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Fuel Your Strength Episode 427: Your Fitness App Calls it Strength Training, But Is It w Nikki Naab-Levy

Your Fitness App Calls it Strength Training, But Is It? w/ Nikki Naab-Levy

If you are listening to this, there is a good chance you already know that strength is an important part of taking care of your body. So, when we see an App or YouTube-based workout plan that offers strength training, it can be easy to believe that this is the kind of content you should be following. But are you really getting a strength stimulus from your workout? Or is that just what is being marketed to you?

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Key Takeaways

If You Want To Get Serious About Your Programming, You Should:

  1. Meet yourself where you are at without any shame or judgment
  2. Work to understand the nuance of strength training programming and what it really means
  3. Reach out to a coach who understands your goals and how you can reach them safely

Going Behind the Scenes with Nikki Naab-Levy

Nikki Naab-Levy is a strength and nutrition coach who has been involved in multiple arenas in the fitness industry for the last 17 years. She helps women move, build strength, improve mobility, move beyond injury, and find a sustainable approach to nutrition. She is passionate about having the unscripted and messy conversations necessary to help women get stronger and call attention to the problematic marketing in the world of fitness and beyond.

Understanding the Nuance

When using your favorite fitness apps, how do you know that the workouts you are doing are actually focusing on strength? Or if they are the right movements to be doing for your lived experience and goals? 

The truth is, you don’t. That’s why you need to understand the nuance behind the programming so that you can go out into the world and be able to look at your apps from an informed place of strength development. Picking apart the way things are marketed can help you differentiate between what you are actually getting and can help you pick a program that is effective for your specific goals.

It’s Not You, It’s Your Workout

Choosing workouts that are not right for you can make you feel chronically injured, sore, tired, or fed up with not seeing any improvements. This doesn’t mean you aren’t doing it right; it means the training you are doing isn’t right for you. The difference between randomly working out and training means that you can acknowledge your weak factors, understand your lived experience, and engage with a program that gives you the runway for the best possible entry point to your goals. While it is not impossible to achieve these things with an app, it is increasingly risky and tricky to see long-term changes without a program built for you.

How do you interact with fitness apps on a regular basis? Share your thoughts and experiences with me in the comments below.

In This Episode

  • Understanding the difference between strength training programs and other types of workouts like circuit training (11:54)
  • Analyzing the selection of programming available on many apps (31:22)
  • How to create a long-term plan that goes beyond the short-term offers out there (43:45)
  • The importance of repetition and practice when it comes to a successful training program (49:54)
  • Why you can’t put the cart before the horse when it comes to jumping into a program (1:04:12)

Quotes

“We are not hating on the workouts. But we want you to be able to make an informed decision so that if those are your goals, you are able to pick an approach that actually is going to work for you and help you get the results you want without feeling frustrated or feeling like your joints always hurt.” (8:00)

“We know that if you don’t feel awful all the time, and you are able to do high-quality work with appropriate weight and appropriate rest, you will be able to see the results that you want and not be super ridiculously sore.” (41:56)

“How we put things together makes a huge difference. In the short term, but particularly in the long term.” (42:50)

“Programming can be done in a very broad way, or can be made very specific to the individual, and their needs and their interests. But at the same time, there has to be some sort of logic and base.” (54:17)

“Give yourself the tools to be successful! If something is not working for you, you are not a terrible person; you probably just need a different approach or a scaled-down approach, or something needs to be adjusted.” (1:08:44)

Featured on the Show

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Related Episodes

FYS 373: The Problem with Tiny Pink Dumbells with Nikki Naab-Levy

FYS 358: Hypermobility and Strength Training with Nikki Naab-Levy

Your Fitness App Calls it Strength Training, But Is It? w/ Nikki Naab-Levy Transcript

Steph Gaudreau
You get super motivated to work out, so you decide to open up your favorite fitness app and look for something labeled strength since you know that it’s an important part of taking care of your body as you are aging through your 40s and beyond. But is that actually what you’re getting? Are you really getting a strength stimulus from that workout? On this episode, my special guest and I are diving into this question. When you’re using your favorite fitness apps, how do you know that the workouts you’re about to do are really targeting strength, or is the focus something else? And how do you know what to look for in a program if it says it’s targeting strength, if you’re an athletic 40-something woman who loves lifting weights, challenging yourself, and doing hard the Fuel Your Strength podcast is for you. You’ll learn how to eat, train, and recover smarter so you build strength and muscle, have more energy, and perform better in and out of the gym.

Steph Gaudreau
I’m a strength nutrition strategist and weightlifting coach. Steph Gaudreau, the Fuel Your Strength podcast dives into evidence-based strategies for nutrition, training, and recovery and why, once you’re approaching your 40s and beyond, you need to do things a little differently than you did in your 20s. We’re here to challenge the limiting industry narratives about what women can and should do in training and beyond. If that sounds good, hit subscribe on your favorite podcast app, and let’s go.

Steph Gaudreau
Hello and welcome back to the podcast. Thanks so much for joining me today. Remember to hit the subscribe button on your favorite podcast platform. If you’re watching on YouTube, make sure to subscribe there, as well as ring the bell for more notifications. Most people, believe it or not, who listen to the show on the regular are not subscribed yet. So this is something simple and free that you can do to show your love for the podcast. All right, on this episode, I am so excited to welcome back a very special guest, someone who’s been on the podcast a couple of times before, this is Nikki Naab Levy. She’s a very respected colleague of mine and also a friend. We talk to each other pretty much on the daily in our Instagram DM’s. Nikki really specializes in working with clients who have hypermobility, and she’s also a really incredible nutrition coach who is so down to earth and practical in what she does with her clients.

Steph Gaudreau
So Nikki’s been a guest on the podcast before we talked about hypermobility and strength training, and she also talked with me about tiny pink dumbbells. So you can go back and listen to those episodes. I was a guest on her show, talking about the confusion between Pilates and strength training and just how to navigate that whole conversation is, obviously, very layered and nuanced, much like today’s topic, which is all about so many of the strength labeled programs that show up on popular fitness apps. Are they actually really targeting strength development, or are you getting into something else? Are these apps being accurate in what they call the types of workouts that you’re doing? And we think that this conversation was best had on a podcast because it is very layered and very nuanced.

Steph Gaudreau
So dive into this episode with an open mind. You will, by the end, gain some information on how to go out in the world. Look at your apps and think, Huh, am I really getting good strength development from these workouts, or are they targeting something else? How do I know how to navigate that? And if I do want to develop strength, I really want to develop muscle mass, positively impact my bone density, and get the most out of my efforts. What are some alternatives that I have? So this show is, like I said, very nuanced. It’s a little spicy, but our intention at the end of the day is that you are better informed and empowered to make your best decisions before we dive in.

Steph Gaudreau
If you listen to this episode and you’re like, Okay, I am ready to get to work. I want to take my strength, muscle energy, and performance and take it up a notch. I want to take it to that next level. I want to feel like a badass, but at the same time, do it in a way that works with my physiology as an athletic woman over 40, with coaching and community support. Then go ahead and check out Strength, Nutrition Unlocked. This is my group program. We’re going to lay out the framework for you and guide you as you implement and really customize it to all the things that you’re doing, your preferences, your likes, and the places you want to go with it, then go ahead and get on board. You can start your process by submitting an application at StephGaudreau.com. Apply. We would love to hear from you and see you inside the program. Okay, without further ado, let’s jump into this episode with Nikki Naab Levy, what’s going on, Nikki? Welcome back to the podcast.

Nikki Naab-Levy
First, thanks for having me, I’ve been looking forward to this conversation that I feel like we’ve been having for over a year.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, we so for those, those of you that that aren’t in our direct messages, Nikki and I talk pretty much daily about all sorts of things, but particularly things that we see in the fitness industry, things that are ineffective, or, you know, we feel like the industry could do better. And we’ve done a couple of podcasts already together on topics like tiny pink dumbbells. We’ve talked about Pilates and is it strength training, and sort of dug into some of that stuff. So I’m looking forward to this conversation today because we’re going to get into it on this episode. Yes,

Nikki Naab-Levy
I think we have a lot of thoughts, so maybe we should just start by framing where we’re coming from. Do you think about why we’ve chosen this topic in the first place?

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, absolutely. Do you want to kick us off there?

