The following is part of a recent interview that Nick Mitchell gave to the online training journal, Raw Grip. The magazine’s editor was looking for a top personal trainer…fortunately he wasn’t looking for political correctness as well!
Its interview time again but this time it’s with the leading London based personal trainer / strength and conditioning coach, Nick Mitchell, who is taking the world of personal training by storm with his combination of innovative ideas and spectacular results. Nick has kindly agreed to start doing to a regular Questions & Answer column in Raw Grip, so I thought it would be a good idea to talk to him a little about himself so that you can all get to know the man, where he comes from, and where he can help you get to.
As we at Raw Grip have got to know Nick better, we realise that he is great example of the fact that you don’t become one of the best personal trainers without being a very hard working individual who is passionate about no BS training. Some of Nick’s views or opinions may be harsh and some readers may find that offensive, well…tough, sometimes the truth hurts.
RG: Let’s start off with laying the foundation out first. How long have you been in the industry for and how did you get into it in the first place?
Nick: Sometimes it feels as though I have been lifting weights since before the dawn of time!
My story is fairly similar to that of many men my age – way back in the early 1980s I was into the uber cool world of Dungeons & Dragons. In mitigation I was only 12 years old at the time, so when my dad returned from a business trip to the States it was quite natural that he brought me back the latest D&D game, a module I think it was called, structured something like a print magazine. On the front cover was an image that would irrevocably change my young life forever. It was a picture (below) of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan, arms outstretched and looking to my impressionable mind exactly how a real man should look, that set the gym bug going, and it’s just as strong as ever over 20 years later!
After that I went down the usual route of home gym, then a tiny local gym in the nearby town of Ilkley (the first and only gym I have ever been asked to leave because I was “training too hard”! That kind of reminds me of my workout once at the World Gym in Vancouver, where under the gaze of images of Arnold, Ferrigno and Columbu in their pomp, the owner came up to me and asked me to stop grunting, note I am NOT a screamer just an occasional grunter, during my deadlifts as it was intimidating the women. But that’s for another story), and then eventually I have found myself training in some of the best gyms in the world alongside some of the leading bodybuilders of our times. I have been a regular at Dorian Yates’ Temple Gym in Birmingham, spent a couple of summers living and breathing the life of Venice Beach at Gold’s Gym in Santa Monica, and of course there has always been my time at the best bodybuilding gym in London by a blue mile – Muscleworks Gym in Bethnal Green, London, where I still train my male clients and athletes who all thrive on the unique energy and buzz of the place.
Where I have perhaps taken a different tack from many of my coaching contemporaries is that although the world of strength and conditioning has always been my passion, it hasn’t always been my career. I actually started out as the “bodybuilding barrister”, and then went from the sublime to the ridiculous when I switched into a career in finance in the City of London. But there was always the gym, sometimes there was even the bodybuilding stage, and I have always coached a few select people who wanted and thrived upon my style of training. Let’s just say that anyone who has been trained by me and hasn’t headed off to bury their head at least once in the porcelain throne is either very lucky or extremely fit!
As I have grown older I realised that I wanted to do something that made me bounce out of bed every morning, so over time I backed away from my responsibilities in the financial industry (most latterly I was a partner in fair sized headhunting firm) and am now at that wonderful stage in my life where everything I do is enjoyable, stimulating and personally fulfilling.
RG: The next question is who do you work with primarily and what do you specialise in foremost?
Nick: I specialise in strength and conditioning. I know that is a bit of a broad answer so I’ll try to narrow it down.
When someone wants to get into the best condition possible, be it for a photo shoot or even personal reasons, I am the guy many, many professionals come and see. I work with a range of clients, from regular non fitness / athletic industry people through to those individuals whose livelihoods depend upon their being in fantastic shape. A lot of what I do in this regard is confidential, but if I may give a shameless plug for my website – www.UPFitness.co.uk – you will see a sample of my client roster – Victoria’s Secrets models through to Olympia competitors.
On the sports specific side, it’s the usual suspects from rugby and athletics, although of late I have started working with a number of MMA fighters and I love the fierceness they bring to the job. I get incredibly psyched working with those guys.
RG: Sounds great, what kind of stuff are you doing currently in terms of training or your personal business?
