I recently posted on the Girls Gone Strong Facebook page telling a story about my “surprise strength training benefit.” You can read it here:
“The last time I went bowling (before last month) was probably 9-10 years ago (before I started lifting). I always remembered the bowling balls being SO HEAVY I would always look for an 8-10 lb. ball.
Last month I went bowling and hasn’t even thought about how much I had changed in the last 9 years, and when I went to pick up the ball it felt like a feather!! In fact, I flung it over my head and start overhead pressing it and doing windmills with it!
It felt so weird!“
(NOTE: My sister-in-law reminded me that I actually went bowling in 2006, but I don’t remember it, so it doesn’t count! ;-D)
After an 80 lb. Turkish Getup, a bowling ball feels like a feather!
Then I posed the question: ”When has your strength surprised you in an “everyday situation?”
I got some awesome answers! Check them out below!
Nicola Murray I almost dropped my daughter while lifting her the other day. I went to toss her above my head (as you do with kids, obviously) and she was lighter than I anticipated. Good thing my reaction time has improved too!
Carla Tang I have a 10 y/o chocolate lab with bad joints. After running the other day she was so sore she couldn’t get into bed and just cried. I figured I would at least try to pick her up though I had failed before. She felt very light albeit a bit awkward at her 80lbs!
Stacie Larabell Now, when I’m doing some killer ab workout with my trainer, I remember when I couldn’t do even one full sit up 5 years ago.
Amanda Meddaugh I can change those big ol’ 5 gallon water jugs at work all by myself. I used to need assistance =]
Bobbejo Maynard Kohler It might sound stupid but I always pick lettuce by feel. The other day all the lettuce felt light. My husband starting laughing at me and said whats wrong is the lettuce light.
Alma Mebar I was rushing to get into my cab that had arrived to take me to the train station. My very chunky and heavy 1-year old started crying so I picked her up to carry her on my left hip, while I grabbed my heavy suitcase with my right hand, and ‘ran’ down the stairs. Once in the cab I realized what I had done – and how easy and effortless it was! I did it so smoothly and without thinking, or breaking a sweat. A few months before that I would’ve had to do 2 trips up the stairs – one to get the suitcase and drag it down, and one to get my daughter, and would’ve been panting both times and sweating like crazy! It’s exactly in those moments that I remember why I train so hard.
Anna Goska The first time I noticed it was when I stacked 5 loads of laundry (two tall baskets) on top of each other and carried them to the car without a problem. I was amazed!
Joy Spaulding Every day! I just went to work in the field for our chimney business and hoisted the ladder off the truck…first time ever! Plus everything is easier, watering my horses, i curl the full 5 gallon buckets now!
Karly Gomez 45lb sand bags that we have to load in the back of the pick-up during the winter months. I used to only be able to drag them out of the garage to the truck while my husband put them in the back. This time I was able to pick the bags up, host on my shoulder and throw in the back of the truck I also notice it when hauling heavy yard bags to go to the dump.
Carrie King-Myers When I went to lift a box. Thought I needed hubby but no, that was 10 yrs ago, I got this!
Marie Shipp I was able to load and carry #50 bags of feed all through my pregnancy. It was fun shocking the boys at the feed store when I would help load my own feed, with a huge baby belly
Diana Fisler Rototiller! I wrestled that thing with all my weight to till the garden when I was skinny. Then I got strong. I was so confused when it felt like a toy the next time I used it.
Michelle L Hill When I threw a classmate last week in jujitsu and then got thrown like a piece of meat onto the mat….and then said…that felt good….
Christina Doody I work at a restaurant. I used to have to change the soda syrup bags in the back. I used to barely be able to pick up the boxes. Last month, I picked up the box, carried it quite a distance, and hooked it up to the machine, with almost no problem! The guys can always do this with ease, but it was an accomplishment for me!
Amber Lauren Kelly I work at pet store where we sell large bags of dog food and heavy buckets of salt water. I have always asked one of the guys to pick them up since the first time I tried I was reminded that I had the upper body strength of a newborn. Well the other day I decided to man excuse me, Girl up and try. I lifted that salt water bucket like it was the infant and smirked when the boys asked if I needed help carrying it out side!!!
Saskia Schijf Grab my kids for fun and when they are bad behaving. I just put them on my shoulder for a squat or to carry them upstairs
Georgia Rakusen I used to think I was strong, but nothing like I am now. I’ve been on the road with work exhibiting at trade shows. We have to unload the van, set up big flat screen TVs on heavy stands in the show, then carry everything back out and put it in the van. Usually I’m with a man who offers to do it, I let them help so as not to make them feel useless, but actually it is far easier and quicker for me to do it all by myself
Claire Wood carrying shopping from the car . . its my everyday farmers walk . .
Angela Reed Me and my hubby went bowling a few years ago had a great time decided to drive to the supermarket afterwards only to discover we still had our bowling shoes on ….we were in stitches laughing so much (not related to strength but funny)
Lisa Callaghan-Goddard I regularly have to carry large boxes weighing upwards and 50lbs, many times lifting directly off the floor and more than one box at a time. Squatting heavy things has made this a breeze and I now actually relish the chance to get in a deep squat and show the boys how it’s done. I’ve been offered help before and actually said “Thanks, but I’m okay. I’m not exactly a delicate flower.”
SO COOL! So now I’m asking you…
“When has your strength surprised you in an “everyday situation?”
You can get in great workouts just using your body weight!
Happy Spring y’all!
It’s April and I couldn’t be more excited! Warm weather is on it’s way and I have a few trips/vacations planned soon, so I am in a great mood.
Speaking of warm weather and vacations, several of our clients have been on, or are about to go on Spring Break and they were asking for workouts that they could do while on vacation! Since a lot of them won’t have access to a gym or any type of equipment while they are gone, I put together 2 full-body workouts they can do while they are on vacation!
