Interview with Nick Tumminello
This post features internationally recognised strength and conditioning coach, fitness educator, and personal trainer Nick Tumminello.
Hi Nick, firstly thank you very much for taking the time out your schedule to complete this interview I know you’re very busy. I have been a fan of your work for some time now and I’m sure the readers of my website will be too.
Q: First things first, can you fill us in on your strength and conditioning background?
A: Unlike many other coaches, I’m not a college guy. Personally, I hated school since I’ve never done well with authority. I realized early on that I didn’t learn well in that environment and there’s nothing I could learn from college that I couldn’t learn on my own if I was willing to make the time and apply the effort. So, at the age of 16, which is the age I knew I wanted to help people get into better shape by becoming a personal trainer – I decided to dedicate myself to learning anything and everything I could about the human body. I haven’t stopped learning all I can since.
As I’ve grown into an adult and into a very experienced fitness pro and into a trainer of the trainers. I look back at how I started and can’t help but feel inspired by the confidence I had in myself as a youngster. And, by the confidence and independence I gained from actually achieving the goals I set out to accomplish on my own, at my own pace, and in my own way. As you can tell, I’m very independent – always have been and always will be!
I’ve found that my educational upbringing offers me a different and unique perspective from many other coaches. In that, I’m not used to just listening to what scientists, professors or any other authority figure have to say and just excepting as “truth” simply based on the letters behind their names or the professional status they hold. I’ve never cared who you are – I’m sceptical of everything and everyone until they’ve convinced me otherwise and earned my respect.
I’ve gotten to where I am because as a kid (and as professional adult) I’ve cultivated my own common sense and critical thinking skills. And, I made those the most important learning tools to me over what supposed “experts” where saying.
Basically, I feel my education has helped me lend some real world application and a simplistic, common sense teaching style and approach to strength & conditioning.
I don’t give you fancy words or use complex training strategies. I’m also not out to “make you think”, which usually translates into giving people more questions than answers (a.k.a problems). I take great effort and pride in providing simple and easily applicable solutions to complex problems. That’s what I’ve done in most of my professional practices, and I’ve become damn good at helping others to do the same!
Another key in my early and current education is my mother Faith Bevan.
Since my Mother was an ex-bodybuilder and is now a medical professional, I’ve had lots of motivation and help from her. In fact, I still get help and motivation from my mother who’s one of the smartest and most experienced health & fitness & medical (she’s a PA) professionals that I know. My mom now owns her own Yoga studio in Port Richey Florida called Flow Yoga. When my mom and I get together, we talk shop a lot and exchange ideas. Plus I take Yoga class from her and her husband John. By the way, I’m a big fan of Yoga!
My mother and I are actually in the early stages of coordinating a fitness cruise on Feb 17-20. I’m hosting the Strength Cruise and she’s holding the Mind & Body Journey on the Sea. In short, these are both mini-fitness conferences held simultaneously, which allow you to learn and enjoy a great, cruise while learning and hanging out with your favourite presenters and fellow fitness professionals and exercise enthusiasts.
My website will have info on the Strength Cruise by mid-October. So, keep a look out for that one of a kind, can’t miss event!
Q: How can people get in touch with you if they have any questions following this interview?
Q: Who are you predominantly working with up there at the moment?
A: Actually, I’ve just moved to South Florida to get more sun and enjoy the beach while I focus predominantly on developing and writing new educational resources for fitness professionals. I’m also transferring some of my battle-tested strength & conditioning programs into E-book format so that exercises enthusiasts from all over the world can also benefit from them.
That said, I do work with a small, select group of physique competitors and other fitness professionals who have me design their own personal workout programs. The focus of these clients is predominantly on muscle building and staying lean for physique related goals.
Q: What are your 5 ‘go to’ exercises for your athletes and why?
A: 1. Romanian Deadlifts: what’s more functional or real world then picking up something and putting it back down? I don’t think there’s a sport or life activity that DL’s can’t help in some way!
2. Anterior Lunges – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gztBydYNEMk
It’s basically a single leg deadlift variation. So, I like this move for the same reasons as I like DLs!
3. Push Ups (& about 50 different variations) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwRLWMcOdwI
This exercises is natural, versatile (100s of variations), battle-tested and it can be done anywhere! What else can a fitness enthusiast ask for?
