Category Archives: Interviews

Inside the Mind of Bret Contreras

Below is an interview from Jukka Mäennenä. Jukka recently interviewed me for ProBody Magazine (a Finnish magazine) and was kind enough to translate the interview into English. This interview took place several months back, when I was still living in Scottsdale. I recently moved to Phoenix and have a new Glute Lab.  

Inside the mind of Bret Contreras
By Jukka Mäennenä

I’m driving in Scottsdale close to Phoenix. Although it’s February the heat of Arizona makes my shirt wet like driving would be a physical feat. Scottsdale is know as one of the better neighbourhoods in the area. Houses along the road confirm the impression. The size of the properties are more than adequate to do pretty much whatever you want. There´s also at least one SUV or truck that is powered no smaller by an V6 engine on every drivelane. The gas consumption of those vehicles makes me shiver since I´m still thinking in gas prices back home in Finland (approximately $8,5 for gallon for those who want to know). Bret Contreras agreed to have an appointment with me the previous day. I received the address I´m heading to right now. I assumed that it would be located near some type of mall or at least in an industrial area– the sort of places gyms are usually located, you know. I stop because the GPS says I´m arrived in the destination. The house I see doesn’t differ in any way from the other ones in the neighbourhood. I try to look around for a bit and finally knock the door. Mr. Contreras opens the door. Supposedly I´m in the right place.

Who is Bret Contreras?

Bret Contreras is blogger, writer, coach and scientist and precisely in that order. At the moment he is finishing his Ph. D from AUT University. He started working as a personal trainer when he was 21-years old and continued doing it for twelve years. Around four years ago PT business took a backseat as he started blogging, writing and doing research. The quality of information he provides is high. He goes as far as saying that the content he puts out almost daily is better than in some websites that might have as many as ten people behind them. So far Bret has written two books and published eighteen studies. On top of that five more studies are in the works. Why is Bret so popular? The answer is quite simple. He provides top notch information and he has a unique field of specialty – that is glute development.


Scientist and a coach

Early on in our conversation it gets clear that Bret is a man of science and he gives a lot of value to it when considering the theory behind training. Readers get bored of seeing and listening to just opinions. Science tells things how they most likely are whether you liked it or not. With eighteen published studies under his belt, Bret is currently working on five more studies. The subject varies from EMG measurements in leg press done to failure with loads ranging from 30-70% 1RM, to EMG activity in the hamstring muscles in the SLDL and leg curl, to running mechanics.

Bret is an true academic. It´s rare though that someone with this much expertise in the scientific field has 10,000-20,000 daily visitors on his site. A conclusion could be reached that he writes about subjects that interests the average trainee and he can translate scientific studies to more common understandable language. As he so delicately says: ”People wanna know how to get jacked.”

When I ask if he has some kind of philosophy when it comes to training the first thing he says is Mel Siff. Bret is a true fan of him and considers that Siff was a true professional who worked tirelessly for training science. Anyone who has read the book Supertraining can verify that. Despite being a scientist Bret doesn´t see result orientated training of just applying study results to practice. Instead he likes to take influences all around from the world of sport and fitness. For example he regularly reads what athletes, bodybuilders and powerlifters do in their training. The most important thing is to apply the methods that fit the goals and situation of the client. For example, he doesn´t agree with the common view that all training that isn´t aimed for athletic purposes is a waste of time. For the best results you need to use the methods that are safe and cause the wanted adaptations. Where the methods come from is secondary.


The hip thrust is a good example – an exercise Bret invented. When he starts working with a new clients it might take a month of squatting and the load in the bar doesn´t exceed 80 pounds. In the same four week period he can load the hip thrust twice the amount of weight! Although the amount of load used doesn´t always correlate with good results or optimal methods, it´s something to consider.

