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RPR Episode 28: Dr. Mike Israetel
Episode 2826th April 2020 • Rebel Performance Radio • Rebel Performance
00:00:00 01:01:14

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Dr Mike Israetel from Renaissance Periodization joins the show today to talk about his background in training, why he gravitated towards sports science, and what really grinds his gears with some of the internet gurus.

We dive into Mike’s background and specifically how he became obsessed with trying to answer the why behind the process of training. Mike started lifting weights at 15 to get better at wrestling and improve his physique, but it wasn’t until he started competing in powerlifting that he became more calculated with his training, education, and line of thinking. This led to Mike’s pursuit of higher levels of knowledge and eventually earning his PhD in Sport Physiology. 

Mike’s dissertation for his PhD was looking into the correlates of athletic performance, or what made great athletes great and everyone else, well, everyone else. Using a sample of 90 collegiate athletes, Mike looked at maximum strength, limb ratios, body fat levels, body weight, jumping power, sprint times, and the sport coaches ranking of their performance on the field or court. What he found was almost no surprise: the best athletes are the best jumpers and sprinters and are leaner. In terms of maximal strength, the ratio of lean body mass to height was highly correlated - more muscular athletes are stronger. 

After obtaining his PhD, Mike became a professor where he taught exercise science and sports science nutrition. He then went on to co-found Renaissance Periodization with his business partner Nick Shaw. RP originally started as a coaching company and since has evolved to include books/continuing education material, a dieting app, and training templates.

RP was essentially started out of Mike and Nick’s complete dissatisfaction for much of the information (or lack thereof) that was circling around the internet. They wanted to use science and real world experience to help people reach their goals and avoid getting ripped off or wasting their time. Mike emphasizes that hard work is a given if you want to get better, but you still need to use an intelligent approach. The level to which a client needs to be pushed in either direction depends on their specific goals. 

The approach used for a general population client is completely different from someone looking to compete at the highest level. While more gentle and easy going towards gen pop clients, Mike is quick to point out that he will not hesitate to give his infamous “machine talk” to anyone who claims to want to win at a high level, but is failing to take on the requisite behaviors. In his mind, if you’re a competitor you need to train to a level that will not allow you to crack when the shit hits the fan. The training to reach this level, says Mike, is about “using the appropriate amount of effort channeled through a complex system”, as opposed to relying on simple stories of just working hard and “grinding” or the opposite end of the spectrum and using complexity to avoid doing the work.

From here we get a little more specific and dive into Mike’s principles of hypertrophy training. Mike summed up his principles beautifully into about 7 training elements: (1)Specificity - what do I want to train? - pick your exercises accordingly (2) Intensity and loading ranges - typically between 5 and 30 reps (3) Frequency (4) Start with the minimum effective dose of volume and slowly progress from there (5) Deload and repeat (6) Evaluate when to change exercises (7) Evaluate how to progress loads.

Mike then discusses how he determines the optimal frequency for a lifter, starting with any constraints on how many days someone can train and then attempting to find the minimum effective volume someone needs to achieve an effective training stimulus by assessing soreness, any decreases in performance, and using subjective feedback. Once you find your MEV, Mike suggests that you slowly ramp up your volume until you are no longer able to maintain the same level of performance in the following training session. Frequency may be drastically different between multiple muscle groups, so it is important to assess each independently. Mike shares some insights into his personal experience and discoveries he’s made with specific muscle groups in training.

We then jam on coach-athlete relationships and the importance of honest communication along with monitoring weekly data to determine what direction to take clients in their training. By using a combination of subjective and objective data, a coach can make more accurate training prescriptions while developing a trusting relationship with the client. Mike makes the point that coaches need to remember that their clients hire them because they don’t know everything and need help in learning what they might consider to be second nature. 

Enjoy and hit that subscribe button if you learned a thing or two.

Episode Highlights:

2:30 – Dr. Mike’s background

5:00 – The WHY behind training

8:45 – Determinants of athleticism

15:45 – Renaissance Periodization

24:45 – Willpower

31:00 - Realistic expectations and how to get results

37:00 - Dr. Mike’s principles of hypertrophy training

47:00 - Coach-Athlete relationships

58:00 - Dr. Mike’s recommended resources

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