The Man Behind Ironmac
IronMac is the training name of top strength and conditioning coach Andy McKenzie, the founder of Combined Strength.
Andy’s expertise is founded on his impressive military background, his broad experience as an elite S&C coach, and his outstanding performance as an athlete in his own right.
He lives and trains by his I AM philosophy.
Andy’s remarkable career began when he joined the Army – passing P Company, the toughest test in the British Military, and earning his maroon beret at the impressively young age of 17.
His physical and mental fortitude were tested and proved during 11 years of active service with 7th Parachute Regiment RHA, seeing action in Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Macedonia and Iraq.
But the greatest challenge to Andy’s resilience was an accident that fractured his spine in three places. When the doctors told him he would never run or parachute again, Andy defied their prognosis, and began working relentlessly on a rehabilitation programme. Within 18 months, he was back to parachuting and full operational fitness, and beyond. He now deadlifts three times his own bodyweight, and is renowned for his exceptional core strength and ability to adapt to any challenge set.
Everyone who has worked with Andy has benefitted from the skills he developed underpinning his own recovery: IronMac’s frightening ability to identify weakness in even the strongest body, and his talent for correcting flaws through intelligent programming and attention to technique are some of the reasons why he is highly sought after within the world of strength and conditioning.
Andy’s natural ability as a trainer came to the fore when he spent the next 5 years pursuing his goal of transferring into the Royal Army Physical Training Corp (RAPTC). During that time, he was awarded top student on his PTI Class 2 and 3 courses and then spent 2 years honing his skills as Lead Instructor for Pre-Parachute selection. With a fearsome reputation as the most unrelenting instructor on the course, he propelled trainees to the peak of physical performance – if you got through one of his hill rep sessions, then you were ready!
The next step was to apply his learning to recruits at Army Training Centre Pirbright ATC (P). His diligent work and hunger for delivering the best training possible saw him ranked No.1 amongst 45 other high calibre trainers. The final hurdle was the gruelling 9 months long Probationers Course to stand amongst the ranks of the Royal Army Physical Training Corp.
Andy was selected for further training at DMRC Headley Court to qualify as a remedial specialist and was then posted back to ATC Pirbright to head up one of the largest rehabilitation centres outside of Headley Court.
In 2008, Andy left the forces. He now brings the full weight of his military training and experience to bear in his work as a strength and conditioning coach.
IronMac’s experience and reputation means that those who demand the best will seek him out.
Andy is currently working with a plethora of professional and amateur athletes here in the UK and worldwide. They all seek one thing and that is to move better, get stronger and be mentally unstoppable.
His love for challenges and his considerable programming ability was put to the test when he was asked to train the first ever amputee team to walk to the North Pole in 2011.
IronMac is passionate about rugby and throughout his career, has coached a number of civilian and army clubs to success. Cobham Mini’s Section (note from IronMac – this was some of the toughest coaching I have ever done!), Guildford RFC, and both First and Development squads from Royal Artillery and Army Rugby League. He also held the position of Head of Strength and Conditioning at Rugby League’s Celtic Crusaders reserve squad during their inaugural Super League season, which fostered some awesome young Welsh talent who continue to play national and international rugby league. From 2010 to 2015, IronMac was S&C coach for East Grinstead RFC. The club’s performance rocketed, blasting teams away with sheer physical dominance.
Andy has also worked with the British Army in a consultative role, working as a specialist rehabilitation advisor. He was responsible for mentoring students, delivering education and overseeing the continuing professional developments of physiotherapists and rehabilitation instructors whilst working with an extremely demanding and mixed case of sporting injuries and amputees. He was also part of the development team implementing change that saw the Special Forces Support Group at St Athan upgrade from a Primary Care Facility to a Regional Rehabilitation Unit.
IronMac lives what he teaches, and believes that coaching at the highest level requires personal experience of the physiological and psychological effects of training and competition.
Ever since joining the Army as a young man, he has competed in a number of different sports. Boxing for the Junior Army team as a bantamweight, then running the Manx Mountain Marathon at 16 years old was quite an introduction to competition.
The ever-present challenge of overcoming physical and mental pressure is what drives Andy to act on the mere suggestion that it can’t be done. This will set off a cascade of research on how to get the best out of the human body and put it into practice with a specific programme to ensure results can and will happen.
Working from a sound base of strength, IronMac has competed in endurance and strength based events with equal success and winning various competitions.
During his time in the Army, he was part of a dominant triathlon and cross country team that won numerous Army titles in sprint and Olympic distance triathlons, duathlons and running events.
Once Andy heard of the UK Strength and Power Series in 2010, and with his love of strongman events, he stuck his marker in the sand and announced that he was going to win some 8 weeks out from the date – and indeed did so, convincingly.
Since then Andy has been continuing to work on his passion of bodyweight mastery, Olympic weightlifting and all round beast like strength.
In 2012, the opportunity came to lead a team around the Yukon River Quest. To put it mildly, IronMac simply does not enjoy rowing. This was seen as the perfect opportunity to really test his mental strength and physical endurance on the longest canoe race in the world.
The trip was a huge success, the team recorded the fastest ever time for a ‘new comer’ voyageur boat completing the 715km race in 54 hours and 57 minutes, taking 3rd position and raising well over £80,000 for the Help 4 Heroes charity.
I AM PHILOSOPHY
“I AM” is very personal to me. It practically guides how I approach life and ultimately empowers me, my athletes and clients to achieve more than they thought imaginable.
How can two words that seem so small and meaningless on there own, yet put them together, they can be the real difference between achieving, or resigning yourself to another failure.
As a young man or woman (well any age really) you tend to listen to everyone else and with that impose their limits into your own mind. We tend to constantly measure and compare ourselves with others, when the real secret is to be ultimately responsible for your own actions- in the gym, with your diet, at work, in everyday life.
I will never forget being on the P Company 10 miler as part of the last week of tests before earning my maroon beret. After weeks of being demolished in the gym, early morning runs, hill reps that would make your eyes bleed and literally no chance to really recover, ever! – the true test to serve in Airborne Forces was finally coming through- the mind that will literally keep the body going, regardless.
My mind was haunted with the stories of others (that failed) on how fast the pace was, the unrelenting instructors that would throw you in the ‘jack’ wagon if you fell behind, the super fit guys that had sailed through previous tests, normally broke and were never seen again…
“I AM never going to get through this” was replaying in my mind over and over again until I suddenly thought “how the f*ck is this helping me?”
“I AM passing that man in front of me, and then the next” Admittedly there was a few more expletives throughout that 1hr and 50 minutes of blistering pace, but I cannot, and will not, ever forget the difference these two words can make
No one speaks to you more than your own mind. I AM… should always be followed with words that will inspire and make you feel awesome.