Field of specialty

Finally we get to the point, I mean talking glutes and developing them. Bret got the nickname ”The Glute Guy” from his colleague and the name sticked ever since. The story why he got interested in glutes in the first place is funny and an interesting one. When in high school he was playing golf with his sister’s boyfriend. As Bret was about to put, the boyfriend yelled: ”You don´t have an ass! Your legs go right into your back forming a straight line!” Apparently the comment held some truth and Bret decided to do something about it. The quest of learning all the knowledge possible started off with buying all the magazines from the nearby stores that even mentioned the word glute. He says that to this day he is most likely the most well studied person when it comes to glute anatomy, function and training. The shelves of his house are stacked with studies, books magazines and articles that revolve around the subject.

When I ask about the most common mistakes and misconceptions when it comes to glute training the answer starts out quick and seems to never end. He starts off by saying that a person who structures their training mainly around squats can have excellent glute development although the EMG studies show the glute activation isn´t the greatest possible in squats. How is this possible? Bret believes it has to do with the position of peak torque during the squat. Since it’s near the bottom of the lift, where the glute is stretched, it cannot activate to its fullest extent. Something that he is sure of is that to have optimal glute development you need to have variety in your training. In practice that means squats, hip-domintant movements, unilateral lifts etc. He went as far as saying in T-Nation that Ronnie Coleman would have probably had even bigger glutes if he had done hip thrusts. He continues without a pause laughing that it pissed off some people pretty well. Bret´s line of thinking is pretty straight forward though, the greater the muscle activation, the bigger the ”pump” and the more hypertrophy will follow.

Poor activation of the glutes or ”glute amnesia” as it´s called is a real and serious phenomenon according to Bret. This is one thing that he has made pretty much a full turn during the past years based on the experiences he has gotten from novice to professional level trainees. A lot of high caliber lifters have said that they can employ glutes better in the big lifts after some glute activation work. The reason behind ”glute amnesia” is still open even for Bret. However the suspects are the usual ones: too much sitting, tight hip flexors and most of all that everyday living and moving is very quad-dominant. Walking or even taking the stairs to the next floor doesn´t require much of glute use. When sitting for several hours in work, car or home is added to the equation we can end up with a quite a mess. A lot of time spent sitting might be one causes of tight hip flexors which can effect glutes through mechanism called reciprocal inhibition. Basically it means that when agonist is tight or tense the antagonist muscle tends to relax. Chronically tight hip flexors can therefore contribute to chronically inactive or lazy glutes.

Exercises for glutes

When talking about exercises Bret is the man to talk to. First of all he makes it very clear that he doesn´t claim to have invented any of the lifts. For sure there’s been someone at some point of time who has done these exercises at some point of time. What Bret does say is that he has popularized some of the lifts. The list consists of hip thrust, barbell glute bridge, single leg hip thrust and various types of back extensions.

Hip thrust is arguably the most well known exercises in this list. Bret recently introduced precise equipment just for this exercises – the hip thruster. Besides regular barbells it allows for the use of various types of bands as a mean of resistance. One interesting thing about bands in this exercise is that based on EMG readings muscle activation increases as the set progresses. The reason for this is due to the size principle – under constant tension during submaximal exercise, muscle activation will continue to rise until momentary muscular failure is reached.


Bilateral and unilateral training has been a hot potato in training world for quite some time now. Bret doesn´t see this as question of either or. Optimal results require the use of both in most cases. Some powerlifters for example might consider unilateral training almost as a joke and on the other hand a strength coach can see too many risks with heavy bilateral lifts. As said previously a good training plan uses the means and methods that are the most suited for the particular situation.

The Glute Lab

The Glute Lab is located in the same address I got from Bret. I was a bit surprised at first when Bret asked if I wanted to see the Glute Lab and the next thing we walked over to the garage. My confusion quickly disappeared when he opened the door and I saw the amount of training equipment he had in there. Besides being pretty much a full blown gym, all the EMG measurements are done in there. On top of that he has a force plate and a camera system that can record movement and bar paths for example. Hence the name lab is well justified.

Next the discussion turns to clients. I ask that what type of clientele Bret works with. Are they athletes, power lifters, body builders, general population or what? The answer comes without hesitation – bikini competitors. He says it with a slight smile of course. He receives inquiries about his coaching services almost daily but he hasn´t been able to take any new clients for a while because it would take the focus off from research and writing which he sees as his primary work.


