Coach Spotlight: Michael Burgos

I'm Michael Burgos. Also apparently Genghis Khan. Also apparently a body double for the character Random Task from the Austin Powers movies.
Time to peer behind the curtain and get to know your BLOC Staff Coaches a little better. It takes a special kind of person to dedicate himself or herself to coaching people for a living. Proceed at your own risk.

Michael Burgos

What is your name?

I’m Michael Burgos. Also apparently Genghis Khan. Also apparently a body double for the character Random Task from the Austin Powers movies. Also apparently a fat version of BJ Penn with a beard. Also apparently Carl Raghavan’s brother, the one that has the anthropometry of the yellow M&M instead of Carl – who has the anthropometry of the red M&M.  

What do your parents or spouse call you when you are in trouble?

My wife and I don’t use our actual names with each other. Instead, when someone dun did sumthin, a sharp, “HEY,” is shouted across the room. I get “HEY’d” more often than she does.

Do you have any embarrassing nicknames? What are they?

When I used to train and coach at the local Starting Strength affiliate gym before it was closed by the head coach, I had a penchant for wearing sleeveless print A-shirts that had cute, fat pandas on them. They were often hot pink, purple, or a pale red. I earned the nickname “Panda” because of these shirts and it’s stuck with a few coaches who knew the story.

What actor or actress would you like to play you in a movie?

I think Aubrey Plaza would do a really good job capturing how inhumanly awkward I can be in social situations.

How long have you been coaching?

Full-time, about a year. I’d been doing the “side-hustle” gig for about 5 years before that.

Have you had other careers, or currently work in another field? What are they?

I was an occupational therapist with a subspecialty in rehabilitation of the hand, wrist, and upper quarter for way too long. Anyone that works in outpatient rehabilitation happily is insane and was probably a mentor of mine at one point. Sorry, Donna, Jen, Jenn, Troy, and Nick. Rehab sucks. I don’t know how y’all do it.

If you could time travel back to when you first started coaching, what advice would you give yourself?

The program is rigid, but you can be flexible. You’re working with people, not machines. They are not you, and you are not them. Strength is the foundation of everything, but it may not be theirs, and that’s OK. Coach, don’t badger. Teach, don’t lecture. Cue, don’t cheer. And for God’s sake, forgive yourself when you make a mistake. You’re going to make a lot.


Also, on that first seminar, no matter what Danielle says — do. not. opt. in. You are not ready.

What are some of your favorite things to do when you’re not working or training?

The things that bring me joy are learning and talking about learning with people. Whether that’s drilling a new technique in martial arts, or relearning how to use an old technique, reading a book, or just sitting and staring at the water while I think about things that I “know” and wonder if they’re true or not — discovering information makes me happy.


Or, I completely forgot all that junk and binge on anime, cartoons, and video games.


There’s no gray area on that one. I’m either completely invested in bettering myself with a thoughtful pursuit of skill and truth, or I’m holding in my poop because my YouTube video about some random dudes comparing cheap pastas vs. expensive pastas is still going and the one neuron that I have active is totally into it right now.

What is your favorite lift?


Where do you live?

In my head, mostly. Also, Hampton, VA.

What is your favorite animal print?

I didn’t expect this question to be as hard as it was. Would a pair of Zubaz count as an “animal print”?

Gym cat, dog or something else?

Gym doggos only, please.

How long have you been training?

Oh geez. I dunno. “Lifting”? Maybe ten years? Training as we define it? Definitely less than that, five years maybe? 

What is the most embarrassing moment from any dark days of “lifting” that you may have had?

uhhh… this.


I can’t figure out how to download it. But if you do, I’m sorry. It’s kind of amazing really.

(You need a facebook account to look at this.)

What do you love about training? 

I don’t think I love anything about training anymore. It’s kind of what I do now and an investment into myself. But if I’m being honest, I like wielding my strength more than I like building it these days. Not that I dislike training, but my relationship with my barbell has its ebb and flow just like everyone else.

What do you love about coaching? 

The look in someone’s eyes after they stare down a demon and hit a lifetime PR. More specifically, the moment before they cheer, scream, or sigh in relief. The split-second where the emotions are all mixed up…the fight-flight reflex, the deer-in-headlights, the kamikaze pilot stare, the joy, the fear, the surprise, and the numbness of the completed grind all wrapped up into one moment. It’s beautifully and chaotically human and I think it’s a moment we can all relate to as barbell people.

What lifting achievement are you most proud of?

Not crapping my pants this week.


Would you rather magically increase each of your PRs by 20%, or magically increase one of your lifts by 100%?

Magically increase one of my lifts by 100% 

Would you rather not have to eat food and have your ideal body composition, or get to eat 6,000 calories per day and have your ideal body composition?

Get to eat 6,000 calories per day and have my ideal body composition.

How many lifting-related shirts do you own? 


What or who gets you to train when your motivation is really low?

I train because I’m afraid.


I’m afraid because I’ve seen what being physically weak, overfat, and unskilled can do to people having worked in hospitals and nursing homes during my studies to become an occupational therapist. In the clinic, I saw how weaker and more frail people who endured unfortunate accidents didn’t heal well.


