Tammy’s Terrific Transformation

Over the past couple of years, I’ve posted several guest blogs from Get Glutes members Tammy(Mariah, Kristen, Emily, Shelley), but today’s is extra special to me as it’s from Tammy, who I feel is the O.G.G. (original get glutester). Tammy was the first member on Get Glutes who really started killing it, and everyone fell in love with her positivity and enthusiasm. She was working hard on improving her form, setting PRs week in and week out, sharing experiences and giving advice to fellow members, and being encouraging and supportive to everyone. Her attitude was contagious, and she inspired others to do better. Here are 6 questions I asked Tammy:

1. Thank you for agreeing to do this interview Tammy! You are a Get Glutes rockstar, so it’s about time I featured you on the blog. I want to discuss the transformations you’ve gone through during your time with Get Glutes. First let’s discuss the transformation you’ve undergone with regards to your attitude toward cardio and strength training. How has this changed over the past couple of years?

Hey Bret!  I appreciate you letting me share my journey.  Five years ago I was doing an hour of weight training and an hour of cardio 5 to 6 days a week and let me tell you I was working hard.  I stayed thin but I couldn’t build muscle.  I was tired and my muscles and joints ached nonstop.  I tried body building programs from fitness magazines and I tried some of the Beachbody video programs (P90X, Insanity which caused a chronic lower back injury, and Body Beast which I gained a lot of upper body strength but I loss strength in my legs during the program).  I always had enjoyed doing weights more than cardio but I thought I needed the cardio to stay lean and I stayed on this course for a couple of years before starting Get Glutes in 2013.

When I first came across your name I was totally intrigued with how you trained women.  I watched video after video of these lean ladies lifting a ton of weight and it gave me goose bumps!   I watched them do over 300 pounds on the hip thrust and I had no idea how they were doing it.  I could barely get 20 body weight hip thrusts before my glutes were on fire and so I couldn’t imagine adding weight. I didn’t think I would ever be able to lift like they were but I wanted to give it a try.   Shortly after that,  you started Get Glutes and I joined immediately.  I was nervous about going into the “big boy” side of the gym but I couldn’t wait to get started.  It was exciting and scary but I’m so glad I gave it a chance.

After starting the program I felt like I got a 50% off workout coupon…I was working out for about an hour 3 to 4 days a week (strength training only) as opposed to 2 hours 5 to 6 days each week.  I started seeing results by the end of the first month, my lower back issues cleared up for the first time in over 2 years, and my joints no longer hurt!!!  Within the first six weeks I went from doing body weight hip thrusts to doing 225 pounds for reps.  My strength gains totally blew my mind and needless to say I’ve been hooked ever since.

2.  Tell me some of the nuances associated with being a strong woman that you’ve experienced in your gym. 

We’ll just two years ago the hip thrust hadn’t hit east Tennessee yet so when I started doing it I got a lot of attention and as I added more weight to the bar I got even more attention.  I have to admit that it was a little creepy to have guys that I didn’t know standing over me as I hip thrust.  It was obvious they were only curious because they didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing but it was still a little creepy.   I can’t tell you how many times I heard “Is that an ab exercise?”, “You’re going to KILL your back!”, “Did you find that in a girly magazine? It’s never going to work.  You need to stop reading that crap.”  I heard all kinds of crazy things from these people that I had never talked with before but I ignored them and just kept doing it and kept getting stronger and stronger at it.  When I started hip thrusting 2.5 times and up to 3 times my body weight it turned into fascination that a lady my size could lift that much.  The amount I was lifting was still blowing my mind but it had started blowing other folks’ minds, too.  The somewhat negative comments turned into, “how can somebody your size lift that much???”.   Great coaches, great programming, and dedication on my part.  That’s how.

