It may look like many other sports-specific gyms — with heavy ropes, power sleds, kettlebells, and the like sitting in wait at the sidelines — but where Montreal’s Adrenaline Performance Center differs is in its clientele. Owned by renowned trainer and Inside Fitness’ Strength & Conditioning Editor, Jonathan Chaimberg, the walls of the facility are plastered with motivational, fight-inspired sayings such as “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up” and “Strength does not come from physical capacity; it comes from indomitable will,” which speak to its successful track record of building champions, most notably UFC superstar Georges St-Pierre. There’s no arguing that the APC team knows how to train the best of the best — and today Chaimberg himself is letting you in on their all-star secrets.

Humble Beginnings


Chaimberg’s 15-year training career began by accident after he was injured while wrestling for Canada’s national team. He eventually made the transition to training the Olympic wrestling team, discovered he had a passion for it, and soon enough found that he couldn’t return to the mat: pushing athletes to greatness was his true calling.


He insists that his success in the gym stems from the fact that he veered his training style toward athletics and not aesthetics. “I stayed away from the fads and whatever was popular,” he explains. “I got into training high-level athletes and fell in love with the approach to functional training, which was unknown at the time.” He felt the need to help redefine the misguided reputation of functional training — originally, he notes, standing on a BOSU and lifting weights was considered a basic functional motion. The thing that most people didn’t — and still don’t — understand about this form of training, he argues, is that it’s not just for athletes. “The way I am training — functional, athletic training — will give you results when it comes to aesthetics and fat loss,” he contends, but unlike some of the more trendy types of training out there, “the modality I am using will always change, always evolve.”

The Dream Team


And having a clear, progressive plan of attack is exactly the approach that Chaimberg uses on some of his high-profile clients, like UFC Welterweight Rory MacDonald, who he has been working with for three years. “Georges St-Pierre brought him to my old gym (Tristar) when he was about 18 years old,” recalls Chaimberg. MacDonald returned to British Columbia, his home province, and fought against an athlete Chaimberg was training at the time. When MacDonald decided to uproot and come back to Montreal, he rang up — you guessed it — the one-and-only Chaimberg.


Of course, as is the case when working with any young athlete, Chaimberg did have his work cut out for him at first. One of MacDonald’s most glaring weaknesses was how he performed during plyometrics, a training mechanism that is important for any athlete but especially so for a fighter, who needs to be light, springy, and agile on his feet. But with hard work and the right program, MacDonald soon came around. “He turned that weakness into one of his strengths,” Chaimberg boasts.


We followed Chaimberg and 24-year-old MacDonald around the gym during one of their pre-fight workouts. These exercises won’t only make you feel as confident as an MMA fighter — they will get you into mean, lean shape, whether or not you’re in the business of throwing punches (or, for some, taking them).

Many Athletes, One Trainer


Chaimberg insists that Mixed Martial Artists like MacDonald are by far the toughest athletes to train. When training hockey players or wrestlers, a coach is able to periodize their training schedule — there is a specific “on-season” and, in contrast, an “off-season.” “These athletes come to you in their off-season, but they aren’t practising their sport,” he explains. “Their whole goal is to get bigger, stronger, faster — it’s easy to design their program based on that.” Because matches come up randomly throughout the year, however, fighters are a heck of a lot harder to create a calendar around. They find out when a fight is, and you have eight weeks to prep them. It’s as simple — and as complicated — as that.


The misconception many people have regarding sports-specific training is that they believe an athlete must be trained in the same way they play: a fighter will be punching and kicking in his gym workouts and a hockey player will be lifting weights on the ice. Not so. “If you are training an MMA guy, he is training to become a better athlete, not just a better MMA athlete,” Chaimberg explains. He accomplishes this through compound and plyometric motions, using the same general exercises for athletes and altering their work-to-rest ratios depending on the nature of their sport. In that way, he can create a well-rounded athlete out of just about anyone — even Joe Schmo.

The Boons and Benefits


Though it may be hard to believe, the excitement of being mere feet away from a UFC fight, supporting his clients, can get old for a trainer like Chaimberg. “The first time I cornered Georges for a big fight, that was a rush,” he says. “Now fast forward to today, and I do it a few times a month.” He finds greater post-workout satisfaction with other athletes like NHL players — he gets to see his hard work at play on television, during the hockey season when he isn’t working with them.


Still, he recognizes that it’s an honour to be associated with the caliber of clients he is. “It’s obviously a rush to be working with so many high-end athletes,” he says humbly. “I know a lot of people who would love to be doing this.” Ain’t that the truth.

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