Pull-Up Tips and Technique: Part 2

Pull-up tips around the Interwebz run the gamut from totally asinine to absolutely legit.

Pull-Up Tips and Technique: Part 2 | StephGaudreau.com

And here in Part 2 of my pull-up series, I’m detailing the technique and finer points of getting your chin over the bar for the first time.

If you haven’t already, go back and read this first…How to Do a Pull-Up: Part 1It covers key drills to practice for learning to hold a hollow body position.

And be on the lookout for Part 3 which will discuss modifications and accessory work to help you get your first pull-up.

Pretty Ugly

I said this in Part 1, but it bears repeating: Anyone can do ugly pull-ups with broken body positions. They’re not physically impossible. In fact, thousands and thousands of horrible pull-ups are performed every day around the world.

Does an ugly pull-up still work muscles? Sure. Can you build strength with ugly pull-ups? Yep.

But if you’re a novice who’s working on her first successful chin-over-bar moment, dialing in your technique with these pull-up tips will make it more efficient and therefore, easier. 

Dialing in technique with these pull-up tips will make it more efficient. Click To Tweet

And, it’ll keep your joints moving through the safest ranges of motion so you stay injury-free. After all, there’s no sense in hurting yourself in the process and having to sideline your efforts.

So, aim for pretty movement. For good technique.

And please, if you see a website that offers pull-up tips with half naked women, click away. Nobody has time for that shit. (Screenshot from an article written by a guy. Not hating on the women themselves, but most chicks reading that won’t relate to these body types…or worse, they’ll think they need to weigh 115-pounds and get extremely lean to even get a pull-up. Plus, that mega-wide grip and crossed legs ain’t helping beginners get their first pull-up. Fitness writers, do better.)

Pull-Up Tips and Technique: Part 2 | StephGaudreau.com

Let’s break this down piece by piece.

Pull-Up Tips and Technique*

Hand Position

*As always, don’t do anything that feels gross in your body or causes pain. You know yourself best.

It may seem obvious, but there’s only one point of body contact for a pull-up – your hands – so grip and hand width become critical.

Let’s start with hand position.

Your palms can face toward your body in what’s an underhand, supinated, or chin-up grip.

Pull-Up Tips and Technique: Part 2 | StephGaudreau.com

In a chin-up grip, you can recruit more biceps – thus requiring less lat involvement – as you pull, making the movement a bit easier. If you’re still working toward your first pull-up, I recommend starting with this narrow grip. You can gradually scoot your hands outward as you get stronger.

Or, your hands can face away from your body. That’s usually called an overhand, pronated, or pull-up grip.

Pull-Up Tips and Technique: Part 2 | StephGaudreau.com

This grip requires more lat – latissimus dorsi – involvement. Those are the wide sweeping muscles that fan across your mid-back and attach up at the head of your upper arm bone, the humerus.

Many novices don’t know how to activate the lats…or the development isn’t quite there, so this type of grip is often more challenging for your first pull-up.

You can also mix your grip, one hand over and one under. I’m not going to cover that one as I find it slightly uncomfortable…but it may be an option for you as you progress.

Knuckles On Top

Enter one of the most underutilized pull-up tips ever. (It’s something I learned from gymnastics dynamo Carl Paoli.)

The difference “knuckles on top” can make in your pull-ups is huge. Yet, it’s something people often wanna argue about. I think that’s because they don’t understand physics.

Here’s the take-away if you want to skip to the next section:

Getting your knuckles ON TOP of the bar makes pull-ups easier.

Now, let’s pick this apart if you want to know why.

In the photo below, my knuckles – where my fingers meet my palm – are on top of the bar. I also have my thumb wrapped around the bar and over my index finger which strengthens my grip.**

This actually shortens the lever arm of the movement, helping me externally rotate my shoulder joint…

…and that allows me to more easily generate torque and initiate the movement by pulling my shoulder blades together and down.

It’s also far easier to hold a hollow body position when my knuckles are on top. Click here for Part 1 where I explain the hollow body.

**You may not be able to wrap your thumb around if the bar is fat and your hands are small. If that’s the case, you can still get your knuckles on top instead of hanging from your fingers. If the bar is standard diameter and your hands average, there’s no excuse.

Pull-Up Tips and Technique: Part 2 | StephGaudreau.com

Compare that to the photo below. Here, I’m hanging from my fingers. It essentially lengthens the lever arm and decreases the torque in my shoulders, which makes the movement harder to initiate.

Pull-Up Tips and Technique: Part 2 | StephGaudreau.com

If you don’t believe me, give it a try for yourself. Hang from the bar with your knuckles on top. Then hang from your fingers. Which is harder and feels more taxing? Which one are you able to maintain more body tension with?

Are fingertip pull-ups a thing? Yes. They’re an advanced technique. Remember, this tutorial is for novices working on their first pull-ups.

Grip Width

Now let’s look at some pull-up tips related to grip width on the bar.

As a general rule, narrow hand grip is easier than wide. The wider you place your hands, the more challenging it will be.

If you’re working on your first pull-up, start with a narrow grip and slowly increase the width of your hands.

Narrow, chin-up grip

Pull-Up Tips and Technique: Part 2 | StephGaudreau.com

Let’s go back to the chin-up or supinated grip. Start with narrow hands, very close together. Gradually widen your hands as you gain strength. Once you reach a neutral grip – arms straight above your head – flip your hands to a pull-up or pronated grip.

Neutral pull-up grip

Pull-Up Tips and Technique: Part 2 | StephGaudreau.com

Now, I’ve widened my hands so my arms are straight up and down, no angle. Note I’ve flipped my hands over. My knuckles are over the bar, and my thumb is wrapped around.

From this position, I can begin to work on engaging more lat – specifically the lower part of the muscle – which takes some emphasis off my biceps. Once you gain proficiency here, you can widen your hands even more.

Wide pull-up grip

Pull-Up Tips and Technique: Part 2 | StephGaudreau.com

Now I’ve widened my hands past neutral which you can see from the red line. I could go even wider…

For beginners, this wider grip is hard because it requires more upper lat strength. If you’re keen and understand physics, you might conclude this grip would make for an easier pull-up because it shortens the range of motion. Simply put, I’m not hanging as far from the bar.

And while that’s true, the shortened range comes at a steep price: needing super strong lats, something beginners don’t often have. As you can see, there’s a huge trade-off.

If you’re working toward your first pull-up, don’t emphasize this grip until you’ve mastered the neutral grip. Or, save this grip for static holds or negatives. (More on those in Part 3.)

Wide-grip pull-ups are definitely cool and make your back muscles look badass, but they’re not ideal for beginners.

Body Position

To round out our pull-up tips and techniques for efficiency, let’s talk body position.

If you want to review the basics of a hollow body position and how to scale it, see How to Do a Pull-Up: Part 1.

Just like a hollow hold or hollow rock, having a tight body with plenty of tension makes for efficient, pretty, less difficult pull-ups. If your meatsuit is floppy or you’re broken at the knees, hips, or neck, your body will feel heavier.

Again, you can do a pull-up that way. But as a novice, it’s going to be harder. And just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Let’s break down this body position on the bar.

1) Neutral grip. Knuckles on top of the bar. Thumbs wrapped around the bar and over my index fingers. (If it’s a fat bar and you can’t wrap your thumbs around, fine. But get those knuckles on top!) Deep breath, butt squeezed, and trunk braced. Neck neutral, feet pointed, and legs glued together.

