Interview With Tony Gentilcore (Part 1)

Today we’ve got a Part 1 of an interview with fellow trainer, Tony Gentilcore.  Over the last few years, Tony has become a bit of a mentor to me and someone I have immense respect for.  On numerous occasions, he’s helped me with everything from problem solving troublesome clients, advice on how to run a better business as well as how to be a better writer.  He’s incredibly well respected in the fitness community both for being a trainer and a writer, and has a knack for telling it like it is-all while being hilarious. 

Tony was kind enough to take some time to drop by the blog and drop some knowledge.  So, without further ado, let’s get to the interview!

Hi Tony, thanks for agreeing to do this interview!  I know several of my readers are also fans of yours, and that those who aren’t most likely will be after this interview.  Why don’t you give readers a brief introduction as to who you are and what you do.

TG:  Well thanks Mike!   I appreciate the offer to come here to your site to talk some shop, and I definitely appreciate the kind words.  I know I say it all the time, but it’s very humbling for me to know that there are so many people out there who enjoy my work (and more importantly, my writing style) and are so willing to say such nice things.   I definitely don’t take myself too seriously, and it’s pretty cool that I have a lot of people who following my blog, as well as all the various articles I write.

I’m going to skip the obligatory “Hi, I’m Tony and I’m from a small town in Central NY that no one has ever heard of” introduction, and just go with the last five years of my life.  I currently live in Boston, MA where I am the co-founder (and co-owner) of Cressey Performance.  In short, we make people roughly 117% more badass than what they were when they first walked through our doors.  We’re known for all the baseball players we train, but we get a pretty eclectic group of people who train with us on weekly basis, whether we’re talking athletes, weekend warriors, fat-loss clients, or people who just want to lift heavy things up and down for the heck of it.   Outside of being a fighter pilot (or a lumberjack), I pretty much have the coolest job in the world.

On the side, I write for various publications –,, and Men’s Health being most notable.  It’s funny, I never set out to become a writer (if you want to call me that), but it’s definitely grown into something that I love doing and something I feel allows me to reach out to a lot more people.  Anytime I can help people to step away from the stupid  – you know, body part splits, throwing egg yolks away, or listening to ANYTHING that Tracy Anderson has to say, to give a few examples – I consider it a good thing, and something I take pride in.

I like to consider myself a coach that practices what he preaches.  Nothing drives me more bonkers than when I read something by someone, only to find out that they don’t even train people!!!!  What’s up with that?  To that end, I’m all about getting people stronger, and as such, the bulk of my time (as a coach and writer) is emphasizing how important that is for overall well-being and general awesomeness.

In an age where everyone wants to have their cake and eat it too (figuratively and literally), how do you help clients understand that it’s OK to let some elements of training slide a little while aggressively pursuing others?  (Ex: gaining a bit of body fat while trying to put weight on the bar, or losing a little strength when trying to drop body fat.)

TG:  That’s the rub, though.  One of the HARDEST things to do as a coach is to get people to understand that it’s going to be kind of hard to deadlift 500 lbs while also being able to train for a marathon simultaneously.  Oh, and have 3.4% body fat to boot.  Sorry, it ain’t gonna happen.  Far too often, trainees try to ride multiple horses with one saddle.  Much of my job as a coach is to sorta let people know what I feel they should concentrate the bulk of their efforts towards.  Which, not surprisingly, is 1)  not sucking, and 2) getting stronger. 

Too, I’m not scared to give people a little dose of “tough love” when it’s called for.  Take the example you gave above (gaining a little body fat while trying to put weight on the bar):  what I have found is that once you show someone that getting stronger is kind of cool, they get addicted to it.  Truth be told, strength, at least in the beginning stages – as little to nothing to do with muscle mass.  It’s ALL neural.  Most people won’t see any aesthetic changes in their body for 4-6 weeks.  That being said, it’s crucial as a trainer or coach to EDUCATE your clients.  You should WANT to make them self-sufficient and not have to rely on you for everything.  When I’m working with skinny guys, for instance, I’m constantly trying to inform them on why it’s a good thing to want to put on weight, and that they’re going to be hard pressed to make ANY progress if they choose not to follow my advice.  I mean, they hired me for a reason, right?

I’ll work with them on what types of food they should be getting into their daily diet.  I’ll stress the importance of recovery.  And, I swear to god, if I find that they’re doing any additional cardio on the side, I’ll scissor kick them to the pancreas. 

Okay, not really.  But in the end, you just need to inform them to trust the process……and educate them!  Show them why deadlifts are better than leg curls.  Teach them that skipping breakfast just isn’t an option.  And in time, they’ll soon realize that they look a helluva lot better at 185 lbs (and a little less “six-packy”) than they did at 150 lbs soaking wet while looking like an emaciated Abercrombie and Fitch model.

I think part of the problem is, like you said, everyone wants everything now.  And we’re preached to by “experts” and infomercials that it’s possible in only 8 minutes a day.  The result is that no one wants to work for and earn a strong, lean and sexy body.

I know trainers (including myself) hate questions like “Hey bro, so like, if you could only do one exercise for the rest of your life what would it be?”, so I won’t ask you that question.  But how about one that is similar, but possibly not quite as frustrating to answer? 

As a trainer, what are your favorite lifts for each of the following body parts?

 TG:  Deadlifts.  Deadlifts are the answer to everything……;o) 

 Okay, I know you’re looking for more specific suggestions, so here you go.  But seriously, f***ing deadlift!

Shoulders- STRICT military press.

Chest – Seems how I’m an absolute god-awful (read:  really bad) bencher, I’m going to go against popular notion and say loaded push-ups.  Anyone who says push-ups are too wimpy, clearly has never been to Cressey Performance.  I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had grown me come in who couldn’t do a proper push-up, let alone for reps.  I just feel you get more for your training buck with push-ups.  Not only can you sexify your pecs, but you’ll also engage your core more, and they’re waaaaaay more shoulder friendly to boot.

Back – I LOVE chest supported rows.  But honestly – deadlifts really are the best back builder out there. 

Quads- full depth squats.   My dark horse:  reverse sled drags. (Note from MG: These are awesome, but they SUCK!)

Hamstrings –  I love good mornings here.  On an a side, I find that when I hammer my GMs, my deadlifts, too, improve.

Glutes – Bret Contreras pretty much settled this debate:  loaded barbell bridges.  Hands down.

Abs – stepping away from the cookie jar

Energy system work/conditioning (I realize this isn’t a body part) – a few come to mind here:  400M tempo runs, med ball circuits, Prowler

I said one mister!

OK, that’s all for today, but stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow where Tony continues to drop knowledge and answers one of the most important questions he’s ever answered.


2 thoughts on “Interview With Tony Gentilcore (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: Interview With Tony Gentilcore (Part 2) « Michael Gray

  2. Pingback: The Best Of! « Michael Gray

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