Nikki Naab-Levy
Sure. So I think the long short is that we have both had a lot of conversations with people around because we do talk a lot about why strength training is beneficial and valuable in many contexts of life for many populations, and we’ll have these conversations with people who are coming from an incredibly well-meaning place, but it usually goes to something the extent of, Oh yes, I strength trained that didn’t work for me, or that left me feeling injured, or it made my body feel bad. And then you dig a little deeper, and you find out that the version of what they’re sort of identifying as strength training is oftentimes a peloton program or something that is very similar to Peloton, where you are doing strength like exercises with dumbbells, and depending on your training age, how long you’ve been training, and the type of training you’ve done in your life and how conditioned you were when you started, you may see some of the similar benefits to strength training, at least in the short term.

Nikki Naab-Levy
But long term, these types of group, group fitness follow-along, type classes. They’re not bad. We’re not hating on them. We’re not saying that you shouldn’t do them if you love them, if you love them, you should absolutely do them. But they’re also not strength training. And when you do that type of programming, particularly if you have issues with recovery, if you are sensitive, or if you have a specific goal around building strength or muscle or bone density, it’s not usually the most effective way to go about it. So I know. I’ll let you jump in. Steph, my take on this is that we do not hate on the workouts, but we want you to be able to make an informed decision, so if those are your goals, you are able to pick an approach that actually is going to work for you and help you get the results you want without feeling frustrated or feeling like your joints always hurt.

Steph Gaudreau
I appreciate that too, coming from your perspective, your point of view, because you work a lot with folks who have hypermobility. You yourself have hypermobility, and so we constantly are kind of like, I’m constantly sending clients your way, and folks who have had that experience, I think, from the general population that I’m speaking to, I hear a lot of very similar conversations where it’s like I was, you know, I’m doing strength training, but I’m I’m doing maybe five, six days a week, and it is either I’m having a hard time fitting it all in. I feel like I’m constantly falling behind. And despite, you know, if I can hang on to those five, six days a week. Maybe it works at first, but I’ve hit this plateau. I mean, plateaus are normal, and I think we have to, you know, we want people to adapt and improve. But it’s also like, plateauing once in a while is fine. Like, if we’re in a maintenance phase of lifting, that’s fine.

Steph Gaudreau
We’re not always going to be, you know, shooting for the moon every single month. But when I hear things like six months on 12 months on, I’m sort of not seeing much progress anymore, or I had progress at the beginning, and not anymore. There’s one of two reasons why. If I look at the breadth of the answers that the people that I’m talking to, number one is, you’re making up your own workouts. We could probably do a whole podcast on why you need to outsource, like, take that, take that off your plate. You know, even if you, if you’ve had a lot of lifting experience, just get a plan, you know, either a templated or one that’s written specifically for you if you want to go down that road. But the second reason is, oftentimes people will tell us that they are doing these styles of programs, and so it may not specifically peloton, but oftentimes we’ll see this where it’s some kind of an app that’s kind of, you know, got a big, big production budget behind it, or it’s free YouTube videos that are put out there by certain creators. And. When I ask, well, what does the programming look like? How long are the rest periods?

Steph Gaudreau
Very often we realize that they’re falling into this category. And to your point, you know, we want people to move like, if your goal is just to stay active, you don’t have a lot of goals to build muscle mass or really increase your strength or work on those sorts of things you’re like right now, my priority is just to move my body like that’s where I’m at. We’re very much supportive of that. The bone I think we were going to pick a little bit more in this episode is the way that things are marketed to the consumer is not necessarily reflective of what they’re getting. And then that leads people to, of course, they’re like, hey, I can do this strength training program.

Steph Gaudreau
This is great, you know? And then a couple of months down the road, six months down the road, they’re like, what’s going on here? Why does this not work for me? So I think that’s kind of where I’m coming from, too, just to kind of set the stage for the audience from who I tend to work with, but yeah, I’m, I think we’re going to get into this, and there’s a lot of context and nuance and caveating. Less of them happen in this episode, so just listen through. You know, we’re not here to rain on anyone’s favorite workouts or dis there are we saying dis these days is, can I bring dis back? Like we’re not here to diss on your workouts, but if you do have specific goals, we want you to find something that’s going to be effective for you.

Nikki Naab-Levy
Yeah, exactly. So shall we get into

Steph Gaudreau
We have notes. You have notes.

Nikki Naab-Levy
I do have notes, otherwise I will tangent. So maybe, maybe we should start with sort of delineating what is a circuit training type workout from, like, what is a strength training program? Because I feel like this is one of the most confusing topics for people because they go well, circuit training is strength training, because I did multiple sets of exercises with dumbbells, with rest periods. And this is, I think, where the nuance is really, really important, because the finer details of that description are the difference between what is essentially going to be muscular endurance training and what is actually going to be strength training, for the sake of the things that you and I like to talk about, like strength, bone density, hypertrophy, maybe power that kind of thing.

Steph Gaudreau
I think the tough part for a lot of people is that, and we’re just going to use Peloton in this podcast, as I just said, brand name, just a brand name to refer to, but there are other brand names. It could be a brand name. Workout doesn’t have to be, and you and I have both, just in case anybody thinks we’re talking out of our…here, we actually both signed up for a month of peloton workouts to really go through the programs with a very fine tooth comb. So again, we’re not just kind of talking out of our here, like we did go through and reviewed some stuff, but when we think of circuit training, or we’re looking at apps like this, we see a lot of things that overlap with, like you said, strength training for the purpose of improving our force production, our power or working hypertrophy, which is muscle building.

Steph Gaudreau
So for example, in circuit training, you might very well pick up dumbbells, and these dumbbells could be fairly heavy, or maybe you’re doing even a group fitness or a class style, where you go and it’s mostly circuit training, and you have a lot of different exercises. Sometimes they’re grouped together, and I don’t know, giant sets, sometimes there are tri-sets or things like that. So again, that’s a technique that sometimes will superset or even tri-set and strength training. But where things tend to fall down is kind of where you’ve alluded to rest periods, loading, and things of that nature, volume even, and so this is kind of where people get a little bit lost in the sauce. Because, as you’d expect, you see, oh, I’m going to open my app and like, yeah, I want to do some strength training. So you’re going to open that workout, and all of a sudden you’re Yeah, they’re like, yeah, get your medium dumbbells or and you’re like, Okay, great. This is awesome.

Steph Gaudreau
And so what’s going to happen is, you’re doing, you know, usually it’s a time based, so 45 seconds on, 15 seconds off, or something like that, where you only have a very short period of time to rest before you’re at you’re back at another set of that thing. And just by the nature of how we can load things, I don’t think sometimes we do a good job explaining this, or we assume people understand this. Is, the heavier something is, the fewer reps of that thing that you can do, period like your muscles just will not be able to keep contracting, rep upon rep upon rep upon rep. You’re going to hit a stopping point at some point. And so if the weights are lighter to medium, which typically you’re going to see even in a program that’s sort of using this circuit style of training you’re sometimes doing, you know, 1215, plus reps, the rest is very short, and that is going to build or that’s going to challenge the ability for your muscles to keep contracting for those longer amounts of repetitions, versus something like a heavy, I don’t know, a heavy set of three to five deadlifts, if I try to do another three reps, I’m gonna die like there’s just, I’m not gonna get the weight off the ground. And because it’s so heavy, if it’s truly a heavier type of again, we’re working strength.

Steph Gaudreau
We’re working force production. I have to allow my muscles to rest, to regenerate ATP, to clear any metabolites that could be accumulating. Even if we’re doing a short set, we’re still going to get a little bit of that and be ready for the next set. If I try to do a heavy set of three deadlifts in 15 seconds from when I just stopped, I will die. I will not get the weight off the ground. It’s not gonna happen if it’s truly heavy. So I think that just as a little bit of a to kind of like put a bookmark in this one, or to just kind of tie a little bow on this, the more reps you’re doing with short periods of rest, you cannot lift heavy enough to recruit as much muscle fiber as you would need to challenge your muscles to eventually work on that Max force development, that Truly heavy type of strength training, not that we’re going to do that for every single set of everything we do in a well-rounded strength program, but sometimes it is.

Steph Gaudreau
It is just missing because you’re constantly moving as 15 seconds of rest, and then you’re back at it again, again, again, and then you’ve got 15 different exercises that you’re doing in that or 20 different exercises that you’re doing, and I’ve seen them on YouTube where they’re like, no repeats. So you’re doing literally 15 to 20 different exercises. And when you add up the volume, that’s the number of reps, and time sets that you’re doing. We’re doing hundreds, 300-0400 repetitions. And that volume, I know for your community, especially, I mean, for any human, is going to be hard if we’re loading it well, but for your community, can be really challenging. So can you speak to sort of from your perspective, your community, why the volume piece with these types of muscular endurance or circuit-type training is oftentimes really difficult?