Pull-Up Tips and Technique: Part 2 | StephGaudreau.com

2) Here, I’ve begun to pull. Yes, I’m using my arm muscles, but what most beginners miss is that I’m initiating the pull by knitting my shoulder blades (scapulae) together and pulling them down. Part 3 will explain how to begin training this movement. My upper body naturally leans back a little bit here.

Pull-Up Tips and Technique: Part 2 | StephGaudreau.com

3) Still pulling, and I’m keeping my elbows as close to my body as possible. Note how my upper body continues to go back slightly as my feet naturally go forward to counterbalance my body. Toes still pointed. Butt still squeezed like I’ve got a $100 bill between my cheeks. That protects my lower back from hyperextension.

I see way too many loose lower bodies from pull-up novices. You’ve got a ton of mass below the waist. Tighten it up!

Pull-Up Tips and Technique: Part 2 | StephGaudreau.com

4) Elbows close. Body in a really solid plank or hollow position. Chin neutral. No breaking at the neck…or hips…or knees.

Pull-Up Tips and Technique: Part 2 | StephGaudreau.com

5) Chin over, body still hollow. Elbows close in.

Pull-Up Tips and Technique: Part 2 | StephGaudreau.com

Here’s what it looks like all together:

Watch it a few times. Really pick out the points I detailed in the steps above. Can you see them? Observing someone else do pull-ups and paying close attention activates mirror neurons in your brain for the pull-up itself. Sounds like witchcraft, but it’s not.

(So if you’re gonna fire up those mirror neurons, watch someone who’s doing it right!)

To Summarize

Following these key pull-up tips will help you not only do a better, more efficient first pull-up…

…but also understand it. When you understand why, you can better troubleshoot your own learning process.

Part 2 covered the following:

  • Grip position – underhand/supinated/chin-up vs. overhand/pronated/pull-up vs. mixed
  • Grip width – narrow/chin-up vs. neutral vs. wide
  • Knuckle position – on top of the bar, thumbs wrapped around the bar preferably
  • Body position – hollow body, tension, elbows in

All these pull-ups tips play into the mechanics of getting your first few pull-ups with the least amount of struggle.

Remember to take a look back at How to Do a Pull-Up: Part 1 for drills to help build hollow body strength. And stay tuned for Part 3 where I’ll go over other pull-up accessory work and variations to mix into your routine.

Pin this Pull-Up Tips & Technique tutorial for later.

Pull-Up Tips and Technique: Part 2 | StephGaudreau.com

Have a question about these pull-up tips? Leave them in the comments below.

How to Choose Your Own Fitness Adventure

When you choose you own fitness adventure, you open up a world of possibilities for getting stronger…

Choose Your Own Fitness Adventure | StephGaudreau.com

…and you make it more likely that you’ll stick to whatever you choose, greatly increasing your odds of seeing the improvements you want to see by exercising.

But let’s back up to the 1980s.

As a kid, I absolutely loved the thrill of “choose your own adventure” books.

Choose Your Own Fitness Adventure | StephGaudreau.com

We’ll conveniently ignore the fact that I always seemed to die by falling off a cliff or getting eaten by a tiger. Anywho…

I got to be in control, make the choices, and follow my own path which made it absolutely riveting.

So it confuses me when I meet women and they immediately apologize to me for not doing a specific kind of workout…

“I’m sorry…I don’t do ________,” or “I know it’s not ideal, but I like doing ________.”

You get the gist.

This, frankly, is bollocks because:

  • As long as you like what you’re doing, that’s what matters.
  • You don’t have to please anyone else.
  • There’s no one perfect way to exercise.

Let’s explore why choosing your own fitness adventure makes it more likely to hit your goals. (And if you want to see two new kickass programs from my pals that’ll allow you to do just that, keep reading down to the end.)

On Motivation and Consistency

Choosing your own fitness adventure rules for a couple huge reasons.

1) Time and time again, studies show that a key driver of intrinsic motivation for any behavior is autonomy.

Put another way, you’re more likely to stick to something without the need for punishment or reward when you’re given more choice in the matter. Using the carrot or the stick to lead behavior change is less effective than boosting self-motivation.

You're more likely to stick to something when you have choice in the matter. Click To Tweet

If you want anecdotal examples, just think about how jazzed you are to do something when you only have one option…

…and it’s one you’re not particularly psyched about.

On the other hand, if you make your own choices, you develop ownership which strengthens your investment in the process.

Fitness is no different.

2) Consistency makes it more likely you’ll be successful.

This one’s kind of obvious but follow me here.

When your workout routine isn’t one you really like, you flat out won’t want to do it.

Now, if you have specific goals – say, getting stronger or improving your body composition by building muscle – it’ll be harder to reach them if you don’t consistently exercise.

(Note: Exercising isn’t actually the best way to improve your body composition, but that’s a topic for another day. And, you don’t have to exercise hard every single day to get the benefit. But when you can only muster one workout a month because you hate it, don’t expect to make any progress.)

Three Key Questions for Your Fitness Adventure

Choose Your Own Fitness Adventure | StephGaudreau.com

Okay so great, choosing your own fitness adventure helps boost motivation and consistency…

…but how do you go about finding the workout that’s right for you?

You’ve gotta ask yourself three questions:

  • Where do you come from?
  • Where do you want to go?
  • Why are you doing it?

Let’s dig in.

1) Where do you come from? 

I don’t mean this literally. (I’m from Springfield, Massachusetts…United States…Earth…Milky Way…).

I mean, how the heck did you get here now with your current circumstances?

  • What’s your strength like?
  • Your health status?
  • Do you have any old or new injuries?
  • What’s your schedule like?
  • Really, how much free time are you willing to spend on fitness? (Don’t lie.)
  • How much dough can you spend on fitness?
  • …etc.

2) Where do you want to go? 

Again, don’t take this literally. I mean, what are your goals?

  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • What’s the intended outcome?
  • What’s your timeline?

And last but not least…

3) Why are you doing it? 

This is the most important question of all. And as with any diet or lifestyle change, including fitness, you’ve gotta get crystal clear about your motivation. If you can get to the root of your why, even better. To do that, ask why – and answer it – at least five times.

  • Is it a desire to show up in the world as your best self?
  • To reach your full potential?
  • Do you want to be healthy & strong for your kiddos?
  • Do you want to see your grandchildren grow up?
  • Is it to live independently and with quality of life when you’re older?

Keep this reason at the forefront of your mind. It’s easier to stick to change when you have a why.

It's easier to stick to change when you have a why. Click To Tweet

Finding What You Like

So, if choosing your own fitness adventure is key to happiness and success, how can you find what you like?

For better or worse, the Interwebz and even your local community – are stuffed full of options for workout plans, gyms, and classes. You could probably spend years trying them all.

Here are some tips:

  • Embrace being a beginner. So many people won’t even try because they’re afraid of looking stupid. Tough love coaching moment: Get over yourself. Caring coaching moment: Nobody expects beginners to be masters. In fact, quite the opposite! Run with it.
  • Give something 5-10 chances before you decide if you love it or hate it. On one hand, sinking hundreds of Benjamins into fancy gear right off the bat means you’ll regret it if you decide it’s not for you. On the other, if you hang for a while you might find the workout starts to feel awesome once you’ve gotten over the urge to pee yourself from nervousness.
  • Ask your friends. Personal recommendations are always better than Amazon reviews or Yelp.
  • Go check it out. Head over to the gym, studio, or rec center and see what it’s like. Feel the vibe. I know it sounds woo but your gut will tell you what’s up. If it’s nervous butterflies, cool. If your hackles go up and the alarm bells are sounding, not cool. If it’s an online program, see if there’s a guarantee or refund policy. You can always test it out!

