An Interview With Trainer Eric Cressey!

Learn who Eric Cressey is right here as I ask questions about his background, how he got involved in strength and conditioning, value of education, challenges, and much more. Read on...

The Interview


[ CM ] Hi Eric, and thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions for our readers. Eric, for those who don't know you, tell the readers a little about yourself and your background in this field, both professionally and personally.

    EC: Thanks for having me, Chris. I earned my undergraduate degree in Exercise Science and Sports & Fitness Management (double major) at the University of New England, and then moved on to the University of Connecticut for a Master's degree in Kinesiology with a concentration in Exercise Science.

    UConn is an incredible place to be; it's the #1-ranked kinesiology graduate program in the country, as the faculty and research opportunities are tremendous! Although I worked quite a bit in the human performance laboratory, my bigger role on-campus was in strength and conditioning with the varsity athletes, most notably men's and women's basketball and soccer.

    I was fortunate to have an opportunity to work with hundreds of phenomenal athletes - and continue to stay involved as much as possible to this day. Most applicable to the present interview, I'm happy to report that our basketball teams beat up on Pittsburgh and Louisville last year!

Eric Cressey
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Personal Trainer, Eric Cressey.

    On top of the educational background, I've done a lot of work under the bar myself. As a competitive powerlifter, I have several state, national, and world records, and have squatted 540 lbs., bench-pressed 402 lbs., and deadlifted 628 lbs. My best total is 1,532 lbs. at a body weight of 165 pounds, although I'm now bumping up a weight class - or two, or three, or four!

    For the past year, I've trained at the world-renowned Southside Gym in Stratford, Connecticut. It's got a great tradition and plenty of attitude.

    I've written over 80 articles in a variety of online and print magazines, most notably:

    Mike Robertson and I released a DVD called Magnificent Mobility earlier this year, and I just released my first big solo project: "The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual."

    I'm currently in the process of relocating to Boston, where we're opening up Excel Sport and Fitness Training. We've brought together a great collection of minds in Rebecca Manda, John Sulliva, Brad Cardoza, Carl Valle, Matt Delaney, and myself; we're going to be building a lot of incredible athletes and weekend warriors alike.


[ CM ] How did you get involved in strength and conditioning?

    EC: When I arrived at the University of Connecticut, I was a little unsure about where my graduate school experience would take me, although I was leaning toward becoming a hardcore geek and doing loads of research. Then, I met Brijesh and Pat Dixon (two strength and conditioning graduate assistants) and hit it off immediately with both of them; these guys really took me under their wing in my first few weeks on campus.

    Pat gave me the tour of campus, and Brijesh took the time to chat with me about anything related to training, nutrition, and life in general. Perhaps most importantly, these two guys brought me into the UConn varsity weight room to train, and it was there that my love of coaching really went to a whole new level.

    The day I met Brijesh, he invited me to come to watch him coach the baseball guys the next morning at 6:00 a.m. I showed up without thinking twice. The passion "B" displayed for coaching and his complete control over an indoor track full of 25 college guys was really remarkable - especially since he did it in a very mild manner.

    "B" isn't one of those coaches who needs to scream and yell at you all the time to make you better, and I've really modeled myself from his example. Perhaps most impressively was that every one of those players was wide awake at the crack of dawn; they were anxious to be coached by a guy whom they obviously respected tremendously as someone who could get them to where they needed to be.

    That was just over three years ago, and my coaching career has absolutely skyrocketed since then; I owe a lot of this success to Brijesh and Pat.

    In the years that followed, I worked extensively with Associate Head of Strength and Conditioning, Chris West, and the UConn men's and women's basketball and soccer teams. Chris and I come from markedly different backgrounds, but when we put our heads together on programming ideas and covering the teams' conditioning sessions, we make a great team. He's a great friend and professional colleague to this day.


[ CM ] How much do you think your formal education has compared to your knowledge vs. real life experience in the field?