Nikki Naab-Levy
Yes, please. And it’s kind of like you read my mind. Because this is where it gets tricky. So a lot of the people I work with have chronic conditions. They’re hypermobile, they have the history of pain or injury. They’re prone to pain and injury, and there’s a lot of really valid concern around those things. I want to be clear, those concerns are very valid, but a lot of what is sold to us is that doing a heavier weight is quote, unquote dangerous, and we should go for lightweight and high reps, which makes us sometimes feel like we see these circuit type workouts and go, Oh, that’s designed for me. And then we wonder, when we do it, why afterward we feel awful.

Nikki Naab-Levy
Our symptoms are worse, our joints ache, our muscles hurt, and we can’t move for days. Or it like it really does, set off a cascade of like, very negative effects. Part of that goes back to preparedness, to load a sheer amount of volume and how hypermobile bodies, or sensitive bodies, and if you’re not hypermobile, respond to stimuli. So we know, particularly with hypermobile humans, but really, anyone who’s kind of got a sensitive system that it well, while the load or the weight that you pick can influence your level of soreness, the newness or novelty or number of exercises you do, combined with the sheer volume or number of repetitions and sets that you do is far more likely to make you sore, even with a very light-weight, than if you picked a small number of exercises that you did really well with a moderate to heavy weight, which would actually create favorable adaptations to your muscles and your tissues in A way that would actually promote or mitigate against, promote healing, mitigate against injury, all of that kind of stuff instead.

Nikki Naab-Levy
So I think that’s one of the things that’s really interesting here, is that sometimes we’re sold that doing higher repetition of lots of different things with lightweight is safer. I’m doing safer in air quotes, when really, if we actually. Actually, we did a certain amount of repetition of a couple of exercises that we gradually increased the load of over time. Hint, hint, that’s what a strength training program does. We’d be better off. And the other thing I want to just add in there is a lot of the conversations I have in my community is they go, Well, I can’t lift heavy. That’s right, I know I’m going to hurt myself, or I don’t feel safe doing that. So because I know when I go to do these classes or I try these things, I try to just lift the heaviest weight I can that day, and it feels terrible.

Nikki Naab-Levy
That’s part of what is missing from sort of these peloton style programs and these circuit workouts is that if your strength training program is set up in a way that makes sense, it should slowly and gradually, kind of teach you how to master a technique and increase the weight over time with appropriate amounts of time where we de-load and we offset stress and we back things off before we start to ramp things back up again. And that is actually what prepares your tissues, and your nervous system and your body to lift heavy without feeling awful all the time. But that’s not exist when we’re just doing these circuit workouts that often have a series of random exercises that are just hammering the same muscle group over and over and over again with kind of random weights. It’s just not the smartest way to train. So if you have a sensitive body, that programming, I think arguably, actually matters more in those situations. I don’t know what your thoughts are there.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, I completely agree. And how I see that play out. And of course, I would wager you know there’s going to be a certain degree of clientele that in my community that have hypermobility who are doing regular types of strength training programs. Maybe they’re not doing something that is from a person like you, which, by the way, go work with Nikki, because you’re really smart and you’re great at understanding where people are coming from. How I tend to see it is, even if somebody is lifted, let’s say, in the past, they took a break and they’re coming back, and I totally get this like, they’re like, Okay, I already have this app, or I’m going to get this less expensive entry point. I’m going to, you know, the $7 the $10, $15 a month type of thing. It’s got a million different programs to choose from.

Steph Gaudreau
And almost without fail, you start off with such high-rep work. It’s the exact opposite of what you and I tend to do, and you even more so I know that you take the volume even further down than I would typically for somebody starting out. But what happens is, because maybe you haven’t trained in a while, so you’ve got just novelty for the sake of you haven’t done these exercises in a while, and you have the volume, which is, again, as we said, reps, time sets, and your thought process at first is like, it’s lighter, therefore it will be safer for me to get started. Maybe it’s even body weight, but I see devastating effects from high volume, high volume body weight squats, even, you know, push-ups, those sorts of things. And so when somebody is starting out, they’re coming back into lifting.

Steph Gaudreau
They’re kind of, they need to ease back in oftentimes, you know if we’re going online, we’re finding something on YouTube. Same thing. It’s like reps on reps on reps. It’s so many reps, and that is going to make you super sore, super sore. You’re going to be so sore. And again, sometimes we think, Oh, the soreness means it’s working. I did a good job. And so we continue to seek that out, or in some cases, it’s made us so sore that doing daily life is miserable. If you’ve ever given yourself real DOMs, you know, everything hurts. It’s like REM it’s like everything hurts and you want to die. You know, everybody hurts. I don’t know if listeners will know that reference. But you know it’s like, you go to sit down on the toilet and you’re like, toilet, trust, fall, hope it’s down there because I just can’t lower myself down.

Steph Gaudreau
One time I gave myself Dom’s so bad, and I was getting on an airplane the next day, and guess what I couldn’t do with my little T Rex arms. I couldn’t lift the bag up overhead because my arms were so trashed. And so, you know, sometimes we think, Well, that just means it’s good. It means it’s working, so we’re going to go back and do it again and again and again. Some people it will be enough to turn them off to lifting totally they’re like, I’m not doing that again. Like, I ended up so sore. I don’t want to do that. That’s terrible. But sometimes it ends up being that we chase that sensation, thinking that means we did it right? Or, you know, it’s making us completely sweaty and out of breath and rolling around on the ground.

Steph Gaudreau
There is a time and a place for things like interval training and cardio of course, but for people who are more adapted and not brand new to this style of circuit training, it often ends up being a little bit more like a cardio workout and a. Little bit less like a true strength workout, again, to kind of hit those different aspects. And so we kind of get this situation sometimes where people are either terribly DOMs to hell, or they’re kind of overtrained, but yet they still aren’t getting good adaptations because they’re not able to move the weight, or, you know, do whatever variation of an exercise they need to progress. I don’t know if you have thoughts on that.

Nikki Naab-Levy
I mean, yeah, in summary, right, we’re seeing, we’re seeing a certain level of under-loading with over-training, which essentially just means you’re working really hard to be tired and sore, but you’re not going to see any of the favorable adaptations or results that you’re working really hard for. And that’s lame. Like, no one wants that. And I also want to just say, like, I get why we like I get why we end up, like, taking these classes or starting out in group fitness. Like, I got my start in group fitness, and it is. It can be very entertaining, and I appreciate not wanting to be quote, unquote bored. But the problem is, is with the way that these classes are structured, whether they are in person or again, we’re kind of going peloton style, is you don’t have any time to really assess what your weight selection is.

Nikki Naab-Levy
So like, you know, you and I both watched these classes. I watched one of them, and it was like they first, they started with the fit fitness assessment. All right, drop down. Let’s do some push-ups, as many push-ups as you can in 45 seconds. Like, that’s not assessing your strength, that’s assessing your endurance and how much, how willing your wrists are to tolerate doing a dozen push-ups in 45 seconds, which, if you haven’t done push-ups in ever or in five years or something, your wrists are going to feel really, kind of, not to tangent us, brings me to kind of another issue though, with these classes, which Is there are no exercise options. There really aren’t any modifications.

Nikki Naab-Levy
I mean, I guess you can put your knees down in the push-ups, but if you have someone who has wrist stuff that’s not going to allow you to load in a favorable way, that doesn’t make your joints not hurt, for example. And so I think that we do end up in kind of this frenetic place where right off from the get-go our assessment for what is effective is already flawed, because we’re not even actually, again, these are build strength programs, but we’re not actually assessing strength. We’re assessing, you know, muscular endurance. We have a very limited number of weights that are being used very arbitrarily, like if your squat weight and your deadlift weight are the same. There’s probably, that’s there’s probably a mismatch in the weight selection. So we’re having no discussion about RPE.

