Category Archives: Strength Training

How to Become a Metabolic Machine! An Interview With Katie Anne Rutherford

I’m quite pleased to interview Katie Anne Rutherford today – a dual powerlifter/figure competitor with a highly impressive work ethic and regimen, and an advocate of DUP for powerlifting strength and muscularity. I believe that many of my readers would benefit from adopting a similar approach and attitude as Katie Anne, while obviously tailoring the training and eating to individual weaknesses and preferences. I hope you enjoy our discussion!

IMG_1853

1. Hi Katie Anne! Thank you for agreeing to conduct this interview, I know my readers will appreciate it. Let’s get right down to business. You compete in figure and powerlifting. Which do you like most and why?

Thanks so much for the opportunity Bret! I appreciate it! Yes I do compete in both powerlifting and figure – I truly love both! However, I would say my number one love is training. I have been an athlete as long as I can remember so the athletic performance of powerlifting is what gives me the most enjoyment. I would have to say that I like powerlifting slightly more for that reason – it’s just you vs. the weight. Not much subjectivity to the sport. However, I do love the femininity and challenge of figure – it takes a different type of mindset and training. I love the constant strife to improve myself in both sports – either with how much weight I am lifting or sculpting my physique through hard work each day. With that being said, I would not choose one over the other. I love being a duel sport athlete and demonstrating to women that you can still lift heavy and look good on the figure stage!

IMG_1008

2. Great answer. Let’s switch gears and talk diet for a minute. You’re an advocate of IIFYM, and you have a freakishly high metabolism. How many calories were you consuming when you first started working with Layne Norton, and how many calories are you currently consuming?

Thanks Bret! When I first started working with Layne, I was actually consuming close to 2700 calories (over 300g of carbohydrates) and maintaining weight! However, I weighed closer to 165lbs then (vs 143lbs now). Over the course of the last year, I lost about 20lbs over about 8 months to step on the figure stage. My macros never had to go below 165g of carbs in my prep – which is relatively rare for female prep standards. Over the course of my reverse diet this year, I reached an intake of 320g of carbs and 80g of fat – close to 2700 calories while doing no cardio and maintaining stage leanness. I started my reverse diet at about 144lbs last November and ended it (in Late May) at the same weight. Right now, I am not quite back up to those food numbers (after having had to diet down for a couple weeks for my two figure shows) – but inching back up. I am currently eating 260g of carbs and 65g fat one week post show.

3. I bet many of my female readers are envious of your bodyweight multiplier of 19 for total calories. But this wan’t all magic – it occurred in tandem with some serious strength gains. You turned your body into a metabolic machine by getting freakishly strong. How strong were you at the big 3 lifts when you first started working with Layne, and how strong are you now?

Thank you! That means a lot to me. When I first started working with Layne (we met at a seminar he held in Columbus, Ohio for the Arnold), my max squat was around 290lbs and my max deadlift was around 300lbs. I am not even sure what my bench was! Probably around 130lbs or so. Currently, my max squat is 347lbs, deadlift is 363lbs, and bench is 175lbs.

4. Amazing. Actually, what’s even more amazing is your training volume. You adhere to a DUP approach to training. How many days per week do you squat, bench, and deadlift?

Yes I do! I actually started my DUP training one year ago. Prior to that, I was following a hypertrophy/power program from April of 2014 until July of 2014, which is when I met Dr. Mike Zordous, who has conducted quite a bit of reseach on DUP. Layne and I decided to focus on powerlifting from that time on and incorporated it into my training. I currently squat 3x per week, bench 4x per week, and deadlift 2x per week. Prior to my last training block, I was doing the three main lifts 3x per week. We changed my program up a bit since my bench tends to be the lift that lags behind my other lifts. I am currently prepping for Raw Nationals in October.

https://instagram.com/p/5GLZgap6O8/

5. Do you just grind through week in and week out, or do you deload regularly? And do you ever have days where you go super light and pull back the reins due to fatigue and exhaustion?

