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Fuel Your Strength 378 - Powerlifting and Recovery Tips for the 40+ Athlete with Laura Phelps

Powerlifting and Recovery Tips for the 40+ Athlete w/ Laura Phelps

As we age, we need to adopt our training and recovery programs in order to see continued performance. This is especially true in the sport of powerlifting, where it is critical to equip yourself with the knowledge necessary to keep your body healthy and ready as you age.

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Key Takeaways

If You Want to Stay Strong in your 40’s and Beyond, You Should:

  1. Find a variety of sports such as powerlifting that make you feel good in your body
  2. Avoid the common conjugate programming mistakes by listening to Laura’s tips
  3. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and always remember to give your body time to recover

Finding Your Power with Laura Phelps

Laura Phelps has been an athlete her entire life and started powerlifting at age 23. She currently holds 8 All-Time World Records in the sport of powerlifting and was personally coached by Louie Simmons. Since 2017 Laura has used her knowledge and expertise to help train others through her coaching company, Queen Bee Power. She finds pride in helping athletes both old and new succeed and reach goals that otherwise would have been unattainable.

Staying Strong at Every Age

Laura’s greatest hope is for everyone to stay healthy and be strong. Strength and power work to our benefit, especially as we get older, which is why we have to be wise and intentional about how we train in every stage of our life. Powerlifting is proof that you can be strong for a very long time, you just have to do it in a way that can adapt to your needs as you get older.

Level Up Your Programming, Conjugate Style

Adapting your training based on where you are now is nothing to be scared of. Powerlifting can be incredibly beneficial to your overall health and longevity, and Laura’s adapted version of the conjugate method can help you feel empowered while taking care of your body’s needs. 

By building strength through supportive exercises, taking time for recovery, and introducing variation into your training routine, you can experience the restorative impact of conjugate-style programming.

How are you adjusting your training program to the needs of your body at different stages of life? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below.

In This Episode

  • How the methodology of powerlifting training is different from bodybuilding and other sports (13:44)
  • Common ways the conjugate method of powerlifting can be used by athletes (18:26)
  • Tips for adapting your training as you get older (23:22)
  • Explore the difference and benefits between conventional deadlifting and sumo deadlifting (33:45)
  • The biggest form issues found when sumo deadlifting (37:50)

Quotes

“I just had this supreme confidence, not arrogance, but I had this unbelievable confidence in what I was doing because I loved it so much.” (12:37)

“If you are doing everything right, following these principles and the right percentages and whatnot, and the recovery, it is set up for longevity.” (23:50)

“Any time your body is imbalanced, you are putting yourself at risk for injury. So if we can make everything more balanced, I just think it is more functional.” (27:36)

“If you don’t bench press now as much as you did 10 years ago, it’s okay. It’s all relative at this point.” (32:03)

“Powerlifting is proof that you can be strong for a long time, a really long time. You are just pushing yourself to your limit at that time and whatever your circumstances are.” (33:00)

Featured on the Show

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Podcast production & marketing support by the team at Counterweight Creative

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Powerlifting and Recovery Tips for the 40+ Athlete w/ Laura Phelps

Steph Gaudreau
There is no mistaking that the squat bench and deadlift are three very powerful barbell lifts. If you’ve ever participated in these lifts in your training, or maybe you’ve even participated in the sport of powerlifting. You know how exciting and raw and gritty this sport can be. And these barbell lifts are no exception. But as you’re getting older, what are some of the things you need to know about recovery? And continued performance in these lifts, and potentially in the sport of powerlifting? As you age? What do you need to know about keeping your body healthy and ready? And what adaptations might you need to make in your training? Today on the podcast, I have a very special guest with me who is answering these questions, and more all about powerlifting.

Steph Gaudreau
If you’re an athletic 40, something woman who loves lifting weights, challenging yourself and doing hardship, 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. 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
Sometimes you meet someone in your life and they become a friend. And no matter where you met each other, you just instantly click Well, my very special guest today is a person like that in my life. Her name is Laura Phelps, and she is an extremely accomplished powerlifting athlete. And now coach, Laura and I both happen to meet on a random weekend in Northern Ireland, of all places. You’ll hear more about that soon. But Laura is someone that I really admire as a coach. And as someone who has been in the sport of powerlifting for quite some time now. She’s also really passionate about teaching others. And of course, as she has continued to get older in the sport as well. She has accrued some really important knowledge about training, longevity, and how to adapt your lifting for getting older, we have different considerations that we need to make. So on this podcast, Laura is sharing with us her journey through powerlifting why she really loves and teaches about the conjugate method of powerlifting, and why it’s so beneficial. She’s also talking about recovery, what you need to know and think about if you want to stay strong in the squat, the bench, and the deadlift, no matter if you participate in the sport of powerlifting or you just incorporate these lifts into your weekly training. And she’s also settling a debate for us is sumo deadlifting cheating. I cannot wait for you to hear the answers to all of these questions, and more.

