Category Archives: Glute Training

The Gluteus Medius – WTF?

Unless you’ve been in a cave over the past couple of decades, you’ve surely heard at some point about the importance of the gluteus medius in functional performance. To read a summary of the current gluteus medius research, please see Chris Beardsley’s excellent report HERE. Each of the gluteal muscles have functional subdivisions, and the gluteus medius has three distinct regions: anterior, middle, posterior.

Gluteals-II

Glutes: Minimus, Medius, Maximus

It is commonly thought that although the primary role of the gluteus medius is hip abduction (raising leg out to the side or stabilizing the hip during gait), the anterior (ventral) fibers of the gluteus medius assist in hip internal rotation whereas the posterior (dorsal) fibers of the gluteus medius assist in hip external rotation. This has been confirmed in studies measuring moment arms, and it’s explained in the end of the video below.

Interestingly, studies such as THIS brand new one have shown that the posterior fibers of the gluteus medius activate more highly with the hip in internal rotation compared to external rotation. I never gave this much thought until last Saturday when my friend Erin (HERE is her Instagram) visited me at my Glute Lab and trained her glutes (she’s competing tomorrow in bikini in Vegas at the NPC USA Nationals). If you recall, I interviewed Erin HERE where she presented my readers with a bunch of novel and effective band glute exercises. A few days ago I posted a band glute circuit Erin did on Instagram HERE and it received a lot of attention.

When she showed me the exercise below, I didn’t think much of it at first. Just seemed like another nifty hip external rotation exercise to me. However, I started thinking about it, and I quickly realized that this was hip internal rotation, pivoting around the feet. And it’s hip internal rotation in a fairly neutral hip position in terms of hip flexion/extension (it’s close to anatomical position in 0 degrees of hip flexion…considering the way she’s slightly anteriorly tilting her pelvis, I’d guess that she’s at 15 degrees of hip flexion below).

This caused me to be skeptical of this exercise as a glute builder. I know that Erin pays better attention to what areas of the glutes are being worked than pretty much any client I’ve ever trained, but this wasn’t in full agreement with the research.

I palpated Erin’s glutes and verified that it indeed heavily activated the upper glutes, and it seemed to me that the entire glute medius was firing, especially the posterior fibers. Wondering if maybe Erin is just unique in the way she fires her glutes, I tested 3 other clients two days later (and also on myself) and confirmed that their upper glutes fire very well during this band hip internal rotation exercise as well. I haven’t tested the gluteal EMG activity yet, but it’s pretty safe to say based on palpation that this exercise is a good glute exercise to include in your band circuit arsenal. I like to include various hip extension, hip abduction, and hip external rotation exercises, and now there’s this hip internal rotation exercise.

See upper x's - these mark the upper posterior, middle, and anterior origins.

See upper x’s – these mark the upper posterior, middle, and anterior origins used in THIS study.

Please give this unique exercise a try and pay attention (I palpated my own glutes) to what region you’re working – let me know if you think it’s the posterior fibers of the gluteus medius in addition to the entire glute medius, or the upper gluteus maximus.

gluteus_medius

Make sure to not perform this on a super tall bench as you want the hips to just be slightly flexed. I haven’t tried it out yet in neutral (lying flat on the ground), but Erin tried the exercise in greater hip flexion from an elevated bench and didn’t feel it working nearly as well. This is interesting considering that Delp found that hip internal rotation moment arms of the glute muscles increase in hip flexion…so this doesn’t agree with his findings.

It seems like there’s more to the glutes than previously thought and that we’re still coming up with interesting and efficient ways of activating and strengthening these important muscles.

glute med

The Hands-Free Hip Thrust: A Simple (Yet Very Effective) Hip Thrust Teaching Tool

The Hands-Free Hip Thrust: A Simple (Yet Very Effective) Hip Thrust Teaching Tool
By: Ben Bruno

I use hip thrusts extensively with virtually all of my clients, and one of the things I like most about them is that they’re relatively easy to learn and there’s a fast learning curve so most clients can get the hang out if quickly.