Bret´s tip for learning

The final question is that where does Bret recommend to look for information? The first thing he mentions is Strong Curves – that is one of his books. Although it´s aimed for women, a lot men can get plenty out of it as well because of the practical training tips and scientific sections. Naturally he mentions his blog as well. For someone who is more science orientated a must read is, which Chris Beardsley regularly updates on the latest scientific findings and hot topics. When it comes to nutrition, Alan Aragon´s site is hard to beat in Bret´s books.

In the end he says that it´s important to take influences from very diverse sources and gather the best things to serve you or your clients’ purpose as well as possible. That´s how Bret has done it and with plenty of success. The importance of science can´t be pronounced enough. When you do research you might learn new things and the other way around.

About the writer

Jukka Mäennenä is a 27-years old Finnish athlete, coach and student. He is certified kettlebell, barbell and bodyweight training instructor in the StrongFirst system and he has completed Poliquin PICP 1-2 courses. When not training, working or updating his blog at he can be found on his BMX or mountain bike.


A Discussion With Paul Carter on Anabolic Steroids

I recently asked Paul Carter if he’d be willing to jump on Skype and record a discussion on the topic of anabolic steroids with me. We ended up talking for nearly 2 hours. The information contained within won’t be anything ground-breaking for serious lifters who have been around the block. However, for those who are ignorant and naive on the topic of steroids, you’ll definitely learn a thing or two.

Paul and I are not experts on the topic of anabolic steroids; we’re not medical doctors/endocrinologists and we aren’t involved in research on anabolic steroids, so take our advice with a grain of salt. Personally, I would like to see more discussion on anabolic steroids emerge over time in our field as it tends to be a taboo in strength & conditioning media. Here’s the video (my apologies, I don’t have an MP3 file for you):

Here are the various questions we tackled:

  1. What are the ethical issues involving anabolic steroids?
  2. What are the different types of anabolic steroids?
  3. What are the effects of testosterone/anabolic steroids?
  4. What other drugs are typically used in powerlifting/bodybuilding?
  5. What are some limitations of the literature involving anabolic steroids?
  6. What are some of the biggest misconceptions out there involving anabolic steroid usage?
  7. What are some of the more extreme anecdotes that we’ve witnessed in terms of great responders and poor responders?
  8. Why are there non-responders – what’s happening?
  9. What are typical ranges of testosterone levels for natural men?
  10. What are typical dosages for men taking TRT?
  11. What are typical dosages taken by average powerlifters and bodybuilders?
  12. What are extreme dosages taken by elite powerlifters and bodybuilders?
  13. What are some of the more well-known side-effects of anabolic steroids for men?
  14. What are some of the lesser-known side-effects of anabolic steroids for men?
  15. What are some of the side-effects of anabolic steroids for women?
  16. Would the same powerlifters and bodybuilders be dominating their sports if anabolic steroids didn’t exist?
  17. Would sports performance be highly influenced if anabolic steroids didn’t exist?
  18. Do anabolic steroid users need to train differently than natural lifters?
  19. What is some advice for those considering taking anabolic steroids?
  20. Where can people find out information about anabolic steroids?


An Interview With Dr. Stu Phillips on Muscle Hypertrophy and Sports Nutrition

Yesterday I had the privilege of sitting down with Dr. Stuart Phillips from McMaster University (click HERE to follow him on Twitter) and discussing various topics in sports science and nutrition. We talked about the hormone hypothesis, best rep ranges for hypertrophy (and load versus effort), THIS article (Mitchell et al. 2012), sarcoplasmic versus myofibrillar hypertrophy, limitations & practical relevance of his research, levels of protein intake for maximal hypertrophy, recommended supplements for maximum hypertrophy, and more.

Below is the YouTube video, for the MP3 download click HERE.

I hope you enjoy the interview!


