Hey Julien, Can you give us a brief intro to yourself for those who may not know you and what you do?
I am a Movement Specialist. My specialty is building structure, especially for Crossfit Athletes, so that they can perform at their best.
It seams like a lot of the training I see today is devoted to getting the pyramid higher quickly, instead of building a better base. As I say all the time, the wider the base the higher the pyramid.
A lot of the time in Crossfit is spent working on metcon’s and things like that, instead of spending the necessary time building the proper structure so that you can actually last, and do all movements correctly and efficiently. I see a number of injuries popping up in Crossfit due to the lack of proper structure.
And so, I’m a Movement Specialist first. That’s my career, my calling. It’s not to find the next Games athletes,it’s to fix the broken ones.
On a personal level, my background includes just about every sport you can think of since around the age of 7 or 8 years old. I’ve always enjoyed doing a lot of sports at a very high level. But, coaching has always been my first passion.
What got you started in training both for yourself and then others?
The first sport I got really good at was Soccer. I was around 10 years old and ended up being a member of one of the top French national teams. And, we ended up going to the European Cup, international competitions and stuff like that.
Basically this was my first exposure and foray into high level sports.
My first real coaching experience was when I got into MMA. So, I was 19 at the time and I had spent the last 2 or 3 years doing bodybuilding. Whatever I knew about that, anyway. I remember following Dorian Yates’ programming.
The sets, reps, everything, for maybe a few years. I remember it being great, but could not escape the feeling that something was missing.
I then found a small martial arts place in the center of Paris. There was a teacher there,David N’Guyen leading an MMA class, although it really wasn’t. He was a Thai kickboxing champion who had done some wrestling. At that time in France, around 1995 or something like that, the UFC had just started. We had just got the Gracie jiu-jitsu tapes, which was the most basic stuff ever, but for us it was magic.
I still remember his name,he was the best coach I ever had. He is the one who stared my passion for coaching, because he had such a passion for it himself.I was with him for 2 years,and he showed me the way.
It’s funny, one thing I was also doing back then was a lot of Gymnastica Natural, which was gymnastics for jiu-jitsu. I remember I had the video tape with all the bodyweight exercises from Kazeka Muniz.He was a Rickson Gracie student and came up with all those animal movements-based exercises. There was ’The Cricket,’ something called ‘The Rabbit, The Frog.’
I did all those movements in my grandmother’s apartment, fortunately it was big enough. Of course I drove everyone insane because I was sweating on the carpet, I mean, you can imagine.
I got really good at this actually. When my Thai coach David saw that I could do all that, he put me in charge of the warm-up. So, that’s what we did for the first 1/2 hour of each class. I would murder everybody with that.
The class actually got so good that we could not fit anyone else in, so the coaches asked me to push even harder so that we could make some room. You know I already love torturing people, obviously, so this was great. The problem is that, it didn’t work.
We had 500 square feet to train and maybe 40 people going through the waves and everything. It was awesome. And it taught me how to manage chaotic training sessions. Those were my formative years.
You started Coaching and training Games athletes such as Val Voboril, how did all that come about?
I think this was 3 years ago now.
One of the original owners of Dogtown Crossfit, I think it was Jason, had heard of me and brought Val down one Saturday for training. She was on her way to the Games, and they both wanted to see if she was ready to compete. I think this was the first year of the heavy D-ball over the shoulder event.
Well, I made her try a bunch of stuff and she simply couldn’t do it! I made her carry the sandbag, and I remember that she almost had a panic attack. She asked me, “Is it normal that I feel like this?”
But of course, she quickly grew stronger, as she always does. A week or two later she brought Lindsay Valenzuela back with her to train, along with Scott McGee of the Wodcast Podcast and some others. We did everything together again, only a bit harder.
It’s funny, this was all just before the Games. CJ Martin had programed some of my stuff for Val, so I simply told her to first do it CJ’s way, then to do it my way. And my way was much harder.
After moving a bit closer to my gym the Saturday session turned into twice a week, then to 3 times a week, and then to me coaching her through CJ’s programming, basically. The First time i came to her house for a movement assessment (something i did not have the opportunity to do before,since we were training her for strongman movements for the Games) she couldn’t hold a front rack straight. We had to build so much stuff I had to keep telling her, “We need more work, more work.”
CJ then spent the next year or so studying me from afar, basically. He didn’t say anything, only ever watching me training Val, asking her how it was going
Finally, we met at Val’s place for dinner and got to talking. Actually, we talked so much that evening that we thought they may kick us out, but we didn’t take the hint and just kept going. From there CJ invited me to move down to Sand Diego to train the Invictus team.
The rest is history now.
What was the biggest thing you had to work on with both athletes? And what do you think in the CrossFit Community as a whole needs to work on more?
What really strikes me the most is how imbalanced everybody is.
Oftentimes it’s the lats, which is causing a lot of shoulder problems. A lot of Crossfit athletes don’t have the proper lat development, so they default to the traps. That’s really a major issue.
