Hi to all the Fitness and Feta fanatics out there!  I am a loyal F and F reader from its inception and one of Athena’s good gym friends, Ashley.


As a disclaimer, I have no formal training in anything fitness related (I am a Speech-Language Pathologist according to my degrees), but I have made fitness a regular part of my life since around 2005.  However, I didn’t get started in my absolute FAVORITE part of fitness, strength training, until about 2008.  That year I was a senior in college at UMass Amherst and looking to take some “fun” classes for credit.  I found a strength training class in the Five-College Consortium at Hampshire College (right up the street) and signed right up! (side note: I also took SCUBA for credit that year – man do I miss being in college!).  In that class I learned about many different strength machines as well as how to properly use free weights, and I have been using them ever since!  More recently (since around April), I decided I really wanted to challenge myself and go for much heavier weights with bigger, full body movements (deadlifts, squats, pull ups, etc).  This is the journey I will be discussing today…

I have never had any personal training before, but I decided that if I was going to lift heavier, I wanted to make sure my form was correct and I wasn’t going to injure myself.  I decided that getting some proper coaching would be worth the money, at least initially, until I got my form down.  I decided to find a Strength and Conditioning Coach rather than a Personal Trainer.  This link gives a pretty good breakdown of one versus the other.  While they are very similar, I decided a Strength and Conditioning Coach would be better for me since I wanted to focus more on strength training, movement patterns, and injury prevention.  I was referred by a friend to Coach Tad Sayce at Sayco Performance, and I have been seeing him once a week since April.  Tad has helped me improve my movement patterns, increase my flexibility, and increase my overall strength.  He has written me programs to follow while at the facility with him as well as programs to follow when I am training without him during the rest of the week.  Whenever I have pain in certain areas or something doesn’t feel right, he helps me figure out what’s causing the problem, fix it, and re-writes my program if necessary.  These are a few of the exercises I’ve been working on consistently with him:


I have done a few variations of deadlifts – trap bar deadlifts, single leg deadlifts, and sumo deadlifts (pictured below).  Deadlifts work a bunch of muscles, but mostly the hamstrings and glutes.  I loooooove deadlifts! They are dangerous because if not done properly, you could hurt your lower back (and probably other areas as well).

Ashley Deadlift

Chin Ups

Usually chin-ups are done with an underhand grip, while pull-ups are done with an overhand grip.  In the picture below, I am doing them with a neutral grip, which is kind of in-between, but chin-ups are generally the easier of the two exercises, so that’s what I am starting with.  Chin-ups are a great upper body workout because they work your biceps, shoulders, back, and core.  Chin-ups have been the bane of my existence for a while because it is an exercise that I simply can’t do unassisted YET.  Strength ability, like anything else, varies widely from person to person and my good friend Addie said to me a few weeks ago “You encouraged me to try doing chin ups, but I can only do a few.”  Well, I have been working my butt off on them since April and I can’t do any yet!  Pictured below, I am using a resistance band, so I will continue working my way to less resistance until I don’t need anything!  You bet your tushy I will brag for a while on Facebook when that happens, complete with picture and video.

Ashley Chin Up


With Tad, I have been working on goblet squats and front squats (pictured below).  Squats are a great full body exercise, but they mainly work the quads.  I had never done front squats before, and I have learned a lot about technique and squat movement from Tad.  In the picture, you’ll see that I have a wider stance and my toes are pointing outwards a bit.  Because of my hip movement patterns, this allows me to get more depth (squat lower).  I also learned that I was leaning a bit too far forward in my squats, so you’ll see in the picture that my back is pretty straight.

Ashley Squat

Push Ups

I had always done push-ups on the ground, but I realized I was “cheating” and not going as far down as I should, so I have been doing incline push ups with Tad to improve my form.  Push-ups are another great upper body exercise because they work your core, chest, back, shoulders, and triceps.  If you elevate your hand placement (as seen in my picture) on a barbell, bench, step, etc, it makes the push-up easier.  Placing your hands on the ground would make it a regular push-up, and elevating your feet would make it harder. Additionally, you can change your hand placement to work different muscles (wider, narrower, etc).

Ashley Pushup

I enjoy strength training because I would rather focus on adding more weight to my barbells than the number on the scale.  Also, there is no better feeling than being the bad-ass chick with all the men in the weight room.

Amber Rogers at GoKaleo.com just did a great 3-part series on Taming the Weight Room if you want more information on how to get started with strength training.  I highly recommend hiring a Personal Trainer or Strength and Conditioning Coach to show you the ropes and proper form, but I understand that’s not financially reasonable for a lot of people.  I would recommend doing some more reading on the exercises you want to start and start with very light weight (or just bodyweight!) until you really get the form down!

Good luck and don’t give up!

Thank you, Ashley, for your guest post!  You know I always love hearing about your new strength training adventures.

Let’s chat – Do you strength train with heavier weight?  Have you ever used a personal trainer or a strength and conditioning coach before?