Archive for category: Training

The basic premise of any powerlifting meet is as follows: you compete with other individuals in your gender and weight class, and you have to perform the back squat, deadlift, and bench press; you have three attempts for each lift, and you only have to select your opening attempt before the meet begins; you need at least two white lights out of three in order for an attempt to count.

That’s all fine and well, but chances are, if you’re new to the sport of powerlifting, you have 101 questions. Where do you begin? How should you approach your training? What if you don’t fit in?

Here are 20 things you need to know.

1. Anyone can be a powerlifter so long as you can perform the back squat, deadlift (sumo or conventional), and bench press. There are no specific strength requirements that you need to qualify for by any means, so remove those “I’m not strong enough to compete” thoughts from your head. I’m far from an elite powerlifter, but I probably have more fun than anyone, both during training and at the meets. There’s no reason to ever be ashamed of your numbers – I know I sure as hell am not.

2. If you’re on the fence about competing, find a local powerlifting meet near where you live and check it out as a spectator. You’ll notice pretty quickly on that no one is jeering or mocking anyone who fails a lift or doesn’t have world record-breaking numbers; in fact, the environment is overwhelmingly positive and supportive. Cheering and hollering and clapping are the norm for athletes up on the platform. Even spending an hour in the audience will give you a pretty good idea of what a meet is like and will probably get you pumped up to participate as a competitor one day.

3. When picking a meet, take into consideration the federation you want to compete in, the date of meets available, and the geographic locations. The USAPL is considered the gold standard, so try and go that route if possible. However, if there are no USAPL meets available in the next few months that’s within driving distance for you, it’s perfectly okay to pick a different federation. 100% Raw and UPA are also good.

4. For your first meet, it’s probably better to register for the weight class that you can slide into without extra effort. This means that if you’re between two weight classes, go for the higher one. Unless you’re hovering just a couple of pounds above the lower weight class, it’s not worth cutting back calories to risk losing strength. (As an example, earlier this year, I was sitting at around 109lbs, and I thought it would make sense to diet down for the 103lb weight class – this means that I would have had to come in exactly at or under 103lbs. It only took one week in a mild caloric deficit for me to feel markedly weaker and realize that forcing myself into the lower weight class just to match last year’s numbers would have wasted a whole year’s worth of hard training.) The one exception would be if you know that you have the potential to set a record in the lower weight class and your strength numbers can stay intact or even increase while you diet down.

5. Take the time to learn the technicalities of how to lift like a powerlifter. For back squat, you typically have to hit parallel (hip crease in line with or lower than knee joint); a powerlifting-style bench press is different from a standard bodybuilding-style bench press, mainly in that a full pause is required at the bottom of the rep, and you want to get in a good arch to shorten the range of motion; and the deadlift requires a full lockout at the top. It’ll probably be in your best interest to recruit the help of a powerlifting coach – or at the very least, educate yourself on what proper form entails.

6. Pick a meet several months out (I would recommend 3-5 months), and then reverse-engineer your program so you always know how many weeks you have to train and where you are in your training cycle relative to the big day.

7. Recruit a training partner if possible. I was not able to do this for the meets that I competed in mostly due to geographic restriction and my time availabilities, but I know that having someone to keep you accountable, spot you on your sets, and push you during your grinders can make a huge difference in training experience.

8. When training, err on the side of caution. Go deeper on squats than you think you need to (this means going well below parallel), pause a smidge longer for your bench press reps, and squeeze those cheeks at the top of the deadlift. It’s better to be over-prepared come meet day than to be chagrined when you get red-lighted left and right.

Depth on the left is well below paralell; depth on the right is just below parallel. Note where my hip crease is relative to my knee joint.

Depth on the left is well below parallel; depth on the right is just below parallel. Note where my hip crease is relative to my knee joint. (Picture taken at Crossfit Magna in Phoenix, Arizona)

9. Make every set a quality set. Treat your warmup sets like you would your heavy working sets. The lighter sets are a perfect opportunity for you to really hammer home a strict setup and groove proper movement pattern. You don’t want to be chitchatting with your girlfriend while you’re repping our squats or letting your mind wander mid-rep.

10. Keep a training log and track your strength increases. You should be improving upon your big lift numbers from month to month. Pay attention to whether or not you’re actually progressing and how your body is feeling. While strength gains are not linear, you should be noticing a general upward trend over time.

11. Keep form as intact as possible. It’s not unusual to see some serious round back pulling at a meet, as that’s how many people are stronger. However, the more you train in this manner and the more you let your lumbar round, the higher the risk of injury. The last thing you want is to get hurt, as this will keep you sidelined for weeks, if not months and years. Practice good form whenever possible and minimize form breakdown.

12. Don’t underestimate the importance of rest. If you’re constantly grinding out every single working set day after day, you’re not giving your body a chance to recover. By rest, I’m referring both to how many days you’re taking off from the gym as well as the quality and quantity of your sleep. You should also have scheduled deloads throughout your training so you don’t run yourself into the ground – this is one thing that my coach and I did not do during my most recent prep that likely contributed to my poor bench press performance.

13. Keep an eye on scale weight. Unlike a bodybuilding, figure, or bikini competition, in powerlifting, it doesn’t matter how you look. There is zero focus on your aesthetics; all that matters is what weight class you’re in and how much weight you can lift. You don’t have to become obsessive, but you would be remiss not to keep a pulse on how much you weigh just to ensure that you’re where you want to be. For me, I typically set a 4lb window and I try not to let myself lower or higher than that range. If you’re too heavy, you won’t make your weight class; if you’re too light, that may mean you’re not consuming sufficient calories and your training will suffer. Find that sweet spot where you can eat enough and continue getting stronger in the gym.

14. Check your particular federation’s approved gear list early. You don’t want to be that person (eh hem, me) who doesn’t think to look up the gear list until two weeks out from her meet and then have to scramble to make sure that everything is purchased and delivered on time. This is irresponsible and adds unnecessary stress. You may be restricted to a specific brand of singlet, t-shirt, wrist wraps, knee sleeves, and belt, so purchase these early. You’ll also want the time to be able to wear in your belt and wrist wraps in particular.

15. Practice the commands. For squat, you have the “start” and “rack” commands; for bench, you have “start,” “press,” and “rack”; and for deadlift, you just have the one “down” command. Familiarize yourself with these so you don’t let your nerves get to you and you accidentally squat before you’ve been given the go-ahead.

Locking out at the top of my pull and waiting for the "down" command at my most recent USAPL meet.

Locking out at the top of my pull and waiting for the “down” command at my most recent USAPL meet.

16. Shoot for 9/9 at your first meet. This means that every attempt for every lift is considered a go and no attempts have been disqualified. It’s better to walk away from a meet thinking that you could have totally ripped 10 more pounds off the floor and use that as motivation to smash it out of the ballpark for your next meet than to try at a weight, fail, then kick yourself for letting your ego get in the way. Your first attempt is a confidence builder (so a weight that you have easily hit multiple times during training), your second attempt should be close to your max, and then your last can be a PR attempt.

17. Take your taper seriously. The week of the meet, try not to introduce any new foods into your diet. Stick to what you know your stomach can handle. As well, this is not the time to go skydiving for the first time or split your shin open doing high-rep box jumps taking a last-minute bootcamp class. Lay low, stay out of trouble, and keep the theatricals to a minimum.

18. Bring plenty of food and drink for the day of the meet, but again, keep your options safe. You want to stick to mostly easily digestible carb sources. I like to toss a few Monsters and Gatorades into my bag as well as bananas, dried fruit, gummy bears, peach rings, and other fun snacks. My friends Karey and Eric also brought me a bag of donuts for after weigh-ins, and I ate two throughout the course of the meet. You may not have much of an appetite, but it’s better to have leftover food than to run out of sustenance.

19. Rather than comparing how your numbers stack up to other individuals in your class, focus more on how you can perform your best. Then, if you decide to do another meet in the future, you should strive to beat your own personal best numbers.

20. Keep a positive attitude and be a good sport. Cheer for others, even those in your weight class. You may do extremely well, and that’s something you can celebrate. If you miss a lift or get called for a technicality, it’s not the end of the world. The worst thing you can do is throw a tantrum and look childish. Use your mistakes as a valuable learning opportunity so you can do even better the next time around.

Earlier this week, I worked out with Rachel Steinberg, who competed in the same weight class as me on April 2 and beat me. I'm inspired by her and happy to have a new fitness friends!

Earlier this week, I worked out with Rachel Steinberg, who competed in the same weight class as me on April 2 and beat me. I’m inspired by her and happy to have a new fitness friend!

Competing in a powerlifting meet involves a lot more than simply getting strong in the three lifts. Powerlifting can be incredibly fun as long as you dot your i’s and cross your t’s, so make sure you have all of your ducks in a row in preparation for the big day.


I recently competed in my second powerlifting meet in the USAPL federation on April 2 in Chandler, AZ in the 52kg (114lb) weight class. My first was the 100% Raw meet on May 30, 2015 in Tucson, AZ. Over the past year, I’ve continued to lift heavy, I’ve competed in a bikini competition, and most importantly, I’ve had a ton of fun along the way.

I hope you enjoy reading my wrap-up of the most recent meet below.

Why I Decided to Powerlift Again

Most people think of me as a bikini competitor first and foremost. And I can’t blame them; I’ve got a small frame and I’m not very muscular at all. Plus, I won my IFPA bikini pro card last fall after taking first place in my height class, so there’s that.

OCB Nationals in October 2015

OCB Nationals in October 2015

If I’m (supposedly) more successful as a bikini competitor, then why would I bother still dabbling in powerlifting?