Steph Gaudreau
Now before we jump into the show a couple of things. First, hit the subscribe button on your podcast app. And second, if you have been struggling in your training, you’re feeling like some pieces are missing. You’re not sure what to do with your nutrition, you know that your training or your recovery is not on point. If you’re looking for some high-level guidance, mentorship, and support to put into place the step-by-step actions you need to build muscle to gain strength boost your energy and perform better in and out of the gym then Strength Nutrition Unlocked is waiting for you and we’re waiting for you to apply. You can go ahead and apply for this program and speak to someone on the team at StephGaudreau.com/apply. Here’s an example of one of the wins from one of my students. She says I can’t believe I get to say this but IPR again today, we did a three rep max hang squat clean, and I got 135 pounds, feeling really good and sticking with the plan. Adding more food, in general, has been so key for me and I think it’s really upping the protein that has made a huge difference. I love that she’s been crushing it and just is so wonderful to hear how fuelling smart, doing it in a way that is systematic, and really tackling the order of priority is making a huge difference for her. Again, if you’re interested in applying and seeing if you’re qualified to work with us, then head over to StephGaudreau.com/apply. All right, and now let’s head into the show with none other than Laura Phelps.

Steph Gaudreau
Hey, Laura, welcome to the podcast.

Laura Phelps
Thank you for having me again. I’m excited to be back.

Steph Gaudreau
I know I’m so like, this is just so cool because I’ve been doing the podcast now for so long that I’ve been able to bring people back and you’re in a slightly different place than we talked about last time. And, and yet, there’s still cool stuff you’re doing in the world. We’re going to talk about that. And I just, I think, Gosh, I’m so lucky to be able to continue bringing people back to the show and chatting about your zone of genius and everything that you love doing. So thank you. It’s awesome. So for the listener, just to give them some backstory I first met you in a gym in Northern Ireland.

Laura Phelps
Yeah. 2013, Belfast. And it was cold.

Steph Gaudreau
And that’s where I first learned how to do sumo deadlift, which I was I was very bad at at the time, but I learned a lot from you in that seminar. And it really influenced me a lot, just to have a woman coach, an accomplished strength athlete like yourself. And it really was so influential and inspirational to me as somebody who really wanted to be a coach and work in this capacity. So I just want to thank you for that.

Laura Phelps
I appreciate that! That was a great trip and, and just a great experience at that time, like with the CrossFit powerlifting course and just being exposed to so many people all over the world, you know, and then to just kind of reconnect later with you and, you know, learn about all the amazing things that you went on to do. It was really cool to kind of reconnect and see your progress, too. I was like, oh my gosh, she was in our course? What?!

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, yeah, it’s, it’s super cool. So tell me about…well, I guess like, how did you get started? In powerlifting? Let’s talk about that first because we’re going to talk a lot about powerlifting in this episode, but give us the backstory, like how did you first come to the sport,

Laura Phelps
I mean, I got into powerlifting probably a lot different than when people would now like now that there’s CrossFit and all these like different avenues that kind of direct people to powerlifting. I was young, I was like, 25 when I started getting interested in powerlifting, but prior to that, I was doing bodybuilding. Just because I had just started strength training in 2003. And, you know, at that time, I didn’t really know anything about powerlifting all I knew was that I was going to a powerhouse gym. And there’s a lot of bodybuilders there. So it was like, if you lift weights, you know, in that environment, the logical step was to get into to physique or bodybuilding, which there was no physique at the time, it was just bodybuilding. So I did a few shows and I was small, like I was, I would weigh in for my bodybuilding shows, like 120 pounds. And, you know, they were like, well, you need to I did well, but they were like, You need to be bigger, like, you know, more thickness. And I was like, Okay, how do you get more thickness, it was like, started researching powerlifting, the power lifts, doing bench press, deadlifts, heavy squats, things like that. And just through I mean, in 2000, for that 2,004th assignment, I was just like, where do I look to for powerlifting. And so, you know, the internet wasn’t a huge thing.