Transform Your Physique: Mariah’s Story

Today I want to share an exciting body transformation story with you. I knew that Mariah had been seeing great results with Get Glutes, but when I saw the recent pictures, my jaw dropped. Maybe you find yourself in a similar position. If you’re not happy with your physique, take the bull by the horns and do something about it, just like Mariah did. Below is an interview with Mariah – with questions by Mrs. Kellie Davis. Mariah, keep on kicking ass!


Mariah, everyone at GetGlutes is in awe of your transformation both inside and out. We are really excited to dive a little deeper into your story. Tell us a bit about your background. What was life like growing up for you as far your activities and nutrition?

I grew up in a family of six with a strong sense of family. Both of my parents are excellent cooks and most of my meals were home-cooked and eaten as a family around the dinner table. We rarely had junk food in the house and the only beverage we had besides water was sweet tea. I have always loved sweets and struggled with being an emotional eater. Whenever I had the opportunity to eat sweets, I took full advantage of it. I started playing softball the summer before my freshman year of high school. Prior to that my physical activity was inconsistent and limited. Once I started playing softball, I became passionate about it. My dad and I practiced nearly every day. I played tournaments on the weekends, high school games during the week and practiced any time I could. When I went to college, I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I played softball in college so the related exercise helped fight off some of the damage I was doing with my eating, but not much. I had no real concept of what kinds of foods I should be eating or in what quantity.

Mariah - Before

Mariah – Before

Having grown up with two excellent cooks, it seems the lifestyle you learned at home didn’t carry with you into college. What do you feel compelled you to change your eating habits in college?

I think it was the freedom of choice, access to lots of different food, and a lack of understanding about what I was feeding myself and why. I was on a meal plan so I ate most of my meals in the commons. Besides a salad bar I don’t recall there being a lot of healthy options. I remember eating lots of full size bagels topped with peanut butter, jelly and cream cheese or topped with bacon, egg and cheese for breakfast. I actually thought that was healthy. I frequently took bagels or a bagful of cereal to eat for a snack. Most of my lunches and dinners were rich in sugary carbs and fatty meats and low in veggies (my motto was why waste stomach space with vegetables?). When I traveled for ball games, we often ate at fast food post-game and I usually had fries, a burger and a shake. I didn’t eat fast food growing up and I was completely unaware of how unhealthy the food was.

I think that is a struggle many kids face when entering college. When did you reach your tipping point where you wanted to create positive change for yourself? Describe that moment or that feeling.

After graduating college, I had nowhere to play ball. I had no direction relating to my physical activity. I became extremely inactive and ate a lot. After several years of this behavior, a pregnancy and birth, I gained a lot of weight. In December of 2008, weighing 229 pounds, I decided to take back control and get myself into shape. I was tired of trying to hide my body. I was tired of feeling weak, out of control, depressed and disgusted with myself. I was embarrassed to go to the grocery store for fear of seeing someone I knew. I was lethargic and spent way too much time in front of the TV trying to numb my emotions. I lay awake night after night hating who I had become. I no longer recognized myself. I missed the athlete I had once been. I missed the girl who was confident in her abilities to accomplish anything she set her mind to. I was tired of hiding myself inside fat and soothing myself with copious amounts of food. I knew that I had to take control of my health and my life if I wanted to find her again.

It is very hard to lose yourself and not know where to pick back up. I think a lot of former athletes go through these same issues. How did your initial transformation journey begin and why did it fail in helping you meet your goals?

I decided that I could continue to be lazy, binge on sweets, and continue to feel the way that I did or I could change the direction of my life. I started my weight-loss, life-regaining journey with at home workouts. Although I was a former collegiate athlete, I had no clue how to use a gym or eat properly. I was too ashamed to go to a gym in the shape that I was in. I didn’t want people to see how horribly unfit I was so I bought an at-home workout program. I treated it the same what that I used to treat my conditioning and practice for ball. I knew that big achievements were the results of the culmination of every day efforts.

I committed not to miss a single workout over the course of the 90-day program and to follow the eating plan exactly. I told myself that if I did these two things and nothing changed after 90 days, then I could go back to eating whatever I wanted and zoning out in front of the TV.