Keep in mind that the workouts I have put together are for the “lowest common denominator.” That is, I made them as simple and easy as possible, so that they work for everyone. You can easily up the intensity of difficulty of these workouts by adding weight, adding reps, adding rounds, holding the position longer, etc. So if you do the workouts and don’t find them to be super challenging, make sure you adjust according to your ability level.
Alright, I won’t keep you waiting any longer… here we go!
“Hi! I’m trying to find some information on doing hip thrusts – I’ve got all of Contreras’ stuff – the trouble I’m having is how to work with the weights between bare bar and 135. I can’t roll the bar up to the right spot because the plates aren’t high enough to clear my thighs, but leaning forward and trying to pick up a loaded bar while seated is a bad idea. I also don’t have a training partner who can help. Any tips?” - Rebecca
Hi, Rebecca! Thanks for writing in with this question as it’s one we get a lot from our female clients. Luckily, you have a few options which I will discuss in the video, and outline below:
1. Lighter Bumper Plates
See if you can find Olympic bumper plates that are 5 kg, 10 kg, or 15 kg. They are the same diameter as the 45 lb. plates, but obviously much lighter.
2. Barbell Glute Bridges
Get stronger at barbell glute bridges first (where your back is on the ground). If you can get super strong at those (for example, 225 lbs. for reps) there is a chance you will be able to hop right into 135 lb. hip thrusts. Of course, don’t assume that you can… but you MAY be able to. For example, at one point, I had never done hip thrusts (only done barbell glute bridges on the floor) and I was able to hip thrust 135 lbs. the first time with no problem (also keep in mind I’ve been lifting for almost 10 years).
3. Single Leg Hip Thrusts
Once a 45 lb barbell is no longer challenging on hip thrusts, which it sounds like it’s not… try doing single leg hip thrusts. Start with body weight and work your way up to the 45 lb barbell. They will get you a lot stronger and you won’t have to use as much weight.
4. Other Implements
Use other weighted implements (chains, bands hooked in the squat rack, weight vest draped across your lap) if you have access to them. We use 20 and 40 lb. chains in our classes for hip thrusts. They are pretty easy to put on and take off and our clients love them.
5. Just do it
I personally just roll the bar up my thighs even if the weights aren’t tall enough to clear them. I roll it right above my knees and then bend my knees slightly… just enough to barely pick the weight up off the floor with my legs (and not my arms and back) and then guide the weight up my legs with my hands. Often times this means that the weights are hovering over the ground before I even start, but that’s fine.
QUICK TIP: In order to ensure that you are not hyper-extending at the top of the Hip Thrust and getting your movement through your lumbar spine, make sure you’re bracing your core hard before you do the movement. My favorite thing to do is to take a big breath in through my nose, blow out hard through my mouth, and picture driving my ribs down towards my pelvis to brace as hard as I can, and then knocking out a few reps. I tend to knock out 3-4 reps like this, then take another breath and go again. Repeat until your reps are completed.
Keep in mind, I had *not* thought of this trick yet in the video below, where I am hip thrusting 225 and 315 for reps.
I hope you find this advice helpful! Good luck and keep me updated on your progress!
Do you need isolation exercises or can you just stick with the big lifts like squats?
“I have recently started to focus more on bigger lifts rather than using machines and dumbbells. I use mainly barbell exercises and have been doing heavy lifts mixed with metabolic resistance training.
I am used to doing more of a workout split targeting all the muscle groups, so it feels weird to not directly work my biceps, shoulder heads, or triceps. I have been doing compound exercises that hit the smaller muscle groups as well such as triceps dips and overhead press, dumbbell snatch, chin ups etc.
Do you feel that it is necessary to directly train the smaller groups in order to get aesthetic improvements? Such as adding in some biceps curls, cable triceps pressdowns, or lateral raises? I love defined shoulders and arms and as much as I love focusing on strength it is nice to see some aesthetic improvements. I know that most upper body compound exercises do hit the smaller muscle groups in some way but I am just unsure as to whether or not that it enough to see aesthetic improvements?!” – Kate B.
First, off, thank you for submitting this question. I get this question quite a bit so I am confident others will benefit from the answer. As with anything regarding nutrition and training, there isn’t really a hard-and-fast answer to this question. How much “isolation” work you need will vary from person to person based on: training age/experience, strength levels, overall aesthetic goals, hormonal makeup, and genetic predisposition for muscle growth, among other factors. (I say “isolation” in quotations because I think we all know it’s impossible to truly isolate a muscle group, but that’s a discussion for another day).
To give you an extreme example: a 30 year old competitive male (or even female) bodybuilder who has been lifting for 15 years will need significantly more isolation work than a 50 year old woman who is new to strength training and just wants to look better and feel better.
Since you have expressed that you like defined shoulders and arms, I’ll assume you want a relatively lean and lightly muscled look; a look many women seem to desire these days, and I will base my answer on an “average” woman wanting to achieve those goals.
I think it’s safe to assume you’re looking for nice arms like Miss Alli and Miss Jen are sportin’ here….
My Isolation Work Extremes
But first, I’ll be completely honest, I have been on both ends of the spectrum. When I first started lifting, I absolutely abused the heck out of body part splits. There were days I literally worked on, “rear delts, forearms, and calves,” or “hamstrings, front delts, and obliques.” Looking back now, considering I was just getting started with lifting, there was absolutely no need for me to be breaking my body part splits down like that. I needed to focus on learning to manipulate my own body weight via push-ups, pull-ups, planks, split squats, and other big movements, and I needed to focus on getting stronger in the big lifts. Period.
Fast forward to the last few years and I absolutely despise isolation work. I hate doing biceps curls, lateral raises, skullcrushers, or calf raises…ugh. I’d much rather be squatting, deadlifting, snatching, pressing, or pulling. That being said, isolation work does have its place, and I am starting to realize that I could benefit from more isolation movements. I know my chin-ups could benefit from some biceps work, my bench press and my Turkish Getups could benefit from some triceps work, and I definitely don’t train my hamstrings as a knee flexor nearly as often as I should.