Laura Phelps
It was definitely around, but it wasn’t like a huge deal as far as Google. But you know, whatever research there was, it was all led to Westside barbell to Louis Simmons. So we bought all of his VHS tapes and watch them and kind of found out about a seminar Louis was doing in Cleveland. So we drove up. He was just doing a quick benchpress clinic after a competition. And so that’s where I met Louie. And at this time I was not interested in being a powerlifter, I really honestly didn’t know much about powerlifting. It seemed crazy to me because when I would research like Westside barbell, and when I went to the seminar, Amy Weisberger was there, and she was not a big person. She always competed at 132 or 148. So she was small. And I would hear that she could squat like 535 and I was just like, mind blown. I was like, there’s no, that is unbelievable. To me. It was so cool. But I was just like, like, I could never do that type of thing, you know. So, I did another bodybuilding show, and then did a couple of local non-sanctioned bench press and deadlift competitions. So they were not either were just for fun. And I did those because I had been doing incorporating the bench press and the deadlift into my training. So it was just like fun and some people from the gym are doing it and when I did those competitions, I was like, This is so much fun. It’s so much more fun than the bodybuilding shows. I enjoyed the day of the competition, but everything leading up to it wasn’t, wasn’t not was not the most fun. So I decided with a couple of other people from the gym that I was training that we would actually train for a powerlifting competition. And we picked one out, we bought all the gear they, you know, at the time everybody lifted, equipped, which was equipped powerlifting is where you were squat suits, benchpress shirts, deadlifts, suits, like the supportive gear, so I bought it all trained in it did a competition in 2005. And it was totally hooked because I had then started connecting with a group of older powerlifters who were semi-retired but were like previous world champion powerlifters and who just happened to be at a gym that I would drive up to about 40 minutes away.

Laura Phelps
And I mean, the I couldn’t have been a better scenario just to have these experienced powerlifters that took me under their wing, kind of showed me the ropes, showed me how to use all the equipment properly. And it was just like a fun thing. You know, at that point, we weren’t really using the Westside method. I didn’t really even though I went to the seminar, I read all the books, or I mean, I was watching all his tapes and stuff, it was hard to put it into practice. We were just kind of lifting heavy. Every week, you know it, which I look back now, like, that’s crazy. It was just beginner gains, basically. And I did you know, I did that competition in 2005. And then I reconnected with Louie. And two, about three months later, when I did a bigger competition. He was there with all of his people. And I actually broke my first world record at that competition. So it was just a whirlwind the first year, you know, picking out my first competition and then and then within like three months, three months after my first competition, I broke the world record squat. And then connected really connected with Louis and it was like started traveling to Westside Barbell in Columbus on the weekends to train and represent Westside Barbell in competition, which I did for 10 years for so till 2015.

Steph Gaudreau
Wow.

Laura Phelps
Yeah.

Steph Gaudreau
So within your first year, you had a world record?

Laura Phelps
Yeah, it was, it was synchrony, like, uncommon, like I, you know, that’s not a common thing. But I just kind of like when I, when I did this, I kind of found the thing that I was most passionate about, and what I felt like I was kind of made to do, you know, and I just had like, this supreme confidence, not like arrogance, but just I had this unbelievable confidence in what I was doing because I loved it so much, you know, so I just, I look back now. And like, I cannot believe that I was so confident in my abilities that I in that competition, where I did break the world record, I not only most people like even people that I would coach, if a world record was a possibility, it would be like, Okay, let’s do an easy opener. Do, you know, something for a second attempt that is as close, and then we’ll go for it on the third. I opened up with a world record at that competition. I was just like, I look back, and I’m just like, oh, my gosh, I would never tell one of my athletes to do that. But maybe I can’t remember. But maybe at the time, my training partners were like, I don’t know if I would do that. But I just was like, I know, I can do it. You know, I know that. This is a way that I can do it. I’ve done it in training. I’m completely confident.

Steph Gaudreau
Wow, what’s that? What was it about? You know, you mentioned being kind of in the bodybuilding world before that, but what was it about the difference between these two methodologies of training with powerlifting that really spoke to you because they are quite different in terms of how you train? So what was it about the powerlifting aspect that really just kind of hooked you in?

