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Dragon Door Interviews Tanner Martty, PCC Instructor

 Tanner Martty Handstand Pushups At Muscle Beach Santa Monica

Dragon Door: How did you get started with fitness?

Tanner Martty: About a week before I started second grade, my parents told me I had to do two sets of pushups and two sets of sit ups before breakfast every morning for the whole school year. At first, it was something they had to make me do, but after a while I was driven to do it myself. By my senior year in high school, I was doing two sets of about 150 pushups and two sets of around 200 sit ups the first thing in the morning. Both of my parents have always been into fitness, particularly my Dad. He ran track at Louisiana State University, and ended up coaching golf there years later.

For a long time I pursued other interests. Then almost a year ago, I started getting bored and disenchanted with some of my weightlifting practices. I wanted to take a minimalist approach to everything—my work, life, and especially my training. All those things are so closely intertwined, and something really drew me back into calisthenics. I started looking around on YouTube, read Naked Warrior then made it my goal to do pistols and one arm push-ups. A little later I saw an ad for the PCC and felt like it was something I needed to do.

Dragon Door: Did some of this lead to your career change?

Tanner Martty: Yes, now I own a private studio in Santa Monica and have been a personal trainer for about four years. Previously, I used my degree in finance from Louisiana State at a job in medical research software sales. But I've always been big into fitness—a lifelong athlete—and played college basketball. The sales and corporate world was in total disharmony with everything that I really believe in and want to do. So I finally got the courage to set out on my own and started as a personal trainer about four years ago.

Dragon Door: You’ve got a lot of certifications including FMS, Primal Move, two kettlebell certifications, Precision Nutrition, and now PCC. What's your general approach when training others?

Tanner Martty: First of all, it's important to control your own body with some level of mastery before trying to control any external implements. That's how I start with my clients and it has always been the foundation of my own training.

The second thing is to focus on technique, and try to move beautifully. This means gaining the ability to create a lot of tension and focusing on quality instead of volume. Many of my clients are caught off guard by the lack of repetition at first or the lack of common structures like two sets of eight or ten. I really try to get my clients to focus on technique and practice rather than workout.

Tanner Martty Performs an L-Sit on kettlebells at the PCC workshop

Dragon Door: How did you start with kettlebells?

Tanner Martty: My business partner was really into kettlebells when we first met. Before we opened our gym, we used to work out together and he would always want to add in some kettlebell exercises. It was completely foreign to me and I was hesitant about it in the beginning—mainly because he was so much better at it than I was! We were very competitive. I had a background in Olympic lifting and couldn't understand why I could clean and snatch so much heavier with a barbell than him, but he could just dominate me with these kettlebells. He had the IKFF certification and was training GS style. So, he started challenging me to competitions, and I ended up also becoming IKFF certified. I hadn't even learned about the kettlebell movement or RKC yet, but GS style was my introduction.

Dragon Door: Who do you typically train?

Tanner Martty: It is across the board—a mix of men and women—my youngest client is 26, and my oldest client is 75. I train a couple of jujitsu and martial arts competitors, and since it's LA a couple of actors and everyone in between.

Dragon Door: How did you find out about the PCC?

Tanner Martty: I first saw a muscle-up on YouTube, then at the original Muscle Beach in Santa Monica—one of the few places with pull up bars tall enough for me. In Santa Monica, I saw people just knocking them out, but they couldn't explain how to do it, which was pretty frustrating. So I started doing some research online and eventually found Al Kavadlo's videos and blog along with the PCC and RKC Blogs.

Since there's a lot of circus schools nearby, Santa Monica Muscle Beach is pretty amazing. It’s great to watch and it gives you a lot of ideas, but I wasn't able to learn how to progress to being able to do what people were doing. Most of them had been doing these feats since childhood and couldn't really remember how they started.

That's what was so great at the PCC—not only did the instructors talk through each step, but we actually tried every single progression from the easiest to the most advanced. Even though I have been able to do some of the easier progressions for a long time, by reviewing them I was able to move forward even more.

Dragon Door: What was your favorite move from PCC?

Tanner Martty: At first I was absolutely obsessed with the pistol squat, and I still am, but I've progressed pretty far with them. Now I'm really into bar levers. The back lever is a big goal. Right now I'm working with the progressions on the back and front levers. The back lever is very close, but I've got a lot of work to do towards the front lever. I'd like to nail one for a few seconds by the end of the year.

Dragon Door: And your favorite move to teach?