I’m afraid because both of my parents developed very aggressive cancers around the same age I am now, maybe a little bit older, and somehow survived but now they’re both significantly weaker and are rapidly losing their ability to do the things they used to do. Eventually, they won’t be able to take care of themselves because of the effects of their illnesses, treatments, and life choices to remain weak.


I’m afraid because I have autoimmune diseases and chronic injuries of my own that I’ve earned by being unhealthy or undisciplined in my approach to training and living that now have potentially serious implications on my ability to age successfully. I’m afraid of losing my ability to interact with my world, with my family, and with my friends.


I’m afraid of dying early. Afraid of dying frail. Afraid of living while being a useless burden to my family.


So that’s why I train. I get stronger. I eat a lot of nutritious foods (maybe too much) to nourish my body to hopefully stave off illness and injury as long as I can. I train so I can earn a better future for myself, so I can take care of my family and the people that are important to me.

Pre-workout of choice

Palms spaghetti. Knees weak, arms spaghetti. There’s s’ghetti on his sweater already, Mom’s spaghetti. He’s nervous. But on the surface he looks calm spaghetti to drop bombs, but he keeps on spaghetti what he wrote down…

What are some of your go-to lifting songs?

Oh boy. I knew this was coming eventually. My favorite kind of music, and subsequently what gets played when I’m lifting, is incongruent genres. If it sounds like two things that don’t belong together, then I probably like it. Like,


Folk Metal


Chiptune Punk Rock


Whatever This Is

What is the most embarrassing song you like?

A Eurobeat version of Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way”. Just answering the question.

What’s one of your personal lifting superstitions?

The bar has to “feel right”. I have to do the exact stance. The exact same preparatory movements. The exact same cadence. I have to go “full robot” to even have a chance of the rep going well.

What are some of your lifting-related goals for this year? 

I dunno, don’t die? Programming into the permanent ambiguity that is my lifting goals is one of the reasons I wouldn’t want to coach me.

Do you plan on competing in a meet this year? If so, what are your goals?

I’ll be doing the USSF Online Exhibition! I hope to not poop my pants as I aim for some lifetime PRs. Whatever those are. I’d be OK with matching my 251 lb press, mostly. But if I don’t make it, whatever. I’m still as strong as I can be in this particular moment. PRs are nice, but I get more excited about my clients’ PRs than my own.

What have you learned about yourself from barbell training?

You really can turn a hobby into a career and a vehicle for bettering your and others’ lives. That “climbing the ladder” is old hat, just own the ladder. Be your own boss and live life on your terms. Life’s too short to waste away in an office, forcing small talk with people who don’t care about you and that, if you’re being honest with yourself, you don’t care about either.

Who is someone you’d love to try barbell training and why?

Are you a human? Do you like doing human things like effortlessly walking to…somewhere over there…while you’re alive? What about obtaining sustenance independently? Food is good, yes? Or perhaps you enjoy pain-free sexual intercourse with your partner?


Barbell training supports doing all of these things throughout your lifespan, so you should probably start doing that.

Do you have a role model? Who is it and why?

Not anyone in particular, but folks that think hard and speak freely I admire a lot. I spent most of my life blindly following the orders of authority figures in my life without ever examining biases or assumptions behind what they were telling me. 

Dead or alive, who would you love to lift with?

I’d take lifting with my friends any day over lifting with some kind of celebrity or something.

If BLOC made a yearbook, which do you think you’d most likely win?

Most likely to have a face that looks like everyone else’s face.

How much do you love to eat? 1 – It’s a chore ….. . 5 – What are we eating next???


What’s your favorite meal? Please use as much detail as possible.

Alright. It’s gotta be “sauce, meat, and starch.” That’s the formula.


Adobo is a Filipino dish where, generally, dark meat chicken or fatty pork is cooked in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, peppercorn, onions, and bay leaves. If you really know what you’re doing, you jam that up with some AJI-NO-MOTO. You can’t call it MSG though, it’s AJI-NO-MOTO. Get it right. Alright, now you throw a bunch of that chicken on top of a big-ass pile of white jasmine rice (not that Uncle Ben’s garbage, GTFOH with that shit), drown it in the broth, and inhale repeatedly until you regret everything you’ve ever done.


Spaghetti bolognese, loco moco, bimimbap, donburi, phat si-io.





What was your favorite childhood TV show?

Invader Zim. Hands down. Everyone go home. If you haven’t watched the Netflix special, you’re missing out.

What is a movie that you have watched over and over and over again?

The best movie ever made was BASEketball. Fight me. It’s followed very quickly by Idiocracy and Grandma’s Boy.

Tell us your best dad joke. 

What’s brown and sticky?





A stick.

What advice do you have for a new lifter? Or a lifter who’s been doing this a while? 

Listen to your coach, but don’t follow blindly. Communicate your needs. You don’t get to pass judgment or get upset when you play by rules to a game you never told anyone you were playing.

Anything else you would like to share with your BLOC brethren and sistren? 

I’m not this verbose in person. I grew up on the internet and can best express myself in writing. That’s entirely my fault though and has nothing to do with you. So if I stutter, slur, curse, or eject myself from social situations, it’s because talking to other humans is an adaptive stressor for me and I need to recover.

(video) 535×1. Sound On.



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