Before we kick this whole thing off, you might as well tell everyone a bit about yourself- background, how long you've been training, etc.
I’ve always been into exercise in some form or another. When I was a kid I played softball, then some volleyball and softball for my school teams, and one year in high school I decided to try cross country and track and field. I never really excelled at any sports, but enjoyed being active. I sucked at cross country, actually – the 3.1 miles kicked my butt back then.
I was never overweight, but I wasn’t super skinny and I wanted to be, so when I was in high school I joined a gym and did the elliptical every day, and “weights” a couple of times a week – mostly leg machines. I was too afraid to try out the free weights, because I had no idea what I was doing. Eventually I read some articles in women’s magazines and applied some ideas I’d picked up to my routine, so I was doing light curls, lateral raises, etc. – I had no idea what most of the moves I was doing were even called, but they were basic and simple enough to remember. I have vague, shame-filled memories of sitting down and curling 12s or 15s and feeling proud of myself for lifting such heavy weights. It’s sad how low the bar is set for females.
Anyway, after years of this basic cardio and machine business some friends got me into longer distance running. I was terrible at it, and finished a couple of half marathons in something like 2 hours and 45 minutes each. I eventually got slower and weaker, and with my awful, starch and soy based vegetarian diet I got fatter – I put on about15 pounds one winter a few years ago, and was not pleased. While in the midst of trying to figure out how to switch up my workout routine to lose the weight I was introduced to a rare individual – an intelligent and educated personal trainer who actually knew what he was talking about, and how to get results. He taught me basic compound lifts, and I loved it. I took to the deadlift immediately, as it was the lift I was able to use the most weight for. I had a harder time with squats – the first time I tried them my stabilizers freaked out and I couldn’t even squat the bar, so the trainer had me do goblet squats. Eventually I got into more advanced things like rack pulls – which became my favorite, as they were now my heaviest lift – and cleans and snatches, which I really enjoyed being able to do.
It has been about 2 and a half years since I met that trainer. I worked out with him for almost a year, then took what he taught me and ran with it. I noticed that I enjoyed lower rep sets, especially days where he’d have me doing super heavy triples, so I programmed my own workouts to almost never go above sets of 5 (except for the occasional upper body lift, for whatever reason). I started reading more about lifting, on sites like t-nation, and looking things up on google and youtube. This last year I got really serious about increasing my strength, as I was loving all of the confidence I was building as a result of constantly getting stronger. People started noticing, and I was constantly approached by guys at the gym who would ask me why I was lifting so heavy and if I competed. So I decided to look into competing.
... and apparently did so while asleep. Additionally, she apparently dressed like a blind retard picked out her ensemble on purpose. At least, that's what she says.
I chose to do the single-lift events at this meet, as it was my first experience with a meet and I was nervous, and didn’t want to have to manage too much. Actually, I was going to only compete in the deadlift, but at the last minute my bench started increasing like crazy so I decided to compete in bench too. I won best female deadlift and best female bench press, with a 319.5 dead and 137.5 bench. I was hoping for a slightly better bench, but waiting for the cues really threw me mentally, and I missed my third attempt (148).
I’m going to do a full meet in February, and am hoping to total in the high 700s. I’m squatting in the mid 200s right now, so it seems possible.
With the obvious caveat of the fact that she has all of the structural rigidity of the Tacoma Bridge, those are some easy fucking reps.
I did not sumo deadlift. I have video proof, haha. It kind of bugs me that most girls choose to lift sumo, because it seems like an easier way to pull (shorter ROM) and therefore a weaker way to approach the lift. I always pull conventional, and have a really solid back as a result, so I’m probably better off sticking with that style anyway. Plus I’m tall. Apparently that helps.
Dear Ed- You're a pussy. Love, Jess.
Dear Eight Pound, Six Ounce Little Baby Jesus. You've taken my "fuck everyone- the lot of you are a pack of slack-jawed pussies" to a different level. Now sumo deadlifting is cheating? Someone might want to send Ed Coan one of their spare razors before they start opening veins. Putting aside your amusing, yet ultimately silly opinion, have you considered trying sumo? I will again invoke the name of the mighty Ed Coan as a preemptive counterargument to your deadlift form. A problem I recently discussed with an elite-level chick deadlifter is her reticence to shrug, due to the fact that she doesn't want to look like me. That's completely understandable, but her deads are breaking down near lockout, which I would chalk up to an upper-back issue. Now that I think of it, she's a great squatter and deadlifts sumo, so you guys have totally opposite strengths. Thus, a two part question- have you considered sumo deadlifting just to see if you can pull more that way, and how do you combat your fear of developing massive traps, or do you even give a shit?