Two Awesome New Choose-Your-Own-Fitness-Adventure Options

I believe in finding the right fit for your body, goals, and life circumstances. It’s one of the reasons why my 6-week Harder to Kill Challenge has three different fitness tracks.

There are tons of great programs out there that’ll fit your adventure…

…and I’m stoked to share these kickass new choices from Noelle Tarr and Jen Sinkler.

Noelle and Jen were both speakers at my Women’s Strength Summit last year. They’re both super sharp, lovely, strong women who are passionate about helping others. And, I’m proud to call them friends.

Fitness Adventure 1: Get Strong From Home

If building strength sounds great to you but you 1) don’t know how to begin and 2) would rather do it from the comfort of you own home, Strong From Home is the program you’ve been waiting for.

Choose Your Own Fitness Adventure | StephGaudreau.com

I’ve seen how tirelessly Noelle’s worked on her program, testing, refining, and tweaking it. She’s known for her instructional videos with minimal equipment that you can do right in your living room, and she’ll help you make a plan to reach your goals. Trust…this is effective stuff.

Click here to watch Noelle’s free e-course, or here to read more about Strong From Home.

You don’t need a membership to a fancy gym to get strong, and Noelle’s proving it. It also covers the mindset of getting stronger, something I personally love.

And to make it even sweeter, Strong From Home is on sale during its debut from January 17-24, 2017. Click here for all the deets, including 3 different levels of support and features.

Fitness Adventure 2: Build Your Bigness

The Bigness Project by Jen Sinkler and Kourtney Thomas is a different kind of adventure beast altogether. It’s all about building bigger muscles. Yes, of course, stronger muscles…but bigger muscles, too.

Kourtney sums it up perfectly by saying:

When clients tell me that their goal is to ‘tone up,’ ‘slim down,’ or ‘look long and lean,’ they’re all telling me the same thing: that they want more muscles. And that’s what we’re going to do: We’re going to get you more muscles.” Brilliant!

Choose Your Own Fitness Adventure | StephGaudreau.com

 

Hypertrophy training is the technical name for it, though some will recognize it better by the term bodybuilding. Of course, everyone’s genetic potential to build muscle will vary – and nobody’s gonna look like Arnold Schwarzenegger by doing this program – but The Bigness Project will help you out a little bit.

And the ladies are talking about the mindset of embracing your bigness, too.

Choose Your Own Fitness Adventure | StephGaudreau.com

Check out the program here – 14 weeks of training with a couple different levels – will be live on January 24, 2017.

To Summarize

You’re more likely to stick to your workout routine when you pick one you like. Instantly, feelings of intrinsic motivation improve, and you’ll be consistent.

To guide you on your fitness adventure, ask three critical questions:

  • Where do I come from?
  • Where do I want to go?
  • Why am I doing this?

No matter what your cup of fitness tea, you’ll find loads of options out there. Remember to give something new a fair shake, don’t let being a beginner intimidate you, ask your friends, and test it out when you can.

And of course, check out these two new rad resources from my badass lady friends:

Book covers image by Reformer.com.

How to Do a Pull-Up: Part 1

The pull-up is pretty freaking rad.

How to Do a Pull-Up: Part 1 | StephGaudreau.com

Not only is it a great exercise all-around, but it’s also like a rite of passage on your strength training journey. It’s like you’re wee Mario who just found a magic mushroom and gets leveled up to Super Mario…stronger.

Ticking off that first pull-up is a goal for many women. But it’s more than just that…

…being able to move your own bodyweight is your basic human right.

Being able to move your own bodyweight is your basic human right. Click To Tweet

And if you’re a woman, you can do a pull-up. Any trash mag, stupid ex-boyfriend, or internet trolls was dead wrong when they said females can’t.

The Best…and the Worst

Getting your first pull-up is intoxicating. It’s the best feeling ever. It supercharges your confidence and opens your eyes to your potential.

“If I can do a pull-up, what else can I do?!”

Here’s one of my first successful attempts way back in October 2010. Note the cyclist lycra. I was just a couple months into my strength training journey.

Also note I’ve gained 10kg (over 20 pounds) since then, and I can still do pull-ups. Hell, I can do even more now because I’m stronger.

I don’t want to harp on bodyweight, but recently someone told me they should just try to lose weight to make getting a pull-up easier. I find that to be a depressing proposition. Read Instead of Weight Loss, Focus On This to find out what I recommend. Remember, strong first.

Unfortunately, being unable to get your first pull-up even though you’ve been trying is quite possibly the worst feeling ever. If you’ve been strength training for a couple years and still don’t have a strict pull-up, it’s time to get to the bottom of it.

So in this blog series, I’m going to coach you through how to do a pull-up, including videos, sample accessory movements, and more.

Part 1 will cover body position, Part 2 will be the fundamentals of the movement, and Part 3 will cover drills to practice.

It’s really hard for me to assess exactly why you’ve been struggling with pull-ups especially without seeing you move…

…so there’s going to be some diligence and personal responsibility required on your part to do what’s right for your body.

In other words, if you’re injured or the movements I discuss here give you pain or feel icky in your body, it’s up to you to look out for yourself.

Okay Steph, Teach Me How to Do a Pull-Up Right Now

Hold on there, tiger. I know you’re eager, but we’re going to break this way down.

It might surprise you that Part 1 of this series isn’t going to focus on pull-ups at all. Not even a little.

I look out into the fitness landscape – whether it’s at the gym or online – and I see a massive disconnect between the way we live and the things we expect our bodies to do.

Many of the clients I coach struggle to go below parallel in a squat, for example.

The first conclusion everyone points to is a lack of mobility or flexibility, and while that’s true for some, there’s a bigger, more fundamental problem:

Nobody goes below parallel on a regular basis because of how our modern environments are built.

Just take a quick look around your home or office right now. Chairs, couches, cars…shit, even the toilet only requires us to squat to parallel but never below.

People literally don’t know how to use their hamstrings and glutes to stand up out of a below-parallel squat.

Here’s my loving husband Z demonstrating a very typical body position in today’s modern world:

Sitting at a table hunched over a computer. People work, drive, play video games, text and spend a significant portion of the day like this.

(I’ll give him credit here…he’s sitting more on his sit bones. That way, he’s not squashing his poor hamstrings quite so much.)

How to Do a Pull-Up: Part 1 | StephGaudreau.com

Extrapolate this lack-of-use out to everything we come into contact with: moving sidewalks, escalators, and everything on wheels.

As my very wise friend Jamie Scott summarized so well, modern humans are opting out of movement like never before. And it’s reaching crisis-level proportions.

Modern humans are opting out of movement like never before. Click To Tweet

Our collective kinesthetic awareness is fading in a world that enables us to sit back, relax, and never move. Cue Wall-E.

How to Do a Pull-Up: Part 1 | StephGaudreau.com

Is it no surprise then that even the most well-meaning, motivated people go into the gym and don’t quite know how to move their meatsuits?

Or that their tissues are so bunged up they can’t get into basic body shapes other than the sitting-while-hunched-shape?

Worse still is that the trainers, coaches, and “experts” many people entrust – and pay good money to – are often oblivious to these fundamental challenges. It’s just rah-rah cheering or a lousy prescription for more foam-rolling.

