Interview with Swede Corey Burns

by on October 12, 2015


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Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes
So to start off for our members who don’t know you, who is Swede? I know you’re a pretty multifaceted guy.

Swede Burns
I have dabbled a bit, in many things, and a few things I’ve pursued more intently.

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes
Let’s talk about those, since you’re pretty accomplished in them.

What have your primary pursuits been?

Swede Burns
Namely powerlifting, but also bodybuiding. I first competed in powerlifting when I was in high school. I was 16 years old. Not long after that I did my first bodybuilding contest.

I competed in bodybuilding for 7 years and I still compete in powerlifting today.

(Swede is a very humble guy, so I will share this for him. Swede placed

I still do compete at the very top level in powerlifting, but I’ve become more passionate about coaching than my own athletic achievements.

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

Very Concise, I know you’ve got a lot to the story though.

Going back to your teen years, doing both powerlifting and bodybuilding, what prompted your interest in them?

Swede Burns

Quite Franky, I was a troubled teenager. I was passed around, through various correctional schools until I finally ended up in one which had a powerlifting program.

Now I’d already been playing with weights from a very young age. I think I was 11 when my parents bought me my first weight set. But this was different.

It was structured.

I was taught technique.

I followed a Systemized program for the first time.

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

It gave you a foundation that way, you would say?

Swede Burns
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Within a year I bench pressed 300 pounds in a competition, that made me hungry for it. For sure the basics are so important.

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

That’s impressive, and it sounds as though you had pretty good teachers.

Swede Burns

Many people want to just jump to being advanced without sufficient time “in the trenches”.

I had one teacher I worked with at the school, he had a background in lifting and ran the program.

To answer your original question, it was more of a need than an interest.

I needed structure and goals, and a barbell provided those things.

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

You’ve been doing this awhile, compared to many newcomers that have a “strength hacking” kind of mindset.

Swede Burns
Yes!

It’s the way of the Internet, A different world than I came up in, in regards to training and competition.

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

Listening to you tell your story, it reminds me of a quote I like “physicality begets mentality”.

Swede Burns

Excellent! And absolutely true

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

I can identify that for those that really “get into” this, it’s not so much a hobby but a process of self discovery. It quite literally “shapes” as much as it builds.

Swede Burns

By the time I graduated as a senior, that week I think it was i benched over 400 pounds in a contest. I don’t know if I’ve ever been that proud. Haha

Certainly not prior to that moment.

I guess I’ve been chasing that feeling for the decades since

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

That’s a personal accomplishment that can never be diminished, height of existence kind of moment.

Swede Burns

Right! And I loved the feel of being stronger than other people, but I loved bodybuilding. So I was pulled in that direction from there. With bodybuilding and powerlifting, I’ve never been under the impression that they were mutually exclusive. There are differences in the ideal types of training for each, but they are subtle. And like I said, I competed in bodybuilding for a long time, and did very well. My training was not much different from what I did for powerlifting.

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

Now this is good to hear. Internet culture likes to make them out to be exclusive of each other. When you were coming up though, so to speak, I imagine the attitude was pretty different?

Swede Burns

It is possible to train for bodybuilding and remain relatively weak. I think this is where a lot of the confusion starts. People see very large bodybuilders using smaller weights. Some successful bodybuilders even speak out against using heavy weights.

Even when I was coming up, this was still a thing.

However, there were also absolute monsters who trained very heavy.

Think Ronnie Coleman obviously, who has a background in powerlifting

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

One observation I’ve made with truly large guys, many of them shift into training “lighter” as they age, but their foundation of size was built lifting heavier (relatively). Its a continuum that way.

Swede Burns

I agree. Rather than asking how they train, it might be better to ask how they got big. Hahahah

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

That where the “snapshot” into training misleads people. What you do in your 20th year isn’t the same as year 1 or 2.

Swede Burns
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But even for that argument, I know of guys who never really trained heavy and still developed great physiques.

I believe they could’ve done better with some heavier compound movement training.


Myself, I started in powerlifting, so I ended up modifying a concurrent style of powerlifting training to better suit hypertrophy as a goal.

This eventually evolved into 5thSet as I transitioned back into powerlifting.

Basically to give you a picture of the bones of my training:

I would start with a heavy compound free weight movement and work up to a 4-8 rep max. This would be followed with a different compound movement hitting the same muscles for an 8 rep max, usually using a machine of some kind.


After that I’d move on and do one isolation exercise for each muscle involved in the movement.

