Health & Fitness Tips from Australia's Personal Training Professionals
Strength Training

Strength Training

Mark Buckley

“Put simply, if you want to get bigger, strong and faster, you need to spend time under the bar, lifting some serious weight.”

We all want to be fitter and stronger and often in the least amount of time possible. How can the average person achieve what they see world-class athletes do? One of the world’s foremost authorities on the subject - strength and conditioning expert Mark Buckley may have the answers.

Strength training is a type of physical exercise that uses resistance to induce muscular contraction. This then builds strength, anaerobic endurance, and the size of our skeletal muscles.

According to the experts, when it’s done properly and correctly, strength training can provide significant functional benefits including increased muscle, tendon and ligament strength and toughness, as well as improved joint function. It may also help with reduced potential for injury, increased bone density, increased metabolism.

Mark has presented at fitness conferences around the world and he also consults for many top professional athletes in fields as vast as mixed martial arts, rugby, swimming and even golf and Formula 1.

Today, Mark oversees FMA Strength Training, which he also founded - a sought-after international certification program that uniquely bridges the gap between the standard rehabilitation model that many would be familiar with, and strength conditioning.

1 First up, what is strength training?

The famous biomechanics expert Vladimir M Zatsiorsky (who is an expert in the field of muscle hypertrophy), defined strength as using force against resistance. Therefore, strength training is a method of increasing you capacity to conquer an ever increasing, external force. In short – strength training is designed to make you stronger – no matter what your original strength capacity is.

2 This sounds quite complicated. For the average person, why would strength training be so important?

In my opinion, absolute strength is the foundation for all other strength abilities. Put simply, if you want to get bigger, strong and faster, you need to spend time under the bar, lifting some serious weight. Doing exercises like this means that your regime may reflect well in the rest of your life – giving you strength in other areas, not necessarily physical.

3 Who should do strength training? Are there any groups that should be doing this type of exercise over others?

Really, everyone can benefit from strength training. And by everyone, I mean women and men, as well as teens, those who are overweight, and even seniors. All these types of people are all on my ‘hit list’.

The benefits of this type of exercise come from improving overall strength - and building on from that, you can include days where you are increasing absolute strength, as well as relative strength, as a part of your fitness routine. Doing this will help you fight fatigue when running. It will also assist with multi-joint movements, recovery, resting heart rate, metabolism, agility and speed.

I’d also like to add a special note on strength training for people with Type 2 Diabetes. Strength training has been proven to improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control as well.

4 What inspired you to get into the fitness industry?

This may sound funny – but it was the first time I watched Rocky the movie! I was inspired by Rocky’s trainer Mickey Goldmill, and by boxers Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed. I loved the way Mickey prepares Rocky for the main fight, training in a meat-packing-plant, practising his punches on the carcasses hanging in the freezers. I soon figured out that I wasn’t going to be a heavyweight champion, so I then decided that I would enter the world of strength training and rehabilitation.

Since then, I was head of the musculo-skeletal therapy unit for two years at the Lower Hutt Hospital in Wellington, New Zealand. Then I became a consultant for many top professional athletes before opening my practice.

5 What are the biggest challenges you have faced in the fitness industry?

I guess, for me, this is a tough question. I find that one of the biggest challenges I am facing is how commercial the fitness industry has become. There are so many fads and gimmicks out there. I feel that we need to get back to basics. In the industry today, there are so many up-and-coming young trainers I feel are exposed to misinformation. Often they can be swept away from what the industry actually needs - which is sound advice from a trained professional.

6 How has your career path evolved over time?

In the beginning I had no direction, I was self-taught and my lifting and training technique was far from ideal. I succumbed to quite a few serious injuries from having had no direction or guidance with my programs. From having these injuries, I started looking at the world of rehabilitation. I met some great people along the way, such as knowledgeable physiotherapists, chiropractors and massage therapists.

7 What advice would you offer students who are looking to get started in the fitness industry?

My main piece of advice would definitely be not to ‘buy into the illusion’ that the fitness industry or becoming a personal trainer will be easy; or go in with the sole attitude that it will earn you a lot of money. It well may - but there is so much more to consider. Make sure you are informed and that you understand what is expected of a skilled personal trainer. Be open to constantly up-skilling your education - especially when it comes to the business side of things.

Another thing to note is there are pretty much no wallflowers in this industry! You must be able to get out there and be seen, to show yourself. Also, have life experience so you can relate to your clients and be willing to present to their mental, emotion, spiritual needs.

If you can’t give 100% to what the client needs, then don't be afraid to refer them to the right people. Your support network is so important. Earn the right to have a client so do the work on yourself first.

8 What was your secret to success?

The secret to my success happened the first day that I realised I needed to stop faking it - to stop “proving myself” to the world. I found that it was this attitude that was making my life hard.

These days I try to focus on what I’m passionate about. I also really place an emphasis on trying to enjoy myself! Once I had this realisation, I started loving my work.

9 Can you tell me a bit about your background and what you are most passionate about?

I have a Bachelors of Education from Otago University and have been part of the senior faculty for the Chek Institute, as well as head of the musculo-skeletal therapy unit at Lower Hutt Hospital in Wellington, New Zealand. I was part of a multi-disciplinary team that specialised in the rehabilitation of both acute and chronic injuries. I am also a board member of the PPC Medical Council in Tokyo, Japan.

Today, I am most passionate about the FMA Strength Training certification and creating trainers of the highest distinction worldwide. It’s a program I developed to provide trainers with the unique skill set needed to work effectively in both the rehabilitation and/or strength and conditioning phases of client and athlete development.

Are you interested in getting into the fitness industry? Hear more real life stories from industry professionals here.

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