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Sebastian Oreb Q&A on the Wolfs Den with Mark Ottobre

In this episode, Australian Strength Coach Sebastian Oreb answers the audiences burning questions.

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Transcript From Sebastian Oreb Q&A on the Wolfs Den with Mark Ottobre

(This transcription may contain errors)

Welcome to the Wolf’s Den. My name is Mark Ottobre. In this episode, we are going to be doing Q&A with Australian strength coach and the world’s best strength coach, Sebastian Oreb.

And we’ve even got Sebastian Oreb cookies. And also, not just that, wolf pack cookies as well.

So the crowd’s ready to go. They’ve got their Sebastian hats ready. So kicking us off with the questions is young James Kelly.

  • Is there any other milestones you’ve set for yourself that you’d like to take out before it comes to an end? 

There’s definitely milestones. They’re not necessarily records. But there’s numbers that have been set for me by the Lilliebridges, and that was to squat 400 kilograms. That’s probably my first goal that I believe is amazing and I also believe is achievable.

Actually, I’m lying. There is another goal, the world record for the log press is 187 kilograms. I know I’m quite far off that, but I got to Australian record with eight weeks of training it. And that was 161 kilograms. So I guess before I’m done with training altogether, I think it’d be pretty cool to haul the world record. And that’s probably the exercise that I believe that I’m closest to gaining a world record in. So that’d be cool.

And it’s a cool lift as well, the log press. Even though it’s not my sport, which is even cooler, which actually …

I’m going to go off on a tangent now. This is the reason why I did it. It’s a testament to my training method. People ask what my favorite exercise to build to pushing strength, whether it’s punch or whatever it is. And I say the bench press. The exercise that allows you to shift the heaviest loads will ultimately make you stronger. So this is an exercise that I train a lot of. It’s the bench press.

And just to show how much carryover it had to other angles where you’re not arching, you’re not cheating, you’re not using wide grip or any leaves or anything like that. I went and got an Australian log press record, as I said, eight weeks of training the event.

So, bench press.

  • with your team, what you’ve built and everything you’ve got, what’s next for you?

I guess I like to think … I like to know what’s next as well. With what I had, it just kept on getting better. My team just keeps on getting better. It’s like people say, “What? How did Thor Bjornsson come to you?” And it’s like, “I don’t know.” A lot of people come to me because of Thor. But Thor came to me not because of Thor. Thor saw something in me that he liked. But now, currently, I’ve achieved a lot of great things with power lifting. I’ve achieved a lot of great things with Strongman. Even other sports, NRL, UFC. Even fitness modeling, which is purely aesthetic-focused. So I’ve got a lot of diversity with the athletes that I coach. It’s hard to say. As unprofessional as this sound, I’ve never planned for any of this. Something that a lot of successful people say is if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. I couldn’t have planned for what I’ve done if I tried. It would have been absolutely the worst, the last thing that I would’ve thought would’ve happened. The people that I’ve had the opportunity to work with and train with.

And I just think if I continue to remain active, as active as I am, more opportunities like this are going to present themselves. I know already I’m very close with a lot of the high-level strongmen in the world, and that is largely … It’s only thanks to Hafthor Bjornsson that I speak to and help and work with a lot of the top 20 World’s Strongest Man competitors in the world. These are huge names. Unfortunately, sports like that aren’t as famous as, say, tennis, F1, boxing, UFC. The strength sports, unfortunately, they don’t get the credit that they deserve. I guess money talks, and people in the world don’t want to put their money towards it, unfortunately. Hopefully that changes.

But I could not tell you, to be honest with you. I couldn’t have planned for what I’ve achieved so far. And all I know is I’m just going to continue to remain active as a coach and as an athlete. And I’m sure more will come my way.

  • You’ve created all these successful systems. And obviously for a lot of us, we work with gen pop and we do body composition. Obviously, nutrition plays a role in that. Where’s your nutrition system? And how?

So we work with nutritionists. We had a team dietician, and I’ll always have someone that I’m aligned with. It’s not my expertise. A lot of people, when I started my business, they basically said, “When are you developing your business?” I listed all of my services, and it was hugely based around strength. Building muscle was also something that I’m good with. Rehabilitation. And someone said to me, “You need to have fat loss in there. Otherwise, you’re going to lose a big portion of the market.” And I thought, “That’s … ” I kind of don’t really care so much for fat loss.