My fellow coaches, you have an obligation to do better for your clients. To get to the root. To realize they need vitamins more than they need ice cream. And to know that putting a loaded bar on someone’s back before it’s time is not doing right by them.

My dear reader, you aren’t to blame for way this modern world is working against your biology and your humanness. It’s not your fault. 

But it’s going to take a conscious effort on your part to opt-out and take a stand for your own health, to ask questions, to move with intention, and to have patience with the process.

/rantoff

Seriously though, it’s important to unpack why so many people struggle with basic, fundamental human movements. Now, I want to give you some practical stuff to walk away with.

It Starts with Body Position

If you’re going to set out this year to do your first pull-up, let’s break it down to the basement level: body position.

See, you can do a pull-up – any movement really – with terrible form. It’s likely to be woefully inefficient, could cause overuse or injury, and is probably ugly as shit to look at.

Or, you can resolve to do a pull-up and practice all the accessory drills to get there with focus, intention, and efficient form. Plus, it’ll be easier.

Here’s a way to picture it: Let’s say you have to carry a 25-pound bag of dog food across a parking lot from the store to your car. Will it be easier to hold the bag outstretched, away from your body or hugged in close to your body? You already know the answer…close!

If your body is flopping around, loose, and in broken positions while you’re doing a pull-up, it’s going to feel heavier. It’s less mechanically efficient.

Practice solid shapes.

Your aim in a strict pull-up will be to keep your body tight. That means squeezing your butt, pinning your legs together, pointing your toes, getting your shoulder blades seated down and back, keeping your neck neutral, and bracing your abs. Got all that?

Even finding this position takes conscious effort. You may be feeling muscles you didn’t know you even had.

Think about Olympic gymnasts. Their bodies are rigid, long, and taut. They point their toes. They maintain tension in their bodies.

Start with a hollow body position on the floor.

How to Do a Pull-Up: Part 1 | StephGaudreau.com

(I’m not going to delve into all the nuance here. Just know that everything is tight and squeezed. There’s tension in my body. It’s not floppy or soft. I’ll cover how often to do movements like this in Part 3.)

From there, work on hollow rocks.

Now your body is in motion. Can you hold that shape? It’s challenging, but this hollow body position directly translates to you hanging from a bar and moving efficiently through a pull-up.

Then, progress to hanging on the bar. 

How to Do a Pull-Up: Part 1 | StephGaudreau.com

You’ve got to squeeze!

Maintaining tension is a core principle of all movements from air squats to pull-ups to 300-pound deadlifts.

Here’s another example where you can practice tension: push-ups.

Christmas, if I had a buck for every shoddy push-up I’ve ever seen on Facebook, I’d be retired. As well-intentioned as the 22-day push-up challenge was, it exposed a lot of collective weakness.

Often, people just don’t know what they don’t know. But when these push-ups are happening under the “watchful” eye of a coach, I cringe.

Start with a simple plank position. 

How to Do a Pull-Up: Part 1 | StephGaudreau.com

Can you keep everything squeezed with a neutral spine? No stripper butt, sagging chests, or elbows winging out at 90-degrees, please.

Once you master this, try a push-up, keeping everything the same. 

If you can’t do a standard push-up, increase the angle of your body by propping yourself up on a sturdy bench or box. Start on the wall if you need to. Lower the bench or box as you get stronger.

Notice how my elbows are pinned in close to my body? That’s going to be extremely important for getting an efficient pull-up.

How to Do a Pull-Up: Part 1 | StephGaudreau.com

Lots of people want to poo-poo bodyweight movements like they’re substandard, but trust: Bodyweight exercises can be very challenging when done correctly.

To Summarize

The foundations of getting your first pull-up are rooted in body position. Unfortunately, our modern environments put us at odds with our biology – unless we consciously opt out – making it harder to get into functional positions.

You can start laying the foundations of a pull-up by practicing holding shapes like hollow rocks and planks, feeling like it’s like to maintain tension.

Sound movement patterns are a must if they’re going to translate to efficient, safe movements like pull-ups.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I’ll really pick apart the pull-up mechanics you need to master.

Pin How to Do a Pull-Up: Part 1 for later

How to Do a Pull-Up: Part 1 | StephGaudreau.com

Questions or comments? Leave them below!

5 Sports Nutrition Myths Busted

Sports nutrition – also called eating for performance – is a topic near and dear to my heart. As a competitive Olympic weightlifter, coach, and holistic nutritionist, I frequently work with athletes to tweak their food to fit a real food template.

5 Nutrition Myths Busted | StephGaudreau.com Sometimes, to boost performance, it may be beneficial to get a bit more specific with your nutrition according to a plan. It’s not for everyone, but if you have specific performance goals, it can help you to dial things in.

To prepare for some big weightlifting meets in the last two years, I’ve gone through two different 12-week programs. (Even coaches need coaches.) By far, my favorite of the two and the one I recommend to fellow athletes is Renaissance Periodization (RP). (Use my code to save 10%: steph10.)

Here’s why I like it as a short-term strategy:

I was able to fully customize it to the foods that worked best with my body (ex: I used coconut water for my during-workout carbs), and I never had to log my food.

Today, I’ve invited RP owner Nick Shaw on the blog to dispel some common sports nutrition myths for you. These are things that we hear all the time when it comes to eating for performance.

Take it away, Nick!

Sports Nutrition Myth #1: You have to log macros in MFP (My Fitness Pal) to lose body fat.

Absolutely a myth!!

I have never once used MFP in my entire life and have been able to do many successful cut phases. MFP is a great tool that helps a lot of folks, but we actually designed our templates to NOT need MFP. (To save 10% on RP templates use the code steph10). You can know that certain foods will have trace amounts of “crossover calories” – ex: the amount of protein in say beans or nuts – and when you take the averages of most food sources you can get a pretty good idea of where those numbers will fall.

Ultimately, you want cutting or massing to be easy and sustainable in the long run – with dedicated phases of NOT dieting in there of course. Having to log every single meal and every single thing you eat into an app can really become a burden for a lot of folks. If you can take that out of the equation and reduce the math and time spent thinking about cutting or massing, chances are that will help make it easier for folks out there.

Simple = easy. Easy = greater chances of diet consistency. Consistency = better results. Better results = more likely to transition into a lifestyle, not just a one-time diet. 

Sports Nutrition Myth #2: You can’t get leaner and perform well at the same time.

Absolutely a myth!

I’ve worked with and seen literally thousands of clients that are able to lose weight/fat and see strength improvements. A good way to help busy this myth is to lose weight at a slow and steady rate – think 1-2 lbs/week for most people or maybe 1% of their weight per week.

You also have to set limits on the amount of time spent cutting, think 12 weeks or so, tops. After that you may see diminishing returns in the amount of calories you have to pull out to see further weight loss vs. performance dropping. You can also help this by NOT cutting carbs first in a diet. Keeping carbs up longer over the course of a plan should help most folks sustain – or improve – performance while in a hypocaloric state. 

It should also be noted that the more new you are to diet and/or training, your chances of seeing PRs while cutting goes up as well. 

Sports Nutrition Myth #3: You need several hundred grams of carbs a day for performance.

Very likely a myth.