Still, there are a few issues that I tend to see arise repeatedly.

  1. It takes people a little while to figure out the proper bar position on the hips, and until you find that sweet spot it can be awkward and uncomfortable.
  1. The name “hip thrust” could imply a fast explosive movement, but I actually prefer that they be done in a controlled fashion with a brief pause at the top of each rep. Sometimes stronger clients start to let their form slip as the weight on the bar increases and they start to try to thrust up violently, often failing to achieve full hip extension at the top. I tell my clients that if they can’t pause at the top, the weight is too heavy.
  1. I notice that a lot of clients tend to go into anterior pelvic tilt and overarch the lower back, especially as the weight gets heavier. This not only takes the stress off the glutes, but it’s also potentially injurious for the lower back. In all fairness, I must say I’ve never seen or heard of anyone getting hurt from hip thrusts (another reason I like them), but it’s still a concern. For both effectiveness and safety it’s important to keep a neutral spine, or if anything even a slight posterior pelvic tilt as you thrust up.
  1. Some clients tend to push harder through one foot than the other, which is easy to spot just by looking at the bar.

As a trainer, I can queue clients ad naueseum when I see form flaws, but whenever possible, I prefer to give drills or exercises that teach them to do the exercise correctly without me giving them too many things to think about.

Enter the hands-free hip thrust.

I’ve found that for clients who struggle with the aforementioned hip thrust issues, doing them hands-free can clear them all up very quickly.

Here’s a video of what it looks like in action.

When you don’t have your hands to hold the bar in place it forces you to find the right positioning on your hips. Just be sure to keep your hands close to the bar in case you need to grab it quickly for whatever reason.

Furthermore, if you thrust up too fast and don’t control the weight, or if you push more through one foot than the other, there’s no way you’ll be able to balance the bar on your hips. Likewise, if you overarch the lower back, the bar will slide down your hips, giving you immediate feedback. In order to keep the bar positioned correctly, it requires you to keep a neutral spine with a very slight posterior pelvic tilt at the top.

In this sense, the hands-free hip thrust is a lot like the hands-free front squat, which I also love and use as a teaching tool.

Form issues with front squats tend to be similar to those with hip thrusts; people struggle to support the bar, and they also tend to rush the reps and lose proper body positioning and fold forward. By going hands-free, it teaches you to support the bar on the shoulders instead of relying on the hands, and it allows forces you to stay upright and do the reps in a controlled fashion.

It’s the same idea for hands-free hip thrusts.

HT

As a teaching tool, I recommend doing sets of 8-10 reps. I actually like doing something similar to what I do with front squats which is going hands-free for a few warm-up sets and then switching to regular hip thrusts as the weight gets heavier. Interestingly, I’ve noticed that my clients are often stronger with their normal hip thrusts after warming up with the hands-free version.

Now it’s important to note that while this may be a good teaching tool, it’s not a beginner exercise. I wouldn’t start off teaching hip thrusts hands-free. But for clients who have some experience with hip thrusts but either complain about feeling them in the lower back, or for clients who’ve gotten stronger but done so at the expense of good form, this method is a great way to take a step back and reset the form before continuing to add more weight.

HT2

For stronger lifters, hands-free hip thrusts can also function as a great standalone exercise that allows you to get an awesome training effect with lighter loads. In this case, I like doing 1-2 higher rep sets of 15-20 reps after you’ve done your heavier sets. You won’t be able to handle as much weight, but a 20-rep set of these with pauses at the top has my glutes begging for mercy more than almost any hip thrust variation I’ve ever tried.

If you’re the type who enjoys watching others suffer, here’s me doing a 20 rep finisher.

Give these a try and see if it doesn’t clean up the technique and allow you to feel the exercise even more in your glutes and less in the lower back.

