How To Get Stronger And Run Faster

We recently featured one of our members, Allison Monheit, who qualified for the Boston Marathon.  She finished first in her age group running a 03:26:54.  This was only her second marathon and it was over 50 minutes faster than her first.  A great accomplishment for any runner but Allison also did something else remarkable leading up to this marathon.  Twelve days before her race she squatted 225 pounds for an easy single, strict pressed 100 pounds above her head, and benched her body weight.  She was a strong runner on race day, certainly stronger than most.

In the days after we featured her back squat and marathon results on our social media we received lots of questions regarding her training.  We thought it would be best for Allison to dig into her training log and write a brief synopsis of exactly how she built and maintained strength while increasing her running mileage, approached her nutrition and what effects these things had on her performance.

Continue reading “How To Get Stronger And Run Faster”

Week One In The Books (51 To Go)

Two of our newest members finished up their last training session of the week today.  They started on January 1st just like millions of people around the country did. Their first week looked much different than the overwhelming majority of people (and maybe yours) who headed back to the gym to make 2018 the year they finally get in shape.

Their first week didn’t involve a treadmill.  Not one “body pump” class.  They didn’t learn how to use a machine to tone the biceps.  Somehow they escaped this first week without a single plank- GASP!  Neither of them were told they had tight hips.  Or they lacked mobility.  They didn’t learn how to do any lifts with a PVC pipe.  Not a single corrective exercise.  No one yelled at them to go faster.  Weirdly at no point during this week did they think they were going to die.  They didn’t do a single burpee, box jump or wall ball.   They didn’t even learn that carbs are bad and processed food would kill them.  Strangely there wasn’t a mention of “eating clean”.

Continue reading “Week One In The Books (51 To Go)”

February Member Spotlight – Linda Kephart

lindasqOur second monthly spotlight in 2017 goes to Linda Kephart.  Linda has been a steady member of the 6am for a many years.  Day after day, week after week Linda can be found starting her day under a heavy barbell.  It’s safe to say she is an inspiration to the entire gym- coaches included.

Linda was a tough person to convince that more is not always better.  That first year she would train in the morning and run/bike/swim for many miles in the evening.  In her mind training with a barbell with smart short conditioning could not be enough to reach her fitness goals.  As progress became more difficult due to limited recovery we finally convinced her to trust the programming and scale back her time spent on the road.  She hasn’t looked back.

As a masters athlete her strength numbers would be admired by 20 year old college athletes.  The best part?  In her 60s she is stronger this year than she was last year.  After training with a barbell for years she is still getting stronger.  She deadlifts 2x her bodyweight, squats 1.5x her body weight, and presses .75x her body weight.  Absolutely impressive numbers for any for any age.  Add this to the fact she competed in a 5k without ANY running preparation and finished 4th in her age group of 40 other runners.

Linda is the type of athlete every coach wishes to coach.  She trusts the process and plan we give her.  She is consistent, showing up to put in the work day after day, week after week.  She establishes goals and works as hard as possible to reach them.  This county was lucky to have her leading and mentoring the Physical Education program for many years.  I know my children will benefit from her time spent teaching in Carroll County for many years to come.

Linda has competed in a few powerlifting competitions over the years.  Last fall she competed and won the Best Female Masters Lifter in the country at the Starting Strength Fall Classic.  This spring she will attend the Starting Strength Seminar to further expand her 40 years of knowledge in the fitness field.  Always learning and always improving.  Congrats Linda!

Please share a little about yourself. Profession, family, age, background…

I spent 26 years in public education as a physical education teacher followed by 14 years as the county lindapressPhysical Education Supervisor.  Most rewarding has been as mom to 2 beautiful and talented daughters, and now 2 grandsons!  Currently I am an adjunct professor at McDaniel College in the exercise science department.  I don’t know what 63 is supposed to feel like, but I feel pretty good.

What was your exercise history before WSC? 

Growing up I competed in swimming and gymnastics then switched to field hockey and lacrosse in college.  After college, I ran most every day and lifted on machines.  As a physical educator, I always felt it was important to be a fitness role model for my students.  Running was a convenient workout after school so it was 3-5 miles a day for many years. Fitness has been and continues to be an important part of my daily routine.

How did you find out about WSC and what was the catalyst to get you to contact us and come in your first day?

I was looking for some additional challenges in my fitness routine beyond what I was doing on my own: run, bike, lift.  I had heard good things about the program and coaches at WSC so decided to try it.  Since training at WSC for the past 4 years, I run less, bike more efficiently, and am much stronger! 

What are your current personal bests for all the lifts?

Squat – 205 lbs.

Bench Press – 115 lbs.

Dead Lift – 250 lbs.

Press – 90 lbs.

What is your favorite lift and why?

Squat:  Progress has continued at a steady pace.

How long after starting at WSC before you noticed a difference?

Within the first few weeks progress was noticeable.  Documenting daily lifts and WODS enables me to set goals, note progress, adjust training as needed.  All under the guidance of very knowledgeable coaches.

How has strength training impacted your daily life? What is the greatest impact?

Strength training is how I start every day at 6 AM.  Is it strange that most evenings I mentally load the bar for what I have to lift the next morning!  In addition to getting stronger and feeling more empowered, the WSC atmosphere encourages friendship and comradery. Friendship provides emotional strength.  For that, I am very thankful.

How is strength training different than what you did before for exercise?

There is a plan when strength training with a qualified strength coach.  The plan includes both short and long term goals.  Complete the lifts, document progress, and adjust the weight next session. 

lindadlWhat would you say to someone who is unsure about starting a barbell strength training program? How would you convince a friend to get started training?

Anyone at any age can benefit from strength training.  Once the myths of getting too bulky are debunked, the implementation of linear progression training provides safe, strength progress.  As the physical education supervisor, I was able to provide continuous professional development for all our high school and middle school PE teachers with Beau and Angie Bryant, Starting Strength coaches and owners of WSC.  All our high school weight rooms have been redesigned for barbell strength training.  We have more high school girls taking weight training than ever before.  Some of their comments include:  “I feel better about myself”, “I am stronger”, “I am more self-confident”. 

January Member Spotlight – Mary Brunst

We will kick 2017 off with a monthly member spotlight.  We have a gym full of amazing people who have done great things and it’s time to introduce everyone to them.  We understand the misconceptions of strength training or the fear many people have to get started.  Our hope is to introduce you to people just like you who have changed their life with a barbell.  To show you that everyone starts somewhere and where that place is doesn’t matter.  The only thing that matters is that you begin.

Finding a monthly person to spotlight will be easy.  Picking just one each month will be difficult.  We have been dong this in Westminster since 2010 and the number of people who have changed their life with a barbell is long.  We could do this weekly and still not get to everyone this year.  With that in mind someone had to be the first and Mary Brunst immediately came to mind.