Certainly having more carbs in your diet will help you perform better, but there will certainly be cases where outliers can and will occur. The first example that would jump out to me would be a very small female athlete – think a 48kg lifter – that might only weigh 100 pounds or so. If she’s having about 1 g carbs/lb of bodyweight on a lower volume training day, she could be eating 100g (roughly) worth of carbs and could still easily hit PRs. That’s a lot different than several hundred grams! I’m sure there are also examples of some athletes using keto – higher fat/protein while keeping calories up – that could also see performance increases due to calories being such a powerful overall tool. 

[Steph’s note: I asked Nick to address this myth because I hear it a lot from the endurance community where carb-loading and carb-heavy diets still persist. The 48kg athlete likely does not need 300+ grams of carbs a day to perform well.]

Sports Nutrition Myth #4: If you cheated on your diet and the next day, you gained weight…you added fat.

TOTAL myth!! 🙂

When you “cheat” on your diet, chances are you’re eating delicious foods filled with lots of carbs/fats and sodium. All of these things can cause water retention. Unless you’re eating thousands of calories in your cheat meal, chances are you are not gaining actual tissue and your body is just holding onto water for a variety of reasons. Chances are if you track your bodyweight after having a cheat meal, you’ll see a spike in weight for a day or two and then it comes RIGHT back on down so long as you get back on track. 

Sports Nutrition Myth #5: For performance, it doesn’t matter when you eat, as long as you get enough calories.

This is somewhat true and not necessarily a myth. Having said that, it’s important to note that nailing your calories and overall macros for the day is by far the biggest piece of the puzzle to nutrition, it’s not the ENTIRE puzzle and leaves a little bit missing. The more advanced you get in athletics, the bigger role nutrient timing can have and thus timing your food intake around training, practices, etc can yield even better outcomes. If you have longer workouts (think over 1-2 hours) or have multiple workouts a day, the role of timing your food around training goes up even more.

In Conclusion

Thanks again Nick for addressing these common sports nutrition myths! If you’re curious about using RP’s templates for your performance, head over to Renaissance Periodization and use my code to save 10%: steph10.

I truly believe that making long-term change that sticks depends on customizing a real food template to your context, aka the You Diet.

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How to Avoid Getting Bulky: Expert Tips

Avoid getting bulky.

It’s something women the world over have spent years in absolute dedication to. This post explores some of the best practices wannabe internet experts often miss when help womankind everywhere in this pursuit.

[Note: I was raised in New England, land of real maple syrup, Friendly’s “Cone Head” ice cream sundaes, Fenway pahk, and wicked sarcasm. Only continue reading if you have a sense of humor.]

How to Avoid Getting Bulky: Expert Tips for Women

If I had a dollar for every blog post, magazine article, or celebrity trainer espousing the correct training method women must follow to achieve the elusive Goldilocks level of muscle – you know, enough to look mildly tube-like but not enough to scare the dickens out of little kids – I’d be sipping coconut water on a Balinese beach instead of chained to this laptop.

Truth is, these so-called experts often completely miss the mark. I’m here to set the record straight for these internet trainers with the very best tips for avoiding this dreaded “muscle bulk.”

Avoid Getting Bulky Tip #1: Only lift dumbbells that weigh less than your head.

Fun fact: The average human head weighs approximately 10 pounds, so only lift less than that for the rest of your life. Even after you’ve developed a really solid base of good movement patterns and mobility, it’s best to only ever hold a heavy weight if you have the opportunity to pose for photos.

Bonus points if you apply the best advice from other celebrity trainers found in pithy single-paragraph magazine blurbs, such as this gem on staying feminine:

How to Avoid Getting Bulky: A Modern Woman's Guide

In fact, it’s best to just keep your arms by your sides at all times to avoid creating those masculine muscles. Don’t want to end up wider than a semi-truck! For optimal smallness, you’ll want to use an exercise program that doesn’t encourage you to put your arms over your head.

Avoid Getting Bulky Tip #2: Eat less than a toddler.

For maximum bulk-avoidance, be sure to use a giant dinner plate and appoint it with 3 cubes of chicken breast – any and all bits of fat meticulously removed with the skill of a brain surgeon – 2 celery sticks, 1 cherry tomato (tomatoes are high in carbs after all), and a glass of air.

And if you want to speed up the slimming process, cut out 1/3 or more of your daily calories. Sure, you’ll lose any muscle mass, but who needs that anyway? All it does is increase your metabolism and burn fat, the exact thing you’re trying to do when you “tone.” The horror!

How to avoid getting bulky: expert tips you need to know Click To Tweet

Avoid Getting Bulky Tip #3: Sleep is for dummies.

Why languish for 8 hours or more wasting time in bed when you can be doing other things like applying the newest Snapchat filter (butterfly crowns, duh) or binge-watching Stranger Things on Netflix?

After all, sleep is known to help improve health and – gasp! – build muscle.

For best muscle avoidance, regularly stay up past 11 p.m. and wake up before 5 a.m. to do allthecardio. Pro tip: Do all of this on an empty stomach and only drink coffee until past noon each day. Who needs adrenal glands, anyway?!

Avoid Getting Bulky Tip #4: Stress the shit out of yourself.

Perhaps the best-kept secret of bulk-avoiders everywhere is to be stressed about everything 24-7. With all the cortisol coursing through your veins, you’ll ensure you don’t accidentally venture into Bulky Land.

How does this sorcery work?

Since, as a woman, you only have a tiny fraction of a healthy male’s testosterone levels, ramping your cortisol up all the time will tank your test to practically zero. And since we all know that testosterone makes your muscles magically quadruple in size if you so much as glance sideways at a weight, anything you can do to stress yourself out all the time means you won’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of growing muscle. Win-win.

Which kinds of stress count toward this muscle blockade? My favorites are worry about:

  • Eating too much fat. (See Tip #2.)
  • Eating too many carbs. (Also, see Tip #2.)
  • Eating your macros to the exact gram. If you’re +2 over on fat, well…
  • What everyone thinks about your body.
  • Thighs that touch together.
  • Cellulite…shudder.
  • Having abs even though getting them means you’re miserable.
  • What you look like in shorts or anything with less coverage than a $2 plastic rain poncho.

The above are just a sampling! The possibilities are endless.

Avoid Getting Bulky Tip #5: Contract Avian Bone Syndrome.

If all else fails, you can go the route of Phoebe from season one of 30 Rock and contract Avian Bone Syndrome to avoid getting bulky.

Phoebe’s hollow, bird-like bones were one surefire way to avoid getting bulky at its absolute epicenter. Sure, she had to avoid most human contact, but for the hard core bulk-o-phobe, this goes beyond just atrophied muscle. Why only lose muscle mass when you can lighten your bones, too!

In Conclusion…

This post is totally satirical, and it’s the most sarcastic thing I’ve ever published. I’m not intentionally poking fun at you if you struggle with anything listed above. It’s a commentary on all the crazy, BS things I see internet coaches recommend to women.

I’m so sick of so-called experts treating you like garbage for caring about your own health.

While it was funny to write on one level, it pains me as a nutritionist and weightlifting coach to know that women keep falling prey to these types of damaging practices in the pursuit of a “hotter body.”

It takes the convergence of some very specific factors and a huge amount of effort to produce women who have bodybuilder levels of muscle. Lifting heavy-ish weights a few times a week is simply not enough to bulk up.

If you do lift weights and feel like your clothes are getting tighter, it’s quite possible you had sub-healthy levels of muscle to begin with.

I repeat: If you lift weights and your clothes get tighter, you may not have had enough muscle to start with.

