My Visit With Bret Contreras

January 13, 2011 by danny · Leave a Comment 

My friends Marci Nevin, Jason Curtis, Anthony Truck, and I headed down to Arizona a couple days ago for a couple reasons;

1) To watch Marci’s favorite team play in the National Championship Game (Anthony is a former Duck football player himself, so he loves Oregon as well).  We went to an “Oregon bar” in Scottsdale to root on the Ducks.  Well, they cheered on the Ducks but I quietly (I cheered in my head) cheered on Auburn, as a Tiger victory would win me some money in an office pool.  I never thought I’d say this, War Eagle!  And the more important reason for the trip to Arizona…

2) To get a visit in with Bret Contreras before he makes the move to New Zealand.  For those of you who don’t know the “Glute Guy,” let me introduce him;

Bret is a trainer that has taken the industry by storm over the past year.  He has a very popular blog and probably knows more about the glutes than any other person in the world.  But, he is definitely more than just a Glute Guy.  His knowledge is deep and he gets his clients results, plain and simple.  Here is a picture of Bret’s clients, Karli, Katie, and Kellie…

Marci and I had the chance to talk shop with Bret and have him coach us through a few new(er) exercises for a few hours.  But when you have so much to talk about, that 3 hours goes by way too fast.  With that said, we still got a lot out of our visit, and it was definitely worth the trip!  Below is a summary of the “highlights” (at least in my eyes) of our time with Bret in his garage gym (aka, BCSC).  I’ll paraphrase (in red) what he had to say to Marci and myself.  And at times, I’ll add my 2 cents …

-Which is the best way to train?  Is it full body, an upper/lower split, or a body part split?  None of these necessarily.  Each person responds differently to training.  You have to experiment to find out which is best for you.  For example, if I don’t hit a muscle group/movement often (i.e. with full body training), I get weaker.  But my training partner is just the opposite.  He definitely gets his best results while hitting each body part one time per week (i.e. body part split). 

Danny’s note: I feel that with all the different splits I’ve tried over the years, that no particular split has gotten me considerably better results than the other.  For this reason, over the course of a training year, I incorporate all three “types” (full body, upper/lower, and body part split).

-When it comes to females however, I prefer full body training for the majority.  They recover quicker and most likely detrain quicker.  Therefore hitting a muscle/movement frequently is probably best for the majority of females (to read Bret’s thoughts on training females in more detail, check out this blog post -

-Simply getting people stronger (in a smart, progressive manner) is not only great for athletic performance and physique enhancement, it can be very powerful in preventing injury.  Awhile back, my buddy told me that he was scheduled to have back surgery in two weeks.  So I asked him, ‘why haven’t you come in to see me!?!’  He decided to give it a shot and not only were we able to avoid him having this surgery, he now has ZERO back pain!

Danny’s Note: While there are a million examples of how strengthening the entire body can help prevent injury, here are a couple common that I see: Running one mile is essentially 1500 repetitions (in the same repetitive fashion) at two to five times your body weight (depending on your speed).  Do you think strengthening the muscles around the hips, knees, and ankles will provide those joints some extra support to help with all of this pounding?  I sure do!  Another example: people that have weak glutes will call on the syngerists to perform a task (i.e. sprinting).  If the glutes are not doing their job, the hamstrings will have to work overtime which could lead to a hamstring injury (this is called synergistic dominance).  Getting the glutes stronger will often spare the back, which I suspect is one reason that Bret’s friend no longer has any back pain.  Ahh, the power of the glutes!

-People seem to be forgetting about muscles.  I know the nervous system is important, but lets not devalue the importance of our muscles.

-Band Hip Rotations…

Danny’s note: Bret went over this exercise with Marci and I.  It is great because it works the hip external rotators (including the glute max as an external rotator).  Marci and I also noted how much we felt it in our core.  Talk about a big-bang-for-your-buck movement!

-Quite often, we set the bar way too low.  Danny, if I look at you and think, ‘hey, you look like a 225 bench presser, then that is probably all that I’m going to get out of you.’  I expect big things from my clients, which has been very helpful in getting them great results!

Danny’s note:  I wasn’t sure if Bret really thought I was a 225 pound bench presser.  So after he finished making his point, I quickly chimed in, “by the way, my bench is 300!”  Marci and Bret thought it was funny that it was important for me to let him know that me maxing ONLY 225 pounds was NOT TRUE!  :)

-Let me show you two what my life is like.  Come take a look in my bedroom.  You see ALL OF those bodybuilding magazines on the floor by my bed?  I’m always reading bodybuilding mags.  We can learn a ton from this group!  Too many coaches/trainers dismiss the methods of bodybuilders.  I think that is a huge mistake.  Believe me, I also learn from the powerlifters, olympic lifters, and athletes.  But we can take a little something from each group and use it to optimize the training of our clients, and for our own training.  The key is to know how and when to implement these different methods.