Nikki Naab-Levy
How hard should it feel for the given rep schemes? We have no rep schemes. Do as many as you can in 45 seconds. Maybe that’s six reps. Maybe that’s 12 reps. So also, we don’t know if we’re working strength, hypertrophy, or muscular endurance, what is the goal? So when you have all of those things missing, like, it’s just kind of like, it’s It’s chaos. So it’s really hard to track what you’re doing, what way you used, if you’re progressing, if you have pain after the workout, what exercise, if any, was the cause of the pain? Like, it’s just so hard to track any measure of progress. And I think that’s a problem if you are someone who is data-driven or, again, you want some sort of specific outcome related to strength training as a result of your efforts.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, 100% I saw the assessment as well, and I sort of was like, that’s interesting. So I would totally mirror what you said there. And you know when, when I also kind of see combo moves, you know, there’s nothing wrong with a combo move. I mean, gosh, if you really love the idea of, like a bicep curl to a back lunge, like, I don’t know, just do your thing, but at the end of the day, and you kind of hit on this with the distinction between the squat and the deadlift. Look, most people who’ve been in strength training long enough, and this is, again, why it’s confusing for beginners quite often, and people who are just coming into what they think is strength training by using apps and free YouTube programs that say they’re strength training, but they’re more circuit training, or they end up being intervals or something like that.

Steph Gaudreau
It may not be inherently obvious to someone who’s newer that you should not be able to squat as much as you can deadlift. You should be able to deadlift more than you can squat. Why the deadlift is kind of technically a pull, right? We know that our human bodies are stronger at pulling than they are at pushing the in the back squat. If we’re we’re going to do a goblet squat. You know, we’re kind of almost like wearing the weight on our body, versus like the weight is really hanging down lower to the ground. So we should be able to. Deadlift more than we can squat. We should be able to use exercises, and our all the exercises are of our lower body should generally be stronger than our upper body.

Steph Gaudreau
And then also, to your point, if we’re doing a push-up, and we’re trying to do that from like a, I don’t know what you call it, I would call it just a regular plank position push-up, we are carrying a significant amount of our upper body mass for that exercise, versus, let’s say I’m going to do some kind of like a banded chest press, or I’m going to do a floor press and kind of, you know, lay down on the ground and I’m pressing up, almost like a bench press, then I can fractionally decrease that weight. But when I’m doing something like a combo move. That’s usually it’s going to be a lower body and an upper body exercise together. I don’t know, like I said, curl, curl to reverse lunge my lower body either. I pick the weight that’s going to challenge me in the lunges, and that means I can’t curl. I can’t bicep curl the weight. Or I pick a weight that is appropriate for the bicep curl, and then I’m constantly under-loading my legs.

Steph Gaudreau
So you know, it’s, I don’t know if you have any other thoughts about some of the exercise selections that you saw, or like some of the pairings that you saw are things that maybe did or didn’t make sense, so that people can kind of like, I mean, I hope that people listen to this episode and they’re not just like, oh, Steph and Steph and Nikki go dunk on all of these circuit training apps, but also to give the people listening a few things that they can kind of go out and go like, Oh, actually, I don’t know. Like, does that make a lot of sense? Or should I change the weights? Or, you know, like, how do you think, like, with exercise selection and stuff, you saw some things that were a little bit like, Hmm, I don’t know, or anything else.

Nikki Naab-Levy
I mean, we had some fun back and forth on these. What I will say is, and maybe we should have a discussion about some of the challenges for many people about doing upper-lower body splits. But yeah, so the program I looked at, which looked like one of the more sensible ones, I’ll say, was three days a week, and it had like an upper body push, an upper body pull, and then a lower body and core. And even that, to me, is kind of interesting. You would only do lower body one day a week in that way, but we can unpack that in a moment or later or never. But generally speaking, with the way that programming often goes, doesn’t have to always be that way.

Nikki Naab-Levy
We tend to start with sort of the main global exercise first. So that might be something like your squat on one day, your deadlift, and overhead press. I like to pair those two together, as I think you do as well. There might be a day that, like the main heavy lift for right, might be chest press, that sort of thing, that might be kind of a main event, a main lift, and then there will be accessory work that supports it. So we kind of go big to small a lot of the time for many reasons, which maybe you want to get into in a moment. So if I look at I have it in front of me, I wrote down the order because I knew I wasn’t going to remember it in five minutes, right? The first, the first set of exercises we do for two rounds is for it all with the same weight. 45 seconds of overhead press, 15 second rest, 45 seconds of a front raise, and then 15 seconds rest, and then a tricep kickback. In the video, he didn’t tell you to switch the weights.

Nikki Naab-Levy
He did the same weight with all of those. I don’t know about you, Steph, but right off the bat, the overhead press, I guess, can be one of the main exercises, but then later we’re doing the chest press. So like, from a programming standpoint, most of us who have shoulder stuff are going to feel better if we say, I wouldn’t necessarily pair those two together all the time, but we would usually feel better if we did the chest press more of the horizontal actions first, and we did more of the vertical actions right the overhead press second. So that’s a little wacky that that’s kind of out of order. But even just in this first circuit, my my overhead press weight is very different than my front raise weight, which is probably different than my tricep kickback weight. So we already have a mismatch in just the first 510 minutes with exercise selection and weight selection.

Nikki Naab-Levy
And then if we keep going through this workout, we end up doing the same weight for a chest press as we do for a chest fly with tabletop legs, which I thought was an interesting choice, because it’s going to be really hard to leverage a chest fly exercise with your feet off the ground. So I’m not entirely sure what the focus there is. And then we do push-ups that are also going to be a brutal circuit for even someone who is not like me, and they’re not hypermobile and they don’t have issues with recovery like I’m not sure why we’re hammering the chest three times in a row with almost no rest after we’ve already done. A bunch of accessory work in one main lift. I don’t know if people, I don’t know if that makes sense, but like, we’re now halfway through the workout, and it’s just kind of a grab bag, and that’s not great from a programming or recovery standpoint, in my opinion.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, absolutely. I think you hit the nail on the head there with the same weights being recommended. And I know they’re sort of like, Oh, if you need other weights beyond that, but they’re they give you almost no time to change weights out. And you can pause workouts, right? You can pause the video, like in the app. You could pause YouTube, and kind of stop and change things out, but it’s sort of disruptive to the flow, the whole flow of how the workouts are supposed to work, right? It’s like, just, come on, keep moving. Keep moving, keep moving. So I feel like a lot of people would feel pressure to just pick a weight and stick with it.

Steph Gaudreau
So like you said, for the shoulder press, they’re either going to be picking a weight, for example, that they could do the front raise, which is going to be a very much an isolation exercise, kind of like the tricep kickback, but they’re going to pick a weight that they can do for that, and then that means that for the shoulder presses, or the overhead press, whatever we’re calling it, the dumbbell press, that’s probably going to be under loaded, or vice versa, we pick a weight that’s appropriate for that, and then we end up not being able to actually do the front raise as well, or we have to really use a lot of momentum because it’s heavy, And we’re like, oh my god, I’m getting so fatigued. And I think even if you did pick a weight, let’s say you picked two different or three different dumbbells that you could do appropriately for each one, your shoulders are going to be smoked.

Steph Gaudreau
Like, I don’t know how you’re going to raise your arms over your head after this, after this workout, like I truly don’t, your upper body is going to be trashed to pieces, and if you are appropriately loading it right, like you’re just doing so you’re gonna be so tired, so exhausted. I would say, for my community, what I tend to see is because my population tends to not have as many issues with hypermobility, but oftentimes I’m getting people that are doing other sports or other, you know, other rec hobbies or things like that. So you’re going to go and really just, you know, you’re going to push till the cows come home. You’re doing all of your upper body pushing, and the next day, you’re going to try to go to play pickleball or do Jiu Jitsu or go swimming, because you’re a triathlete or something, and you’re going to your upper body is going to be super tired. You’re going to be really fatigued or really sore. And so one of the reasons I typically don’t favor something like upper-lower splits is twofold.

Steph Gaudreau
Number one, if you are that kind of multi-sport athlete, or you’re kind of doing multiple things, quite oftentimes, it gets a little tricky with programming, your strength training, and your other sport or hobby activity around that. So like, let’s say you’re a runner, and you’re going to do upper-lower split, but you’re going to also run four or five days a week. You’re going to have those lower body days. If you do that lower body workout and your legs are absolutely smoked, it’s going to feel hard to go on your run, or vice versa, right? So I’m not saying you can’t do it, but it gets trickier the more things you’re doing. And we love them, like a multi-passionate moment for being involved in all sorts of different activities.