Remember the scale and your weight only tell part of the story. If you want to track whether your body is changing for the healthier, at the very least take photos every few weeks and get a DEXA scan once a year to measure important factors like bone density.

Track your health in a myriad of ways. Get your mind right. Nourish your body. Manage your stress. Move with purpose…and thrive.

A healthy body is what matters.

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How to Start Strength Training

How to start strength training…

How to Get Started with Strength Training | StephGaudreau.com

Chances are, if you’re curious about adding strength training to your fitness routine, you may be excited to try it but totally intimidated about how to go about getting started.

You’re not alone.

Many women that I hear from are at a complete loss when it comes to the type of strength training to do, how to find the right gym, and how to progress safely and effectively so they’re not wasting their precious time.

The internet and social media are partly to blame for this confusion.

Simply put, when you take a quick scan of what’s out there, you’ll see every strength training methodology under the sun being offered and every “expert” telling you their way is the only way to get stronger.

Coaches worth their weight in gold will be the first to admit there is no one “right way” of training that applies to everyone.

That being said, there are a few things you need to know from a scientific and physiological perspective:

Human bodies are designed to move heavy loads.

(Imagine me making air quotes around the word heavy because what’s heavy for me may not be heavy for you.) You have different types of muscle fibers – slow and fast twitch to be very simplified about it. Activating fast twitch fibers requires more load, and it produces more force than slow twitch.

Think of it this way: You can walk all day long (slow twitch) but you can only do a couple reps at a time of a heavy squat. You cannot activate fast twitch fibers doing slow twitch activities. If you want to use all your musculature, you need a mix of slow and fast twitch exercises.

Why does this matter? You get maximum endocrine benefit and body composition benefit when you involve more of your musculature.

Translation: If you want to increase muscle mass and decrease body fat, lift “heavy” weights.

Progressive overload matters.

If you only ever do the same strength training – reps, sets, load – eventually, you’ll plateau.

This is one reason that bodyweight exercises alone aren’t as effective in continuing to build strength over time. (Though, depending on the individual, they can be a mighty great place to start.)

Instead, you’ll want to find a strength program that involves progressive overload – a systematic way of gradually increasing the stressor (load) placed on the body to elicit a response (getting stronger).

I’m a huge fan of linear progression for newcomers and intermediate level lifters. However, once someone has reached the intermediate+ level, it’s generally time for slightly more complex training cycles.

With these in mind, here are 3 tips to get you started on your strength training journey:

Find a quality coach / gym.

If you’re a novice to strength training, the expertise of a seasoned coach is vital. Yes, you can find videos on the internet and check your form in a mirror at home, but there are sometimes subtle differences between good and bad technique.

(I’m not knocking the value of a home workout, but at some point, you may plateau if you’re training on your own.)

Selecting the right facility to train at is probably the most important decision you’ll have to make.

An experienced coach can properly assess your current mobility and strength, take your history and goals into account, and design a program that will challenge you enough to cause improvement but not so aggressively that you risk injury.

Furthermore, a coach should do more than just provide motivation during your training session. (Cheerleading is great, but a coach needs to do more than yell at you to keep going.)

S/he should correct your form and develop a program that will help you advance your strength training in a structured fashion. (Remember the idea of progressive overload?)

When choosing a gym, do some research about facilities in your area. Visit them and take along a list of prepared questions or know what to ask.

For example:

  • Does the facility offer group classes, small group, or even one-on-one training?
  • Is it a general strength and conditioning facility or is there a specific focus (kettlebells, TRX, CrossFit, etc)?
  • Do they offer an on-ramp program for beginners?
  • What certifications do the coaches have? Do they continue to go to trainings and improve their knowledge?

Observe the community of the gym itself and see if it’s a place you’ll feel comfortable training. Of course, you may feel a bit nervous or uncertain when you start something new, but if your gut feeling is that it’s not the right match, find another place.

One of the best ways to find a good spot is to ask your friends. Personal recommendations can go quite far, so see who is training where and whether they like, pros and cons, etc.

Another benefit of working with a coach is avoiding the dreaded “I walked into the weight area and all the people (guys) were staring at me” factor.

Prioritize form over load.

Strength training is incredibly effective, but it’s not worth moving more weight if you have to sacrifice your technique to do it. (This is especially true if you’re strength training for the health benefit and not as a competitor, but that’s another post altogether.)

Yes, form may degrade slightly as you move through the most challenging sets in a workout, but when you cannot maintain basic points of performance, it’s worth thinking about whether you should reduce the weight or stop altogether.

The whole point of strength training is to get stronger through progressively overloading muscle, using good technique, and planning for proper rest and recovery periods.

Strength training can never be 100% risk free. (Really, nothing is when it comes to fitness, but the alternative of being sedentary and losing muscle mass is not without risk either).

By being mindful of and practicing good form, you can minimize the risk while enjoying the benefits.

Be aware of the role ego can unfortunately play in strength training, resulting in you pushing too hard or not following your coach’s advice because you added more weight or reps before you’re ready.

If your coach tells you to stop because you’re too tired, don’t go elsewhere to finish the workout. (Yes, this does happen!)

Ego is probably the most dangerous thing in the gym. Click To Tweet

 …But, don’t go too light all the time.

While lifting too heavy before you’re ready or using improper form aren’’t good, lifting tiny weights that are far below your ability level isn’t much better. Sure, your risk of injury might decrease, but you’ll be missing out on the positive benefits from strength training.

In order to understand why it’s beneficial to lift heavier, remember the explanation of muscle fibers from above.

In order to get the most benefit from strength training, it’s important to lift heavy enough loads to activate the most muscle fiber possible.

So while you may start with bodyweight exercises, plan that at some point, you’ll progress to weighted version of those movements or some other kind of weight training.

(Note: Science is beginning to understand muscle has endocrine functions, meaning peptides released because of exercise can affect metabolism in tissues throughout the body. Though perhaps the most well-known study of this sort was conducted in animal models1, it correlates with what we know happens to humans when they lift heavy weights – muscle mass increases, fat decreases, and tissues become more sensitive to insulin.)

Probably the most common objection from women to the idea of lifting heavy weights is the fear of “getting bulky.”

Females have a fraction of the testosterone that men do – as little as 5-10% (and even less if you’re on hormonal birth control) – making it much harder to put on copious muscle mass.

Also, muscle mass is regulated by a gene called GDF-8 which encodes for a protein called myostatin. Think of myostatin like a brake pedal applied to muscle growth. In most females and even many men, myostatin keeps excessive muscle growth in check.

When I say “heavy load” please don’t envision you need a dozen iron plates hanging off a barbell that looks like it’ll crush you while veins pop out of your forehead.

Typically, that means you’ll need moderate to heavy dumbbells, kettlebells, or a barbell to select a heavy enough load.

A load that’s heavy for you will differ for someone else, and it’s all relative to your stage of strength training development.

Also, keep in mind that a proper training program will have weeks of progressive loading and should included regularly scheduled deload or recovery weeks.

Strength training at heavy enough load – provided other factors such as proper nutrition, recovery and sleep – are intact, will often lead to small to modest increases in muscle mass.

Women (and men!) you see with incredibly large muscle mass have usually gone to extraordinary measures to achieve those gains.

(Note: When you see fitness programs promising to “tone” muscle, know that it’s used as a marketing term. In order to “get toned,” you have to build muscle and / or lose fat on top of the muscle. Making muscles “long and lean” is another fallacy. Strength training will provide you muscle shape and definition, but the “length” of your muscles is determined by genetics.)

