This is an interview I did for Leigh Peele about three or four years ago. I don’t think it was ever published, so I thought I’d post it here.

Five questions you never knew you wanted to ask Alwyn Cosgrove

1) I am a big fan of fusion. I don’t know why, perhaps I just like saying the word. You have a vastly large background and know so many  methods and techniques to training. What is one of your favorite training fusions that seem like they shouldn’t belong but work so well?

Vastly large? Doesn’t vastly mean “very great in size” ? Same as large? So largely large?

Seriously – that’s a great question and one that I’ve had a really hard time answering.

I’ll explain why. In 1993 the ultimate fighting championship was created. The initial concept was to determine which martial art – under a no holds barred scenario was superior. It was karate vs judo vs wrestling vs boxing etc.

Fast forward 16 years….. We no longer talk about martial art styles — we talk about MIXED martial arts. It’s a mainstream term.
We no longer use the term ‘style’ to describe a fighter — we say “he has good stand-up” or a “good ground game”. Because martial arts have evolved and have embraced a totality.

Styles were a reductionist approach. But a holistic or total approach to fighting was always superior. And it’s a mixed system.

Bruce Lee advocated this (he died in 1973)……

“Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless”.
“Accept no way as the way, accept no limitation as limitation”
“Liberate yourself from the classical mess”

Here we are, 36 years later and the martial arts world has embraced that ideology completely. But the fitness world is still arguing about which method is better – powerlifting vs olympic lifting, aerobics vs bodybuilding…

So I guess we’re starting to move forwards with the idea of “fusion” – I just had a hard time remembering where the different techniques actually came from because I’ve mixed them almost completely. I don’t see them as separate methods any more — just as ‘training’. Did BJ Penn punch GSP with a boxing or karate punch? You see what I mean? It’s completely integrated to me now. It’s just exercise.

You’ll see powerlifting squats and swiss ball SHELC’s in the same workout in my gym.
Maybe the most surprising one would be how explosive lifting and olympic lift variations work well for body comp stuff. And how low-rep deadlifting seemed to be a great exercise for our endurance athletes.

There exists different “circles” in the sports and fitness training profession. There are the NSCA crowd – who are concerned with research and scientific methodology. The Elite FTS crowd who focus on pure strength, and are more powerlifting and strength sport based. The Perform Better guys – who embrace functional training and performance. The kettlebell guys. The Mens Health market. The Weider publications. Bodybuilding . com, The t-nation bodybuilding crowd.

There are more of course – but it’s weird to be part of this field when you realize that these circles exist almost exclusively – never entering each others areas of expertise. It’s like “east is east, west is west and never the twain shall meet”.I’m proud of the fact that I’m one of a VERY short list of people who have been able to  speak or write for all these different groups. I spoke for PB, EFS and the NSCA last year. I don’t know anyone who can say that they’ve done that. It may not sound much but I think it’s a pretty cool little deal and I’m proud of that.


2) If you had your way, what kind of testing and training would you put someone through before they could become a trainer?

I think a long term program or internship or something like that. We tend to give doctors a bad rap. It takes 11 years or so to become a doctor — college – medical school and then a residency. But you can become a trainer after an 8 hour seminar or a 2-3 hour exam. Yet we want to be accepted on the same level as a doctor…My first ever client I think was 1989. I’d taught martial arts and some fitness since 1986.
When I started training clients full time I did 40 sessions per week and I wrote a 100 word summary of every training session. Every session.

At the end of my first year of training clients I had two three ring binders full of my own notes of what I’ve seen.Then I decided to begin investing in myself. I took the money made from one session each week and bought education material. Mostly books. I read two books a week on training. I attended a seminar or certification every three months. I’m not saying this to make myself look good — I wasn’t good. But I got better by investing in myself. I’m seeing trainers now writing articles and selling ebooks who barely have 4 years of experience.So I think I’d go with some type of martial arts ranking idea.

You need to be a “black belt” level of understanding before you could train someone. That would be 4-5 years.

I’d list 50 books that you’d need to read, ten seminars that you’d need to attend, and I’d require 1000 hours of training clients under someone who was at a level better than you before I’d consider you to be capable of running your own training practice or business.

I know that’s a lot – but right now it’s laughable at how low the standards have become. And to be honest it’s similar to our staff training program – so it is what I’m trying to create.

Over the last year I brought in Josh Henkin, Valerie Waters, Robert dos Remedios, Martin Rooney, Bill Parisi, Mike Robertson and John Berardi to do private staff training seminars for my team. In addition they went to a Perform better one day and a perform better three day event that we paid for. They also attended NSCA events, and some other seminars. When you add in our staff training sessions, my team probably spend more time on education and training in a six month period than a lot of trainers spend in their entire careers.

