Phil Learney Joins FitMag!

Today you can learn from one of the very best strength & conditioning coaches in the business, Phil Learney! Many people want to become stronger, lift more weight and ultimately progress. Yet why is it so many people fail to do this? Any questions, issues or problems you may have, Phil should be able to answer them for you!

Phil thank you very much for speaking with FitMag today, it is really exciting to learn off one of the best in the industry!

It is my pleasure, thank you!

Phil, can you give is an insight into your background, the journey you have taken and where you are at today please?

I started training when I was about 14 to supplement my rugby and to try and lose some weight. I played a lot of sport as a kid and my career choice took a fairly drastic turn when I was about 17, opting for Sports Science. I played national level rugby having an outing in the Premiership and playing National Division one and two as a prop. I also captained my county at cricket and played minor counties. I retired from cricket closely followed by rugby to focus on my career when I was about 23. I have now worked as a Personal Trainer/Strength and Conditioning Coach for almost 18 years now working up from a gym floor fitness instructor, through various faces of management into where I am now. I've always had a huge passion for my own training and helping others to come from where I came both physically and mentally and how it has helped me.

In regards to training, what are your training principles to optimise strength?

Strength is all about force production and technique as far as I'm concerned. You can improve someone’s strength levels through simple technical cues, thinking about lifts differently than just 'lifts'. Most training protocols are about finding and improving weak points, increasing technical ability and the improvement of the mass X acceleration equation. Simply reminding an athlete that the intention is to move the bar as fast as possible at ALL times is the key and it can pay dividends.

What are your PB lifts and what were they 5 years ago?

''Move over Mariusz!''

Squat 310kg
Deadlift 320kg
Bench Press 230kg
Clean and Press 140kg

5 Years Ago (Estimates)

Squat 200kg
Deadlift 220kg
Bench 150kg
Clean and Press 100kg

That is an increidble increase! Could you give our readers a bullet point list of 'must dos' and 'don’ts' in the gym to increase their strength?

- Lift FAST!
- Lift within rep parameters you DO NOT slow down in. If the intention is to improve speed in that workout that is ALWAYS the intent.
- Lift heavy and FAST.....if it looks slow it’s because the bar is heavy right!
- Get some proper coaching. If you ARE lifting fast your body will always take the path of least resistance therefore strong points dominate, weak points shut down. If you're knowledgeable, video yourself and analyse it.
- DONT lift slow! Lift FAST (Did I say that?)
- Pick a gym that is FULL of strong people and train with people who are stronger than you!
- Get your glutes and hips working.
- Dont lift to Rick Astley or JLS.

JLS – that is where I have been going wrong! Steps it is then!!! What are the most common mistakes people make when they try and increase their strength?

- Bad technique
- Forgetting what the intention of that workout is, Technical/Speed or mass.
- Poor load planning
- Lifting heavy ALL the time!

Can you give is a sample week training split for those interested in increasing their strength please?

This would be for an Intermediate level lifter. This is a VERY simple Template but effective.

ALL Lifts done at a 30X0 tempo. 3 Second lowering, controlled pause, MAXIMUM acceleration on the lifting phase and a controlled lockout, repeat.

Day 1. Acceleration Work Lower Body

Glute Activation / Mobility Drills

A. Vertical Box Jumps/Speed Squats (50% max load) 8x3 with 30 seconds rest.
B. Romanian Deadlifts 5x5 with 3-5 Minutes Rest
C. Reverse HyperExtensions 3x8 2-3 Minutes Rest
D. Bulgarian Split Squats 5x5 with 3-5 Minutes Rest
Weighted Ab work -2-3 Exercises.

Day 2. Mass Work Upper Body

Mobility Drills and shoulder complex

A. Box Deadlifts (85-90% max Load) 6x4 with 3-5 Minutes Rest
B. Push Press (85-90% max Load) 6x4 with 3-5 Minutes Rest
C. Pull Ups. 6x4 with 3-5 Minutes Rest
D. DB Bench Press 6x4 (85-90% max Load) with 3-5 Minutes Rest
E. Lockout Work 3x8 2-3 Minutes Rest

Day 3. Mass Work Lower Body

Glute Activation / Mobility Drills

A. Back Squats (85-90% max Load) 6x4 with 3-5 Mins Rest
B. Good Mornings 5x5 with 3-5 Mins Rest
C. Glute Ham Raises 3x8 2-3 Mins Rest
D. Walking Lunges 5x5 with 3-5 Mins Rest
Weighted Ab work -2-3 Exercise (Differ from Day 1).