4. Free Standing Dumbbell Rows – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zJhHiZ1nGA
This move combines the benefits of a deadlift with a rowing action. And, it teaches you how to use your right shoulder with your left hip and vice versa!
This is another one of those actions that all movements and sports and life involve to some degree.
5. Band Tight Rotations (aka Pallof Press 2.0) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UeD7T0U1gY
This exercise is simple to learn, easy to apply and it trains your torso from a standing position while integrating in the lower-body and the upper-body! That’s total-body functional core training at it’s finest! Plus, people just dig this exercise because they can “really feel it in their abs.”
Q: I have read a lot of your stuff on joint friendly training and it is a philosophy that I share to a large extent. What are some the biggest mistakes people are making when it comes to joint friendly training in your opinion?
A: The most common mistake I see is related to a misunderstanding of the scope of practice of a fitness professional vs. a physical therapist / rehab professional. In that, the job of a FITNESS professional is to find the safest and most effective means of helping people achieve their performance and/or physical goals, which are to become stronger, bigger, leaner, faster and improve their body awareness and self image. The job of fitness professional is to help their client achieve these goals while working around any aches, pains or limitations their client has.
On the other hand, the job of a REHAB professional is to diagnose and specifically address any aches, pains and limitations.
The two jobs are very different! That’s why if you’re working with a therapist you’re called a “patient”. But, when you’re working with fitness professional you’re called a “client.”
Since many Physical therapists are integrating themselves into the fitness industry by teaching at conferences and what not. The modern day fitness professionals have become confused as to what their specific job is and why people come to the PT’s who are teaching them since can only teach what they do best, and that is rehab.
With that in mind, it’s no surprise that many fitness trainers end up changing what they do to then begin treating their fitness clients more like rehab patients!
I think it’s great that the health & fitness world is broadening and education is becoming more integrated. But, the downside of increasing education is that it can also increase confusion. Lets face it, taking a few weekend courses from some top notch PTs does NOT make a fitness pro any ore qualified to properly assess & attempt to correct what’s potentially dysfunctional in someone anymore than attending a surgical conference makes you a surgeon!
The best part about it is, any knowledgeable PT who’s ego doesn’t prevent tem from being honest will admit that their assessment are just educated guesses!
Even Mark Comerford, who’s one of the worlds best and brightest PTs says that “there’s a big difference between dysfunctional and a variation of normal.”
Now, who’s more “educated” at making an “educated guess” as to what issue an individual has that’s really dysfunctional vs. what’s simply a variation or normal?
I know I sure as heck am not qualified to make that distinction, and I study as much as anyone!
In short, Joint friendly training empowers the fitness professional with simple to understand and easy to use training strategies, which allow them to do their job (getting people fitter) without bogging tem down with worrying about the stuff that PTs are more qualified to do better anyway.
Q: One area causing some debate in the industry at the moment is core training. What are your thoughts on exercises like squats and deadlifts providing enough of a core-training stimulus?
A: First off, your core is far more than just your abs. The way I classify the core is consistent with the way Gajda & Dominquez first did when they first coined the term “The Core” in 1982, in their book Total Body Training:
“The foundation of Total Body Training is the core, which compromises the muscles in the center of the body. These muscles stabilize the body while in upright, antigravity position or while using the arms and legs to throw or kick. These muscles maintain the body’s structure during vigorous exercises such as running, jumping, shoveling and lifting weights. These muscles also control the head, neck, ribs, spine and pelvis”
Put simply, the core is your entire torso minus your extremities (arms & legs).
So, in my book, almost every exercise can be considered a core exercise to some degree!
Q: How do you stand on the unilateral/bilateral leg training debate? Briefly let us know your views on this.
A: They BOTH work! So stop arguing which is better and just do both!
These types of typical coach vs. coach arguments seem to be more about ego and playing the “I’ve read more books and research papers than you have” over accepting the fact that’s no need to argue because both methods have their own unique benefits.
Only really smart people could spend time arguing about something so ridiculous as this since fitness training is NOT and all or nothing concept to begin with!
I mean really! Who the hell said that we must choose sides when it comes to the methods we use?
In the fitness world, you don’t have to be for or against anything (unless you contractually obligate to be). Instead, you can fill your toolbox with as many tools as possible and then pick how and when to best apply those tools to each individual situation.