Mary is a local photographer who started training with us last spring.  (See here for an awesome photo of Mary on her website)  I vividly remember her first day.  She was about as nervous as a person could be and I knew it took all her courage to walk in the door that morning.  We immediately got her to work learning how to squat, press and deadlift.  There’s a lot to learn on those first few weeks and that first hour goes by quickly.  When we finished up I wasn’t sure if Mary would be back for her second session.  Thankfully she showed up and she hasn’t looked back.

Mary spent the next week or so learning the basic barbell lifts.  All our new members begin the Starting Strength program to establish a foundation of strength.  We keep things pretty simple and focus on mastering the squat, press, deadlift, bench press and eventually the power clean.  We start light and add weight each session.  Once confidence builds in the proficiency of these lifts we will begin to talk about nutrition.  Our nutrition program starts simple and becomes more complex as needed.  We taught Mary the importance of establishing a caloric deficit to lose weight.  That foods are not inherently “good” or “bad” but simply made up of proteins, carbs, and fats.  We established a caloric load and helped her as she learned how many macronutrients were in the foods she ate.  She slowly began to hit daily caloric goals and eventually macronutrient goals.

By March her lifts were slowly going up and she began tracking her nutrition closely.  In addition to her barbell training she added one or two days a week of conditioning.  Conditioning consisted of work on the prowler for short intervals.  Her program has been largely unchanged since her start.  She still strength trains three times a week, conditions at the gym if she has time and gets outside for a hike or walk on the weekends.

How effective has it been?  Her hard work and consistency has her down over 32 pounds and 10 inches off her waist.  She hits the gym with a smile and is the first person to introduce herself and offer words of encouragement to a new member.  She has done what many won’t.  She has learned the difference between training and exercise.  She has learned the basics of nutrition and has learned how to apply it to reach her goals.  She has established a training program and a nutrition plan she can live with for the rest of her life.  Our coaches at WSC have done their job.  We educated and delivered the tools of success and watched Mary succeed on her own with her own hard work.  She now understands more about the world of strength and conditioning, weight loss and strength gain than most coaches.  She will be able to apply these principles for the rest of her life and we are proud of her.

Please share with us a little about your background?

merypressI almost feel like I should start off this blog interview like a confessional – “Hi, I’m Mary and a year ago I was a total gym newbie,” or “Hi, my name is Mary and I was terrified to walk into Westminster Strength & Conditioning that first day,” or better yet “Hi, I’m Mary Brunst and WSC has changed my life for the better this past year.” All of those statements are true, but to give you some background let me share with you a little about myself. I work as a self-employed, professional photographer; I’m 28, not married, and do not have any children. I’m blessed that I truly love my job and I’m so grateful for the opportunities that it has provided me; however, working 60 to 80-hour work weeks to get my business off the ground has given me little time for much else these past 6 years. That is not at all a complaint, but rather a reality. You know that saying about some people working 80 hours a week to avoid working 40? That’s true for me. To say that it has been a constant hustle seems like a bit of an understatement at times. So while I have a job that I love, last year at this time, my work life and personal life were way out of balance. My personal life and health were at an all-time low.

I’ve always been someone who has struggled with my weight. Over the past 6 years my weight has dramatically fluctuated due to a crazy work schedule and a lot of inactive hours in front of a computer screen. I have tried what feels like every diet around in efforts to fend off the weight gain – including Ideal Protein, the HCG diet, and Whole30, to just name a few. After all of the yoyoing back and forth I got really, really tired of it all. A year ago I was 50+ pounds overweight, so frustrated, and frankly unhappy.

Enter Westminster Strength & Conditioning. I have friends who do CrossFit and a cousin who is really into powerlifting. After hearing about their experiences, both were something that I had wanted to try but put off for several years. Working 60 to 80-hours a week and hearing people say “you don’t find the time, you make the time to workout,” (I’ll be honest with you) my thoughts were always responding with “yeah, that’s nice, but THERE IS NO TIME to make. A girl has to sleep and I’m already running myself into the ground.” I eventually reached a point where I knew something had to change. I was in my mid-to-late-twenties, unhappy, unhealthy, and questioning what I was really doing with my life. I also knew that I didn’t want to wake up at 50 regretting that I never made my health a priority. The current pace I was keeping was unsustainable and I knew it. There were no easy answers, the same amount of work still had to get done, I wasn’t at a place where I could hire anyone to help, and I wasn’t at all confident that taking an hour to an hour-and-a-half out of my work day would be do-able. I know how crazy that sounds and how much I sound like an insane workaholic…. however, that was my frame of mind at the time. It’s not that I wanted to be working 10-14 hour days but that’s what my present reality was and there were no easy answers for how to change it. Give up a dream that I had poured blood, sweat, and tears into? Scale back the work and pray that I somehow would make enough money to make the ends meet? I know it seems crazy, we’re only talking about a few hours a week here, but at the time I was stretched really thin with very little margin in my life. I read a quote on Instagram around that time that said something along the lines of: “you are your business’s biggest asset, when are you going to start treating yourself like it?”, and it really struck a cord with me. I decided that I needed to carve out the time for my health. Instead of having all of my questions answered of how I was going to gain time and margin in my life, I decided to just jump in and take it one day at a time. So here I am almost a year later and I won’t lie to you, finding the time to spend at the gym is not easy or convenient, but the benefits far, far, outweigh the cost. Not only has my physical health greatly improved, but also my mental health because of it. Now that hour, to an hour and a half, has become less of a sacrifice and so much more of a blessing.

What was your exercise history before WSC?  

I played soccer through high school but that is the extent of my athleticism. In recent years, if there was a workout routine in my life it looked like running a mile or so three times a week. I tried a 24-hour gym and held a membership for a year, however, I rarely went because I had no idea how to use any of the equipment other than the treadmill…. and I preferred to run outside so that was a waste!

How did you find out about WSC and what was the catalyst to get you to contact us and come in your first day?

I’ve known about WSC for awhile but never had the courage to actually come. Once I decided that I maryDLneeded to change my health, and my life, I researched all of the gyms in the area and kept coming back to WSC. I knew WSC had a great reputation and I knew that I needed to go to a place that would train and educate me. With my schedule I didn’t have the time or energy to be self-taught, I also didn’t want to spin my wheels and pick up bad habits for lack of knowing better. I saw on Facebook that my friend Lindsay Archer went to WSC so I contacted her to see if I could tag along with her sometime. To my dismay, Lindsay responded immediately with “yeah! How about this week?” …. and in my mind, I was like “uhhhh no time to mentally prepare and work up my courage, so guess it’s just time to jump in.” To say that I was out of my comfort zone is an understatement. However, walking through the door I couldn’t have been met with more kindness and patience by owner Beau Bryant and the other gym members. Looking back it’s almost laughable. For all of you other gym newbies out there, I can tell you from personal experience that it is so much less scary than it seems in the beginning!