I have not tried deadlifting sumo, though I have considered it. From what I understand, the sumo stance deadlift utilizes many of the same muscles as the squat, and since I squat regularly it seemed like a less useful exercise to practice for my overall strength goals, plus, again I was under the impression that it allowed lifters to pull a bit more weight, so it seemed like a weaker way to go about attacking the most hardcore of lifts. That is not to say that those who utilize the stance are weak, by any means. It's just comparable to squatting with a wider stance, as far as I understand it (and I typically squat with a pretty wide stance, so I'm not hating). It shortens the range of motion of the lift. Right? That said, I am tall, so perhaps I just have better leverages for regular pulling and won't fare as well with the sumo stance. I'll give it a shot sooner than later, and let you know how it goes, ok?
With regard to traps/shrugs - I do fear developing huge traps, as that wouldn't be pretty, but I don't actually anticipate that happening. I don't shrug that often; it's just something I do maybe once a week max as assistance work for my deadlift. Even before I started training shrugs my traps looked very very slightly defined as a result of regular cleans and deadlifts, but as I am a female with female hormones, I'm not too worried about getting huge in general. I've only put on about 8 lbs of muscle over the past couple of years, despite seeing huge jumps in my strength. Also, I've seen plenty of guys who shrug (some even heavy) and have no traps, and some who don't (or use pathetic amounts of weight) and have defined traps, so I think they're something you have to train more intensely and directly than one might think. I imagine that you put a lot of hard work and focused effort into building huge traps, and you find the implication that it's easy to accidentally build them somewhat insulting, no?
That's just a small part of the hilarity that occurs whenever most chicks start talking about lifting. I don't think they're so much worried about building my traps as they are with building any traps, but I've seen stream-of-consciousness writing out of women, and it's directly from the mouth of madness. As such, I'll just go ahead and give no opinion on what women think about anything, because I'm incapable of generating a thought that bears as much relation to logic and emotionlessness as Michael Jackson did to heterosexual masculinity. What's your current training routine like? How's it changed over time?
I’ve tried numerous times to construct some sort of regular weekly plan or progression plan for myself, but I never stick with it. I feel I’m at a point in my training where I can self-regulate. I plan my workout the day of, usually, or sometimes the day before, based on my schedule, my energy levels, what feels sore, what I haven’t worked in awhile, what my goals are, etc.
A lot of my current approach to training was inspired by this site, as well as the article that T-Nation did on John Broz this summer. Before I was introduced to the idea that you can lift as often as you want I was only lifting 3-4x/week. I tried 5/3/1 for a few weeks, but got bored. I tried 5x5 for awhile. I did, and sometimes still incorporate, reverse pyramid training. I tried push days and pull days. I just finished serving my time in college, so I’m using my newfound free time and energy by lifting 5-6 days/week, just do whatever I feel like doing that day. I always do a full body routine with some squat or deadlift variation as my first lift, and I always push myself. I keep things fun for myself by incorporating partials (squat lockouts, rack pulls), heavy assistance work (shrugs, good mornings), and other variations on the main lifts. Some days I don’t go super heavy (yesterday I did your 3 minute squat set idea, for example), or just work assistance lifts that aren’t as taxing (dumbbell rows, dumbbell bench, strict OH press, lighter front squats).
I actually brought my deadlift up a lot this year. After reading t-nation’s article on John Broz this past July, I incorporated his ideas into my routine and started snatching or cleaning at the start of each workout, and deadlifting about twice a week. My theory is that all of the oly lifting, especially all of the cleans, really transferred over, as I saw my deadlift shoot from 225 for reps in July to a 285 pull that August. For my deadlift workouts I usually do reverse pyramid style training, with one heavy set and two back off sets, though occasionally I’d do sets across or singles just for fun. Today I actually did an old T-Nation challenge of 60 deadlifts in 30 minutes. I used 225. It was really fun. Around rep 30 I started channeling some inner anger and that helped a lot. So, if you have anger issues, deadlift heavy. It helps.