I was doing band hip thrusts this week when a guy suggested that I try them with a a barbell across my lap.  The guy next to me chuckled and said, “She’s the queen of hip thrusting.  She’s been doing it for quite a while.”.  Nice compliment from the guy who told me to quit doing exercises from those girly magazines. :-)

3. Tammy, did you change up your nutrition or keep it similar?

I’ve been eating intuitively for a few years now.  I’m in my mid-40’s and I want to enjoy life which means enjoying food and the social occasions that go along with it.  I’m also a mom of two boys and I think it’s important for them to see me eat foods that many lifters feel are off limits.  I eat pizza and hamburgers with them every week.  I think it’s more about portion control instead of having food (or food groups) that are off limits and this is what I want my boys to learn.  I’m their role model and it’s not healthy if they see me freaking out over what I ate or how much I ate.   Having said that, I do realize that my diet has impeded my progress but that was something I was okay with.  I would go absolutely crazy if I counted calories, macros, etc.  I would rather be my size and shape than be on a miserable diet so that I could be a little bit leaner.

This was after 5 months of Get Glutes. At 5'3", Tammy had lost 4 lbs which brought her to 110 lbs.

This was after 5 months of Get Glutes. At 5’3″, Tammy had lost 4 lbs which brought her to 110 lbs. Pretty impressive for a 42 year old (she’s 44 now).

4. Okay, now let’s discuss the mental transformation you’ve experienced along the way.

When I started Get Glutes I just wanted to lift heavy.  I wasn’t really thinking about the physical changes that would follow and a mental transformation associated with lifting had never even crossed my mind.  I remember during the first couple of weeks of Get Glutes I used a preset barbell for glute bridges and hip thrusts.  I was repping out like crazy on it because it was too light.  So after I finished a very high rep set, I sat on the floor thinking that it was ridiculous that I was using the preset bar because I KNEW it was too light.  I glanced over at the other side of the gym where the big 45 pound bars were.   I thought if I was going to do this program and succeed at it then I was going to have go over to where all of the guys worked out to use a bar and plates.  My mind was racing with the fact that I was going to have to figure out how to set it all up, how much weight to put on the bar and still be able to lift it, and of course, I was imagining all of those guys watching me–whether they actually noticed me doing it or not really didn’t enter my mind.  I sat there a few minutes longer and decided that I would have to suck it up and just do it…first thing tomorrow morning.

The next morning I got to the gym very early and went to set up my bar with weights for the hip thrust.  I was so scared!!! Which is funny because now I know it’s really not a big deal.   Anyway, I used 25 pound plates and set it up at the END of a bench–not the side.  I dead lifted it up, sat down on the END of the bench, and then scooted down to the floor.  The set was easy peasy so I was super happy about that then it came time to get off the floor.  The plates weren’t big enough to sit directly on the floor so I the bar was laying across my lap and I was sitting at the END of the bench so I couldn’t use my elbows to help me get back up on the bench.  Essentially, I was stuck.  Hello!  I just survived doing my first real set of barbell hip thrusts and now I’m STUCK????  You have to be kidding me.   I wiggled around until I got out from underneath it. It wasn’t pretty or easy to be honest and I was mortified.  Then I hear this guy in his nice Southern drawl say, “Next time you get stuck under a bar just yell at me and I’ll come save you.”  What????  Why didn’t you save me the first time????  You sat there and watched me squirm around and didn’t offer to lift it off my lap???  But being the nice Southern girl that I am, I politely thanked him then immediately changed to the big boy plates so that I could slide under the bar without needing to be “saved”.   And yeah, that set was easy peasy, too.  I was much stronger than I knew!

So, what’s my point?  It’s okay to be scared but you can’t let it hold you back.  Everybody has a “first time” in the gym.  Mine just happens to be a funny story and when I look back on those memories I barely recognize the girl I was.  Each new exercise that I “conquered”, each additional plate that I put on the bar, each new workout gave me a huge feeling of empowerment that has carried over to other facets of my life.  My husband jokingly asks what happened to the mild and meek girl that I had always been.  Well, she found her true self after learning to lift heavy.  I’m confident and happy and maybe at times I’m a little more than he can handle.  It’s not a bad problem for him to have really. :-)

5. How has the Get Glutes forum helped you in achieving better results? 

The forum really makes Get Glutes.  The members have access to you and Kellie every day.  We can send in form checks or ask questions and you both will personally get back to us within a few hours usually.  The videos of each exercise gives us the normal variation, the regressions in case we’re not strong enough, and progressions for the more advanced lifters but the forum gives us a chance to interact with you and Kellie so it’s like having our own personal trainer.  I’m thankful for all of those times you pushed me so much higher than I ever thought I could reach.  I would laugh and think my new goals you had set for me were totally crazy but after a day or two I would totally buy into it and believe that I could reach those goals.  I may not have the biggest glutes or the best glutes but I have some damn strong glutes and I’m proud of that!