Laura Phelps
it wasn’t even really necessarily the training per se, because, with powerlifting, you do a lot of accessory work, which are essential, bodybuilding or hypertrophy exercises. So I mean, it was only different in that like, I got to work up to one rep maxes of different variations a lot. So that was fun. But for me, it was more than just the team aspect of it. Like having training partners like in bodybuilding, you know, you essentially are like working out in building your body alone. And then in powerlifting, yes, you are, it is an individual sport, but you definitely need a team like you need training partners. And especially with equipped lifting, it’s a lot more that can go wrong with it. So you definitely need side spotters and all these things so as I start to end up forming a team and those people are people that you end up trusting and becoming friends with and the camaraderie was really cool. So I think I enjoyed that more than anything for the change from bodybuilding to powerlifting was just that team-like aspect even though it was still an individual sport. I mean, I still loved I mean, I think I found a lot of like joy like I said in the heavy lifting and testing my strength on a regular basis. And, you know, just that kind of feeling empowered, I think is more so than with bodybuilding. I didn’t find a lot of like, you know, you know, fulfillment on a regular basis like I did with powerlifting.

Steph Gaudreau
Hmm. Yeah, I hear that. You mentioned a couple of times, Westside. And for anyone who doesn’t know what that is, I’ve maybe love for you to just speak on that for a couple of minutes on like, what is that methodology of training? But also, I know that you’re really close to Louis and he recently passed. So, you know, I just wanted to just give you a big hug. I know he’s really important to you. But what, you know, what is Westside? When people hear Westside, what does that mean?

Laura Phelps
Right? Westside Barbell is a pretty world-renowned strength training gym in Columbus, Ohio. It, you know, Louie Simmons was the founder. And he moved in or started in his basement, which then moved to you know, how all these different like, they kind of expanded, but I don’t mean expanded, as far as like, turning it into like a big like public gym, it always stayed private. He’s started building athletes, you know, since the 70s. And over time, just grew into the building, like, just world-class powerlifters. And over time, he built a system, this Westside conjugate system that people kind of like, when they’re leery about it. They think it’s a system for powerlifters. But Louie will always if you listen to anything, he’s any podcasts or anything he’s written, He will say it’s a system for athletes. And it is like, even with my own training with athletes, I use that same principle, with the training too, whether I’m training football player, a powerlifter, basketball player, you know, it’s all the same, you just kind of adapt this point, this system, these principles to each person and what their needs and what their goals are.

Laura Phelps
So yes, Louis, I mean, just dedicated his whole life to learning, and researching, I mean, you probably will never find someone who has read so much. And also just pass along that information. He’s really done an unbelievable job of like, just passing along information for free to people over the years until he passed away in March, but the gym itself, was a private gym, for invitation only. But as far as the powerlifters that he would, you know, sponsor, I guess, I should say, but it was always open. Like he always invited people to come to learn like it was, it was just unbelievable to me that like the amount of free knowledge he gave people. I mean, anytime I was in there, there’s always someone visiting, whether it was just someone wanting to learn or whether it was NFL coaches, or, you know, anything like that, or, you know, college football coaches were there all the time. Just learning from Louis and he always just gave that information so freely, he was never, you know, charging money for his time or anything. It was pretty cool. So he’s just done a lot for the strength and conditioning community and it was just a huge loss, you know, just a huge loss of information when he did pass away.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah. When, when people hear about the conjugate method, or they hear about things like accommodated resistance, like they, they see the bands, they see the chains, and they’re like, Oh, this is just like meathead stuff, but I love how you said it’s for athletes, like what are some of the common ways that you would use that with some of your athletes?

Laura Phelps
So we’ll use accommodating resistance as my dogs are. Like, always has to be right next to me people be like, what was that and like, That is him scoring. But so the band tension, like we put that on barbells and you know, different accessory movements, but mainly we’re talking about the barbells we’re attaching band resistance, you know, a form of overspeed eccentrics to build you know, speed and explosive power, like, you know, speed and strength go hand in hand. So the way he’s developed the system is to kind of marry the two together and build this week-long system that works both, you know, your maximal strength on your max effort days, you know, building up to one rep maxes, and a lot of times we use accommodating resistance on those so it might be you know, a bench press against bands or hanging chains are the same thing with squat and deadlift, all different variations of that lift. So you’re never what I love about it is that it’s not boring. You know, it’s fun like because you have all these different variations mentally it’s fun and stimulating because you’re not there’s no pressure each week to like, you know, just work up to heavy on a certain lift.