I hate nutrition, not because I don’t understand it. I just hate what’s associated with, I guess, the different methodologies that are going around and how they’re all pooh-poohed and the arguments that are associated with it around the world. If you’re a clean eater, you’re a moron . If you count your calories, you’re a moron. There’s all of these authorities that have put their put their foot down and said, “If you don’t follow my method, you suck” kind of thing. And I just thought, “You know what? You guys keep your nutrition, and I’m going to stick with what I know works. And that is strength gains and what I’m good at.” So basically, I’ve specialized. So when it comes to nutrition, I absolutely understand its importance. And I follow a very strict nutrition plan currently. But I don’t sell the product. I don’t sell the service. And if you came to me to work on my team, I would line you up with a nutritionist that I believed you would work well with. But I absolutely value its importance.

  • With your system for the female athlete, I’ve had a lot of success with it. I really like it. How did you come up with that? And have you changed it in the last couple years?

So The Female Athlete, that’s a program that I developed with Hattie Boydle. So Hattie Boydle, when we developed it, it’s a program very similar to what she followed when she became number one in the world in 2016, at the federation WBFF as a fitness model. So we came together and we utilized a lot of the training systems that we … We basically created a 12-week program based on how she trained. So actually, if you were to look at her training program eight weeks before she came first in the world, that’s not it. That’s basically her doing the final touch-ups and everything like that, the things that she needed to specifically work on. But it was a 12-week program that we developed based on the training systems that she followed to make her the best in the world. That’s how it was invented.

  • So do you use circuits for most females? Or … strength? 

Especially if they have an aesthetic focus to their training, then we love circuits. We love strength to achieve all of their aesthetic goals. So typically we don’t prescribe steady-state cardio. I go for walks, actually, so that’s not really … I don’t know. This is what I hate with the … Same with the nutrition. Everything like that’s like, “Oh, you … ” It’s semantics. “Oh, you do do cardio. You walk.” Whatever you call it.

My opinion with cardio is just however you want to train the heart. And things like running and cycling and swimming, if you like doing that, go for it. I prefer using exercises that are going to shape your body as well. And circuit style of training is fantastic for that. Now, I’m going to go a little bit deeper on that. The way that I developed a lot of my circuits was for my professional boxing athletes. In particular, I had one fellow. His name was Junior Talipeau. He was the under-70-kilogram champion of Australia. And he was on The Contender. So if anyone’s seen the TV show The Contender. Amazing fighter.

But was even more amazing about him, he came to me … He’s Samoan background as well. So it’s really easy for him to put on size. And he’s my height. I started with him at 80 kilograms, and he had to cut down to the 70-kilo =class. And I had to convince him to back off the cardio, because I didn’t believe it was the best way to train to achieve his goals of fitness specific to his sport, which was to last 10 or 12 rounds in a boxing ring.But I had to provide him with some kind of stimulus that would increase his heart rate so he felt that he was improving his fitness and his endurance. So we did … Half the time we trained together was strength-specific days, and the other half the time was circuit-specific days.After training with him for his 12-week prep, I saw him with his shirt off, I think, the first week. And then after that, all of his shirts were just getting looser and looser on him, and he was … He just started getting skinnier and skinnier. He was dieting, and he had cut 10 kilograms.

Anyway, come fight day, I was at the backstage and I saw him with his shirt off, hitting pads, warming up. And my jaw dropped. I was just looking at how his body looked. And I thought, “Dude, you look freaking amazing. Why didn’t you tell me?” He was like, “What the hell did you want me to tell you? I look amazing.” And it was like this guy had veins popping out of his body. The muscularity was freaking awesome. He looked how you want to look. If you’re a guy, you want to look how this guy looked when he was ready to fight on stage.And so basically, I used that program, and I showed … The first guinea pig model for that was my sister-in-law, Dinny J. She said, “I want to train like an athlete.” So I thought, “Let’s do it.” So we got her training the same way, two days of strength and two days of circuit style of training, which is whole-body circuits. And as a result, she got strong and she looked amazing. As I said about Junior, for the girls, you look at Dinny, and the girls would say, “That’s how I want to look.” In fact, I had a lot of business from my females, and I guess Hattie was one of them, that saw the work that I had done with Dinny and said …

So we were able to … Back then, when she was doing that concurrent style of training, which was strength and circuit style of training, she wasn’t as strong as what she is, the strength level that she got to. That was specific strength work, and only specific strength work. We didn’t do any other cardio, walking, or circuits or anything. When she got to 140-kilo squat as a 50-kilo lifter and 160-kilogram deadlift as a 50-kilo lifter. Like little pipsqueak. Really strong. And looked amazing. But that’s, interestingly enough, how we developed the method that actually the Base Body Babes follow. That’s my wife and Dinny J. They’re sisters, and they run a female-only business. And their whole model is based around a four-day-a-week split, two days of strength work, two days is whole-body circuits, based on how I trained Junior for his fights. And we applied a lot of those methods for Hattie as well, and refined it more specific to exactly how Hattie trained. And that was a specific product that Hattie and I produced.