Steph Gaudreau
It just for a lot of people, becomes challenging. And when you add in the factor of being over 40, which is my audience, if you, if you, let’s say you were supposed to wake up in the morning and do your lower body on this upper pressing, then upper pulling, and then lower body split. That’s three days a week. Let’s say the night before you slept because you were having hot flushes all throughout the night, or you’re tossing and turning and you didn’t sleep, and you wake up in the morning and you’re like, you know what? Not today, Satan, this is not happening now. You’ve completely missed your one lower body exercise, or, sorry, your one lower body session for the week, especially if you can’t get back to it. So I just tend to not see a lot of people that are involved in other sports or activities or trying to deal with fatigue, and I also do see, even though my community is not super high on the hypermobility side, just a lot more joint pain and discomfort, right?

Steph Gaudreau
As estrogen declines, right? Estrogen, we know, plays a really important role in, like, our tissues staying supple and, like, not getting stiff and things like that. So we kind of take estrogen out of the picture in a lot of cases, because that’s what happens. And we have a lot more like soreness, stiffness, joint pain, those sorts of things constantly hammering just that one part of your body I just see, for a lot of people, doesn’t lead to great outcomes because of all the things I just. Listed, but, you know, not saying you can’t do upper lower splits. But I think for a lot of people, they just do that because they think that’s what’s right. Or they, you know, again, we’ll open up a program like this one that we’re talking about, or on YouTube or something, and they’re like, Okay, today’s a lower day, and I’m going to try to run tomorrow, so I guess fingers crossed, or something like that.

Nikki Naab-Levy
Yeah. I mean, I think we could make an argument that there might be a time and a place where an upper-lower split would make sense for someone. It’s what they enjoy or like sometimes, like, I work with people where they have positional issues, so they have something like pots, where if they move, if they change position too many times, it makes their symptoms worse. And so, like, there might be a time and a place where you pair exercises in a certain way as a workaround to minimize symptoms.

Nikki Naab-Levy
So I can think of arguments for it. But I think even if we’re going to look at, let’s say the upper lower split something that doesn’t necessarily make sense to me here in a choice like this particular peloton program I looked at, was they put all of the upper body pushing in one workout, so they trashed you in one direction. And even if you’re going to upper lower split it, you could upper, lower, split it where you don’t just hammer the same muscle group for 30 minutes straight, for double the amount of repetitions of what I put into a standard one hour program for someone, for context, and that’s the less conservative version of the program I offer people. And I don’t offer it, because I think everyone is like a delicate flower. It’s because we know that if you don’t feel awful all the time, and you’re able to do high quality work with appropriate weight and appropriate rest, you will be able to see the results you want and not be super ridiculously sore.

Nikki Naab-Levy
And to your point, Steph, like even if someone is not they’re not doing a whole bunch of activities, there’s someone who may be right. They’re super busy. They are a parent. They have a very stressful job, they have other things to do. Most of us can’t afford to be just taken out of commission because we trash the hell out of our pecs for 30 straight minutes like it doesn’t make sense for your workouts to basically take away your ability to function and care for your children or do your job or live and enjoy your life. And I think that’s what we’re trying to get at here, is there is a way to program things where you get the same amount of work done or less work done, but you get much better results, because how we put things together makes a huge difference in the short term, but particularly in the long term.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, 100% one thing I know we also talked about is just like going mentally back to all of our conversations. But one thing that we talked about is the idea of what happens after the four weeks or the six weeks or the eight weeks, in some cases, and most of the programs again that we looked at, even the ones that I’ve seen online, they tend to be four weeks, Max, sometimes six, occasionally eight. I mean, that’s a stretch in most cases. And so I think one of the things we oftentimes run into with, you know, folks who come from this kind of programming, and they come to work with us, and they’re like, oh like, oh so I have to do, I’m gonna, I’m going to be back. I’m going to be swatting again in the next four weeks.

Steph Gaudreau
Or, you know, like these programs tend to encourage people to recycle this. They’ll either recycle the same exact thing over and over again, or it’s difficult to track what the progression would be to the next thing. So I’m wondering if you can speak from your point of view on things like how and why, these kinds of programs may not be the best for progression, and we’ve kind of alluded to that a couple of times. But you know, it either does that or it fosters the idea that we have, like the way to do it is to constantly change things up and confuse our bodies. So can you, can you speak to those issues that you’ve seen?

Nikki Naab-Levy
Yeah, absolutely. And then maybe you can piggyback on how they also affect your community. So I’ll say a lot of the people I work with are again new to lifting, prone to soreness, prone to injury, and one of the things that is almost counterintuitive is that repetition is not to make you bored. It’s actually incredibly valuable, because in when you do repetition, it allows you to thoughtfully increase weight over time and again. We can make little changes to tempo, so like how fast or slow we do an exercise or the leg position, that kind of thing.

Nikki Naab-Levy
But generally speaking, that is how your body is able to adapt. So that is how you prepare your muscles and your tissues and your nervous system to be able to go from lifting fairly light weights to be able to transition to lifting heavier weights over time. So that is one way that we are able to see progress and as our body adapts, then that is also what is going to allow us to not be as sore, because, again, if you’re someone who’s chased a soreness, that might this might not make sense to you, but most of us don’t want to feel sore all the time. And I work with a bunch of people who already have had a ton of pain and soreness, they don’t want to feel worse. The goal here is to feel better, in my opinion. So I think that that’s a really important piece of it, is that there is sort of a time and a place for doing things a certain number of times, or repeating workouts. And then, because we also need stimulus to change, and you don’t want to be just bored out of your skull, some level of novelty can be very valuable.

Nikki Naab-Levy
So there are times to mix things up. But the issue here is that if you are just repeating something forever and ever and ever, then you end up being in very narrow movement patterns, so you don’t have a lot of diverse movement or novelty, which means that you’re not typically as resilient or able to move in lots of different directions and handle the challenges of life. And if you’re just constantly chasing novelty, you are going to be probably sore as and you’re not going to see a lot of progress or progression, because you have to do things more than once or twice or even three times for your body to adapt, for you to be able to see long term changes. So it’s just one of those things. There is a place in time for repetition.

Nikki Naab-Levy
There is a place in time for introducing a little bit of a novelty and play in movement, but if we’re not accounting for those variables in a thoughtful manner, once again, we get chaos. And then we kind of wonder why everything feels pretty or why like we’re chronically injured, or why we’re really tired all the time, but we actually feel like maybe, like our body compositions got worse, or we’re just not seeing any improvement. Or now, something that once felt fine to do now really hurts your knee or your hip or your back, or all of the above, and you kind of wonder what happened, and it usually is some combination of either it’s a repetitive stress injury, you’ve done way too much of one thing, or it’s too much novelty, way too much, too fast, too soon.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, absolutely. I think, Yeah, I would echo everything you said. The thing that I see quite a bit is having to do with this sort of entertainment factor, and the idea of randomly working out versus training. And again, I just want to say, and I’m going to probably say it 15 more times, because if you’re at this stage in your life where you’re like, I’m just randomly like, I’m just doing whatever workouts I can to stay active, and that’s my main priority. Absolutely. Does that have benefits? Yes. Is that okay for where you’re at, of course, but if you are knowingly going into it thinking, okay, like now, I really need to get serious about increasing my strength. You know, I’m in my 40s or 50s or 60s or whatever it is, I need to really, you know, this is a priority for me. I want to get stronger.

Steph Gaudreau
I want to build some muscle mass and stay out of sarcopenia. I want to positively impact my bone density. Then we know that there are ways that we need to train to get those benefits right, to get those adaptations. So I think sometimes we get a little bit confused again, because we’re like, Okay, well, I’m doing something. I am working out, but it the workouts aren’t necessarily built for that purpose. And I think that’s, again, what we kind of keep coming back to, is a lot of the times what you see advertised as strength training is or hypertrophy training isn’t actually either because the loads are way, way, way too light and they’re not challenging you enough. There is some dogs going crazy in my neighborhood. There is something to be said for the idea that with, you know, hypertrophy, we can, we can get hypertrophy across more of a range of rep ranges and things like that. But what I do see a lot is people want, they want their workouts to be super duper entertaining.

Steph Gaudreau
And by that, it usually means, we mean it’s changing up all the time. There’s this novelty aspect. It like no, no two days are alike, and there are certainly different kinds of exercise companies and things like that. That’s their main thing. It’s like, you never know what we’re gonna do. Throw at you muscle confusion stuff, muscle confusion. So it ends up being that sometimes people will get on a sensible strength training. Programs that include an appropriate amount of repetition, and they think this is so boring because they’re used to things being constantly different. I’m, I’m pretty, I’m pretty known for saying, you know, like, use cardio or your sports or whatever else you’re doing to get your spice. I mean, if you’re like, I just need to, like, change it up and do something fun, like, I can, I can think of you want 20 different ways that we can give you some interval training.

