The following is an interview with Rachel Guy. I met Rachel a couple of months ago here in New Zealand and we hit it off. I think my male readers will think she’s as badass as I do and my female readers will be inspired by her. I’ll let her introduce herself.
1. Please introduce yourself.
Hello all! My name is Rachel Guy. I am a physical therapist and strength coach based in Sydney, Australia.
My journey to where I am today began in 2005 when I graduated from the University of Birmingham, UK with a BSc (Hons) Physiotherapy. Fresh from college I worked in an NHS hospital in the UK, covering neurology, respiratory/critical care, and musculoskeletal wards. Although my experiences during that time were absolutely invaluable, I would not chose to do it again! Honestly, I found it somewhat frustrating and a little painful! On the bright side, just quietly, I did kind of enjoy walking around in scrubs and a stethoscope around my neck.
I knew right from the age of 16 that I wanted to be involved in musculoskeletal sports medicine, so as a student and as a junior post-grad I also worked and volunteered for a College Football squad and several rugby teams, working with a variety of physiotherapists, chiropractors, team doctors and strength coaches and watching and learning from different professions. I couldn’t learn fast enough! However, I did become more interested in what was going on in the gym rather than what was going on in my clinic….
To make a long story short, in 2006 I found myself no less than 14,000km away from home having moved to Sydney, Australia. I started work as a full time trainer and became obsessed with muscle, biomechanics, soft tissue, the human body, and how to make someone bigger, leaner, stronger and faster. I started with myself. I was fit and healthy but skinny-ish!
I learned from all the best people in the industry at the time and spent thousands of dollars on textbooks, courses, mentors and trainers. Everything I learned, I tried on myself. I went back to University in Sydney to study post-grad Exercise and Sport Science. I read books on business, nutrition, psychology, strength & conditioning, bodybuilding, communication, anatomy and manual therapies, health, science, fitness, supplements, biochemistry, functional medicine and even spiritual and metaphysical texts.
I would not consider myself a spiritual person. In fact, quite the opposite – I love science! However, I definitely believe that science doesn’t have all the answers. I think it is important for all trainers and clinicians to have an awareness of things outside of the science-realm. Even if we don’t use it directly in our own practice, we should know who to refer to if we can’t fix a problem. Every one of us is made up of physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual components. I refer out if I identify that someone needs help with the mental/emotional or spiritual. I like working on and improving the physical!
I am not particularly sympathetic and don’t have the patience nor desire to work on anything but the physical! I am thankful to have spent 3 years learning a little from all facets of the fitness industry. I realized there were two main areas that were to become the focus of my profession:
1) Physical Therapy (Manual therapies & A.R.T)
2) Strength and Conditioning.
I now combine the two working at my gym Platinum Extreme in North Sydney.
Platinum is an MMA training facility with a fully equipped weights room and two large training studios. As the S&C manager, I am also responsible for up-skilling trainers, managing the day-to-day running of the training team, dealing with equipment issues, assisting the marketing and sales team, and bringing on new trainers as the club grows.
Aside from that, I keep myself busy by writing for Men,s Fitness and Shape magazines, working on my blog, training clients, writing programs, reading and learning, training MMA & weights, competing as a fitness model, and lecturing for FMA Strength Training.
There is quite a bit of a grey area in the fitness industry between end-stage rehab and advanced methods in S&C. I like the FMA Strength Training Certification Program as we cover both of these and “bridge the gap” in order to bring out a new breed of trainer. I am very lucky that I have worked in both ends of the spectrum and learned a lot from so many coaches and therapists.
One thing I have established over the years is that no one person has all the answers. The more I learn the less I know, or, that is certainly what it feels like at times! There is so much mixed information out there in the fitness industry, no wonder trainers get confused and fall into just one method of thinking or feel too overwhelmed to change their current practice.
My advice would be – if what your doing is working – that’s great! Share it with the world! If your methods are not producing continuous results and progressions, something needs to change. After all, Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”.
Get out there, talk to fellow coaches, and try new things. PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH – it will be the most invaluable experience you will ever gain!
2. Rachel, take a deep breath! Okay, next question. Why do most people fail to achieve results in the gym?
I feel there is just ONE main reason: a lack of unplanned day-to-day workouts and long-term goal setting. This often leads to resistance to a change in lifestyle or current habits and also boredom and frustration from not seeing results for the perceived effort being spent.
I get all my clients to develop an emotional attachment to their goal. For example, one of our MMA coaches and fighters at Platinum has a title fight coming up in 2 months time. He has a photo-shopped an image of himself already wearing the belt which sits above his desk. He wants it SO badly it is all he can talk about!
I have another female client who desperately wants to get back into her size 4 (US) jeans. I made her take a picture of them and send it to me. I pull it out every time she says “no more.” Needless to say, I always get more out of her.
I am I big believer in visualization. I use it myself to help me get back into a diet routine if I have a show to prepare for after a long lay off. The first week is the hardest, and after that I get super excited to wake up every morning and say hello to my abs becoming more visible!
I believe periodization also to be the key to adherence to training by preventing overtraining and ensuring continual development. Every third week of training the volume is reduced to 60%. Mentally the reduction is good too, especially if you’re training twice a day. I write client programs 3-4 months in advance. This serves two purposes – it gets the clients excited about where their training is heading and it helps me control the volume and intensity throughout the training period or taper off and peak for specific events.