About the Author:

Ben Bruno is a personal trainer in Los Angeles, California. He also Ben-Brunopublishes a blog and free newsletter at www.benbruno.com. You can connect with him on social media at the following places:

Instagram: https://instagram.com/benbrunotraining/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/benbruno1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ben-Bruno/282118145176459

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/bruno082985

One Small Step for Man; One Giant Thrust for Mankind

Okay, okay, maybe I’m being a little dramatic. So my PhD thesis isn’t akin to man stepping foot onto the moon, but I can promise you one thing; the hip thrust is going to be much more popular in the next few years as a result of my research findings. Today I received some very important information about the hip thrust and its transfer to performance.

Setting the Stage…

Almost ten years ago, I thought up the barbell hip thrust while training out of my garage (you can read the full story about it in The Evolution of the Hip Thrust – this link also shows video clips of 100’s of different hip thrust variations, and I keep it updated as new variations are being thought up regularly by various strength coaches and personal trainers). After a few months of incorporating the hip thrust into my arsenal, I started noticing various things – the rate at which clients’ glutes grew increased, and clients would inform me that their running speed improved or that they felt their glutes activating more in everyday life. They’d almost always attribute it to the hip thrust exercise, which caused me to ponder the differences in biomechanics between hip thrusts and other popular glute exercises at the time.

My clients began encouraging me to start up a blog and begin engaging in social media, so eventually I decided to take the plunge and take on the role of fitness writer in addition to personal trainer/strength coach. As most of you know, from day one I’ve heavily promoted the hip thrust in my work.

Over the past decade, I’ve encountered numerous skeptics that based their opinions on functional training or the transfer of training from an exercise to a real life activity on how an exercise looks, not by analyzing the biomechanics or actually performing the exercise and noting any actual effects. This has been frustrating because when responding to these individuals (see You Can’t Stop the Hip Thrust, and You Won’t Break Our Stride), I never had any hard data to throw at them, just a bunch of theories (see Force Vector Training), mechanistic data such as EMG activation levels or torque angle curves (see Hip Thrust & Glute Science), and anecdotes and testimonials (see Testimonials).

Finally, the Time Has Come…

That is, until now. I just received data and stats pertaining to a 6 week study comparing the effects of barbell hip thrusts versus front squats. I was sure to be blinded from the training, testing, and analysis so that no accusations of bias could be made. Here are the performance measurements were examined pre and post intervention:

  • 1RM front squat
  • 1RM hip thrust
  • vertical jump
  • horizontal jump
  • maximum isometric mid-thigh pulling force (sort of like a deadlift lockout)
  • 10m sprint
  • 20m sprint

I can’t divulge the findings as I intend on writing up a detailed report and publishing the data, but what I can say is that:

1. The hip thrust led to significant improvements in 4 of the measurements,
2. The front squat led to significant improvements in 3 of the measurements, and
3. The two lifts complement each other very well

Neither group improved in horizontal jump or 10m sprint. Maybe some of my readers could predict the outcomes. It’s so nice to finally have some data to help validate theories and assumptions. Anyone who says that the hip thrust isn’t functional is dead wrong. After this study is published, the skeptics will no longer be able to say that the hip thrust isn’t functional. Training studies determine the functionality of an exercise, not some idiot’s warped view of how adaptations should happen based on how an exercise looks.

hip thrust 4

Yep, the hip thrust has you lying down. It is highly stable and doesn’t require a lot of coordination. It’s not performed in a standing position. It’s not highly technical. It looks silly. It has you humping a barbell. And guess what? Science has just shown that it’s one kickass exercise for improving performance.

So now we’ll have an EMG study involving 13 trained women showing that hip thrusts activate certain key muscles to a significantly higher degree than squats. We’ll have a training study involving 24 teenage male athletes showing that hip thrusts increase certain key functional performance parameters to a significantly higher degree than squats. And then there’s the identical twin case series that’s currently underway that will examine differences in muscle thickness gains between hip thrusts and squats.