It’s pretty straightforward to me: I love staying sufficiently fueled in the kitchen and chasing strength in the gym. There’s not much more empowering to me than setting a new personal record (PR) in a given exercise. My workouts have more meaning, and my definition of success is not contingent upon how lean my abs look or what the scale reads in the morning. Honing in on the big three lifts also helps to shift the focus away from aesthetics (which, when taken to the extreme, can lead to body dysmorphia and take away from quality of life) and more toward performance.

Not everyone is cut out to be a world-class powerlifter – me, least of all. It’s unlikely that I’ll develop elite strength levels even after several years of dedicated powerlifting. But the pursuit? Ah, the pursuit. That’s what makes my heart flutter.

I decided to compete in my second powerlifting meet because I find joy in the process and I wanted to improve upon my numbers from the previous year.

How I Prepared for the Meet


I started my powerlifting prep in late December of 2015. Under the guidance of my coach Bret Contreras, I trained anywhere from three to four days a week. The first three training days were the most important, with each workout beginning with either the squat, bench, or deadlift. The fourth day was an optional accessory day.

I should note that there are many, many powerlifting programs you can follow to improve upon your big three lifts. We learned from my first powerlifting prep that my hips do not like squatting frequently and cannot handle much volume, so while some athletes can squat heavy up to three, four, or even five days a week, I can only do so once every five to seven days.

We incorporated plenty of accessory movements. For squats: pause squat, front squat, Bulgarian split squat, high step-up, deficit reverse lunge, goblet squat, barbell hip thrust, band hip thrust, single-leg hip thrust. For bench: close grip bench, incline bench, tricep extension, pushup from the floor. For deadlift: speed deadlift, Romanian deadlift, American deadlift, dumbbell stiff-legged deadlift, barbell hip thrust, band hip thrust, bodyweight hip thrust.

Rep ranges varied anywhere between 1 to 5 for the big three lifts depending on where I was at in my training cycle. For the accessory movements, reps were typically at 6 to 30. The higher reps were reserved for glute burnout exercises, such as band hip thrusts, to round out a training session.

Each workout had 4-8 different exercises, and I was typically done within an hour and a half from beginning to end. I would have been done sooner, but I would at times rest up to 8 minutes between working sets of the big lifts so I could get PRs.

Closer to the meet, I threw in heavy sets of barbell hip thrusts (285lbs x 3 for a PR) and band hip thrusts in order to help with my deadlift lockout. As a conventional round back puller, I’m fast off the floor, but my sticking point is right around mid-thigh level, so these movements helped me tremendously.

Feels crummy man 😪 Glad to get this session out of the way. My deadlift sets felt way heavier than usual, so I pulled back and worked up to 225lbs only. (Contrast this with this past Tuesday's easy 240lbs pull.) I then moved onto hip thrusts and was able to work up to 285lbs x 3 for a PR. I finished with seated cable rows and DB skull crushers, then tucked my tail between my legs and scurried home. 💩 Physically, I'm beat. Mentally, I'm worn down. I'm 7 days out from my #usapl meet and I'm feeling tapped out – but this is to be expected. It's not easy trying to set PRs every session plus exerting so much mental energy on visualizing sets, picking apart form, and basically becoming obsessive over the big 3 lifts. #phew Looking forward to this taper over the next several days. #girlswhopowerlift

A video posted by Sohee Lee (@soheefit) on


Following the conclusion of my bikini prep last October, I continued to track macros for the first month or so in order to reverse diet back up to maintenance calories. After that, however, I opted to put away my food scale and simply intuitive eat so I wouldn’t have to spend so much thinking about food.

I still consumed ample protein. I still got in plenty of carbs. I still had the occasional donut. I was by no means eating like a glutton, however. I stayed mindful of both my food choices and portion sizes, but otherwise didn’t worry about the exact macronutrient breakdown of any given meal – and I loved it.

It's been nice being able to eat foods like sushi and not have to worry about the exact macronutrient breakdown!

It’s been nice being able to eat foods like sushi and not have to worry about the exact macronutrient breakdown!

Up until about six weeks before the meet, I’d been planning on dropping a few pounds of bodyweight to make the 47kg (103lb) weight class. This seemed to make sense, especially after having spent the majority of the winter in the 108-109lb range. But it only took one week at a caloric deficit to feel weaker in the gym and realize that it would not be worth the strength I would invariably lose just to make the lower weight class. This, in my opinion, was one of the smartest decisions I made during this prep.

My goals as far as nutrition, then, were simply to eat enough to feel good and continue to set PRs in the gym. Everything else, including how my daily fluctuating calorie intake would affect my bodyweight, was secondary. I thankfully did not have to worry about making weight as I had so much wiggle room to play with.

Results on the Big Day

In the USAPL federation, weigh-ins take place two hours before the meet begins. This means that athletes don’t have much time to drop drastic amounts of water weight, and thus must stay closer to their true weight so they can be hydrated and still perform well.

The 100% Raw federation allowed checkins to take place at 5p.m. the day before the meet, so we had much more time to drop weight and then re-hydrate and re-fuel. Last year, I dropped 4lbs of water weight in one day to make weigh-ins, and then woke up 5 glorious pounds heavier the next morning to compete. I ended up squatting 165lbs (but just to parallel), benching 105lbs, and deadlifting 226lbs.

For this year’s meet, I checked in at 6:30a.m. and weighed in at 7:00a.m. After having consumed a big meal of pizza and ice cream the evening before followed by a pre-bedtime snack of jasmine rice with butter and salt alongside several handfuls of Swedish Fish (what? I was nervous!), I clocked in at 50.7kg, or 111.8lbs.

For squats, I went 3/3 with 143lbs as my opener, followed by 160lbs, and then 170lbs for a PR. I’m really happy with the depth I hit, especially on my first attempt. You’ll notice that I went well below parallel there. For my second attempt, I bumped up to 160lbs and figured I’d determine the third attempt afterward. For the last attempt, I could have shot for 175lbs, but based off of how the second attempt had felt, I wasn’t entirely confident I would hit that, so I decided to play it safe and go for something I knew I could pull off.

For bench press, I went 1/3 with 93lbs as my opener and then failed 105lbs twice. This was probably the most shocking moment of the meet for me. I wish you could have seen the look of surprise on both my face and Bret’s after failing miserably at the 105lb bench press, as this was a weight that I’d hit several dozens of times over the past year.

Bret claims that my eyes welled up with tears after that second attempt. I will neither confirm nor deny this.

Interestingly, on March 28, I had practiced my intended attempts without a hitch (93lbs, 105lbs, 110lbs) and hit my all-time PR of 110lbs. And even more curious is the fact that just 4 days after the meet, I hit 105lbs back in the gym again no problem. There are a dozen different variables that could explain why this happened, but more than likely it was the fact that I did not consume sufficient calories in the days leading up to the meet.

For deadlifts, I went 3/3 with 226lbs as my opener, followed by 243lbs, and then 248lbs. I’ll admit that after my mediocre bench press performance, my confidence was temporarily shot. I became nervous and paranoid that I would bomb out of deadlifts for a few minutes until my coach told me to snap out of it and stay positive. I figured I had nothing to lose at this point and decided to give it my all and rip the bar off the floor. Honestly, for the last two attempts (both of which were lifetime PRs for me), my head felt like it was going to explode.

Learning Lessons for the Future

Looking back, I’m almost grateful that I didn’t have another perfect 9/9 performance for this second meet. Going 7/9 was by no means terrible, but it’s certainly made me think long and hard about my strategy.

Setbacks, mistakes, failures – they all build character. And remember growth mindset? I’ve made the active decision to use my failed bench attempts as a valuable learning opportunity to become even more focused in the gym and do better moving forward.

Here’s what I did well for this prep:

  • I never missed a training session and I tracked my workouts diligently. I think if you’re serious about making progress in the gym you have to have a training log to record your weight, sets, and reps for every exercise that you perform. I would spend a few minutes before each workout reviewing the previous weeks’ numbers and comments to determine my next loads.
  • I stayed properly fueled. I touched on this before, but cutting back my calories to drop a weight class would have resulted in a sizable drop in strength, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I had simply matched, or even gone lower than, my numbers from last year’s meet. I would have essentially wasted an entire year’s worth of diligent strength training. How silly would that have been?
  • For squats, I pulled back on weight so I could get better depth. As it turns out, USAPL is pretty strict on squat depth, and I know that last year’s 165lbs that I hit would have been red-lighted this time. So while on paper it looks like I only managed to get stronger by 5lbs in the course of a year, my depth was several inches lower.

Here’s what I can improve upon for next time:

  • Double check the approved gear list for my specific federation. 100% Raw is much more lax with the brand of singlet, socks, wrist wraps, knee sleeves, and belt used, but USAPL has a very strict list of what is and is not allowed. This is something I didn’t even think to look into until 15 days before the meet. It ended up being fine, as everything I had to order came in on time, but I could have done without the extra stress.
  • I didn’t take a deload once during the entire 4 months of prep. Bret and I thought this wouldn’t be a problem, as I had continued to gain strength week after week and felt fine. But Bret thinks this may have contributed to my iffy bench performance, and he also suspects that I actually may have peaked the week before my meet.
  • I didn’t have a proper nutrition strategy for the week of the meet. As I mentioned before, I did not track macros for this prep; I simply kept an eye on scale weight to make sure I stayed within the 52kg weight class. It was the combination of not eating enough calories on the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday before the meet due to stress and nerves, plus lackadaisical nutrient timing (which does matter for performance but not so much for aesthetics) that screwed me up. I should have consumed about 500 more calories per day and weighed in at 113lbs or so to perform my best. Moving forward, I’ll be sure to have a specific set of prescribed macronutrient numbers at least for the week of the meet, and I’ll be better about nutrient timing as well.

