Talking With Mike Lipowski

Talking With Mike Lipowski


By Fred Fornicola

Some years back when Internet discussion boards were more about sharing than arguing, I took notice of the name Michael Lipowski.  Mike’s responses had merit, a deeper thought process than most and he expressed himself in a professional and detailed manner.  Long since being involved on those boards I had not heard or seen anything by Mike until I stumbled upon him on Facebook.  He was promoting his personal training company, Pure Physique  (just one of his many ventures) and again, he was making great contributions to the industry by sharing his experiences and knowledge.  Mike and I made contact via social media protocol and it became an opportunity for us to exchange thoughts and ideas back and forth.  We eventually spoke and thought it would be great to meet so Mike offered to take the drive from Westchester NY to little old Asbury Park, NJ to see me and spend some time in person  after his stint in Italy educating personal trainers.

On March 5th, 2014 Mike and I had a chance to sit down and talk face to face.  My initial impression of Mike on the phone was easily reinforced when we met as Mike is genuinely a nice guy, articulate, professional and knowledgeable, practices what he preaches, he’s open minded and above all else, wants to make a difference.  We exchanged ideas and thoughts for hours and as our conversation progressed I asked Mike if he would be up to doing an interview to let others know who he is and some of the great things he’s doing.  He graciously agreed as you will soon read so grab a cup of organic coffee or an herbal tea and sit back and find out a little more about Mike Lipowski, personal trainer, competitive bodybuilder, published author, IART C.E.O. (Chief Exercise Officer) and much, much more.

FF:  So Mike, for those reading this who may not be familiar with you or some of your work, please tell our readers a little bit about Mike Lipowski.

ML:  Thanks, Fred.  I would start by saying I’m simply a guy who is extremely passionate about fitness.  I’ve been that way since I was young and that passion has guided nearly every decision, professionally and personally that I’ve made.  Right now I’m 36, I have a son on the way with my wife Corrie-Beth and it’ll be our first child so we’re extremely excited about that.  In fact, I’ve already found a children’s workout set, complete with an adjustable bench, barbell, leg extension and leg curl.  It’s made of foam and meant for kids 4 and up but my son will have it by his first birthday.

 For the past fourteen years I’ve worked as a personal trainer and have owned a private personal training studio for seven of them.  As you mentioned, I’m a fitness author and writer, a fitness educator and consultant to other personal trainers along with being a professional natural bodybuilder.  I tend to be involved in multiple businesses and projects at one time, all of which are related to fitness.  So I guess you could call me a Fitnesspreneur.

 My team and other people I’ve worked with, be it personal training clients or personal trainers, have said that I’m a “creator of independence” because I help people become physically or financially fit. The way I see it, I’m just using what knowledge and skills I’ve acquired to help other people better themselves or their circumstances.

 FF:  Mike, your attitude is really great.  That was one of the first things I picked up on in your writing and especially when we met.  You have a lot of positive energy and it’s contagious as far as I’m concerned. So Mike, I know what piqued my most interested initially in speaking with you was the interesting style of training that you use which I know was first developed by Brian Johnston.  Please give our readers some insight and background about your connection with Brian and the IART and how you got involved?

ML:  Fred, the IART – which stands for the International Association of Resistance Trainers – was founded in 1995 in Ontario, CANADA by Brian D. Johnston.  The company gained early popularity within the high intensity training community due to its close association with Mike Mentzer in the late nineties and because a large portion of the research that was originally used in supporting the principles being taught was done by Arthur Jones and his company MedX in connection with the University of Florida.  There were also a number of HIT proponents who had contributed writing and points of view to many of the organizations books.

FF:  So Mike, How did you get started in the training business?

ML:  I started my personal training career in a Nautilus based facility and it was here I was introduced to HIT as defined by Arthur Jones.  It made sense to me.  And it changed the way I looked at, approached, and implemented exercise from that day forward.

However, working in that facility I felt as though there was a ceiling on how much I can learn and implement.  They operated like a franchise and were adamant about not straying from three weekly workouts and single sets to failure.  I moved on to an upscale gym in NYC where I came across a number of trainers who were also applying HIT principles in their training but many were doing an off-shoot that was known as Super Slow™.  Though I learned a good deal from some of these guys and to this day credit them as being great mentors, I felt that the method was a bit too rigid.