I’m a sucker for anything that will help my Turkish Getup!
So, as you can probably imagine, the answer is somewhere in the middle for most females who want to look better and feel better. Focus mainly on the bang-for-your-buck compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, presses, rows, lunges, and swings 3-4 days a week, and supplement with a few sets of the smaller isolation movements 1-2 days a week.
So How Do I Incorporate Them?
Here are 3 of my favorite options:
1. Place isolation movements at the end of your workout.
This one is simple enough. After you do your big lifts, throw in a few isolation exercises at the end. You can do them in super-set or circuit fashion, or just do the individual exercises with plenty of rest in between. Your choice. An example might be:
A1. Barbell Bench Press
4 sets of 5-6 reps
4 sets of 6-8 reps
C1. 1 Arm DB Rows
3 sets of 8-10 reps
C2. Lateral Raises
3 sets of 10-12 reps
D1. Lying DB Triceps Extension
2-3 sets of 8-12 reps
D2. DB Hammer Curls
2-3 sets of 8-12 reps
2. Incorporate a “beach body” day.
If you lift heavy 2-3 days a week doing all of the major compound lifts, sometimes it can be fun to have a “beach body” day at the gym. This is the day where you focus on all of the “beach muscles” or “vanity muscles” that so many people love training. Here is an example:
A1. Leg Extension
4 sets of 8-12 reps
A2. Leg Curl
4 sets of 8-12 reps
A3. Calf Raises
4 sets of 15-20
B1. 3 Way Shoulder Raise (front raises, then lateral raises, then rear delt raises)
3 sets of 20 reps each directions
C1. Triceps Pushdowns
3 sets of 12-15 reps
C2. EZ Bar Barbell Curls
3 sets of 12-15 reps
C3. Hanging Leg Raises
3 sets of 12-15
3. Use isolation exercises as an “active rest” in between conditioning movements.
You can make this as simple or as complicated as you’d like. If, for example, you were planning on doing (12) 30-yard Prowler Sprints, you could pick 3 exercises and do them for 4 sets each in between pushes. For example: one arm lateral raise, alternating dumbbell curl, overhead triceps extension.
Your workout would look like this:
30 yard Prowler Push
1 Arm Lateral Raise (each arm)
30 yard Prowler Push
1 Arm Lateral Raise (each arm)
30 yard Prowler Push
1 Arm Lateral Raise (each arm)
30 yard Prowler Push
1 Arm Lateral Raise (each arm)
30 yard Prowler Push
Alternating DB Curl
30 yard Prowler Push
Alternating DB Curl…….
And so on an so forth until you have completed 12 Prowler pushes, and all of your isolation work.
You could also pick 3 exercises for conditioning, (i.e. KB swing, sled drag, medicine ball slam) and 3 isolation movements and pair them together.
A1. KB Swing
3 sets of 8-10 reps
A2. Lateral Raises
3 sets of 10-12 reps
B1. Backwards Sled Drag
3 sets of 30 yards
B2. DB Curl
3 sets of 8-12 reps
C1. Medicine Ball Slam
3 sets of 8-10 reps
C2. Triceps Rope Pressdown
3 sets of 8-12 reps
As you can see, there are dozens of ways to fit isolation work into your programming, while still prioritzing the big lifts. Give one of these programs or workouts a try a let me know what you think!
Oh, and please comment below and let me know how you like to incorporate isolation movements into your training.
Earlier this week, I posted a question from Kayt Render about how often you should change up your workouts. Before specifically addressing this question, I thought it was important to address something a lot of trainees ignore: whether or not you are actually PROGRESSING in your workouts.
Here’s Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell changing things up for me on bench press…(spoiler alert: this is HARD).
If you are simply doing the same workout over and over again, and not changing/progressing any aspect of your workout, after a few weeks, based on your “training age” (i.e. how long you have been training PROPERLY) you will be completely adapted to that workout. I listed 6 different ways you could slightly vary your workouts from week to week to ensure you make continual progress.
You see, it doesn’t take a very big change to force your body to keep adapting and improving. You can simply add some weight, add some sets or reps, decrease the rest periods, change the exercise slightly by changing the angle, etc. So in one sense, you could do the “same workout” for months on end without ever needing to start a completely different workout, as long as you were making small changes from week to week and month to month.
While it’s difficult to give you an exact time frame of when you should overhaul your workout entirely, let me give you some general guidelines based on the following factors: training age, goals, what type of training program you are using.
1. Training age:The longer you have been training (properly), the more stimuli your muscles and your nervous system need to make adaptations.
That’s why someone who is brand-spanking-new to training can make relatively huge gains in muscle mass and strength, while losing body fat for the first several months (or more) of their training. Everything they are doing presents a new stimulus to their body and their body, in turn, responds very quickly.
On the other hand, someone who is a veteran of the iron game might train their ass off for a year just to put 10 lbs. on their squat or gain 5 lbs. of muscle.
You also must keep in mind that beginners need lots and lots of practice doing the same movements over and over again to groove proper movement patterns. Plus, if you’re relatively new to lifting, your exercise pool will be relatively small. Once you get stronger, you will be able to add a lot more exercises to your repertoire.
2. Goals:In general, the more specific your goal, the more often you need to change your workout.
If your goal is simply to look good and feel good, you should be lifting heavy weights 2-3 days a week, walking often, occasionally doing intervals, sleeping a lot, eating good food, and managing your stress levels. You should make sure you squat, hinge, push, pull, and do single limb and core movements at least twice a week each, and try to make sure you’re always progressing using one of the variables I listed in part 1 of this article. In general you would use 2-4 sets of 6-12 reps for most exercises, and start with your “biggies” (i.e. squats, deadlifts, chin-ups, bench press, etc). That’s about it. Pretty simple.
