The Tao of Boyle- Reprint
The Tao of Mike Boyle was written by Nate Green and originally
printed on TMUSCLE.
It was reprinted the other day and I got some great feedback
So, here it is for blog readers.
38 years of under-the-bar experience, the best exercises, and why
back squats still suck.
“… Tao is often referred to as ‘the nameless’, because neither it nor
its principles can ever be adequately expressed in words.”
Aw, what the hell, we’ll give it a shot.
No questions, no time limit, and no stone unturned. Training? Nutrition?
A little piss and vinegar? It’s all here.
The following is what happens when you get on the phone with a
top-level strength and conditioning coach and hit “record.”
Mike Boyle Speaks
• I might be the most criticized guy in this profession. If not, I’m
• But I get results. We’ve had Olympians, national champions,
professional athletes–you name it. All those guys come through
our gym. And people think I don’t know what I’m talking about?
• When people come and watch my athletes train, they’re always
surprised. They can’t believe they’re as strong as they are. They fully
expect to come in and see the Richard Simmons show, like I’m going
to be wearing a jump suit and headband and making my athletes
stand on Bosu balls.
• I’ve got girls doing chin-ups with a 45-pound plate around their
waists. How many guys can do that?
• I’ve been lifting weights for 38 years. I started when I was 12 years
old with a 110-pound set of barbells in my basement. I grew up on
muscle magazines. They were my early education, you know? Man,
I remember seeing Boyer Coe guest pose in 1979. Steve Reeves,
Gladiator, Hercules…that stuff really got me into the lifestyle.
• People look at me and say, “He hasn’t been under the bar.” Yes,
I have. And, frighteningly, I was pretty damn strong.
• Right now we’ve got training experts who don’t train anyone and
strength coaches who’ve never competed in anything. Would you
take business advice from someone who doesn’t have a business
or isn’t making any money?
• You have to keep training people to stay fresh. If you don’t keep
learning, you’ll get to a point two years down the road where you
won’t know what you’re doing any more.
• The better the athlete the more self-impressed you are. They
learn everything so easily and you start to think it’s you. “I’m an
awesome coach because I can get that guy to do exactly what
I want him to.” Listen, when you’re training a guy who’s projected
in the first round, getting him into the first round isn’t a big
accomplishment. That’s where he was supposed to go.
• Last year we had four guys make teams–three un-drafted free
and one seventh-round pick–who all stuck with NFL teams this
year. I was more proud of that than any other thing we’ve done.
• A lot of what people tell you isn’t true.
• First, I didn’t say the “people shouldn’t squat” thing to be controversial
or sell DVDs. That clip was pulled directly from the DVD set by a
marketing guy who watched the entire presentation and said,
“This is the hook.”
I had no idea how crazy the backlash was going to be. I even
got some pretty harsh emails from some respectable people.
Well, people I used to respect. Apparently they don’t have
time to think.
-Since then, I’ve had people forward me information about the
bilateral deficit. All of a sudden, they’re saying, “You’re really right.”
• The bilateral deficit? Well, they’ve found, particularly as it relates
to the lower body, that you’re clearly stronger when you train with
one leg versus two.
Let’s say you’ve got a guy who can deadlift 300 pounds for reps,
but can’t squat 400 pounds for reps. More often than not, he will
be able to single-leg squat with 200 pounds on each leg for reps.
So what does that tell you? He’s at less risk because the load is
lighter, but he’s getting more work out of each leg.
• The thing I always hear is, “Well, if they have weak backs, why
don’t you just get their backs stronger?” Hold on. We’re not
talking about having a weak back. We’re talking about the back
being a limiting factor. That’s very, very different. A guy who hang
cleans 300 pounds doesn’t have a weak back. The simple fact is that
when someone fails in the squat it’s not because they don’t have
any more juice in their legs. It’s because their back can’t handle
• I wrote an article called “An Apology Letter to Personal Trainers.
“I’ve been telling them how to do their job for years and never trained
a single non-athlete. Over the past few years I’ve started to, and
it’s hard work.
• I think personal training is much more difficult than working with
athletes. We’ve got 2 hours per week to counteract the other 166
hours of the week. It’s not a good ratio to try and make changes.
• Still, some trainers just suck. Like the ones who just tell their
clients to go for a walk. That’s the exercise equivalent of calling
yourself a nutritionist and telling your starving client to go steal
sugar packets from Dunkin Donuts.
• Or the flipside, you have the Crossfit guys who are just
going to shit kick you until you can’t move. That’s just as bad.
We’ve got uneducated trainers who don’t challenge their
clients and uneducated trainers who try to kill their clients.