Squats are Still Badass!

Now, this is not to say that squats are still an incredible movement – they’re actually my favorite exercise (even though I suck at them), and I have every single client of mine performing a couple of different squat variations. They’re a staple in S&C – that won’t change. The hip thrust is indeed popular in S&C, but it isn’t yet considered a “big basic” exercise by many coaches, nor am I aware of any strength coaches of any professional sports teams that center their S&C program around the hip thrust. Hopefully this will change, since hip thrusts appear to complement the squat and build certain functional features that squats don’t, including a certain feature that lays the foundation for ground sport performance. The squat isn’t perfect and the hip thrust isn’t perfect, but with optimal program design based on scientific evidence, we can create highly effective programs that build comprehensive athletic ability and muscular development.

camille-back-squat

Much More Work to Do…

My PhD thesis studies are just the tip of the iceberg. I suspect that after my studies are published, they’re going to pique the interest of many sports scientists, and we’ll see an abundance of studies examining the hip thrust emerge over the next several years. This is much needed, as my studies are very meager in the grand scheme of things. We need to examine acute/mechanistic measures (EMG, torque angle curves, ROM, force, velocity, power, RFD, impulse, work, etc.) and longitudinal/training measures (changes in hypertrophy, strength, multidirectional power, speed, etc.) in a wide variety of populations (men, women, elderly, middle age, young, beginners, advanced, athletes from varying sports, etc.) in order to confidently discuss the biomechanics and functional transfer of the hip thrust. Nevertheless;

Today is one small step for man, and one giant thrust for mankind!

hip thrust

How a 41 Year-Old Mom of Three Got Her (Figure) Groove Back

How a 41 Year-Old Mom of Three Got her (Figure) Groove Back
By Shelley Cook

The Beginning: Bret didn’t want me.

Seriously, though, when I first reached out to him and asked him to coach me, I didn’t even expect a reply.

But much to my surprise, I did hear back from him about a week later – and it was much more wordy and polite than I could have imagined! Right away I was thinking, Wow, what a genuinely nice guy! Unfortunately, Bret was too busy at the time and wasn’t able to take me on.

I was sad, but I knew exactly what I wanted and needed to do to in order to be successful in a figure competition at my age. I had competed at age 36 and done well, winning the Masters and taking second in Open Short, but my backside had clearly been my weakest area and I hadn’t carried much muscle.

So now, five years of training later, at the tender age of 41, I wanted to do it again. But I wanted to do it under the guidance of the guy that knew glutes, who supported the studies and practiced everything I believe in as a trainer. This wasn’t just another figure competition to me; it was a matter of principle and testing what I’d learned.

Because Bret couldn’t work with me, I went ahead and hired the next trainer that came recommended to me. This coach was very quick to reply to every email, but the training program ended up not being the best fit for me. The volume was simply too high, and the five-days-a-week body part split was more than my body could handle. By the end of the fourth week with him, my old injuries were starting to flare up. I was weary and exhausted, and I was beginning to dread going to the gym. I knew that I had to change course.

While I felt discouraged, I wasn’t quite ready to give up. I knew I could do it alone, but I didn’t want to; I wanted someone who would support me and guide me on my journey back to the figure stage.

So naturally, I did what any persistent and driven mother would do in my position: I went back to Bret and I begged him to reconsider taking me on as a client and I must have caught him at a weak moment because this time he agreed!

After swearing up and down that I would be a model client, he said he would help me provided that I work with Sohee Lee for my nutrition. They came as a package deal: either I work with both of them as a team or not at all.

I thought about it for a split second and agreed. I mean, come on! Sohee Lee?! As if I’d say no to that! Honestly, who gets to say that their training team is Bret Contreras and Sohee Lee? I signed up with them as fast as I could before they changed their minds. Here is where I started:

ShelleyCook Beginning Front ShelleyCook Beginning Back

OMG did I really just post those?