Why Should I Powerlift If I’m Not That Strong?

There are no prerequisites for competing in a powerlifting meet other than showing up, completing all three lifts, and having event-sanctioned gear. You don’t have to be at a certain strength level, you don’t have to be with a specific team, and you most certainly don’t have to be any given age. There are people from all walks of life who slap on a singlet and squat, bench, and deadlift away. We cheer everyone on.

I’m well aware that my squat is not that impressive, especially for an individual who’s been lifting for over 8 years (though in my defense, only the past 1.5 years have been spent actively chasing strength). I know that my deadlift, while pretty good, is also horrific for some to watch with my round back pulls.

But strong is relative.

So while my numbers may pale in comparison to some of the world’s most elite powerlifters, that doesn’t matter to me. All I care about is whether or not I’m improving upon my own previous best lifts.

Do you love chasing strength?
Do you enjoy the big three lifts?

Then you might want to try powerlifting.

Bikini or Powerlifting?

This is a question I’ve been asked a number of times, so I figured I’d address it here.

Bikini competitor by day, powerlifter by night... or something like that.

Bikini competitor by day, powerlifter by night… or something like that.

Bikini and powerlifting are understandably two extremely different pursuits. With bikini, the focus is on your physique (overall symmetry, muscle definition) and presentation (tan, makeup, hair, jewelry, posing, facial expression). Powerlifting doesn’t give two hoots about what you look like; all that matters is how much weight you can lift.

For now, I’m enjoying powerlifting far more. I have no interest in launching myself back into fat loss mode anytime soon, as cutting my calories is simply not a priority to me at this time. I have no plans to compete in bikini this year, and may or may not compete next year. I’d rather take the next several months to continue gaining strength with good energy.

In the gym, my next strength goals are to hit a 185lb below-parallel squat, 115lb bench press, and 275lb deadlift. If all goes according to plan, I think I can hit those numbers within the next year, but that remains to be seen.

There will likely come a time when I’m ready to get back into the bikini mindset. That time is not now. I enjoy sharing a bucket of buttery, salty popcorn at the movie theaters without having to worry about macros. I’m loving last-minute late-night trips to the diner for pancakes and bacon. I’m eating well and getting stronger – life is good.

Here’s to strength, food, and badass chicks who aren’t afraid to lift heavy weights.

You can’t expect to put 10lbs on your squat every single week.

While that would be nice in theory, that means that if I were to start out with a 95lbs squat on January 1st, by the end of the year, I’d be going 615lbs rock bottom. Somehow, I don’t think that’s very likely.

Strength gains are not linear. This is a point that I find hammering home to my clients over and over. Just because you find yourself struggling with a particular weight this week that flew up last month, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are losing strength. It’s not immediate cause for concern.

Factors That Influence Strength

If strength were to occur in a vacuum, then perhaps gains in the gym would be more linear. How awesome would it be to increase your deadlift by 520lbs in one year, after all? However, life happens, and there are a hundred and one different variables that influence strength.

The most obvious factor to begin with: training experience. In general, beginner trainees will be able to see some pretty rapid strength gains in the first few months of a resistance training protocol. It’s not unusual to see upwards of 10+ pounds slapped onto the barbell per week during this time as the body becomes more coordinated and more practiced at a given exercise. This is not so much due to actual strength increases so much as neuromuscular adaptations taking place. Then, as you approach six months to a year of regular training, strength increases will necessary slow down. By the time you’re a veteran lifter with 10+ years under your belt, PRs will be hard to come by and incremental at best, and you’ll have to put in more and more work for increasingly diminishing returns. The sooner you realize this, the less disappointed you’ll be.

Next, we have caloric intake. If you’re in a caloric surplus (meaning that you’re consuming more energy than you expend), then you have extra fuel available to push it harder in the gym and set PRs. Conversely, being in a caloric deficit will probably mean that strength gains are harder to come by – though if you are following a sound training program, some strength gains can still be expected, especially at the beginning of a fat loss phase.

We also have to take into consideration training program specifics. How is your program structured? What movements are prioritized, with what sets and reps? How much rest are you taking in between working sets? (Remember, longer rest lends to better strength gains.) Are your workouts designed with strength as the main goal, or are your sessions haphazard, with every week being different than the one before?

Obviously, training program specifics are irrelevant if you don’t pay attention to training intensity and progressive overload. Performing 2×5 back squats doesn’t mean much without appropriate context. Are you simply going through the motions, or are you lifting as heavy as possible within a prescribed rep range while using solid form? (The answer, in most cases, should be the latter.) You can make any given set as easy or as difficult as you decide to make it, depending upon your intensity. If your goal is to gain strength, then you should be utilizing progressive overload and actually doing the things you need to do to, uh, get stronger. Investing in a training journal to log your workouts can help tremendously in this endeavor.

Pick up an #eatliftthrive training journal in our online store

Pick up an #eatliftthrive training journal in our online store.

What working set numbers won’t tell you is when you have a variation in form. This can include increasing or decreasing range of motion, fiddling with your stance, improving neutral spine, finding a better hand position, and so on.  This actually circles back to the point on progressive overload above, because if you’re squatting the same amount of weight as you were a month ago but you’re going four inches deeper, you’ve certainly progressed in that lift. So while on paper, 135lbs may seem like 135lbs, you should always note when your form is different in any way.

We also cannot overlook the role of sleep, hydration, and general energy levels on any given day. If your significant other kept you up late last night with his snoring, then you probably won’t have the most stellar workout today and your numbers may be rather lackluster. If you’re dehydrated, even losing a mere 3% of your bodyweight in fluids can be enough to negatively impact performance. And of course, sometimes, despite firing on all cylinders, you simply won’t have it in you and your energy levels will be lousy.

We should also talk about genetics. Why? Because people like to think that genetics don’t matter and hard work trumps all. For better or worse, genetics do influence not only our baseline levels of athletic ability but also the rate at which we are able to gain strength and muscle. Think about that chick you follow on Instagram who’s been lifting for two years and is already setting powerlifting records left and right, seemingly on accident. Then compare that with someone like little ‘ole me who’s been resistance training for over eight years and has the most mildly, mildly impressive numbers. It’s not she’s trying harder in the gym than I am. The stark discrepancies can be attributed to differences in satellite cell, mechanogrowth factor, myogenin, and IGF activation, amongst others.

Finally, it could be the case that you’ve actually lost true strength. This can happen when you don’t train a particular movement for a while, when you’re in a steep caloric deficit for an extended period of time, and/or when you take a hiatus from the gym (due to vacation, injury, etc.). Usually, it’s pretty clear when a strength decrease isn’t just a fluke – your numbers stay down week after week rather than bouncing back at your next workout, and weights that used to fly up during your warmup consistently feel markedly heavier.

Charting Strength Gains

To illustrate my point, I’m going to use myself as an example. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll walk you through my progress in the big three lifts (squat, bench, and deadlift) over the past year.

Back squat

A glance at the chart below might have you thinking that I got stronger last spring, then completely tanked in the summer, worked my way slowly back up over this past winter, and then dropped again around New Year’s. I’ve pinpointed two specific areas of interest that are worth discussing.

Back Squat Progression Over Time

From January through late May of last year, I was preparing for my first ever powerlifting meet. Admittedly, I hadn’t back squatted for several years, so my strength gains for the first several weeks were pretty rapid (not unlike that of a beginner trainee). The increases in my 1RM can also be attributed to switching from high bar to low bar and overall improving my form over repeated, practiced sessions. My numbers started to slow in the late February/March timeframe when I began experiencing some pretty bad hip pain from squatting three days per week following a Daily Undulating Periodization protocol. I took a week off of squatting altogether and then was able to return to squatting once every five to seven days pain-free, albeit with greatly reduced volume. I ended up hitting 165lbs at my 100% Raw powerlifting meet at the end of May.

For the next few months after, I moved away from back squats and threw higher rep front squats into my routine. There really wasn’t much carryover from my front squat high rep strength to my back squat strength, unfortunately (lesson learned and duly noted for the future). To add fuel to the fire, I took a trip to Italy in August which resulted in a 10-day break from heavy resistance training. By the time I returned home, my 1RM had plunged to 115lbs (first arrow). Yep, talk about serious detraining.

My back squat is not my forte to begin with. Throw a six-week bikini prep into the mix over the fall (entailing a caloric deficit) and a temporary shift away from a powerlifting-focused program, and it took me longer than I care to admit to simply get back to my baseline strength.

Regarding the second arrow, right around early February of this year was when I learned that the USAPL federation, which I had switched into, was far stricter on squat depth. That meant that going to parallel with 165lbs was not going to cut it, and I was forced to scale way back on weight in order to sink depth with my working sets.

Note the marked difference in depth between last year’s powerlifting prep:

145lbs x 1

And this year’s prep:

140lbs x 3

In the first video, I’m going just to parallel, and this is the same depth I hit 165lbs with at last May’s meet. In the second video, I’m sinking well below parallel, so while the absolute weight on the bar is lower, I’m not only getting better depth but also squeezing out more reps with ease. I should note as well that the above set of 140lbs for 3×3 was a submax effort.

Looking at nothing but absolute training numbers doesn’t tell the whole story, as you can see. With regards to my back squat, we can attribute the fluctuations in 1RM to actual strength loss (first arrow) and intentionally scaling back weight to improve form (second arrow).