I typically deload about every 5 weeks or so. Generally, there are not many days where I feel completely exhausted and have to go super light – occasionally, if I am not feeling well or I just do not have much energy (which I have experienced a couple times due to figure prep), I may leave out my amrap set (as many reps as possible) and add an extra set. The beauty of DUP is that the volume is looked at from a weekly perspective. As long as I am getting my volume in for the week, I try not to stress about little changes to a day here and there. For example, if I am battling a shoulder injury, let’s say, I might decrease my bench weight and increase the sets and/or reps to equate for the same volume for that session (volume = weight x reps x sets).

6. Do you ever incorporate variety with the big lifts, or is it pure specificity? In other words, do you ever pull conventional (since you pull sumo), or perform front squats, or high bar squats, or close grip bench, or board presses? What about pause squats, pause deads, and extra long pause benches? If not, why?

My lifting is pure specificity – I do not incorporate variations of squats into my program or pull conventional on deadlifts (I pull sumo). I do add in accessory work to focus on my weaknesses – for example, I add in shoulder exercises to help with my bench and back exercises to help with deadlift. However, with DUP, I focus on weekly volume progression. Especially since I am a dual athlete, focusing on too many variations would be overwhelming for my programming. I run a very high volume training schedule – therefore, I have to determine what will give me the most benefit in terms of my powerlifting programming. So as of now, I solely work on the lifts in the same way that I compete (back squat, sumo, and bench with a slight pause). My training is constantly evolving, however, and so who knows how long that will stay constant!

7. I would imagine that you’d attribute most of your body improvements to increases in powerlifting strength. But what other exercises do you typically perform in order to “round out the body” for figure competitions? Please include your favorite accessory lifts for the glutes, hams, lats, delts, and any other favorites.

Yes, I have found that the BEST glute exercise that exist are the squat and deadlift – I can attribute the significant change in my lower half to those exercises alone in the past year. However, I do occasionally add in hamstring work (glute ham raises or leg curls), but no additional quad work. Other accessory work that I really have to focus on are back focused exercises – your back can truly never be big or dense enough for figure! I also add in quite a bit of shoulder work too. Some of my staple exercises I add in are rack chins/pull ups, any type of rows, shoulder presses, lateral raises, calf raises (seated & standing), and standard bicep and tricep work. My accessory work is typically spread out over three days – with a heavy emphasis on back. Figure shows are won from behind 😉

8. Do you do any cardio? If so, how much and what type?

The only cardio I perform is cardio squats and deadlifts! (anything over 8 reps). Haha – no, I do not perform traditional cardio right now, unless I randomly decide that I want to do some interval sprints every once in a while. I warm up on a cardio machine before my lifts for about 10 minutes – if that counts ☺

9. When you compete in figure, do you change the training much? In other words, do you employ higher reps, or add in more accessory lifts, or increase cardio? Or do you keep that all the same and just rely on diet?

When I am getting close to a competition, I do add in a bit more accessory work to increase the volume for my lagging body parts for figure. Generally, my training stays pretty constant throughout the year. Leading up to a powerlifting meet, I typically reduce the amount of accessory work I am doing just to conserve more energy for the main lifts. Ebs and flows, but generally stays constant! Luckily, I have not had to do much of any cardio since last fall – so the only tweaks that Layne and I make to get a bit leaner are through my diet (macros).

10. Do you bulk and cut throughout the year or just stay close to a given bodyweight? By the way, what is your current bodyweight and bodyfat percentage?

Since my show last fall, I have maintained my weight at around 141-146lbs. I tend to fluctuate in weight quite a bit simply due to my high sodium and water intake. To give some perspective, I ended my reverse diet this year at 145lbs and stepped on stage at about 140lbs. I will hope to reverse diet, put on some mass, and maintain around 148lbs this fall/winter. Right now, I weigh 143lbs. I had my body fat measured in the spring when I weighed 145lbs – it was 8 percent – I would estimate I am probably slightly under that right now coming off my show.

11. Let’s revisit nutrition again. What are your current macros, and what does a typical day look like in terms of eating?

