UNDO Issue Five: Attitude Is Everything – Curtis Williams

Curtis Williams, a former NFL athlete, and personal trainer, discusses his unique approach to composing workouts and finding balance in his life.

From 2005 to 2007, Curtis Williams played for the New York Giants, the Jets, and Baltimore Ravens. In 2012, he became NYU’s first strength and conditioning coach. Today, he owns a private gym in New York City’s trendy Chelsea neighborhood called Training C.A.M.P., where he trains everyone, from professional athletes to average Joes to get fit.

While many fitness professionals strain to get followers and any form of recognition on social media, Williams stands apart with his dynamic clips. His movements are often explosive, powerful, and, at times, captivating: He jumps on boxes stacked almost his height, sprints with abnormal amounts of resistance bands around his waist, and does speed workouts with precision and swiftness.

We were left with questions and wanted to know more about him. Here’s what we learned.

UNDO: How do you piece together workouts for yourself and different clients?

Williams: My philosophy stems from simply determining the appropriate progressions with my exercise selections. I typically like to combine basic movements with exercises that are more dynamic and challenge your core, strength, and coordination all at once. As a performance specialist, I focus on training efficient movement over isolating body parts. Each session has injury prevention, hip mobility, muscle-imbalance corrective exercises, core work, strength and some form of athletic drills. My programs are developed to optimize the performance of every client and keep him or her moving all while remaining injury-free.

What skills and knowledge do you think your background as an NFL player gave you?

I have a great understanding of how to structure a training program as a result. It also gives me perspective on what motivates my athletes and how to tap into their psyche to push them to be at their best and optimize their performance.

Why do you pair opposing exercises together?

I typically combine certain movements together during my workouts because I’m always challenging and pushing the limits of my body. I want to move better and be strong in creative ways. Your body moves in so many different ways, and there’s nothing more empowering than performing any movement you want. As a coach, I simply maximize that by showing my clients it’s possible with the appropriate progressions and a will to be great. I’m an artist with a B.A. in art studio and computer graphics, so that plays a factor in the creative element of my training.

What are the benefits of blending these workouts?

There are tons of benefits to my style of training. The main one is that it’s fun. It’s always challenging but reasonable for people of all ability levels. My challenge is to get my clients to perform things that they never thought were possible and to see how far they’ve come in the process. As a professional athlete, I know that’s what motivates me to train hard and learn every day. 

Another benefit is that it is time efficient. Combining different exercises allows us to get a lot done. I don’t equate one’s accomplishment to how long he or she has spent at the gym; rather, it’s what he’s actually gotten done in the time he was there.

My style of training enables my clients to maximize their time and keep moving during the whole session. By the time they look up to check the time, it’s over!

How can average athletes best improve their fitness?

Attitude is everything. As cliché as it sounds, to be great at anything, you have to start with the idea that nothing can stop you, no matter where you’re starting off at. When saying this, be realistic about your own abilities. Being a beginner is okay—everyone has had to start somewhere. Putting your ego aside is part of the process. Accept the idea of being humbled and being humbled often. Just continue to push your limits, and stay positive during your journey.

I encourage those just starting off to develop a foundation in moving with their own body weight. Perform simple movements until they are perfected and gradually add to them as your foundation gets stronger. It’s not really about the intensity or speed. It’s more about the quality of the movement pattern. Intensity will come with efficiency. You just have to have the patience to progress appropriately. It will not only help you reach your goals but keep you training injury-free in the long term.

Talk to us about balance. How do you encourage your clients to seek balance in their lives?

Balance is everything with my clients. I’m able to get my clients to understand balance by explaining the science of recovery and the importance of mentally decompressing when necessary. It’s not always about the training and breaking the body down. Fueling your body to get it to perform at its best is a critical component to my program, but I do encourage indulging in moderation. Being too extreme with your training and nutrition isn’t healthy. Everything in moderation. Eventually, you’ll burn out.

Attitude is Everything : Illustration by Marcela Szwarc

How do you implement training in your life?

I still train myself as if I were getting ready for camp. The main difference is that I incorporate a lot more mobility, flexibility, and injury prevention in my program. This assures that I’m still able to move and perform how I want while developing muscle.

How do you personally find balance?

I work extremely hard….I typically work seven days a week. At least five of those days are 14-hour workdays. When I have time off, I make sure to see my family, take surf lessons, hang out with friends, or do something fun during the little time I have for myself.

Favorite cheat meal or indulgence?

Cap’n Crunch, French toast, and french fries.

Advice for those seeking a six-pack?

Nutrition paired with burning the appropriate amount of calories are important. Everyone’s bodies respond differently. Some people have to be extremely disciplined in order to get the abs they want, while others are genetically gifted. As a coach, I focus more on movement than developing muscle. The goal for an athlete is to be lean and move great. How they look at the end is essentially a byproduct of their training.

Writer: Lindsay Novis
Illustrator: Marcela Szwarc

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