‘American Muscle’ trainer shares his fit secrets

Mike Barwis, star of Discovery’s new series, “American Muscle,” may seem like one tough cookie but this personal trainer to some of the most elite athletes in North America is all heart.  He spoke with Fox Health about the trials and tribulations of working with world-class athletes, and what is the key to staying fit.

FOX Health:  What has been the biggest challenge for you as a trainer?

Mike Barwis:  I don’t really have a lot of challenges.  I was born to do this.  When you first meet someone, [it’s] figuring out what makes them tick.  It’s about affecting lives, not just training athletes.  One of the toughest trials is difficult to develop a relationship.

FOX Health:  Your clients range from professional athletes to paraplegics.  What is the greatest lesson your clients have taught you?

Barwis: I have trained over 500 athletes in 40 events for the Olympics.  When I was in Michigan coaching, we had a boy, Brock Dillar. They were in a serious accident where Brock was told he would never walk again. Two years he went through rehab and didn’t get better— and they said he would never walk.  

I wasn’t going to take that.  We brought him into the weight room, and he can walk a half mile.  Because of that moment, it changed my life.  I started the organization called The First Step Foundation. We work with 50 clients and have a massive waiting list. That taught me another aspect of why I was here, what I was supposed to do.

FOX Health:  What do you make of all the dietary supplements on the market claiming to build mass?  Any truth to them?

Barwis:  What you put in your body is a large portion of what results you will have.  There’s a lot of garbage out there.  We have engineered a line for our athletes. If somebody has to eat 7,000 calories a day, that’s tough to do.  If you don’t eat the right things, you won’t get the right results.  Look into what you’re actually trying to accomplish before you purchase these supplements. A trainer should advise.

FOX Health:  You’re known for your tough love.  Why has that been one of the keys of success for your clients?

Barwis: My job is to take someone beyond where they think they can physically and mentally go.  A lot of success is based on mental perseverance.  My motto is: The people I work mean to me more than I do to myself.  They are willing to endure that toughness because they know where that comes from.  My clients are my family. I’m the one that’s there when they fall.

This show is really for everyone.  It’s not just a sports show.  You see the life struggles from the athletes.  

“American Muscle” on Discovery airs on Wednesday 9/8 CST.

Fox Reporter and FOX411 host Diana Falzone covers celebrity news and interviews some of today's top celebrities and newsmakers.  You can follow her on Twitter @dianafalzone.