Bench press

Before I dive into an analysis of my bench press progression, it’s important to clarify two points: 1) for powerlifting, the bench press involves a pause at the bottom of every rep, so it’s not touch and go, which means that weight is usually lower due to the increased time under tension; and 2) strength increases in upper body movements are necessarily slower than that of lower body movements, so even a 5lb bump over the course of several months can be a pretty big deal.

Bench Press Progression Over Time

Through the first few months of last year, you can see a relatively quick increase in strength – again, this is due to neuromuscular adaptations and becoming more efficient with form. Up until that point, I had pretty much spent the past seven years of strength training sticking to the dumbbell bench press or incline bench press as my upper body horizontal pressing movements of choice.

You’ll see that my strength dips right around late March. I don’t have it noted in my training journal unfortunately, but this can likely be attributed to poor sleep, shoddy nutrition, or just subpar energy levels from that day. Notice, though, how the following week, my bench comes back up and I manage to set a PR. The same thing happened this year in mid-March – what should have been an easy 105lbs for me ended up being an ugly, grindy rep, and I was forced to conclude my working sets there. Bummer.

Just didn't have it today. ? I got a full night's rest and was mentally amped for bench today, but my energy levels just weren't there. Looking back, I likely didn't consume sufficient calories yesterday. ? I was supposed to go for a 1RM but stopped at 105lbs because it felt way heavier than usual (I had planned for a 109 or 110 attempt). I always pay attention to how my warmup feels and adjust my planned working set weights accordingly. My back-off sets were 95lbs for 2 and then 90lbs for 3 (shown above), and I made sure to get in a solid pause with good form for every rep of these. Mediocre session, but that's okay. I'll use this as motivation to do even better next time. Strength gains are not linear, and one isolated workout doesn't say much. I'm more concerned about long-term trends. 110lb bench, I'm still coming for you. ? #usapl#eatliftthrive

A video posted by Sohee Lee (@soheefit) on

However, the following week, I came back and set a PR of 108.5lbs and then 110lbs a couple of sessions later.

It’s not unusual to have a mediocre session one day and then knock the exact same exercise out of the ballpark a few days after.

The drop in strength from May to November of last year (see arrow) is simply due to lack of training specificity. During the summer months, I stuck primarily with incline bench press and close-grip bench press in the higher rep ranges (6-15). The good news, though, is that when I circled back to low rep pause bench press, I hadn’t lost all of my strength, and my 1RM was still a good bit above where I was when I first started. So while the graph may seem to indicate strength loss, this is actually a net win.

Conventional deadlift

Finally, we have conventional deadlift. Though technically this is my best (relative) lift of the big three, it’s also the one that I’ve wrestled with the most with my form. I’m far stronger as a round back puller, you see, and carefully toeing that line between continually getting stronger in preparation for a powerlifting meet while simultaneously not overdoing it and increasing my risk for injury has been quite the balancing act.

Conventional deadlift progression over time

My 1RM last January was 150lbs. You’ll notice that in the video below (my very first powerlifting workout ever!), I was actively trying not to round, but I still was not able to maintain a completely solid arch. The barbell also rolled away from me right before I pulled, which is far from ideal.

I continued in this manner until March, when my trainer Bret Contreras warned me that I was starting to round my back a little too much. The first red arrow is when we stripped weight off the bar so I could stick with arch back pulling.

Between March and late May of last year, I learned to get comfortable using a lifting belt, I gained confidence in my pull, and I got the OK to round back again as we neared the meet. I slapped on 50lbs to my deadlift in a matter of weeks and hit 226lbs at my meet. Fun stuff!

Over the summer, I switched to block pulls and other deadlift variations to mix things up. Interestingly, even while I dieted down for my bikini show, my pulling strength remained largely intact. By the time I returned to training like a powerlifter in late December, my 1RM was still pretty freakin’ solid (as noted by the second arrow) and from there, my numbers have only continued to move in an upward trend. The small dips in numbers you see in the graph above are from training in a different gyms (and therefore being in a different headspace mentally), and another time I tried to deadlift shortly after waking up from a nap. It turns out that naps and deadlifts don’t pair together quite so well for me! Still, despite the ups and downs, I most recently hit a 240lb pull with relative ease.

Focus on Long-Term Trends

In all three graphs above, you’ll notice the following:

  1. The strength increases are by no means linear – not even close! In fact, there are periods of time where it looks like I’m actually getting weaker. As discussed above, I actually did lose true strength in my back squat last summer, but the bench and deadlift trends could be explained by lack of training specificity.
  2. As a whole, I’m still stronger across the board now than I was a year ago, and that much is undeniable.

It’s not worth getting upset over one mediocre session where you couldn’t lift as much as you did two weeks ago. It doesn’t always mean that you’re actually weaker; it may simply mean that today wasn’t your day.

Some weeks you’re going to feel invincible, and you should absolutely take advantage of these times to enjoy your workouts, set incredible PRs, and gain confidence in the gym. Every now and then, however, you may fall into a rut and you’re just not going to have it in you. Oftentimes, there will be an obvious reason that can explain your ho-hum training numbers for the day, but sometimes you’re going to do everything right and still fall flat on your face.

This is okay. Take it all in stride.

Rather than throwing a tantrum over one isolated workout, take a step back and focus on long-term trends. Are you stronger than you were three months ago? How about six months ago? A year? The answer, if you’re been consistent with your workouts and diligently putting in solid effort, will most likely be yes.

Celebrate that.


See related:

What is Progressive Overload?
The Importance of Chasing Strength
The Case for Resting Longer and Lifting Heavier 

Today’s guest post comes from Stephanie Dorworth, a doctor of physical therapy, pilates instructor, and internationally published fitness model. Together with her husband Zachary, they provide health & fitness tips and coaching on their website

Beautiful to the Core

In 2012, I attended a bodybuilding show and I was deeply inspired. The competitors opened my eyes to the fact that competing is a form of art. I left there with a newfound passion and goal in life: to compete in a bikini competition. In 2013, that goal was accomplished. During my prep, however, I struggled to find help and information about competing, so I set out on a journey to offer quality help to fellow competitors.

When it came to signing up for a show, curling my hair, putting on my makeup, getting dazzled with my jewelry, and posing, I was on point! However, when it came to my training, cardio, nutrition, and happiness, things were a little more of a disastrous, hot mess. I prepped my body completely wrong for my show. This was a huge mistake. Due to my ignorance, I was unsuccessful on stage, did not place well, and did not fully enjoy the experience.

Placing or not, it's clear that Stephanie looked beautiful on stage.

Placing or not, it’s clear that Stephanie looked beautiful on stage.

You see, I was trying to do a contest prep on my own. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this approach, I would blindly take in free advice that I had found online and adopted the old school method of prepping for a show. I read about girls who would eat plain chicken and asparagus, do over an hour of cardio each day, never have cheat meals – and they looked great! So I was naive and assumed that that was the way to do go about my own prep. My excitement to compete clouded my judgment on my education and what I knew was right. If only I knew then what I know now, I would have looked much better under those stage lights and had a far more pleasurable experience.

I am sharing my struggles with you today in the hopes that I can prevent you from walking down the wrong path. As I share my story of then vs. now, if you feel you can relate to the old Stephanie and you believe that you are heading down the same road as I was, then please: detour, honey!



Way back when, my workouts were focused on isolation exercises. I did not pay attention to timing and I took little rest breaks between sets. I thought a five-minute bike ride was sufficient warm-up, even for upper body days. I never asked for help, I never asked for a spotter, and I therefore was not improving with my lifting techniques. I was working out with bad form and using momentum to lift and cheat my reps, which is detrimental to your joints, not to mention unproductive and unsafe.


My training has shifted from isolated exercises to heavy, compound exercises like bench press, squats, and deadlifts (though I still incorporate isolated movements toward the end of a workout). I time my rest breaks and focus on the timing of each exercise by putting a longer emphasis on the eccentric over the concentric contraction.

My body has completely transformed as I have gained muscle and trained more effectively and safer. One way to train safer to avoid joint pain is to include active warm-ups, pre-workout dynamic stretching, and post-workout static stretching and foam rolling.

Research shows that static stretching pre-workout may negatively impact performance (1), so instead practice active warm-ups, which are safer and better for performance outcomes (2). Your training should also involve techniques conducive to muscle hypertrophy, such as time under tension (TUT), daily undulating periodization (DUP), and blood flow restriction training (BFR). BFR is shown to be beneficial for increasing strength if used 2-3x/week at less than 50% of your 1RM (3-4).

(See related: Longer Rest, How to Avoid Joint Pain While Lifting, Total Body Stretching Program, Making Gains with a Progressive Active Warm-up, DUP Step, Blood Flow Restriction Training)



Many moons ago, I would spend 20-60+ minutes daily performing steady state cardio with very little variation in speed or intensity. If I missed a session, I would feel anxious and incomplete. Due to my overexercising, however, I experienced frequent joint pain like knee pain, sacroiliac joint point, and shin splints. On top of that, my metabolism took a serious beating.


Excessive steady state cardio promotes muscle breakdown. When it comes to cardio, more is not better; smarter is better. Intensity, not duration, is what elicits results, which is why high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is what I implement now if I desire to lean out for a vacation or photo shoot. Research shows it is a better option for fat loss than jogging because your metabolic rate stays increased for up to 48 hours after your session! HIIT can be performed 1-3x/week for <20 minutes (6). My favorites are bike sprints or deadmills on the treadmill.