My current macros (after coming off my competition season, where I competed at NPC Junior Nationals and NPC Team Universe) are 260 carbs, 65 fat, and 150 protein. My coach and I are reverse dieting and will continue to do so until I determine when I want to compete in figure again. Since I follow a flexible diet, a typical day truly varies! I eat a lot of eggs – so usually I start my day with 2-3 eggs with toast and cream cheese. Pre workout, I focus on getting at least 25 percent of my daily carbs and post workout is the same as well. I like to save quite a bit of my fats for night when I have more eggs or peanut butter (one of my favorites).

12. What are some of your favorite foods that you make sure to include in your diet each week?

As I mentioned, I love eggs! So I usually have 3-5 whole eggs per day. I also love whole grains and potatoes – so Ezekiel bread and sweet/regular potatoes are staples in my diet. I can never turn down ice cream – so that is something I also love to treat myself to at night typically. However, I also eat lots of fruits and veggies – roasted asparagus and strawberries being two of my favorites. Peanut butter, honey, and rice cakes are also foods that I enjoy. No foods are off limits for me, my taste buds are always changing, so I change up my meals pretty frequently!

13. Great choices, and very well put! Just goes to show you the value of added muscle mass in combination with high frequency/high volume training. What advice can you give to beginners out there who are seeking to change their physiques through strength training?

My number one piece of advice is that results will come with hard work and consistency. There truly are no shortcuts when it comes to getting results. Focus on establishing both a training and nutrition plan that are sustainable for the long term – and a workout program that emphasizes heavy lifting and progression. I see too many beginners focusing on quick fix diets and training programs that are not maintainable for the long term. Also, find a program you enjoy! The journey of health and fitness should be something that complements your life and happiness – not detracts from it.

14. Do you believe that figure and powerlifting complement each other, or could you see better results if you just focused on one or the other?

I do believe there are aspects to both types of training that complement each other. The heavy lifting of power lifting has developed my physique into something I honestly never could have achieved without it! Focusing on my weaknesses with bodybuilding accessory work has also given me more strength for power lifting. With that being said, I am sure if I solely focused on powerlifting and did not maintain the leanness that I do for figure, of course my absolute strength would increase. However, as I mentioned before, I would not give up one for the other. I truly enjoy the challenge of being a duel sport athlete. I will say that I do not think I would have the legs that I do without powerlifting – even if I focused solely on bodybuilding.

https://instagram.com/p/5Iauikp6BZ/

15. Thank you very much for your time Katie Anne, last question. Where can my readers follow you? I believe you’re on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube right?

Thank you for the opportunity Bret! I am on Instagram, @katieanne100. My YouTube is under Katie Anne as well (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1SUzQui0z4IBw21dENIpvg) – and my Facebook is www.facebook.com/katie.rutherford Thank you Bret! I hope that this was helpful and interesting for some of your readers!

IMG_0725

The Dead-Stop Reset Push-Up

Many individuals have a very difficult time keeping their cores in check when they perform push ups. They tend to sag in the hips and overarch their low backs. If I had to guess, I’d say 33% of men and 66% of women exhibit this problem when they perform push ups.

Not Good

Not Good

The dead-stop reset push up has you starting from the bottom position. First, you posteriorly tilt the pelvis with a giant glute squeeze and lock down the core. Next, you perform the push up while trying your best to maintain this core positioning throughout the concentric and eccentric portion of the set. Then, you pause at the bottom and reset.

Good

Good

These are much harder than standard push ups for most people but they will teach individuals to control their lumbopelvic hip complexes (LPHC) and keep them static while performing dynamic push ups.

