This blog is going to get a bit deeper into the mind of new coach Emil Goliath as we discuss training and nutrition principles, and what things make him tick when it comes to his own prep and training. Being an A&E doctor and a competitive bodybuilder must be a juggling act, so we delve into his background and why he loves bodybuilding.
Firstly Emil, welcome to TEAM BOX, it’s awesome to have you on board and I know I personally can’t wait to learn from your vast experience as a former strongman, turned bodybuilding doctor. I won’t bore people with the basic stuff, if they want to get to know you more they can find out all about you from the TEAM BOX facebook page. I want to get deep and get to know your opinion on all things nutrition & training.
Thank you! It’s great to be part of such a successful and well respected set-up as Team Box. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in and advancing my knowledge and experience working with you guys as well.
My first (long) question to you is:
Q: How do you currently set up your training?
A: Currently my training is quite relaxed. I train 5-6 days a week, work and life allowing, and I generally follow a body part split which I just follow round regardless of day of the week. I usually train with Tom Blackman (recently on the TeamBox Podcast!) and we try to hit one main muscle group and one lesser muscle group each session. We also try to hit most body parts twice a week for maximal gainz.
The focus is usually on muscle contraction and mind muscle connection. I know that sounds cheesy but there is a difference between doing, say a cable fly and REALLY tearing the pec to shreds and making work hard. We often use intensifiers such as bands, paused reps and held peak contraction to maximize the tension on the muscle and this usually means we don’t need to go heavy or hammer huge amounts of volume before we fatigue.
A big priority for me is injury prevention and longevity in training. Indeed, this is why I left strongman and rugby before it. I’ve lifted as heavy as I’m likely ever to lift in my strongman years and this allows me the freedom now to truly ‘leave my ego at the door’. For bodybuilding, you don’t NEED to do 1RMs. It’s as simple as that.
Generally speaking, my over arching aim is enjoyment and I’ve been training long enough that I can get by intuitively without a hard and fast structure. It’s not uncommon to turn up for a gym session, give everything a poke to see what hurts and what doesn’t and plan the session according to that and sometimes when everything hurts we train anyway because its social and fun.
Q: What are the weak areas you’ve identified for improvement and what strategies are you implementing in an attempt to bring those areas up?
A: I’ve always considered my chest and hamstrings weak, so for the last 2 years I’ve focused on these body parts and used various techniques to bring them up.
My chest was flagging (and delts to a lesser degree) because as a strongman I neglected bench press entirely and did overhead movements instead. Even these were usually push jerks (opposed to strict shoulder pressing) I always joked that I pressed with my arse because I always threw the weight up with my legs and ‘caught’ it at the lock out.
It was obviously then, pretty fundamental to bring up my chest and delts to be competitive within bodybuilding so I started to do delts 2-3 times a week prioritizing medial and posterior aspects as the anterior head got plenty of stimulation during other movements. For chest, I felt my upper chest was the weakest and the area I could add mass most easily so I started to do all of my pressing movements on an incline as well, usually only one notch up from horizontal. I figured that this would have the most carry over to building a complete pec in one movement while still allowing me to shift a lot of weight for maximal all over stimulation. I’ve carried this ‘low incline’ pressing on to this day and it forms a staple for all my chest workouts.
Hamstrings – as a rugby player, playing in outside center I was sprinting a lot and this caused me to tear my hamstring multiple times over the months and years. Although this took me out of rugby for a period, it never stopped me training so I continued to lift (and squat) without a problem. Eventually these injuries took me out of rugby entirely so I decided that I needed to build a set of hamstrings to match my quads. Often people train hamstrings after quads on the same day and end up doing 3 sets of leg curls and that being it. If they’re lucky, the hammys might get a few Romanian deadlifts thrown in as well. Clearly for adequate hamstring growth this isn’t acceptable as they are a large and essential muscle group in their own right. To that effect I started to split hammys and quads and also did hammys as the first session of the week (i.e. a Monday – while the rest of the world did chest). This meant that while my motivation was highest I would get my weakest body part done and I wouldn’t be doing it in a fatigued state after squats.
Q: We see it so often with people trying to just do everything at once (gain muscle, lose fat & also get stupid strong) and ultimately never actually making much progress – What do you think is the biggest mistake that most people make when it comes to both their prep & off-season and in particular when trying to maximise their training?
A: During prep the most important thing is losing body fat. A well planned prep should mean that you have plenty of energy, at least to start with, so training can be focused and progressive. The aim at this point should always be to continue to gain/retain muscle mass.
However once you get towards the business end of prep then the goal of training shifts and you need to prioritize fat loss. The large part of this will be diet so training becomes for the purpose of ‘enjoyment’ and burning calories (and it also distracts you from food). This is opposite of what we are taught in terms of the function of weight training but the end stages of prep are a unique scenario and generally speaking this extreme isn’t a place that you should go during a more routine form of dieting. So to summarize, during prep aim to enjoy training and don’t stress too much about progressing in your lifts. It may happen but as prep continues is pretty much has to take a back seat.