What are your current personal bests for all the lifts?  

Back squat: 205, Press: 85, Bench Press: 105, Deadlift: 230

What is your favorite lift and why?

My favorite lift is the deadlift and I think that is because I’m half afraid of it! As silly as it sounds, because the deadlift is so challenging for me I feel the most successful after a good set, and that feeling of success makes it my favorite…. even if the relationship is a little bit of both love and hate!

How long after starting at WSC before you noticed a difference?

The first week at WSC I was too nervous to remember anything other than my awkwardness, but definitely by the 3rd or 4th week of going I was confident that this was going to provide the life-change that I had been needing and wanting. I started noticing the biggest difference when I started the nutrition program.

How has strength training impacted your daily life?  

Strength training has impacted every area of my life. I can say without a doubt that it has been the best thing that I did for myself (and my business) in 2016! It’s truly been life-changing in the best way possible. I feel more capable than I ever have. I have more energy than I’ve had in a very long time, and the back pain that was a constant during every busy summer/fall season photographing weddings is virtually gone. I feel happy and confident again, and for the first time ever I feel in control of my health. I no longer feel like my weight is this ever-changing mystery dependent on how stressful life is at the moment. Tracking my macros along with strength training has finally given me the answers that I’ve longed for and with that I’ve found a new sense of freedom.

How is strength training different than what you did before for exercise?

Before strength training my version of exercising was running or hiking. Strength training has been a million times more beneficial as well as less time intensive, which has made it so much more do-able and practical for me.
What would you say to someone who is unsure about starting a barbell strength training program?  How would you convince a friend to get started training?

MarYSQTo anyone unsure about starting a barbell strength program and wondering if it is for them, I’ve been there, I’ve had all of the same questions and doubts. Can I do this? Will I look like a bodybuilder? Will I still look feminine? Is it only for athletic types? Is it really for me? However, after almost a year I can tell you that not only can I, or anyone else, strength train but 1.) you won’t look like a bodybuilder. However, you will feel more capable than you ever have…. and that feels so good! 2.) For better or worse, will still have the body shape that God gave you, even if that shape is slimmer and more “toned” :). Yes, you will still look feminine, but you’ll be stronger and feel more confident. 3.) I’m about the farthest thing from an athlete and if someone would have told me a year ago that I would actually love barbell strength training there is no way that I would have believed them, but I do love it, and it’s way more fun than I ever imagined it would be. 4.) I honestly believe that strength training is for everyone, no matter your age, background, or weight. I know it’s scary getting started, I was terrified, but looking back almost a year later, I can’t put into words how happy I am that I made the first step to go to WSC. That I decided to just jump in and take it one day at a time, that I’m still taking it one day at a time. The knowledgeable coaches at WSC have always been there to guide and help me every step of the way. I promise you that getting started is the hardest part and I’m confident you will never regret it!

Sit-ups And Other Silly Things in 2017

It’s that time of year again.  As a gym owner I get to be subjected to hundreds of articles about fitness designed to get page clicks and advertisers paid.  The entire thing is quite maddening because the stuff pedaled will mostly be silly bullshit.  If I’m lucky I’ll even have a few people ask me about the silly shit a friend told them about “getting in shape”- then get to watch them tune me out at the point I mentions squats, deadlifts and caloric restriction to lose weight.

Luckily by the end of January things will mostly be back to normal and I will only deal with weakly silliness.  But one thing is for certain.  The first week of January millions of people will crowd the local gyms to jump on treadmills, bosu balls, ellipticals, hit the body pump class, the cable machine, and GNC for all the right supplements.

In the spirit of the time for new found fitness I have come up with a simple guide to help you navigate the gym in 2017.  A simple list of all the things you will WANT to do to “get in shape” come January 1st and all the things you SHOULD do to get strong in 2017.


What you want to do

Hit the gym 5 nights a week and do some extra cardio on the weekend.  Seriously, summer is just around the corner.

What you should do

Carve out an hour from your schedule three days a week that you WILL stick to.  Pick these three days with a rest day in between.  Monday, Wednesday and Fridays work great but the choice is yours.  Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays will work the same.  As will any number of days with at least one rest day in between.

These three days a week are all we need when we first get started.  Missing workouts make most people feel guilty.  Most of us have a pretty busy life with work and family obligations.  The thought of needing to hit the gym 6 days a week can set you up for failure before you get started.  Unless you are a 19 year old college student you will more than likely miss workouts on a schedule like this.  These missed workouts can lead to guilt and that guilt snowballs into more missed workouts.  Failed diets often work like this.  “I ate a pizza for breakfast, might as well have this cake for dinner.  Cake for dinner last night, might as well have this pie for breakfast.”  Failure leads to more failure.

Make those three days in the gym as optimal as possible.  Training optimally is one of the most important things you can do to see results.  Training optimally begins with proper exercise selection.  For 99% of you reading this this means just a few basic exercises.  The squat, press, deadlift, bench press and chin-up will cover you for the first 4 to 6 months in the gym.  No need for more.

These five exercises are optimal for a few simple reasons.  They give us the most return on our time invested in the gym because they use the most muscle mass over the greatest effective range of motion and allow us to lift the most load.

You will want to do endless curls in front of the mirror.  Don’t.  Just do chin-ups.  If we use the above criteria for the selection of our exercises it becomes pretty clear why.  What is the effective range of motion on a standing dumbbell curl?  Go ahead and stand up, pretend to do a curl.  Now compare that to hanging from a pullup bar with arms straight and pulling your chin over the bar.  See the difference?  How about muscle mass?  What muscles are being used when you curl a dumbbell?  Now compare that to the required musculature to hang from a bar and pull your chin over the bar.  See the difference?  Which one allows you to lift the most load?  How much can you curl?  60 pound dumbbell?  How much do you pull over the bar when you do a chin-up?  Your body weight?

Lastly, my own criteria- which one is harder?  Now, which one do you think you should be doing as a beginner?

We can do this all day long.  Squat and the leg extension.  Deadlift and the cable machine.

Using more muscle mass over the greatest effective range of motion handling the most load means MORE adaptation.  More adaptation means more results.  More results means you will keep at this thing longer than a few weeks.


What you want to do

Lose this gut and get a stronger “core”.  Time for endless sit-ups and planks.

What you should do

Oh the time wasted doing sit-ups and planks.  None of this works this way.  You don’t lose your gut by doing sit-ups.  You lose your gut by losing fat.  You lose fat by eating less food.  Simple.

If you need to lose fat you need to eat less calories than you burn.  You can do that a number of ways but the common theme to fat loss is caloric restriction.  The best way to do that is with a combination of eating less calories and more activity.  Guess what?  The first thing we talked about covers the more activity nicely.  Just eat less.  Track your calories for a week while eating normally.  The second week drop your calories between 200 and 500 calories a day and monitor the results.  Make adjustments only when needed.