3. Very interesting. Switching gears, what exercises should we be doing for best results?
It depends what the client or athlete is training for and what their needs are in terms of hypertrophy, strength, speed, power or endurance. For your weekend warrior or gym rat that wants to be strong and look good on the beach, I mix compound lifts and isolation work into a program. I am a big fan of both heavy lifting and also getting a “pump”! It keeps training fun too!
Women need to quit training like gerbils on the treadmill and lift some heavy shit! – There you go, I said it!
Here are a few of my training videos. I am currently putting a series of videos together called “This is How I Train” which was inspired by Kat Eden of Woman Incredible.
4. Awesome Rachel. If you can hip thrust 4 plates then you know you have my approval. Your glutes are looking amazing. What did you do to build up your backside?
HAHA! Thank you! They are pretty shapely now! I have the insatiable desire to push my physical limits, and perhaps star in the next Flo’Rida music video or Nike Ad! Just kidding!
I feel it is very important for us chicks to have curves, but I want killer curves, and I want them to be hard curves, and in all the right places. I am on a tunnel-vision mission to get an awesome C-Shaped ass!
I use a variety of squats, deadlifts, good mornings, pull throughs, split squat and lunge variations, modified step ups, hip thrust and glute bridge variations, bent over rows, glute ham raises (more hamstring), and a lot of back extensions! As you can imagine, I use a variety of movement planes and loading parameters,
5. Many women fear getting too big from lifting. Please address this.
Ladies – listen up!! While cardio is great for your heart, it will not change the shape of your body. Cardio training should be done outside in fresh air in a park or beach if you wish to walk and talk. In the gym, use your time productively and LIFT WEIGHTS for killer curves, stronger bones, elevated metabolism, and overall general health. It is very hard for us girls to put on a decent amount of muscle. I have never met a chick that is lean and genuinely thinks her quads are too big. Honestly, you need to drop fat, not worry about gaining muscle!
As a general rule, your average lady should lift 3-4x/week and do a form of conditioning (where they sweat hard and can’t talk) 2-3x/week. This includes boxing or Muay Thai, long brisk walks (outdoors only), strongman training, circuit training, dancing, or whatever they enjoy doing. That is the most important thing. Exercise must be enjoyable. Look how much fun the weights room can be!
As much as I hate to admit it, as we are in an obesity epidemic, so how can I knock Zumba if it gets people moving?! For the record, I have never been to a class, nor will I ever be seen in one!! Instead you will find me in the weights room or the in the cage……
6. How does being a physio change the way you design programs?
I certainly use a range of rehab/prehab exercises and mobility/activation drills at set times and ONLY WHEN NECESSARY. Usually these times are at the start of a client’s training to teach movements or create a mind-muscle connection, to strengthen specific areas after an injury, or if I have identified areas of potential weakness having watched the client train. I like to “dot the I’s and cross the T’s” and get someone pain free, functional, and strong. Having said that, one of my pet-peaves is “babying” clients. It is important to tie in heavy strength work while improving structural balance, especially while working with athletes. That is, if their sport requires it.
For example, I will still use heavy rack pulls while working on hip or talocrural mobility to progress to a full deadlift. I think this would be the case for any good strength coach. The small difference is that I can treat an issue on the spot using A.R.T, dry needing, mobilizations, or other hands-on techniques. Nevertheless, I still always refer out if necessary.
7. So I gotta bring this up, my favorite quote from you is, ”Anything over 5 reps is cardio.” Please elaborate
Yes and I still stand by this 100%, I guess it has almost become my motto, even though I say it tongue in cheek! It loosely summarizes my methods of training. I have absolutely nothing against reps above 5. In fact, I use anything up to 25-50 reps in programming if I am looking to really hammer a muscle group.
Of course for hypertrophy, generally speaking, an 8-12 rep range is ideal, but it does depend on the genetics of the athlete and tempo used. Some athletes put on size with 5 reps, some at 15+ reps.
“Anything over 5 reps is cardio” stems from a string of events over the past 18 months, where people have told me how much “strength work” they do with 8-15 reps.
For sure, if you’re a beginner, you will gain limit strength at those repetitions, as you also would if you modify training variables such as tempo, grip, angles, rest periods, etc. Eventually, if strength is your goal, you will plateau. No one ever got ridiculously strong using 15 reps. Please enlighten me if I am incorrect and I shall withdraw that blanket statement!
You can do an awesome conditioning circuit with just 8 reps – hence the reason I classify it as “cardio”. Note that I define cardio as any activity which makes you sweat and elevates heart rate. I do not classify treadmill work as cardio. That’s mind-numbing, spirit crushing bullshit! Get outside and walk!!
Take home note: If you are lifting for strength- LIFT HEAVY! If you are lifting for hypertrophy, TRASH the muscle group and FEEL the pump! If you’re training to improve your conditioning/fitness, it doesn’t matter what weight you use just keep doing it til your lungs burn and you feel sick and your mind plays games with you!
These are very general rules. Every person is different, but for me, “Anything over 5 reps is cardio!”
8. Thanks Rachel! Where can readers find out more about you?
I have my website www.rachelguy.com.au and my blog, http://rachelguy.posterous.com, which I will FULLY admit I need to give a little more love to! No excuse; everyone is always busy, I need to manage my time a little more efficiently.
You can also follow me on:
Twitter – http://twitter.com/#!/rachel_guy1