If you have a really specific goal (powerlifting meet, figure competition, sports performance goal), it’s likely that you will need to be changing up your workout much more often. For athletes their training programs change based on whether they are in the pre-season, in-season, post-season, or off-season, and for powerlifters and figure competitors, ramping up and tapering their workouts is crucial to ensure that they “peak” on just the right day. This requires a lot more planning and forethought, as well as listening to your body each day and adjusting your workout accordingly.
Our lovely clients at their first powerlifting meet with my business partner Jim. he had them on a very specific program that ramped up and then tapered down to allow them to “peak” for their meet. It worked! They all set NASA state records in the squat in their age/weight classes!
Training Program:If your training program has built in progressions, you won’t need to switch it up as often.
For example, 5/3/1, Westside templates, The Juggernaut Method, and other great training programs include specific percentages, progressions, and methods for ensuring that you don’t plateau during their program. Many lifters run these programs for years on end without ever changing that many variables. They might switch out a main lift, or an accessory movement occasionally, but for the most part, they are sticking with similar lifts in similar rep ranges.
On the other hand, if you use a more generic program that doesn’t include specific progression (which can be fine, depending on your goals), you may need to switch your program every 4 to 8 weeks to ensure you continue to make progress.
Well Kayt, I hope I helped to answer your question! Remember, you don’t have to make monumental changes to your program to continue making progress. That being said, occasionally it’s fun to try something completely and totally fresh and new to re-energize and motivate you.
Does this count as “changing up my workout?” (Deadlifting on Venice Beach, in a mini skirt and bikini…)
And remember, if you don’t have a trainer, you DO NOT have to re-invent the wheel. Find a solid program by a solid coach that fits your goals, and follow it for the prescribed amount of time. Good Luck!
In this weeks weekly reader question, I bring you a question from Kayt Render:
“I’m on a program of deadlifts, squats, bench press, and arms/shoulders with interval cardio, but after 8 months of this, I’m curious as to if/when I should be switching it up. How often do you change up your workouts?” – Kayt Render
Great question Kayt! The answer, as with everything in fitness, is… it depends.
In my experience I seem to find two extremes:
People who bounce from routine to routine and activity to activity claiming that nothing ever “works for them.”
People who do the same stuff over and over again, expecting to continually make progress.
As you can imagine, both approaches are less-than-ideal.
First things first however, let’s make sure that you understand the importance of progression within your workouts. You’ve probably heard that it’s important to make sure you’re always progressing in your workouts. That is, every time you perform a work out, you should be trying to improve.
Progress can come in the following ways:
1. Load – You increase the amount of weight/resistance you are using.
An example of this would be using doing split squats for 3 sets of 10 reps using 75 lbs. and resting 90 seconds between sets one week, and the next week, keeping all other variables the same, doing 3 sets of 10 reps with 80 lbs.
Adding weight is one of my favorite ways to progress on a Romanian Deadlift.
2. Volume – You perform more total reps either via more sets or more reps per set (at the same or close to the same weight as before).
An example of this would be using doing split squats for 3 sets of 10 reps using 75 lbs. and resting 90 seconds between sets one week, and the next week, keeping all other variables the same, doing 4 sets of 10 reps with 75 lbs. or 3 sets of 12 reps with 75 lbs.
3. Density– Perform the same amount of work in less time (shorten rest periods).
An example of this would be using doing split squats for 3 sets of 10 reps using 75 lbs. and resting 90 seconds between sets one week, and the next week, keeping all other variables the same, doing 3 sets of 10 reps with 75 lbs. and only resting 60 seconds between sets.
4. Range of Motion – Increasing range of motion is a great way to make an exercise more difficult.
An example of this would be using doing split squats for 3 sets of 10 reps using 75 lbs. and resting 90 seconds between sets one week, and the next week, keeping all other variables the same, doing 3 sets of 10 reps with 75 lbs., but using more range of motion/doing a deeper split squat.
5. Stability– Decreasing stability can make an exercise much more challenging.
An example of this would be using doing split squats for 3 sets of 10 reps using 75 lbs. and resting 90 seconds between sets one week, and the next week, keeping all other variables the same, doing 3 sets of 10 reps with 75 lbs., but elevating your back foot on a bench (also known as a Bulgarian Split Squat) to decrease stability and make the exercise more difficult.
P.S. Don’t take this one too far. There is definitely a point of diminishing returns on decreasing stability (i.e. an offset DB overhead press while standing on one foot on a Bosu ball is kind of ridiculous, and yes, I have seen that done before. ::::facepalm::::)
Using a medicine ball as a base for your push-up definitely decreases stability and makes the movement more challenging!
6. Tempo/TUT – Slow the tempo, increase time under tension with same weight/volume/rest.
An example of this would be using doing split squats for 3 sets of 10 reps using 75 lbs. and resting 90 seconds between, and using a 1011 tempo (1 second down, 0 seconds in the bottom, 1 second up, 1 second at the top) one week. This means it took you 3 seconds for each split squat, or ~30 seconds to complete a set (per leg). If you perform 3 sets, then you spent approximately 90 seconds per leg performing split squats.
If you slow things down a bit, and use a 2111 tempo (2 seconds down, 1 second pause in the bottom, 1 second up, 1 second at the top) it is now taking you 5 seconds to perform each split squat, or 50 seconds per set per leg. If you do 30 sets, that’s 150 seconds per leg. You just increased your time under tension by 60 seconds per leg, or 67% using the same weight.
Keep in mind that there is definitely a point of diminishing returns with increasing time under tension, but it is a way to progress.
(Coaches tip:Increasing time under tension and/or using static holds are also a great way for beginners to “practice” and ingrain certain movement patterns. We love to have new clients just hold split squats statically in the bottom position. It’s easier for them to learn how to control their body if they don’t have to worry about moving up and down, it helps them “feel” what the correct position feels like, and it makes them feel like they are working very, very hard without actually beating them up.)
Pausing at the top for 1-2 seconds and contracting my glutes is one of my favorite progressions to use for barbell glute bridges.