Things can get more complicated than this but you are just starting out.  Simple works and adding complexity is not needed and only serves to overwhelm you.  Keep it simple at first and it will work.

So, no sit-ups and planks?  Why?  Because they don’t work nearly as well as the five exercises we covered earlier and sit-ups can potentially hurt your back.  If you are squatting, pressing, deadlifting and doing chin-ups- as a beginner there are absolutely no reasons to do sit-ups and planks.

The musculature of the trunk functions to provide support isometrically.  Think or them as functioningholly squat much like a corset.  They contract to increase support so your spine doesn’t do wiggly things when you lift, run or jump.  Take a look at the picture to the right.  She has 210 pounds on her back at the bottom of a squat.  Her trunk muscles are held in rigid isometric contraction to prevent her “core” from folding under the load and dropping the weight forward.  Using our criteria above (most muscle mass, longest effective range of motion, most weight used) which do you think is better for building “core” strength- a body weight plank or sit-up or this 200 pound squat?

How did her “core” get strong enough to hold over 200 pounds?  Slowly over time of course.  She started with a 75 pound squat and over several months slowly increased the load.  The body adapted.  We already learned the body adapts the quickest when we train optimally with big compound exercises.  Adaptation is results and results keep us going back.

Lastly, sit-ups just are not good for your back.  If they are suboptimal for results AND they have a potential to make cranky backs crankier, why would we do them?  I know people like them.  I know your CrossFit gym has you do them.  There was a time I had people do them.  It still doesn’t mean you should do them.

But don’t just take my word for it.  Read all about why you can cut the silly sit-up from your new program.     

Furthermore, if your back is hurting, something is usually inflamed.

If jamming the spine into a compromised position triggered the irritation, wiggling the compromised structures can increase the irritation, and thus increase the inflammation. Keeping your back rigid and internally motionless as you strengthen the muscles does not increase the irritation, and does not bother an older spine nearly as much as situps and back extensions do. Situps obviously don’t hurt everybody, but if your back hurts already, situps may be part of the problem.

If your back hurts and you are doing situps, just try this for six weeks: Stop doing situps and back extensions. Just stop. – Mark Rippetoe


What you want to do

Jump on a treadmill for 60 painful minutes or start a couch to 5k program.

What you should do

Spend the entire hour you have in the gym each of the three days building strength.  When first starting in the gym it’s the most important and useful adaptation you can acquire. In the beginning it will do everything you are trying to do BETTER than running long slow distances.  Everything.

Strength is the foundation of all domains of fitness.  Your ability to produce ever greater force against objects in your daily environment will literally make everything you do easier.  Yes, even running.  All the tissue of your body will adapt to the ever increasing loads from the barbell.  Muscles will become bigger, tendons pulling on the bones will become thicker, bones will signal to lay down more bone mass, cartilage will adapt to handle increasing loads and the list goes on and on.

Focus all your energy and recovery on this process.  Stress the body, allow it to recover and adapt then do it again.  In less than 6 months you will have acquired the strength required to do all those other things you want to do safely and effectively.  Just get strong first.

There will be plenty of time to train your couch to 5k once you have built strength and toughened your bodies connective tissue and bones.  Save yourself all the overuse injuries and heartache with a little time investment in strength acquisition now.  Your body will thank you later.

Getting stronger with a barbell is also a far better way to lose fat and build muscle than running.  Yes, you want to build muscle to look good.  When you tell a strength coach you want to “tone up” what you are saying is, you want bigger muscles.  Bigger muscles and less fat.  By now I think you have a pretty good idea how to get bigger muscles and less fat.  So, get started.

Don’t make the same mistakes you made last year.  Get in the gym.  Occupy a squat rack.  Start light and put a little more weight on the bar every time you hit the gym.  Squat, press and pull every time you train.  Track your training.  If you need to lose weight eat a little less than you have been.  Get outside and move on your off days.  Go for a walk, a hike, a bike ride with the kids.  Make 2017 your strongest year yet.

 

 

 

Are YOUR Goals Your Gym’s Priority?

Nutrition and programming are vital to your health and fitness success.  We are all busy with family and our careers.  Finding time to spend in the gym is difficult for us all.  Training and eating optimally to reach your goals will maximize your results and ensure the time you spend in the gym is as productive as possible.

Most CrossFit gyms take a generic “one size fits all” approach to your programming and nutrition.  Group programming and general eating advice can work for some but its far from optimal for everyone. Those 3 to 5 hours you spend in the gym each week should be structured and programmed to gain the maximum amount of results in the least amount of time.  Following the same programming and nutrition advice as everyone else may not be the fastest most efficient way to reach YOUR goals.

At Westminster Strength and Conditioning, we take a different approach.  We customize programming and nutrition to reach your goals efficiently, freeing you up to spend more time doing the things you love outside the gym.

Our nutrition experience goes well beyond a weekend seminar.  We go well beyond telling you to “eat clean” or avoid carbs and sugar. WS&C Starting Strength Coach Angie Bryant not only teaches nutrition at McDaniel College she is a competitive Power Lifter and busy mother of 4 children.  If you are paying a coach or gym membership do not settle for general nutrition advice or group programming.  Make sure what you are doing is the best way to reach YOUR goals.

We can help you establish your daily/weekly caloric needs and set daily protein, carbohydrate, and fat intake to match your goals while you begin your new training program.  We keep you accountable by tracking and adjusting weekly.  WS&C Coach Mallory Sutphin can design customized meal plans with grocery lists and food prep instructions based on your weekly numbers.  She also offers weekly food delivery with delicious meals proportioned exactly to your weekly macronutrient numbers.

We work with clients all over the country.  To get started send us an email at beau82nd@gmail.com

Calorie and Macronutrient break down.
Calorie and Macronutrient break down.

We communicate with you weekly and make adjustments as needed to continuously ensure you are moving closer to your goals.

Weekly tracking and adjustments to keep you on track.
Weekly tracking and adjustments to keep you on track.

Shopping and food prep lists based off your macronutrients
Shopping and food prep lists based off your macronutrients

Individual meal planning to go with your shopping list.
Individual meal planning to go with your shopping list.

9 Things I’ve Learned While Interning/Training at a Starting Strength Gym

This holiday season, I had the great fortune of interning and training at a Starting Strength gym.  In this environment, I made several observations of what separates Westminster Strength & Conditioning (WSC):  A Starting Strength Gym from other gyms I have either been a member or trained throughout my extensive travels.

Here are the 9 things I learned while interning and training at a Starting Strength Gym:

  1. Community – it takes a village to raise a child, and a Starting Strength village will make you strong.

Where were you when Conor McGregor knocked out Jose Aldo?[1]  I know where I was:  in a room full of foreign people to me – all of whom had one thing in common, WSC.

