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The Benefits Of Strongman Training For Everyday people: An Interview With Strongman Competitor and Elite Strength Coach Mark Philipp

Most of you know who Mark Philippi is and even if the name does not ring a bell at first, if you have ever watched a strongman training competition on ESPN in the last seven years you have seen this strongman bad ass in action.

Mark has been a fixture on ESPN’s Worlds Strongest Man contest, competing for seven years, making the finals twice and finishing 7th in 1997 after winning the America’s Strongest Man title that year. Mark has traveled the world competing against the best strength athletes on almost every continent. Before competing on the professional strongman circuit, Mark was a National and World powerlifting champion (1996).

Mark is the President and Co-owner with his wife, Tracey, of Philippi Sports Institute Las Vegas, Nevada. PSI is a 9000 ft training facility with a staff of performance coaches, physiotherapy personnel, and scientific consulting team who’s mission is to help athletes of all ages and sports achieve their goals in the areas of athletic performance, fitness, diet and conditioning.

In addition to being an incredible athlete, Mark unlike many athletes is an outstanding couch and instructor. Numerous world class athletes such as MLB Star Jason Giambi of the NY Yankees have traveled across the country to learn from Mark. Here is what Jason had to say about working with Mark:

“I am a power hitter. I need to be strong. Mark is an expert at developing strength and power. He had me ready for the season.”
Jason Giambi, New York Yankees

How did you get into strongman competitions?

I had to try out at the World Muscle Power championships in Scotland-in 1997. I had won P/L ing Nationals and World’s in the old ADFPA now USA Powerlifting in 1996. I wanted to see how I would fare against the Strongest Men in the World. I had a contact in Ed Coan. He made a call to the individual who ran strongman across Europe at the time Doug Edmunds. He invited me over for a 2-day competition against some of the best strongmen in the World at the time and I finished second in my first major competition. From there I would receive many more invites to major competitions and ultimately would win America’s Strongest Man in 1997 and my first of seven invitations to World’s Strongest Man Show.

How can the average person benefit from strongman type training?

The average person can benefit due to the functionality of the event type training. The events are mirror movements of everyday life. Lifting, carrying gripping, dragging, and pushing movements happen on a daily basis. Getting stronger in strongman events will help you with everyday tasks.

Can you describe briefly what your training philosophy is?

I believe that Strength and getting stronger is the key behind successful improvement in all athletics. It comes first. We must then learn how to functionally apply our improved strength to maximize our performance in our chosen field.

Which training system is the way to go for maximum strength and size, low volume training to failure or high volume training in which you avoid training to failure?

If you want to get really strong without getting bigger lift really heavy and rest a lot. If you want to get bigger, shorten the rest periods to increase the time under tension during the workout.

What are some of the common mistakes that trainees make with regards to working out?

Poor technique on compound movements affecting their strength and progress. They also don’t let their body recover enough between heavy training sessions.

Do you follow or recommend any specific nutrition program?

Nutrient timing principles- ie post workout shake of 70% carbs, 30% protein, along with a higher protein diet consisting of at least one gram per pound bodyweight protein.

What nutrition supplements are worth taking if any?

Your diet must first be solid. I like post workout shakes from www.strengthpro.com. I like a creatine supplement called TRAC by MHP, Pure essential fatty acids 3’s 6’s &9’s. Secretagogue by MHP for growth hormone secretion, I also like a few products from Bodywise that help with performance and recovery (Supercell and their workout formula). I only use products that I believe will help me. Most do not.

What does your own workout look like right now?

I just finished a competition so I am lifting a little lighter and higher volume right now. I am only doing a few events a year do to time/work commitments. I am getting older so I have to rest a little more and pick and chose my heavy days when I feel mentally and physically capable of putting forth the effort required to improve my best training numbers. When training for a contest I usually train 4 to 5 times a week. Short workouts during the week focusing on one or two main areas of strength and a longer event training session on Saturday. I am not as systematic at planning my training sessions, as I was earlier in my career and when I was powerlifting.

What kind of people are you working with now at your facility?

I work with all types of athletes. Ages 10 to professional. From all types of sporting events from football to skating to pistol shooting. Anyone who wants to improve athleticism.

Is your training system for serious athletes only or can the everyday person benefit as well?

I have workouts for anyone who wants to improve themselves, both athletes and non-athletes. You just need to be serious about getting better, whatever that is. “You determine the effort God will determine the outcome”-??

I noticed that you have kettlebells at your facility. What do you and your athletes do with them and what is your take on kettlebells in general?

We use kettlebells as a tool intotal program much like any other piece of equipment. They provide variety. Any time you change the equipment or movement youprovide a newstimulus for the body to adapt.We primarily use them for hip extension typeexercises. Ie swings. We use them a lot for conditioning, work capacityand in our fat burning programs.

Do you primarily use compound exercises for strength and size training or do isolation exercises have a place as well? Should trainees have a base with compound exercises first before adding in isolation exercises or should both be used early on?

We primarily train movements first and muscles secondarily. You get the most bang for your buck with compound movements. We are concerned about workout efficiency and we train a lot of athletes so we focus on movement patterns that take place in athletics. Ie. (stealing terminology from others) Hip extension both single and double leg, hip and leg push both single and double leg, presses and variations, pull-ups/ chin-ups etc. Our isolated movements, when we do them come towards the end of the workout.

To learn more about Mark and his outstanding training facility, go to: www.philippisportsinstitute.com

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