These are 6 of my favorite ways to progress within my workouts. Keep in mind they can occasionally be combined, but slow and steady progress is the key to long-term success, so don’t get too crazy with the progressions. Also keep in mind that certain exercises lend themselves to certain methods of progression. For example, you can’t always be adding more load to smaller, more isolation-type movements like biceps curls. You may be better off slowing the tempo down or using more range of motion, where adding weight/load to a back squat might make more sense.
In part 2, I’ll explain how long you should stick with a particular routine (hint: it depends), how to know when to switch it up, and just exactly what you should be switching up when you do switch routines. Stay tuned!
P.S. If you’re a trainer or bootcamp owner and don’t want to have to think about sitting down and doing a bunch of programming using these progressions, check out my product with Mike Robertson and Jim Laird that includes 6 months of DONE-FOR-YOU programming! It’s called Bootcamp In A Box and you can read about it HERE!
Hope you all are having a good week so far. I just wanted to first take a minute to thank you for reading my blog. I absolutely love what I do, both with my in-person clients and also interacting with my online community and I am so grateful that out of all of the things in the world on which you could be spending your precious, non-renewable time, reading my blog is one of them. Truly, sincerely, THANK YOU.
Secondly, I wanted to give you a quick update on something that is very, very exciting for me. My first fitness product EVER launches today! Holy moly I thought this day would never come! Over the last 6 months, myself, my friend/training mentor/business partner Jim Laird, and my friend/coach/training mentor Mike Robertson have worked incredibly hard on an incredible project called Bootcamp in a Box.
About 7 months ago, MR asked me to write an article for his website. I agreed, and decided that I would write it on how we use Mike’s style of corrective programming in our Bootcamps/Group Personal Training classes to make them ridiculously effective, and corrective (see what I did there?) at the same time. I thought this would be an awesome article for his site for several reasons:
1. Jim and I have learned a ton from MR over the last several years and he’s been a big influence on our programming.
2. Jim and I (OK, let’s be honest, pretty much just Jim) is incredible at taking the extremely technical and specific things that Mike and Bill do at IFAST and figuring out how to best apply them in a Bootcamp/Group Personal Training Class setting…and I get to steal all of Jim’s ideas since he is my business partner! =)
3. Using the principles we have learned from Mike and Bill, and combining them with decades of Jim’s knowledge in both the collegaite strength coach and private sector, we have been able to BLOW our business up in the last 2.5 years. In fact, we have grown so fast that in less than 18 months we went from renting space at a local gym to having our own 7,500 square foot space!
And I wanted to share these things with MR’s readers, since I know many of them are trainers themselves.
Then came the problem…
Umm…very quickly my “guest blog post” hit about 5,000+ words. Oops.
So I got to thinking and I decided that instead of just giving MR’s readers a 20,000 ft. view of what we do at our gym, why don’t we collaborate with MR and actually let these people inside our brains to see EXACTLY how we think, how we coach, and how we program.
So that’s what we did.
We went all out with this product and it’s absolutely chock-full of information that has taken the three of us decades and tens of thousands of dollars to learn, if not more.
Here is what BCIB contains:
1. A 200 page manual:
- describing why we created this product, our exact training philosophy and how it came about
- explaining how we design our class templates (daily, weekly, and monthly)
- every single exercise from the dynamic warm-up, to the strength moves to the conditioning moves with still shots, written cues, common mistakes, etc.
- coaching tips and tricks to you know when to regress an exercise (hint: it’s not always what you think!), what the common form flaws are for each movement pattern, how to modify exercises on the fly to make them easier or more difficult
- how to educate your clients about why you’re different from the other 20 Bootcamps in town
- how to integrate these principles into your program
- how to kick your client’s butts safely
- 6 months of done-for-you programming so you don’t have to think about it at all!
2. A BCIB DVD:
- we walk you through how every exercise should be performed
- we list 6 regressions/progressions for every major exercise pattern
- you get to hear and see MR coach and cue the exercises in real time
Plus, there are about a zillion bonuses from guys like Robb Wolf, Joel Jamieson, and much more. The bonuses include everything from how to get your clients to change their nutrition and lifestyle habits, to managing your group training clients to ensure they aren’t overtraining, to systems to help you build your business.
Yes, I am aware I sound like a crazy infomercial right now, but I am just so freaking excited to put this project out there. I’ve been working so hard on it, and it’s SO GOOD! I am just thrilled to have my name on it, and to be associated with such top-notch people in the industry.
So… if you currently run Bootcamps/Group Personal Training classes, this product is a no-brainer. This will LITERALLY change the way Bootcamps are run. The pendulum in the industry is swinging back to a less “insane” and more intelligent form of programming and if you don’t start doing this now, the pendulum is going to knock you on your butt and put you out of business. You have the opportunity to be ahead of the curve, or behind the curve… but the curve is coming. So be ready.
If you don’t, and you’re a one-on-one or semi-private trainer or coach, you could still definitely benefit from this product because you could be helping more people, leveraging your time more effectively, and making more money. And if you got 1 new client for a month or two, this product would pay for itself. Just a thought.
If you’re not a coach or trainer, no worries. The product is probably not for you. But if you’re money grows on trees, and you just want to buy it to support me — then you’re insane, but I have some beachfront property in Kansas I would like to talk to you about. =)
So yeah, that’s my pitch folks. It’s awesome. I am so proud of it. I am so proud ot be associated with it. I am SO FREAKING PROUD of how I truly believe it will be a game-changer for the Bootcamp industry. I BEAM when I think about the number of people this will reach/touch/change the course of their lives, even in a small way. For every trainer that buys this program, they will likely help dozens if not hundreds of their clients stay safer and get healthier, and heck, they might even train some of their staff to do the same, and so on and so forth. It reminds me of EliteFTS.com and Dave Tate’s mission of: Live. Learn. Pass On.
That’s what I am doing and I am so excited and proud! =)
Hey y’all! So I am doing something pretty unusual for my blog. I am doing an interview with an awesomely strong woman whom I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of months ago. I know her husband Dan from my training at IFAST, and I am thrilled to be able to introduce you to the AMAZING Natalie Brown!