Steph Gaudreau
Yes, you know, we’re just trying to hit those cardio you know, ranges for you and get some cardio adaptation, of course, um. But when it comes to training, like, if you want to increase your deadlift, you have to deadlift in some way, shape, or form. And it’s going to, you know, we could argue all day about sumo versus trap, bar versus conventional. And that’s not really the point. But like, you have got to, if you want, if you know, a lot of people in my community are like, oh, I want to get to 300 Club and my deadlift. And I’m like, Well, how often do you deadlift? And how often do you deadlift relatively heavy? And they’re like, I don’t know, like, every once in a while. And I’m like, that’s not going to do it. I mean, if you have that goal, you want to increase your deadlift by, you know, to a certain level, or by a certain amount of weight or a certain percentage, or whatever it is, you have to do that thing fairly often.

Steph Gaudreau
And there is, there is beauty in that repetition. There is practice and getting to know the weights and getting to refine your technique because if somebody comes in and they’re they’ve been squatting for, say, three months, their squat, unless they’re incredibly gifted, is going to look very different at three months than it will at a year and or at two years, you mature into these movement patterns, but only when you have the chance to practice them. And I think we’re very accepting of the idea of practice in a lot of different areas of life where, like, practice makes perfect. Oh, hey, I’m like, gonna, you know, practice my Duolingo, I’m like, learning Portuguese, or whatever it is. We’re very into the idea of practice.

Steph Gaudreau
But for some reason, when it comes to strength training, if it’s not set to, like, a different popular playlist every single time, and like, it’s always something new, novel stimulus. New novel stimulus. We’re kind of like, oh, this is super boring. And I’ll also echo Liz when she was on the podcast, and she kind of made mention of the idea that if you think your strength training is really boring, sometimes it’s because you’re under-loading. Because when you’re you’re loading things appropriately heavy, there’s not a lot of time for your mind to be anywhere else and for you to go, Gosh, this is so boring.

Nikki Naab-Levy
Yeah. And I think, though, that right, people think sometimes that with a strength training program, that they’re like, Well, I can’t be consistent, or again, I have these pain flare-ups and these chronic conditions, and my life is like, all over the place, even if I don’t have some sort of thing going on with my body. And so that’s oftentimes the deterrent from following a program. But if you’re working with a coach, or even if you’re in a group program setting and you have some level of access and support to that person, there is a way to adjust programming so you have a base, even if it means that some days you have to shorten that program, some days you have to just do something else, or cherry pick a couple of the exercises, because your body is like, not we’re not doing half of this. You’re like, Okay, we’ll do what we can. And because it’s full body, it’s fine, right?

Nikki Naab-Levy
So I think that if with the right amount of education or support, there is also a way to adjust a program for kind of life being kind of lifey. And if you are someone who knows that you need a certain amount of novelty. You very well could work with a coach who gives you the stuff that you need that’s kind of the base, and then gives you, sort of like your quote, unquote play time to sort of mess around this also part of the program. So you sort of have this piece of it that feels consistent, where you don’t have to think so hard, and then your body has a chance to adapt, and then you have this time to sort of around with the things you want to around with.

Nikki Naab-Levy
Like, I think there’s a time and a place for everything, and I think programming can be done in a very broad way and can be made very specific to the individual and their needs and their interests. But at the same time, there has to be some sort of logic and base. This is probably not a great selling point, but learning new things and instilling these habits is hard. Sometimes it is a learning curve. It does require some amount of education, and it’s absolutely fine if someone doesn’t want to do any of that and choose not to do any of that, I’m huge on body autonomy, but there is a lot of benefit sometimes to doing the hard, tedious thing, and it isn’t hard and tedious forever.

Nikki Naab-Levy
Once you understand it better, you’re usually able to find ways to like, enjoy it or make it interesting, or get interested in the process of learning it. You know, be like, Yeah, I don’t always want to, like, do yet another squat, but, like, it’s kind of cool. I can do a whole lot more than I used to, and now my knees don’t hurt all the time. So a lot of it, too is how you’re framing it. If you look at something and you’re like, this is terrible, and I’m so bored and I’m going to hate it, correct, you will absolutely hate it. I promise you 100% if you expect something to be awful, it will be. And I don’t mean that. I don’t say that to be an I’m just saying like our perspective does affect our experience sometimes.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, totally. I think there’s, there is value in learning. I mean, I heard a friend of mine saying this to his son not that long ago, which is like, this is the time where he gets to just be bored. In so far as you know, we are constantly. We have so much stimulation at our fingertips now that we’ve almost kind of lost the and I’m the first one to say. I’m like, oh, like, what’s going on? Oh, check my phone. But there is this idea of, kind of chopping wood, carrying water, and there is, there can be value in that repetition, in that quote, unquote boredom, if you choose to find it. And I’m kind of, that’s kind of what I hear you saying.

Steph Gaudreau
And like you said, Yes, I mean, in my program, we are squatting every week, but you also have the freedom to choose from a few different types of squats, depending on what works for your body. And I do, you know, for example, put front squats in there, and then sometimes it’s very new to people, and they’re like, Oh, actually, this really hurts my wrist. So I’m like, You know what cool? Like, here are these other ways that you can hold your hands on the bar. And sometimes that’s enough to give people the flexibility to find which variation of the front squat works best for them. And sometimes, after trying for a few weeks, they’re like, You know what? Nope, just still don’t like it. I’m like, Cool back squat, like, it’s not the end of the world, or goblet squat, or whatever variation of that’s going to work for you.

Steph Gaudreau
So I think that you know, just knowing you and knowing what you do, and kind of thinking about how my program probably has some parallels. Like, we want to give people the structure and give you enough wiggle room and flexibility to say, You know what, how else I could do that, I could do this and like, it’s still in the same universe of movement patterns, and it’s going to keep you moving forward toward those goals that you have, of strength, of hypertrophy, or whatever it happens to be, that it’s not just so random that you’re not going to reach your goals. You are going to move closer to your goals, because there, there are some constraints. It’s not just every time I’m picking up a weight, the workout is wildly different. And then I’m six months down the road, I’m like, wow.

Steph Gaudreau
Like, why haven’t I actually, really meaningfully improved my strength? And I kind of hear that’s what you’re saying. And I think for me, I’m trying to get people to always kind of like venture a little bit more toward the middle, right? Or, you know, the extremes are, like the maximalist workouts. Or, you know, I guess there’s something to be said for some more minimal styles, depending on the person in their training age, for example. But for most people, it’s kind of like a meet in the middle, you know, like a, you know, do we need to do six times a week of these more circuit styles where we’re just constantly exhausted, like you said, over trained, but not really getting adaptations?

Steph Gaudreau
Or, you know, we’re so sporadic because we think it has to be perfect. Neither of those is really helpful. Can we kind of again, for midlife people or the folks that you’re working with, can we kind of like, meet us, meet in the middle a little bit and find a better way?

Nikki Naab-Levy
Yeah. I mean, I love I what I heard you saying there that very much aligns up, unsurprisingly, with my philosophy, is that we need structure and we need autonomy and choice. And I know that’s something that we both do in our programs, which is where we’re like, Here’s a basic structure, and here’s some flexibility and autonomy. Do two to three sets, do eight to 10 reps. I’m just pulling out numbers here, but people hopefully follow what I’m saying right. Here are four different squatting options, or three different squatting options, so you can choose the one that makes sense for you in that moment or for your body, and you can play around.

Nikki Naab-Levy
And if you really like hate a hip thrust, we know I’m not a huge fan of those, right there, am I? Right? You can, you can do some back-stepping lunges. But also, if you love a hip thrust, okay, it’s there too. So there’s a lot of ways to sort of achieve the benefit of something, but we do need to be able to track some level and control some level of the variables, or else, it’s just, if it works out, you kind of got lucky, which is not a bad thing again. I think this all just comes back to, what is your goal?