Guess what? Everything changed during those 90 days. I kept my commitment to myself, completed every workout, and followed the nutrition plan exactly. I found my drive again. I was reminded of the athlete I once was and wanted to be again. I completed a second round of the program and lost a total of 54 pounds. Although I lost a lot of weight, my physique still needed work.

Sometimes we just need a little boost to get us back in the game. It seems you found that here, but it was missing an element. What did you like and not like about your changes?

I liked that I had lost body fat, could fit into normal size clothes and had endurance to participate in activities that I hadn’t in some time. I didn’t like that I had very little muscle. When I played ball, I had muscular legs, strong shoulders and a toned back. I didn’t have any of that anymore. I wanted to reshape my body, add muscle, and feel athletic.

That often is the case with these fat loss home workouts—losing weight, but not gaining muscle or shape. What was the next step for you and why did you feel it wasn’t working?

I decided to join a gym. My first year and a half at the gym was wasted as I spent my time on cardio equipment wishing I was brave and knowledgeable enough to go lift weights. As I walked/jogged on the treadmill, I longingly watched others squat, lunge, bench press and do an assortment of weighted exercises. I wanted to join them, but I had no idea what to do. I hired a personal trainer who unfortunately seemed more interested in my money than giving me the help I so desperately needed.

I kept searching for help. I joined a competition team as a non-competing member to work on my physique. The training was time-consuming and intense. I often spent 15-20 hours a week in the gym doing cardio that I detested and lifting weights for hours. The eating plan was very restrictive and the only thing I enjoyed about it was the two slices of pizza I was allowed to eat once a week (which inevitably turned into 5 or 6 pieces and whatever other food I had in the house). Because it was so restrictive and because the training was so voluminous and intense, I rarely could complete it all. I felt like a failure. I spiraled back to the mindset I had when I was at my heaviest. I had so much self-doubt that I wondered if I would ever be happy with my body or be healthy (on the outside and the inside). After my first year with the team, I chose not to return. The commitment required to adhere to their plan was not in line with my priorities or preferences. I continued down the path of trying one plan after another. Time after time I found that I didn’t enjoy what I was doing because I was trying to fit my life into the plan instead of a plan into my life.

This is an all-to-familiar path for many. How did this type of training and dieting affect the rest of your life?

I was exhausted ALL of the time. I woke up exhausted and went to bed exhausted. After work I would come home and have to take a power nap so I could go do my second workout of the day. I dreaded doing the second workout, but told myself I was a failure if I didn’t do it. I didn’t have energy or the desire to do anything else. It was a huge effort to play with my son. I was grumpy, impatient, and I doubt very pleasant to be around.

When did you decided to make this journey about you and your plan rather than meeting the expectations of others?

In early 2013 I decided that once and for all I was going to find an enjoyable and sustainable plan that allowed me to get lean and sculpt my best ever physique. It was going to be my plan and would be conducive to my tastes and the way in which I wanted to live my life. I decided that I would give myself one year to achieve this goal. I wanted long-term success. I was tired of short-term, short-lived changes. On April 4, 2013 I officially embarked upon my one-year mission.

I joined in early 2013. I loved the workout programs, the member support, and the fantastic engagement and coaching. I was getting stronger (hitting a 400 lb barbell glute bridge and a 310 pound deadlift…what?!?!), but I wasn’t getting leaner because I hadn’t yet taken control of my nutrition.

My best friend recommended that I look into an eating plan called The Carb Nite Solution. She also recommended that I work with nutritionist and coach, Brian Schmidt of No Bull Schmidt Fitness, to create my nutrition plan. I began working with him on April 4, 2013. I began losing weight and figuring out what I wanted in a plan. Our relationship was very interactive. Brian created an effective plan around my food preferences. I experienced success with the combination of the GetGlutes training and my new way of eating. Each day I gained confidence in my ability to create my best ever physique.

This was a major turning point for you not only physically, but also emotionally. Can you explain why?