One of my goals as a trainer to the trainers is to empower you with lots of effective tools (a.k.a the methods) and also provide you with the know how (a.k.a the principles) of when to (and when not to) use those tools.
Q: What is your general philosophy on strength training for children and adolescents?
A: I don’t have a philosophy on training kids because don’t train kids under 13 since I haven’t done enough research in that area of training. In truth, I don’t really have the desire to learn more about training kids because I’m not really a fan of the way kids are being coddled these days. It’s actually not that I don’t want to deal with the youngsters, it’s that I don’t want to deal with their parents!
I stick with kids 13 or over because I’ve found that for the most part they can do most of the same stuff adults that I do with the adults, which is what I’m more comfortable with doing anyway.
It’s simple rule to live by – You’ve got to know what you know and you’ve got to do what you know!
I don’t know about adolescents, so I don’t train adolescents.
Q; Just briefly outline some of the recovery methods you utilise on a regular basis?
A: Sleep, massage, getting mental quite time and having fun!
I had a realization a while back that although things like stretching and foam rolling have been coined with new, fancy, smarty pants trainer terminologies like “recovery, regeneration, etc.:” – In reality, those things serve nicely as good old fashioned “cool-down” at the end of a work out or something to do to “feel better” at some time during the day. So, I keep it simple and classify them as such.
That said, “feeling better” and “cooling down” aren’t necessarily the same as “recovery and regeneration.” I’ve found that having fun and getting rest (mental and physical) can be far more effective at helping you “recover & regenerate” then a few minutes spent on the foam roller or stretching your hamstrings.
The problem is that telling people to get more sleep or to go out and have fun in order to help them properly recover doesn’t sell any DVDs!
By the way, what the heck happened to the word “cool-down” anyway? Have we become too smart to use simple terms that our clients can actually understand and/or relate to?
Lastly, I always ask this question to all the coaches I interview,
Q: What are the key qualities required to be a successful strength and conditioning coach?
A: Easy answer: COMMUNICATION skills!
I can teach anyone who’s got the desire to learn about how to be a technically sound fitness professional in a matter of days. Sure you won’t be an “expert”, but you’ll know enough to design fully comprehensive, well-balanced workout programs that are safe, challenging and enjoyable.
What I can’t tech you is to have a personality, which makes people like you and desire to be around you!
Training is both an art and a science. Some leaders in the fitness world like my great friends Brad Schoenfeld & Bret Contreras really emphasize the science side of things. While others like myself JC Santana, Jim kielbaso and myself embrace the science, but we focus primarily on the art & application of fitness.
As the saying goes “A 5 yr. old boy can be a great kite flyer without understanding anything about the science of the aerodynamics responsible for making the kite fly.”
In other words, the kid knows the art of kite flying and can perform well without understanding the science. As he gets older, the kid may eventually learn the science and learn to appreciate those aspects involved in kite flying. But he didn’t need that knowledge in order to actually fly the kite. He just needs the skill!
With that said, when I produce articles, educational DVDs, workshops and courses, I focus on empowering fitness professionals and exercise enthusiasts with best practical skills. If I can find some science to further add validity to those skills, I certainly throw it in the mix as well. But, there are plenty of concepts and techniques I teach that have not yet been looked at by science.
I would never claim to have all the answers. Nor would I ever claim that my approach to training or to teaching is any better than any other coach’s out there. But I will say that what I do works, and it works well for the folks of whom I’ve been lucky enough to work with.
Q: Whats in the pipeline for you in the next year?
A: My main goal is to bring real fitness training back the fitness industry and empower fitness professionals with the know how to get their clients real results without bogging them down with complex physical therapy based concepts, which most knowledgeable PT s still have a hard time understanding and successfully applying themselves!
Man, I’ve got a list as long as my arm of things I’d like to do in order to help the members of my fitness industry family.
Here are a few of them:
– Update my website
– Teach more live courses
– Get my DVDs available for imediate download
– Produce more DVDs
– Produce some E-books, which provide one of the workout programs I’ve used successfully with a variety of clients so every can benefit from these same programs.
– The Strength Cruise
Awesome Nick thanks very much for time much appreciated. I think the points you make are very straightforward which is exactly what we all need.
Like you say, “Simple solutions to complex problems” is the way forward.