I flew home to Maryland from California, made a quick trip to Philadelphia to witness Navy’s 14th consecutive drubbing of Army, and then immediately made my way to a UFC 194 viewing party hosted by a close friend back home in Maryland.  Initially, the invite was disclaimed with, “(The party) will be mostly people from (WSC).  That’s who I hang out with these days.”

Little did I know at the time, but the people I met that evening would be the same people I would see training at various times ranging from early morning to the evening.  This level of camaraderie is unique.  Camaraderie is regarded as a staple in the effectiveness of successful organizations – WSC is no exception.

  1. Training Logs –review an athlete’s training log and a story will unfold like reading the box score of last evening’s baseball game.

Remember those classic Mead Composition Books[2] that were mandatory in elementary school?  You know the one – the black and white covered book that was rarely utilized, and, when it was, who really wanted to ‘creatively write?’  Well, they’ve returned and at a WSC their presence is nothing short but noticed.

  1. “Hard.   Effective.” – mastery of fundamentals is a universal principle that does not require innovation – only dedication.

The ‘Novice’ Linear Progression (NLP), detailed in length in Practical Programming, is the foundation of any strength program that is scalable to any athlete of any background.  The program is best summarized in those three words:  Hard.  Simple.  Effective.

Squat.  Press.  Deadlift.  The mastery of these lifts will introduce an acquisition of strength unparalleled.  The development of strength is paramount for the crossover to all athletic modalities.  Given two athletes with equal ‘average’ genetics – the deciding factor in who wins regardless of endeavor is the one with superior strength.

What makes WSC effective at NLP is how it is implemented – through its coaching.

  1. Coaching – not every ‘coach’ or ‘trainer’ can instruct and develop, but a Starting Strength Coach can do both in spades.

A SS Certified Coach’s value to the NLP is immeasurable.  WSC currently has 5 certified SS Coaches with others in the process of being groomed simultaneously.

No matter the time of day in which you train, early/late morning, late afternoon, or evening; there is always a SS Coach available for questions, a spot, or provide sufficient yelling that ensures a quality lift.  “Poor form in the gym is caused by insufficient yelling,” is one of many quotes by Rip and seeing that quote played out in front of my eyes is a huge take away.

“Big Air.”  “Knees.”  “Stay Tight.”  Several cues that many have read or seen in a SS video; however, when these cues are yelled by a legitimate authority, they transcend the rep to higher quality – immediately.  Several times Beau would yell, and before you know it, the athlete would ‘find’ the few remaining inches required to squat below parallel.  Amazing.

  1. Battle of the Sexes – women are superior to men in the weight room.

If you were to tell me this prior to my time at WSC, I would believe you were full of sh*t, and that exact thought process is why women are superior to men in the weight room.  Grinders.  Gracious.  Gratitude.  The 3 G’s which define women who train at WSC.

Ever see an athlete discover and flourish in their pain cave?  I have.  Women have official residency in their pain cave like geriatrics have in Florida.  A level of determination as evident by witnessing several women train through injury and ailments was eye opening.  Conversely, men enter the pain cave by dramatically busting through the door and leaving as quickly as they entered.  The greatest difference – the intensity in which one arrives and the duration in which one stays.
Ego, men have plenty and will tell you they know about it, too.  Women, they have never even heard of the word or the idea.  The measurement of an individual’s ego is correlated to their ability to be coached.  From the novice to the national level power lifter, women trump men in their ability to be coached.

  1. Diversity – the barbell does not discriminate and is an equal opportunity employer.

Just discussed is the subtle difference between the male and female athlete; however, a matter that is universal is the diversity of athletes you will find at a SS gym.

Age.  Sex.  Ethnicity.  Athletic Background.  If you believe the barbell is not for you, I assure you there is someone training at WSC with a similar background as you.  There are many success stories at WSC and these are not success stories about the individuals who are training for national level competitions or those who represent the national team either.  These are people who want to improve their quality of life and just want to do one thing:  become stronger.

Many feel that they must be ‘in shape’ prior to training.  This is a huge, huge misbelief.  These people will spend countless hours mindlessly on the elliptical or treadmill in pursuit of fitness.  WSC has taken many individuals from the couch to the squat and have scaled the barbell and movement to the athlete’s baseline.

Everyone from the local high school athlete who is in his off season to the local college’s president was in WSC – squatting their 5s.

  1. Monthly Dues – an opportunity for results comes at a price but the dividends are unrivaled.

I received a text message inquiry from a friend, “How much does WSC cost?”  I responded with the monthly cost and the individual was immediately turned away.  Their response is that (Insert Name) Gym only costs X dollars.

Recently, NPR Planet Money released a podcast that articulates well why most gyms do not want you to show up to their gym.[3]  In one word, the relationship between the customer and gym is summarized as:  indifferent.  (Insert Name) Gym is indifferent to your results, strength, goals, and frankly, just who you are as a person.

WSC is not (Insert Name) Gym.  The monthly dues include everything aforementioned and more.  The moment you decide to afford the cost is the moment you decide to become strong.

  1. And Squat Again.  –  Friends never let friends skip squat day. Ever.

Mentioned prior in the note about NLP is the core lifts that compose SS (squat, press, and deadlift) – the King of these is the squat.  I have never been to a facility in which everything begins and ends with the squat.  New to the gym – you’re going to squat.  You will squat below parallel with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart and toes pointing out while driving out your knees.  Not only are you going to do this, you will do it for 5 reps, too.

When you are introduced to the squat, you will learn HOW to squat.  Low bar.  Looking down.  Hip Drive.[4]  The cues mentioned earlier from coaching could be done in unison with a group of athletes who are all on the same program.  There’s no secret formula, there is no exercising legs, there is only training.  This training at WSC begins and ends with the low-bar back squat.

  1. (Extreme) Ownership – Culture is reflective of leadership and WSC’s culture is reflective of the owner – Beau Bryant.

The greatest influential factor in what makes WSC a superior gym is the owner – Beau Bryant.  Beau’s fingerprint is on EVERYTHING.  Modest by his nature, Beau will disagree with everything I am writing; however, Beau has dramatically improved the quality of life of hundreds of people in the Maryland area.

His commitment to his business, but more importantly the people of WSC is easily transparent.  You’ll find him wearing a Carhartt knit hat[5] in the winter months carrying around a white coffee cup at 5am every morning at WSC.  Watching athletes and through their lifts becoming stronger people is something Beau takes great pride.  Additionally, his athletes have great pride to perform for Beau, too.  There are times rest times are extended for Beau to come watch an individual squat (myself included).

During a hectic holiday season, including the recent delivery of his fourth child (and first girl), Beau presented a nutritional seminar on a Saturday to a packed house.  Again, the owner delivered a nutritional seminar.  Not anyone else.

A recent book on leadership titled, ‘Extreme Ownership’[6] is fitting of Beau and WSC.  A quote from the book, “there are no bad teams, only bad leaders.”  WSC is an exceptional team, community, and gym due to an exceptional leader – Beau Bryant.