Laura Phelps
It is yes, you are working with heavy but like you’re doing some variation of a heavy movement, so and when people are in their offseason or if they’re not like prepping for a competition, you know, per se like I would have someone do so much variety in their training that you might not come back around to that same movement or that same variation for months and months and months. So But meanwhile you have the confidence to know that by doing this, you’re getting stronger. So that’s you have a day for that whether you know when to build up heavy on your upper body and lower body days to different days. And then you have two other days where you’re just working on speed work. So you’re just working on submaximal weight. And we try to use a lot of banter, you know, band tension on these days, sometimes chain resistance as well. But a lot of times we use band tension on these movements to build, like I said, the overspeed eccentrics, and to build that speed and explosive power on those days. So it’s, it’s pretty cool the way the system is set up so that you have this week-long process that kind of works, everything, you know, you have a lot of accessory work, only 20% of the training with the conjugate system is the barbell, or as the main compound movement, whether it’s maxed effort or speed work, but then the other 80% of your training is actually through special exercises, like what we would call accessory work or you know, bodybuilding type exercises to help build the strength in those three main movements, the squat, bench press, and deadlift.

Laura Phelps
So it’s pretty cool, because, you know, it’s definitely different, like, I think some programs are the opposite, it’s a lot of barbell work and not much emphasis whatsoever on those supportive exercises. But we kind of build strength through those supportive exercises, you know, building someone’s hamstrings, posterior chain, and things like that, you know, so it’s, it’s the way it’s set up with, you know, with the percentages and whatnot, especially the speed work. And if someone does this correctly, it’s there’s a lot of restorative aspects to it. So, you know, some programs might have built-in D loads every, you know, so many weeks or whatever. But this is set up if done properly. And if all of you know the rest of your life is set up to where you’re rested and hydrated and you know, low stress, then it’s set up to where its kind of the recovery is built into the method. So there’s not a real need to like, have a full D load week or something like that. But that’s not to say, though, that somebody might have, you know, like some circumstances in their life that would, you know, kind of run them down a little bit and kind of need to a day D load or a full week of D load or whatnot. So it’s kind of the system that is year-long,

Steph Gaudreau
That’s awesome. Thanks so much for explaining that. And I think there’s a lot of misconception or just sort of not really understanding how that methodology of training works. And so I think you hit on some really interesting points for our listener. You know, you mentioned earlier, you’ve been lifting for what, 20, over 20 years now.

Laura Phelps
Yeah, about 20 years, like, you know, once I started bodybuilding, like strength training for bodybuilding and then into powerlifting.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, so 20 years, like, we’re all getting older, right? No matter what we will we want to believe, we are aging. You’ve been lifting for a long time. I’m sure you work with athletes of different ages? What are some of the biggest challenges you’re seeing? Either with yourself? I love this, by the way, it’s August, the third member of this podcast totally, which is wonderful. But what are some of the challenges you’re seeing with some of your maybe like your athletes kind of in their 40s? Or what are the things you’ve noticed with yourself that you’ve had to sort of change with your training? As you know, you and everyone else, continue to get older?

Laura Phelps
Yeah, well, I am happy that like, like 98% of my career, I did the conjugate system because it is truly like I said, if you’re doing it, right, there’s a lot of I mean, I could do an entire another hour on the mistakes that people make with the conjugate system that make it unsuccessful. But if you’re doing everything right, and following these principles, and the right percentages, and whatnot, and recovery, it is set up for longevity, so, like, I feel good that I made it through 10 years of, you know, 700 plus pound squats, 500 plus pound bench presses in my hands, like all these things that would you know, you would think like, I remember people telling me some people that didn’t know a lot about powerlifting you know, you’re not going to be able to walk by the time you’re 50 or whatever. And I’m like, I’m almost 42 and there is not a chance that like I will not be walking when I’m 50 You know what I mean? Like, I feel good, like you have I had to modify things for sure. But like I feel really good that like I spent a lot of time doing the conjugate system and that in that I still do like, you know, obviously when I got done competing in powerlifting you know, my strength training changed a bit in that I didn’t put on the bench pressures on the squat seats and things like that anymore.

