Conjure up the image of a celebrity personal trainer in a swanky part of London City – what immediately springs to mind? Perhaps a cardio bunny with a brand new pair of the latest Nike running trainers from NikeTown on Oxford Street! So when I describe London’s most popular celebrity personal trainer as a 19 stone, heavily muscled guy with a chiseled physique it may surprise you a bit! This is exactly how one would describe Nick Mitchell, a guy with so much experience and knowledge you cannot help but grin with excitement when he talks. From past experience, some ‘celebrity’ personal trainers can be quite deflating. By this I mean they can be quite ‘faddy’, over hyped and more often than not they are just a product of superb marketing rather than a result driven reputation. Nick, on the other hand hails from the old school of hardcore bodybuilding. A place where it is quite acceptable to throw up whilst you train, a place where Spartan intensity is not just approved of but encouraged and a place where above all else, results happen! As you read our exclusive interview with Nick you will find that he has not forgotten his routes, expanded on them yes, but not forgotten them! After speaking for 5 minutes with Nick I instantly see his hardcore background shining through, with superb statements like ‘’no bullshitting about on Swiss balls or one legged wood-chops!’’ Now you can find out why people are willing to part with £240 notes just for an hour of Nick’s time! Without further a due, please may I introduce Nick Mitchell!
Nick thank you so much for taking time out of your incredibly busy schedule to talk with FitMag! It is always a pleasure to have somebody with such a commanding reputation on our site!
It is my pleasure, thank you.
To begin, Nick can you tell us what got you involved with bodybuilding in the first place?
I am from a small village in Yorkshire, and at the age of 12 I would cycle about 10 miles to buy myself the latest muscle magazine. This was in the mid 1980s, a time when to read such a publication was deemed to be a bit odd, at best. After reading Arnold’s "Education of a Bodybuilder" I was hooked from there.
So often it is that one man who inspires so many of the great people of our industry today! Can you point out what got you into personal training?
Of course. I began training in Muscleworks at the age of around 18 where there were many top bodybuilders there back then! From there I really learnt about training properly, nutrition and also gym craft. I was fixated by it all. I didn't set out to be a personal trainer, in fact there wasn't really that option in the early 1990s, and after University I started my professional life as a barrister! I left that, worked in the City as an investment banker, and then had my own headhunting company. But the gym was always there, and that was where my heart and soul resided. One day I woke up, looked in the mirror and realised I hated my professional life and that life was too short not to do the things you love. So I decided to follow my heart (my brain at the time was screaming "nooo!") and it was in the top three decisions I have ever made in my life!
Fast forward a few years and you are a very well known personal trainer among the ‘good and the great’ in London – why do you think the high rollers come to you?
Everything I do is results based, and you can’t argue with results, right? I have over 25 years worth of experience training and I don’t feel there is any replacement for that experience. I am very different to other "commercial" personal trainers, I have never once stepped foot in a large chain commercial gym. Not even once! For me I have taken my experience and background from bodybuilding, all the years I had observing things at the coal face, and expanded on it.
There are several things I like to really focus on, depending upon the goal – body composition, overall health, improving performance and improving body control.
In my gyms you will find sick buckets, our clients are really pushed hard and I don’t apologise for that. Today so many personal trainers don’t have the confidence to push their clients hard. Even now, after years of training I will push myself to the point of puking. And then come back for more. I do it because I love challenging myself, I love the gym, and I am fan of everything about hard training.
I think as well as having the academic knowledge that can be picked up from selective books and courses, you have to have what I call gym craft. Some guys have very good knowledge but they don’t inspire people. Would you be inspired by a personal trainer who looks like he needs a good meal? People need to respect you, who gives a shit if they like you or not. You are there to get them results and to respect one another, which is something we achieve with our clients.
''What could you achieve in 15 weeks? Nick took Glenn, pictured above from fat to fit in 15 short weeks!''
Are you qualified officially as a personal trainer?
Yes, I have wasted my time on a number of PT qualifications! I feel almost all PT certifications are completely irrelevant and they mean nothing to me when I look at a trainer's CV (I get sent about a dozen every week without fail). However, I have done all of Charles Polaquin’s courses and I must say they are great. For example, I may have already known something but they crystallise that knowledge and put into another context for you to see. Charles really does know his stuff when it comes to strength and conditioning, he has forgotten more than all the other so-called gurus have ever learned!
