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An Interview with Mike Robertson

Written on January 31, 2008 at 1:52 pm, by Eric Cressey

By: Eric Cressey

In light of all the projects on which we’ve collaborated, a lot of people seem to have come to the conclusion that Mike Robertson and I are the same person.  I guess that’s what we get for co-authoring ten articles together and co-producing the Magnificent Mobility DVD.  I figured that the best way to clear up any confusion about our unique identities would be to interview him.  If it helps, read the text below aloud, and use a Midwestern drawl for Mike’s voice, and a pseudo-Boston accent for me.  If you’re a visual learner, you might want to alternate an Indianapolis Colts hat with a New England Patriots one at the same time.

EC: Hey Mike, thanks for agreeing to do this.  I know you like the back of my hand, but our readers don’t.  Fill them in a bit on your background; I’m sure you get questions all the time about how you got to where you are.  Who inspired you?

MR: Wow Eric, there’s been so many people along the way, to name just one or two wouldn’t really be prudent.  However, if I had to name a few people that have significantly impacted the way I view and approach training and nutrition, I’d have to say yourself, Alwyn Cosgrove, Dave Tate, John Berardi, Mike Boyle, Joe DeFranco, Jim Wendler, Ian King, Stuart McGill, Bill Hartman, and Shirley Sahrmann.

As you can tell, I’ve got everything from physical therapists to elite-level strength coaches, but all have taught me something or significantly influenced my thinking in one way or another.  In fact, I think you need to learn from as many disciplines as possible to truly understand how the body works.

EC:  What frustrates you the most about this industry?

MR: Two things about this industry really annoy me.  They are:

1. People who have no business training people for athletics.  These people know who they are; whether they are PTs that “wanna’ be” strength coaches, to strength coaches who just don’t know what the hell they are talking about, these people piss me off.  They typically get by with either “smoke and mirrors” training, or by yelling incessantly at their athletes to “work harder.”  While this may sound contradictory to my next point, running your athletes into the ground doesn’t make you a good strength coach; it makes you a schmuck.

2. Lazy people.  This can include people who are too lazy to train themselves, people who are too lazy to keep learning, or people that feel like others should help them “catch a break.”  I have no sympathy for people like this:  I firmly believe you create your own destiny by doing the right things and busting your ass.

I always say that I could write a killer training book about training hard (the REAL key to success) and no one would buy it.  Why?  People who are already training hard know it’s the key to their success and my book isn’t going to make a difference.  People that aren’t training hard are going to think I’m full of s**t and that it’s their training or diet habits that are holding them back.  In other words, they always find some other factor that’s the cause for their failure.

Simply put, hard work is the difference between people of similar abilities.

EC:  What’s a typical training week look like for you?

MR: Since I had my knee scoped last June, my training has been all over the place.  I was approaching (or exceeding) all my previous PRs this past December, but my body had taken on numerous compensations from the surgery.  Even though I don’t feel like I rushed back into things whatsoever, between the surgery and the actual injury that caused it four months earlier, my body was getting very good at doing some very bad things.

Over the past few months, I’ve been making a concerted effort to clean up my posture and recruitment patterns so I can get back on the platform stronger and healthier than ever before.  My current programming looks like this:

Tuesday:  Lower Body (typically ME work)

Thursday:  ME Upper Body

Friday or Saturday:  Accessory Lower Body

Sunday:  Accessory Upper Body

I’m currently performing a specific mobility circuit that Bill Hartman gave me on a daily basis to re-groove my squat motor pattern and get it back to where it needs to be.

EC: Now, your wife is a dietician; how has that impacted the way you eat and approach nutrition with clients and athletes?

MR: Well it’s definitely impacted my wallet and my waistline; when I met her I was a svelt 170 pounds!

Seriously, though, I’ve always been interested in nutrition, but she has the amazing ability to meld the science and the practice.  She’s an amazing cook to begin with, so she has the ability to take the right foods and actually make them taste great.  I think too many people think that “healthy” food has to taste like garbage, and that’s just not right.  Maybe someday I’ll actually convince her to put all her recipes into an e-book for publication.

Also, I think if you’re serious about training and don’t take the steps to cover your nutritional bases, you’re pretty much setting yourself up for failure.  Whether you’re a bodybuilder, powerlifter, Olympic lifter, strongman, or just someone who wants to improve your physique, you have to respect the power of nutrition and supplementation.  If you don’t, please don’t expect to see exceptional results in the gym.

EC: Name five people you feel everyone should see speak.


1)      Alwyn Cosgrove

2)      Dave Tate

3)      Mike Boyle

4)      John Berardi

5)      Anyone who knows more about your profession than you do (even if they don’t have the same outlook as you)

EC: How about books and DVDs?  What are your top ten library “must-have” choices?


1) Supertraining – Mel Siff

2) Science and Practice of Strength Training -Vladimir Zatsiorsky

3) Functional Strength Coach – Mike Boyle

4) Professional Fitness Coach Program Design Manual – Alwyn Cosgrove

5) Magnificent Mobility – Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson (These guys are geniuses…or so I’ve heard!)

6) Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance – McGill

7) Precision Nutrition – Berardi

8) Gourmet Nutrition – Berardi

9) Parisi Deceleration Method – Parisi Speed School

10) Charlie Francis FAST Seminar Series

EC: If you had to pick five things our readers could do right now to become better lifters/athletes/coaches/trainers, what would they be?


1. Start getting some soft tissue work done! As Mike Boyle says, “If you aren’t doing something to improve tissue quality, you might as well stop stretching, too.”  I firmly agree with him on this point, and while it may cost a few bucks, it’s going to help keep you healthy and hitting PR’s.  This could be as simple as foam rolling, or as extreme as getting some intense deep tissue massage or myofascial release done.  I’ve tried it all and all of it has its place.

