Christian Thibaudeau has been involved in the business of training for over the last 16 years. During this period, he worked with athletes from 28 different sports. He has been “Head Strength Coach” for the Central Institute for Human Performance (official center of the St. Louis Blues).
His specialty: being a generalist. He assists his athletes to develop the necessary qualities to increase their performances (eg: muscle mass, power, explosiveness, coordination). His work method enabled him to lead several successful athletes in a multitude of different disciplines.
Learn more about Christian and his impressive achievements here!
What types of sports did you participate in as a kid?
I played pretty much everything! See, I’ve always had self-esteem issues, especially regarding my physical appearance. I knew I was smart., but I was introverted and didn’t have many friends. I thought that being admired for something physical would help me in that regard.
So I played baseball (for 8 years), soccer, hockey (not for long, I have zero coordination and skating wasn’t my forte), football (9 years and coaching for 9 too), rugby, golf (competed until I was 19), weightlifting (Olympic lifting) and bodybuilding. Of course, bodybuilding came at an older age.
I was average (or bad) in pretty much everything. I was decent in football because I was willing to work harder and suffer more than anybody else to be respected but never had the body size to amount to anything. I was also pretty good at golf simply because I practiced all day. I would play 18 holes at 5am, then practice for 3 hours and play 9 holes at the end of the afternoon, pretty much every day.
When I played football, I was one of the few on my team that would hit the weights because I knew I needed to get bigger and stronger to be able to compete. I quickly learned that I loved lifting weights more than I liked playing football. So at 19, I transitioned to Olympic lifting. Why Olympic lifting and not power-lifting or bodybuilding? Because at the time Olympic lifting wasn’t really popular and I would not need amazing results to make a provincial podium! I still managed to qualify for the national championships but my technique was really bad. I didn’t have a coach and there was no internet to learn technique, so I pretty much lifted like a football player! I was “lucky” to be strong (600lbs squat, 485lbs front squat, 365lbs push press, 275lbs military press) so I managed decent lifts, but nothing special. I was also really bad under pressure so I decided to leave competitive sports when I was 24.
I considered trying out for bobsleigh because I was working with a guy on the national team and my power clean, front squat, bench press, and vertical jumps would have been among the top 3 of the program, however, I dropped that plan when my girlfriend and I went to the water park and chickened out at the top of the highest slide!
How has your training changed or evolved over the years?
I developed a system called “neurotyping” which is essentially analyzing one’s psychological profile to understand their brain chemistry and make the best choices when it comes to the training program. Each neurotype has a dominant characteristic and mine is “variety”. I cannot stick to the same thing for a long time. As soon as a style of training becomes boring to me, I need to do something drastically different. And something becomes boring to me when I fully understand it’s effect on the body and why it works.
So I can’t say that I have one training style. I might train like an Olympic lifter for 3 months, then like a bodybuilder for 2 months, then will do power-lifting training for a while, and maybe some Crossfit thrown into the mix.
I’ve always been like that which is great as a personal trainer because it helped me understand the exact effect of various styles of training and training tools. As an “athlete”, however, it’s not ideal, of course.
While I’ve always been someone who changes his training very often, some things are different versus how I used to train.
As I’m getting older, I do not do as much volume as I did when I was younger. I still train a lot, but I used to train 3-4 hours per day! When training for Olympic lifting, I would do two daily sessions of 2 hours each. When I was training for strength, I remember doing 100 sets of bench press in the AM and 70 in the PM! Until I was 33, I trained pretty much every day and often twice a day.
Now, I pretty much never exceed 75 minutes of training, never do two-a-days and train 4 or 5 days a week. I’m expecting a kid in September and I’m sure that this might drop down a bit more due to improper recovery, but my approach to training is still fairly similar to what it was. I’m not going as heavy as I used to. I used to ramp up to heavy sets of 1 rep quite often but now I rarely go below 5, maybe 3 reps per set.
What does a typical training week look like for you?
As I said it changes quite a bit. But right now this is my regime:
SUNDAY: I’m fasting (I stop eating at 7pm on Saturday and fast all Sunday) so I don’t train. At the most, I’ll do some easy cardio.
MONDAY: This is a high carbs and protein day and I do a more traditional bodybuilding workout. On this day I do Deltoids & Traps. I alternate one deltoid and one trap exercise (A1/A2) with 75-90 seconds of rest and I have 3 pairs (6 total exercises). Depending on the phase, the reps will vary between 3-6 and 6-12.
TUESDAY: This is a low carbs/moderate protein/moderate fat day. I do a strength circuit. I have 5 exercises done as a circuit (60-75ish seconds of rest) covering the whole body. The exercises are back squat, bench press, snatch-grip high pull (or power snatch), military press and rowing (or pull-ups). I normally have 5 work sets of 3-5 reps.
WEDNESDAY: This is also a fasting day (I stop eating Tuesday at 7pm) so no training.
THURSDAY: Back to high carbs/high protein and bodybuilding work. On this day I do chest & back using the same structure as for the Monday workout.
FRIDAY: Also high carbs/high protein and bodybuilding work focusing on the lower body using a similar set-up as Monday/Thursday
SATURDAY: This is a low carbs day and I do biceps & triceps. This is the easy workout of the week.
I have been doing this for 4 weeks and will continue for 4 more weeks after which I will switch to a more “performance-based” program which will include jumping, sprinting, explosive work and conditioning.
How do you keep yourself motivated to train after all these years?
Oh, that’s easy. Remember I have a very low self-esteem level and to this day I still rely on my physical appearance to feel good about myself. I’m giving 20-30 seminars and shooting 80 videos per year, and I just can’t accept letting myself go. Okay, it might not be the noblest reason to stay motivated, but it gets the job done.
What is your #1 fitness tip?
I’m going to preach for my own congregation here and say that the most important thing is to train the way your brain wants to. If you are someone who is designed for high-intensity work (neurologically) and you force yourself to do long, high volume, low-intensity workouts it will kill your motivation. Similarly, if you are not designed for heavy work, forcing yourself to do a lot of neurological work will lead to CNS fatigue (which is simply a desensitization of the adrenal receptors or a depletion of dopamine from being amped up for too long). Not everybody will enjoy the same type of training. My suggestion is to what makes you feel good and not what the internet tells you what you should do. If you enjoy your training you will be more motivated, if you are more motivated you will train harder and will get better results.