Exclusive Interview: Jeremy Frisch

MR: Jeremy, let’s start from the beginning with the usual routine. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

JF: First off, I just want to convey just how psyched I am to be a part of your newsletter and thank you for the opportunity. I’ve been a huge fan of your articles for years now and it’s a real pleasure to be involved in one.

Ok now to answer your question. I am the Sports Performance Director at the Competitive Athlete Training Zone in Acton, Massachusetts. Our clients range from age 7 all the way through late adulthood with everything in between. The vast majority of our clients are high school and college athletes between seasons.

I started my college career at Assumption College in Worcester, MA where I played college football for 2 years. I later transferred to Worcester State College to finish up my football career, compete for the indoor/outdoor track teams and major in Health Education. I am a 31 year old, happily married, proud father of a 6 month old baby boy.

MR: A kid huh? Don’t tell my wife; I think it’s getting close to that time for us as well.

Back on topic: What got you into the fitness world? How did you get your start?

JF: Well Mike, my journey started out like many others in this profession. I was a multi sport athlete who was always looking for a competitive edge off the field to gain results on it. I played as many sports as possible growing up and continued experimenting into my early adulthood. I competed in the “major sports” like football, track, baseball, basketball and even got my self involved in some very uncommon ones such as handball, bobsledding and trail racing. These all forced me to train differently and after experimenting and toying with my training, I became more and more interested in it as a career.

I’d say it really started back in my first year out of High School. I traveled up north to Bridgeton Academy, a prep school in Maine, for a Post Graduate year to get more experience in attempt of playing college football. The level of play was a big leap from high school and I got my butt kicked all season. In order to play at the next level, I knew I was going to have to get bigger, stronger and faster. So I asked our 230 lb. fullback if I could shadow him in the weight room and follow his routine during the off season. When he squatted, I squatted. When he benched, I benched. And so on. I learned two important things that cold winter. If you want to pack on some serious muscle mass, you have to squat heavy and never miss breakfast. I don’t think I have missed breakfast or a squat workout since 1995. It was at this point where I really started becoming truly interested in sports performance training. I read everything I could get my hands on and applied much of the knowledge to my own training. Not long after this I began working out with some close friends and treated them as my first clients, or guinea pigs, depending on how you see it.

After my playing days I began doing some personal training on the side but knew I really only wanted to work with athletes. So I took an internship with Stanford University’s Track and Field’s Strength and Conditioning program where I could really receive hands on experience, which is exactly what it takes to grow in this industry. After Stanford, I began training athletes full time. And I use the term “full time” lightly for business was pretty slow to start. It was shortly after that I came to meet my partner and good friend David Jack who got me involved in the Competitive Athlete Training Zone and I’ve been here ever since. In the few years we have been working together our main focus has been in growing the business and culture of the facility. We have been trying hard to create a place where athletes not only get stronger and faster but enjoy their time and really want to be.

MR: Ok Jeremy, enough fluff! What are athletes doing wrong these days with regards to their fitness training?

JF: Wow, I don’t even know where to begin. My two main concerns about how athletes are training are very gender specific. Girls want to jog, guys want to bench. I can’t tell you how many times I have tried to explain that “building endurance” is not strictly tied to running 5 miles a day. I think the problem stems from impractical and irrational conditioning tests coming from the athlete’s sport coach. Especially women’s soccer and lacrosse coaches, who often implement tests such as 4 mile runs to determine whether or not an athlete worked hard enough. These tests rarely involve power and speed, which in my opinion are far more important to an athlete’s on field performance than their long distance capabilities. The way I usually go about addressing their concern is through extensive and intensive tempo runs. This will increase their work capacity in a way more representative of their sport as well as drilling form through sub-maximal speeds.

The male athletes don’t really care too much about running distance and love to lift but they often prioritize the wrong lifts. I never knew bench pressing three times a week would make you a better athlete, but according to many of our high school athletes, it does. Don’t get me wrong, the bench is a great general upper body strength movement, but it doesn’t apply to much sport specific movement skills. To be strong and athletic you have to include things that translate on the field. Ground based strength exercises like cleans, squats, and lunges accompanied with any sport skill training are required to produce an athlete. Whether male or female, the main problem stems from one common theme, far too many athletes are forgetting what it actually takes to be an athlete.

MR: I agree wholeheartedly, and I fight the same battles with the high school kids. It’s good to know the 3x/week bench programs of high school athletes isn’t limited to the Midwest!

When you bring an athlete in, what things do you typically see with them? Are they too weak? Too immobile? Are they eating like crap?

JF: Why not all of the above, Mike? Too many young athletes show complete disregard for their bodies outside of the gym. Their poor eating habits, careless food choices, insufficient sleep and a general lack of activity are all leading to poor performance and injury prone bodies. We often see these tendencies affecting their training. Many athletes’ food and sleep habits cause them to lack the energy necessary to have a successful training session.

Others show such mobility issues that they require a significant portion of the session to be dedicated to simply getting them ready to train. This costs them valuable time they could be using to get stronger, faster and more explosive.

The fact of the matter is that almost every young athlete we see starts out generally weak and immobile. The kids spend 8 hour school days entirely at a desk; how can we blame them for their issues? The way we usually try to rectify this is through extensive warm ups focusing on mobility and flexibility. After a few weeks, believe it or not, we typically see some significant improvements.

MR: It looks like you have some big-name athletes coming through your facility. What differences are there between training a top-tier athlete and your average high school kid?

JF: The Competitive Athlete Training Zone franchise has definitely seen its fair share of big name athletes, but as far as our facility in Acton goes, we seem to have a knack for getting more top level high school and college athletes. Believe it or not, I would much rather take a gym full of beginner athletes over the top tier athletes any day. I truly believe in long term development and enjoy helping an athlete really mold itself into a competitive being. One of my favorite examples is a HS football player who has been with me for 4 years. I remember the day I taught him to power clean with a broom stick, he weighed only 170 lbs. and was as raw a canvas as you get. Today he is 230 lbs. with a power clean of over 300 lbs and is being recruited to play football by schools such as Harvard and Boston College. This to me is as good as it gets.

The main difference I see between the high level athletes vs. the beginner is their capacity to make everything look so damn easy. They have an innate ability to replicate a movement with little preparation and coaching. That bores me! I enjoy thinking about new ways to teach technique, tweak form and bring an athlete through the process of mastering a movement.

MR: Last question – if you could only give people one piece of advice to help them achieve their goals, what might that be?

JF: Think broader! If a person is truly serious about achieving their goals they need to leave nothing to chance. They cannot expect a great training program alone to be enough to take them to higher levels. If they want to be the best they need to think about the broader picture. Proper nutrition, adequate sleep and rest, extra stretching and recovery modalities, GPP work, skill work that doesn’t stop at the basics, positive thinking and truly becoming a student of your game are not “extra”, they are necessity. If you want to excel you must examine and follow every avenue in route to that greatness.

MR: Awesome, thanks so much for the interview Jeremy! Where can my newsletter readers learn more about you?

JF: I don’t have an individual website but, you can find out more about the company I work for at This Website

The few articles I have written can be found in the archives at www.t-nation.com

I can be contacted through e-mail at: [email protected]

I’d like to extend an open invitation to any readers to stop by if they ever find themselves in the Acton, MA area. I love to talk training with just about anyone and if they’re up for it you can give our push sled challenge a try.

MR: Sounds great Jeremy, and thanks again!