Laura Phelps
But I have always kept this style of training like I just did max effort upper this morning with the girls that I train in the morning. I just worked in with them and did everything built up to one of my one rep maxes on the incline bench press today and did all the accessory work with them. I just My strength is relative now I’m not as strong as I was before and that’s okay. I’m smarter Now in that, when I am building up to like a heavy single, I kind of plan out my attempts so that I only take like maybe seven, seven total attempts from start to finish and shut it down. And I just focus on accessory work because the accessory work is just like I said it’s hypertrophy exercises is bodybuilding type exercises, which are good for not just a powerlifter. But for everyone who, you know, wishes to stay healthy and be strong. So I put a lot more emphasis, you know, now onto the accessory work and getting a lot of that in. And then I also, there’s a certain thing I don’t do anymore if there’s something that like, irritates my hips or something like that, I don’t, I don’t do it anymore, I don’t do any free squatting anymore. Because I just anytime that I do it, it just bothers my low back, it bothers my knees, all these things. So I’m not saying actually, I don’t not do it, I just don’t go heavy. Like I do it like maybe for reps or something like that for an accessory movement. But when it comes to my main movements, as far as like when I’m going to like, do relatively heavy, I try to stick to box squats like box squats, to me with a little bit wider stance, and then the vertical shinning or sitting back takes a lot of pressure off my knees or anybody’s knees.

Laura Phelps
I have new videos out there about box squatting, but I think it’s a great tool for people that are older, if I have clients who are older than you know, really have no aspirations of being a powerlifter. But they still want to be stronger and squat. A lot of times I’ll have them do box squats, you know, whether it’s with a barbell or in the belt squat machine because it really is, you know, no, like, like really downward pressure on the knees, it takes a lot of pressure off the knees. But at the same time, it also is more of a posterior chain builder. So, which is awesome. Like, you know, most people when they go into a gym, if they don’t really know about training, or if they don’t really know what to do, you’ll kind of stick to standard exercises that you kind of see people doing leg presses, leg extensions, you know, things like that, that, you know, do work your glutes and hamstrings, some, but still have a heavy emphasis on the quads, where I tried to like do the complete opposite with people where you know, at least 80% of the lower body training or upper body training is your posterior chain. So hamstring work, glute work, spinal, erectors, triceps, lats, upper back, things like that.

Laura Phelps
Because, you know, anytime your body is imbalanced, you’re putting yourself at risk for injury. So if we can make everything more balanced, then I just think it’s more functional, you know, so, you know, I would say, you know, for being over 40 At this point, like, just have to think more about recovery, building my body in a way that’s going to keep me you know, continuing with longevity. So I’m just all about longevity now. So we’re trying to select exercises that are going to, you know, make me live longer, healthier, you know, so, but I do have to think more about recovery. So I try to stay more conditioned now. So I do, I do make sure that like I have at least three to four days, and I have, I don’t want to call it cardio, more like conditioning, you know, like, you know, so I do, you know, run up the stairs and do sprints and you know, assault bikes, things, you know, things like that to keep my conditioning up. And we call it general physical preparedness, you know, so sled dragging, things like that. For that, I think I would consider it to be more restorative.

Laura Phelps
And, and then as far as the strength training goes, like for me, I think just because of my base of training for so long, I’m okay with strength training four days a week, like and going relatively hard. You know, as I said, I am nowhere near as strong as I was before, but I still push myself. And I can do two days of the lower body in two days of the upper body, and I feel recovered. But I but if I were someone that was getting into it later in life, I would say you know, you have to start small, you have to start with a couple of days a week until you kind of build up a work capacity, like work capacity, is a huge thing. You know you want to build up a big work capacity. So it’s kind of a fine line like you don’t want to like drive run yourself into the ground, but you do want to be able to train frequently, basically, whether that means smaller workouts, you know, but that takes some time. So even if someone started with two days a week, and then maybe went to three and then until they started to feel like your body will tell you like I know when I like with when I need or it can handle more. You know, it’s when things I get through things kind of easily I feel good the next you know, then I know that I can add a little bit more. But I also try to focus on recovery and like making sure that I do have days completely off and do things to help with you know, recovery and restorative methods like massage.

