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Dragon Door Interviews Senior RKC, Max Shank

August 15, 2012 04:30 PM

Max Shank on the set of Convict Conditioning DVDs
Dragon Door:   I've been told that you're only 25 years old. As much as you’ve bragged about "being lazy," you've accomplished a lot in a short period of time! Can you tell me about your work ethic?
Max Shank:    I’ve had a job or multiple jobs since I was 12 and I haven’t had a week without a job since then. I am actually pretty lazy with my training, I’ll just lift something heavy and then rest for a while before doing it again.
Dragon Door:    When did you become interested in fitness?
Max Shank:    I played high level soccer and when I was 17 I got a membership at LA Fitness so I could play racquetball with a friend. At the time, I could barely bench press a pair of 35 pound dumbbells for four shaky reps. I started doing some bodybuilding style training but never got really strong. I also started working as a trainer when I was 17. I didn’t know anything, but watched what the other trainers were doing and learned from them.
I switched to CrossFit after a while, and participated for about 6-8 months. I definitely became more athletic, but I also became more injured. Even though I was stronger, my shoulders, elbows, back, and knees hurt. It wasn't a good trade-off for me, but it was an important step away from the bodybuilding world. Through CrossFit, I also found kettlebells. I attended the RKC workshop four months after I started using them in August of 2008 at UCLA. I actually went through the RKC with a torn hamstring. I was on painkillers the whole weekend, but still managed to pass.
Dragon Door:    Yikes! Can't say I recommend anyone emulate that!
Max Shank:    Well, I had a lot of money riding on it. After CrossFit, I started getting into Olympic weightlifting, I wasn’t very good at it, but it was just something that I wanted to try. For the past eighteen months, I’ve really focused on strength training and how to use it with my background in Muay Thai. I've had a bunch of amateur fights, one as recent as two and a half months ago.
Dragon Door:    How did it go?
Max Shank:    I won! I’m 9-0 in Amateur Muay Thai, and I'm undefeated in 5 Pankration tournaments.
Dragon Door:    Do you think kettlebell training has helped with your fighting?
Max Shank:     Good question. My training is pretty basic and simple, I focus on getting stronger for the most part. The kettlebell is one of my favorite tools for getting stronger, and I maintain a similar kind of crisp technique no matter how I train, when hitting the bag, etc. If I feel myself starting to slow down, then I stop. I use the RKC philosophy for all my training, it's something that I talked a little bit about here at the Bodyweight Exercise Workshop.
Dragon Door:    How did you get into bodyweight exercise? You've demonstrated some incredible strength and skill this weekend.
Max Shank:    When I was 20, I went to Mexico for two days—which was the longest vacation I’ve ever taken. A few months before the vacation, I went to a gymnastics school so I could learn how to do a back flip. I thought it would be cool to be able to do a back flip in Mexico so I could get free beer. I don’t drink anymore, but it was definitely worth a lot of free beers to be able to pull off a back flip while I was in Mexico. At the gymnastics school, I learned the backflip, but also played around on my hands, the trampoline, and had a lot of fun. Honestly, it’s a lot of fun for me. Bodyweight exercises are super fun. Learning how to manipulate my body and do anything I want with it is very empowering. I feel like I can basically handle any situation because I know how to move.
Max Shank 1 arm pushup
Dragon Door:    I would have guessed that you had had more of an extensive gymnastic background, since you seem to really move a lot like a gymnast.
Max Shank:    It's funny, I had an exceptionally weak upper body when I was 17. My legs were strong because I was a good soccer player, but my upper body was totally weak. A lot of people ask if I was a gymnast or wrestler when I was younger because I have that type of build now. But it's just because of my training.
Dragon Door:    I watched you complete the Beast Challenge yesterday. Do you have any particular training tips for someone who aspires to tame the Beast?
Max Shank:    I've certainly got a lot to say about how someone could train for the Beast challenge. My method of training might not be the best way, but it was the best way for me. Originially, I was racing Ken Froese to press double 48kg kettlebells. I only had a pair of 40kg kettlebells and a pair of 48kg kettlebells, which for a guy who weighs 180 pounds, is a pretty massive jump. I used the handstand push up as my main pressing exercise because I could be more precise in loading and work in smaller increments. Handstand pushups also require less total body tension which makes for an easier recovery.
Once I could press double 48kg kettlebells, pressing one was easy. My training for the Beast Challenge itself didn't involve any weighted pull ups or presses. I used all bodyweight variations on the pull up and press to train. I was also able to train handstand push ups more often, too. I'll do handstand push-ups all day just because it's fun. Being able to press up into a handstand in the middle of the room looks cool. I also think that pressing two kettlebells may be more important than being able to press the single one. It's crucial to work on the single kettlebell technique, but for actually getting strong, double pressing and handstand push-ups are the way to go.
Dragon Door:    Do you have any more Muay Thai fights in the future? Now that you've tamed the Beast, what's your next goal?
Max Shank:    To just have fun, I guess. In the past year, my business has done really well because I've put a lot of focus towards it. I want to participate whenever there is a Muay Thai fight nearby. Since I weigh about 180 pounds all the time so I can easily cut down to 170 or 175 depending on the federation requirements. I'm always just a few weeks out of fighting shape, so when a fight comes to San Diego, I am all there.
Dragon Door:    Tell me more about your business.
Max Shank:    Ambition Athletics was started in August of 2009 with 600 square feet which is kind of small. August of 2011 we celebrated our two year anniversary and increased our working gym floor space to about 2000 square feet. We knocked down a huge wall to expand, which was really cool.
Dragon Door:    It's great that you were able to expand despite this economy. Did you go to the Marketing Mastermind Intensive?
Max Shank:    I did.
Dragon Door:    How do you feel that the MMI has affected your business?
Max Shank:     It was a terrific workshop. None of us would be here at the RKC if it wasn't for John Du Cane's exceptionally good marketing. It was important to learn how John built Dragon Door up from nothing. I know that it doesn't matter how smart someone is, if they can't get their message out.
That's why I went to the MMI and that's what I learned how to do. This year, I invested more money on my business than on my training education. I saw that if I didn't have my business sorted out, I would never have time to train. I would just be working all the time to make ends meet. So I spent more time, money and energy on my business in general and that has paid off. It was a great investment.
Dragon Door:     That's a really good tip for anyone because it doesn't matter how many certifications someone has, if they are unable to communicate the value and run their business well. What's one last thing we need to know about Max Shank?
Max Shank:     I am not an endurance guy.
Dragon Door:    Got it. Max Shank: not an endurance guy. Thanks so much for letting me interview you today.
Max Shank 1 arm chin