Q&A with Elliot Hulses Right Hand Man from Strength Camp Gym: Chris Barnard (2016)
If you are a strength coach like me or just somebody who wants to learn from a strength coach then Elliot Hulses Strength Camp YouTube channel is definitely one of the best options for you. Another one of the best options (especially for athletes) is Overtime Athletes with Chris Barnard because he breaks everything down from injury prevention to getting stronger and maximizing performance.
Chris may not be the go-to guy for aesthetics, but if you want to improve and achieve more on the field then he is definitely the man for that!
Today I will be asking him a lot of questions related to coaching scenarios, training philosophies and stuff of that nature.
Lets get into it.
How old were you when you first started training and how old were you when you first started training people? Also what was the first gym that you ever worked at and at what age?
I first started training with my brother when I was in middle school on our back porch but really got into weights with my football buddies my freshman year of high school. Our friends dad was a powerlifter who just got out of prison and he put us through some grueling workouts. These were what really set me up to train and how to train. In addition, these simple workouts were what truly began to transform my body.
After that I caught the iron obsession and got my first job as a janitor at World’s Gym around that same time I trained all my friends on my back porch. Then immediately upon graduating I got certified and became a trainer at a LA Fitness where I fell out of love of being a trainer. I was working with housewives all day long in the chrome and carpet AC’d gyms and I realized really quickly this setting wasn’t for me. I simply wanted to train and train people the same hardcore way I was originally shown.
Did you go to school to become a trainer? Also did you take any training/nutrition/posture trades and if so then which ones?
I actually went to school at the University of Miami. I went PreMed in hopes of becoming an Orthopedic Surgeon. Honestly, at this time I was chasing the money and not so much my passion. Especially because I was just burnt out from LA Fitness and making next to nothing.
Around this time I got accustomed to Elliott Hulse and his business model. He was training athletes and also working with people worldwide via the internet. This opened my eyes that I could pursue my passion of training athletes and not have a ceiling to my income. The rest became history. I decided to complete my degree in Applied Kinesiology and Physiology at The U and started my online business my senior year of college.
In addition to studying premed in this I received my minor in Nutrition.
How do you usually assess a client when he/she walks into your gym? What are some key things that you look at as far as body positioning is concerned? (Ex: APT..etc)
When any athlete comes in they fill out a questionnaire that allows me to get a base of where this athlete is at, what sport they play, and if they had any injuries. This allows to me to get an immediate eye on glaring imbalances they may have.
Next, to be honest it completely depends on the athlete. Since at the moment I deal with high end athletes, I assess through a few tests. This includes acceleration, horizontal and vert. power, lateral change of direction, upper and lower strength.
This may change depending on the sport the athlete plays but really my goal is to quickly spot their weakness and bring that ability up in their game to transfer over to their game.
That’s really it. I do some muscular imbalance stuff to prevent injury but honestly I can typically quickly spot these through the way the athlete moves.
What is your take on online coaching as far as making assessment are concerned? Some people argue that its very hard to be done, but whats your take on it? I personally think that it can be done but you just can’t juggle a lot of people at once.
I agree with you. When I work with athletes online I have them perform a series of general assessments on themselves and from here provide them with the info based on how they score. When they submit this I take a peek to see if anything is glaring that would expose them to injury. Then from here I assess how they perform the tests above and usually I can get a good feel of how they move.
Again, you can’t put this in a vacuum as each athlete is different. It’s truly case by case but I can describe my approach. I’ve had guys online who’s main purpose is to overcome recurring injury. For instance, I worked with a sprinter who chronically pulled his hamstring. This was simply solved by evaluating his top speed mechanics. Although that’s a simple example it gives you a snap shot that each case is unique.
Whats your take on a client/athlete counting calories vs a client getting their TDEE online and working with that?
Macros is the way to go. Establishing a consistent baseline of calories and then tweaking based on this is far more effective in my opinion.
What are your favorite pre and post workout meals for someone trying to lose weight and give me a pre and post meals for people trying to pack on size?
Not to get too much into Nutrient Timing because it depends on the athlete but for gain or loss I believe you need a meal consisting of Proteins and Carbs. This is what feels best for me personally.
When I was gaining weight for football I would have Chicken and Rice approx 1.5 hours before training. A gatorade during for readily available energy. Then finish with a protein shake mixed with oats and maybe a banana on the side.
When cutting I really wasn’t concerned with nutrient timing as I wasn’t competing for anything. My concern just became to hit my macros each day no matter the time.
Some people say that if you can’t Bench 225×5, Squat 315×5 and Deadlift 405×5 then you are considered a novice lifter, do you agree with this (powerlifting standards)?
