10 Questions with Olympic Performance Coach Mark Kislich | Not Your Average Fitness Tips

10 Questions with Olympic Performance Coach Mark Kislich

My fellow fitness blogger Mark Kislich was kind enough to do an interview for my site.  Mark trains Olympic and other elite athletes so he knows how to make the best even better.  He’s adapted and applied his training methods to help “ordinary” people get in great shape, too. 

Mark, can you start by giving us a brief background about who you are and what your philosophy is?

Heya Dave, well first I’d like to take this opportunity and say thank you! I appreciate the interest, thanks for having me. Hi to your readers: it’s good to “meet” you!

Well my background is similar to that of many others: years of lifting weights and martial arts, etc.  Initially I thought I knew all about training, simply because I’ve been doing it for some years as well as reading the books and magazines. I think this a very common attitude, I know I had it.  And frankly, there’s not so much to know, right? Lift heavy now and then, use correct form and some kind of a good program…boy how wrong I was!

But that didn’t become clear until I actually started studying the whole thing in depth. That’s when I found out I knew jack, lol! So I contacted the best authorities internationally and learned from them, people like Vermeil, Poliquin, Leahy.  It was really a whole new world.

Regarding my philosophy, it’s two things:

KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)

So keep it simple, and put a logical frame work around everything that you do.  Say you train a football player, first thing to know is what are the prime movers, prime energy systems and strength qualities for the sport? Then what are the commonly injured structures? And finally the individual position played, injury history, weaknesses, etc.  Periodize the training in a logical way, and results are basically a given.

Keeping it simple certainly makes sense.  Moving on, it’s hard to believe that you used to be over 265lbs at 5’9”.  I’m sure you were incredibly strong, but when did you realize that size and strength aren’t necessarily all they’re cracked up to be?

Hmm, well, let’s say probably the point where I was wheezing climbing up some short flight of stairs?  I mean, man, I was really not comfortable at that body weight, it’s not healthy and it doesn’t feel good.  After all, if you can’t tie your own shoes because that belly’s in the way, that’s not right, lol!

I got this fat in the first place because the muscle magazines told me that in order to get big and strong, you need some 5-6ooo calories/day! Little did I know these numbers were for pro bodybuilders with drugs coming out their ears.

Long story short, yeah I got big…fast. But much of that was fat. I can tell you and anybody reading this: your best bet, I mean the VERY best thing you could ever do in this regard, is not to get fat in the first place. There’s just nothing good about gaining fat. It’s unhealthy, and it doesn’t look good.

I couldn’t agree more!  What do you find is the biggest difference in training elite level athletes vs. the regular average person?

Honestly?  It’s very tough training.  Most “civilians” simply don’t make it, they don’t pull it through.  I guess that’s because they don’t have the athlete’s mind and drive. Elite athletes are exceptional individuals, that’s why they get to the top.

So a good athlete, you don’t need to motivate them much, they bring their own motivation.

Then again, some can be quite the ballerina, and make progress difficult because of that…I ask any athlete I work with to try and trust me and the fact that I know what I’m doing.  Then we make progress.

For non athletes, it really depends how determined they are. If you follow the program, you get the desired results.  Question is how bad do you want it?  If you read my fitness blog, TS Method.com, that’s WAY toned down, so everybody can apply it, not just pro athletes. And yet much of the training info is pretty specific still, given my background…

What’s the biggest mistake people are making with their diet and exercise routines?

OK the three biggest problems re obesity:

1. A sedentary lifestyle
2. Food is a hand’s reach away
3. It’s the wrong food.

Training: there’s so much contradicting stuff out there, it can only be confusing for the average fitness enthusiast.  A major factor would be that many things can and do work, but maybe the biggest question should be: what is your training goal?

For instance fat loss requires a specific training and nutritional approach, whilst building muscle takes quite another.  Then improving sports performance is a whole different ballgame all over again.  So figure out what’s your most important goal, then use the right training and diet for that goal until you achieve it.  Then it’s the next step after that.

Take fat loss and muscle building. Can it be done at the same time? Yeeeers, sure.  But you should really try and emphasize only one thing at a time, so first burn fat, then once you’re lean, start building up (without gaining any new fat!).  IMO trying both these things at the same time is the main reason many people fail to do either one properly.

You developed a program called the Temporal Synergistic Method (TS Method).  How long did it take for you to figure out the synergies between diet, exercise, and supplements?

Actually quite a while. I got down to around 12% body fat pretty easily, but then things started seriously slowing down. I realized if I wanted to get real ripped and all the good stuff, now was the time for some special “ninja tricks”.

It’s incredible but nobody I asked seemed to really know how to do this, naturally.  You see a lot of Fitness gurus who use drugs to achieve their results, but I personally hate that: it smells of hipocracy, it’s just not credible. I mean how can you take people’s money, claiming to teach them how to get in shape naturally if you yourself are “cheating”?  Doesn’t make sense.

Then there are the fat loss gurus who actually are fat themselves. I mean I ask you…they are lying through their teeth, then laughing at you on the way to the bank.  Not my style…additionally this kind of bs only contributes to the general training confusion.

No, elite “rippedness” requires a little more than just cleaning up your diet, at least if you’ve been fat, like myself. So it took me years to figure it all out, actually.