(See related: To Cardio or not to Cardio, Beat the Holiday Bulge with HIIT)



Back in the day, I ate dangerously low calories for my build and activity level, including low carbohydrates. My meals consisted mostly of plain chicken, asparagus, sweet potatoes, almonds, and protein shakes. I therefore had cravings all the time and felt unsatisfied. If I ate a little piece of chocolate, I felt immensely guilty. I did not enjoy my diet and experienced a good deal of anxiety surrounding food.


I am currently reverse dieting and working on increasing my calories above 1,800 per day with a healthy balance of proteins, carbs, and fats. I practice flexible eating, meaning I eat wholesome, nutritious foods 80% of the time and treats 20% of the time. As a result, my cravings are satisfied and I no longer feel the need for “cheat meals”. Very low calories promotes metabolic damage. It may also lead to symptoms like fatigue, hormonal disturbance, poor concentration, and irritability.

Your goal should be to eat as many calories as possible while staying on track to meet your goals. So if it is your off-season, reverse dieting may be an appropriate approach. An excellent source to learn about metabolic damage is Dr. Layne Norton’s videos as well as the e-book Reverse Dieting



In the old days, I was doing excessive cardio, which made up the majority of my workouts. I did not leave the gym unless I did cardio on a machine or went on a run. Looking back, I don’t know how I made it through those runs while eating such low calories and carbohydrates. I was completely drained! I had low self-esteem and poor confidence and I was extremely unhappy.

When my bikini competition rolled around, then, I was still unsatisfied and even more miserable than before despite having lost body fat. I did not enjoy the contest prep process because I was constantly irritable and tired.


Today, I am much happier and more confident in my body. Who wants to be moody for the rest of their life when there’s a better way to get in shape?

Choose happiness and love your body.

While many women think that attaining a lean physique will bring happiness, it’s unrealistic to stay that stage lean year-round. It’s important, then, to find peace with your off-season body. This is another reason why having other goals, such as shooting for a double bodyweight deadlift, can help you stay motivated and in an optimistic frame of mind. For example, when I hit a new PR at squats, I celebrate! Always challenge yourself and be better each and every day.

A much happier and healthier Stephanie!

A much happier and healthier Stephanie!

Are You Ready for Contest Prep?

As coaches, my husband Zachary and I are often asked when you know you’re ready to begin contest prep. First and foremost, you should make sure you fall into the “now” category. Then go through our checklist and ensure you meet the criteria below:

  • You are experienced in lifting heavy with an emphasis on compound exercises (squats, deadlifts, bench press).
  • You are keeping cardio to a minimum.
  • You are experienced with tracking macronutrients – meaning that you are capable of consuming foods in the right quantities such that you can meet a prescribed set of macronutrient numbers (grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fats) everyday.
  • You have spent a reasonable amount of time out of a caloric deficit.

Training and eating right during off-season will not only enrich your health right now but they will also make future contest preps much easier and healthier.

Let’s go over an example of two women:

  • Anna is a young female who wants to take her try at a bikini competition. She comes to us for coaching and is currently 5’4″, 130lb, does not do cardio, and consumes 2,000 calories per day. After looking at her history. we would likely take her on as a client because she appears to have a great metabolism and plenty of room to adjust her macros. So over the course of a 12-week prep, we would be able to slowly adjust macros based on her progress. She would likely be able to drop body fat fairly easily without having to take her prep to the extreme.
  • Beth is a young female who also wants to compete and comes to us for coaching. She is currently at 5’5″, 130lb, runs 5+ miles a day, and consumes 1,400 calories per day. We would likely take her on as a client under the condition that we need to implement reverse dieting and wean her off of all the cardio first before we beginning a fat loss phase. If we were to begin a contest prep right away, we would have little room to adjust macros because they are already too low and unable to increase cardio because she already does plenty. We’d have no room to make tweaks to her program, in other words, and as a result, she’d likely obtain suboptimal results in the 12-week span and be disappointed. If she were to agree to set aside her short-term goal and do a reverse diet first, she would ensure better long-term success when it finally came time for contest prep.

Now you can see how important a healthy off-season training and nutrition program is. It is crucial to take charge and make smart choices. You only get one body – take care of it now and invest in your long-term health.

Take a look at some of our contest prep clients who did things the right way. You can, too!

I could not have achieved this goal without your help and guidance during the 12-week journey. I have to be honest, the journey was tough and there were days when I felt like I could not keep going, but I was dedicated and determined to finish it. It was also a very unexpected but delightful surprise that I placed 5th in 2 different bikini classes. There were so many beautiful girls competing and I made many new friends, so I plan to compete again next year. For everyone out there wanting to compete in a bikini competition or if you have just been thinking about it. Beautiful to the Core is your best online resource. Stephanie is amazing and very knowledgeable in every aspect of competing. I’m glad I had her with me each step of the way. I love you!!!! And Beautiful to the Core rocks!

Carrie R., Wake Forest, NC

Carrie on show day!

Carrie on show day!

Working with Stephanie using the Beautiful To The Core bikini prep was a great experience.  Stephanie was prompt, professional, super pleasant, and always supportive.  Not only did her plan get me the body I had been striving to achieve, but Stephanie was there to make adjustments and help me through all the way up until show day.

Terra M., Belmont, NC

Terra shortly after giving birth

Terra shortly after giving birth

The contest prep process is stressful enough as it is. The information I provide in my latest e-book, Bikini Competition Prep Guidehas helped over a thousand competitor hopefuls to this day. In this product, I share tips on picking a league, choosing a show, typical costs of competing, building a competition suit, shopping for heels and jewelry, hair and makeup, posing tips, and lots more.



With this program, you also get access to our Facebook community group so you can interact with other ladies who are prepping for a bikini competition and learn from one another.

Again, you can pick up a copy of the e-book at this link.


Stay beautiful,

Stephanie Dorworth

Stephanie Dorworth

Stephanie Dorworth










  1. Vetter, R. E. (2007). Effects of six warm-up protocols on sprint and jump performance. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Researhc, 21(3), 819-823.
  1. Perrier, E. R. Pavol, M. J. Hoffman, M. A. (2011). The acute effects of a warm-up including static or dynamic stretching on countermovement jump height, reaction time, and flexibility. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 25(7), 1925-1931.
  1. Loenneke, J. P. Wilson, J. M., Marin, P. J., Zourdos, M. C. & Bemben, M. G. (2012c). Low intensity blood flow restriction training: a meta-analysis, 112(5), 1849-59.
  1. Takarada, Y. Takazawa, H. Sato, Y. Takebayashi, S. Tanaka, Y. Ishii, N. (2000). Effects of resistance exercise combined with moderate vascular occulsion on muscular function in humans, 88(6), 2097-2106.
  1. Schoenfeld, B. Dawes, J. (2009). High-intensity interval training: applications for general fitness training. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 31(6), 44-46.
  1. Herodek, K. Simonovic, C. Pavlovic, V. Stankovic, R. (2014). High intensity interval training. Activities in Physical Education and Sport, 4(2), 205-207.





Sustaining an injury is never fun. You’re in pain, you’re inconvenienced, and perhaps most annoying of all, you lose your stride from working toward your fitness goal.

With a little creativity, however, there are an infinite number of ways to still get in effective workouts at the gym and progress in other ways.

Getting injured does not have to mean the end of your fitness goals. There’s no need to cancel your gym membership, throw your diet out the window, and relegate yourself to the couch for the remainder of your days. While it sucks to be sidelined, this is actually the perfect opportunity to get creative and focus your time and energy on a specialization goal.

Are you hurt? Challenge accepted.

Here’s how to train around an injury.

1. Take inventory of movements that are pain-free and not contraindicated.

Listen to your doctor, first and foremost. Unless you’re in a full body cast with strict orders not to perform any kind of extra physical activity, there’s probably a chance that there’s still some body part(s) that you can work. If you have a broken leg, for example, your upper body is still in commission, right? And if your arm is in a cast, your legs are still perfectly healthy.

General rule of thumb: If it hurts, don’t do it; if it doesn’t, you’re probably okay.

My long-time client (and also long-time assistant!) Lauren Dasher recently incurred a knee injury. Ugh. What does this mean? Most upper body movements should be fine to do, and if I were to take the easy route, I’d have her simply stick to upper body workouts only. But why neglect her lower body when we can be resourceful and still work her glutes a’plenty? There exist a myriad of lower body exercises that involve little to no knee flexion and are consequently pain-free for her. To be sure, here’s what exercises she definitely can’t do:

  • squats and squat variations
  • lunges and lunge variations
  • hip thrusts and hip thrust variations (I had her test out some bodyweight hip thrusts at home and these still induced pain)

But still, that leaves a lot she can do for her lower body:

  • Romanian and American deadlifts
  • back extensions
  • hip abduction movements (lateral walks, monster walks, standing cable/band hip abductions, side-lying hip abductions, etc.)
  • cable/band pull-throughs
  • straight-leg cable/band glute kickbacks
  • reverse hyperextensions

In essence, all straight-leg hip dominant movements.

While her exercise selection is necessarily limited for the time being, this gives us an opportunity to up the ante on the movements that she can perform just fine. Why not get really good at those and give them some extra TLC that they would otherwise never get?