''Charles Poliquin - one of the best strength and conditioning coaches in the world! Looks like a shooting range with all the guns on display!''
Obviously personal training highly regarded celebrities like Peter Andre gives the image of success, what are your thoughts on this?
In the past I have trained Peter Andre as well as many other celebrities. I have just spent a few weeks helping an actor get ready for a lead role in the upcoming $200 million filming of "Paradise Lost". However, today we are in a celebrity obsessed culture. People think because somebody personal trains one celebrity they must be doing very well or know what they are doing. This is often not the case, and they just end being a slave to celebrities running around after them. It doesn’t make sense to drop an entire client base for one or two celebrities. Phil Learney, a chap you interviewed a couple of weeks back has just moved to work in my new gym in Mayfair. Many of his clients have been with the guy for as long as he has been based in London. Now that is the mark of a good personal trainer.
''Another success story - Nick works his magic yet again!''
In regards to your own training, what is your favourite training style?
I don’t have one. Now I cycle my training over 4 days every week (Mon / Weds /Fri / Sat), splitting my body in three. This works with my personal schedule rather than being the "perfect" way to train
Currently for each body part I will do two high volume workouts followed by a deload / low volume session. Typically I might begin a 9 workout macrocyle (3 workouts per body part multiplied by 3 sessions to work my entire body) with 2 rounds of high volume work. Depending upon my goals, injuries, recovery, nutritional status this will be at least one very high volume giant set type session (I did 40 sessions for arms in 30 minutes the other day!), followed by either another high volume, long time under tension session or a high volume, low time under tension, low repetition strength training session where I might do just one exercise per bodypart and do 8 sets of 3 reps but use a 6 second negative and intra set pauses to help recruit the high threshold motor units that are responsible for improved neural drive and fast twitch muscle fibre recruitment.
Finally, after all this volume the one and only thing that is pretty much always set in stone is that I will do a very high intensity low volume workout where I can just go Berserker crazy and attack each set as if my life depends upon it! Forced reps, negative failure, partials, the works... The other day I trained chest and arms and I only did 3 working sets each for chest, biceps and triceps.
Why is it you like to use such a wide range of training variety?
I believe that you need to really focus on hitting all the different muscle fibres, plus I have been training forever which makes forced adaptations even harder to stimulate. Physical progress, especially hypertrophy if we are coming from a bodybuilding angle, is not linear. If it really were as simple as trying as hard as possible, eating well, sleeping, and then coming back stronger every workout, a hell of a lot more people would look significantly more jacked! After a while one needs to coax the improvements out of the body, because it adapts so quickly. We need some sort of plan so I don't agree with haphazard changes at every workout, but especially for an experienced guy you need to remember this mantra - "the perfect workout is the one you haven't yet done".
Which means that anytime anyone tries to sell you the "perfect workout", as you might read about in certain online muscle magazines beginning with the letter "T", they are trying to sell you a line of total BS.
As for mixing up training, most people don’t know but there are two types of muscular hypertrophy.
Type 1 – Myofibrillar
The best way to explain this is if you look at an under 100kg weight lifter, not a bodybuilder. Their muscle looks very dense and hard. This is because constant low rep training causes the thickening of protein filaments within the muscle. When lean this can really help you look "grainy".
''The definition of GRAINY muscle - Nick Mitchell's calves!''
Type 2 – Sarcoplasmic
Now look at a professional bodybuilder, they are much bigger in size but their muscle looks different. It looks inflated, but it doesn’t look so dense. This is because using higher repetition training causes the vasodilation of capillaries within the muscle. This in turn expands the overall size of the muscle.
Based on this knowledge you can make your training very specific depending on your goals.
Mind blowing – this is educational to say the least! Can you tell us some of your heaviest lifts?
I have hardly ever trained for strength as such until the last few years when I constantly experiment upon myself to help me keep on learning:
Bent-stiff leg deadlift 220kg for 8 reps
Bench press 200kg for 1 rep
Squat – I don squat heavy because I have an ankle problem
Strong! Can you outline for us the most common mistakes you see people make in the gym when training for muscle mass?