Don’t cherry pick or jump programs.

One lesson that applies just as much to strength training as it does to other areas of life is to be consistent.

If your coach puts you on a four-month training plan but you get restless after a week, be patient. Cherry-picking and program-jumping – moving from one method to another to another without giving it a chance to actually work – is a common error among both rookie and seasoned lifters.

A strength training program need not be the buzzworthy flavor-of-the-week or named after a Russian weightlifter to be incredibly effective.

Instead, novices can benefit greatly from a solid linear progression program focusing on compound movements such as the squat, deadlift, and press while avoiding the overload or riskier tactics that often accompany trendy programs.

When you’re starting out, commit to following through with the strength training program you’re on and be patient in your expectation of results.

Keep in mind that you’re learning new skills and that you may not hit PRs immediately. Jumping from one program to another makes it very difficult to have the consistency you need for success over time.

In conclusion…

by selecting a knowledgeable coach and facility, using appropriately challenging loads and sticking to a program, you’ll give yourself the best possible foundation to enjoy the strength gains that positively impact health.

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Looking for a functional strength program to get started with? Check out my Get Stronger, my 4-week basic strength program here.

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References & Further Reading

1Izumiya, Y., Hopkins, T., Morris, C., Sato, K,, Zeng, L., Viereck, J., Hamilton, J., Ouchi, N., LeBrasseur, N., & Walsh, K. Fast / Glycolytic Muscle Fiber Growth Reduces Fat Mass and Improves Metabolic Parameters in Obese Mice. Cell Metabolism, 7(2), 159-72.

Srikanthan, P., & Karlamangla, A. (2014). Muscle Mass Index As a Predictor of Longevity in Older Adults. The American Journal of Medicine, 127(6), 547–553.

Pedersen, B., & Febbraio, M. (2008). Muscle As an Endocrine Organ: Focus On Muscle-Derived Interleukin-6. Physiological Review, 88(4), 1379-406.

Photos by: Richwell Correa

How to Choose Weightlifting Shoes

Weightlifting shoes & gear – specifically getting the right kind for your budget and experience level – is something lifters ask me about all the time. I figured it was high time to give you a peek inside my gym bag and talk about what’s essential – and what’s just fluff – as you start your journey to getting stronger.

How to Choose Weightlifting Shoes | StephGaudreau.com

Today, I’m focusing on weightlifting shoes.

Note: The shoes covered in this post are often used by Olympic weightlifters (snatch, clean and jerk), some powerlifters for the squat, and others who are in the functional fitness / CrossFit communities.

My Philosophy on Gear

Look, when you’re first starting out, everyone’s going to give you their 2 cents about weightlifting shoes and gear. Coaches, training partners, people on social media, internet weightlifting coaches (jerks that come out of nowhere and analyze your form without you asking, thankyouverymuch) are all going to have their opinions.

All that analysis will give you paralysis.

My philosophy on it is two-fold:

  1. I almost never buy the cheapest gear. There’s a saying: Buy cheap, buy twice.
  2. I almost never opt for the most expensive stuff the first time I start something. Why? I don’t know if I’m even going to like the new hobby a couple months from now.

I usually aim for a mid-priced option because that leaves me the wiggle room to upgrade over time, but what I’m using now also won’t fall apart next week.

Definitely ask around and get opinions, but remember to consider what’s right for you, your goals, and your budget.

In this multi-part series, I’m breaking down your weightlifting gear essentials, starting with the most important first: shoes.

I’ve personally owned four pairs of weightlifting shoes – which I’ll detail below – since I first got into the sport six years ago, and I’ve got some pointers for you if you’re getting started or looking to upgrade.

Why Weightlifting Shoes Matter

Ah, weightlifting shoes. So important, yet often ignored.

When you’re lifting a barbell, you have two points of contact as you pull the bar off the floor: 1) your feet on the floor and 2) your hands on the bar.

Translation: As one-half of the contact points, having the right shoes matters.

Squashy-soled running sneakers are the worst platform upon which to perch your tootsies if you’re weightlifting.

Now, if you only do weightlifting once in a blue moon, fine. Get a pair of minimalist sneakers or flat athletic shoes like Chucks and have at it.

But if you’re weightlifting even once a week on a regular basis, you need proper footwear.

Hard-soled weightlifting shoes are key because they provide stability, and the force you generate doesn’t get sucked up by squishy bottoms. Efficient lifting means transferring the power your legs and hips generate into your arms and eventually, the bar. If you’re leaking power because it’s escaping through the marshmallow-y soles of your sneakers, you’re losing out.

Hard-soled weightlifting shoes are key because they provide stability. Click To Tweet

The raised heel of a lifting shoe also puts you in a more upright squatting position.

What to Look For in Weightlifting Shoes

There are a few main factors to consider when you’re shopping for a weightlifting shoe:

  1. Heel height
  2. Durability & construction
  3. Style (hey, it matters to some!)
  4. Price

Yes, there’s also the material the upper is made out of, but almost all are made from synthetic materials these days.

Heel height will vary slightly between brands, but even 1/4″ differences can have a big impact on your lifting, especially if you’re switching between brands. Recently, I experienced this when I swapped to Nike Romaleos after wearing Adidas Adipowers for two years. There was definitely an adjustment period of a few weeks until I settled in.

Durability and construction are most important when it comes to weightlifting shoes that are built to be multi-purpose. Some brands are designed only for lifting barbells (Adidas, Nike, Risto, VS, and Rogue Do-Win weightlifting-specific shoes come to mind). These will have a stiff upper, and you won’t find a ton of flex if you try to bend the sole.

On the other hand, Inov-8 and Reebok have multipurpose weightlifting shoes with semi-rigid soles designed with more flex. These are great if you do CrossFit or other types of functional fitness; they allow you to do workouts that combine lifting with cardio, calisthenics, or gymnastics.

I ask people, “Are you a weightlifter who does a little CrossFit now and then?” If the answer’s yes, opt for traditional weightlifting shoes.

Style, while many people don’t want to admit it matters, plays into weightlifting shoe selection. With the growth of the sport in recent years, it’s easier to find mega-cool, stylish shoes. Girlie colors, bright and bold looks, or neutrals like white and black abound; just do some searching to find what you like. Personally, I think Nike has the most variety in terms of color combinations.

Price may factor into the decision for you. Unless you’re seriously on a budget, don’t buy the cheapest pair of shoes. They probably won’t last long, and they’re likely to need replacing sooner. That being said, I rarely recommend newbies spring for Romaleos or Adipowers which both retail for about $180-$200.

Sometimes you can find closeouts on uncommon sizes – think teeny-tiny or gigantor – and score there, so look around online.

Here’s an easy retail price-ranking of some popular weightlifting shoes and models:

A Word About Fit

If you can try weightlifting shoes on before you buy, do it. Even if you’re sticking your feet in your training partners’ lifters, give them a shot. Do some air squats. Move around in them.

You don’t want weightlifting shoes to be too lose or have too much give. Time and time again, I see folks with their feet practically swimming in their shoes.

The whole point is to build stability, and if the shoe is too big, your feet slide around too much inside them.

Even if you have wider feet – which I do – most shoes will give significantly in the toe box over time.

You don’t want your toes painfully jammed against the top of the shoe, either, but keep in mind that the uppers will stretch over time. Some brands even recommend going down a half size, so read their sizing charts carefully.

And ladies, be aware that most brands only sell “men’s” styles so you’ll have to convert the size to a women’s equivalent. Confusing, I know.