Left: Anterior Pelvic Tilt (APT) - this is undesirable in a push-up. Right: Posterior Pelvic Tilt (PPT) - this is the position you want in a push up (neutral is fine too)

Left: Anterior Pelvic Tilt (APT) – this is undesirable in a push-up. Right: Posterior Pelvic Tilt (PPT) – this is the position you want in a push up (neutral is fine too)

Below is a video of Camille performing 3 reps. Notice that her form still isn’t perfect – you still see some hinging at the mid-back. These are very challenging for her; she can normally perform 10 bodyweight push ups but she typically anteriorly tilts her pelvis and hyperextends her lumbar spine. With the dead-stop reset push-up, she can only perform 3 reps but her form is markedly better. My guess is that in 6 weeks of employing these twice per week, she’ll be doing push ups like a boss while keeping her LPHC solid.

The dead-stop reset push-up serves as an excellent teaching tool for proper push up performance, I hope you give it a try!

Four Reasons to Push Press

Four Reasons to Push Press
Robert A. Panariello MS, PT, ATC, CSCS
Professional Physical Therapy
Professional Athletic Performance Center
New York, New York

For decades one of the popular upper body exercises to perform in the weight room has been the bench press exercise. One common question many high school athletes or any athlete may ask their peer is “How much can you bench”? With regard to upper body strength and power when was the last time any Strength and Conditioning (S&C) Professional has witnessed one athlete ask another “How much can you push press”? This inquiry does not usually occur because the push press exercise is not likely performed.

For decades overhead pressing type exercises appear to have accompanied the deep squat exercise as the “outcast” of the weight room. Overhead weight work has been tabooed by many sport coaches as well as some S&C Professionals as many are of the opinion that the performance of such exercises will result in shoulder pathology as well as be detrimental to athletic performance, especially in the overhead athlete.

klokov-push-press

The following are four (4) considerations for the S&C Professional to include the push press exercise as a component to their athletes (including the overhead athlete) training program design.

1. Strength Development – The apparent reason to perform the push press exercise is to enhance shoulder strength and muscular development. The push press unlike many other overhead upper extremity exercises requires the exercise to be initiated by the legs. Thus, higher weight intensities may be utilized executing the push press when compared to other overhead shoulder exercises that disregard the involvement of the lower extremities.

2. The Rotator Cuff – A rotator cuff (Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Subscapularis, and Teres Minor muscles) pathology of the shoulder is a highly overstated false consequence of the push press (or any overhead exercise for that matter), when appropriately implemented into the athlete’s weight room training program design. It is usually an inappropriate program design and/or an excessively prescribed overhead exercise volume, not the exercise itself that may place the athlete at risk of injury. It has been demonstrated that during overhead pressing type exercise performance the rotator cuff is active, with the supraspinatus exhibiting the highest recorded EMG activity of the muscle group. It is also acknowledged that the supraspinatus is the rotator cuff muscle with the highest incidence of pathology therefore wouldn’t the S&C Professional want to place an emphasis on strengthening this rotator cuff muscle?

3. Gleno-Humeral and Scapulo-Thoracic Rhythm – The gleno-humeral joint of the shoulder is comprised of two (2) osseous structures the scapula and the humerus. The ball and socket articulation of this joint is comprised of the head of the humerus (ball) and the glenoid (socket) which is actually a component of the scapula. The scapula also comprises the scapula-thoracic joint at the posterior aspect of the thorax. During overhead sport skills or exercise performance there is a relationship to both the shoulder range of motion and the gleno-humeral and scapula-thoracic joints “rhythm” to maintain the head of the humerus appropriately centered in the glenoid. Disruption to this “rhythm” over time may place the rotator cuff at risk of pathology. Overhead exercise performance with a bench backing will “pin” or “compress” the scapula of the shoulder between the bench backing and the athlete’s thorax including the athlete’s body and barbell weight. Joint compression is synonymous with joint stability resulting in a less mobile scapula. This likely will affect the natural and necessary required scapula movement and rhythm during the repeated overhead exercise performance thus setting the table for possible shoulder injury. The standing overhead exercise performance allows for free scapula movement and proper rhythm throughout the exercise performance.

4. Lower Extremity Power Development – Yes you read this correctly, lower extremity power development. The push press has been documented to produce greater lower extremity maximum mean power when compared to the jump squat exercise. Thus the push press exercise provides a time efficient combination of lower body power and upper extremity and trunk strengthening during the exercise performance. This exercise may not only be utilized in the athlete’s training, but may also be appropriately utilized at end stage upper and lower extremity rehabilitation as well.

