Anybody who is somebody in the fitness industry started at the bottom of the pile. They all began with a desire and passion to work hard so they could become great at what they do. And what they wanted to do was to change people, inside and out.
One such trainer who is moving up the ladder and has a great future ahead of him is Tony Gentilcore. He is a true example of what a trainer should aspire to be. He is passionate about learning and will never stop, because to stop is to kill results. Here’s what Eric Cressey, a Performance Enhancement Specialist, has to say about him:
“Tony Gentilcore is one of the true up-and-comers in our industry. I consider myself fortunate to call Tony a colleague, training partner, and close friend. In an industry full of self-proclaimed ‘experts,’ Tony stands out as someone who lets his knowledge, passion, demeanor, and his clients’ results speak for themselves. He is a sponge for information and, more importantly, information in a variety of realms; he is one of the more well-rounded fitness professionals I’ve encountered. I have no doubt that he’ll be successful in this field for many years to come.” – Eric Cressey – Performance Enhancement Specialist
Wannabebig: So Tony, what is it that you do for a living?
Tony G: I’m a NSCA certified personal trainer located in South-western Connecticut. I’ve written for Wannabebig.com, Ruggedmag.com, and T-Nation.com. My expertise lies in body recomposition, nutrition, strength training/performance enhancement, as well as injury prevention.
Wannabebig: What’s your story when it came to getting your start in weight lifting?
Tony G: This is going to sound completely cheesy, but in all honesty I was very scrawny in junior high school and was picked on quite a bit. For Christmas one year, I asked for a weight set (along with a Nintendo–obviously, I was a champ at Duck Hunt) and I ended up getting one of those cheap adjustable benches with a leg curl/extension attached along with plastic covered weights.
I set it up in my parent’s basement and taped the exercise poster that came with the set onto the wall and did all of them religiously every other day. I had visions of getting massive and reciprocating the beat-downs I was accustomed to, as well as finally winning over my crush, Nicole Kot. I didn’t have cable TV while growing up, nor did I have access to “Flex” or “Muscle and Fitness,” so I pretty much relied on that poster. As I progressed up through high school, I started training after school with a few friends in the “dungeon,” mainly to prepare for baseball. I obviously have never looked back and continue to train 3-4 times per week, albeit with a bit more common sense. And no, I never did win over Nicole.
Wannabebig: That’s actually pretty similar to how I got my start in weightlifting, minus the girl. So how did you get started in the training industry?
Tony G: All my life, I have been involved in fitness/training to some capacity. I was a VERY active kid growing up: I played baseball literally ALL summer, rode my bike everywhere, and participated in various sports whenever I could. And, as I alluded to above, I have been training since junior high school. I was also a collegiate athlete (baseball) and had a few professional tryouts after my senior year. Unfortunately things didn’t go quite as planned, so I decided to finish my degree and earned my BS in Health Education with a concentration in Health/Wellness Promotion. My first job was at a corporate fitness centre in the Syracuse area working with employees; helping them set up training programs and what not. I then got certified through the NSCA and moved to Connecticut to “spread my wings” so-to-speak and am now doing more writing and seeing where things take me.
Wannabebig: Cool. As a trainer who is working his way up, what is your number one piece of advice for personal trainers who are getting started in the industry?
Tony G: CONTINUING EDUCATION!!! It really amazes me how uneducated the majority of trainers are out there. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have seen trainers get the bulk of their information from magazines geared towards bodybuilders who are juiced to the gills and then take that same information and proceed to train average Joe Smith who is just looking to get a little healthier. It’s just dumb. Not only that, but you would be surprised at how few certified trainers have any basic knowledge of functional anatomy or proper program design. Most will just plop every new client on the Cybex circuit and put them through some cookie-cutter program that won’t get them stronger nor fix any of the imbalances or weaknesses that need to be addressed. I think it is so crucial that new trainers make it a point to attend a few “good” seminars per year – none of those foo-foo BOSU Ball Workshops or anything similar. Personally, I have already attended seminars this year that featured Stuart McGill, Mike Boyle, and Jay Schroeder. In a few weeks I will be going to one that includes Dave Tate, Joe DeFranco, Jim Wendler, Eric Cressey, and Mike Hope, to name a few. In the end, making it a point to read/study at least one hour per day in your field should be a goal for every trainer. Doing this will undoubtedly put you in the top 5% in your field within 2-5 years. What trainer wouldn’t want that?