She is a wife, mother and incredibly powerful Olympic Lifter. I am so excited for you all to meet her, but I’ll stop right there since I am sure she can do a much better job of telling you about herself than I can. Without further ado, here is Natalie!
1. Natalie, thanks so much for doing this interview! I’ve heard a ton of awesome things about you and your incredible Olympic lifting skills from your hubby, and the rest of the IFAST crew, but I would love for my readers to know more about you! Can you give us a brief introduction?
Thanks for having me, Molly! I have to say, I am the luckiest woman alive. I wake up everyday living the dream! I have an amazing husband who also happens to be my Coach. We have a wonderful little boy that brings us tons of joy, and we have the coolest dog ever! I am fortunate enough to work for Force Barbell, and I work my training into the full-time job of being a mom.
2. Could you tell me more about “working your training into the full-time job of being a mom?” I get questions from moms all the time about how they can find time for themselves away from their other responsibilities. How do you do it? Is there ever guilt there?
Molly, I am really glad to answer this question. I am a full-time mom, and wife, and personal assistant, and bookkeeper, and office manager…and the list goes on!
It is very stressful and in the beginning, I felt really guilty for leaving our son, even though it was with Pop-pop and Gaga (my in-laws). My son loves his grandma and grandpa and would rather be with them, but it was still horribly hard to leave him for the day.
However, if I didn’t leave him for a few hours, when would I train? When would I work? When would I have interaction with other adults?
The reality is my training time is either my alone time, or my time to interact with other adults. I have gained so much from training. I have made new friends, rekindled old relationships, and even met my husband through weightlifting. I made up my mind that Olympic lifting was too important in my life to let guilt stop me.
My husband loves to point out all of the positives in everything, and even though I don’t always see them, he is usually right.
One positive he pointed out was that by leaving my son while working/training he has grown really close to other members of our family. He always has fun and never wants to leave. He has gained a lot from spending time with them, and it forces my son to be comfortable in multiple situations.
As for the Moms and Dads who do not have family to watch the little ones…our good friend Mike Robertson and his wife Jess have a beautiful little girl that they take to day care a couple of days a week. They actually rave about how she loves to play with the other kids at day care. So when I stop and think about the guilt, I realize it is unnecessary. Sometimes as Moms, we think we are the only one’s who can bring joy to our kids, but our little ones actually get joy from so many different experience. And sometimes letting go a little bit helps.
My final thoughts on finding time to exercise when you have a little one is this: We owe it to our kids to set a good example. How are our kids going to avoid the obesity epidemic if we aren’t showing them how to lead a healthy life? I believe that when we exercise we are happier people. We maintain better relationships; we are better wives, daughters, moms, and lovers (Dan made me add that one ;-D)
To all the moms reading this, YOU CAN DO IT! Your children will thank you for it later.
3. How did you get into Olympic Lifting?
My husband introduced me to the sport. We had been dating about six months when he introduced me to the world of Olympic Weightlifting. It was something that was challenging to me and I was hooked from the beginning. I was so bad… I mean just terrible in the beginning, and that fueled me to get better everyday. I loved the challenge!
I really got serious about the sport when Dan and I moved in together and we built a platform in our garage. I had access to snatching, clean and jerking, and squatting twenty-four seven. I couldn’t get the lifts out of my mind I was so excited! Dan was literally telling me to stop training so I could recover. The garage gym was my favorite places to train and where I have some of my best memories.
During the garage gym days I was also training at Purdue University where Dan coached. I was very fortunate to be able to train there among the athletes. It was inspiring seeing some of Dan’s female athletes lift. I was especially impressed with some of the weights that the women’s track and field athletes were using. This encouraged me, and pushed me to get better. In some ways these girls were really positive role models for me even though my interaction with them was minimal.
(Note from Molly: hear that ladies? you NEVER know who is watching you in the gym and possible using you for motivation. So get after it, and always smile and be kind to the other ladies in the gym!)
I have a feeling that Natalie is the one inspiring other women these days…
4. What’s your training schedule like? How often do you train? How long do your sessions last?
This is the question I didn’t want to answer. At this time, I am training about 3 times a week and the sessions vary in length from 30 minutes to 90 minutes. This is not typical, but because Force Barbell (our gym) is opening a new facility Dan has been gone a lot and of course I miss him, so I am sacrificing my training time a bit to see him whenever I can.
Typically I will train 5-6 days a week. Again the sessions vary in length depending on what we have going on. Dan has us on a block-cycle so some weeks we back off, and other weeks we crush it!
I am interested to see how the training changes moving forward. Dan has convinced a few of us to train twice a day starting in January. He swears it will be done intelligently and not kill us, but I don’t know if I believe him! =)
Miss Natalie snatching big weights
5. Can you break down what a typical session looks like for you? From start to finish… what do you do? Since you’re hooked up with the IFAST crew, I have to wonder if you incorporate breathing, mobility, foam rolling, etc. into your program. =)
Dan started working for IFAST last October after transitioning out of the collegiate setting. After being there for a month we decided to start implementing a lot of what they were doing. I have to give Dan credit he stepped aside and letting Mike (Robertson) handle all of my warm-ups and breathing.
I will give you a breakdown of what I do, I am going to warn you, it looks like a lot but I move through it pretty well. Here it goes:
- Foam Roll/SMR (self myofascial release) from head to toe
- Mobility/stability drills
- CNS prep
- Lift warm-up
- OLY LIFTS
- Characteristic lifts
- Cool down, usually is more SMR or breathing
- Tiger Balm
That’s it! If I feel really run down I may just come in and do my SMR/mobility stuff, put on tiger balm, and leave. =)
6. Do you follow any particular nutrition strategies during your normal training and/or when preparing for a competition?
Yep, my nutrition strategies are pretty simple.