The other unique thing about Get Glutes is that you get to interact with the other girls who are doing the same program as you. I loved the friends that I have made on there.  We have shared many laughs, cheered one another on, gave comfort on those days that didn’t go so well, and have helped the newbies learn the ropes.  I have been on many exercise forums but this is the first that is always a positive and supportive group .

6. Fantastic Tammy! Last question, what are your top five tips for women who are new to fitness and are looking to improve upon their physiques? 

Set short-term and long-term goals.  A short-term goal would be something you want to accomplish by the end of the month.   A long-term goal would be a weight PR you would like to hit in 3 months.  Pick out a particular exercise and set a PR goal for that exercise.  Hip thrusts and back extensions/45 degree hypers were my favorites and so I was constantly pushing the envelope on those.  It makes it fun but it also keeps me focused on doing more.

Progressive Overload—Bret has a great article on this.  Read it.  Read it again.  (HERE is the link). Then read it one more time.  Progressive overload is where it’s at.  Record your workouts each and every time!  I know that sounds so nerdy but it’s important to track your weights so you can effectively use progressive overload.

In Get Glutes we use a variety of rep ranges— we might do sets of 5, 8, 20, 30, or even 100 and we always use heavy weights even with those high rep sets.  Pay attention to what your body responds to and alter your program accordingly.  My body loves high rep stuff although my mind isn’t always in agreement.  So I might do heavy sets of deadlifts (sets of 5 reps) one day but the other two days I would do sets of 20 to 30.   Not everybody will respond the same so you need to figure out what works for you.

If an exercise hurts then find a different variation.  This is one of the most important things that I learned from Bret.  I used to think that I was cheating if I didn’t do a workout as written but he proved me wrong.  There’s a lot of good exercises out there to choose from.

Take a video of your form.  I can’t tell you how different you *think* you look versus how you actually look doing an exercise.  It was one of the most humbling things that I have ever done but it made a huge difference in my lifting.

Thanks again Bret for giving me this opportunity to talk about my experience with Get Glutes.

Here are some numbers you asked for previously which I didn’t include in the interview:

Hip Thrusts:

Month 1 Started at BW 3×20

6 Weeks 3×5 225 pounds

14 Weeks 3×10 225 pounds  “The Official Hip Thrust Club”

Month 5 330 pounds…3 times my body weight!!!

Month 7  225×25; 295×8

45 Degree Hypers

Month 2 Started with body weight

Month 5 3×20 65 pounds

Month 6 3×6 90 pounds (I weighed 110 at the time :-))

In November 2014 I decided to increase my protein and change my training to focus a little more on high reps for glutes and hamstrings because they responded well to that in the past and high volume for my quads because of my chronic lower back and hip flexor issues.  I did lots and lots of sets of low box squats and goblet squats since they didn’t both either my back or hip flexor.  I now have very prominent hamstrings and great separation between my hamstrings and quads.  Although my quads are still lagging, my legs look the best that they ever have and for being 44 I couldn’t be happier.  I recently added in conditioning for the first time in over 2 years.  I’m wanting to get a little bit leaner without having to alter my diet.  We’ll see how it goes :-)

Here are some progress pics… The last 3 pics in the line are from Month 1 GG in March 2013, 1 year GG, and 2 years GG.   There’s not a huge difference in the pics themselves but there is a huge difference in the density of my muscles in person.  This is one time that pictures really don’t tell the whole story in my opinion.  A few days ago a guy at the gym told me he bet all of the ladies at the beach were hating on me.  He said I had put in a lot of hard work and it had paid off.  It was a nice random compliment from one of the guys who used to pick on me for doing “those crazy exercises”.  Another guy saw me taking a video for a form check one day and he asked what I was doing.  After I explained he said, “oh, I check your form every day and I can assure you it’s excellent”–a little cheesy but he’s old and cute so I’m ok with it :-)

Tam

Click on the pic to enlarge the image. These changes were solely due to gaining strength via smart training, as she quit doing conditioning/cardio and kept her diet constant.