    EC: All the education in the world won't mean a thing if you don't have "in the trenches" experience. What I've learned in classrooms and books is miniscule in comparison to what I've learned under the bar and from just getting out and coaching. Don't get me wrong; academia has been extremely valuable in opening a lot of doors for me. However, nothing has been more valuable than pure elbow grease and having a solid network of colleagues and training partners with whom to "talk shop."


[ CM ] You've worked with some of the top athletes in the world. Without naming names, what are some sports you've worked with?

    EC: I'd say that my two specialties are basketball and soccer, although I've worked quite a bit with football, baseball, hockey, field hockey, lacrosse, powerlifters, mixed martial arts, track and field, swimming, tennis, and golf. I enjoy the variety, but basketball and soccer will always the more near and dear to my heart after my experience with the athletes at UConn.

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[ CM ] What do you find to be most challenging about your job?

    EC: The biggest struggle will always be only having "control" over a few hours of an athlete's week. Training is just one piece of the complete puzzle that is a successful athlete. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink; that is, we can educate athletes all we want about proper diet and lifestyle habits, but ultimately, it's up to them to come through with the practice of what they've learned.

    I'm preaching to the choir by telling you this, though! This is one reason why live-in athletic preparation facilities have a leg-up on most collegiate and private coaches; they have 24-hour control over the athletes' diets, sleep habits, etc.


[ CM ] What do you find to be most enjoyable?

    EC: Without a doubt, the interactions with athletes. Leaving UConn was really tough, as I won't get a chance to follow through with the athletes with whom I've worked since they were freshmen. Fortunately, I know that with the new facility, there will be plenty of opportunities to interact with lots of new people - each of whom has a unique story to tell. Plus, I'm close enough to UConn that I can get back to campus and coach/visit whenever I want. I've been up there 1-2 times per week all summer, in fact.


[ CM ] What advice do you have for folks who may be trying to get into this field?

    EC: 1. Read a ton. Reading just one hour per day will make you an expert in your field within two years.

    2. Accept that you need to spend money to make money. Buy books, DVDs, and magazine subscriptions and attend seminars.

    3. Practice what you preach. How can a coach who can't bench 225 lbs. expect to prepare an athlete for a 225 rep-test at the NFL combine? You don't have to break any world records, but you need to at least have a solid frame of reference.

    4. Find a great training crew - even if it means having to drive a little further to train. Attitude and environment are the two most important factors in your success as an athlete and coach.

    5. Find mentors and establish a big network of industry professionals with whom you can exchange ideas. There are well over 100 people in the industry that I contact on a regular basis; all of them in some way have helped to make me a better lifter, coach, and writer.

    6. Learn to write. Perhaps I'm just biased because my mother teaches high school English, but it's more important than you can possibly imagine. I reply to all my emails, but I have to be honest; when I get something like this, a guy isn't likely to get a prompt reply:

    "Dude ur sholder articel was awsum my sholder hurts when i bench what do u think i shood do."

    If "u" aren't motivated enough to actually type out the word "you," I might not be motivated enough to give you your free advice right away. Obviously, this over-dramatizes things, but knowing how to write a decent letter will go a long way in this world.

    7. Read "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. It has nothing to do with training, but everything to do with being successful in whatever it is you do. The same goes for " Under the Bar " by Dave Tate.

    8. Seek out opportunities, whether they're internships, chances to train with great lifters, or just a minute or two to chat with a speaker at a seminar.

    9. Learn functional anatomy, and learn it extensively. Structure dictates function; you'll never build great athletes if you don't understand what appropriate movement should look like and the factors that are the basis for it.

    10. Check out the Recommended Resources page on my website, EricCressey.com; I actually put it together because I get emails with this question all the time!


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Eric's Website.


[ CM ] As one of the leaders in this industry, you surely have a number of devoted "fans" or "strength and conditioning groupies," if there were such a thing. Who do you turn to for furthering your training and nutrition knowledge?