Below is a good video demonstrating the push press:

How important is psychological stress for your gains?

How Important is Psychological Stress for Your Gains?
By Fredrik Tonstad Vårvik

We know a lot about the physiological part of training, nutrition and recovery. You may think that if you optimize these factors you will have optimal progression and gains. People don’t often think as much about sleep, circadian rhythm, life outside the gym, and especially about stress. A growing body of literature implicates that psychological stress is a factor that modulates physiological recovery. If you have a lot of psychological stress, you need to cope with it. Moreover, If you have a lot of physiological stress (training), you need to recover from that too (1). There are a number of other reasons to expect that high life stresses lessen the training effect of exercise including increased basal cortisol, changes in nutrition, illness and related absence from training (2).

Consider these scenarios:

Peter is training 4 times per week; his nutrition is good, he sleeps well and has a regular daytime job from 8-4. His financial situation is stable, and he lives with his girlfriend in an apartment. Besides his work and training, he normally relaxes at home with his girlfriend. Sometimes he goes out with his friends on the weekends. The job is medium pressure that he handles quite well.

Robert is training 5 times per week, his nutrition is pretty good and he works in a shift job that is very hectic, with deadlines. He has sleep problems and the pay is not good, hence working mostly nights and overtime. He lives in his own apartment and rarely has the energy to hang out with friends. He forces himself to train, and is exhausted.

Even if Robert’s training program looks slightly better than Peters on paper, Peter will have the best workouts, progression and energy in the end. (Let’s say they have the same genetic potential).

I would therefore argue that the psychological part is underestimated. Look at the well-known general adaptation syndrome model (GAS by Selye) (3).

Stage 1 is stimuli/shock phase, stage 2 is adaptation to the resistance stage 1, while stage 3 is exhaustion. If there is too much stimulus/stress than you can’t recover from, you will be in stage 3.

If you have chronic disease, sleep disturbances, or just got divorced, you will probably not have the best results and recovery from your workouts. Why is that? There is reason to believe that psychological stress influences cytokines, neutrophils, macrophages, growth factors and stem cells (1), just like resistance training does (4). Therefore, a person needs to recover from both stimuli.

Seyle

The point is that if you have a lot to do and feel stressed outside the gym (high stage 1), take it easy in the gym, since you need to cope and recover from it. If not, you might end up in stage 3 in Seyle’s model. You need to recover from both physiological and psychological stresses. This is one of the reasons why top athletes sleep a lot and don’t work: their training, nutrition and sleeping is their work. If you are a normal person that needs income from regular work, you must cater to that and set priorities.

There is not much research on this in relation to resistance training; however, lets delve into a study from 2008 and a short-term research paper from 2014.

Bartholomew et al 2008 (2) designed a study to examine the effect of self-reported stressful life events on strength gains after 12 weeks of resistance training.

Method and procedure

Participants totaled 135 undergraduate students that enrolled in weight training classes two times per week. They had various degrees of training experience, from beginner to advanced. All completed the Adolescent Perceived Events Scale questionnaire (APES), social support score and one-repetition maximal lifts (1RM) for the bench press and squat. Each participant did a 12-week training program that involved all major muscle groups twice per week. The periodization consisted of three mesocycles, hypertrophy, strength and power. Both training days were supervised and they were encouraged to complete a third session without the supervisor.

There were no differences between the high and low stress groups in terms of baseline physiological measures (1-RM and muscle mass). (Changes in muscle mass measured as circumference around upper arm and thigh along with caliper skinfold measure).

Results

In both groups there was a significant change in both 1-RM squat, bench-press and arm size, with greater improvement in bench press and squat in the low-stress group. No significant difference between groups in arm size. And there were no significant effects for social support. Table from the study:

stress

The authors suggest that experience of stress may impair one’s ability to fully adapt to training. It’s not certain how stress impairs the adaptation process.