For powerlifting, I’d use what I call a Mechanically Similar Movement (MSM) to build the strength curve. Though at the time, for bodybuilding, I found I could overload the target muscles more effectively using a machine for the secondary movement.

For powerlifting that would not be the best idea.

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

No, I think the strength adaptation would likely be limited

Swede Burns

Muscle coordination and stability is more of a priority for performance in powerlifting, so the role secondary lift is more likely to be a movement that would assist a weak phase of the competitive lift, for that goal.

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

For strictly hypertrophy though, less of priority obviously

This is very cool, the Mountain Methodology is somewhat similar in fact.

Swede Burns

Right! And of course it is haha, and that’s not to say that heavy compound free weight movement is not the best way to start each session for a bodybuilder, I believe it is.

My opinion is simple

Strength should still be a priority for a bodybuilder and it’s easy to see why. It allows you to move heavier loads. Heavier loads impose a greater adaptive stimulus, and so they promote greater physiological adaptation, not the least of which will be hypertrophy.

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

In MD method, you start with a compound variant that you can work to overload/positive failure on

Then you follow with another movement, typically the second one is the “primary”

Then follow with a sequence of isolation or possibly compound exercises for each muscular aspect of the primary muscles involved

Swede Burns

Oh that’s interesting.


Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

Not dissimilar at all

Swede Burns

But you do not go beyond failure?

Am I understanding that correctly

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

You are. Not every movement is taken to failure in fact. The first movement you often will, the second is often done for mid range reps 6-8. The focus is on quality working sets

Swede Burns

Yes, very similar then.

The main difference I suspect would be that I emphasize the importance of using heavier and heavier weights for the first movement.

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

John trained at Westside (as a bodybuilder) in the mid 90s, so there is an influence of concurrent training in the method.

Swede Burns

That is a priority.

I can see that.

It seems to have worked well for him. Hahah

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

Hell yes it has! The MD method, the reason the second exercise is essentially the heavier of the two.

John noted over time that going hard and heavy on the first compound movement tended to heighten wear and tear on the joints and connective tissue.

So for the sake of injury prevention, he changed the sequencing

Swede Burns

Injury prevention and longevity are my main concerns as a coach. Well, aside from performance, of course.

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

That’s one of the guiding principles behind the Mountain Dog Method. Intelligently designed training that keeps you progressing and injury free

Swede Burns

Very interesting.

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

Definitely. Specificity leads to the goal

And your lifters are noted for pretty damn muscular as well

Swede Burns

That’s one thing, other than their numbers, which sets my lifters apart.

They are all jacked.

Which begs the question: how much assistance work does a powerlifter really need in order to be jacked?

The answer is- less than most people think.

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

Absolutely, its very cool to see.

And your 5th Set method, one thing among many I found notable, you have a simple but effective progression model for building muscle with rep work

Versus a lot of systems which tend to just say “do some reps/band pushdowns”

Swede Burns

Right- “do 50 total reps”


Measuring total work for powerlifting movements is fine. You are performing X number of lifts at a certain percentage. Measuring total reps does work.

But there are more factors to consider for hypertrophy, that’s why I feel like structure is so important for assistance work.

Simply saying 50 total reps for pull ups, for example, is not enough.

Even with the main lifts we have guidelines of reps per set from the Prilepin chart, so why would assistance work be any different?

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

YES. People seem to completely overlook that in regards to hypertrophy.

Swede Burns

That’s one of my bigger contributions and it’s included in the methodology. It’s part of what makes it a truly complete method of training

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

Its grounded in applied principles and experience, and you’ve got a hell of a track record.

Since I know the audience might not be familiar with it, what are the basics of the 5thSet Method. Where does the name come from?

Swede Burns

It certainly works, to give you a brief overview;

For any given mesocycle (training week) you would be working with a maximum of 2 of the competitive lifts with the 5thSet protocol in their respective sessions, and the remaining competitive lift(s) would be performed using the technique/speed protocol.

The 5thSet protocol itself, it has the lifter perform 4 sets of 2 reps with 80% 1RM, followed by a 5th set of as many reps as possible. That’s where the name comes from.

You see it’s similar in that way to the MD method a bit.

Except that the first four sets are also providing a neural adaptation for the movement you will then do for AMRAP. Hence, better carryover for strength performance, which is the goal in this case. As the cycles go on you are handling heavier and heavier poundages. And the rep range for the 5th set is often ideal for hypertrophy.