  • I was back at your level one a couple years back, and you mentioned how you have a constant battle with penis elbow. Do you still struggle with that? And have you found any way to kind of help you get past that?

Yeah, sure. So just to clarify, that’s not tennis elbow, and that’s not golfer’s elbow. It’s penis elbow. And it’s specific to low-bar squatters in particular. And it’s basically a pain in the brachialis that presents when you lift heavy and you have the bar extremely low on your back and you have to support all of that weight with your arms. And it doesn’t discriminate. If you’re a strong squatter, you have to hold a heavy weight on your back. All of my athletes … And that’s how I program my strong squatters. We have penis day. So that’s the day after you squat, you rest. And then it’s got to be an upper-body day after the lower-body day. So that’s why we can’t do a bench press straight after we have a low-body specific day, because your penis elbow is suffering. Just so you know, it says … It’s right here. This is where the brachialis sits. And if you have an athlete that … Low-bar squatting, quite heavy. You can prod them here. I’m being quite gentle. I don’t know if you’ve been doing any low-bar squats. But if I wanted to be a prick, I could jab him really hard with that and it’d hurt him. It wouldn’t feel nice. I don’t know how that felt just

Right. Okay. So I really was not being a prick about that. And it’s crazy, because so many times I have … I teach a lot of physiotherapists and soft-tissue practitioners and rehabilitation specialists, and they all have a solution for me. “Oh, why don’t try this serratus-anterior-building exercise? Let’s try this stretch. Let’s strengthen your external rotators and all these things.”And I just … It’s like … I’ve seen it before. I’ve tried it before. Please, just spare me. I’ll tell how you don’t get penis elbow is you need to periodize your low-bar squatting. So if it’s debilitating enough that it negatively impacts your other sport …So let’s just say for Thor Bjornsson, he doesn’t do a lot of low-bar squatting because his sport involves a lot of upper-body work. So a lot of the times, we use upper-body … sorry … high-bar squats in his programing or safety-bar squats, so that it doesn’t affect his arms.I’ve had fighters, UFC fighters, that come to me. They’re on a roll with their low-bar squats. And I ask them, “How’s everything going? How’s your training? How’s your sparring?”

“Yeah, good. I just had to take a couple of days off sparring. I’m getting this elbow pain. I’m just getting hit too many times in the elbow, and it’s hurting to block. So I’ll just take a few days off my fighting. And I’m sweet with the weights.” You have to understand something about weight training and fighters. They’re not paid to lift weights. They’re paid to fight. So I was the reason why he wasn’t doing the proper training. And if I was a dumb coach, I would say, “Yeah, cool. It’s all about the strength work. As long as you’re strong, you’ll be fine.” But as a smart coach, I had to stop him from squatting. And I had to come and I had to shove my thumb in his brachialis. He thought it was an issue that fighters get, which was floating, shattered bones in the elbows from hyper-extending when they punch. It’s a very common injury that he’s had an operation on previously, so that’s what he thought it was.

But the best way to avoid penis elbow, which is pain in the brachialis, is to not low-bar squat. Or, alternatively, if you can’t, if not low-bar squatting is not an option … So, for example, as I approach competition I have to practice the squat that I’m going to be performing in competition. My last competition, I trained specifically to achieve an Australian record, which was 372.5 kilograms. To get it squat, to get that number, I had to low-bar squat. So actually, it’s about pain management. So unfortunately, at that point the best way to manage the pain was Voltaren the day before bench press and the day of my bench press and the day of competition. That’s the only way I managed it. But if you don’t want it altogether … And I’ll tell you guys. I’m going to show you guys some of the techniques that we use, the squatting techniques, the way I teach to squat, it’s amazing what you can achieve with correct technique. If you guys are in the industry, if you guys are coaches and trainers, you can apply these techniques to general population because it’s a fantastic exercise. And they will develop a great low-bar squat.

But as a consequence, they complain of things like, “Oh, I don’t like this bench press. Bench pressing is hurting my elbows.” It’s not the bench press that’s hurting their elbows. It’s the squat. And if you’re a good coach, you’ll understand. You’ll be able to identify these things.