    EC: Like I mentioned, I've been fortunate to establish a pretty extensive network of people with whom I communicate; basically, if they're talking, I'm listening. Here's a long, but certainly not exhaustive list:

    Training:
    Mike Robertson, Dave Tate, Jim Wendler, Bob Youngs, Chris West, Brijesh Patel, Jeff Oliver, Tony Gentilcore, Mike Boyle, John Sullivan, Alwyn Cosgrove, Jason Ferruggia, David Tiberio, Steve Coppola, Julia Ladewski, John Pallof, Jay Floyd, Jesse Burdick, Eric Talmant, Landon Evans, Joe DeFranco, Kelly Baggett, Michael Hope, Buddy Morris, Zach Even-Esh, Brian Grasso, Carl Valle, Tim Skwiat, Dan John, Joel Marion, and all the South Side guys.

    Nutrition:
    John Berardi, Cassandra Forsythe, and some guy named "Mohr."   =)


[ CM ] Aside from working with individuals on a personal basis, tell us a little about some of your current projects and where readers can learn more about you and some of those projects.

    EC: I've got several things on the agenda; I only wish I had enough hours in the day to get to all of them!

    1. Our 'Magnificent Mobility" DVD has received some incredible feedback; readers can find out more at MagnificentMobility.com. I have to admit that it's been really fun to hear the feedback on this one, as we've had a lot of people for whom the drills in the DVD have resolved chronic injuries in a matter of weeks.

    2. My first solo project, "The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual," was just released. It's the culmination of working with thousands of athletes, experimenting with programming, and observing what has worked with my athletes and those of other coaches with whom I correspond. I think it is going to open a ton of eyes in the world of strength and conditioning and, more importantly, take a lot of athletes to all new levels of performance. It is available at UltimateOffSeason.com.

    3. I also publish a free weekly newsletter at EricCressey.com; we've got interviews, Q&As, product reviews, and all sorts of other good stuff.

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[ CM ] There is a ton of misinformation out there. How do you suggest folks sort through the hype to get the truth and help them be successful?

    EC: I'm sorry to say that there are a lot of crooked people in this industry; it's pretty discouraging. Some of the "gurus" people worship are nothing more than frauds who just so happen to be good businessmen.

    Unfortunately, about the only way to find out for sure is to hear it from the straightshooters in the business or actually get burned by one of these guys' "smoke and mirrors" and learn the hard way. Hell, I know I got burned by a few in my path to where I am; I guess its all part of the learning process in this industry.

    Here's a good tip: find a good powerlifting gym and you'll find out pretty quickly who doesn't know his @ss from elbow when it comes to training. Powerlifters call it like they see it; they won't sugarcoat anything.


[ CM ] Anything coming down the pipeline we should keep our eyes out for from the "Eric Cressey Camp"?

    EC: 1. In addition to the aforementioned products, I have a few eBooks in the works. The first is a joint venture with Kelly Baggett, one of the brightest minds in the industry. The second is a project with Julia Ladewski, another brilliant coach; we've both worked a ton with female athletes at all levels, so we'll be putting our heads together on a resource that will address a pressing need in sports training industry: a solid resource in the female athlete training realm.

    2. We've discussed the possibility of starting up a coaching group this fall; the response has been quite good, and it looks like we'll be going through with it.

    3. Mike Robertson and I will be presenting the "Building the Efficient Athlete" seminar in New York City this July 22-23, 2006; this is going to be a great opportunity for good trainers to become great trainers.

    4. I'll also be speaking out in Los Angeles on September 16-17, 2006. We'll have more information on this seminar shortly; the details are still being fine-tuned...


[ CM ] Any last parting words of wisdom?

    EC: Something that has worked for me all along is to follow the adage: "You have two eyes, two ears, two legs, and one mouth; use them in that order."

    People always ask me what my philosophy is; here's what I tell them:

    "Train your body to work efficiently and take care of your diet and lifestyle, and you'll be rewarded with a physique that performs at a high level and just so happens to look great. You can't build a castle on quicksand, so sometimes you need to take a step back and make sure that the appropriate foundation is in place. Foundations aren't built with gimmicks; they're built with hard work and scientific practices."


[ CM ] Thanks for the interview, Eric.

    EC: My pleasure, Chris - I appreciate the invitation.

Related Links:
EricCressey.com
ExcelStrength.com
MagnificentMobility.com
UltimateOffSeason.com
RuggedMag.com