Interview With Nia Shanks

By May 8, 2010 Interviews

Today’s blogpost is an interview with Nia Shanks. I follow a lot of professionals in the fitness industry and it is my personal belief that Nia writes the best training programs out of any female in the industry. She knows how to get people strong, fit, and lookin’ good. I’ll let Nia introduce herself.

1. Thank you very much for conducting this interview Nia! Please introduce yourself to the readers.

I have been a trainer for six years, I graduated from the University of Louisville, I love lifting heavy stuff, and my passion is helping people achieve their body composition and performance goals by providing them with no non-sense training and nutrition information. I also enjoy playing soccer with my dog, snow boarding, rock climbing, and most things outdoors. Oh, and my star sign is Taurus.

How’s that for an introduction?

2. Which individuals in the strength training industry have had the most influence on the way you train and train others?

Wow. There are many so many people I have followed and learned from over the years. I’ll do my best to narrow it down to a handful of people, but my apologies to the individuals I leave out.

Some of the main people I have studied and learned from over the years are Mike Robertson, Tony Gentilcore, Alwyn Cosgrove, Charles Staley, Eric Cressey, Jason Ferruggia, Chad Waterbury, Dan John . . . just to name a few.

I greatly admire each of those individuals for what they have done in this field. Each person has their own unique ideas and training methodologies and I am thankful they share their knowledge so freely. No two people agree 100% on every topic when it comes to training, and I absolutely love that. Too many people get caught up in thinking that only one way is the best way. If some of the greatest minds in this field don’t agree 100%, there is nothing wrong with that. They have simply discovered what techniques they have put to use that create outstanding results.

3. You are deceptively strong. What are your best lifting achievements in the gym?

“Deceptively strong”, huh? I like that!

• Sumo Deadlift – 305 (give me a few weeks and it will be 315, guaranteed) here’s the video =>


• Chinup – 165 (120 bodyweight + 45 pound plate) here’s the video =>


• Bench Press – 150

• Squat (I’ll reluctantly share this one) – 170 The squat is definitely one of my weakest lifts, but I’m working on it.

I got all of these lifts at a bodyweight of 120 pounds. They’ll do for now, but I want more!

4. Many women initiate a workout regimen with common goal in mind; they want to look better. But women gravitate toward many different training styles…Pilates, Yoga, circuit training, low-intensity long duration cardio, strength training, etc. Which do you believe is best for physique enhancement purposes and why?

Strength training with the goal of getting stronger. I’ve seen it work every time.

This wasn’t something I believed when I first starting training the people that just wanted to lose body fat, but it is something I came to believe deeply in a few years ago.

After constantly training myself and other individuals specifically for fat loss, I decided that it was time for a change. My motivation for training started to wane, and the results were stalling when employing the usual fat loss training techniques.

That’s when I decided to stop focusing on training for fat loss all together. My main priority was getting stronger and my training program revolved around that goal.

That journey led me to building my best physique to date, and I even competed in a Southern Powerlifting Federation push/pull meet. I set the world record for my division with a deadlift of 300 and bench press of 145 at the bodyweight of 122.

Not only did my body composition change for the better, but I loved training again, and I was spending less time working out. It was a win-win situation, so I knew it was time to try things out on my clients.

It was the same thing across the board; motivation for training increased greatly and everyone was getting excellent results.

I’ve been saying it for years now and I’ll keep saying it forever: women should train heavy and get stronger. They will get the body composition changes they desire, and they’ll even gain great confidence when they see what they’re truly capable of achieving in the gym.

5. As you know, most women fear lifting heavy as they believe that it will make them too muscular. Have you found this to be the case in your experience?

Absolutely not. In fact, I have found the complete opposite to be true, as I mentioned above. Over the past few years all of my female clients have been training with the purpose of getting stronger even if their main priority is to lose body fat. This obviously means that they lifted progressively heavier weights.

Even though most of my clientele want to lose body fat, we still put the focus on improving performance in the gym and getting stronger.

And just so no one says the whole “I don’t want to get bulky” complaint, people should know that none of my female clients wanted to gain a lot of muscle mass. In fact, one of my clients competed in Mrs. America competitions. She too trained hard and heavy; and she won first place in several competitions and placed Top 10 at Mrs. USA International along with doing incredibly well at other competitions.

If this woman can lift heavy and still look incredibly feminine, I’m confident the vast majority of women can, and should, do the same.

6. Why are most women unsuccessful with their goals?

Most people make up too many damn excuses, and being a trainer I have heard every single one of them. Other than that, people simply don’t want to put in the work. They would rather swallow a pill or pay hundreds of dollars a month on supplements that ‘”guarantee fantastic results”.

If people would stop buying useless supplements and put that money towards whole, natural, unprocessed foods and start training consistently, then they would be miles ahead of everyone else.

It may not sound sexy, but damnit it works every single time. Eat smart and train hard consistently and you will reach your body composition goals.

Finally, one more thing that causes women (and men) to be unsuccessful with their goals is they make things too complicated. They start crazy diets with insane restrictions and seek other advanced nutrition and workout methods that they simply are not ready for.

People need to master the basics of nutrition (eating natural food) and strength training. I wrote about this a while ago on my website which you can be found HERE.

7. Briefly explain what an effective personal trainer has to offer in terms of screening and assessment, proper progressions, program design, corrective exercise, mechanics, motivation, nutritional advice, accountability, etc.

First of all, I still think a great trainer is not someone that can be found at every gym. I’ve been to lot of gyms: small town gyms and large commercial gyms in big cities. I see the same thing at all of them: a bunch of people who call themselves “trainers” but have their clients performing dangerous and/or worthless exercises.

A knowledgeable trainer, however, will put each client through an individual screening. Some trainers and coaches may be more complex in the assessment, but at the very least the trainer should assess the client’s mobility, flexibility, posture, and search for any muscular imbalances.

I could go on and on about what makes a great trainer, but I’ll short hand it. An effective trainer will design a program based on an individual’s wants and needs. Nutritional guidance might also be provided, but hopefully it’s designed with the client’s lifestyle in mind.

My advice to people who want to hire a trainer is to screen them yourself. Just because they have a certification does not mean they know what they’re doing. Ask lots of questions and get references from people they have helped.

8. Where can my readers go if they want to start following you and reading more of your work?

They can check out my blog at Thanks, Bret!

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