2. Don’t neglect mobility work! Ever since we released our Magnificent Mobility DVD, people are finally starting to see all the benefits of a proper warm-up that includes dynamic flexibility/mobility work.  However, just because you understand the benefits doesn’t mean squat if you aren’t doing it!  Take the time to get it done before every training session, and even more frequently if need be.


3. Understand functional anatomy Again, you and I (along with many others), have preached this for quite some time, but I’m not sure enough people really understand how the human body works.  Hell, I think I do, and then I get into some of these intense anatomy and PT related books and find out tons of new info! Along these same lines, if you don’t understand functional anatomy, you really have no business writing training programs, whether they’re for yourself or for others.  That may sound harsh, but for whatever reason people read a couple copies of Muscle and Fiction and think they can write programs.  I’ve fixed enough broken people to know that very few people can integrate the functional anatomy into what amounts to functional programming (and no, that doesn’t include wobble boards, Airex pads, etc.).

4. Train to get stronger While I’m all for all the other stuff that goes into training (proper recovery, mobility work, soft tissue work, conditioning, etc.), I think too many people want all the bells and whistles but forget about the basics.  GET YOUR ATHLETES STRONG!  Here’s the analogy that I use: performance coaches are asked to balance their training so that the athlete: a) improves performance and b) stays healthy.  What I see right now is a ton of coaches that focus on all this posture and prehab stuff, but their athletes aren’t really that much better anyway.  You have to work on both end of the spectrum. Think about it like this:  Let’s say you have this huge meathead that’s super strong but has no flexibility, mobility or conditioning, then throw him on the field.  He may last for a while, but eventually he’s going to get hurt, right?  You haven’t covered the spectrum. But what’s the opposite situation?  We have the coach who focuses on posture, prehab, etc., and the athlete has “optimal” muscle function but is weak as a kitten.  Are you telling me this kid isn’t at a disadvantage when he steps on the field or on the court?  Again, you haven’t covered the spectrum. In other words, feel free to do all the right things, but don’t forget about simply getting stronger; as you’ve said, it’s our single most precious training commodity.

5. Keep learning! I’m not going to harp too much on this one; simply put, you need to always be expanding your horizons and looking to new places for answers.  There’s a plethora of training knowledge out there, and what you don’t know can come back to haunt you.  I believe it was Ghandi who said, “Live like today was your last, but learn like you will live forever.”  That’s pretty solid advice in my book (and hopefully the last quote I’ll throw in!)

EC: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in your training and professional careers?  Looking back, what would you do differently?

MR: It may sound cheesy, but I don’t look at mistakes as mistakes; I look at them as learning opportunities.  First and foremost, I wouldn’t have tried to learn to snow ski at the age of 27!  This little stunt has set me back almost a year of training and left me with 20% less shock absorption in my left knee.  Not the best idea, if you ask me.

But, instead of looking at it solely as a negative, it’s caused me to really re-examine my own training and thought process.  As well, I really dug in so I now have a much better understanding of the knee, as well as how to rehabilitate knee injuries (and what causes them).  So while I could piss and moan ‘til the cows come home, the fact of the matter is I’m really not much worse off and I have a much better understanding of myself and the human body.

EC: Where do you see yourself in a few years, and how would you like to be remembered way down the road?

MR: Ideally, at some point I’d love to have a training facility geared toward athletes.  Whether it’s my own or partnered up with the right people doesn’t really matter.  This would not only allow me to do what I’m passionate about, but give me a solid place to train myself.  Every day I train at the commercial gym here in Indy a little part of me dies.

However, I must admit I really enjoy all the “extra-curricular” stuff I do as well: writing articles, producing info products, and giving seminars.  I feel like the personal training/performance coaching allows me to keep in touch with what works and allows me to affect people on a small, intimate scale.  On the other hand, the extracurricular stuff opens the doors to a huge number of people, all of whom can directly benefit from the things I’ve learned.  In my eyes, it’s the best of both worlds.

As for being remembered, I just hope a person or two out there does remember me!  The best thing anyone can say about me is that I influenced their life or athletic career for the better.  I genuinely love what I do and the people with whom I work, and I think people can feel that whether it’s me coaching them, writing for them, or speaking to them at a seminar.

EC: Feel free to use the space below to shamelessly plug all of your products and services.

MR: Well I’m sure we’ve talked about it ad nauseum, but if you haven’t picked up a copy of our Magnificent Mobility DVD, you need to get it done NOW.  You’ll never look at warming-up the same!  You and I also have a huge seminar coming up in June at the Peak Performance facility in NYC, and I’m sure it’s going to turn some heads as to how people evaluate and train their clients.  Finally, I’m not even going to get into our “little book” until we make some headway!

Next, Bill Hartman and myself are working on the Inside-Out DVD and manual, which will cover a lot of upper body concepts that I don’t think many people have examined.  Bill is an amazing PT, so I really feel this is going to do for the upper body what Magnificent Mobility does for the hips.

Finally, feel free to come check out my website and sign-up for my FREE NEWSLETTER, which is sent out monthly.  You can check out my website at www.robertsontrainingsystems.com, and you can sign up for the newsletter by sending me an e-mail at mike@robertsontrainingsystems.com with “Subscribe” in the subject line.

EC: Lots of stuff on the agenda, and I’m sure that it’ll all be top-notch.  Thanks for taking the time, Mike.

MR: Thanks a ton for having me, EC!

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