Q: From your extensive experience in working with athletes and trainers all over the world, what general conclusions can you make about which country has the best athletes and best trainers? What about the worst?
A: The hardest workers in the weight room, without question—male or female—are the Norwegians. Despite being from a small country about the size of New Mexico, they tend to do very well in the Olympics. In the 2010 Vancouver Games they won nine gold medals, as many as the United States. They’re followed by the Dominicans, who have the strongest athletes, then the Finns and the Quebecers.
In the area of personal trainers, the best physiques belong to those who reside in the corridor between Montreal and Quebec City. It has the highest concentration of well-equipped gyms in the world, as my foreign students will attest. My most enthusiastic students are the Irish, and many have traveled to the United States to attend my seminars. The Aussies are right behind them in their thirst for knowledge. I’ve found that the British trainers who have attended my classes have a great work ethic, and many of them have gone from being poorly paid employees of major gym chains to successful gym owners. The Brits are very good at applying the information from my seminars, and they always ask the best questions.
American college strength coaches are the biggest underachievers. They have amazing facilities, but their training methodology leaves much to be desired—and I’m always amazed at how many don’t know how to squat, bench-press or deadlift properly. I’ll also add that the United States is loaded with great exercise physiologists, such as Steven Fleck, Ph.D., and William Kraemer, Ph.D. Great resources are available, and strength coaches should try to take advantage of them.
The Aussies and the Hungarians are behind in the overall quality of their trainers, although I’ve met Aussie trainers who had exceptional knowledge. It’s interesting that the strength-training field in Hungary is dominated by female personal trainers who, in my opinion, are not very knowledgeable, sociable or even in very good shape. Incidentally, the worst gyms in the Western world are in France. Their gyms suck, big time, and the quality of their personal trainers provides insight into why Jerry Lewis is so popular in that country.
As for the question of who are the most promising upcoming trainers, the first one who comes to mind is Germany’s Wolfgang Unsöld, a guy who calculates that shaving his head saves him enough time to read 42.67891 books a year. His dedication recently earned him the position of strength coach for the Hungarian short-track speed-skating team.
Nick Mitchell of the United Kingdom and Ben Prentiss of the United States have made the biggest inroads into dominating their respective markets in the personal-training industry. Kelly Martinovich and Marty Williams from Perth are certainly driven and making great progress. They will take over Australia’s personal-training market by leading through example. Jonathan Wong of Singapore is also very impressive. As for the most inspirational rags-to-riches story in terms of making a profitable business, that distinction goes to Damien Maher of Dublin.
Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit www.CharlesPoliquin.net. Also, see his ad on page 215. IM