Thank you, WSC, for exposing me to such high quality, and remarkable people – who, at this very moment, are squatting with cues from Beau.

About the Author:  Patrick Jones is a Lieutenant in the United States Navy and is currently a student pursuing a Master’s of Science in Electrical Engineering at Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.  He is a graduate from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.  Patrick enjoys the constant pursuit of strength, fitness, and human performance.

[1] https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=krhXZ0kf

[2] http://www.officedepot.com/a/products/333760/Mead-Journal-Composition-Book-7-12/

[3] http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2014/12/30/373996649/why-we-sign-up-for-gym-memberships-but-don-t-go-to-the-gym

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yha2XAc2qu8

[5] http://www.carhartt.com/products/Acrylic-Knit-Hat-A205

[6] http://www.amazon.com/Extreme-Ownership-U-S-Navy-SEALs/dp/1250067057

Barbell Success

We post a bunch of content on our social media showing our members doing some pretty amazing things.  We post these things to highlight their hard work and to show others what is possible when you find great coaches who understand how to teach and implement proper barbell training.  For those who have never strength trained in our gym you only see the end result.  You only see what months or years of hard work has produced.  Only sometimes do we give you the back story of how and when the person started training with us.  Even then you don’t get to see what that first day looked like.  You don’t get to see the person who walked in the door 6 months ago- weak, 30 pounds overweight, and lacking confidence.

In an effort to provide a little more of the back story we have decided to expand on some of the awesome stuff we put up on Instagram and Facebook with the hope it will inspire more of you to find a Starting Strength Coach or gym in your area and get started.  Maybe if we highlight enough of our awesome members success more of you will find a person you relate to and gain the confidence you need to walk in the door and pick up a barbell.

Jessica is one of those cool stories I think a lot of people can relate to and a great example of the type of person we help every day.

I started coming to Westminster Strength and Conditioning because of my sister.  Shejess wanted me to try it out with her.  I had no idea what to expect.  We had gone to 24 hour “do it yourself” gyms before and neither of us had any idea what we were doing so it didn’t last for either of us.  At WS&C Beau explained the Starting Strength method they use and how they are different from most gyms.  It all made sense to the practical nurse in me and I started to realize just how far I had let myself go after my first child.  I was twenty pounds heavier than pre-pregnancy and my daughter was five months old.  For the first time in my life I felt weak.”

Jessica’s first couple weeks with us were spent learning to squat, press, deadlift, and bench press.  We started with a weight she was comfortable with and as she became more proficient the weight on the bar was slowly increased.  For the first time in her life she was training.  Each session in the gym had a clear goal and she could see progress every time she walked in the door.  At 24 hour “do it yourself” gyms she had exercised.  Now she was training.

After the first couple weeks we began to talk about the importance of nutrition with Jessica.  Most women who come to see us are not eating enough protein and its one of the first dietary adjustments we make.  We looked at Jessica’s diet and established a goal of increasing her daily protein.  Making small adjustments over time work better than trying to make drastic dietary changes and getting overwhelmed.

jess2“WS&C showed me how to be successful and I feel better than I ever thought I would.  The coaches helped me every session and I didn’t worry about feeling stupid or not knowing how to work a machine.  They helped me focus on more important priorities like nutrition to become stronger rather than just focusing on losing body fat.  I learned that when I made the nutritional changes they recommended not only did my body composition change (I am two pounds less than my pre-pregnancy weight) but I was also stronger and feeling better physically than I ever had.  I am now stronger and more capable than I have ever been and it feels amazing.”

 

If you are trying to lose weight, focus on the things that matter.  Gaining muscle and making small dietary adjustments are how you should concentrate your efforts.  Stop thinking you need to run or do “cardio” to lose fat.  Find a coach who can teach you the basic barbell lifts and prioritize your time spent in the gym to getting stronger.  Ensure you are eating sufficient amounts of protein to gain strength and support training.  Keep caloric intake at levels that support losing pounds on the scale or inches.  Remember, when you start training the scale only tells a small part of the story.

If you have tried to lose weight or get stronger in the past and it didn’t work it may be time to find a coach.  A good coach can save you time and effort by optimizing the time you spent in the gym and eliminating the mistakes.  Find a Starting Strength Gym or coach in your area and get started.

 

You are You and I am Me

When we opened the doors of CFR and WS&C over 6 years ago one thing I was not expecting was a large portion of our membership would be females. I mean, we squat, press and pull heavy 5 days a week. There is no AC, only barbells and squat racks. I was a strength coach for the military and I assumed what type of person would be walking in the door. Very quickly I found this was not the case. Women love to pick up heavy shit and get strong. As a matter of fact, it’s much more fun coaching women on the major barbell lifts than men. So much so, I have jokingly said I should turn WSC/CFR into a women’s only gym.  Don’t worry guys, this will never happen!  However, they learn the lifts quicker, listen better, have less bad habits and generally move better than their male counterpart. I guess this is because most of them have never cleaned before so they listen to every word and work hard at mastering the details. The men quit listening when they hear the word clean and immediately start cleaning like the local football coach showed them. These habits are hard to break.

One thing I was not prepared for was the constant battle women face about how they should look. I never thought about this for a couple of reasons. I have a sister but she was quite a bit older than me and most of my memories are when she was graduating high school and getting married. I grew up with a brother 6 years older than me and thus never really had a female in the house concerned about body image. I know my mother would diet when I was a kid but I never remember her complaining to me about any serious body composition issues. My wife has always been athletic and when she began her strength journey, I never heard her mention her enlarging quads being a real problem other than finding pants that would fit. She was always more concerned with the weight on the bar and increasing it. Every now and then she asks me if her quads or butt look big, usually in a joking manner. I always tell her “Ah yeah, of course they do. You squat 260 pounds, they look great!”

I love my job and the absolute best part is when a female walks in the door for their free week trial on a Monday. Mondays are always squat day. I love teaching the squat. For me when a new member walks in the door it’s almost like a treasure hunt. The minute I have them descend into their first squat may be one of the most exciting things I do all day. It’s exactly like opening up a treasure box or a present each time. I get to see their first squat and I immediately know the work I have ahead of me. I immediately see the future. Every person’s squat is different and I can foresee 6 months down the road. I don’t see the shaky first squat in front of me with a 35 pound bar on their back. I see what will be an absolutely perfect Low Bar Back Squat loaded with 200 pounds in the near future. I see the them not as they are at that moment, whether skinny with no muscle mass, 50 or 100 pounds over weight or everything in between. I see what they will look like with hard work, consistent effort and a sensible diet.