There are many mistakes people make. When they lift a weight they don’t flex the muscles, they just move the weight from A to B. For example, if you do a bicep curl you are not aiming to just move your hand to your shoulder. You need to contract the bicep whilst you are doing the exercise to make it grow. Always tell yourself that you are "flexing your muscle against a weight". It really is that simple. And if you don't feel that all important mind-muscle connection then touch the working muscle with your fingers (assuming you are performing a uni-lateral exercise!) and try to get your head into the working muscle. A lot of folk struggle with back training, so one trick is to help your training partner "feel" the movement by touching the parts of his back that should really be feeling the contraction.
I think people also train with a lack of intensity today! As I said our gyms have sick buckets and it is a regular occurrence where people need to be sick during our workouts. Intensity is key!
Do you want to see what Nick means by INTENSITY? Checkout the video via the link below! Nick finishing a leg session off with a client, OUCH!
Superb advice! Moving on to nutrition, how important is it if muscle mass if the goal?
100%! If you want to gain muscle you cannot afford to skip meals, your cousin Kris Gethin is a great example. For fat loss diet is again absolutely key. However, for strength it isn’t quite so important. It is more about calories, there are many world class strong men who eat a lot of crap!
What are the biggest mistakes you see people make with their diets?
Eating too much rubbish. When they are building muscle they think they can eat everything. The problem is as you gain more body fat you become less anabolic. Why? Simply because the fatter you are the more insulin resistant you become, simplistically meaning that nutrients are driven into your fat cells more than your muscle cells. This is of course a very bad thing if you are trying to get bigger and leaner!
Secondly, the enzyme aromatase that is responsible for the conversion of testosterone into estrogen sits in fat cells. So the fatter you are the more your testosterone is converted to estrogen, and say hello to man boobs.
My advice is to get as close to 10% body fat as possible before you spend too much time focusing on mass building.
Again, mind blowing! Can you give us a guide as to what you would eat if you were personally looking to gain muscle?
Yes, however I would like to point out this is for me personally and I am in a fortunate enough position where budget isn’t an issue for me.
Wake up – whey protein shake with L-Glutamine
Coffee with organic double cream, acetyl L-carnitine and resveratrol on an empty stomach
Breakfast (30 minutes later) – grass fed fillet steak and a handful of nuts
Pre-workout Alpha GPC
Strength training session – 30g BCAAs during my workout
Post-workout 50g whey protein, 50g carbohydrate powder, creatine, L-Glutamine
1 hour later – sweet potato or brown rice with fish, chicken or beef
2 hours after – multi-blend protein shake
30 minutes before workout – 2 apples, a few almonds, Gaspari Super Pump MAX, 1-1.5litres of water
High volume session (hitting the same body parts as in the morning) – 30g EAAs during my workout
Post-workout 50g whey protein, 100g carbohydrate powder, taurine, ALA, 1g Vitamin C (this helps to remove the stimulants from the body which you get from your pre-workout!)
1 hour later – sweet potato or brown rice with fish, chicken or beef
2 hours later - sweet potato or brown rice with fish, chicken or beef
2 hours later - sweet potato or brown rice with fish, chicken or beef
The meals in the evening can differ depending how I look and feel. I will increase or decrease my carbohydrate intake as I see fit.
I lust for the day grass fed fillet steak awaits me at 7 AM in the morning! How important are supplements to beginners looking to gain muscle?
Our food supply here in the UK is not a patch on what it was even 50 years ago so supplements are now essential. If we are thinking about building muscle, then you need to realise that supplements are very important for your health, and without your health you cannot build muscle effectively!
Health really is key! What are you must have supplements for beginners on a budget?
Whey protein for post-workout
Multi-blend protein for the day and night time
Get MonsterSupplement's full range of protein products vit the link below!
Fantastic! Nick I would really like to thank you for your time with us today, I know our readers are going to find your words very educational! It has also been a tremendously beneficial learning curve for myself talking to you, I really look forward coming down to Mayfair and filming a hardcore workout with you!
You are very welcome, thank you all for having me! You are welcome to come down anytime, Adam.
FitMag readers, what you have just heard is quite incredible right? Nick really does know his beans. Often you will learn about basic things, but today Nick really turned the heat up a notch or two. From this I know a lot of you will be supplementing on 1g of Vitamin C post-workout, eating less crap during your bulking phase and alternating your training style! You don’t learn this kind of stuff in school, right!?
To see more of Nick check him at upfitness.co.uk or nickmitchellblog.com