My Personal Experience with Weightlifting Shoes

I started out with a pair of Do-Wins back in 2010 and used them for CrossFit and weightlifting. As you can imagine, the shoes didn’t hold up well. They were an affordable entry point at the time. However, when Reebok came out with its CrossFit Lifter, I upgraded to those. Perfect for the sport, they lasted for a couple years.

In early 2014, I decided to focus on Oly, so I opted for a pair of Adidas Adipower weightlifting shoes. Compared to the CrossFit Lifters, they felt like big boots: super stable! After about six to nine months of 4-times weekly wear, they started to show signs of breaking down. Though I liked the heel height, I was disappointed with how quickly the uppers cracked / split.

I hung on to the Adipowers until early this year because my husband gifted me with a pair of Romaleos for my birthday – hey, I think it’s totally romantic! Reluctantly as I was to switch, I did. Though it took a few weeks of adjustment, I’m used to them now and really like how they feel.

We’ll see how they wear long-term, but for now it’s a bit early to tell.

The best advice I have is to use your weightlifting shoes for their intended purpose to give them the best longevity.

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3 Ways to Flip the Fitness Industry the Bird

It’s about damn time that you flip the fitness industry the bird, and I’m giving you three strategies for doing it.

3 Ways to Flip the Fitness Industry the Bird | StephGaudreau.com

This post started as a little Insta-rant, and has blossomed into a bit of a manifesto, but I digress. Let’s start at the beginning.

Words matter.

Yeah, actions do matter, but words are powerful and they are streaming past your eyes and into your mind every single second of the day.

Just stop for a second and think about the words bombarding you on an average day from the health and fitness marketing space:

  • Skinny _____ (insert recipe name here)
  • Detox diets
  • Cleanses (because you must be dirty)
  • How to “control” cravings
  • Shrink your _____ (insert body part here)
  • Quick fixes
  • Slim down (because size, and not quality of life / health is most important)
  • No pain, no gain

I could go on, but you get the point.

These messages – and a majority of what’s directed at us as women – are crafted from a place of fear.

Fear that we aren’t enough, we’re broken, and there’s something wrong with us.

The illusion is that if we could just fix the parts we don’t like, we’ll be happy. (Spoiler: If you finally manage to lose those ten pounds, you won’t magically find happiness.)

Everything marketed to you is done in a way that causes you to act out of fear:

Fear of failure.

Fear of rejection.

Fear of isolation.

Women have been bullied, intimidated, and shamed into trying to fix their bodies for years. Click To Tweet

Since I’m not one who just likes to complain about what’s wrong, I’m offering you up three strategies for being a more conscious consumer of media and the messages these industries are feeding you.

3 Ways to Flip the Fitness Industry the Bird

1) Be present.

This one sounds so simple, but it’s not easy. The key is to develop awareness about the messages you actively and passively consume.

Even if you do this for just one day, you’ll be shocked – and appalled – with what’s marketed your way by the fitness industry.

How often does the language of dieting and minimizing and “you-aren’t-enough-ness” come your way?

These industries exist on the premise of psychological manipulation and subliminal messages that, unfortunately, make their way into your subconscious mind without you even realizing it. I first learned about these trance states my friend, hypnotherapist Chel Hamilton, and it’s the way everything from casinos to TV commercials work.

The first step is to simply be aware and awake. Are these messages motivating you from a place of fear or a place of love?

 2) Opt out.

Once you’ve developed some awareness, it’s time to do something about it and opt OUT.

I can’t recommend this one enough: Get rid of cable and stop watching TV.

Shocking? (Maybe.)

Impossible? (No.)

In 2007, I got rid of my cable subscription and my TV.

Yes, I still watch programs and documentaries –  recently we invested in an LCD projector and a Netflix subscription – but I’m seeing nowhere near the advertisements that I was via mainstream networks.

Now that I’ve been desensitized to it, whenever I go visit my parents and the TV is running, I cannot believe the shit that I see. It horrifies me.

Not ready to bring your boob tube to the local thrift shop?

Start opting out of email newsletters and unfollowing accounts on social media that aren’t serving you. Stop buying fitness & diet magazines.

Take a cue from the recent #UnfollowFriday movement, and make some changes. Are there accounts and personalities online that make you feel less than? Get rid of them.

3) Find your people.

Once you’ve done the step above, it’s time to get really keyed in to the people and brands that are helping you in a positive way.

Be judicious with who you follow in the fitness industry. Click To Tweet

Do they motivate you from a place of genuine self-love?

There are lots of voices who are doing it right.

Creating an online support network matters, but even more important than that, find people in real life that share your core values.

The internet is both a wonderful and a terrible thing: It connects us across distances – hello, I met my husband on Twitter (true story) – but it allows us to wallow behind a screen, desperately unable to find real human connection.

Your act of meeting a friend for coffee or joining a local running group is exactly the thing the diet and fitness industry don’t want. It’s through time spent in person with people that lift you up, when you truly disconnect from the messages that marketers bombard you with, that you strengthen your core values and resolve from a place of love instead of a place of fear.

To Summarize…

The fitness industry (and let’s be honest, the diet industry too) operates on the premise of fear and manipulation to keep you stuck in the endless cycle of spending.

Exit the loop by first becoming aware.

Then, opt out of what isn’t serving you.

Finally, develop stronger connections – online but more importantly, in person– with people, groups, and brands that resonate with your core values.

Pin these 3 Ways to Flip the Fitness Industry the Bird for later!

3 Ways to Flip the Fitness Industry the Bird | StephGaudreau.com

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Let’s Talk Cellulite

Let's Talk Cellulite | StephGaudreau.com

Let’s talk about the C-word, shall we?

I’m referring to cellulite.

I have. You probably have it. If you’re like 90% (yes 90%!!!) of women, you have had some amount of cellulite in your life. Even guys get it.

I’m healthy. I’m strong. I have a perfectly healthy body composition and yet, I still have cellulite. And I don’t give a damn about it. I also have a gigantic squiggle varicose vein that runs most of the length of my left leg. See it? I’ve had it since I was 21 (yes, way before I lifted weights).

Why do I tell you all this? It’s because my body isn’t perfect and I make no apologies for it. The media tries to make women (and men) think we are less than because we have bumps and cellulite and stretch marks and all the things NORMAL BODIES HAVE.

Even really fit, totally healthy, super strong, thin / toned / whatever you wanna call it people have cellulite. A lot of it is genetic. A lot of it is affected by age and the elasticity of our connective tissue.

But here’s the thing: Do you let your bumps and rolls define you? Do you judge yourself for the imperfections that every human has? Are you trying to improve your body from a place of loathing or frustration or hate? (Hint: that doesn’t work.)

Start focusing on what you love about yourself. The people worth your time in this world already see that. It’s time you did, too. Love yourself for WHAT YOU ARE instead of always thinking of WHAT YOU’RE NOT.

Talk to me. What struggles do you still have about cellulite? Leave your questions and comments below!

Getting Outside

Getting Outside | StephGaudreau.com

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.”

– Sir John Lubbock

Scrolling through photos of New Zealand on my camera roll and this one of Lake Wakatipu caught my eye. Immediately a flood of memories has come back and it reminds me of my commitment to go outside more and just be.

Admittedly, I’ve not done very well on this commitment since I got home but it’s something I’ll continue to work on. I know it’s something I must do to truly be and feel whole.

Queenstown, New Zealand.