What’s New in BC’s World?

Hi Fitness Friends! Time for a quick update.

1. Backed Up and Overloaded!

My sincere apologies to all my colleagues, I can’t keep up with social media and email responses as I’m swamped working on my PhD thesis. I have 6 weeks to complete it and Murphy’s Law has crept its way into my world – everything that can go wrong has gone wrong. EVERYTHING! I’ve been putting out nonstop fires for the past month and have lost at least a year off of my life due to stress. Please be understanding, soon it’ll be submitted and I’ll be able to breathe again. And please don’t take anything personal; lately I don’t even have time to respond to some of my best friends in the field. I have to prioritize this or it won’t get completed.

When I’m quiet and you’re not hearing from me, it means I’m working harder than ever to bring you the bestest information possible.

2. My Physique: He’s Baaaaack!

In the meantime, this happened. I’ve never worked so hard at eating properly in my entire life.

2015-06-12 00.00.00

I got fat for a while due to focusing solely on setting PRs and gaining strength (I warned about this years ago here in The Pitfalls of Progressive Overload, and it’s a consistent theme in my life). One day (2.5 months ago) I looked in the mirror and said, “enough is enough.” I lost 22 lbs in 10 weeks, going from 246 lbs to 224 lbs. The training didn’t change; it was mostly all diet. I’ll write up a blogpost with greater detail in a few days.

And just to beat all the haters to the punch: I don’t think I look that good, I lift with dudes that are far stronger, more muscular, and leaner than me, and I realize that I look like I don’t even lift. So no  need to point that out.

Nevertheless, I’m happy to see that I’ve made progress over the past few years. I’m almost 39 years old and I’m not drifting quietly into middle-agedness. I’m going to jump kick 40 right in the freakin’ face! Check out this pic (which has been my Facebook profile pic for the past few years) compared to last week’s pic:

IMG_1305

I shed my 1990’s shorts. And I’m more jacked, more tan, and more strong, which brings me to my next point.

3. PR’s: Deadlift 405 lbs x 20 reps and Chin Up bw x 15 reps

I posted these videos on my social media channels, but in case you haven’t seen them, last week I deadlifted 405 x 20 and busted out 15 chin ups. Apparently losing weight is great for deadlifts and chin ups but not so good for bench press and squats.

4. One Study Accepted and a Few More in the Pipeline!

I haven’t announced this yet, but I just got my first original research accepted for publishing. This means just as much to me as my patent (for the Hip Thruster) and my first published book (Strong Curves). I’ve been a contributing author to 24 peer-reviewed published articles so far, but so far these have all been review papers, technical notes, special topics, and papers where I was a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th author that wasn’t the primary researcher. Contributing your own original research and injecting it into the literature has a special feeling to science geeks like me which cannot be described.

The article should be published ahead of print in the next few months, and as soon as it goes up I’ll post the link on social media and write a blogpost about the findings. It compares back squats to hip thrusts in lower body EMG activity and examines resistance trained women.

5. Pics for Squat Study

Another paper I’m in the process of getting published examines the lower body EMG activity between full back squats, full front squats, and parallel back squats. I can’t wait to report the data to you. One of the peer-reviewers took issue with the fact that the subjects in the study are women, but the pictures I used in the write-up were of me (a man), so I had my niece Gaby help me with the pictures. I had to laugh – I wonder if the reviewer will be satisfied or have a heart attack with the scantily clad photos. At least he can’t complain about squat depth! When the Glute Guy publishes a study, these are the types of pics you can expect LOL.

pic

6. Case Study on Identical Twins

I’m really excited that my final study for my PhD will involve looking at a pair of identical female twins. One will doing just squats and the other will doing just hip thrusts. Technically it’s not a case study; it’s a single subject design using two subjects. But anyway, I’m going to use ultrasound to see if the acute EMG activity data accurately reflects changes in muscle thickness longitudinally. Knowing how much genetics impacts results, I’m actually just as interested in learning this data as a fully powered training study.

7. Get Glutes Sale

In case you didn’t know yet, we’re having a sale this week on lifetime subscriptions to Get Glutes. This will be the last time Kellie and I offer the discount, which is currently set at $149 (a steal in my opinion). See HERE for more info.

