Fitness with a Purpose: Interview with Brian Klepacki from Critical Bench

Written By: Todd Kuslikis
December 19, 2016

Today, we’re thrilled to speak with Brian Klepacki, Owner and Head Coach of Optimax Performance Training, and Resident Strength Coach for Critical Bench.

You may know of Brian through his aforementioned credentials: almost 300,000 people have liked the Critical Bench Facebook page, and Optimax Performance Training provides some of the best person-to-person training around. That said, there’s not a lot to be found online about Brian himself.


What about Brian you can find is passionate commentary about the pitfalls of training with “no purpose.” He’s big on finding a workout program that works best for each individual person, rather than settling for a “cookie-cutter” exercise regimen. In today’s interview, we’ll ask him more about that, as well as how someone can determine whether or not their workout program falls under the dreadful “no purpose” category.

It would be difficult to find a more qualified fitness expert than Brian. He has an impressive education and training background, and has been a fitness enthusiast for over 15 years, going back to his days at his local YMCA.

Today, Brain shares with us how these humble beginnings shaped his passion for helping countless people better themselves with meaningful exercise.

You have an M.S. in Exercise Science, a B.S. in Exercise Science, you’re a C.S.C.S., C.I.S.S.N., Certified FMS Level 1, not to mention Certified CPR/AED. It’s tough to get more qualified than that and it obviously takes a lot of time. How long have you had a passion for exercise? When and how did it start?

My passion for exercise started back in 2001 when I was a sophomore in high school. I worked out at the local YMCA with some buddies and really fell in love with everything about it as time went on; the atmosphere, the camaraderie, the results…From that point on I’ve been hooked.

You’re clearly very focused on fitness and helping people get in shape. What are you doing when you’re not working on that?

I love to spend time with my family. I’m happily married and my wife and I have two beautiful boys, Eli and Ezra. I’m also an avid hunter and I love to fish, boat, camp, hike, and also build/restore furniture. Let’s just say I’m always on the move!

Tell us about Optimax Training, why you started it and what its goals are.

Knee Health Score 2

Optimax Performance Training is a local Strength & Conditioning business that I started at the end of 2014 in St. Petersburg Florida. I have big goals for my business and myself and having a brand is a must in order to succeed. In short, Optimax stands for ‘optimize your training, maximize your performance.’

My goals are to revolutionize the way everyone exercises. This will be done through a general but specialized methodology that best suites each and every individual. There’s too much false information out there and my goal is to clean it up and actually tell people the truth about fitness and nutrition.


How is that different from your other endeavor, Critical Bench?

I’ve been with Critical Bench now for over 2 years and we primarily do everything via the Internet, i.e. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter. They’ve taken me on as one of their resident strength coaches to produce high-quality reading / viewing material that will reach hundreds of thousands whereas Optimax is a local person-to-person performance training business.

So much of what you teach involves not just building strength, but mobility and flexibility as well. How are all of these intertwined?

Relying on strength alone won’t get you too far. Relying on mobility alone won’t get you too far either. Everything works together and that’s why everything needs to be trained both independently and collectively. Sure it’s good to be strong but if that’s all you do, your strength will be limited from lacking flexibility and mobility. The same goes for flexibility and mobility. These require stability, which is a result of strength. You can have one without the other but that doesn’t mean you should. If you don’t believe me, lift nothing but heavy weights for 60 days using 75% range of motion without warming up or cooling down, and then tell me how you feel!


What do you think are the biggest mistakes people make in pursuit of their own fitness?

Well there are a few and that’s for sure. When it comes to pursuing something and it just doesn’t have to be fitness, we have to learn and then apply what we learn. Most of the time I see people make the mistake of taking that ‘cookie-cutter’ approach of fitness. This would have to be the single most dangerous thing anyone can do, especially when it comes to long-term health.

Far too often people rely on outdated information or information that does not pertain to their own healthy or fitness journey yet these people take that info and apply it. I love to fish and hunt and using the right gear is crucial if I want to come home with food in my cooler. The same thing goes for fitness. One size does not fit all.

You’ve said that anyone with a six-pack and a YouTube video can call themselves an “expert.” How significant a problem do you think this is in the fitness industry?

It’s a very significant program for the general population. However, I’ve learned a great deal of information from many of the fitness greats on YouTube. The difference between me and non-fitness professionals is that I know how to differentiate between fact and opinion since this is my career and I’ve also gone to school for Exercise Science and we actually were taught how to conduct research. Nowadays people can get dangerous knowledge for free any day of the week. The unfortunate part about YouTube is that entertainment trumps education and this is a major pitfall for many.


What do you mean when you say you are passionate about “making fitness functional?”

In short, Fitness isn’t a sport. It’s a lifestyle. It’s not my job to help others do a great job at exercise. It’s my job to equip my clients and athletes with the tools and skills they need to yes, improve their fitness, but ultimately improve the quality of their life outside of the gym.

If the ‘fitness’ component isn’t carrying over to what actually goes on outside the gym, then everyone has failed. And without going into it too much, that word functional is everywhere but look at it this way, is what you’re doing (fitness) helping with the function of how your body was designed to operate?

I’m passionate about returning function to the human body. If the current course of healthcare and exercise doesn’t change, I bet you we will be seeing a lot more crippled and ailing seniors. It’s rare to find something actually training properly with the future in mind.

You’re very outspoken regarding cookie-cutter workouts that have “no purpose.” Can you tell me what you mean by that?

Everyone is different and every training program should be specialized to the needs of that individual. 9 out of 10 ‘workouts’ are filled with old-school principles that are put together by self-proclaimed experts that have no scientific or functional backbone to its design. Plain and simple.

Wouldn’t it make sense to follow the best possible program / method that is what YOU as an individual needs in order to yield the best possible results for YOU? Now I understand not everyone can hire a trained professional to help them along the way and that’s where most seekers run into problems. It’s these cookie-cutter workouts that they end up participating in and usually see poor results or worse, an injury happens.

Back to my fishing and hunting comment above, if I wanted to go fish offshore, wouldn’t it make sense to take a bigger boat, more fuel, and heavier fishing tackle?


How can a person tell if their workout falls under the “no purpose” category?

Quite frankly, that’s difficult for someone to know. If what they are doing has been recommended by a trained professional (not a YouTube star), then chances are what they are doing has a purpose. I’ve assessed hundreds of individuals over the years and from those assessments I’ve seen 100% of those individuals falling under the ‘no purpose’ category. To the untrained eye a certain exercise or workout might seem beneficial but once you truly understand how the body moves and operates in addition knowing the needs of that particular person, then you will be in a better position to tell if what he/she is doing has a purpose.

How can a person tell if their workout falls under the “no purpose” category?

We have one life to live and we should be doing everything possible to improve both quality and quantity of it before it’s too late. At the end of the day, if you haven’t done something that your future self would thank you for, you’ve wasted your time.


Optimax Performance on Facebook

Brian Klepacki on Youtube

Show/Hide Comments (2 comments)
  1. Cavakia Therlonge

    Glad I decided to read this post because I’ve never heard of Brian K until today! He’s dead right about folks working out without a solid purpose. And it’s evident by people’s actions at the gym. Without a deep solid purpose that goes beyond the surface motivation will soon take a hike. The following video is a perfect example of core motivation:

    • Todd Kuslikis

      Well Said, Cavakia.

      – Todd

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