My plan is as follows: if I can get the food in nature, I eat it. If I have no meet in sight I simply eat as much as I want. Our family and friends like to hunt/fish so we always have a freezer full of meat. We eat everything from deer, elk, bison, crappie, bass, catfish, to the standard, turkey, chicken, beef, and tilapia. I do allow myself to have sweet treats every now again if I do not have a meet. I prefer to eat the good ol’ homemade stuff, (not that it is any healthier) but I like to make our treats from scratch and use real ingredients.
If I am getting ready for a meet I will start monitoring my intake 12-weeks out. After the first week, we usually manipulate something, either quantity or sugary foods are the first to go. I need to get with in 5 lbs. during the week of competition. That last week we use a water-dumping trick to make weigh-in. I am still dialing in that process but I felt pretty good for my last meet.
If someone reading this is looking for advice, I would tell them this. Eat from nature as often as possible. Don’t fool yourself by thinking you can quit every bad habit at once and every bad food at once. Be real, don’t be hard on yourself, and enjoy the process.
(Note from Molly: Great advice Natalie!!)
7. What has been the biggest challenge for you since you started Olympic Lifting? Learning technique? Trying to fit your training into your life? Holding back when you want to do more?
When I first started it was technique.
As we have added our son to the family it is definitely the struggle of fitting training into my life. My husband literally owns a gym and has always had access to a training facility and it can still be hard. But as I mentioned earlier, it is all worth it.
8. You mentioned that your husband is your Coach…I know several couples who use training to bond with one another, and several couples who absolutely cannot train together at all! What’s your experience been? Is it ever difficult for you having your husband as your Coach?
I would describe it as exciting, bonding, and challenging. I completely trust and believe in the path he puts me on. Dan understands me inside and out and always has my best interest at heart. Dan coaching me works well for us because when we have a training session we leave the husband/wife relationship at the door.
The times where I have told him, “No I am not doing that!” (typically when the prowler is involved), Dan has actually fired me. And when he says something, he means it. One time, he fired me and arranged for a trainer to come to the house the next day! I was so pissed!! I will say this, I think Dan is harder on me than anyone else, but I think he is that hard on me because he sees things in me that I don’t see in myself. And at the end of the day, Dan is my number one fan. The first time I qualified for nationals I thought he was going to cry! Don’t tell him I told you! (Molly: OK Natalie… it will be our little secret! Shhhhh!)
Natalie with her Coach (and hubby) Dan Brown of Force Barbell
9. How has Olympic Lifting changed you, both mentally and physically?
Let’s start with the easy one. Physically I have gotten a ton stronger! I have squatted some pretty good weights and can snatch more than most men! The entire time my lifts have gone up, my body fat has done down and I love the added pounds of muscle to my body. There is a stigma that if a woman has muscle she must be manly. I am far from manly!
Mentally I feel better about myself. Not to say I had esteem issues because I didn’t its just knowing that I can take my physical body to places most people can’t; this gives me the ultimate confidence I love.
I would HARDLY call that hot little bod manly… =)
10. I know I get some pretty funny responses from people when they find out that I dabble in powerlifting. What kind of response do you get when people find out that you’re an Olympic Lifter? Any really funny stories?
I am so glad you asked. First off, people always confuse Olympic weightlifting with figure. It is not even close to the same sport! I wear a spandex singlet and complete three attempts at the snatch then three at the clean and jerk. They add the weights from my best lifts of each and determine a total. The highest total wins!
I could never walk on stage in a bikini and high heels, that’s just not me.
Now to confuse things even more.
Dan had a co-worker named Ross Bowsher who trains at the famous Westside Barbell. Anyway, Ross got it in my head that I should compete in a raw powerlifting meet. We also realized that I would probably set a world record in the squat if I did compete. So I competed in one powerlifting meet just so I could squat a world record. After that, everyone was confusing me for a powerlifter. Not that I am ashamed to have done a powerlifting meet or anything, I just better identify with the weightlifting community.
Oh you know… not biggie. Just a world record squat. On a whim.
11. What are your best lifts in the gym and in competition?
Clean and Jerk: 66kg
Squat: 110 kg
12. What are your current goals?
I have two short-term goals and one long term.
In the 2013 competition season I want to re-qualify for nationals at 48kg.
Win 2013 Nationals at 48kg
In 2016 I want to go to Rio!
13. If a woman was interested in getting involved with Olympic Lifting, what advice would you give her?
Go for it… Take that first step and don’t look back.
14. Thanks so much for doing this interview Natalie! Anything else you want to add?
Molly on behalf of Force Barbell, I want to thank you and all of the your readers for giving me an opportunity to promote the sport that I love. And for changing the stereotype that women who lift look manly. It means a lot to me to have your support. I look forward to seeing what you and the ladies of Girls Gone Strong have to offer in the future.
15. Where can my readers find out more about you and Dan?
Please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @Force_barbell. Also, if you have any questions you would like answered by myself or anyone else in the Force Barbell gang please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you ever have days where you *really* do not feel like going in the gym and doing what you’re supposed to do?
Yeah, me too.
Tonight was one of those nights and ironically enough, it ended up being my first really good workout in quite a while. As some of you probably know, I’ve been dealing with some back issues. The good news is that we know what the problem is. The less-than-good-news is that fixing it can take quite a while.
So tonight I decided to go in the gym and do whatever I felt like doing, just for the hell of it. As long as it didn’t cause pain, I went with it. My workout was an absolute mish-mash of things, and it’s felt great!