GG

8. Hip Thruster Can Take a Beating

In case you haven’t seen this yet, check out THIS video showing the hip thruster easily withstand 1,000 kgs (2,205 lbs) of loading. You can trust that the hip thruster is built to last my friends!

hip thruster

Okay that’s all folks, catch you later!

Degeneration? More Like Normal Aging

It is absolutely imperative that we fitness industry folks understand that degeneration is a normal aspect of aging. If we told everyone with degeneration not to exercise, everyone would suddenly be sedentary, and a host of greater problems would rapidly arise.

old

If you don’t have some signs of degeneration, then you’d be “abnormal.” I’m fairly certain that if all of the people reading this post were to obtain full body MRI’s, evidence of degeneration would show up in multiple regions of the body in 100% of individuals. Want some evidence?

First, let’s talk about spinal intervertebral discs. Around 20% of teens have mild disc degeneration, and 60% of discs of 70-year olds are severely degenerated (Urban and Roberts 2003). If you’re looking at the L5-S1 disc of 70-year olds, over 90% of them will be degenerated (Hagiwara et al. 2014).

Looking at people with zero back pain, 64% have abnormal discs (52% had bulges, 27% protrusions, and 1% extrusions), with 38% of the individuals having abnormalities in multiple discs (Jensen et al. 1994). According to a systematic literature review by Brinjinkji et al. 2015, “The prevalence of disk degeneration in asymptomatic individuals increased from 37% of 20-year-old individuals to 96% of 80-year-old individuals. Disk bulge prevalence increased from 30% of those 20 years of age to 84% of those 80 years of age. Disk protrusion prevalence increased from 29% of those 20 years of age to 43% of those 80 years of age. The prevalence of annular fissure increased from 19% of those 20 years of age to 29% of those 80 years of age.”

When looking at arthritis, around 7% of 18-44 year olds have it, and in persons 65 or older, this percentage rises to 50% (2010-2012 NHIS).

If we hone in on the knee joints, 20% of persons under 65 have knee osteoarthrits, whereas 50% of persons over 65 have it (Bhatia et al. 2013). Even 50-90% of athletes with no pain have serious knee abnormalities under MRI (Brunner et al. 1989, Mayor & Helms 2002, Kaplan et al. 2005, Walczak et al. 2008). Regarding meniscal tears, here’s what Dr. Felson had to say: “The rule is, as you get older, you will get a meniscal tear. It’s a function of aging and disease. If you are a 60-year-old guy, the chance that you have a meniscal tear is 40 percent.”

At the hip, 100% of persons older than 60 have acetabular rim degeneration (Leunig et al. 2003), and 63% of gymnasts have signs of ischiofemoral impingment (Papavasiliou et al. 2014).

If we examine the shoulder joints, we’ll see that 31% of persons older than 60 have shoulder osteoarthritis (Chillemi & Franceschini 2013). In 40-70 year old males, 96% have abnormal ultrasound scans – ranging from subacrominal-subdeltoid bursa thickening (78%), acromioclavicular joint osteoarthritis (65%), suprispinatus tendinosis (39%), subscapularis tendinosis (25%), partial-thickness tear of the bursal side of the supraspinatus tendon (22%), posterior glenoid labral abnormality (14%), amongst other abnormalities (Girish et al. 2011). Dr. Andrews found that in healthy professional baseball pitchers, 90% had abnormal shoulder cartilage and 87% had abnormal rotator cuff tendons. For this reason, he stated, “If you want an excuse to operate on a pitcher’s throwing shoulder, just get an MRI.”

As you can see, degeneration is not abnormal – it’s a normal process of aging and it shouldn’t be thought of as a reason to stop moving and exercising. Every single one of us have degeneration, yet we still find ways to exercise. Strength & conditioning and sports medicine professionals must embrace this phenomenon and provide recommendations as to how individuals with varying signs of aged joints can continue being active, employ resistance training, and participate in sports in the most optimal manner possible. This requires consideration of total health & wellness, since sedentarism can lead to weight gain and obesity, metabolic syndrome, frailty and sarcopenia,  and depression (for a comprehensive list of reasons why exercise is beneficial, click HERE).