Takeaways

For Everyone: Choose your trainer wisely. Just because they sell themselves well or your aunt lost 16 pounds in a week or the program is overly complicated or they train all the best figure girls does not mean it’s the right trainer or program for you. Do a little research and think about what you are getting into before you commit. Be patient enough to shop around, ask questions, and get to know potential coaches you’d like to work with. In the end, you will likely save time, money, frustration, and potentially an awkward breakup with your trainer!

For Professionals: Lead by example, but please remember that your clients are individuals. Listen to them, check in to see how they are doing, and support them. Above all, try to help them find the diet and training plan that will make them feel confident, happy and excited about their effort and results.

The Diet: Flexible Dieting or Bust

This wasn’t my first rodeo.

Following my competition in 2009, I put on 10 pounds in two weeks and another 10 in the month following that in a completely uncontrolled manner. I had felt so trapped and deprived by my low calorie meal plan that when I was awarded cheat meals, they would start at 4pm and go all night. I couldn’t seem to come to terms with not being able to eat my favorite trail mix or homemade soup simply because it was too hard to track. I was so hungry for all the things I was missing that once I started I just couldn’t stop. And then the guilt and remorse of what I had done would set in.

This started a chain of bad patterns that were really compounded once the competition was over and I didn’t have a plan or any idea of how to back out. I didn’t even see it happening until I hit the 125 lb mark. Twenty-five pounds over my competition weight in little more than a month…. Wow. That’s when I first started to dig for a better way.

I studied all kinds of diets and their effects, from the studies done on the aftermath of concentration camp survivors to the current trends in physique diets. I soaked it all in and experimented on myself out of thirst for knowledge over the course of three years. During that time I also fell in love with coaching. I had been working with Elite hockey athletes doing off ice training and the more I did it, the more I loved it and realized my niche had been found. It was time to get the education I needed to coach and once again the studying began. I became an NSCA-CPT in 2012.

All those years of nutrition coaching and eating to support training meant counting macros was second nature to me and that is what made flexible dieting the obvious choice.

I was excited to try out this approach firsthand, and Sohee was amazing. Quick and thoughtful replies, impressively fast turnarounds, and prompt weekly check-ins. For those that don’t know her, this girl is organized and runs a phenomenal program for online clients.

The macros she set for me surprised me at first because they seemed far too high for dieting calories. I mean, I know I can eat a lot of everything and take it like a champ (thanks to a great metabolism!) but I certainly expected the process to be a lot more excruciating. But it really wasn’t that difficult. Just focus on hitting the macros, don’t stress, and everything will turn out fine, she assured me.

Sohee started me out at a daily calorie intake of 1770, and by the end of my three-month prep, I was at 1570 calories a day with a weekly refeed. During this time, my bodyweight dropped from 118.0 to 110.0lbs and my waist measurement decreased from 25 to 24 inches.

Not only did I come in leaner, stronger and more energetic than I had before but I actually enjoyed my prep. I had no problem cooking and baking for my three teenaged athletes while keeping up with my workload and maintaining a healthy social life.

Yes, there were days that I got a bit hungry and I went to bed earlier because I needed the rest, but there were no feelings of deprivation, moodiness, lethargy, or fogginess that often accompany competition dieting. More importantly, I never felt like I had to fight feelings of impulsive eating or wanting to cheat or binge because I felt nourished and satisfied with my food choices which honestly included whatever I wanted. I had lattes and Starbucks breakfast sandwiches when I wanted them, ate with my family most meals and was even able to enjoy a Dairy Queen dipped cone with my girls on the Wednesday before I competed.

I would say this was by far the best part of my competition experience this time around. Honestly, I was a bit of a miserable bitch during my first diet experience, to the point that I felt sorry for my family. I wouldn’t eat out, didn’t want to socialize, hated cooking or baking because I was too hungry to handle it and I had little control over my temper or emotions.