It went something like this:
Foam Rolling (5 minutes)
Dynamic Warm-up (10 minutes)
A1) Turkish Get-Ups
1 x Right and Left @ 26 lbs
1 x Right and Left @ 35 lbs
1 x Right and Left @ 44 lbs
1 x Right and Left @ 53 lbs
1 x Right and Left @ 44 lbs
1 x Right and Left @ 35 lbs
1 x Right and Left @ 26 lbs
A2) Single Leg Squats Off a Box
5 sets of 8 reps @ BW
B) Kettlebell Arm Bars
3 reps x Right and Left @ 26 lbs
3 reps x Right and Left @ 35 lbs
3 reps x Right and Left @ 44 lbs
C1)Safety Bar Front Squats (super light)
4 sets of 6 reps @ 70 lbs
C2) Neutral Grip Pull-ups
4 sets of 4/3/2/2
D) 1-Arm DB Bench Press
8 reps @ 50 lbs
6 reps @ 55 lbs
8 reps @ 50 lbs
(I got this exercise selection from my business partner Jim Laird. It’s one of his favorite conditioning workouts to do with some of our more intermediate/advanced clients, but I changed up the sets/reps a bit.)
Start with 8 reps of each exercise and pyramid down until you are only doing 1 rep of each exercise. Ideally, you would take minimal rest between exercises and sets.
Goblet Squat @ 35 lbs
Kettlebell Swing @ 53 lbs
Medicine Ball Slam @ 14 lbs
Took just over 5 minutes and was super fun!
Here’s the video:
**Note the chicks in the background. Clearly they didn’t know I was filming and had no clue that I would be able to see them talking about me! Too funny!
Yes, this was the most random workout ever. But you know what? Who cares?! Sometimes going off plan (assuming you’re smart about it) is exactly what you need to light a fire under your arse to be excited about training again!
So if you find yourself in a slump, think about trying something different whether it’s changing your exercises at the gym, or maybe trying a self-defense class, or pick a conditioning modality you rarely use (stairmill, walking with a weight vest, rope climb machine, sledgehammer, whatever!) Just have fun!
When’s the last time you went rogue and did something completely off of your plan? What did you do?
In my last blog post, I discussed the importance of measuring progress in the gym via positive goals like increasing strength, instead of negative goals, like strictly weight or fat loss. Even if fat loss is your ultimate goal, often times you can simply focus on performance in the gym and sound nutrition and it will help you achieve that goal. For proof of this, check out the lovely ladies in part 1 here.
Heavy lifting + sound nutrition will get many women where they want to be in terms of fat loss results.
Focusing on Fat Loss?
That being said, sometimes you DO have to focus on fat loss to get results. This typically happens when you are already lean, and trying to get even leaner. It’s much easier to drop from 30% body fat to 20% than it is from 20% to 10%. Dropping that last bit of fat requires you to be stricter and more precise with your nutrition and training, and taking measurements is an important part of that precision, so you know when to make changes to your program.
I definitely had to focus on fat loss for this event!
So What Do I Measure?
OK, so how exactly should you measure your results when fat loss is your goal? I like to have my clients measure a number of things to get an accurate depiction of what’s happening with their bodies.
1. Scale weight – Measuring scale weight more than once a week is a recipe for disaster for most people. Daily fluctuations can freak you out and for some people, it can ruin their whole day. However, it can give you some valuable information about what is going on with your body. For example, over time, if your weight stays the same, but your waist and hip measurements decrease, it is a safe assumption that you are losing body fat and gaining muscle. If you hadn’t been weighing yourself, you may have a hard time determining if you are losing fat or losing muscle. Very general assumptions, but helpful over time. (I had a client that was with me for 20 weeks and only lost 2 lbs on the scale, but dropped 2 clothing sizes. I think it’s safe to say she was gaining muscle and losing fat).
Weigh no more than once a week. For accuracy’s sake, make sure it’s on the exact same day every week, at the same time of day, wearing the same thing you wore the previous week. For most people, the morning of a planned treat/cheat/carb-up day is best. You should weight after you’ve gone to the bathroom and before you’ve eaten anything. Nude or just underwear is most accurate.
2. Measurements – I like having clients take measurements with a tape measure because it gives a bit more of an accurate picture of what’s happening to their body. For example, if their waist measurement gets smaller, but their hip/shoulder measurement gets bigger, there is a good chance that they are losing fat and gaining muscle. Since changes in measurements can happen slowly, I prefer to have clients take them every other week instead of every week. Here are the measurements I like for them to take (I like taking them at halfway points as it’s easier to be consistent with the measurement spot):
Shoulders (broadest part)
R Arm (halfway between top of elbow and shoulder)
L Arm (halfway between top of elbow and shoulder)
Bust (around nipple)
Under Bust (sternum)
Waist (smallest part)
Hips (largest part)
R Thigh (halfway between top of knee and hip bone)
L Thigh (halfway between top of knee and hip bone)
3. Pictures – Pictures are another great way for clients to measure their progress. It’s often difficult to see how much progress you have made when you see yourself every day, but when you can compare photos, it can be a lot easier to see how much your body has changed. Again, make sure you take them on the same day of the week at the same time of the day, wearing the same clothing, in the same lighting, from the same distance away, using the same camera every time you take them. This will make for a very accurate comparison and depiction of your progress.
4. Clothing – This is one of my absolute favorite measures of progress for my female clients. We all have a piece of clothing that we are dying to fit into, whether it’s a dress, pair of jeans, or a pencil skirt that we adore, and the thought of being able to wear it and feel sexy in it is extremely motivating! Plus, many females who start strength training won’t necessarily see a decrease in scale weight since they are increasing muscle mass, so being able to fit into a smaller pair of jeans is a wonderful affirmation that the strength training they are doing is changing their body in a positive way. Simply pick a piece of clothing that’s a half a size to a full size too small, and try it on once a month to see how well it fits. If it fits better every time you try it on, you know that you’re headed in the right direction!
5. Body Fat Testing –I would do this once a month for the general population and once every week or two for someone who is preparing for a physique competition. I am actually working on a blog post about this right now. Stay tuned to find out exactly what body fat measuring tools I think are the best!
There you have it! The tools that I use to measure my progress and the progress of my clients. Remember, if you aren’t measuring it, how do you know if it’s time to make changes to your program or not?
So what do you think? Do you use these tools? Different tools? Did I hit the nail on the head or am I way off base?