Nikki Naab-Levy
Where are you at right now? Like, are you in a process right now? I’m just going to try to do something every day. That conversation is going to be so so, so different than someone who is trying to specifically say increase their bone density or their muscle mass or whatever. So it just depends on where you are in terms of just what your goal is and how much time you have. But even on the note of time, I also make sure we touch on this. If you have incredibly limited time, you are way better off doing one strength workout a week or two 30-minute ones a week that are well structured with appropriately challenging weight and some sense of tracking and progression that is typically going to go so much better in terms of results.

Nikki Naab-Levy
Even if every day, even if it’s random days of the week, and they’re right next to each other. They’re super far apart, it will still go so much better than just randomly picking workouts that are designed to make you tired. And I think that’s something that also gets missed, is that you can actually get a lot done in a very small amount of time if you are specific and clear on what you’re trying to do.

Steph Gaudreau
Absolutely not just like, cosine, cosine. No, I think that that’s true. And, you know, I do have people who do strong with stuff, and they’re like, Hey, is it okay if I split, you know, this day, like, I just ran out of time. Can I don’t know, balancing Plyo work and some of my accessories, like the next day, and I’m like, yeah, like, that’s fine. Just do what you need to do. But to your point, there are still a reason for the way that those things were structured and sequenced out. And I think the other thing that we didn’t necessarily touch on yet is that for a lot of people, especially people in our age bracket, I can call us that, like our 40s and beyond, is, you know, a lot of people who listen to this podcast, or who listen to your podcast, or who are out there reading the information, and they’re trying to educate themselves and be like, Okay, I get it. Like heavy lifting is important.

Steph Gaudreau
I don’t know how I’m gonna get there, but, like, I’m accepting of that fact, you know? And that’s not necessarily true of the wider world, or people who are, like, our listeners, our community. They’re like, yeah, build muscle. Like, let’s put some, let’s, let’s, like, build some hamstring meat. You know, I want to do this and not like, oh, like, lifting will make you bulky, and that’s the most horrible thing in the world. So we have a lot of people who are very much on board with this stuff. They’re like, Yes, I need to do this. I need to do this. However, depending on like, what we’ve talked about your experience level, how much past prior lifting you’ve had, what you’ve been doing to lead up to this.

Steph Gaudreau
I know sometimes it’s common to want to jump right into a program with everything being really, really, really heavy, really, really, you know, few repetitions and things like that. And so this is just kind of a side tangent, maybe not necessarily related exactly to what we’re talking about here. Because, side note, I did film an entire workout because I was like, I’m going to film all this whole workout with with rest periods, and I’m going to put it on YouTube. I still haven’t done it because I wanted to do a voiceover. But y’all like, it’s not riveting watching. You know what I’m saying? Um, but at the same time, we have to get prepared to be able to do these things. And the reason I kind of bring it up too, is because we’re always hearing Plyometrics, plyometrics.

Steph Gaudreau
Plyometrics, like, good for our bones, like, great for building power, like we need to be able to react quickly if you cannot land well, absorb that force, and then transfer it back up and out of the system because your tissues do not have the right amount of stiffness, which is actually a good thing. In this case, if you can’t land well, you don’t have great body awareness. We are not going to have you jump on a 30-inch box right out of the gate. So sometimes you’ll see programs where they’re like, yeah, like, we’re gonna get you right into jumping and jumping and jumping. We love a jumping moment. We also know you and I. Like, there are ways to scale this down, but we have to. We cannot put the car before the horse. And when you’re randomly jumping into a program, you don’t know that it’s going to be sequenced out in a way that’s like, Hey, okay, we’re not gonna, you know, no one’s shaming anybody here.

Steph Gaudreau
Like, it’s been a while since you’ve worked out. No problem. We’re gonna give your tissues the best possible runway to long term. You know, being healthy and strong, you can’t prevent every single injury. We know that. But if you haven’t done any jumping, are we going to make you do rapid response box jumps on day one? That seems like a really bad idea because our tissues are just not ready for that. So I think the point of this little side tangent. Is just, you know, sometimes we get so focused on, ah, Plyometrics, like, I’m going to get this program that has Plyometrics, but we haven’t been doing any jumping. We haven’t been doing any landing.

Steph Gaudreau
Controlling for that, it’s probably not the best fit. Subsequently, if we haven’t been lifting in, say, heavy sets of five, we need to build up to that, or how, maybe I should say we need to build down to that. You know, we need to build the runway that gives us the best possible entry point. So a lot of times, when you’re doing more random things, you don’t necessarily know that you’re getting the proper preparation for what you’re asking your body to do, or what that program is for, and a lot of times again, how it’s communicated to the wider consumer in a lot of these programs is not accurate. And so what people are getting themselves into sometimes, I mean, hopefully, nothing bad happens, you know, no injuries or things like that. But we just, you just kind of don’t know what you’re getting yourself into when it’s not properly labeled. Discussed. You know, there’s no, there’s no nuance to it.

Nikki Naab-Levy
Yes, I’m not, I’m going to do my best not to get us on a totally different tangent time. But I think you brought up a really important point here, which is, like, it’s really arbitrary what is labeled, beginner, intermediate, advanced, all levels, and in looking at and evaluating these programs inside this app, a lot of the beginner, beginner air quote programs were actually more challenging and complex and demanding than the intermediate ones because of how The workouts were sequenced together with reduced rest periods across several days and weeks. So if you don’t live inside this world and you don’t have a lot of nuanced education and conversation, it can be really hard to discern those things.

Nikki Naab-Levy
But also, if you try something that’s quote, unquote beginner, and this didn’t work for you. You’re not broken. You didn’t do it wrong. Sometimes the programming really is a mismatch, even if it’s a quote-unquote good program, just because of who you are in your unique history. I know I started a running program and I thought I actually, I was like, Oh, I’m undershooting. It’ll be just fine. And I made it two weeks in before I realized that, like, Yeah, I’m hypermobile. I cannot progress in running that quickly.

Nikki Naab-Levy
My cardiac system could take it, but my lower legs were like, back it down, like, immediately, and I had to, like, check my ego at the door and be like, is it more important for my ego to run for seven straight minutes, or is it more important to me to start at a place where my lower legs will adapt so eventually I can both run because my cardiac system is ready and run pain-free because my lower legs aren’t super off at me because I didn’t jump in. Too hard, too hard, too fast, too soon. And so, yeah, it’s an ego check. It’s annoying. Sometimes you do really have to meet that limiting factor in some way, or at least acknowledge for it. And this doesn’t exist in Gen pop.

Nikki Naab-Levy
You know, average fitness, traditional fitness land. A lot of the time we are just thrown into this world where suddenly we’re doing box jumps and backstepping lunges, and it’s just not the right set of exercises in the right order with the right progressions, and it’s why things go sideways. It’s not that people are stupid and broken and everything is terrible. It’s just that the progressions don’t make sense a lot of the time. And so give yourself the tools to be successful. I guess that’s what I’m going to say. If something’s not working for you, you’re not a terrible person. You probably just need a different approach, or a scaled-down approach, or something needs to be adjusted.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, for sure, I have taken lately to when people send messages and they’re like, hey, like, can I learn more about your program? One of the first things I ask now is, have you been strength training? And then if they’re like, Yes, I’m like, Well, can you kind of describe what that’s like? Because if someone hasn’t been consistently lifting, I’m probably not going to say, go join Strong With Steph, because these workouts are, on average, about an hour. If somebody hasn’t been lifting, I would rather start them off with something like Dynamics On Bells, which is, and I’m sure you have, you’ve got, like, beginner and in, like, slightly, you know, you’ve got your other programs that are a little bit longer, I’m generally going to say, hey, take three months be successful with like, 30-minute workouts that are pretty pared down, but they’re still going to hit on what you need, and then when you’re good at that, go on to the next step.

Steph Gaudreau
Or if you’ve never touched a weight, you’ve never done any strength training before. My best recommendation for most people is to work with somebody in person. Or if you have to, like virtually across. Zoom. It’s not the same, but there are people out there who do it pretty well. Get some instruction to give yourself the best possible start. I know it’s not possible in 100% of cases, but even if you can do a few sessions, you’re still going to start yourself off with a much better starting point. So we know that a lot of people are like, yes, okay, I get it. I want to strength train. I need to strength train. I know this is important. It’s important for my longevity.

Steph Gaudreau
It’s important for avoiding sarcopenia, for strengthening my bones, all this, all this stuff that we know, but just because that’s the case doesn’t mean that every program that you see is going to be a good match for where you’re at. And I think that’s kind of what I hear us, even saying throughout this episode, is like, you know, sometimes it even though you and I have gone through the trenches, we have the background in education and even in long-term programming. It doesn’t necessarily mean that our programs are going to be the best match for somebody that comes along and wants to lift weights.