Stress may undermine one’s training through diminished exercise behavior or perceptions regarding one’s training load and progression, or it may impair the recovery process, either by affecting behaviors that may promote recovery (nutrition sleep, etc) or underlying biological factors responsible for anabolism/catabolism or immune functioning and illness.

Stults-Kolehmainen et al 2014 aimed to determine whether chronic mental stress modulates recovery of muscular function and somatic sensations in a 4-day period after a bout of strenuous resistance training (1).

Method and procedure

Over 1200 people were screened for chronic stress. Those that scored very low, or very high, were selected to participate in the study. The participants aged 20.26 1.34 years, including 9 women and 22 men, totaling 31. They were all undergraduate students who regularly performed resistance training. Two different questionnaires were required, perceived stress scale (how stressed you feel) and undergraduate stress questionnaire (stressful life events the last month). They compared the results with a large national sample.

Firstly, the researchers performed different strength tests: maximal isometric force, vertical squat jump and cycling power. Energy, fatigue and soreness were also measured with questionnaires. They retested after the training protocol (explained below), at 24, 48, 72 and 96 hours post-workout.

The training protocol was: 10 repetition maximal (RM) the first set, then sets of 90% until a total of 3-6 sets were done. If 90% was too heavy, the load was reduced to 80%.

Results

For maximal isometric force, higher levels of stress resulted in lower recovery curves, and lower levels of stress were associated with superior recovery. The low-stress group returned to baseline 48 hours post-exercise, while the high-stress group took about 96 hours to recover.

The high-stress group compared to the low stress group also negatively influenced soreness, energy and fatigue. The high-stress group had more soreness, less energy and more fatigue. The associations were still present after the researchers adjusted for fitness, workload and training experience.

The stress/recovery relationship appeared to be less consistent for the vertical jump squat as well as the maximal cycling power, from which both groups recovered quickly.

On the other hand, exercise can also help if you feel very stressed. High-stress is just not optimal for high volume and gains. Bretland et al 2015 (5) conducted a study in 49 participants that were not exercise regularly. They divided them into three groups, one as a placebo group, another did cardio and the last performing resistance training.

Participants were measured with different subjective stress and exercise scales at baseline and after four weeks. The exercise groups did at least 30min of exercise 3 times per week.

After four weeks of exercise, participants had greater positive well-being and personal accomplishment, less psychological distress, perceived stress and emotional exhaustion.

In summary:

Both low-stress groups in the studies reported feeling better and recovered faster after the exercises. If you have many stressful events in your daily life and feel stressed, don’t increase your training volume and intensity, rather, reduce it. Furthermore, if you can cope with it and feel good, you can make progression and increase. If you are stressed and feel that some exercise can help, go for it.

Take home message: do not underestimate lifestyle, sleep and stress!

References

  1. Stults-Kolehmainen MA, Bartholomew JB, Sinha R. Chronic psychological stress impairs recovery of muscular function and somatic sensations over a 96-hour period. J Strength Cond Res Natl Strength Cond Assoc. 2014 Jul;28(7):2007–17. LINK
  2. Bartholomew JB, Stults-Kolehmainen MA, Elrod CC, Todd JS. Strength gains after resistance training: the effect of stressful, negative life events. J Strength Cond Res Natl Strength Cond Assoc. 2008 Jul;22(4):1215–21. LINK
  3. Selye H. Stress and the General Adaptation Syndrome. Br Med J. 1950 Jun 17;1(4667):1383–92. LINK
  4. Schoenfeld BJ. The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. J Strength Cond Res Natl Strength Cond Assoc. 2010 Oct;24(10):2857–72. LINK
  5. Bretland RJ, Thorsteinsson EB. Reducing workplace burnout: the relative benefits of cardiovascular and resistance exercise. PeerJ. 2015;3:e891. LINK

About the Author

Fredrik Tonstad Vårvik is a personal trainer & nutritionist. He writes articles and work with online coaching at fredfitology. Follow him and his colleagues at facebook & twitter. Check out FredFitology for more info.

Fredrik