My other client Sarah rolled her ankle running last week and consequently is unable to do any weight-bearing lower body movements. Fortunately, the injury itself is minor and will heal in time with no major lasting repercussions, and while she probably shouldn’t squat or deadlift at this time, there’s still a lot she can do in the interim:

  • stability ball/machine leg curls
  • leg extensions
  • seated band/machine hip abductions
  • feet-elevated BW glute bridges
  • kneeling band hip thrusts
  • virtually all upper body movements

And finally, just because we haven’t addressed an upper body injury, let’s say you’ve broken your arm by tripping over a dog that appeared out of nowhere on the soccer field (this actually happened to a classmate of mine in high school – true story!). You may think that you’re down for the count since you need both your arms to even brace a barbell against your back, but again, a little bit of innovation goes a long way. Here’s just a sampling of exercises you could still do:

  • standing 1-arm DB military presses
  • 1-arm DB press (flat, incline, floor)
  • 1-arm DB/cable rows
  • just about all unilateral upper body movements
  • single-leg DB Romanian deadlift
  • 1-arm KB swings
  • 1-arm DB front squats
  • bodyweight, band, and single-leg hip thrusts
  • leg extensions, leg curls, most lower body machines
  • banded glute work (lateral walks, monster walks, seated band hip abductions, etc.)

Is this enough to get sufficient training effect with a properly designed program? Hell yeah.

2. Determine a new training goal.

Okay, so perhaps if you were a few weeks out from a powerlifting meet and you’ve broken your leg, it would make sense to bow out of the event. It sucks, and it’s totally a bummer – I get that. Take a day or two to mope, and then come back with a new goal in mind. You can set a performance goal, an aesthetic goal, or even just a well-being goal.

If your lower body is out, how about you take advantage of this time to finally get really, really good at pull-ups? Perhaps you can build up some mighty lats or hit the double digits you’ve been after for a while.

If you’ve broken your arm, maybe you can really hone in on your glutes and up the ante on working them not just three days a week, but five or even six days a week. Why not? You’ve got the extra time, after all.

Finally, you may have determined that you were pushing it too hard in the gym and it’s been taking up too much bandwidth in your life. Getting sidelined with an injury may just be the wake-up you needed to realize that you’ve been neglecting your relationships, school, and/or work. I’ll be the first to concede that you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) go balls-out in the gym 24/7/365. If this is the case, don’t be afraid to simply workout what you can when you can to feel good, and otherwise shift your focus toward making your spouse, family, job, or grades a priority. Or try out a different physical activity you’ve been meaning to get into all these years but never made the time for (yoga! hiking! rock climbing?). The gym will always be there, after all.

3. Slap together a modified training program.

There are lots of ways to write effective training programs that don’t involve the mainstay squats, deadlifts, and bench presses.

Last year, when my hips started bothering me from squatting too frequently (my body’s anthropometry is simply not suited for high volume squatting), I had to take some time off from the movement. I kept up my deadlift and bench regimen – because I had my first powerlifting meet to train for, after all – but while I let my hip rest up, I simply replaced back squats with Bulgarian split squats, another knee-dominant movement that didn’t involve so much hip flexion.

If you have cranky shoulders, perhaps incline bench press with a neutral grip or even floor presses may feel better for you. If you are unable to deadlift due to a back condition, you can swap it out for hip thrust and glute bridge variations. No big deal.

The most basic training guidelines are as follows:

  • Perform the main compound movements first.
  • For full body workouts, try to do an upper body push, upper body pull, lower body hip dominant, and lower body knee dominant movement (barring exceptions, of course) – not necessarily in that order.
  • Incorporate a variety of rep ranges, typically with longer rest periods for the low-to-medium rep range (let’s say 1-8) and shorter rest periods for the higher rep range.
  • Track your workouts to ensure that you are progressing from week to week.
  • Keep the goal the goal.

The ins and outs of writing a quality training program are beyond the scope of this article, so the above will have to suffice for now. For the most part, sticking to these principles, even with a lackluster training program, can yield some pretty respectable results provided that you are consistently showing up and doing the work.

Below is the program I wrote up for Lauren and her bum knee. Her primary goal is aesthetic, with strength gains coming in a close second. Her instructions are to take at least one day off in between lifts, so something like a Monday-Wednesday-Friday training schedule would work great. She is to rest as needed in between working sets unless otherwise noted.

Training Day 1: Full Body

A. DB back extension (glute emphasis) 3×10-15
B. DB stiff-legged deadlift 3×10-15
C. Standing cable hip abduction 3x10ea
D. Lateral band walk 3x15ea
E. Standing DB military press 3×8-12
F. Chest-supported DB row 3×8-12
G. Face pull 2×20

Training Day 2: Full Body

A. Bench press 3×3-8
B. Underhand grip lat pulldown 3×3-8
C. Standing DB lateral raise 3×10-15
D. DB pullover 2×10-15
E. Romanian deadlift 3×5
F. BW back extension (glute emphasis) 3×30 // 45s rest
G. Side-lying BW hip abduction 2x30ea

Training Day 3: Full Body

A. Good morning 3×5
B. Chinup 3xAMRAP
C. KB swing 3×20 // 60
D. Incline DB bench press 3×10
E. Pallof press 3x8ea
F1. DB hammer curl 3×10-15
F2. 1-arm DB tricep extension 3×10-15ea

As you can see, there’s plenty of lower body work and ample upper body work in her program to keep her busy. None of the movements bother her, and she’s doing enough in the gym to keep her happy. I also gave her the option of tossing in an extra upper body “bro” day of sorts for when she’s feeling antsy. And if she’s feeling particularly ambitious, she can even do lateral band walks and seated band hip abductions daily since they’re so low-impact.

She’ll stick to this program for a month and diligently record her workouts week after week (hint hint!), after which we’ll re-assess how her knee is doing. If she’s still in pain and not ready for weighted knee flexion, no worries – I can write up another program for her to keep her gains coming.

(If you’d like a custom training program written up by yours truly, I offer that as a one-time service in my online store.)

4. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and make the most of what you’ve got. 

Nobody plans on getting injured, but shit happens. You can’t change what’s already happened, but you can absolutely be proactive about what you do about it moving forward.

Are you going to let yourself become a victim and give up altogether? Or are you going to find a workaround and find other ways to get better?

Attitude is everything.


See related:

25 Things to Know About Training & Conditioning
Training Guidelines For the Beginner
Workout with Sohee – Every Month! 




We love to feel tired in the gym. For many of us, our mission is to not leave the training floor until we feel like our lungs are about to burst and our hearts are on the verge of exploding out of our chests. We crave the burn and chase that pump. It’s not a good workout unless we’re completely drained and depleted, we reason.

Circuit training and bootcamp-style workouts certainly may have their place in an exercise regimen – there’s no denying that. And perhaps logically, it makes a lot of sense; high rep, high intensity, low rest sweat sessions feels like our fat cells are being fried to a crisp. It’s almost as though our bodyfat is literally melting away as we thrust, lunge, and burpee our way to exhaustion.

This is not actually true (obviously), but here's one of many thoughts we may have while running ourselves into the ground.

This is not actually true (obviously), but here’s one of many thoughts we may have while running ourselves into the ground.

So, we reason, common sense would dictate that if we want to improve our body composition, circuit training is the way to go.

But sometimes, common sense is wrong.

While men and women are both guilty of opting for bootcamp after bootcamp in hopes of building quality muscle and sizzling away their love handles, I’ve observed that this phenomenon is especially prevalent amongst women. High reps! No rest! Keep your heart rate up the whole workout or else you’re wasting your time! It’s all about the calorie burn! These are just a few statements regurgitated by well-meaning but woefully misinformed health enthusiasts.

Brad Schoenfeld, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., world’s foremost expert on muscle hypertrophy, published a study recently titled, “Longer inter-set rest periods enhance muscle strength and hypertrophy in resistance-trained men,” in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Dr. Brad Schoenfeld

Dr. Brad Schoenfeld

In this study, Dr. Schoenfeld and colleagues found that taking 3 minutes of rest vs. 1 minute of rest between working sets of squats and bench press led to greater increases in both muscular strength and hypertrophy. Interestingly, these conclusions don’t exactly mesh with conventional training wisdom that dictates that shorter rest periods are superior for muscle growth (de Salles BF et al., 2009).

Here’s a link to the full paper available on ResearchGate. A Cliffnotes version of the study is below:

  • 21 young resistance-trained men performed 3 full body workouts per week, 7 exercises per session, and 8-12 repetitions per set for a total of 8 weeks. One group rested 1 minute between sets (SHORT), while the other rested 3 minutes between sets (LONG).
  • Ultrasound imaging was used to measure muscle thickness (MT) of the elbow flexors, triceps brachii, anterior quadriceps, and vastus lateralis. Muscle strength was measured via 1RM testing of the flat bench press and back squat.
  • LONG exhibited greater increases in muscle thickness in the anterior thigh with a trend for greater increases in the triceps brachii; increases in vastus lateralus thickness were similar in LONG and SHORT and measured at 11.5% and 10.0% from baseline, respectively.
  • LONG exhibited greater increases in muscular strength in both the 1RM squat and 1RM bench press.

Pretty cool, right? But what does this all mean in practical terms? Fortunately, Dr. Schoenfeld was kind enough to jump on a phone call with me earlier this week to answer some questions I had.

Q: Hi Brad, thanks for taking time out of your day to humor me and my probing questions. I understand that there have been studies conducted previously by other researchers comparing different rest periods that didn’t necessarily lead to the same findings as yours. Why did previous research have confounding results?

A: You have to look at who the subjects were (age, level of training experience, etc.) and also the different rest periods compared, plus the methods of measurements. My thinking [based on past research] is that 2 minutes of rest is probably sufficient over something like 1 minute of rest. One study looked at 1 minute vs. 2.5 minutes and found that 2.5 minutes found better results for muscular strength and hypertrophy (Buresh et al., 2009). Another one looked at 1 minute vs. 4 minutes in elderly untrained men and their method of physique assessment was via BodPod (Villanueva et al., 2015), whereas we used direct site-specific measurements (ultrasound to ascertain muscle growth). Based on the literature and looking at where this fits in, 1 minute seems to be insufficient to recuperate strength and ends up compromising volume load. And as we know, volume is important for strength and hypertrophy gains. But for our study, the strength and hypertrophy gains were better in the 3 minute group.