I try to train my pulling muscles as often as seems possible, so I’ll do rack pulls or shrugs or barbell rows on a day where I feel I’ve deadlifted enough that week, or am too tired or sore or whatever to do full deads with sufficient weight.
Worked for Pisarenko, as did training in a near-thong
Back to you, however. As everyone knows, I definitely train like Clubber Lang- everyone stays the fuck away from me in the gym and I power weights aloft with little more than bad intentions and sociopathic tendencies. How about yourself- Clubber Lang, or Rocky?
I almost always lift alone, and I prefer it that way, as I get to do what I want on my own schedule with the weight that I want to use, etc. There is one guy who I’ve lifted with a few times, and he’s a good lifting partner because he’s strong and does basic compound lifts too, but he doesn’t like to do all of the random assistance work that I do (overhead squat lockouts, partials, etc.) so we don’t lift together often. It’s nice to have him around occasionally though, to spot me on bench or push me to get an extra rep out when I don’t think that I can.
Fuck an A, right. If there's one thing I think that the readers of this blog can show the world, it's that you don't need anything more than a singlet and some hate for your fellow man to fuck shit up at meets. This nonsense about teams, straphangers milling about with water bottles and baby powder and the like is all fucking nonsense.
So, what's the venue for your training? Dungeon basement gym? Clothing optional boutique gym? If it's the latter, do you have pics?
I lift at a 24 Hour Fitness, sadly. My excuse is that it’s less than $17/month, and I’m on a budget. Also in my defense, it’s a weird, small, kind of dirty 24 Hour that’s located in the basement of a random office building, so because there are no windows and it’s kind of dark and dingy not many people work out there so there’s always plenty of space to do what I want and the power rack is rarely in use by anyone else. And it’s definitely not your typical social scene that many other LA gyms are. There aren’t many serious lifters there though, unfortunately. Eventually I’d like to find a gym full of people who really know what they’re doing, as I imagine I’d make even more progress in a motivating and inspiring environment.
Lifting in that festival of douchbaggery has to be about as much fun as masturbation with a belt sander. How'd you get over initially being intimidated/watched by guys in the gym? How do you deal with guys in the gym? I typically avoid the shit out of broads in the gym, as I'm not into leching around a place where people are ostensibly trying to get serious shit done. That's not typically the case. Do you junk punch them all up in their man business, ignore them, or what? The serious chicks in the gyms where I lift typically leave their headphones on and don't make a lot of eye contact, for instance.
I’m no longer intimidated by guys in the gym, though when I was still getting comfortable lifting and learning what I was doing I would just wait until late at night to go to the gym, when I knew it’d be almost empty, so that I could practice new lifts in private and avoid any unnecessary attention or unhelpful “advice.” At this point guys recognize that I’m strong and that I know what I’m doing, so they no longer try to “help” or “advise” me (which, by the way guys, comes across as really insulting, condescending, and awkward).
There’s no avoiding people who are watching me lift, especially when I’m doing something loud or super heavy, so I just block people out and get into my music. Between sets I try to avoid eye contact, and keep an annoyed/busy look on my face. I’m usually one of, if not the only, girl on the weight floor, and I usually do heavy, random things that people aren’t accustomed to seeing girls do, so I’ve just gotten used to it coming with the territory.
I do try to be polite when people talk to me though, and only a small percentage of the guys who approach me now are creepers who are trying to hit on me, as most just seem to be interested in or have respect for what I’m doing, so I’ll have a short conversation with someone if they approach me and I’m in between exercises or on my way out. Last night I gave some guy advice on shrugs and deadlifts (though I doubt he took it), and once I taught some guy how to front squat. Why not?
Well, it's commendable that you haven't helped anyone divest themselves of their manhood, Sonny China-in-Street Fighter style. How much do you rely on advice from guys as opposed to advice from girls? Have you found that advice from guys needs modification to apply to girls? Are there any girls up to whom you look?
There are a few female lifters who are natural and extremely strong who I find really inspiring and motivating, but I have actually only recently learned about them, and can’t come up with their names off the top of my head. When I’m looking for inspiration I’ll check the powerliftingwatch.com rankings or the raw female lifter records in my federation to see what other people are up to, and what I should be working toward. Also, the woman who won best female lifter for the full meet that I attended was an inspiration. She weighs something like 112, and deadlifted 10kg more than I did, benched more than I did, and squatted something like 248. You could tell from looking at her that she was going to kill it, as she was small but really solidly built. It’s great encountering people like that, because they make me want to work harder to be better too.
