Newsletter #4

About the Author: Eric Cressey

An Interview with Bob Youngs

As one of the best powerlifters in the world today, Bob Youngs has forgotten more than most lifters will ever know. Bob has more under-the bar-knowledge than almost anyone you’ll meet, and just as importantly, he’s as down-to-Earth as they come. I’ve been working with Bob as he works to rehabilitate a few old powerlifting injuries, and in the process of interacting with him, I’ve come to realize just how much the strength and conditioning community is missing with this guy flying somewhat “under the radar.” Fortunately, he was more than willing to do this interview for us; enjoy!

EC: Hi Bob. Thanks for taking the time to be with us today.

BY: Eric, it’s my pleasure. I have learned a lot from your Magnificent Mobility DVD as well as your articles. You have also been a huge help in trying to get me healthy.

EC: Let’s fill readers in a bit on your background. From our interaction, I’ve come to realize that people would be hard-pressed to find someone with as much experience under the bar as you. Our readers might not realize that, though; can you please fill them in on the Bob Youngs story a bit?

BY: I’ll start in the beginning. I started working out when I was 15 in 1985 and I haven’t stopped since. In high school and college, I trained to try and improve my abilities in sports. I played football, hockey, and baseball in high school. I then played just football in college. I ended up graduating with my degree in exercise science from Central Connecticut State University. I did my first powerlifting meet in February of 1991; so, I have been competing for 15 years now.

In 1996, I moved to Columbus, OH and began to train at the Westside Barbell Club under the tutelage of Louie Simmons. That is where I really started to learn about strength training. At Westside, you not only have Louie to learn from, but guys like Dave Tate, Chuck Vogelpohl, Amy Weisberger, and all of the rest of the guys. You also had people like Kent Johnson, Chris Doyle, and the late Mel Siff stopping in to see what we were doing. In 2000, I moved to Florida and started my own private powerlifting gym that I named the Southside Barbell Club. Southside Barbell has produced eight lifters who have totaled ELITE in the sport of powerlifting. Since 1999, I have been helping out lifters on the Q&A at Elite Fitness Systems.

EC: We have a lot of up-and-coming lifters, trainers, and strength coaches on our subscriber lists, so I’m sure that they’d love to hear where you looked for education and inspiration as you ascended the powerlifting ranks. Who were your biggest influences?

BY: My biggest influence is Lou Simmons. He has more knowledge than anyone I have ever met. Lou is also one of the kindest guys you’ll ever meet; I have an incredible amount of respect for him and he is so willing to help anyone. Dave Tate is another person who has helped me more than I could ever repay him for. I hated Dave when I first met him, but I got to know him better and he is now one of my best friends in life and lifting. The person who helps me the most with my training now is Jim Wendler. I bounce my ideas off Jim and he helps me separate the good ones from the stupid ones. I often tell people that Dave is the big brother I never had and Jim is the little brother I never had.

As far as reading materials go, I have been reading a lot of articles by Alwyn Cosgrove, Mike Robertson, Michael Hope, and you lately. I seem to be really getting hurt a lot recently and I have had to spend a lot of time learning about mobility, flexibility, program design and rehab.

My inspiration comes from many people.  My girlfriend, Michele Stanek, really helps keep me focused. She helps me deal with the highs and lows through which a lifter goes. My son, Chris, is an inspiration to me in a way that can be hard to explain. I guess the easiest way to explain how Chris motivates me is to say I know I need to do everything right because he is watching my example. It may seem like a cliché, but I want him to grow up and be a better man that I am. In order for him to do that, I have to show him how through my actions and not my words. My mother has always been my biggest fan. I think she has been to every meet I have ever done. She was also at every game in which I played while I was growing up. My mother is a breast cancer and leukemia survivor and has been through a bone marrow transplant. My parents moved down to Florida and live a couple of miles away from us now; so, I get to see my Mom a lot. She lives with pain every day, and in the process, has shown me what true determination is. My mother never gave up – no matter how bad things got – and it make me realize that I have the greatest mother in the world. I am who I am in large part because of her. Thanks, Mom!

EC: They say that experience is the only thing that can truly yield perspective; I’d say that you’re a perfect example of that. Speaking of experience, what were some of the mistakes you’ve made along the way, and what would you do differently?

BY: I’m not even sure where to start on this one. The easiest way to explain this would be to quote Alwyn Cosgrove, “A complete training program has to include movement preparation, flexibility work, injury prevention work, core work, cardiovascular work, strength training, and recovery/regeneration. Most programs cover, at best, two of those.”

My program only included strength training and some core work for the longest time, and I am now paying for that with chronic injuries. Now, I have had to learn about the other parts that I was missing; the more I incorporate this stuff, the better I feel. However, 15 years of not doing what I should have been doing has really cost me. I have torn my pec major, triceps tendon, intercostal, and biceps tendon. I also currently have a bulging disk in my lower back.