For the first time in my life, I began to share my story and how far I had come. I started by sharing with my best friend who encouraged me to share with the GetGlutes members. One night I sat down and wrote about my journey. It was incredibly healing to finally be open about my struggle and to no longer feel embarrassed by it. The amount of love and support that the GetGlutes members and coaches extended truly amazed and blessed me. I realized that in order for me to fully heal and shed my body image issues, I had to stop being ashamed of where I’d been. I was overwhelmed by the number of people who were moved by the honesty of my struggle and the depths from which I had climbed. I realized that my story could provide hope to others in situations similar to mine.

Although my confidence soared throughout 2013, there was still a little piece of me that didn’t believe I could get 6-pack abs or that my glutes would ever look good enough not to hide behind shorts at the beach. I came across a motivational picture one day of a female with a beautifully fit body on it that read: “It is a shame for a [wo]man to grow old without ever seeing the strength and beauty of which [her] body is capable.” These words hit a nerve. Although I had lost a lot of weight from 2008-2013 I still didn’t feel like I was in control and I certainly was nowhere near seeing the strength and beauty of which my body was capable.  I secretly felt like I was one binge away from returning to that girl who was too embarrassed to go to the grocery store for fear of running into someone she knew. There was also a part of me that didn’t believe I could do what it took to achieve a fantastic physique and I often sabotaged myself when I started getting great results. I had come so far and yet I knew I could still achieve more. It was time for my biggest challenge yet.

In a previous year I entered and Dymatize’s 100k challenge. I thought it would magically motivate me to get into shape, but the truth is I wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t have a solid foundation, a plan or goals, and I didn’t believe in my ability to be successful. I wanted redemption. I wanted to enter the 2014 100k challenge and completely rock it… and so I did.

How did that change everything for you?

It’s taken me five years of consistent and intentional effort to have the healthy mindset, physical health and figure I enjoy today. When I started my journey, I wanted to see results right away. I wanted to magically erase all of the damage I had done to myself for years in a few short months. I bounced from one extreme effort to another constantly looking for that perfect plan that would make me perfect. I thought I had to follow the plan exactly as designed or it wouldn’t be effective. I completely discounted the importance of actually enjoying the plan. When I finally realized that a perfect plan didn’t exist, I changed my mindset and made the plan about my life. That shift in mindset allowed me to determine my physique goals, how I wanted to train, and what I was willing to give to my efforts. By giving myself one year to figure this out, I took the pressure off to find a quick fix. It allowed me to shift my focus on fine tuning and enjoying the process and my plan.

As I mentioned above, our members are huge fans of you, Mariah. You inspired so many because your story is so relatable. How has taking charge of your health and doing so on your terms helped you to become a better role model?

This is an interesting question. I didn’t realize how many people were watching my transformation. I remember when I started bringing my food to work and stopped going out to lunches or eating treats in the break room. I’m sure at first people thought it was going to be short-lived. Now five years later, I’m known at work as the girl who will bust out her fish and veggies in a middle of a meeting and eat them. I’ve had other women who are struggling reach out to me to ask me for help. I’ve received hand-written notes and emails from women telling me I have inspired them to change. These were unexpected, touching, and it showed me that my experience can help others believe in their ability to improve themselves.

If you could offer advice to the old Mariah before she went off to college, what would it be?

I would tell her to take advantage of the strength and conditioning coaches and the athlete weight room, and to educate herself on nutrition. In college, I saw weight training as something I was being forced to do early in the morning before I went to class. Most mornings I rolled out of bed, got dressed and walked to the weight room half asleep with the goal of getting done as quickly as possible so I could return to my bed. I literally flew through my workouts with no focus on what I was doing. I can’t believe I wasted all that wonderful training time and exposure to knowledgeable coaches. I would tell the pre-college Mariah to educate herself on nutrition and explain that all of the activity I did with softball would not continue post-college and it would be very difficult to reign in my eating.

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your journey with us, Mariah. We look forward to what’s in store for you!

Mariah - Now

Mariah – Now