I mostly end up following advice from guys, as I find that most females in the fitness industry aren’t as into strength training as I now am, and still incorporate certain exercises and ideas that don’t interest me into their philosophies. There is one female, actually Nia Shanks, whose blog I occasionally check, as she encourages females to lift heavy and train solely for strength.
Beyond that, my priorities seem to fall in line with those of mostly males who are into lifting, although males also train for size, and I do not (I obviously enjoy having some muscle, but would like to continue to appear feminine). So, taking that into consideration, I don’t do things that you suggest such as arm medleys or neck work, for example, the extras that are just for building show muscles, but I feel like that’s really common sense. I do shrugs occasionally, though solely to train pulling for my deadlift, and I keep it in the 1-3 rep range and try to incorporate my back too.
That, then begs the question- what are you favorite lifts?
The deadlift is obviously a favorite. Mostly because there’s no cheating it. You either can lift the weight, or you can’t. The dudes at the gym who (unintentionally) quarter squat 315 but can’t pull 225 are why I love deadlifts. It’s an ego crusher if you’re not actually strong. And it works so many muscles. And it’s the only lift for which it’s widely encouraged to practice singles as opposed to reps. I like that.
I was getting really into cleans for awhile, though I haven’t practiced them lately as my current gym has iron plates, and I hated having to drop heavy cleans over and over and attract attention to myself, among other things. I just invested in some light bumper plates though, so I’ll get back to those soon.
Beyond that, I’m loving the overhead squat lockouts. They’re really challenging, work a ton of muscles, and allow me to put way more weight overhead than I otherwise would. I’ve only practiced them twice now, but both workouts were so satisfying and left my whole torso pretty sore. I got 185 for a bunch of singles and doubles, and am shooting for 200+ soon. Hopefully some of that pressing strength will transfer to my bench…
As seen in that deadlift vid you've got, you've got a booty on you. Did you always have that, or did you get it from lifting? If it's the latter, what do you credit with the creation of that thing? --A chick I know who's seen your video desperately needs to know the answer to this question.
Thanks to genetics I lived most of my life with no booty. At one point in time I referred to it as my “lower lower back.” I actually have a photo on my phone’s camera (that I am not sending you, haha) [editor's note: Fuck that noise] that I took of myself from the side the first time I realized I actually had some booty, as I was so surprised and excited that I felt I must commemorate the moment, ha. It just took a few months of some serious, heavy squats and deadlifts. I did some weighted glute bridges and step ups (my least favorite exercise ever, step ups) and thrusters and things like that too, back in the day. Really any heavy, lower body exercise that incorporates the glutes should do it. I recently tried out that glute isolation machine at my gym, just to see what I could do, and I could easily move the entire stack with one leg for a ton of reps. Squats and deadlifts. They prepare you for any and everything.
Onto other girlish shit- We went through a number of different diets for you before you settled on one that worked for you, as I recall. Initially it was paleo, then Ferriss's slow carb diet, and then one of your own creation. Could you fill everyone in on how that evolved, why you ended up with the one you did, and thoughts for everyone just in general about dieting? I'm barely human in the approach towards food, so I think everyone would benefit from something a little less T-1000 and a bit more Sarah Connor.
Ugh. Diet. This was the toughest part of the process for me. When I decided to train for the meet back in August I had this delusion that I’d be able to cut down to the 132 weight class while bringing my deadlift up from a 285 PR to 319.5. As the federation I joined does weigh-ins day of, extreme last minute cutting wasn’t an option for me. After a few months of stressing, briefly toying with certain diets and other weight loss methods, and ultimately just being frustrated and briefly giving up I found that I had built some strength but lost no weight, and was sitting at around 155 with about 6 weeks to go until the meet. I managed to lose 7-8 lbs during that time, while again still gaining some strength, and am now down a few more pounds thanks to my current diet plan.
But first, the trial and error. It wasn’t actually paleo that you suggested, but keto. The way I typically eat is mostly paleo anyway, though I enjoy potatoes and rice for my starches, and don’t eat as much fruit or nuts as paleo people do. I try not to get too strict about anything, as I find that it really messes with my head when I intentionally avoid certain foods or food groups.
