Robertson Training Systems Interview (Part II)

About the Author: Eric Cressey

MR:  You have a new book out, entitled Maximum Strength.  Who is this book geared toward?

EC:  People who enjoy gardening.  Next question?

Kidding, of course.  I would say that this book targets the typical lifter who goes to the internet to find information to take his/her training to the next level.  There are a lot of people in the T-Nation, etc. crowd who have done a good job to get from untrained, to beginner, to intermediate – but don’t necessarily have the tools to take it to the advanced level.  Maximum Strength provides that opportunity – and addresses mobility/activation, nutrition, motivation, programming strategies – basically a lot of the things you need to know to be successful not just for the 16-week program I outline, but also the years of lifting that follow it.  Thus far, the feedback has been fantastic.

MR: Could you give readers an idea of how much goes into the publication process?

EC: Matt first approached me with the idea in the fall of 2006, and we created a proposal (I think it was 14 pages, plus a sample chapter).  Our literary agent took it to some publishing companies, and we eventually agreed on a contract with one (DaCapo) in January of 2007.  Matt and I wrote the book over the next six months and submitted in mid-June.  Over the summer, I dedicated seven Sundays to the photo shoot (harder than it sounds – especially when you wear the wrong color/type of clothing, as I did in the first two sessions).

We spent the fall going through proofs, cover designs, copy-editing, and sending out advanced copies.  I’m pretty sure that it was complete in February – and production started in time for a late April/early May release.  So, all told, it was about an 18-month process.

So, I’ve now self-published and dealt with a publisher.  Both have perks and drawbacks, so I’ve got plenty to consider as I take on future projects.

MR:  You also recently released an e-book called The Art of the Deload.  What prompted you to write a manual all about taking time off training?

EC: I honestly don’t know that many people understand what it feels like to remove fatigue and display fitness.  Heck, I never did before I got into competitive powerlifting.  Going into my first powerlifting meet, I had never deadlifted more than 484 in training.  I had to hold myself back like crazy the last three weeks before the meet to avoid doing anything stupid – and it was hard because that amount of deloading was unfamiliar to me.

I went out and pulled 510 on a fourth attempt at a body weight of 161 for a Connecticut state record in that meet.  Strategic deloading has been a big part of my programming ever since.

The thing is, not all trainees are the same.  Experienced lifters need to deload differently than beginners and intermediates.  Lifters with a previous history of injury need to deload differently than those who are completely healthy.  Competitive lifters need to deload differently than those who are just lifting to enhance quality of life and look good.  This e-book has something for all of them.

MR:  Without giving away the farm, what are some of the different scenarios you outline?  I know that I talk to people and they think of a deload week as one of two things:

1 – No strength training whatsoever; maybe some cross training.

2 – The typical 60% volume approach with a slight reduction in intensity.

EC:  For the record, I don’t agree with #1 that you just outlined at all, and I think that in most cases, people who drop volume by 40% need to maintain or actually increase intensity.  How’s that for barbecuing some sacred cows?  Anyway, I also cover:

    • how to deload to make sure old injuries don’t resurface
    • how to know when to drop intensity instead of volume
    • how to effectively incorporate a testing day at the end of a deload week
    • why beginners don’t need to deload
    • what active rest means to me
    • how to deload on reactive training (particularly important for guys like me who have crazy supinated feet)

Plus, there is some nuts and bolts about how to individualize deload frequency.

MR:  Any new projects or things in the works we should know about?

EC: Next week, we’re moving everything – equipment, turf, flooring, computers, stereo – in Cressey Performance three miles east.  We also have to demolish the walls at our old place when we leave – and I have to admit that I’m really looking forward to that part!  All in all, though, with the new book out, and the new facility up and running (and summer training underway), I won’t have anything too exciting on tap until at least the fall.  My presentation at the Perform Better Summit in Providence at the end of May will be my last seminar for a while – unless we decide to do something at CP to celebrate the new location this summer.

MR:  Okay, time for the final question, and you know I ask everyone this!  You’ve been doing this for a while now – what mistakes have you made in the past, and what have you since done to correct that mistake?

EC:  My biggest mistake was caring what stupid people thought of me.  Let me explain.

For whatever reason, the strength and conditioning and fitness industry is very polarized.  I suspect it has something to do with the fact that physique and performance enhancement tends to put people on pedestals; many people think that looking good and being stronger or more athletic will make life so much better.  When was the last time that a forward-thinking accountant or surveyor got the attention some strength coaches get?

Because of the puzzling nature of this industry, people get irritated more.  I think Mike Boyle said it best when he noted that many people don’t know the difference between “disagree” and “dislike.”  That said, there are some people that disagree with my methodology and hate my guts.  Because I put myself out there by writing articles/books, making DVDs, and speaking at seminars, it is hard to avoid it getting back to me.

Early on in my career, I let this stuff get to me.  The negativity weighed on me and I actually lost sleep at night for what some keyboard warrior said about me on an internet forum.  Fortunately, I quickly recognized the unfavorable impact taking criticism to heart was having on me.  I had five or six guys on the internet who didn’t like me even though they’d never met me and disagreed with an article I wrote.  It’s not something I needed to be losing sleep over.

So, I got that negativity out of my life and focused on what I’m doing right.  I’m a better coach, much more positive, and far more productive.  I’m helping people and not arguing with them.  Instead of defending myself or worrying, I’m continuing to contribute to the body of knowledge.  If I was as bad as these 5-6 people (or however many there are) seem to think, why are athletes practically kicking the door down to Cressey Performance to train?  And, why would a traditionally strength-training-unmotivated population (baseball athletes) not only be appreciating the benefits of what we do, but thoroughly enjoying the process as much as the destination?

So, my advice to those out there would be to get rid of the negativity in your lives.  We’ve all worked with people who just punch the clock, criticize those around them, and don’t really care.  Stay away from these people and focus on what’s right in the world around you.  It’ll make you a better lifter, coach, and person.

As I type this newsletter up, I realized that I’ve trained athletes on each of the past 24 days – and the two days prior to that were spent attending a Perform Better Summit.  So, I guess you could say that I can’t remember when my last true day off was.  But, you know what?  I’m not nearly as tired as I would have been if I had stayed up all night worrying about what somebody said about me on the internet.