You are starting to get a picture of why my lifters are so developed

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

Yeah, I bought the book the day it came out. “Simplicity=Effectivity”

But I hadn’t ever seen strength development programmed in such a way. You are getting quality reps in for strength work and then finishing it off with a hypertrophy set. Its creates a total “sweet spot” for strength/hypertrophy.

Swede Burns

Again, I’ve never believed they were mutual exclusive. It turns out I was correct. And I’m in a unique situation where I have a tremendous amount data I’ve collected myself from using and modifying the program for over a decade with myriad lifters

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

You’ve an abundance of lifters you’ve directly coached and worked with and gotten results with.

Something that the majority of the “online trainers/coaches” do not have in fact

Swede Burns

That’s the thing, I’ve always been in the trenches. I’ve never been an online coach, or considered myself that. I guess things are heading in that direction at this point and I’ve always worked with people online, but I am at every major meet. I am at home coaching at a meet and I’ve handled 12-14 lifters from my team at a single meet and had them all PR.

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

That’s the proving ground for a trainer/coach. You have an individual in front of you, what kind of performance can you get out of them

Swede Burns

The fact is some of these online experts have done one powerlifting meet; how do you justify proclaiming yourself an expert at something you’ve only read about?

Never understood that.

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

If a bodybuilder was to approach you wanting to try powerlifting and use your method, what would your initial process be for him to get started?

Swede Burns

I have quite a few who have done just that. I have two competitive bodybuilders on my powerlifting team right now.

I move them right directly into a 5thSet template. It’s a simple as that. This part is going to sound hard to believe, but they get more muscular development from 5thSet than what they’d already been doing for bodybuilding

One example comes to mind, Justine Albert.

She’d been competing in figure when she first approached me about working with her and her husband for powerlifting.

She was very lean, almost contest shape, around 130-135 pounds.


And
At this point I’ve been working with her for almost two years and she is around 165 pounds at the same bodyfat.

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

DAMN. That is impressive

Swede Burns

Its been a transformation. A lot of that is diet, obviously.

But the training works, and Keyhole Barbell is a place where the girls could kick most guy’s asses, and yet, they remain beautiful women.

You know Tarra Oravec just deadlifted 500 pounds in a meet, benches almost 300 pounds, squats in the 400’s.

Sin Leung is another girl, she went from went from #27 to #7 on the powerlifting watch best of the best list, in 6 months using 5thSet.

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

Bros everywhere are going to burst into tears reading this

Swede Burns

Lots of emotional distress -and hurting butts. Tarra, the only lifting program she’s ever done has been 5thSet. Most of my lifters that is true for, I love a clean slate.

Now, everyone is doing it. A lot of lifters who’ve already had some success are coming to the 5Th Set dark side

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

That’s something that’s under recognized,

An effective method, its not how “fast” it can be made work in the short term, but for how long it continues to work and produce results in the long term

Swede Burns

Yes, no one becomes a legend overnight, and to get to that level requires longevity. That’s been a huge consideration I’ve learned at my own expense.

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

We’ve covered a lot of awesome points so far,

Bringing it back to yourself, what future personal goals do you have for your own lifting?

Swede Burns

I want to bench 600 pounds raw in a meet. I’m also playing with the idea of doing single ply, full power.

That 600 has been haunting me forever. I need that for some closure. Haha

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

What’s been your best in competition? You are known for being a hell of a presser

Swede Burns

My best bench in a meet is 530, which is sad, because at that time I was on track for a 565-570 bench, but I was injured in the meet with 550 after the 530.

I still finished the meet, I never bombed out or not finished a meet in 19 years of doing them, but I was hurt bad. It took the wind out of my sails for awhile.

After that my focus was drawn away from my competitive goals and put toward my team and business for a couple of years.

Now I’m setting my sights back on putting up good numbers while I still can.

So many hiccups along the way. The focus is always on my lifters and never on myself.

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

I look forward to it; I know that’s a story unto itself

You’ve published some excellent articles on Elitefts, and had your eBook released through them as well, which I would HIGHLY recommend to everyone that’s a serious trainee in bodybuilding or powerlifting

Where could people best contact you for help or coaching if they wanted?

Swede Burns

I use email for everything. Mfswede@yahoo.com and I am also on facebook and INSTAGRAM

It might sound crazy, but so many people contact me through Instagram: Mfswede

I’m not sure if that’s the next big thing for Internet marketing or not, but I try to keep a social media presence.

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

Being accessible to people is crucial, people want to know someone is genuine.

And thanks for the time brother! Always a pleasure talking to you

Swede Burns

Thank you man! I appreciate the opportunity to reach a different audience, and it’s always a pleasure to chat with you as well