• All the guys who get mad at me on the Internet, I just want
to say, come talk to me when you’re 40.
• I have the huge value of hindsight. I was just like you. I was
a meathead. I wanted big muscles and to be strong as hell. If
my shoulders hurt after benching, I’d ice them, take Advil and
bench again five days later. If my back hurt from deadlifting,
well, my back is supposed to hurt from deadlifting, right? I came
to realize over time that I was wrong.
• Take a look at all these guys with surgeries. It’s insane. How
can they still be espousing the same principles when they’ve
gone under the knife so much?
• Experience is wasted on the old.
• Everyone squats ass to grass? Where are they? I go to gyms
and I don’t see them. When you live in the Internet world there
are thousands of guys doing heavy squats ass to grass with
no problems. Call me skeptical. By the way, I’d love to see
all these guys “laying it on the line.”
• The best way to learn is to find someone who’s doing what
you want to do, and read everything they write, watch everything
they’ve put on DVD, and hopefully get to talk with them in person.
• The close-grip hang snatch is the best power movement you
can do. But you have to do them with a clean grip to spare your
shoulders. The only reason guys do it with a wide grip is to use
more weight, since it decreases the distance the bar has to travel.
• Why from a hang instead of the floor? Size differences. Olympic
lifting favors shorter people. Suddenly when you’re teaching the
snatch to a football lineman, they have a hard time addressing
the bar on the floor. It’s also more practical to do it from the hang
since it spares the back.
• I always take the original exercise and try it out. If it doesn’t
work to my standards, I modify it. If that still doesn’t work, I drop
• If you’d have asked me a year ago I would have said the
Turkish Get-up was a gimmick. Now I think it’s probably the
best total-body core exercise you can do. And that’s part of the
• I can remember reading the early kettlebell stuff and being
decidedly unimpressed. I had a million reasons why I didn’t
like it. But then I started watching my athletes get up off the
floor. Nearly every one of them did a Turkish Get-up without
even knowing it. I think it’s a skill we lose as we age. Have
you ever seen an old person try to get up off the floor? It’s very
difficult for them. I think it’s an exercise everyone needs to be
• The trap-bar deadlift is probably the best lower-body exercise.
I think it’s clearly the best bilateral exercise, since you’re engaging
your erectors and your traps much more than in a squat.
• Programming is an art. You can’t just mix a whole bunch of
stuff together and expect it to taste good. That’s called shit soup.
• Everyone who foam rolls gets hooked on it, and everyone who
doesn’t thinks it’s stupid. Do me a favor and spend seven dollars
and buy a 12-inch foam roller. It’ll change your whole life.
• And another thing: stretching doesn’t have to take that long. You
don’t need to go to a yoga class. Just stretch your major muscle
groups like your hamstrings, groin, hip flexors, lasts, and pecs.
Shouldn’t take more than ten minutes. When you realize later
on that all the injuries you’re going to get are because certain
muscles get too tight or get knocked out of alignment, you’ll thank
• After you stretch, do some kind of dynamic warm-up and
mobility. I remember watching old-time Olympic lifters warm
up before their training session, but I had no idea what the
hell they were doing. They’d roll their wrists around, drop
down into a deep squat and rock from side to side. Now I
know they were doing mobility work.
• After all the warm-up stuff you have strength. My only major
rule here is that for every pushing exercise you should have
a pulling exercise. It’ll shorten your workouts and save your
shoulders. Same thing for your lower body. For every
quad-dominant exercise, make sure you’re doing a hip-dominant
exercise. Throw in some Turkish Get-ups and you have a
decent strength program.
• I end all my sessions with conditioning. TMUSCLE readers
aren’t doing enough of it, either. If you’re comfortable, or are
doing long, slow cardio you can pretty much conclude it’s a
waste of time. Any young, fit guy should finish his conditioning
and have to lie on the floor thinking, “God, that was awful.”
• People should think and investigate more. Anthony Robbins
has always said that success leaves clues. I’m a big believer
in that. Whether I like or don’t like someone, I’m going to watch
what they’re doing if they’re succeeding. I’m willing to say
when I’m wrong.
• I’m searching for the perfect training program, the Holy Grail
if you will. I can’t just suddenly stop searching.
• I’ve been there and done that. But the important thing is
I’m still doing it.
– Mike Boyle
This entry was posted on September 12, 2010 at 6:51 am and is filed under Core training, Fat Loss, Guest Authors, Injuries, Low Back Pain, Random Thoughts, Training with tags Functional Strength Coach 3.0, Nate Green. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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