It was at this time I was researching personal training certifications because up till now I didn’t have a nationally recognized one (the gym had hired me on account of my physical education degree, prior experience, good looks, wit and charm).  I wanted something that would elaborate on what I had learned but none of the “big name” organizations taught this stuff.  I remember ordering the ACSM’s course and after two days of reading I put the books down because I didn’t want to taint my mind with some of the pointless nonsense I was reading.  Then one day another trainer at this gym had mentioned the IART—basically saying that if you wanted a HIT certification it was either them or Super Slow™.  A day or two later I ordered my IART Fitness Clinician course.

After reading the first two chapters of Prescribed Exercise I knew I found exactly what I’d been looking for.  It was like finding the Holy Grail!  Every question I had about exercise—specifically weight training—since I began training at thirteen years old was answered logically and backed by science.  Every observation I ever made…addressed…and explained.  I devoured that book and everything else IART I could get my hands on.  I lived on the message board (The IART Roundtable to all my old school IART peeps out there).   And after 7 months of intensive study and testing I earned my Level I Fitness Clinician Certification.

FF:  There is no denying that Brian and those involved had done some very interesting work.  I was floored at the amount of time and research that went into the available documents via the IART and the way it was presented.  To say it is impressive would be an understatement and as you and I have discussed, the application has a tremendous value that covers many demographics.

So Mike, how to you become involved with Brian and the IART?

ML:  I came to realize that although the IART had strong ties to HIT it wasn’t a HIT certification.  It wasn’t an anything certification.  The organization was focused solely on evidence based training and understanding the relationship between the traditional sciences, exercise science, and the individual.  The more I learned the more I expanded my methods of exercise application and became a problem solver, not just a trainer who leads people through random workouts.

As the organization moved forward I moved with it and became a contributor to some of the books but always remained an active minded student.  That concept alone was unique to the IART.  It was never about doing what was dictated in a book or video.  It was about being an independent thinker who uses his knowledge and understanding of exercise and personal means of application to determine what the “right way” to train is.

In 2008 Brian Johnston decided it was time to step away from the IART and that’s when I stepped in and purchased the company.  Some people told me it was a dumb move since the US market is saturated with personal training certification companies that have been around for several decades and have a virtual stranglehold on the industry.  True.  But I wasn’t buying the IART to have a certification company,

I bought it so I could have the personal training education piece to my personal training business.  I knew early on that the success, and possibly the future expansion of my business would rely heavily on the quality and ability of the training staff.  There was never a doubt in my mind that all my instructors would need to be educated through the IART so instead of paying someone else later on or the possibility of the company not even being in existence, I decided I was better off owning it.  Plus, I knew what an information goldmine it was.

For the first three years I didn’t do too much with it.  I honestly didn’t know what I should do.  We still certified trainers but the numbers were dwindling and I was consumed with my personal training business and various projects and was being stretched way too thin.  Owning the company was stressful because it wasn’t bringing in any money and I knew I couldn’t give it the TLC it needed because of my workload.  Bit by bit I made some changes but still flew way under the radar…as in non-existent to the world and barely existent to those who did know of us. 

The past 18 months however has marked somewhat of a rebirth for us and we’re as clear as ever about who we are, who we’re not, and what we do.  Today we view ourselves as a secondary education company for personal trainers who want to dominate their careers and have a major impact on people’s lives.  Our interest lies less in certification and more on education.  We’ll still certify trainers but the courses are definitely geared more towards those who own, operate, or work in PT studios and are career oriented. 

FF:  As we discussed Mike, the concept of “independent thinker” is falling by the wayside from the novice to the experienced instructor.  The many organizations that are taking over the industry today are dictating what’s to be done and how and that leaves little room to grow your mind.  Honestly, I think it was very astute of you to have the foresight to grab on to the IART and share it with your people so they can serve your clients properly.

Give our readers some more information about who your courses, materials, and services are meant for?

ML:  As I mentioned, we’re focused on working with career oriented personal trainers, especially those who want to be leaders in the profession.  I would describe us as a bridge between the certified personal trainer and the professional trainer that’s adding value to people’s lives and making a difference. 