With the numbers some of these guys are putting up lately I guess you can say that. I have to be real, I could care less what my athletes lift and care more about what is it doing for you on the field. Yes strength is gauged by numbers but performance is gauged by stats in competition, period. So whatever that athlete needs to win that’s my concern.
For a lifter though I can see how they say that.
What are the BIG differences between training females vs males for the most part?
Honestly, training athletes… none. Now for nutrition that’s a different story.
Biggest regret when you first became a trainer?
Training everyone! My only regret if I had to have one was taking any and every client. This backfired and made me hate training people. I was so scared to make the leap of exclusively training athletes for fear of not having enough clients to pay the bills. However, my business shot through the roof when I established myself as the performance coach in the area.
What are the requirements that somebody needs to become a trainer at your gym?
There is an internship process where they help as coaches assistants. From here I can gauge how you interact socially. Then from here I evaluate 2 aspects of your coaching abilities…Can this coach cue and can they motivate? With cueing I want him to consistently give the client feedback to better position them. With motivating, I simply come from a football background and I always thought the best coaches were ones that new the right words that made an athlete tick. When you can quickly discover that in a client you get the most out of them. If that checks out they start out as a level 1 coach and can build upon that.
We always encourage them to study and become experts in a particular realm of training. For instance, Mark one of our coaches is going deep into Weightlifting and although new to the sport he is blossoming into an amazing coach in this sport. As well as another coach Shannon who is following my footsteps in the sports performance realm.
Lastly, you have to look the dam part. Nobody wants to be coached by a sloppy trainer, let’s keep it real.
What is one of the best ways to keep your clients coming back as long as possible?
We have a system developed around 4 Core Values and get them bought in. Accountability, Coaching, Programming, and Community. Through these 4 we are able to take a holistic approach to not only helping a client lose fat or gain muscle or get stronger but completely change their lifestyle to become the strongest version of themselves. Through this they quickly realize this is more than a gym. We have established a high standard within our community and it resonates with each person to constantly get better in all areas of their life.
When teenage athletes come to your gym, what would a typical warm-up look like for somebody like a football player as far as dynamic movements, activation drills and other stuff of that nature are concerned? Also how important is direct rotator cuff work in your opinion?
Each session begins with the same warm up. It’s a series of dynamic stretches coupled with dynamic movement. For example, they first start by walking 10 yards with a high knee tuck then return 10 yards with a high knee run. After the complete warm up, I have them work on a series of corrective stretches based off the movement they may be performing that day. For example if they are squatting they may perform a series of 90/90 stretches to reduce the resistance the hips may give them. Same for activation, they might start by firing the glutes with a hip circle squat focusing on driving out the knees by screwing the feet into the ground.
Love direct rotator cuff work to the external rotators. Most athletes have an imbalance between them with the internal rotators being overly developed so I perform a lot of mobility, stability and activation drills to balance and strengthen.
I am currently Snatch Grip High Pulling in the high 200’s and one of my main lifting goals is to get it to 405lb for a single in the next few years. What are some solid assistance exercises that you would recommend for helping someone increase their high pull from the hang?
From hanging I would really say strengthen the thoracic region of the back and up. Typically you will see the athlete fail here as opposed to their hips not having enough power.
I do like hang cleans, but I find that they could be pretty risky for athletes because if they miss a rep then it could really mess up their wrists. Do you think that you could get most of the benefits that hang cleans have to offer with high pull variations and muscle/clean grip snatches?
Absolutely, in fact I rarely have athletes receive the bar. I don’t have years to coach with a lot of athletes I have an off-season. All a clean does is train hip extension and hip flexion. I can train both of these at optimal levels without hang cleans. If they know how to perform them great but I can easily sub this movement for a tire flip or explosive medball toss and receive the same stimulus.
What are currently some of your best stats on the big 3? Also what was the most that you’ve ever weighed and what are some foods that you are a big proponent of for packing on size fast?
Bench – 385
Squat – I want to say 500 something but really focused on box where I was in 600’s
Dead – Maybe just under 600?
Again I really only trained what would help me on the football field. After that it was strongman so I didn’t focus on these exclusively.
At my strongest I was training for fullback for the NFL and weighed in at 250 lbs. All I ate was chicken and jasmine rice. In addition I had 2 shakes a day consisting of whey protein, bananas, oatmeal and peanut butter blended in a thick ass shake. I was eating between 4k and 5k calories a day and was training 2 sessions a day.
In that video where you and Elliot were going back and forth on the push presses you were doing 315, what are your 3 favorite exercises for somebody who is weak off the chest and what are 3 good exercises that you like for improving your lockout?
Where do you see your YouTube channel by the year 2020?
Thank you for your time!