-Over the years, I’ve read a ton of bodybuilding magazines.  When I hear over and over and over again that the pump has been very important to them in achieving unbelievable results, there HAS TO BE something to it.

Danny’s Note: In my opinion, to achieve optimal results, a lot of it comes to how you interpret information.  And more importantly, how you apply this information.  If I had three guys tell me their opinion on “da pump,” it may sound like this.

Person 1 – “The pump is everything.  If you don’t go to the gym and achieve a BIG pump, then you’re wasting your time!”

Person 2 – “The pump doesn’t mean anything.  Getting stronger is all you need to achieve size.”

Person 3 – “To achieve maximum hypertrophy (muscle size), it is important to get stronger.  But it is also important to get a good pump.  This combination will yield optimal results.”

Person 1 and 2 are only speaking in half-truths.  While person 3 “gets it.”  He/she knows how to interpret and APPLY information!  I like person #3 and would like to play dodge ball with him (I don’t know, first thing that came to mind).

-Too many people in this field get so emotional with training.  If you and I disagree on something, that is ok.  I’ll still have no problem hanging out with you.  I’ve seen people that literally hate someone because they disagree with them on something regarding training.  Ridiculous!

-Trainers/coaches need to “palpate” their clients glutes.  How else are we going to know if they are getting them firing the way we want?  I’m not saying that we should molest them, but get in there and push into their glutes to see if they are firing during various exercises.

-Static assessments are important and can give us some indications.  But watching them move is way more powerful.

Danny here again: There was more to this visit, but above are some of the things that stood out to me.  I want to reiterate, the above is me paraphrasing what I took from our conversation.  Bret, if I misrepresented you in any way, feel free to call my glutes soft and squishy on your website – although we all know that is NOT true. ;)

What Else?

Bret talked to us quite a bit about crunches and sit-ups and how he believes that they are being thrown under the bus a bit.  The research of Stuart McGill has made many of us stop (or greatly reduce) performing crunches/sit-ups.  For the most part Bret doesn’t  buy into the research but admits that a lot more research needs to be done.  I played devil’s advocate with him and said something like; “since we all sit way too much (with rounded-back posture and shortened hip flexors) crunches just reinforce that poor posture.  And as McGill has pointed out, it seems we have a fixed number of flexion/extension cycles on the lumbar spine before we herniate a disc (although this thought process may be flawed since this study was done on dead animals that do NOT have the recuperate abilities that us live humans have), I prefer to error on the side of caution and strengthen the rectus in other ways” (i.e. ab wheel rollouts).  Bret said that he wouldn’t blame a person for thinking this way and has no problem with that.  This is one thing that I really like about Bret; he is open-minded enough to listen to many different ideas and is not married to one philosophy. 

Since crunches/sit-ups were one of the first topics Bret brought up, I got the impression that he is passionate about this subject.  So stay tuned to get his thoughts in future blog posts on his ’site.

Bret’s client, professional baseball pitcher Steve Hammond came into train while we were there.  While he was training I took a video of him doing a single-leg hip thrust.  It was his first time trying it.  His first comment was that he felt the “up leg” (this is supposed to be the non-working leg) working quite a bit (too much).  But after getting the hang of it he started to rip off reps while fully activating the working glute (the down leg).  Here is the video…

Repping out 225 on his first day of trying these is not bad.  Especially considering that there are many people that can’t do one single leg body weight rep properly!

Marci and I both got a chance to try Bret’s invention – the Skorcher!  It is great for putting you in proper position to really activate those glutes!  Plus, with the deep stretch that it allows at the bottom of the movement, you can really feel your hammies firing.  For some reason, I didn’t get tape of Marci and I using the Skorcher.  But am I happy to say that I got 445 pounds for 10 reps! (or was it just single leg body weight reps that I did – can’t remember) ;)  

For those you that haven’t seen the Skorcher in action, here you go…

Well, that will just about rap it up.  Thanks again Bret for letting us invade your garage.  I’ve learned a ton from you and look forward to continue learning from you!  In true Bret Contreras fashion, I’ll close with a picture of his favorite girl on his website.  Enjoy…

This post is brought to you by Sears Fit Club.

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