Wannabebig: I think the problem is that many trainers are looking for the big bucks and lose sight of what their job is. What is the number one mistake you see people making in the gym?
Tony G: Generally speaking, people lack intensity or any sort of direction in their workouts. I see it ALL the time. People will be reading a magazine in between sets, or worse yet, reading a magazine WHILE they’re exercising. Cardio I can sort of understand (to an extent). But when I see someone turning the pages of a People Magazine while doing leg extensions, I just have to roll my eyes, for two reasons. One, for doing leg extensions and two, for looking like a moron reading a magazine while doing leg extensions. It just boggles my mind the lack of intensity when I watch people train. And I’m sorry, walking on the treadmill REALLY fast for 45 minutes or doing everything for 20 reps is still NOT intense. These are the same people who will be whining and complaining two months down the road saying how “nothing is happening,” and then use the lame excuse that it’s their genetics that are holding them back. When in fact it’s their lack of intensity, and, more importantly, their diet.
Wannabebig: What’s your training philosophy?
Tony G: I like to tell people that if they train to get stronger, everything else will fall into place. Sure, most people don’t want to train like an athlete, but they sure as heck want to look like one! So when I work with people, I always make it a point to get them stronger. Doing so will increase their lean body mass, decrease their fat mass, make them more efficient in terms of movement, not to mention their confidence just goes through the roof when they notice that all their lifts are constantly going up.
Wannabebig: In other words, K.I.S.S. Follow the basic prerequisites to getting stronger and, along the way, things start to happen. Do you have any mentors or people you hold a great deal of respect for in the industry?
Tony G: Oh man, it is so hard to narrow it down to a select few. I can honestly say that I take something from everyone I read, whether it is a book or an article that I read online. As far as training advice is concerned I can’t say enough about Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson’s stuff. Those two alone have really made an impact on me as far how I approach training most of my clients. Alwyn Cosgrove, Dave Tate, Chad Waterbury, Mike Boyle and a host of other people also have a huge influence on me. From a nutrition/diet stand point, I LOVE Lyle McDonald’s stuff. The guy just doesn’t sugar coat anything and states it like it is. I am also a huge fan of Dr. John Berardi. Out of everyone, he is the one whom I initially followed quite a bit. You can bet that any client I work with will hear his name or read some of his articles at some point.
Wannabebig: What’s the number one mistake trainers/coaches make when training their clients/athletes?
Tony G: Being too “cookie-cutter.” This kind of ties in with what I mentioned above, but it bears repeating. I see so many trainers/coaches use some program that they get out of a magazine and use it with EVERYONE, regardless of what their goals are or without taking into account any imbalances or weaknesses they may have. The last thing I am going to do with someone who has a lumbar spine issue is put them in a routine where they will be doing loaded back extensions, leg presses, and other movements that do NOTHING to teach them proper neural recruitment, glute activation, stabilization, and core strength, to name a few. Yet, I see it ALL the time and it gets frustrating. I also see many trainers/coaches let their clients get away with horrible form. It’s rather amusing when I train at other gyms and see some trainers just stand there while watching a client squat with a rounded back or not getting proper depth. When I am working with a client’s squat, I am all over the place, walking from one side to the other yelling out cues the entire time. I don’t want someone to walk in and see a client of mine squatting, or doing whatever, and think, “what the hell is that guy/girl doing?”
Wannabebig: Tony, can you complete the following sentences for us?
I am really good at: Tony G: Baseball, softball, miniature golf, movie trivia, and making omelettes.
The bench press is: Tony G: Overdone. Yes, it’s an important movement and a great indicator of upper body strength/power. But there is more to life than benching three times per week.
People should work on: Tony G: Posterior chain strength. POSTURE!
Wannabebig: Thanks for your time, Tony.
Written by Maki Riddington
Discuss, comment or ask a question
If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – Getting To Know Gentilcore – An interview with Tony Gentilcore discussion thread.