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!

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.

Pin this How to Get Started with Strength Training article for later…

How to Get Started with Strength Training | StephGaudreau.com

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

Get Stronger 4-Week Program | StephGaudreau.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Pin this article on How to Choose Weightlifting Shoes for later:

How to Choose Weightlifting Shoes | StephGaudreau.com

Ready to jump into strength training? Click here to get my 4-week program!

Are You Making These Top 3 Strength Training Mistakes?

Are You Making These Top 3 Training Mistakes? | StephGadureau.comAre you making these top 3 strength training mistakes?

I asked three of my strong lady friends—Jen Sinkler, Diane Fu and Melissa Hartwig—to chime in with the three errors they see people (specifically women) make when they set out to move some weights in the gym.

Last week I posted about strength training as one of the keys to sustainable fat loss, and it sparked some great conversation across social media.

Many people said that they’re interested in basic strength training but they don’t know how to get started.

[Side note: If you’re looking for a top-notch powerlifting program that focuses on the squat, bench press, and deadlift, I want to tell you about Unapologetically Powerful. It’s a new program from powerlifting badasses Jen Sinkler and Jen Blake, and it’s designed to get you silly-strong and—if you’re so—ready to jump into your first meet.

The Jens have spent hours developing this resource, and it’s incredible. I’ve had a chance to go through their demo videos myself and apply them to my training. The cues are spot on, and I’ve every confidence they’ll help you get strongrrrrrrr (as Jen S says).]

 

Okay, on to the Top 3 Strength Training Mistakes.

Are You Making These Top 3 Strength Training Mistakes? | stupideasypaleo.comJen Sinkler — Unapologetically Powerful, powerlifter, & gym owner

1. Not getting proper instruction at the outset. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard women say that they stuck to the cardio section of the gym because they found free weights section to be intimidating, and I get that!

Even once you’re sold on the benefits of resistance training, it can be difficult to know what to do with the equipment. While some lifts are pretty straightforward, most have layers of cueing involved that both help keep you safe and maximize the effectiveness of the lift by recruiting the right muscle groups in the right sequence. Always, but especially when you’re just getting started, it can be invaluable to seek the guidance of an expert.

Either join a group fitness class where the instructors are well-qualified and attentive, or consider purchasing even a few private or semi-private sessions with a personal trainer to hammer home form for some of the main movement categories (such as squat, press, upper-body push, and upper-body pull, plus rotation and anti-rotation).

2. Not using progressive overload. I admit it, I’m a jock. All of my best friends are jocks, constantly pushing themselves and each other. Inevitably, everything turns into a contest, including how much weight they can lift, and it can occasionally get out of hand. With that personality type, reigning in the urge to give it their all, all the time, is the name of the game. With many others, the opposite is true: Rather than exploring their limits, I see people reaching for the same weights week in and week out. The problem with that strategy is that the body is too smart for that — it adapts to the demands you place upon it, and thus your progress stalls out.

So, it’s important to capitalize on the principle of progressive overload, where you very gradually increase the weight you use from session to session. That way you’re constantly making progress! That said, progress isn’t linear, and you won’t be able to add weight every single time until infinity.

When you get to the point you can’t add more weight, that’s when you change the repetition scheme (say you drop from 8 to 10 reps to 5 to 6) until your body adapts to that and you need to change it again. Generally speaking, you work from higher to lower reps, then start over with a higher rep scheme again with the brand new weight you can do for that many reps.

3. Not finding a training style they enjoy. Just as there are many different types of yoga (anywhere from sweaty, fast-paced power yoga to yin yoga, which is slow and still) and endurance events (from obstacle courses to 5Ks to ultramarathons), there are many different types of resistance training.

There’s powerlifting, which focuses on the barbell squat, bench press, and deadlift; there’s Olympic lifting, which homes in on the barbell snatch and the clean and jerk; calisthenics, which uses bodyweight only; various styles of kettlebell training, some of which focus on strength and others more on efficiency; the sport of strongman, which includes a number of timed challenges using various equipment; CrossFit, which combines a number of modalities from gymnastics to Olympic lifting; and various bootcamp-style classes that employ dumbbells only, just to name a few.

Here’s the thing I think a lot of people miss: you don’t have to do anything you don’t enjoy. More to the point, you probably won’t stick with a regimen if you don’t enjoy yourself — so it’s well worth your time to explore which training styles you like best. Take a class, drop in for a session, take a workshop. Make the pursuit of better fitness one of the grand experiments of your life, and that life will be a longer and more robust one.

Are You Making These Top 3 Strength Training Mistakes? | stupideasypaleo.comMelissa Hartwig — Whole30, RKC kettlebell certified

1. Assuming heavy weights are for guys only. You’re not limited to the little pink dumbbells just because you’re a woman, and lifting heavy weights with a strength-focus won’t make you big and bulky like a professional bodybuilder. There are many benefits to picking up heavy stuff, including building strong, healthy bones; developing functional fitness that will serve you well in your everyday life (think helping a friend carry a couch, or picking your tantruming toddler up off the floor); and increasing muscle mass (and your metabolism).

2. Not learning from a qualified trainer. If you’re going to strength train, you need to learn proper form, and you can’t do that by watching Instagram videos. Seek out an experienced, qualified trainer to teach you to perform the movements effectively and safely, and teach you how to work them into an overall training routinte to suit your goals and context.

3. Testing, not training. It’s fun to pull 1-rep maxes and go up in weight every time you set foot in the gym. But strenth training isn’t just about setting PRs; it’s about building functional strength that stays with you and keeps you healthy (at the gym and in real life). This means doing the sometimes boring, not-so-sexy stuff like assistance exercises, mobility work, and technique work at lighter weight. You’ve got to pay to play, and all that training will really pay off when the time is right to test your new capacity.

Are You Making These Top 3 Strength Training Mistakes? | stupideasypaleo.comDiane Fu — FuBarbell, olympic weightlifting coach

1. Not lifting heavy or often enough – Spending time in 85%+ range for weights and getting accustomed to heavy loads and frequently

2. Undereating – Not having enough resources to recover

3. Diffusing effort – Not focusing on the basic movements like Squats, Deadlifts, Presses, and Olympic lifts and too much on other ancillary exercises/conditioning

Time to get strong!

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Are You Making These Top 3 Training Mistakes? | StephGadureau.com

Photo: Fresh Burst Photography

Questions for these ladies or me about strength training mistakes? Leave a comment below!

Strength Training…Not Just for Meatheads Anymore

Strength Training: Not Just For Meatheads  | StephGaudreau.com

Strength training. It’s not just for meatheads anymore.

If you want to lose body fat and gain muscle mass, move heavy weight.

If you want to improve your metabolism, move heavy weight.

If you want to look good naked, move heavy weight.

If you want to skyrocket your self-confidence, move heavy weight.

What’s “heavy” will depend on your experience level and progression but know that if you only keep lifting the same light weights, you won’t continue to get stronger and the improvements you did see when you started lifting won’t continue. The body constantly adapts and gets stronger and so we must continue to stretch ourselves and see what’s possible. In other words, tiny dumbbells aren’t gonna cut it. Yes we all need to start somewhere but the key is not staying there long.

Bottom line: if you’re trying to come to a healthier body comp, focus on your performance. Challenge yourself. Lift heavy weights a few times a week. The body you want will come as a result of focusing on the right things like nourishing your body, sleeping plenty, moving smartly and taking time to relax and destress.

Here’s me doing some heavy front squats for sets of 2. It doesn’t take much. This medicine is powerful and efficient!

Questions about strength training? Leave them in the comment section below!