George Bristow is a Strength & Conditioning coach specializing in athletic performance, power lifting, and return from injury. He jump-started his coaching career in the Sports Performance department at Purdue University training football athletes. Since Purdue, George has coached various levels of athletics spanning from high school through professional sports within universities, academies, and gyms. Currently staffed as a professional Strength & Conditioning coach for the MLR (Major League Rugby) team, the Glendale Raptors, George strives for optimal performance, health, and wellness for his athletes and clients. In his free time, George enjoys snowboarding Colorado’s local mountains, climbing 14ers, and playing rugby for the Glendale Raptors Rugby Club.
Today’s podcast is full on ‘Meathead’ featuring strength and conditioning coach/trainer George Bristow as my special guest. He’ll help us learn how to look good in those tank tops we want to rock this summer. George strives for optimum performance and health with his clients.
George [3:31]: (addressing the wear and tear on the body that comes from working a 40-hour work week) Before trying to get strong or fit or healthy, you need to address the hips and the backs.
It wasn’t until college that George made the connection within his own life between being strong, being fit and being healthy. He started sacrificing his school work, skipping class, to go work out. He noticed that when he really focused on his workout and worked out in the way best for his body, his level of strength and fitness increased. By his senior year, he realized that he wanted to go into strength and conditioning.
In doing research, George noticed that most teens had never worked out in a good gym since most school gyms only had the bare minimum of equipment that funding allowed. Most teens pushed themselves beyond their limits and burned out because they simply didn’t know any different.
George [15:38]: You don’t know you’re not doing too much until you’ve done too little. It’s not going to take much at all to get a kid 1% better and that’s all that matters. That’s a lot more longevity.
Ideally, kids should be challenged in a variety of exercises that will help their balance or coordination and it should be fun for them. They may not gain any muscle size, but their neural pathways will be influenced in a positive way which will greatly benefit their fitness in the long run.
Since the hormones of a 13 year old is different than the hormones of a 18 year old, their workouts need to be adjusted accordingly. As the teen ages, weight and strain can be added into the workout to build muscle. In George’s experience, he had noticed no real difference between males and females in that age range in their ability to gain results.
George [25:45]: Girls do many things better, especially a lot of the coordination stuff. Girls are very attentive. They take cues well. [...] They do start out weaker but they start out on a smaller frame.
Whether they are into sports or not, sled work is a great addition to an adolescent’s fitness program as well as incorporating more lateral work (squats, pushups) and running. Mental frailty, injury, and power output can all be an indicator of someone are approaching burnout. 2-3 days of decreasing power output where the kid doesn’t bounce back - that’s a great sign that they are getting burned out.
George [36:42]: Get the kids moving in every fashion possible. Vary it widely so they are not surprised when they see a movement. You want them to be great movers before they get strong.
On strength training for people in the general population:
Emily [38:57]: What are some good things to think about for the new person that’s just realized that strength training is not just for athletes?
George [39:20]: Most people are locked into one position for 40 hours a week and most of the times, that’s sitting. [...] That causes overuse injuries in the hips and knees when beginning.
When starting out in strength training, the key again is avoiding burnout by having a properly executed program. A properly executed program will take into consideration the posterior chain - a group of muscles on the posterior of the body (hamstrings, the gluteus maximus, trapezius, etc) that has been affected by extended periods of being sedentary.
George [45:26]: When you have a movement that activates say 4-5 different muscle groups, the weakest muscle group is going to tap out first. Our bodies are such good compensators that it will try to find a way to do that movement without that muscle.
So many of those working a 40-hour a week job aren’t using their feet on a regular basis. Our feet are our pillars. Without having a strong foundation, the rest of our body will struggle to compensate for that which can lead to injury. If you try dealing with a correction too fast, you’ll experience pain.
The key is don’t rush. Don’t rush to do too much, don’t try to push your muscles and body too much at first. Don’t rush through your movements. Focus on activating your muscles to create that synergy within your body.
George [53:31]: If your foot can’t relax, your lower leg can’t relax.
Final takeaway: In order to gain mass on your arm, reps are the key! It doesn’t take a lot of effort to maintain once you get to that point because your arms do so much regularly in your day-to-day life. Most likely you aren’t doing enough so increase volume through reps, sets and frequency.