I know what they will look like when they squat 200 pounds with confidence. Do you know what that looks like? It looks different for everyone. Much like each one of you look different to me at the bottom of a squat, you all look different than you perceive on the first day.  That’s the day when I see the future and envision you squatting 200 pounds or more. The one thing in common is to us, you all look great. You look just as your Creator intended you to look when He also hoped you would some day be strong and powerful. But that image in our mind doesn’t look like the magazine cover you saw checking out at the grocery store.  The airbrushed, photo shopped, muscle wasted, skinny fat model you wished you looked like, or had legs, shoulders or arms like.  Because you don’t look like her; your legs won’t look like hers. You are NOT her.  Be thankful.

If you haven’t noticed ladies, you are all built differently. Some of you carry more muscle mass than others. Some of you simply look at a barbell and gain a pound of muscle. You have large muscular quads when you walk in the door the first time and you have never even seen a squat. You have shoulders and traps like an athlete and you have never heard of a deadlift. Others walk in with little to no muscle on their legs and elsewhere. They are skinny and those first squats are difficult for them.  They wish they could squat like you and don’t understand why the empty bar feels so heavy. Both of you will be strong. Both of you will change physically but you will never look the same.  And you won’t look like that magazine cover.

Every single person who walks in our door creates a level of excitement that is difficult to explain. When a female walks in our door, I don’t see her as overweight or obese. I see a person with near perfect levers that will make her a good weightlifter. The only thing stopping her from fulfilling her potential and being great is HERSELF. I see a person who holds and easily builds muscle. I see a woman with big, muscular quads and glutes who will only get stronger and more powerful as time passes. I see a woman who has a strong back long before she has ever touched her first weight. I immediately start seeing the you that you were put on this earth to be. The strong, powerful, confident and capable you. I see a person that does NOT look like a fitness model on a magazine. I see a strong woman who not only is strong but looks strong. I see the you that you were meant to be, NOT the one society is telling you to be.

I was recently reading a book and a section really jumped out at me. The book, The Development of Muscular Bulk and Power by Anthony Ditillo, was written in the early 1970s. It was written for men who wanted to get into serious weight training. It was the author’s attempt at a basic beginner’s guide to gaining strength and size. It’s a pretty awesome book I would recommend to everyone. The part that jumped out at me was a section called The Forming of Realistic Goals. I will quote one of the most important things everyone should know and understand when beginning a journey to improve their health and fitness.

“Better to merely accept such an occasional occurrence as being the ‘scheme of things’ and after hashing and rehashing such pertinent facts in your mind you will sooner or later come to the conclusion that you are you, I am me, and ‘never the twain shall meet’. One of the most important things any trainee can learn is that we must work with what we have, not what we imagine ourselves to own or that which we feel we shall indeed possess at some later time.”

I could not say it better myself. This is an extremely important concept to grasp. If you are the woman who gains muscular size quickly and increases weights on the bar with relative ease, why try to be something you are not? It will only create disappointment and failure. Stoptrying to look how the magazine or society tells you. Take what you have been blessed with and use it. Use it to become the strong person you were meant to be. Trust me, somewhere there is a woman who wishes she could be as strong as YOU or look like YOU.  Take your strengths and run with them. Focus on them and make them even better. Be proud to be you and stop trying to be someone you are not.

Few things break my heart more than watching a woman get stronger each day only to be derailed by what someone else tells her she should look like. Or worse yet, quitting because of an unrealistic or unattainable goal she has set for herself.  Let a stranger look at you in awe because you LOOK like you can squat 300 pounds. That is much better than them never noticing you because you have spent a lifetime hiding it instead of embracing it. Or even worse, a lifetime of striving to be someone you are not. Just do us a favor and roll with it.  Be BADASS and own how badass you are becoming.  BE YOU.

Ladies, Are You Strong Enough?

At Westminster Strength and Conditioning we have a lot of strong women. At our gym, we take it for granted too often because we are literally surrounded by women who to the general public or gym goer can do absolutely amazing things with a barbell. We have several women who deadlift over 300 pounds. It’s normal to see women in almost every class we have pulling in the mid to high 200s for setsgailyn of 5. Look around on squat day and see plenty of ladies squatting over 200 pounds. Women weighing in below 140 pounds squat close to or over 200 pounds for reps. We have women pressing 100 pounds and benching their body weight. They do strict chin-ups and dips.  When those outside of WS&C read this it’s easy to imagine huge women with bulging muscles hoisting massive weights above their heads or 20 year old athletes in their prime squatting insane amounts of weight.

For those of you who have peeked in our doors, you know this could not be further from the truth. The overwhelming majority of the women at WS&C who lift huge amounts of weight are not 20 years old, they do not currently play a sport, most have a couple or more kids, are in their 30s, 40s or 50s and do not look manly or like overweight power lifters. Truth be told they look exactly as a healthy, strong woman should.  They are athletic and strong; they carry themselves with confidence. They are empowered.  It’s hard not to be confident when you go through your day knowing you are stronger than every person you talk to, even the men!

Nearly every woman that walks into our door for the first time has a glimmer of understanding that they need to be stronger. They understand on some level that they need to increase upper body strength, leg strength and what they usually term “core” strength. For many, I think they begin to recognize this fact as soon as they have kids. Up until that child starts running around and squirming like a squid when you try to leave the store, it’s easy to muddle through the “portable” months without a basic level of strength. Once you try to sprint down a 2 year old, sling them with one arm and carry 3 bags of groceries and a 20lb diaper bag, you quickly realize the need for greater strength. I’m pretty certain this is why about 70% of our members are women.  Nevertheless, there are actually a few more reasons to get strong if you are a woman other than being able to carry your children like a sack of feed.

83e2012d-48c9-4071-af81-0dbc55348822As a matter of fact, the most important benefits from strength training CANNOT be gained by other means. Running, biking, swimming, Body Pump, spinning, CrossFit, P90X, and Zumba cannot produce the most important adaptations for women that training with a barbell can and will produce. This is important to remember and understand. While exercise is great and I’m glad you are doing something, you must understand that if your exercise of choice does not involve progressive training with a barbell you are missing out on some pretty important adaptations to keep you functional and healthy later in life and make your daily tasks easier. Let me be clear. If you do one of the above mentioned exercise programs, I applaud you. You are moving and you are making yourself healthier. Keep it up. My hope is that this article dispels a few myths about women and strength training and allows you to gain a better understanding of the benefits of strength training.

So why is progressive loading (adding weight to a barbell as the trainee gains strength) with the major barbell movements (squats, deadlifts, presses) so important for women? And what adaptations occur during progressive loading of the squat, deadlift and press that do not happen with running, spinning, biking, Zumba, Body Pump or just about any other exercise program lacking in progressive loading of major barbell movements? There are several benefits but we will focus on two of the more important ones here (besides looking and feeling better of course, those are a given)!  Increased bone mass and increased force production (strength) are of utmost importance medically AND aesthetically speaking.   Lets talk about bone mass first.