Tanner Martty:
There's two. First of all, helping someone get their first pull up is one of the most rewarding things for me as a trainer. Especially if I am working with a woman in her 30s, 40s or 50s, and it's something that she never thought she'd be able to do. It's the greatest thing to see that first pull up happen. The other move I like to teach is the one arm push up. I’ve actually helped a couple female clients and one male client to nail a single arm push up, which was pretty cool!

Dragon Door: You'd mentioned a project when we talked earlier, can you tell us about it?

Tanner Martty: I’m working on a field guide to the pistol, the one-arm push-up, and the muscle-up. I want to share the practical approach that I use to help to speed up everyone's progress by sparing them some of the trial and error I had to go through. I've come up with a step by step system.

I'm also working on an e-book outlining how to build the requisite athletic ability to quickly learn or be able to do almost any sport or activity. Obviously, if you're trying to pick up football you'll still need the skills to catch a football—but you'll at least have the physical ability to do it. Or for another example, if you haven't ever tried a lever before, this system would have you to the level where you'd be able to do one fairly quickly. It's a minimalist guide to developing the strength, speed, mobility and movement to hold your own in any physical endeavor.

Dragon Door: How are you using FMS in your gym?

Tanner Martty: We screen all our clients with the FMS before they start training. We also use the FMS corrective drills as a part of each client's active rest—and we give them homework. I use a lot of Primal Move as part of the warm up, and in conjunction with the FMS drills. I actually sprinkle a lot of Primal Move into the metabolic portions of our workouts too. Some of the animal movement patterns are absolute metabolic killers.

Dragon Door: What's most different about your experiences with fitness?

Tanner Martty: I’ve tried many different types of physical training starting off with basketball when I was a kid, then Olympic wrestling, bodybuilding, kettlebells, before coming back to calisthenics. I've always been stubborn, because I haven't been especially physically predisposed to any of the sports or activities I've gotten in to! When I started playing basketball, I was 6'3" and weighed about 150 pounds. And 6’3" is pretty short for basketball, especially for someone can’t jump very high. But I managed to work very hard and figured out a system that worked for me. I maximized on my skills and athletic ability and earned a college scholarship.

In college, I grew to 6’4", and weighed 180 pounds. When I stopped basketball and started bodybuilding, I had the worst possible natural build for it. But with a lot of hard work and trial and error I gained a lot of muscle quickly and naturally. I ended up winning my first bodybuilding contest in the novice division and did really well in regional shows for a couple of years—despite the fact that I was always the tallest person on stage.

When I first got into kettlebells, I had a big bodybuilding frame and people thought I wouldn't last two minutes. But, I figured out a way to train which maximized my strengths, and ended up doing really well. This surprised many people at competitions.

Now getting into calisthenics—where I would normally be at a disadvantage in many moves—I’ve managed to figure out a methodical approach, and I'm happy with my progress so far. The system I’ve put together could help a lot of people from different backgrounds who want to get into calisthenics and kettlebells. At first it was tough to see a guy half my size nailing levers and muscle-ups. I really wondered if they were even possible or realistic for me. But, I like to educate and inspire others to try new things.

Tanne rMartty Performs a Muscle-up at the PCC Workshop

Dragon Door: You did a great job at the PCC, how did you feel about the workshop?

Tanner Martty: I’ve been to a lot of workshops, seminars and certifications, some great, some ok, and some aren't worth it. But at the PCC, you guys really took a lot of time, paid a lot of attention to detail, and just made it a lot of fun. At times it felt like a freestyle jam session, which was great because I tried a lot of new things I might not have in a workshop with a different vibe. You guys really did a great job with it.

Dragon Door: It's interesting, I was just talking to Frank Williams and he made a similar reference to a jam session...

Tanner Martty: Actually, Frank and I ended up being partners for the last two days and we would go back and forth trying the progressions. He'd try do a back bridge a certain way, and then I wanted to try it, and we'd go back and forth coaching each other. In just one of the 15 minute practice times we ended up working through all kinds of progressions, pushing ourselves, and developing our skills. You guys created and supported that whole environment at the PCC.

Tanner Martty With His Young Baby

The real highlight for me at the PCC was how you guys ran the workshop. You’re also a big inspiration for my girlfriend—we just had a baby about four months ago—I'm teaching her progressive calisthenics. I told her about you and showed her some of the photos and videos. Now she knows that women can do one-arm push-ups, pistols, and all that gnarly stuff—so she’s a big fan too!

TannerHandstandPushupsMuscleBeach thumbnailTanner Martty, PCC instructor, FMS, Primal Move, IKFF-2, SFG-1, Precision Nutrition Pn1 is a trainer, teacher and lifestyle transformer in Santa Monica, California.  His website is and he can also be reached via email or by calling (225) 937-7355.