Anyone can become a certified trainer, but the number of true professionals are far and few.  Most that arrive at that level tend to embody two major traits.  First, they have an incredible passion and need to understand fitness not just apply it.  Second, they put in thousands of hours training people in order to become a master of their craft.  We give people who want to make that leap from personal trainer to fitness professional a place where they can get information and an education that has real world value, bypassing a lot of the garbage that gets disguised as “continuing education”.  Instead of learning on your own you’re learning with and from people who filter out all the industry BS, don’t follow trends, only follow science and put their efforts towards innovation not manipulation. 

FF:  I couldn’t agree more, Mike.  It’s a damn shame that the industry allows for a person to attend a seminar on a Saturday and go to work on Monday morning with a certification that says they are responsible for someone’s health.  Obviously, based on what you’ve told us so far and what I’ve read, the IART stands out above other certifications on many levels.  Tell us how this differs from what other training certification companies and organizations offer.

ML:  I can’t speak on what every other organization does because I tend to spend my time focused on what we’re doing.  What I will say is, part of what makes us different is what killed us as a certification company…we’re small.  But I don’t see our size being a hindrance; I see it as a competitive advantage for how we’ve positioned ourselves today.  Being small gives us the ability to be nimble and adapt quickly to what our students and clients want.  Whatever their education needs or desires are, that’s what we’ll put our efforts towards, whereas larger organizations are typically slow to act because they don’t want to rock the boat and have vested interests.  Me…I’ll turn the boat over and punch holes in it if I think it’ll best serve our members.

FF:  Mike, as I stated earlier, the type of training you are doing is what initially caught my eye and after having you run me through a training session using some of the techniques, I truly get the protocol.  Honestly, the written word did not give certain techniques justice and discussions (I’m being nice, here) on the Web did a grave injustice to the approach.  I know in the past Brian took a lot of heat for some things, but you saw the value in it so tell us a bit more about the type of training the IART promotes and its philosophy.

ML:  As I mentioned earlier, everyone tends to think we’re heavy proponents of high intensity training but if you read our materials or attend a seminar you’d quickly learn that we don’t support or deny any training methods.  How could we when you have a population of people, all of whom have different objectives and needs!

That being said, we do have a very specific philosophy when it comes to exercise and that is we believe that people should do the least amount of exercise necessary to get the best or desired result.  Whatever the least amount is will depend on each individual’s needs, goals, abilities, limitations, and preferences.  To declare a certain amount of exercise as being absolute without knowing anything about the individual you’re training is complete crap.  I don’t care if people build their services around a system or a particular set of guidelines but please don’t be so arrogant to think that it’s the best or only approach for everyone.

We teach exercise science.  We present facts.  We make logical deductions based on what we know to be true and teach others to do the same.  We don’t promote a way of training, we simply provide people with the knowledge and tools to decide for themselves what’s best for them or their clients.

FF:  This is why we are doing this interview, Mike because I couldn’t agree more with your statements.  Building off your comment, what do you think holds some personal trainers back from being successful?

ML:  The most obvious answer would be their knowledge, but I think this is one of those times when the obvious answer is not entirely the correct one.  The unfortunate fact is, most people who use personal trainers can’t differentiate between absolutely horrendous and outstanding unless they’ve trained with both.  Which one they start with will influence their beliefs about trainers moving forward.

There are excellent trainers who could probably be doing a heck of a lot better financially as well as helping far more people improve their lives except they don’t know how to market themselves or their business and they don’t adapt to the needs of their clients or the market they’re servicing.  On the opposite side of the coin you have complete meatballs who are great self-promoters, out there pushing excessive and mindless training methods that cause more harm than good over the long run.  The IART is trying to do its part to help “the good guys (and gals)” develop their business and marketing skills.


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About Fred Fornicola - Fitness Specialist

Fred Fornicola is a Fitness Specialist who owns and operates Fit By Fred at 614 Lake Avenue, Asbury Park, NJ. Fred's passions are health and fitness, reading, philosophy and at the top of the pile, his wife and daughter.

Posted on March 21, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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