I cannot think of many physical adaptations to exercise that would be more important for women than increased bone mass. Bone loss (osteopenia/osteoporosis) as you age is a pretty big problem . When your bones lose mass they become weakened and brittle causing them to break easier. We could toss up some interesting and compelling statistics but I think you all know someone near to you who has fallen and broken a hip, back, or arm later in life. You also know where the problem leads. Many times this is the event causing your grandparent or loved one to begin the discussion of long term care. At this point, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to care for themselves and continue to live independently. Here’s the thing, we can go a long way in preventing this type of situation both in the elderly and long before while we are still young. We will all begin to lose bone mass as we age. This is simply a fact of life we must face. But how we deal with it is what matters.

Think of your bone mass as your 401k of bone health. The more you have now the more you are likely tokelleypullup have when you are 70. Remember, we will begin losing it as we age. If you have more to lose during the normal aging process, the more you retain as you age. Now add to the fact that strength training will also slow that loss and you have a pretty good chance of maintaining healthy strong bones later in life.  No broken hips in your future. So how do bones adapt favorably to strength training and why do they not with running, biking, swimming or many other exercise activities?

The body is an amazing system and adapts to all sorts of stress. The first adaptation most of us think about when we discuss strength training is to the muscular system. This is where images of Arnold pop into our head and this is enough to end the thought of squats, presses and deadlifts for most women. After all, they don’t want to look like Arnold. But the muscular adaptation is far from the only adaptation. The next in line, the skeletal system experiences some pretty radical adaptations to the same stress the muscular system adapts to. Muscles attach to bones. Muscles need those bones to produce movement. They pull at their attachments of the rigid bones and produce movement around joints. Muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones function as a system and adapt as a system to stress.

So why does weight bearing exercises produce favorable adaptations to bones and running does not? Why do you need to squat, press, and deadlift and carry heavy things to increase bone mass? We will keep this pretty simple so we do not get bogged down in the details but there are a few things about your bones’ ability to increase mass that you should know. When a bone experiences a sufficient stress, called Minimal Essential Strain (this could be bending, compression, torsion or even muscles pulling at their attachments) specialized cells called Osteoblasts are signaled to move to the surface of the bone. The Osteoblasts are responsible for producing new bone material to strengthen the bone and increase it’s Minimal Essential Strain. In essence, when you produce enough force to bend the bone slightly the body recognizes this and signals specialized cells to prevent that bending in the event the same force is experienced again. This is the skeletal system’s adaptation to stress.

How does this work in your exercise program? Let’s say you wake up one day and decide to “get in shape”.  Most people will pick a day, head outside and go for a run. During that first run when your heel strikes the pavement, the bones of your lower leg and femur experience a stress and the Minimal Essential Strain is met (your body weight impacting the ground), Osteoblasts are signaled and new bone formation begins. Perfect right? Well, almost. What happens several months later when you have run three times a week getting ready for the half marathon? Still laying down new bone mass? Probably not, because your body has already adapted to that stress. It’s not going to signal Osteoblasts to produce more bone material in the absence of a greater stress. I guess you could strap on a loadable weight vest and slowly increase the load as you run but who the hell would want to do that? How about bicycling? New bone mass? How about swimming? Body Pump? Or P90X? You guessed it. These activities are limited in their ability to continue to increase the stress applied to bones to drive the formation of new bone material. You may be getting “in shape” but you are not doing much for new bone growth and remember your bone health is like a 401k. More bone mass now means more bone mass later as you begin to lose it. We are in a race to build bone mass and there must be a better way.

hollydl2So what do you do to continue to produce a sufficient stress to the skeletal system to lay down as much bone mass as possible or to slow your loss of bone and decrease bone turnover? You squat, press and deadlift while progressively loading these movements over time. When you place a bar on your back, squat down and stand back up you are producing force from your feet up through both legs, through the hips, through the spine and finally delivering that force to the barbell. Nearly every biological system in the body produces a favorable adaptation to this load, including your bones. You squat today with 55 pounds on your back and you have signaled Osteoblasts to begin bone modeling. Squat next week with 60 pounds and the process continues. The beauty of the barbell is we can continue this progressive loading for a very long time. Remember those women at our gym we mentioned in the first paragraph? They started with light loads and increased the loads over a couple of years. They have been modeling new bone material for years and as they continue to get stronger, they continue to add to their bone 401k. They are doing something today that will have a lasting impact on their bodies for the rest of their life.

We all know we need stronger bones. How about increased force production? Why is being stronger so important? For most of the same reasons having bigger, stronger bones is equally important. As we age, we will continue to lose strength. The beauty of strength is that it is a persistent adaptation. It takes several years to get strong because you are modeling new tissue. Again, remember our ladies in the first paragraph. It took them two years to get as strong as they are, but it will also take them a very long time to lose this hard-earned strength. This is quite different from your cardiovascular adaptation. We all know we can get in pretty good running shape in a couple months at most. We also know that when we take a break we lose that same adaptation pretty quickly (within weeks).

The second part of the importance of building strength is its application to everyday life. Most of life is a9amwsc force production sport (strength) not a cardiovascular event. Think back to the example we used of chasing your kids and picking them up in the grocery store  then carrying them and three bags to the car. If you get winded doing this and mistake being “out of shape” with being weak, you would be wrong. If this is difficult for you, it’s because you are weak. Not because you are “out of shape”. When we increase your ability to produce force and make you twice as strong as you are, you will not see many (if ANY) of your daily tasks as a cardiovascular event. You will see them as strength events ALL made easier by being stronger. This may piss a lot of runners off which is not my intention, but NO ONE will care when you’re 80 what your marathon time was when you were 30. They will care if you have the ability to get up if you fall (strength), carry the groceries from the car (strength), stand up from a chair or a toilet (strength), and generally take care of yourself (strength). Remember, the more strength we build now the more we will have to draw from as we begin to lose it and the better we can slow the process of inevitable strength loss.

Of course the barbell is the best tool for gaining this strength for the same reason it works so well for gaining bone mass. We can continue to load the barbell incrementally over time. It loads the muscular system using the most amount of muscle mass over the greatest range of motion (the squat), and it’s the most efficient way to gain strength. When choosing exercises with a barbell to gain strength and bone mass always favor compound exercises that use the most muscle over the longest range of motion. This is the reason why the squat, press, and deadlift are the kings of weight bearing exercise. No other movement has the capacity to produce as much favorable adaptation to the biological system. So why are you not squatting, pressing and dead-lifting?  No matter how old you are it is NEVER too late to start.

For many women (and men) these movements can be a little intimidating to learn. Add to the fact that most personal trainers and many coaches have no idea how to teach (or execute) them let alone how to program them and many women may be hesitant to include them in their program. WS&C teaches dozens of women these movements every day. If you are fortunate enough to live near a Starting Strength Gym give them a call and get started today.  Here is a great resource to find a knowledgeable coach in your area.  Even if you have to make a short drive to get some awesome coaching it will be well worth it in the long run.