Dave Whitley called the “furnace workout”. He broke the Turkish Get Up into Half Get Ups and Reverse Half Get Ups which when you train the two of them it greatly shortens the learning curve of the full Turkish Get Up.
CB: Great tip there. I’ll get onto to Google for that right away. Last question on kettlebells: Tony Gentilcore recently showed a video of the difference between a snappy hip swing and a squat swing. How do you cue your clients to help them get more movement at the hip?
EJM: When it comes to teaching swings I teach them to chop, fold, pop and lock their hips with their hands and use the pendulum drill (hold the kettlebell like a pendulum on a clock) to teach them not to front raise the kettlebell. On the way down I’ll compare it to closing a car door when your hands are full to teach them to be explosive. Depending on a client’s sense of humour, I may also compare the top of hip snap to a porn star. It’s all about the hips.
CB: I’ll give that some consideration and maybe try the humour out under safe circumstances… More generally, you’ve mentioned training brides before their weddings a few times recently and I seem to be at an age where quite a few of my friends have got married in the last couple of years. What do you focus on with your clients who are going to be brides? What kind of programmes do you set for them?
EJM: I mention brides because I like to talk about some of the things that are going on my life at that moment. With a bride you get a person that is hungry for results and doesn’t have time to waste on doing a bunch of useless crap. It’s the perfect conditions for ideal progress.
Right now one of my brides told me before she started that she has a tendency to bulk up and I explained to her the differences between high reps for sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and low reps with heavy weights for toning. She listened and is ecstatic with the results so far but there is still more work to be done.
The training for brides is the same as any fat loss program. Increase metabolic rate, burn lots of calories, create a caloric deficit via proper nutrition, consistency over time. I guess the main thing that I would suggest is to sort of fuse HIIT with strength so you can get the best of both worlds and create a fast paced productive training session.
CB: Of course. And given your ripped condition, I’m guessing that a lot of your clients come to you for fat loss. How much time do you spend with them ironing out the daft things they do with their diet?
EJM: It depends on the client really. Some are actually pretty smart when it comes to nutrition and I barely have to touch it at all. Others are completely clueless. One asked me if Spaghetti O’s were proper post workout nutrition. I usually just tell them nutrition is so simple even a caveman can do it. Cavemen don’t eat Twinkies or spaghetti O’s. If a caveman didn’t eat it they probably shouldn’t either.
CB: I love that approach. It really takes the pain of analysis out of the whole nutrition thing. And finally, come on, be honest, do we need to have a whip-round to buy you a couple of shirts?
EJM: LOL, I have plenty of shirts I just don’t wear them a lot. It’s annoying to do laundry… especially when you have to use your “washboard abs” to do it
CB: That’s brilliant. Thanks for the great interview, Eric.
You can find out more about Eric at his blog.