This time there really wasn’t a big impact – in fact, my 17 year-old daughter bragged to her coach that it seemed easy and she might want to do it someday. And we went to Cabo San Lucas for a week mid-prep with no big setbacks and had a total blast!

Here are a couple of the everyday meals I ate during prep (always plenty of colour and flavour when I’m cooking) and a pic of me in my size 25 jeans. Even though I wasn’t overly hungry, I think it’s safe to say I was pretty lean.

Shelley FoodShelley Jeans

Takeaways

For Everyone: There are a thousand and one ways to diet, but be wary of titles, fads, and buzzwords. Know what you are looking for and research your trainer. You want someone who is genuine and science-based and practices what they preach.

For Professionals: Please remember that people hire us to help them. They trust us to show them the way to achieve a healthy balance lifestyle and that can look different for every client. You have the power to transform their lives in profound ways – do not take this responsibility lightly.

The Training: Should It Really Still be Fun?

Upon receiving my first training program from Bret, I felt scared. Umm, seriously… that’s it? This can’t be right. The training volume was a fraction of what I was used to. I combed through the workouts over and over, convinced that some pages were missing or that I’d overlooked some detail. But nope, that was it. Four to six exercises per day, three to four days a week, plus 10 minutes of optional time at the end of each session.

What really took the coaching to the next level were the things Bret said and didn’t say to me. He talked about the mind muscle connection and striving to reach for PR’s every week, focus on form and getting a strong contraction where you are supposed to. Those simple instructions stuck with me though every workout.

No empty pump ups, meaningless explanations, or self-promoting words were ever spoken. When I needed support and encouragement, it was given, and there was praise for every deserved achievement.

Bret gave me a lot of freedom with my plan and trusted me to do the work I needed to do. I felt more like I was part of a special team than just another dollar sign. This inspired me more than any other method ever had.

The real magic was in the programming, of course. It seemed so simple, yet my glutes responded within weeks, and I could literally feel them developing higher and rounder than they had ever been before. And I don’t use the term “magic” lightly: at 41 years old, I didn’t know my body was still capable of responding in this way. I even continued to hit PR after PR throughout the first 10 weeks of my contest prep while in a caloric deficit. I looked forward to every workout and stayed injury-free – and that was just as important, if not more, to me as the final result. Throughout this prep, no feelings of inadequacy, weakness, or failure ever crossed my mind. What a concept!

Here is my rear view 2009 vs. 2015 (please forgive the picture quality):

Shelley Rear

Takeaways

For Everyone: More isn’t always better; it’s just more. Try not to get caught up with chasing fatigue or thinking that hours of cardio or two-hour lifting sessions are the answer. It doesn’t have to suck. We are only built to handle so much before we burn out or get injured. Hire a trainer that knows how to get the same results with the least amount of work possible so you can maintain it long term. Workouts should you make you feel better over time, not worse, so why kill yourself if you don’t have to?

For Professionals: It is our job to build confidence in our clients. Some respond well to the drill sergeant approach but others might need a bit of hand holding, independence, or encouragement to help them find their way. Try to be open to feedback to your clients and tailor your coaching style to the individual.

The Competition: It’s Not Really That Complicated

Prep week was almost anti-climactic compared to what I had done before.

At first, I was a bit disappointed that there was nothing drastic happening. No water loading, low calorie days, depletion workouts, or pre-comp fat load. Basically, it was just more food, less heavy training, and a little extra glute work.

But I didn’t realize until after the show how great this really was. The program was easy to follow, stress-free, and had little impact on my regular life. Show day was a breeze!

As I mingled backstage with the other competitors, I was once again appalled by their stories of dehydration, starvation, deprivation, and exhaustion. To hear that some trainers were cutting clients water on Wednesday for a Saturday show made me question the sanity of the trainer and client alike. I was saddened to learn that in the six years since I’d competed, little had changed in that respect.

Shelley Backstage

When my turn came to hit the stage, I was pumped, energetic, and ready to pose my head off – and that is exactly what I did.