So we’re getting years of knowledge in one package!  Your approach involves 6 levels.  Why not just do everything at once?

Well that’s just to give it structure, as mentioned above. A logical step approach is really the most effective way and easiest to apply, especially for a complete beginner. I guess for someone who’s clinically obese, to try and do it all at once would almost definitely result in overwhelm and failure.

If you’re quite advanced and experienced in all things fitness and diet, and in a good shape already, sure, you could go for it right away.  You, Dave, might do that and get away with it. Most others are better off with the step approach.

I’m not sure I’d consider myself “advanced and experienced in all things fitness and diet” but I appreciate the compliment.  You recommend a number of natural supplements in the TS Method.  Are these critical to the success of the program?

Naaaw, not really. But remember the ninja tricks I mentioned? When you get to about 6 % body fat, you want to start optimizing everything, and every little bit helps.  Having said that, these supplements are very healthy for you and will definitely optimize and speed up your progress. They are highly recommended.

Do you prefer bodyweight training, weight training, or both?

Weights really, since this type of training is much more quantifiable and accurate. At least as far as athletes go. For fat loss and general fitness, just about everything works.  And the calisthenics can go from simple stuff like sit ups to really advanced and super hard and impressive things like muscle ups that our colleague Yavor shows off on his blog, Relative Strength Advantage.com.

So I kinda like all of it. For fat loss, my HIIT & LIIT approach works very well. Then again you can use weights for fat loss too!

Elite athletes seem to have the luxury of time to train for hours on end.  How many hours per week does the average person need to put in the gym if they follow your approach?

You can of course burn fat without any training at all, since the nutrition part is the most important. But the right training will speed up progress significantly, tone you up and improve all kinds of health parameters.  So in short, the training can go from as little as 2 days up to 5-6 days/week, depending where you are in the program and what you want to achieve.

You’ve designed the program to help anyone get in shape but it seems particular useful for people looking to achieve elite body fat levels as well.  How hard is it to get to 5-6% body fat vs. 10-12% body fat?

Yeah like I said, below 10% the body seems to kinda slow down and say: “Whoa buster, that’s good enough for me!” So then you need to be extra convincing in your diet and training approach. That’s where the expert knowledge comes in.

But hard?  Not really. It’s all down to the structure and knowing what to do and when. I designed this system on purpose so that it’s flexible in a way. That means you can just go as fast or as slow as you feel like, and you just go to the level you’re comfortable at.

I kinda like this metaphor:

Your body is more than happy to do what you want it to, like get lean for instance.  The trick is to speak in the body’s own language so it can actually understand and consequently do as requested.  For example folks might think they’re telling their body to get lean and healthy.  But with the foods and activities they give it, what they actually are saying is: “Get fat. Get weak.”

You can just imagine the body’s response: “You sure? I’m a bit too fat and unhealthy already…but hey, you’re the boss!”

So talk to your body in the right way, i.e. give it the right foods and exercise at the right times, and it will be more than happy to oblige: you’ll be lean, healthy and fit.

Thanks again Mark!

To read more from Mark, be sure to check out his TS Method blog.

9 Responses to “10 Questions with Olympic Performance Coach Mark Kislich”

  • I really enjoy Mark’s advice and his blog. It’s incredible the wealth of knowledge he has in fitness. The work he has done taking athletes and turning them in to Olympic champions is extremely admirable.


  • Great stuff Mark! I want to come train with you some day :)


  • Kris:

    Great interview, Mark is the man!

    He trains elite athletes for a living, but the advice he gives can definitely be applied to anyone who is health conscious and wants to lose weight and get in shape.

  • Mark:

    Hey thanks guys for the nice words! :-)
    Sweet interview Dave, thanks again! :-)


  • Dana Buck:

    I’m 46 yr old male and I have been working out with dumbells and some cardio. I have changed the way I eat and I have lost 13 lbs. 3 ” around my waiste. I still have at least 2 more in. That I want to loose, however that being said is easier than done. How can I loose the rest of the stubborn belly fat so I can work on my abs to make my back stronger.
    Dana Buck

  • Dana,
    Congrats on the weight loss. Great to see the inches coming off your waist. The stubborn belly fat is almost always the last to go, especially in males. I’d take a go-slow approach and just keep trying to burn fat while preserving muscle mass. If you want some more specific tips for burning stubborn body fat, check out this post:


    Good luck!

  • With the olympics being in my city, just wondering whether you have trained anyone for them? Good article explaining the difference between elite athletes and your average joes.

  • Dave/Mark,

    Great interview! I think it’s awesome to arm folks with the knowledge to take fat loss as far as they want to go. Some people may be satisfied with 10-12% body fat, but I feel like once people reach that level, especially if they lost a lot of weight to get there, they will be hooked and want to push themselves to get to that 5-7% range.


  • Mark:

    Michael, Alykhan:
    Thanks! :-)
    An Olympic Performance Coach is a Strength and Conditioning coach who works with athletes in Olympic sports, as well as actual Olympic athletes, i.e. that have been to the Olympics and competed, preferably creating some real results as well like becoming a finalist, or even winning a medal.

    At least that’s my definition of it.


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