When I met Mark Philippi recently in Las Vegas the words "Gentle Giant" sprung to mind. This guy is more than a beast, he competed in 7 world strongest man competitions and in 1997 was America's strongest man but he is one of the most calm natured and friendly people I have met.
Aside from still being insanely strong and having a 700lbs + deadlift at the age of 49 Marks focus is now on Philippi Sports Institute which is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. When you walk into the institute the atmosphere is different from any normal facility or gym, you can feel a certain aura about the place that screams out performance. To the eye the facility is very simple and that's just the way Philippi likes it: "We have everything we need here, a decent turf area, a 40m track, some fun bits of equipment and of course what every gym should have, a load of Olympic bars and squat racks. "I keep my strong man gear around the back, it was scaring off the parents too much." The message from Phiippi about the equipment in his facility is clear in that to get results you need good coaches doing the right thing with people. The equipment is important but there is no need for it to be all fancy. (He did show us his strongman gear and yes it probably was better stored out of the public eye)
At PSI Philippi has a group of coaches working with an array of athletes. His portfolio of NFL, NBA and Baseball athletes is extensive and is on the rise as these athletes realise that the training Philippi is best versed in is making a huge difference in their sports. His ethos is very simple and is all about performance and getting his athletes used to performing at a high level so that it becomes their norm!
"If we don't get hold of the kids before they are 12 or 13. their chances of playing college sport and making it to the big time are virtually nil......there are some genetic freaks out there that start later on and make it but they are few and far between these days." he told us. This is more evidence of two things. Firstly the fact that kids need to be involved in reputable conditioning and physical fitness programs in high performance facilities such as this from an early age, to increase their chances of their dreams of becoming professional athletes coming true. And the second is about how we as humans work, how through constant meaningful practice we start to develop the correct neuro patterns to perform at high levels. Matthew Syed speaks about 10,000 hours of practice to master skills in his book Bounce and it is a similar thought process that Philippi bases his training and institute on.
Talking to Philippi about his personal training and condition, at 49 years of age it was no surprise when he confirmed that he still has immense strength as his body is so used to picking up heavy weights that it becomes normal for him. "Ok I am not in the shape I was and not quite as strong but I am also not the age that I was, you get old and you lose a bit but generally your body is immune to the weights so if you keep lifting them on a regular basis you maintain."