Focusing on people’s degeneration can provide a nocebo effect which is counterproductive and can lead to pain or increased pain. Instead, we should focus on what people can do (not what they can’t), and augment the way we talk about “degeneration” by assuring people that it’s normal and part of getting older. Activities and exercises can be modified so that individuals can well-tolerate them. Knowledge of proper progressions and regressions (I refer to this as, “Movement Pattern Continuums“) in resistance training goes a long way in keeping people strong and healthy.

Props to The Sports Physio Adam Meakins for providing me with the idea for this blogpost.

 

Pull Ups Made Easier and Better

Bret’s intro: Here’s a guest article from Max Shank. Max emailed me the other day because he read a pull-up article I wrote and the thought I’d appreciate the video tip embedded in this article. I watched the video and agreed with the rationale, but then I taught a couple of my clients the technique, and two of them set immediate PRs that day. My client Camille could only get one pull up, and after two weeks of employing the technique that Max described, she’s now busting out 3 pull ups like a boss. I think she’ll be doing 5 within another month. I hope you read the article, watch Max’s videos, and test out the ideas. 

Pull Ups Made Easier and Better
By Max Shank

I’ve gone back and forth with many different methods in terms of teaching, cuing, and progressing someone to a pull-up. I fortunately have the luxury of owning a gym where I have a large sample of guinea pigs  willing gym members at varying stages of pull ups or chin ups.

There is statistically a clear and obvious separation between men and women, and where they struggle during the pull-up.

In general, Women struggle at the start to put their scapulae in the right place and keep their shoulders out of their ears.

Men tend to be stronger (and stiffer) in the shoulders which makes the initial pull easier, but owning the top position significantly more difficult. I can think of several people off the top of my head who could do 10 pullups on day 1 but couldn’t hold the top position for more than 1-2 seconds.

It’s all about the joint angles, baby.

When you initiate the pull with your torso perpendicular to the floor, your GH joint is at a disadvantaged position, requiring you to have ridiculously strong, mobile, and coordinated scapular movement to set you up properly to pull. Conversely the strength curve of a horizontal row is just the opposite. The initial movement puts you at the greatest leverage, while the top position (fully contracted) is the most challenging and requires the most strength. This also has to do with leverage and joint position

So in short, we are going to make the initial pull, more like that of a row, which will help recruit the lats, and avoid hyperactive upper traps and ear-shoulder-syndrome.

You can see how to do it here:

Note that the movement is like a closing jackknife. You initiate the movement by opening the joint angle and finish the movement by engaging the abs and strongly closing everything back together. Every video I’ve ever seen of anyone doing a one arm chinup (myself included) follows this basic rhythm of opening and closing.

If your shoulder mobility sucks, you are working against gravity, and the residual tension of your muscles. Think like a band resisted deadlift where the bands make the weight feel like 1000lbs at the top but 400 at the bottom. You might be able to cheat it up there with some momentum, but it ain’t staying there. This is a problem.

Fix it by mobilizing the pecs, shoulders, and thoracic spine so you can own that top position. Then own it with this cool drill here:

In the video I’m using end range isometrics to focus on owning that position using a martial arts belt. As far as mobilization is concerned I like to work in some thoracic bridges to open up the thoracic spine, then afterward address the pecs with some tabletop bridges–though there are a plethora of choices for both of those areas.

Furthermore I should mention that for most people, most of the time, I like to do neutral, supinated, or ring pullups. The reason being is that most people can’t do a palms forward pull-up and have the top position look good or posturally beneficial. I’ll take that extra external rotation any day of the week if I can, provided it doesn’t aggravate the elbows, which is also usually a problem that stems from tight shoulders or thoracic spine.

Still can’t quite get that pull-up yet? Hammer away at some with the assistance of a partner or work those muscles with some horizontal rows until you build up the adequate strength.

Better every day,

-Max

Author Bio 

Max is an author, coach, and owner of Ambition Athletics in Encinitas, CA. He also competes in a wide variety of sports ranging from Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu to Scottish Highland Games.

max

Max Shank

Max’s desire to constantly improve his knowledge and personal skills has led him to be a sought after international presenter of his unique and pragmatic blend of strength, flexibility, health, and overall athleticism. Follow Max at these links:

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