Nick: I am trying to put on a little muscular size right now. I am not sure why, just for the hell of it I suppose and to try out some new techniques / angles of training and diet. I am 245lbs at 10% body fat right now, which is a bit lardy for me but is an inevitable by product of shooting for the 260lbs at 8% that I plan on being come early summer. Before your readers start freaking out at those stats I am 6ft 3” tall, so although I am not small I am no Jay Cutler either.
My attitude to my training is always that I must try out everything on myself first before using it on my clients. Sure, some things won’t work for me that would work for others, that’s not the point. The point is that unless a coach has experienced at firsthand just what his client is going through, then how the hell can he properly advise him on it?! If you have never done cluster training, how do you know when your athletes are pushing themselves correctly? How do you know when to deload and allow the CNS some downtime? If you have never got shredded (shredded, not merely lean, any idiot can get lean), how can you advise anyone on what it takes to push themselves beyond anything they have done before? A great coach / personal trainer knows that training and achieving peak condition is a blend of both science and art – if you can’t get inside the head of your client then you can’t do anything, and the only way to get inside his / her head is to have done yourself the very things that you are asking them to do.
RG: Do you have any personal goals this year? After reading your The Right Resolutions article everyone wants to hear what Nick himself is up to.
Nick: I have a few personal goals this year, but the one that is most relevant here is my plan to open a private training facility in London. We have plans afoot to open something that is really lacking in London – a high end London personal training gym that caters to top training and trainers and nothing else. I want the same atmosphere and equipment that we have in Muscleworks – nothing but the best, a place where Ronnie Coleman can come and have a fantastic workout, but also something that will enable us to provide careful bespoke services in a more tightly controlled, and hence nurturing, environment than that afforded by any gym that is open to members of the public.
RG: After reading some of your work we all know that you are a one of the smarter trainers; What is the most exciting thing you discovered in terms of training, nutrition, supplementation that floats above the rest?
Nick: That’s simple. Anything by Charles Poliquin. I have studied extensively with Charles, in fact we even brought him over to London to our Enfield gym, Island Fitness, a couple of months ago. Charles has always been light years ahead of other so called experts (I maybe shouldn’t say this but anyone who reads the regulars on T Nation should appreciate that the Waterburys and Thibadeaus of this world are pale imitations of the real thing, and seem to lift any number of their credible ideas from Poliquin), but his work is amazing stuff. I won’t lurch into marketing spiel here, but suffice to say that anything that allows a trainer to pinpoint his client’s hormonal shortcomings and then modulate them so as to positively affect body composition and athletic / gym performance is going to be great business. I have more information on this on my website.
In terms of supplementation I am a big fan of Beta Alanine. It stands head and shoulders above the rest as an ergogenic aid, and is far more effective in the long term than creatine which I feel diminishes markedly in efficacy over time.
RG: There are a lot of things that drive us as trainers mad, share one of the things that you despise in the training world.
Nick: Well despise is a very strong word. I would say that I don’t have much time for pencil neck personal trainers who think they know how to train because they read it in a book. My attitude is very much one that if your trainer looks like he doesn’t know his way around a weight room, then that should tell you something.
Ah yes, I also dislike power plates and think those monkeys who have the temerity to claim that holding a pose on a vibrating plate will burn off tonnes of body fat and build muscle are wankers with zero moral integrity.
RG: One question on every novice lifters mind is, “How do I get ma Bench up”? (Note the sarcasm to a serious question)
Nick: Why are you benching? You will get more hypertrophy and functional carry over with dumbbells.
RG: One area that I see you concentrate on is “Fat loss”. In your opinion what is the biggest mistake when trying to lose fat.
Nick: There are 3 main mistakes that I see all the time – a lack of patience, a lack of discipline, and a lack of education.
I also think that those mindless cretins at nutrition school who still say that losing weight is as simple as fewer calories in than calories out are as dumb as a bag of spanners. The thermogenic effect of feeding means that ingested protein calories use up 30% of their energy via digestion, as opposed to 5% for carbohydrates. So who will get leaner – the protein heavy dieter or the carb heavy dieter? All calories are NOT created equal, and we haven’t even got into the impact of different macro nutrients on the endocrine profile and how that can impact so heavily upon body composition.
RG: A great interview and I would like to round it up now as I want to leave some questions back for the “F&Q” but to finish of this interview nicely what books do you recommend for a good reading?
Nick: For training I would say that everything published by Poliquin should be required reading. For a bit of thought provocation on the nutritional side I’d look at “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes. And for inspirational macho fun nothing will ever beat “The Count of Monte Cristo”!