Into the mind of the coach: Peter Baker

Hi. I was born in Tampa, FL in 1986, and when I was four my father and I moved to Plant City, FL.  It’s a small town, known for Strawberries. We lived in a very small house thing on my grandparents’ property, and it had no rooms, other than a bathroom.

In 2007 when I was still in college, we moved to Brandon, FL. My father was engaged to what is now his fourth wife (she is married to her fourth husband, as it were).

Now, I live in Tampa again.


  • How would you describe yourself as a child? Very active? What types of activity interested you the most? Did you get involved with sports at an early age?

As a child I was a fat, smart assed know it all. I played sports, but wasn’t remarkable. I was pretty decent as a goalie in Pee wee soccer. I also dabbled in basketball and baseball. But after a while, baseball terrified me because none of the kids could pitch worth a shit, and I would get hit a lot.

I was more into sleight of hand magic, and I managed to win 2nd place at the Florida state Magician’s Convention in 1997. And not long after that, I started playing guitar, which I still do.


  • Was any athlete your hero as a kid? If so, who?

As a kid, I was a fan of Bo Jackson. I didn’t know why I was, though. I think it was the “Bo knows best” commercials or whatever.

Now, I like him because I can see the raw talent he had before his injury.


  • Talking about heroes, please tell us a little about how pop culture (heroes and sagas) shape your communication with your audience.

I am a huge fan of pop culture. I think that and music are the realms to which we can relate to the most amount of people. Religion as well.

In fact, my degree in college was religious studies, and one of the things my favorite teacher always taught and spoke of was the relationship of religion and popular culture. In sociology they call it a functional definition, since it is defined as what it does. So in the case of fandoms—starwars, star trek, bands with huge followings—functional definitions serve to define the “thing” based on what it does. So in the terms of both religions and the fandoms, they unite people under common threads.

In powerlifting you see it. Especially with the people who ride the nuts of the USAPL. In Jiu Jitsu, you see it with people who are devoted to anything gracie, anything gi, and eschew anything. You see this with people who hate Eddie Bravo. But all the best personalities do this in any industry for marketing and the purposes of gaining followers.


  • Were you involved in sports during Highschool? How was that experience? At that age, did you already entertain the idea of becoming professionally involved with sports/training?

I didn’t do much with sports in highschool. I was a theater kid. I even entered college as a theatre major at first.


  • When and how did you decide to become a coach? Can you tell us a little about that choice and what it involved? Did your family support your decision?

In 2006 I thought it might be a good idea to train people. Later, I realized I could really help people with it.

In 2008 I started a kettlebell club at the University of South Florida, and it still exists under new leadership as the “Church of Steel and Stone.”

In 2010 I got into contact with my two coaches, Adam T. Glass and Frankie Faires, and what I learned from them then and now was a game changer.

My family supported me. My father always believed in me. He let me play guitar in the one room house late at night while he tried to sleep just so I could progress.

Basically, I wanted to train people and when it was time to get fired from my corporate job, it was officially time to start that dream.


  • Did you / are you involved in sports as an athlete? If so, how is your experience as an athlete influence your decisions in coaching?

I am currently inactive from any competing at the moment. But I plan on doing some more meets in the future. Right now, I don’t push competition on anyone I coach, but if they want to, or if they might be really good at it, I may suggest it. I have a few people I am helping in that regard.

In any competitive endeavor I tried to treat it just like a training day.

I approached powerlifting that way. I tried to keep a clear head and not get all screaming mad (I tried it once as a way to make fun of Layne Norton since we train at the same gym and it zapped the shit out of my energy).

That being said, making progress in every gym session became the norm, so it extended to competition.


  • Are you an athlete now? Tell us a little about your sports career, your achievements and your goals.

I am taking a bit of a break to build the business, but I will go back. My last and best meet I totaled 1205 in the 181lb class. I actually weighed 174 wearing jeans and a hoodie, but decided not to cut any weight.

I wound up squatting 430—I almost got 460 but I jumped the “rack” cue, benching something dismal and deadlifting 520.




  • What is your educational background? Do you think school provided you with good tools for the profession you chose?

Like I mentioned above, I got a degree in religion. It didn’t help me at all, other than being really enjoyable.


  • Sport and art, sport and culture, body culture: pick any or all of these and use them to express your perspective

The sport and culture thing is interesting. It has many religious dimensions to it. I mean religion has caused people to kill, but so have soccer matches. Some sports are so big that people riot after them.

It’s pretty sad that such intense emotions are enacted so poorly over something the fans have no control over.

At the end of the day the athletes still get paid, and the plot of land you live on is still going to be there and move on.

But yet people are still entrenched by it. Even if their team is fucking terrible (people in my town still love the tampa bay bucs).

But personally, I don’t follow many professional sports. I keep an eye out on MMA sometimes.


  • At what age did you start coaching at a professional level? How was that beginning (where, who helped you the most, what were your greatest challenges)?

I started when I was 28. I rented some space in Tampa, and my first client (and still a current one) was a guy who wanted to lose weight. At his worst, he was 500lbs.

I first gave him some general advice. He used it and got down to 377.