  • Do you have a preference of when you’re deadlifting, stopping dead at the bottom versus touch and go? And then, if so, how would you program them differently? Or if you don’t use one, then …

Sure. They all have their time and place. So touch-and-go deadlifts versus stop-and-go deadlifts, dead-stop deadlifts, however you’d like to call it. Touch-and-go deadlifts is generally a stimulus that I would use to maintain tension. And whenever I do touch-and-go deadlifts, it’s not bang and go or bounce and go. It’s a light tap and go, and that’s the cue that I’ll give is to imagine there’s eggshells on the ground. You’re not allowed to smash the eggshells. So that’s still being able to control the weight and use your muscles to lift the weight. And it’s a strength stimulus for the muscles. You’re not building momentum or doing anything like that.

So they, absolutely, have a time and place. And that’s generally closer to the off season or when I’m trying to accumulate more volume for whatever other response, usually hypertrophy. But when it comes to the dead-stop deadlift, that’s the specific lift that’s going to be used in competition. So that’s generally the start point … And even if you’re not a competitive deadlifter, I will teach someone the art of being able to safely and efficiently pick up a weight off the ground and place it back down again.

As I said before, a lot of people … I’m sure you guys will relate in the room … have a better second rep on their deadlift than the first. And that’s because of starting with the concentric portion of the movement. So not having enough time to feel the weight and hold the weight and go either way down on the acentric to set yourself up for a great concentric. So a lot of people are better at the second and third rep than they are on the first rep. The best way that you get good at the first rep is to stop and go every single time. But they all have their place.

My question is on older athletes or those that are especially above 40. Being in that age range myself, I see the way the body is changing, and then when working on strength and recovery. Do you have athletes that are … or just those that are in your gym that are above 40? And are your methods different? Absolutely. It’s a great question. I was shocked when you said “older athletes” and then you said “over 40.” I thought … I’ve just recently got a 41 year old who didn’t have a 1000-kilogram total to this year total 1000 … I think 1010 kilograms. That’s Luke [Polly 00:19:22]. He’s from Brisbane. And he’s over 40, and he’s getting older, and he’s still getting stronger.

So you haven’t maxed out yet, at that age. I think the decline won’t start until a fair bit after 40. One of my best athletes that I’ve ever had was a female athlete called Mary [Macken 00:19:45]. And I met her when she was 50 years old. She was fifth in Australia, and I took her in six months through the John Broz approach, which was maxing out every day, from fifth in Australia to first in the world. So obviously, first of all, she was also first in Australia. So she was fifth in Australia. And this was … It was first, second, third, fourth, and her. So from fifth in Australia she went to not just a little bit above first place. Flogged them.

I was with her until she was 52 years old. So in those two years that we worked very closely together, she was getting older and she was getting stronger.

  • What was the sport in?

That was powerlifting. So it was specifically a strength sport. And she was also a record holder in weightlifting as well, which I didn’t teach her for. But actually, the strength methods that we used, she was able to build whole-body strength. And then she was on the board of the AWF, which is the Australian Weightlifting Federation. And to stay on the board and to remain as a judge for the federation, she had to regularly compete. So she would say to me, “I’m sorry this is interfering with our powerlifting goals, but I’ve got a competition on next weekend. And I would rather it if I didn’t bomb. So do you mind if we just do one or two sessions, just so that I can grease up the joints?” It’s like, “Sure.”

She would come back after extensively getting strong with my techniques. So, powerlifting, strength training, following a structurally balanced program. And she would break her previous records in weightlifting, a sport that we didn’t even practice. She had like literally two weeks of practice at a … So getting the body strong is an advantage everywhere. She was older and getting stronger. She was also president of the Law Society as well. So she was a highly regarded lawyer. She was a power woman in every sense of the word. So her personality had a huge part to play for her success and her progress, even at that age.

But 40? Nah. You still got more. So good news for you. You can go home and know that you’re not old yet. And you can also go home knowing that you’re still getting better.

Mark Ottobre: 

All right. Thank you for watching this episode of The Wolf’s Den with Sebastian Oreb, this Q&A session. Please, please, please subscribe to us on YouTube to get all the episodes that are up and coming. And check out the previous episodes that we’ve done, because they’re awesome, too. And if you’re in your car and you want to listen to this, it is on iTunes and also SoundCloud.

Until the next one, train hard, supplement smart, and eat well.

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