Day 4. Acceleration Work Upper Body

Mobility Drills and shoulder complex

A. Speed Deadlifts (50% max load) 8x3 with 30 seconds rest.
B. Push Press (50% max load) 8x3 with 30 seconds rest.
C. Single Arm DB Row. 6x4 with 60 seconds rest.
D. Plyometric Push Ups 6xMAX (Stop when acceleration slows) with 30 seconds rest.
E. Lockout Work 3x8 2-3 Minutes Rest

Are you listening guys?! What advice can you give to help avoid injury whilst going very heavy?

- Mobilise, activate and warm up key joint structures, hips and shoulder being most applicable.
- Drill technique LOTS
- DONT lift heavy when tired.

Be patient with load, Heavy lifters MUST have a time to lift with a higher volume, begin in basic bodybuilding parameters as the whole idea is to excite and stimulate the neural aspect of lifts. Increase weight slowly session by session decrease rests, increase sets and increase rest. Find a max then start again at a higher point.

What are the top 5 supplements you would insist anyone uses if strength is their main goal?

Pre Workout -





Intra-workout -








The brain synthesises about 90% of a group of hormones called catecholamines directly using the amino acid Tyrosine.

This group of hormones includes the stimulatory neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine our ‘fight or flight’ hormones.


This has been shown to increase the levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. This has been linked to the control of motor units alongside recruitment, reflex and reaction times.


Caffeine has been shown to increase alertness in low doses. High doses have been shown to increase physical performance.


BCAA's have been shown to keep the body in an anabolic state during long bouts of work.


Critical to drive Insulin levels back up and carry critical amino acids into the cells for recovery.

In regards to nutrition, how important is eating right as an athlete?

As important as NOT putting diesel in a Formula 1 car. Good nutrition is overlooked far too much in modern athleticism. Eating properly WILL enhance training, nutrient uptake, recovery, sleep, adaptation......I could go on!

What does your diet look like - a typical day in the life of Phil Learney?

6:00 Rump Steak, Eggs, Avocado and Spinach
8:30 PhD Pharma Whey and Nuts
11:00 Chicken/Fish/Steak with Green Veg and Avocado
13:00 Chicken/Fish/Steak with Green Veg and Avocado
14:00 Pre Workout
14:30-16:00 BCAA x20-30
16:30 PhD Pharma Whey and PhD Waxy Vol
17:00 Oily Fish with Green Veg and Avocado
19:30 Chicken/Fish/Steak with Green Veg and Nuts
22:00 Pharma Whey, Flaxseeds

What are your top 3 tips for eating for strength?

Hit protein requirements 1.8-2.2g/kg

Have 20-30% of your calories from fats.

Fuel accordingly to what your body needs and what keeps your weight at your best competitive level.

Can you share with us your number 1 TASTY guilt free recipe?

Chocolate Brownies

Whole Rolled Oats - 2 Cups
Unsweetened Apple Puree - 200g
PhD Pharma Whey™ Chocolate- 75g
PhD Pharma Whey™ Vanilla- 25g
Walnuts - 50g
70% + Cocoa Powder- 20g
85%+ Chopped Dark Chocolate - 20g

1. Combine all of the ingredients to a bowl and mix together. This is often done best with your hands.......but it’s messy!

2. Layer the mixture into a deep non-stick baking tray, dust lightly with some cocoa powder and refrigerate. If you find it sticks lightly smear the tray with coconut oil.

3. If you wish to decorate the Brownies mix a very small amount of water with PhD Pharma Whey™ until a thin paste and pipe on top.

Per Serving)

Calories (k/cal) 292

Protein (g) 19
Carbohydrates (g) 27
Fibre (g) 5
Sugars (g) 5 Fat (g) 12

Hang on, I am just off to the kitchen because my cravings are now unbearable! What does the future hold for yourself?

Who knows......I intend on continuing to compete in Powerlifting and perhaps set some records at some point. Work is going crazy right now and I intend to drive my business VERY hard over the next few years spending more and more time educating others, writing and training people!

Anything else you would like to add?

Come join my athlete page on Facebook! :

Once again, thank you very much Phil!

My pleasure!

There we go, easily one of the most clued up guys in the sport. Remember, education and knowledge is everything so it is vital you learn from the best. Our job is to give you access to the ‘best’ and your job is to listen, and then take action!

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Monster Supplements - sharing posts from guest writers and athletes!
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