Anyway, keto. I went 8 days eating only meat, fish, and eggs. It was a good way to introduce discipline back into my diet, but as I didn’t do any carb refeeding in that time my lifts dropped significantly. When I found I couldn’t get at 265 lb deadlift off the floor at the gym one day, I knew I needed to do something different. I gave myself one day to reefed on carbs, and went crazy with tortilla chips and tacos and shitty frozen yogurt, and of course all of the water weight that I’d dropped over the first 8 days came right back and stayed back, so I moved on.
The slow carb diet was next. This one was the worst. My body did not appreciate eating beans that often. They made me bloated, among other things. During this time I also tried Ferriss’s PAGG stack, and his ice bath idea. I will concede that I didn’t give either practice a long enough try to really gauge whether or not I’d see results, but ultimately they weren’t working for me so I moved on. The ice baths though, again, were a good way to force myself to be disciplined about something, so I enjoyed them in a strange way. If you ease into it in the manner that he suggests it’s not the worst thing in the world, and at some point the body adjusts. I set my laptop up next to the bathtub and distracted myself for the 20 minute baths with random shows off of hulu (in case anyone wants to try the ice baths, I’d definitely suggest having a distraction of that sort). I did feel my heart rate increase after the baths, and I am curious as to how they’d work in the long run on a fat loss plan, but between the cost of 20 lbs of ice at a time and the increasingly low temperatures in my apartment I gave them up after a short run.
Finally, I decided to put together my own diet based on common sense and things I had read (including some T-Nation articles by Nate Miyaki, who has a lot of good advice about diet in my opinion). I set up a basic food plan of fish, meat, eggs, vegetables, and rice, charted out the calories and macros for all of the food that I planned on eating, figured out some approximate macronutrient goals for different days of the week (cycling in the rice, and therefore carbs/extra calories 3x/week) and built my menu each day from those food choices. They were mostly lean meats, so chicken and 94/6 beef, canned wild salmon or tuna, lots of eggs, and occasionally sardines. Sometimes I’d do a baked potato or a banana instead of rice, but that was about as exciting as it got during the last 4 weeks leading up to the meet. I tried to avoid alcohol, but when I did go out for a drink (or 3) I stuck to red wine, though I’m sure hard liquor with soda water or diet coke would have been an equally reasonable option (or white wine, which I just personally don’t like). This was the diet I had the most success on. I found that when I didn’t cycle my calories enough my weight loss stagnated. I need to have higher calorie days (1500-200 range) and lower calorie days (800-1200 range). When I was hitting around 12-1400/day for 2 weeks I lost no weight whatsoever.
Also, I should mention that I typically follow Martin Berkhan’s version of IF (sorry Jamie), though I will say that in and of itself fasting is definitely not a weight loss miracle. Ultimately total caloric intake does matter, as does whatever meal frequency and timing plan works best for one’s personality and work/life schedule. I just find that if I limit my eating window (and I’ve found that a 2 meal/day plan is ideal for me most days) I can eat big, satisfying meals when I do eat, and I enjoy that. You can pack a fair amount of chicken, eggs, vegetables, and even rice into two 600 calorie meals. This is something that I’ve adjusted to doing over the past year, so at this point I am comfortable going most of the day without eating. I try to get to the gym before my first meal of the day, and I typically have my first meal between 2 and 6 pm.
Oh, and protein is always the cornerstone of my diet, obviously. Vegetables are good for fiber and for feeling full off of less calories, but protein is always my #1 priority.
I hope that helped…just common sense, trial and error, and when in doubt, protein and vegetables would summarize it, haha. And don’t obsess. Just make it a habit, and stick with it. I prepare most of my own meals, and bring a meal with me to work if I plan on eating during my shift. That makes it a mindless habit, and eliminates the possibility of making poor last minute choices.
And that's how you fucking do it- experiment, experiment, bust your ass, take absolutely no pictures of yourself with insanely hard nipples after an ice bath, deadlift your fucking ass right off. Or on, as the case may be. For any of you who might've thought that 319.5 isn't shit in the grand scheme of things, consider the following- she's a girl who weighs less than some mini-fridges and she landed just slightly outside of the top 20 deadlifters in her class without wearing a fucking belt in her first meet. That, my friends, is fucking metal.
Someone had to make up for her oversight. And for the ladies- that manass earlier was all for you.
Sack the fuck up and go lift something, because somewhere there's a hot chick who's probably outlifting you.