I first met Barry in Chiang Mai, Thailand where he was my CrossFit instructor. During this time I learned a lot from him about movement, strength, and how to maintain flexibility as you age. I was a gymnast growing up and Barry’s style of incorporating some basic gymnastics movements into a workout was a big aha moment for me.
So, for the second interview in our Expert Interview series I’d like to ask Barry some questions about what exercises he considers to be essential and how to create habits that stick.
[Dr. Alexis] What is your health and fitness philosophy in less than 3 sentences?
[Coach Barry] The way that you approach health and fitness is symbolic of how you approach everything else in life. I am a strength coach because I believe that learning to push against resistance makes you stronger in both the body and the mind. This strength transfers over to everything else in your life.
[Dr. Alexis] If you could teach your clients only one basic movement or exercise what would it be and why?
[Coach Barry] My athletes know that I love the squat as an exercise. This functional movement creates an anabolic environment, which is crucial to strength gains. No other exercise on the planet (arguably with the exception of the deadlift) does more to promote overall muscle growth. This means that not only will the squat build muscles directly related to the exercise itself – like your quads, hamstrings, and calves – it also indirectly promotes muscle growth across the rest of your body, in places like your biceps, chest, and back. It is an entire body workout.
I have seen improvements in explosive power (e.g., vertical jump), faster sprint times, more upper body strength, and injury recovery all from variations of the squat (bodyweight, kettlebell, and barbell).
If you were only to do one exercise for the rest of your life, the squat would make for an excellent choice because it offers the most bang for your buck.
[Dr. Alexis] If you were deserted on an island and you could bring one fitness or workout tool, what would it be?
[Coach Barry] The only workout tool I need is a kettlebell because it can be used for various movements that target every zone in the body as well as for conditioning.
I train my clients to use the kettlebell for squats, deadlifts, pressing, pulling, hinging (swing), and a weighted carry. These movements are truly all the basic essentials, and they are useful with beginners to professional athletes.
For so long I was fixated on using only the barbell for my lifts. But, after an extended period of traveling where I had limited access to gym equipment, I changed my tune. It was during this time that I began using the kettlebell more often and I was surprised to see immense gains in my overall athleticism.
With the kettlebell, bilateral and unilateral movements are much easier to achieve. These types of movements are crucial to the development of an athlete. Improvements in agility, balance, and strength in smaller muscle groups will be seen almost immediately.
[Dr. Alexis] What is your best tip for helping someone to create a healthy habit? Have you had an aha moment that helped you to implement something in your life?
[Coach Barry] After reading the Essentialism by Greg McKeown my whole world was shaken. This book resulted in a massive wake-up call for my daily routine and I began to realize what a critical role habits play in our overall happiness.
McKeown’s definition of habit consists of three components: cue, routine, and reward.
Here is a great example of this from my life…
I used to check my cell phone immediately after waking up in the morning. I would wake up with a sense of panic… Who messaged? Did that email come in? Did that shipment get out?
To wake up and receive that kind of information immediately is so unhealthy for your mind and it carries throughout your entire day. After reading Essentialism, I realized that I needed to create a new morning cue, routine, and reward. So I began reading a book (10 pages minimum) immediately upon waking up and before having any screen time. This seemed to satisfy my natural craving for information, but in a much more healthy and calming way. I noticed that I started to become less anxious throughout the day, not to mention the satisfaction involved in reading a good book.
With that said, my best advice to anyone looking to create a healthy habit (or alter an existing one) is this: identify your cue, implement a healthy routine, and enjoy the reward that results.
[Dr. Alexis] What and who are your go-to resources for fitness and health?
[Coach Barry] First and foremost, the man who ignited my love for the kettlebell is Pavel Tsatsouline, grandfather of kettlebell training in the US and Chairman of StrongFirst. He is my number one resource.
A close second is Robb Wolf, who is a plethora of knowledge in the field of nutrition as well as creating healthy lifestyle habits.
[Dr. Alexis] What is something in the world of health and fitness that you did, or used to support in the past, that you now wish you could take back?
[Coach Barry] Back in the day, I was really caught up in the idea of drill sergeant-type training. The “insanity WOD” kind of thing. I thought that if I didn’t wake up sore and unable to climb stairs the next day, it wasn’t a good workout.
Without realizing it I was over conditioning and completely depleting my central nervous system. Which led me to fail at certain workouts or movements that I shouldn’t have. My muscles weren’t given sufficient recovery time, and in the end I was hurting myself more than helping.
I absolutely learned from my mistakes and it carries over to the way I train my athletes today.
[Dr. Alexis] Who do you commonly work with and coach?
[Coach Barry] Currently I am coaching in a specialized facility with altitude simulated rooms, called Basecamp Munich, where pro and semi-pro athletes come to train.
I am working with WBC Light Heavy and Super Middle Weight champions, a nationally ranked junior Bavarian tennis player, triathletes, and mountaineers.
[Dr. Alexis] What is your favorite part of coaching a client?
[Coach Barry] For me, the fun is in the programming.
After meeting a client for the initial consultation, I get a burst of creative energy to devise a personalized program for their specific needs. I love the creativity and ingenuity involved in this process. It really is an art that I take great pleasure in.
Depending on the goals of the client, the programming can look very different from one individual to the next. And to me, this is really exciting to be a part of.
Thank you Coach Barry for all your pearls of wisdom! You continue to be a big inspiration to me.