Could all these have been avoided? Probably not all of them, but I think some of them could have. If I had to name the biggest mistakes, it would be not using a foam roller and not doing any mobility work. In the two months I have been using the foam roller my tissue quality has improved dramatically. I have been doing mobility work, under your guidance, for about a month and I have seen some incredible improvements.

EC: I know you’re an avid student of the iron game, and read loads of books and watch every DVD you can get your hands on. What are the top ten “must-have” selections from the Bob Youngs library of books and DVDs?


1) Science and Practice of Strength Training by Zatsiorsky

2) Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance by McGill

3) Science of Sports Training by Kurz

4) The Westside Barbell videos by Simmons

5) Magnificent Mobility DVD by Cressey and Robertson

6) Encyclopedia of Kettlebell Lifting DVD by Cotter

7) Sports Restoration and Massage by Yessis and Siff

8 ) Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Covey

9) Under the Bar by Tate

10) Supertraining by Siff

I put “Supertraining” last because it is the hardest and I feel the others will help you understand it better.

EC: In addition to learning outside the gym, right off the top of your head, what are five things that our readers can do right now to become a better lifters, athletes, coaches, and/or trainers.


1) A good program must include: movement prep, flexibility work, injury prevention work, core work, cardio work, strength training, and recovery/regeneration work. Does that sound familiar? In other words, construct programs that incorporate all aspects.

2) Read one book per week. If you ever come over to my house you will see hundreds of books. I shoot for one new book per week.

3) Network within your given sport or profession. If you are a powerlifter, seek out lifters stronger than you and learn from them. If you are a strength coach, seek out another coach you think has something to offer that you don’t have. You get the idea. Most people are willing to share information if you ask them; this is usually the way you will learn the most.

4) Work smarter. Many people work hard; what makes a person the best at any given task is usually working smarter.

5) Have properly defined and realistic goals, and write them down. I am shocked by the amount of athletes and coaches who have one broad goal and no steps to get there. Set a big goal and then break it down into smaller goals. I will use a powerlifter as an example. I hear all the time, “I want to squat 800 pounds.” That’s great, but how do you get there? If you have a current max of 500, your next small goal might be to squat 550. Then, you break that down further to knowing you need to hit X on a given max effort exercise. Now, you have a goal every time you go into the gym.

EC: Awesome points. Far too many people set themselves up for failure with lofty goals that aren’t built on a foundation of specific objectives. What does a typical training week look like for you?

BY: Every weekday morning, I start the day by doing my foam roller work, mobility work, and a bike ride. I make sure I have been awake an hour to allow for the spinal fluid to properly drain from my back (read McGill!) prior to starting to train.

  • Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays are non-weight training days for me. I do some stretching, core work, and walking on these days.
  • Tuesday is my bench assistance night; I actually do this workout at home with some stuff I have in the garage. I do various pushups and kettlebell work for the shoulders, traps, and biceps.
  • Thursday is a gym day, but it is still pretty low-key. I do some lat work, pull-throughs, kettlebell swings, and a single-leg movement. My single-leg movements are reverse lunges, walking lunges, step-ups, and Bulgarian split squats.
  • Saturday is my max effort bench day. I do a max effort movement, a high board press or rack lockouts, some type of row, and end with some type of dumbbell press for reps.
  • Sunday is my squat and deadlift day. One week, I do dynamic work for the squat and deadlift and the next week I do max effort work for the squat and deadlift. My assistance work on Sundays is neck, glute-ham raises, and a single-leg movement again.

I know this is quite different from what most people view as the standard “Westside” template, but this is just how my training has evolved. This schedule allows me to get in the recuperation time I need, and it seems to be working well for me.

EC: I know that you’ve recently taken a new outlook on your powerlifting career. Please fill our readers in on what’s next for you on the competition scene and where you see yourself in the next few years with powerlifting.

BY: I have decided to move down to the 242-pound weight class. I have been competing at both the 275s and 308s recently; my heaviest bodyweight was 305. I am currently weighing around 247 or so. I decided to do this for health reasons; my blood pressure and cholesterol weren’t that great when I was 290 pounds. The new diet actually has been pretty fun, as it has added a new dimension to my life. For people who say it easier to be a big fat powerlifter, it has been easier for me to keep my weight down than it was to keep it up.

I’m going to compete in June at 242 for the first time since 1996. I won’t be completely healthy, but I am looking forward to putting up some decent numbers. I’ll then look to do a meet in December at 242; hopefully, I’ll be all healed up by that time. I’m hoping to beat my all time best total in any weight class at that time.

Beyond that, I’m just going to keep doing what I do. I love the sport of powerlifting, and have since day one. I still enjoy going to the gym and working hard. I like to think I have gotten smarter over the years and I’m hoping that helps me be an even better lifter at a lighter bodyweight.

EC: Great information as always, Bob; thanks for joining us! Where can readers go to keep track of you?

BY: Thank you for having me Eric. I had a lot of fun. I can be reached at the EliteFTS Q&A.

Another week in the books; see you next Tuesday, everyone.

Until then, train hard and have fun!