Q: Why was it previously believed that shorter rest periods (30 to 60 seconds between working sets) would be superior for hypertrophy?

A: The proposed mechanism is increased metabolic stress. When you train in the moderate range, you promote a buildup of metabolites (lactic acid, H+, phosphate metabolites, etc.) that accumulate and there is evidence that metabolic stress is a driver of muscle growth (Schoenfeld, 2010). However, we also know that volume is another driver of muscle growth. It would seem that the reduction in volume is not made up for by the heightened metabolic stress. This is the working theory. Metabolic stress also drives acute increases in growth hormones and other systemic factors, but the increases acutely have not been shown to have a substantial effect on hypertrophy.

Q: In other words, total volume load is a greater contributing factor for hypertrophy than metabolic stress?

A: That’s the idea, yes.

Q: But that’s not to say that metabolic stress has no place in a training program, right?

A: Correct. Short interval rest periods are not worthless; we just need to take research into context. It’s not necessarily either-or. For metabolic stress-type work, you could put them towards the end of the workout. This would conceivably increase buffering capacity.

What I generally recommend is to do it more with single-joint exercises. So things like bicep curls, triceps extensions, and glute cable kickbacks would benefit more from the shortened rest. Even the hip thrust would benefit from metabolic stress work. The big compound movements (squat, bench, deadlift) are the ones that you would want to employ longer rest on.

Of course, a lot of this is theoretical. We can only go by the evidence that we have, so when we’re giving advice on this, we have to use some degree of speculation and use the research we have to make our best recommendations. Without evidence to the contrary, these are our suggestions. We can only go by logical reasoning.

Q: Is there a point at which rest periods become too long?

A: The only thing I could think about is that it would be highly inefficient to be in the gym for several hours at a time. If you want to take 10 minutes between sets and that helps you, I don’t think there would be negative effects to that so long as you have the time to spare. I would also imagine it would be important not to let your body temperature drop too much as you’d want to stay warm for your working sets.

Q: I assume we could reasonably apply these practical applications to females as well. Can we apply these findings to different populations?

A: That’s a great question. I can think of no reason why women would respond differently to this. Any researcher could of course say that we did not conduct research on women so we would not be able to speculate. Why would a woman respond differently, though? We would need this study replicated in women to know for sure, but I can’t think of any reason why this would not be the case.

Q: What are your recommendations for trainees then?

A: Based on this study and other previous studies, we probably don’t need to go the full 3 minutes rest in between all working sets. My extrapolation is that 1 minute is too short, but with 2 minutes, you can start to get back enough of your energy capacity. Optimal rest periods will vary depending on the individual, of course, but the suffice to say that in general, longer rest periods will yield better results.

A progress picture from September 2015 after months of continually setting PRs in the big lifts. I would rest up to 5 minutes in between working sets for the main movements.

A progress picture from September 2015 after 8 years of focus on the big lifts. I would rest up to 5 minutes in between working sets for the main movements to get stronger.

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty encouraged by this. I can tell you based off of personal experience in addition to working with hundreds of clients (primarily women) that taking more of a breather in between heavy working sets for the main compound movements has helped improve strength, which in turn has led to positive body composition changes. But I’m not the only one who’s made this observation; the top coaches in the strength and conditioning field are in agreement as well.

“Everyone’s worried about burning calories, but they overlook building muscle, strength, and confidence,” reflects Dan Trink, co-owner of Fortitude Strength Club in New York City. “We’ve gotten to the point where, for women in particular, it seems to be all about chasing fatigue. People think that if they get tired, then they’re improving their body composition – but this is not the case.”

Over at 3E Crossfit in Cheshire, Connecticut, owner Ed Williams strives to teach men and women alike about being strong. His clients are prescribed a plethora of deadlifts and other big compound movements. He’s also big on teaching women how to lift heavy weights – creating tension in their bodies and exerting sufficient force to get the bar moving with proper form. “Strength is the foundation of everything that we do,” he says. He reports that his female clients have indeed experienced body composition improvements by training in this matter with longer rest periods, to the tune of 3, 4, and sometimes even 5 minutes of rest between sets.

Ben Bruno, a trainer in Los Angeles who trains a lot of high profile women, uses this same approach for his female clients, and especially pushes heavier weights for hip-dominant movements such as hip thrusts and sled pushes in order to build up the derrière. Here’s a video of one of his clients, Brazilian fashion model Barbara Fialho, performing landmine Romanian deadlifts:

And another of model Kate Upton doing landmine deadlifts with pristine form:

There’s nothing inherently wrong with circuit training per se. But by training exclusively in this manner, individuals may weigh less on the scale while body composition may not improve. As Trink reminds us, getting the “toned” look actually entails having some degree of muscle mass. The idea that lifting heavy weights necessarily makes women bulky is a huge misconception; it’s typically the increased calorie intake and accompanying fat gain that contributes to the “bulky” look, not the muscles themselves. And in order to build muscle mass, we need to be lifting heavier weights.  How do we accomplish this feat? By allowing for sufficient rest between working sets.

Understandably, moving away from the “more fatigue is better” mentality is not always an easy endeavor. Many may feel uneasy, as though they’re not doing enough in the gym. What’s the best way, then, to manage this transition?

“Focus on what you can build rather than what you can burn,” Trink advises. And Williams adds, “Find ways to do some of what you want while still doing what you need.” Plug in filler work. For example, in between sets of heavy squats, do face pulls or some mobility drills. This gets you away from sitting anxiously but still has you doing something else that won’t affect your strength.

“Focus on what you can build rather than what you can burn.” – Dan Trink

Here’s an idea of what a sample training day could look like:

A. Back squat 3×3-5 // 3-5 minutes rest between sets
B. Incline bench press 3×5-8 // 3-5 minutes rest between sets
C. Hip thrust 3×8-12 // 2-3 minutes rest between sets
D. Lat pulldown 3×8-12 // 2-3 minutes rest between sets
E. Bodyweight back extension 3×20-30 // 45 seconds rest between sets
F. Seated hip abduction 2×20-30 // 45 seconds rest between sets

It should go without saying that pushing heavy weights and taking longer rest periods in the gym are necessary, though not sufficient, on their own to achieve the physique and performance goals desired. Proper nutrition is arguably more important than training to shed bodyfat, while other factors such as sleep and stress management come into play as well.

The moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to take longer rest between sets, particularly for the big compound movements. Stop chasing fatigue in the gym and strive to build strength and muscle. Employ an appropriate blend of heavier weights with long rest in the beginning of a training session and lighter weights, higher reps with short rest later in the workout for optimal body composition results. Keep the goal the goal.

Thank you, Dr. Schoenfeld, for your ongoing contributions to the field of strength and conditioning.

To end, I shall leave you with clips of women from the #eatliftthrive community lifting heavy weights, taking ample rest between sets, and crushing PRs:


See related:

What Is Progressive Overload?
The Importance of Chasing Strength
Is Spot Reduction Really Possible?
When “Just Lose More Fat” is Not the Answer
Strength Training for Women: 7 Myths 

25 Things to Know About Training & Conditioning
25 Things to Know About Fat Loss


Buresch, R., Berg, K., & French, J. (2009). The effect of resistive exercise rest interval on hormonal response, strength, and hypertrophy with training. J Strength Cond Res. 23:62-71.

de Salles, B.F., Simao, R., Miranda, F., Novaes, Jda S., Lemos, A, & Willardson, J.M. (2009). Rest interval between sets in strength training. Sports Med. 39(9):765-77.

Schoenfeld, B. (2010). The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance trainingJ Strength Cond Res. 24(10):2857-72.

Schoenfeld, B.J., Pope, Z.K., Benik, F.M., Hester, G.M., Sellers, J., Nooner, J.L,, Schnaiter, J.A., Bond-Williams, K.E., Carter, A.S., Ross, C.L., Just, B.L., Henselmans, M., & Krieger, J.W. (2015). Longer inter-set rest periods enhance muscle strength and hypertrophy in resistance-trained men. J Strength Cond Res. [Epub ahead of print]

Villanueva, M.G., Lane, C.J., & Schroeder, E.T. (2015). Short rest interval lengths between sets optimally enhance body composition and performance with 8 weeks of strength resistance training in older men. Eur J Appl Physiol. 115:295-308.

Today’s blog is a guest post from my client Jenny Leonard. Jenny joined the #eatliftthrive community back in May fresh off of competing in an NANBF show. She wanted to reverse diet, so she joined my group coaching program for a few months before deciding that she wanted to train for a powerlifting meet. We’ve been working together closely 1-on-1 since the summer to help her prepare for the big day. I’ve asked her to whip together a write-up sharing her experience with you all. Hope you like it! – Sohee 

Hi Jenny, congratulations on your first powerlifting meet! To begin, can you tell us more about how you got involved in the world of lifting weights and fitness? 

I used to be a runner. Big time. I’m talking half marathons and at least three runs a week. I’d do push-ups and “lift” weights and use machines to tone. Then I had babies. I stayed active, but when they are young and you are nursing, it’s hard to go for a run. They got older I did some more running, but it was hard to balance.