In the offseason you’re not getting results as rapidly and likely not seeing weekly progress in terms of body composition. This means the focus should shift to training as a priority as opposed to looking specifically to the scales. If you’re a bodybuilder then building muscle is the goal. This can be correlated to ‘getting stronger’ but they are far from the same thing. It’s useful to use strength as a gauge of progress but it’s not the be all and end all and certainly things like 1RMs really don’t have a place in bodybuilding as the risk of injury far outweighs any benefit they may have. Ultimately the aim with training is progressive overload therefore increasing the volume load over time. The over riding principle again has to be enjoyment however as this is what will keep you going for months and years on end. Following a suboptimal program which you enjoy, for months, is infinitely better then following a perfect program for 3 weeks and then stopping. So in the offseason – enjoy it, aim to progress over time and don’t chase 1RMs for the sake of them (unless you’re a powerlifter…).
Q: What is the one thing you see people worry about far too much that makes little/zero impact on their progress….
A: I think an obvious one that people get over-concerned about has to be supps. Now, don’t get me wrong, supps are hugely useful and can be an great adjunct to a diet and training plan but they are far from essential (it’s in the name…). I use a range of supplements myself and they are convenient and can fill some gaps that may be difficult with diet alone (namely creatine, vitamin D and omega3s) but when someone is starting out or even beyond that there are a few fundamentals that you need to nail before even considering them including ‘calorie balance’ and from the training side – progressive overload. These will get you most of the way there in themselves.
Q: And on the flip side of that, what is the one thing you see people barely give attention to that would actually massively help their progress?
A: Enjoyment is often overlooked and an underlying factor to a lot of my philosophy on training and nutrition. Enjoyment means adherence and consistency and whichever way you look at it, these are the basis of anything. Do it regularly and do it for long enough and you only need a small amount of direction to get significant results.
Q: We know you’re a published author with your book on High Intensity training. How much of an important factor do you think conditioning is to a) overall health and b) achieving a desirable physique?
A: Thanks for the plug! It’s available on Amazon if anyone is interested (Click Here). I think exercise in general is absolutely fundamental to overall health and well being and HIFT is about making it effective and enjoyable. Likewise, for conditioning, HIFT style training can make the dieting process easier by helping to provide a larger calorie deficit as efficiently as possible. This kind of training probably isn’t essential for aesthetic goals but you’ll find very few people out there who can get into a shape they are proud of and who manage to neglect all forms of cardio style training (whether it be LISS, HIIT or HIFT).
Q: Being a Doctor and working in A&E, what skills have you developed form working in an environment like that and how have those skills made you better at coaching people and helping them through their health and fitness journey?
A: Being a doctor, especially in A+E is all about communication and rapport and I think this is the key to coaching. The science of nutrition is fairly simple – eat less than you burn to lose body fat. However, converting this into real life practice and getting people on board with your process is the real challenge. There are countless ways to achieve the desired results and if people ‘buy-in’ to your methods through good communication and rapport then success if much more likely. My medical background also give me a broad base within science which means interpreting the literature and converting it into real life terms is an area I am familiar with and can draw on in this industry as well.
Q: You used to be a competitive strongman and lift your fair share of heavy stuff. Now that you are a converted bodybuilder, what is it you love about the sport of bodybuilding? What is the one thing it has taught you that has benefitted your whole outlook on life?
A: The reason I moved over to bodybuilding from strongman was due to wanting improved health (I needed to drop a hell of a lot of fat) and injury prevention. In bodybuilding I could enjoy lifting without tearing myself apart and simultaneously I could start to make moves towards a healthier diet. Over time I also achieved an aesthetic, healthy physique which initially was a secondary goal but gets addictive and then the primary objective when competing.
I’m not saying other sports mean guaranteed injury but bodybuilding is unique in that you compete with yourself from show to show and as long as you are sensible with your training, whether you get injured or not is far more within your control. Likewise with diet, there are few sports where personal nutrition takes such a large role. Even if bodybuilders don’t prep themselves they gain a pretty decent understanding of nutrition basics over the years and certainly get to know intimately how different foods affect their bodies much more then other athletes do.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given that you still use to this day?
From Dave who owned the first proper gym I trained at (Dave’s Gym in Cardiff). It stemmed from me asking what he recommended I do while I was revising for my first year medical exams and him telling me to squat…. I ended up doing the 20 squat program (or ‘milk and squat program’) which involved squatting 3 times a week for 6 weeks and the rest is history.
There are few exercises that are as comprehensive and versatile in terms of mental and physical growth than squats. This has come with me over my lifting career (and become a running joke). All of my PG tee’s over the years have ‘Squat much?’ on the back and the original spot where the 20 squat program happened has ‘Squat Much?” painted on the wall (see pic below).