The second issue is that the glutes and hamstrings are often not developed correctly, so they also default to their lower back. But the real root of the problem is that they make it work. That’s not good enough, eventually. You’ll either hit a glass ceiling or get hurt
People think great athletes are better, and therefore move better. Not at all. Usually they move worse than most people. They’re just so gifted, so talented and so strong, they make it work anyway. But eventually you’re going to start breaking.
I see clear patterns in Crossfit – the lats, hamstrings, glutes and weak obliques. Everyone is doing the same 12 movements, and there are so many combinations you can have of that. So, the result is imbalance.
The second you make these athletes do something they’re not used to doing, they die! …Or, they get hurt.
Which Coach or person inspires you the most and why?
I thought he was a great coach in the sense that, everything he wrote was so simple. You can read Bill Starr and go, “Yeah, I get it.” Even if you don’t know Olympic Weightlifting at all you still say, “Yes, this programming makes sense. That takes me from A to B and then we move on.”
You know, strength is simple. It’s not simplistic, but it’s simple. Your training should make sense. It should work.
You don’t need overly complicated programs, or coaches who are busy mostly selling themselves and using 9 names for the muscles of the glutes when of course, you can just say “the glutes,” you know what I mean? It’s all that stuff.
CJ Martin is the other one, for how much focus he puts on mental aspect. That really surprised me.
When I first got to Invictus, everyone there was humble, mellow, respectable and coachable. The same. I mean, I’ve never been to a place with high-level athletes where not one of them is an ass-hole. But not there.
I know how much works this takes for the coach. It’s impressive. In that gym, even during the toughest workouts, you will never see an athletes in a defeated body posture. I thought I was on this myself, until I saw how well they do it at Invictus.
This has been incredibly educational for me.
What would your advice be for someone who was looking to take their training to the next level be it competitively or just being fitter than they were last year?
Those are not the same goals. It’s two different things entirely.
If you’re trying to go to the next level and win competitions, then you’re going to have to train Crossfit as a sport, not as a training system anymore. If you want to be fitter, that’s great. But if you want to win, it’s different.
There are certain numbers you’re going to have to hit, certain movements you must be efficient at. So suddenly, forget about having fun. This is going to be about winning. And suddenly, here comes the workload.
There will be less classes with your mates, doing Fran because you like it, or whatever you’re good at. Suddenly now the question is, “What do I need to work on? What are my weaknesses?”
Also, as CJ says, you must consider your life and core values. Do you have a job? Do you have a family? Do you have only 2 hours a day to train? First things first, right? With only 2 hours you cannot make the Games. The sport will cost you money, and much time away from your family and children. From the business. So, are you willing to do that?
If the answer is still yes, then the next step is, forget about having fun! Are you willing to spend the next 6-months building up your strength or gymnastics base? In short, will you invest the time and energy into doing the stuff that you don’t like, the stuff you suck at?
This pays off in the end, obviously, but it’s a much different mindset. To win, you must understand the sacrifices.
What are you own goals for training this year and how do you approach training yourself?
My goal for training this year is basically becoming stronger. This always means spending a lot of time carrying weight.
And of course, I’ve learned so much this year. I plan on spending much time putting the wisdom to good use. That’s it.
What big things have you got planned for 2016 that we should be looking out for?
Ah, that’s a shit-load of information to cover in just 1 question!
So, there’s the upcoming StrongFit world tour. We are currently redesigning and revamping the StrongFit website, which should be amazing for all. There will be more podcasts and media coming, possibly a book.
And of course, I will continue to work with athletes and develop my coaching team. We have much work to do to spread the Movement Specialist message, so who knows.
I am just getting started.
The quick 3: Favourite Workout, Cheat meal and Music?
For music it’s Ben Harper, no question. He’s my favourite artist of all time. The cheat is always chocolate. Always.
And for the workout, this week it’s been the frame carry followed by a sprint. You must try this, it’s horrible it hurts so much. Your heart rate goes so high it’s absurd.
Very much stolen from Tim Ferris but its a great question.If you could have a massive billboard anywhere in the world with anything on it , what would it be and where would it be?
It would be a reflection of what drives me in life. Again, very simple. “Be useful.”
Where is the best place for people to go and to follow you and learn more from you? And for those who are going on the courses what can they look forward to learning about?
For those interested you can find me at StrongFit.com. Also, there’s loads of great information, news and sled-death pictures on the StrongFit YouTube, Facebook and Instagram pages.
For those looking for a real result from their training, you know where to find me. Julien.
Workout of the Day
Active Recovery, Odd Object Day and Practice Day!
5 Rounds each arm
50m OH Single arm KB walk
50m Single Arm KB Farmers Carry
15m Prowler drag (facing forwards)
15m Prowler pull (walking backwards)
15m Yoke walk
8 Sand bag over the shoulder
100m Sandbag Carry
Workout of the Day
30 KBS 32/24kg
30 box jumps 24/20
30 KBS 32/24kg
Workout of the Day
Hollow Hold 5 x 30:30
Arch Hold 5 x 30:30
Wrist pops 3 x 10 with 60s rest
EMOM for 5minutes:
Shoulder taps (feet against wall) 3 x 10
Kick up Balance Game 20 Attempts