That’s when we started meeting in person for coaching and now he is 263lbs. Off blood pressure meds because his doctor said he didn’t need it anymore. So really, he helped me the most. I gained a lot of confidence.


  • Who were your greatest influences? Who and what impacted your work the most? Can be anything: a member of the family deeply involved with something that geared you in that direction, an athlete you admired, an author that made a difference, an experience that changed your life, etc.

For powerlifting, Ed Coan. Nice guy, big fan of listening to his body. For Jiu Jitsu, Rob Kahn. A real New York smart ass, but a very good player who seeks to make everything as useful as possible.

I also like Louie Simmons a lot. A lot of what he does and says falls in line with the way I do things. Specifically, progressing in variants of lifts if you’re training for powerlifting, and not doing the same old shit all the time.

I also can’t say it enough, but Adam Glass is the shit. He was and is a Steel Bender, Grip Athlete, Veteran in the United States Airforce, a Calisthenics master, and most importantly, a fantastic teacher and motivator.


  • If you feel comfortable, I’d like to know your thoughts about the educational background for coaches in your country: are the programs available adequate for your needs? What do you think makes a strong basis for coaching? How did you obtain this?

Some are good. Some are idiots. I think that’s about everywhere. I used to read T Nation all the time years ago, and even then—less so than now, but still noticeable then—there were different coaches writing different things that contradicted something the site hosted.

So, when it was time for me to learn, my coaches Adam and Frankie—especially Frankie—made a real emphasis on motion. One of the first things we learned when studying with him are the bones in the skeleton, and the terms of motion in which they move.

That was the minimum we needed to know. And I think communicating in those terms makes teaching movement a lot easier.


  • The golden question: what is your approach to training (your “training philosophy”, meaning the way to organize exercises in a program, progression, principles to observe, whatever you think defines YOUR approach)?

Move what needs to move when it needs to be moved. Otherwise, start where you are.


  • The gap between science and practice: in your experience, how much does current scientific knowledge on exercise physiology, kinesiology, biomechanics, etc contribute to your daily decisions in coaching and how much does it fail to?

I would say it always does. It’s always a good reference point and from there you can see what works (or doesn’t) for a student.


  • What were your biggest challenges as a coach? Can you give us some examples (stories)? What do you think contributed for you to make the best call?

Biggest challenge for me is explaining how to move to people who have lost the majority of their ability to do so in the most basic ways.

Specifically, I train a person who has little to no voluntary movement. Due to a TBI, he can’t speak. So even with him, we have to find out what he can do that particular day and go from there.

We are making some headway on his movements. Training him to keep his head up, move his eyes and head, and add in new directions when applicable.

That’s pretty challenging.

And there are some cues I can use from him to let me know if things are ok, or I should stop.


  • Some professionals in the health care fields become so traumatized when making a bad call with a patient/client that they give up. Did you ever make a bad call? How did you handle that? What advice would you give to younger people starting their coaching career?

Thankfully, I haven’t made any yet, but I will hopefully have many years ahead of me to do so. But hopefully I keep my good streak going.


  • How do you handle special groups, such as the elderly, pregnant women and the disabled? How is the communication with their primary health care professionals? Is it necessary and is it easy? What advice would you have for younger coaches when they are contacted by their first “special” client?

The focus on motion makes it vastly easier to communicate with Occupational and Physical therapists. Ironically, communicating with personal trainers becomes vastly difficult.

But it is all the same. Start with where they are. Move what needs to be moved when it is needed.


  • What is your clientele today? (types of people and their needs) Do you have a preference for one or another type?

I train a few special population people—elderly, morbidly obese, and gentlemen with the TBI. Otherwise, there are the people who just “want to get in shape.”


  • Athletes: in which way are they different (or not) from other clients?

The choice of movements to practice is different.


  • Emotional / psychological aspects of coaching: if you had to instruct a group of young coaches, what would you say is the best professional attitude a coach must have concerning the emotional burden clients bring into the coach-client relationship? Besides a general approach, do you think some types of clients demand extra emotional work? Examples: anorexic young females, low self-esteem people in general, depressed or other psychiatric condition patients, over-stressed business people, etc.

It is to meet them where they’re at. Not everyone is going to respond well to that drill sergeant schtick. If you can’t adapt, either get the fuck out, or refer them to someone else.

Some of them do demand extra emotional work. And really, that is more important than the physical work.

I don’t ever want anyone I work with dreading their visit for any reason. And I don’t want anyone to dread food, or exercise.


  • Non-presencial coaching (online programming and/or coaching): what are the challenges? What to you require from clients to conduct a successful program?

The challenges are what you would expect. Not everyone can go on and on about things, or describe things accurately. Thankfully, we have things like youtube and facetime. Makes things so much easier, because to do anything, I need to see them move.


  • You define yourself as a personal trainer, thinker and geek. Do you try to compartmentalize these different aspects of your life or are they part of your professional/personal action?

It’s all the same to me. Part of that is also helping develop that persona to gain a following. But I try to keep it all together. Makes my life easier.


Contact information:

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Instagram: @peterdbaker

Twitter: @peterdbaker



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