A friend convinced me to “lift heavy” in May 2013. I followed his food quantity and bodybuilding advice for a month for a trip, and I was hooked. I mean, I could eating ample food and and work out in my basement while my babies slept? WIN! One thing led to another, and a year later, I found myself on the natural bodybuilding competition stage in the bikini division, and in June 2014, I won a pro card. What? Me, a bikini pro?! This after I was just going “to try” lifting heavy.

Competing as an NGA bikini pro in the spring of 2015 (front shot)

Competing in a NANBF show in May 2015 – front shot

Competing as an NGA bikini pro (back shot)

Back shot

A year after that, and I’m competing again, get Precision Nutrition certified, and I’m coaching nutrition. How cool!

Why did you decide to train for a powerlifting meet? 

One day, my coaching peer and great friend said to me, “I think you should try powerlifting.” So, after reverse dieting out of my show for a few months, I signed up for a November meet and consulted with Coach Sohee. We decided that the best thing to do was to train 1-on-1 with her for this meet because anything worth doing, is worth doing well, and I didn’t want to just “kind of” train for my first powerlifting meet. I wanted to give it my all.

When I workout, it’s a very personal thing for me – it’s spiritual. I find pieces of myself I didn’t know existed. So the thought of moving heavy weights on a stage platform with lots of people around me scared the heck out of me! But if my goals don’t scare me, what’s the point? The magic happens outside the comfort zone. I’d been on the stage before for bodybuilding competitions (also scary for me), but this was different. This was personal.

As I reflect on my journey from August to November, checking in with Sohee weekly, sharing all my form videos for big lifts with her and letting her guide me on this journey, along with sharing this journey with my very good friend and coaching peer, Bridget, I have learned that even though I’m a very independent and hard working woman and single parent, I do not need to do everything alone, and I shouldn’t. Life is about real fellowship. We’re made for it, and that means letting yourself be yourself and being vulnerable with others you can trust. Powerlifting lets you do that.

Jenny (right) with her training partner and friend, Bridget (left)

You’re currently an NGA bikini pro with a powerlifting meet now under your belt. How did you find the two experiences differed? 

Preparing for a bodybuilding competition is a long journey of pushing your body, fighting your mental urges, and dialing in your body fat. You peak and hopefully fill those hungry muscles out properly and in time for your stage moment. Depending on the competition, you’re on stage one or two times for a few minutes – and then it’s over. You get stronger and work those tempo lift workouts to build those glutes and shoulders for that coveted hourglass physique of female bikini competitors.

Don’t get me wrong: Preparing for a bodybuilding competition is its own journey. It’s so mental; your prep plan pushing you to perform more with fewer and fewer calories while your body screams and begs for more food. And the final product is your physique on a stage judged by others. Anyone should be darn proud of that. Darn proud. But at the end of the day, it’s your physique against someone else’s. It’s genetics, it’s opinion, and it’s pushing your body below its preferred body fat levels. You may place, you may not, you may win, you may not.

Powerlifting, though, is a different journey and a different final product. While it’s mental, it’s way more of a physical challenge. It’s about feeding your body so you can get stronger. It’s about perfecting your technique so you can push more weight. And while the final product is you on a stage, it’s you and the bar. Just you and the bar. You either push or pull that weight or you don’t, and you either pump your fist in victory, or know you pushed yourself as hard as you could that day but the weight didn’t move. So you perfect the technique, you push yourself more, and next time you strive to do more. Every lift and PR is a win. And there is no limit to those victories. You choose how many more times you push or pull that bar and win.

Preparing for a powerlifting meet is just part of an indefinite journey, in my opinion. You make sure you’re eating enough to maintain mass and support strength gains. You live in an “everyday” body and don’t typically fight hunger; you feed it to support those strength gains. You train heavy, you focus on increasing 1RMs, and you incorporate planned deload weeks to give your body some extra rest so you can hit it hard and heavy again for another cycle. You celebrate the whole journey with every gain in numbers and every tweak in technique.

You hone in on macros the week of the meet to make your weight class, and you take it easy that week, resting, so you are ready to hit a new 1RM PR on the platform. And the day before and the day of, you eat and eat and eat. For me, that was 75%-90% more calories than any given day to make sure I was fueled to perform and throw heavy weight around. And then you take a full day to do each big lift three times! You’re warming up, you’re hitting 1RM PRs (hopefully or at least hitting good numbers for yourself like I did on bench), and you are cheering other lifters in between.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you did for your nutrition in the months leading up to the big day, plus how you made weigh-ins? 

Before deciding to prepare for my first powerlifting meet, I had been reverse dieting with Sohee for the three months prior, immediately following my latest bikini bodybuilding competition. She did an amazing job increasing my calories from about 1,425 to about 2,080 (17x my body weight!), increasing my weight to 121-124lbs on any given day from my stage weight of approximately 115lbs. The amazing thing was that my body composition wasn’t much different —  just a nice supple, lean look! And my strength gains in the gym and muscle mass gains were coming along nicely.

With powerlifting, you do need to commit to a weight class, though.  There was a 114lb class and a 123lb class. I had no desire to cut to 114 lbs because I was in bikini offseason and wanted to keep chasing muscle gains (gotta eat surplus for that!) and I was in love with my strength gains in reverse dieting.  The 123lb class seemed reasonable as I typically weighed in under that every morning.

Note from Sohee: The 123lb weight class was perfect for Jenny because her offseason weight hovered right around there. I didn’t want her to have to stress out about having to drop water weight; I simply wanted her to train hard and enjoy the overall experience. 

That being said, the goal was to maintain bodyweight (more or less) while increasing strength, so once we reversed my macros up to a healthy intake, we kept them constant for several months.

Here’s what’s intriguing, though: I was pushing strength gains every time in the gym and cycling programs about every 3-5 weeks with a deload week, and I was hungry!  This was crazy because I wasn’t dieting down like in bikini prep to push limits in leanness. I was eating a lot!  But my as my PRs continued in training, my body wanted more to eat.

So what happened?  I had to mentally push through it some days and really respect deload weeks to recharge. And as an unplanned side benefit, I got major lean muscle mass benefit and physique improvement — more than I have ever been able to achieve by focusing on bodybuilding alone. By the end of prep, without trying and without mental fog like what occurs when pushing body fat of 10%-11% like in bikini bodybuilding prep, I got some major upper body gains to better balance out my genetically blessed glutes.

Upper body progress, from December 2014 to November 2015

Upper body progress, from December 2014 to November 2015

This is a major feat for a lanky, narrow hard gainer like myself.  And the beauty of it all was I really coasted into weigh-in pretty effortlessly and did not stress at all about it.

To make weigh-ins,  I did two days of slightly reduced calories and mostly liquid shakes, and without really trying, I dropped about 5lbs and came in well under the 123lb weight limit. Those liquid days were tough, but really nothing in comparison to “dialing” in you do for weeks with bodybuilding prep.

Chowing down on donuts after successfully making weigh-ins!

Chowing down on donuts after successfully making weigh-ins!

Then after eating almost twice as much as I usually do both Saturday and Sunday to fuel my performance, I still was only around 121 lbs the morning of the meet.

How did you do at your first meet? What were the results? What are your overall thoughts on the sport? 

I clocked in at 119.5lbs at weigh-ins for the 123lb weight class at the UPA powerlifting meet on November 14, 2015.

Even though I was quite sick in the two weeks leading up to the meet (ear and sinus infections, it turns out), I hit all my squat attempts and reached a new PR of 198.2 pounds, was 1/3 on bench just hitting my warm up of 93.5 pounds and missing my 1RM match of 115 pounds (probably the result of being ill), and hit all my deadlifts with a new PR of 232.2 pounds!

Note from Sohee: I’m really pleased with how Jenny performed, especially considering that she really wasn’t feeling well starting from about two weeks before the meet. We didn’t learn until the week after she’d competed that she’d had a double ear and sinus infection. Had she been in optimal health, I have no doubt that she would have gone 9/9 for her lifts. Still, 7/9 for her very first meet is not shabby at all! 

Dropping it like it's hot!

Dropping it like it’s hot! 198.2lb squat PR

At the end of the day, I’m thankful I decided to try powerlifting. It has blessed me. It’s changed me for the better. It is a sport that celebrates everyone’s victories…every lift, every session, every PR. But more importantly, it celebrates strength while letting you be vulnerable. Not every lift is what you want it to be, your vulnerabilities on any given day are exposed, but that’s not the end. It’s a journey. You take stock, consult with a coach and/or good friend, you tweak, and it’s you and that bar again, and you can beat it. You are provided the opportunity over and over again to use your vulnerabilities to grow, not hold you back, but make you better, and that carries over into every aspect of your life.

Failure doesn’t stop you; failure grows you.

Jenny feeling the love at the conclusion of her powerlifting meet!

Jenny feeling the love at the conclusion of her powerlifting meet!

Powerlifting gives you meaningful fellowship with others because if you aren’t exposing your vulnerabilities, you’re not growing in this sport. You open yourself up to all you are for yourself, which in turns open you up for those you are sharing the journey with: training partners, coaches, best friends, and in my case, my children.

And in the end, anything worth doing is worth doing well, and if it’s worth doing well, it is well worth sharing with those you care about — or what’s the point?

I can’t say I’ve found anything like powerlifting that has opened me up and consistently grown me so I can really be better than who I was yesterday for my personal biggest why: my children.  When you find something like that — something that lights you up over and over and lets you let go and let live — it’s really indescribable. I can’t do it justice.

But I can tell you one thing: The bar and I have an indefinite number of dates, and I’m sure my life journey will be the better for it.

powerlifting meet deadlift

Connect with Jenny by following her on Instagram.


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