Admittedly, I was scared, and the nerves of show day got to me temporarily as I scrutinized my physique. My prep was pretty easy – should I have suffered more? I asked myself. Should I have eaten less? Maybe done more cardio?

I got all worked up for nothing, apparently, because the judges liked what I brought to the stage! I was rewarded with a first place finish in Figure Masters, which qualified me for Provincials (where I placed 5th two weeks later as an all-natural athlete in an untested show, thus qualifying me for Nationals next summer).

Shelley Show

Throughout the process, I had some moments of doubt, but throughout it all I managed to keep my initial promise to Bret and stuck to the plan. I trusted my trainers and maintained a high level of commitment to the program, and they were right there with me every step of the way.

Bret and Sohee made this not just possible but enjoyable by giving me a joint program that suited my lifestyle in a healthy, well-balanced way. I went into the competition confident, energetic and excited thanks to smart, sane, science based coaching, and came out a winner.

Here’s a shot from the between show photo shoot, just me in my suit and heels chillin with a big ass rope, naturally.

(p.s. If you ever book a photo shoot, please remember to bring a change of clothes 😉 but hey, who cares… I mean look at that GLUTE!)

Shelley Rope

Takeaways

For Everyone: Competing requires consistent time and effort but it by no means has to suck. If you have the discipline and genetics to build muscle don’t let the horror stories hold you back.

For Professionals: Coaching a physique competitor requires unique skill, sensitivity, knowledge, and experience that isn’t covered in most certification courses. If you aren’t confident that you can provide your clients with a safe, healthy, and effective experience, please take a step back and invest the time into getting the experience and education you need.

The Aftermath: No Rebound, No Problem

After the show, while my fellow competitors were gorging on all the foods they could get their hands on at once, I was pretty disinterested. I enjoyed a nice meal and glass of wine out with my family and friends and was perfectly full and satisfied. Considering my other experiences with dieting, this was the most comforting feeling.

I am always conscientious of the fact that I am a role model for my athletic teenaged girls and my clients. I am also a huge advocate of leading by example so it very important to me to show them I was making smart, healthy choices throughout the entire process. I feel like we accomplished that and then some.

It has been a month now since I competed, and after a thoughtful week of reverse dieting, I had a discussion with Sohee about what nutrition approach was best for me during my off season. After a little bit of back and forth, we determined that, while some people fare better when diligently counting their macros year-round, moving away from strict macro tracking and instead wading the waters of intuitive eating would be in my best interest and help me maintain my happiness and mental sanity.

[See related: Should you track your macronutrient intake?]

Nowadays, I’m holding my weight easily at 115-116, which is a mere 5lbs from the weight I competed at. Though my look is softer, I’m still lean and athletic because I train consistently and moderate my nutrition intake. I’m perfectly happy right where I am without weighing or measuring a thing.

Within three weeks of competing, I was back setting lifetime PRs in the gym with endless energy and motivation to thrive in all areas of my life. I’m looking forward to competing in Nationals next year the exact same way!

And here is a shot of the most important reasons for staying healthy and well balanced: myself and my two beautiful daughters on Mother’s Day 2015.

Shelley Daughters

Takeaways

For Everyone: There are so many ways to diet, from simple portion control or macro dieting to repetitive or restrictive meal plans to extremely complicated and low carb diets, but at the end of the day we all show up lean and ready. The only difference is how much we enjoyed the process and whether or not we will rebound when we return to our regular lifestyle. Try not to make it more complicated than it needs to be.

For Professionals: It seems to me that a lot of coaches will get their competitors to the stage in shape by any means possible but some will ignore the rebound or forget to help them return to a normal diet and lifestyle. The fallout can be difficult, lonely, even disastrous for some. Please make sure you have a plan for your clients safe and healthy post competition experience.

Here are the real life before and after photos. No tan no filters… just a 42 year old mom in her underwear.

Shelley Underwear