3) Sometimes I write something that is so brilliant and somehow it just bombs. It falls to page 30 in the lower right corner, and is never read twice. Do you have anything you have written in the past that you are surprised isn’t highlighted more?
I don’t think I’ve ever written anything that good!
I’m my own worst critic.Maybe the “pendulum” article I wrote for EliteFS ?
I really liked that stuff but because I didn’t take an extreme position on anything it tanked.I interviewed someone for a website and it was the best interview I’ve ever done. Or even read to be fair. I had an extra 5 pages of notes from the interview. They never ran it which surprised me. I also wrote a mini-article that to summarize was about “if high reps don’t work for fat loss, then explain why intervals work”  that I don’t think was ever published. I’ll have to dig that out.When I think about it I’m actually more surprised at what people miss that I write about a lot. I think I’m known for only a few articles and I’ve written a lot. I had over 50 articles published last year – plus my blog and newsletter. I think people read about five or six of them.I think I’ve become known as a “full body only” ” no aerobics” “no isolation exercises” “no carbs” person.But a lot of the original NROL is upper-lower or push-pull. I used to have a body part column for Mens Fitness and Maximum Fitness magazine.
My first article for t-nation was an arm training article. My second was an arm training article. My third (with chad) was a shoulder training article.
I also wrote a “fast workout” article for them that was a body part split. The last article I wrote for MH was about abs.

I wrote a cardio column for mens fitness and I’ve trained people for all kinds of endurance events.

The second exercise I ever wrote in a t-nation article was the Y raise. In a circuit with T W and L.  So four out of the first five exercises I wrote on that site were isolation exercises.  T-nation ran an article on a bodybuilding workout I did with someone who came to train at my gym. Of nine exercises I gave him – five were isolation exercises.

None of my clients ever go “no carbs”. I went pretty low carbs during chemo (based on the research) but I don’t really use that.

Obviously articles where I say “aerobic training is over-rated for fat loss” seem to get remembered more than everything else.

Ha! I’ve got one “brilliant” moment — I know I invented the term “SHELC” because I was fed up writing “Swiss Ball supine hip extension (f.o.b.) with leg curl combination”. I can remember Charles Poliquin (who taught me the exercise) asking what it meant when I showed him some of my programs in 96 or so. I’m pretty proud of that as the term seems well known now. No one seems to know that.

4) On a episode of The Fitcast you said a beautiful thing. I am paraphrasing, but it was something to the degree of “I hate cardio. To do cardio I have to have on the TV, Radio, and the DVD player and then I realize 5 mins went by and I get pissed.”
I am the exact same way, I can’t stand it. What tips do you have for those who are looking to burn some calories, looking to get some conditioning, but just hate the mundane of it?
The best type of cardiovascular exercise is the one that you’ll do consistently. So that’s step one. If I showed you a thousand studies showing that interval training on the rowing machine is 2000% better than jogging — but you hate rowing and you LOVE jogging — then I’ll tell you to jog.

So I’m always more concerned with reality – what you’ll actually do.If it’s just a caloric burn – a metabolic workout of bodyweight exercises, TRX suspension stuff and kettlebells can burn way more calories than any traditional aerobic type routine. the key is not to go so heavy that it becomes a strength workout – remember the goal but it can be very effective and a lot more fun for those of us that don’t enjoy the repetitive aerobic stuff. 

5) What is the last…Book you read:

The Power of Less by Leo Babauta
Speak Like Obama – Shel Leanne
(I tend to read 2-3 books at once)

Album/Single you got:

I downloaded “Live Your Life” by T.I. and Rihanna about five mins ago.
I was at the Staples Center for boxing recently and Shane Mosley walked out to that song. I’ve been humming it ever since and walking around singing the “aayy aayy ayyy” bit…

Film/Show you watched:

I watched “house” last night.
Last movie at the theater was either “seven pounds” or “the wrestler”.

Bonus Question: Is there anything that you are dying to talk about so much that you wished in a interview someone would ask it so you could go off in a perfectly fine rant?

Hmmm. Another good question. I can’t see me talking about fitness or training for too much longer. I’d like to talk more about business.

But I think I could probably do a good “expose” o r”behind the scenes” article like Jose Canseco did…

I’ve never really liked the phrase “been there, done that”. I prefer “been there – done that – and still doing it!” I don’t care what you did with clients ten years ago – it’s a different business these days – clients arrive in worse condition, with different lifestyles, different goals and usually less time. It’s irrelevant what you did years ago -we’re learning so much so fast and it’s changing constantly. I think the idea that the fitness business is evolving so fast is fascinating to me. We were just wrong before. We were wrong that aerobics was the best fat loss tool. We were wrong about low fat diets. We were wrong about crunches. We were wrong about stretching for the most part. We are probably wrong about a lot of stuff we’re still doing.

We are doubling knowledge in this field literally every 18 months or so. Futurists have suggested that by 2050 or something – we’ll be doubling human knowledge every 8 hours! Can you imagine that? Everything you knew at breakfast is proven wrong by dinner time! Think about that – what do we currently believe that is likely to be wrong in the future?

Maybe things I’ve tried with clients that I probably have as much, if not more data on than most people (just based on how many clients I have access to at one time who’ll literally do whatever we ask of them). If you gave me a training or nutrition idea and I can probably get 30 or so people started on it within 24 hours. A lot of studies that we read are with different populations or are under different circumstances. and most of them are usually smaller groups.

Some things that I have pretty good data and ideas on:

*kettlebells/trx/metabolic circuits as an actual replacement for traditional cardiovascular exercise, for performance or body comp goals
*intermittent fasting
*pre and post workout nutrition stuff when someone is trying to lose weight.
*Posture training and fat loss and max strength

I’ve tested all of these with clients – I don’t think I’ve ever been asked to write or comment on any of them.