Nikki Naab-Levy
Absolutely. And again, it’s everyone has we’ve talked about this. It’s not just how old you are. There’s so many factors that are going to go into if something is a good fit for someone and it’s right. Do you have health conditions going on? What is your what is your fitness background. Yeah, age is part of it, but age, to me, is like, actually one of the lesser factors, in a way, it’ll account for some things that you may need to be aware of. But humans are complex. Programming is complex. And I’m not saying this stuff always needs to be super complicated.

Nikki Naab-Levy
A lot of the time, the solutions are actually, like, you look at and you’re like, that’s all you want me to do, really? And you’re like, yeah, yeah, that’s actually a good starting point for you, right? It doesn’t look exciting on paper at all. But again, I think that, right? We’re not cookie-cutter. We don’t have cookie-cutter bodies. And so, like, we can make these brand statements on social media, like, lift heavy. But like, some people aren’t ready to lift heavy. I have some people who start with and it’s funny, we have a whole podcast about the problem with two-pound dumbbells, and I have some people who start with two-pound dumbbells, and for them, that is a massive success because of their history and where they are.

Nikki Naab-Levy
And so everything that anyone does, anything that you or I or anyone says, needs to be filtered through the context of lived experience and where someone is at and I think that that’s that that can be tricky to do with group programming or templated programming or an internet conversation in general. But I think that’s especially tricky to do when you’re opening up an app and a follow-along class that I think that’s recommending, yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Steph Gaudreau
It’s um, I mean, every once in a while, you might see something like, Hey, this, this program may not be for you if XYZ, when you are looking on, you know, I’m thinking like, and again, there’s, there’s plenty of popular ones. But these are apps that have, like, multiple, multiple different instructors, like different, you know, they say intermediate or advanced, or this is strength trainer. This is upper lower leg burn Booty Buster Blaster, like all these things, you know, very infrequently, does the person this is because a lot of these things are available, either free on YouTube. I keep bringing up YouTube because these are very popular, free on YouTube.

Steph Gaudreau
Or, you know, you’re gonna opt in for, like, a low cost subscription, monthly. And they’re like, Wow, look at all this variety and choice, but in a way, just because there’s more choice doesn’t necessarily make it better, and sometimes it’s even harder to discern what is the right thing for you. So again, I hope people walk away from this episode just with the sense that, you know, what, if I need to go read a sales page or go ask questions for the person that has this program that’s I, I’m like, send me your questions. You know, send me your questions because I want to help you make the best choice for you. And fairly frequently, I turn people away because I’m not the best fit for them. I’m either going to send them to you, I’m going to send them to Brianna. If they’re like, you know, postpartum, I’m going to send them over here if they’ve got pelvic floor stuff. Like, sometimes I’m, I am like, yeah, this person is actually way better matched for what you need. It’s, it’s not me.

Steph Gaudreau
Like, I’m flattered. Thank you for thinking of this program. But I don’t think it’s the best fit for you at this time, and sometimes it is. Hey, go ask around. Who do you know in your general vicinity that can take you through some in person stuff as well? Because I think there’s a lot of value to that. So that just becomes increasingly harder the more choices you have. The you know, like, I’ll just jump into this class, this sort of thing. You know, getting moving for the sake of moving is totally fine. We’re huge fans of that, but we know that a lot of people out there really want to get serious. I know probably for your community, it’s finally getting through some of the noise of, you know, hey, like, strength training is going to hurt me. And you’re like, Okay, now I’m really finally going to get out there and get a program that’s probably actually better designed for somebody that has needs like mine. For my community, it’s doing the things with, you know, how.

Steph Gaudreau
The considerations that we need to kind of take into account now that we’re over 40 and things are changing a little bit, like, what can we not skip over anymore as part of the program? And how do we do that in a way that’s intelligently done? And, like you said, clear, and I think that that’s a lot of times the piece that’s missing. Yes, anything else you want to tell the good listeners, what are your programs and how can they find out more about that?

Nikki Naab-Levy
So thank you. So probably the easiest way to find out about my stuff is either to go to my website or find me on Instagram, which is the platform I’m most likely to actually look at or use. I’ll just be honest, you can message me on the others, the odds that I’ll see and respond, or it’ll take a while. But I have an app-based program called Total Package Strength, and that is funny enough, actually, if someone has a movement background, they feel comfortable enough to hold a dumbbell or a band. I have scaled that one down enough that if you’re kind of like a beginner, plus you can probably do it, because I have, sort of, you can do two or three days.

Nikki Naab-Levy
I also have a lower volume version and a higher volume version, because I had what I thought was pretty moderate volume, and I got really appropriate feedback from people that was like, I really like this, and my body needs less. And I was like, cool, we can do that. And I have some other beginner programs, but kind of like, to your point. Steph, if you’re interested in something and you’re like, Oh, I’m not sure if it’s the right fit for me. Like, just send me a DM if we can’t discern through you know, DMS, what’s right I do. I often hop on free intro calls with people if I’m just not sure if I’m the right person or where to send them. Because sometimes I’m not, sometimes I need to go to a physical therapist.

Nikki Naab-Levy
Sometimes they’re actually better suited for someone like you stuff where, like, their background is in more of some of that more intense lifting. And I’m like, you’re gonna be real bored with me. I’m sorry. So it that that’s what I would say, is like, if anything I said resonated, like, feel free to like, come find me on Instagram or visit my website and say hello. I’ve got a podcast that I sometimes update at least. I’m sure we’ll put those links in the show notes, but yeah, that’s kind of cool.

Steph Gaudreau
Well, I appreciate, as always, you coming on the podcast to unpack these topics. And you know, in the day and age where there are so many just hot takes, and I know you, and I love, love a good hot take from time to time. I think it’s also really important to discuss the nuance and the context, and that’s why things like a podcast can really do that well because we’re able to kind of dig into some of this stuff. And it’s like, yeah, if you’re if you’re really focused on these goals, peloton strength, or these other types of programs that build themselves as strength training may not be your best long-term solution.

Steph Gaudreau
You know, they may be something that gets you started. We like that, that you got started in the first place. And if you’re like, This stuff isn’t really working for me anymore, and you’re feeling that pull like there might be, it might be time to do something new, to do something different, to find something that’s more aligned to your goals. And I hope that’s what people what people take away from this podcast. You know, you and I are very much about like, what suits that person, and hopefully that’s what people have heard from this episode. So yeah, thanks for being on the show again, again. I think this is the third time you’re getting into a very elite group of people. I think we’ve only had a few people that have been on three or more times.

Nikki Naab-Levy
I’m honored!

Steph Gaudreau
Happy to have you back, but thanks again, and I’m sure I will talk to you very soon.

Nikki Naab-Levy
Yes, thanks for having me.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah. All right, my friend, there you go. That is a wrap on this episode of the podcast with Nikki Naab Levy, really so nuanced, and there’s a lot to consider here. But you know what? This stuff does matter. This is your health. This is your life. This is the training that you spend time doing, that you put forth effort and finances into accomplishing. So if you do have specific goals, you’re thinking, okay, yeah, I am over 40.

Steph Gaudreau
It’s time to really take the bull by the horns here and make positive headway on strength development, on muscle mass, or hypertrophy, on positively impacting my bone density. For you to answer the question, Am I really getting that out of my efforts? And what can I look for in a plan or in an app to help me better meet those goals? If you appreciated this episode and learned something, please hit subscribe on your favorite platform, including YouTube, and ring the bell there for more notifications. And if you’re ready to start lifting and you have hypermobility, check out what Nikki is up to.

Steph Gaudreau
If you’re an athletic woman over 40 who’s trying to improve your strength, muscle, bone density, and more, check out Strong With Steph. This is my 12-month progressive, templated strength training plan that is purpose-built for you. You can find out more details about that over at StephGaudreau.com/workout, and get a week-long sample of the program. Thanks so much for joining me on this episode. I’ll see you next time, and until then, stay strong.

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Steph Gaudreau

Hi, I'm Steph Gaudreau (CISSN, NASM-CPT)!

Nutrition and fitness coach for women, Lord of the Rings nerd, and depending on who you ask, crazy cat lady. My mission is to help you fuel for more: bigger muscles, strength, energy, and possibilities. We’ll do it with my signature blend of science, strategy…and a little bit of sass.

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