Laura Phelps
I prefer dry I love dry needling a lot that helps me like everybody kind of has their thing They feel, you know, helps them to recover from workouts or, you know, if they feel aches and pains, a for me, it’s a massage and dry needling. You know, some people, it’s chiropractic, whatever, so you kind of have to do a little bit more, pay a little more attention to your body, you know, as you get older and do more, you know, Louis, I mean, till the day he died, I swear, he was in the gym, he did more he out, he could outwork. Most of the guys in the gym, like he couldn’t work up to a one rep max with them. But when it came to just sharing work, and then work capacity, there was nobody that can touch him, because he just consistently did a lot. You know, as I said, if someone were starting later in life, they would have to take their time to build up to that, and like he had been doing that his whole life. And like, same with me, like I am, I’m trying to hang on to as much work as soon as I can, like, you know, I don’t want to let go of that until my body tells me, you know, you’re just not recovered. And I will feel that you know.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, so important. You hit on so many things. You know, I hear just being more wise and intentional about volume, I hear, you know, still doing some strength and power work, especially as we’re getting older, and we’re starting to kind of naturally lose some of those types of fibers. And, you know, the biggest outcome of that would be like dying, and Peenya, especially later in life. So I hear that that’s there. I hear like some intervals and like nature, saying conditioned and all of that stuff, still doing the lifts that you can do, but also potentially making some modifications. And I think sometimes people are so reluctant to do that, because they feel like oh, well, I used to be able to do this thing. And now I can now it doesn’t really work super well, for me, or, like you said, not really pushing the same relative strength that you did before, but still wanting to stay really strong and saying, Hey, like, let me just find a way to kind of like, go around that and do something that does really work for me.

Laura Phelps
Definitely just being okay with like, Okay, if you don’t benchpress now, as much as you did 10 years ago, it’s okay. Like, it’s all it’s just relative at this point. And I mean, some of the greatest powerlifters that I’ve ever known Amy Weisberger, and Chuck Vogel pole, both broke their kind of last World big world records when they were 46. You know, I mean, that’s when they got reached their peak strength at 46. And, you know, maybe they could have kept getting stronger. But you know, at that time, they just, you know, kind of phased out of powerlifting. But like, I mean, there’s so I actually just worked out with me this morning, you know, so we’re still training still doing everything. It’s just like I said, like, we’re still doing, we’re still pushing ourselves, but it’s relative, or, you know, our strength isn’t where it was before, but I’m still pushing myself in that realm. But yeah, like, I mean, powerlifting is proof that you can be strong for a long time, you know, a really long time. So you’re just pushing yourself to wood to your limit at that time, and your you know, whatever your circumstances are.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah. So important, so important, and the recovery element as well. And staying sharp, and keeping my mind sharp, are all really important things. Definitely. One, one thing so I mentioned earlier, I learned, like the very, very beginnings of Sumo deadlifting from you. And it’s now something that I do a lot because it just works better for my body. But I get so many questions about Sumo. And so and the other thing I’ve seen in, in around, let’s say the internet is things like sumo deadlift is cheating. All right, that’s not a real deadlift. So I’m wondering if you can kind of, for anyone who is sort of listening to this and thinking, Oh, should I switch to a sumo deadlift over a conventional Why might I want to use one versus the other? Let’s hear your take on it because I’m sort of, at this point. I need someone else to give us their opinion.

Laura Phelps
I mean, I will always think it’s funny when people say the sumo deadlifting is cheating because I’m like, the biggest deadlifts ever done in the world or conventional. Like if it was cheating, if it was that much better. They would, it would all be Sumo. Now there are a lot of guys that are getting really strong Sumo. But like, the first two guys have deadlifted over 1000 pounds. We’re both conventional like they weren’t in a sumo stance or anything like that. It just depends on how you’re built. How you’re leveraged, will depend on the kind of on where you’ll excel, whether it’s conventional or Sumo. I mean, that is the Absolute Truth. Like I work with people all the time. And I know people like the there’ll be I will see that they are better leverage for conventional, but they will be adamant about like training, Sumo training. But they just won’t be able to get it, you know, to surpass their conventional strength.

Laura Phelps
So but at the same time, it is really important to work both so That’s also something that I’ve like learned in my time with coaching people is that training both training one will help the other no matter which way it goes. So if your love sumo deadlift if you train your conventional deadlift, you know maybe 50% of the time it will help build up your sumo deadlift and vice versa if you train you’ll love to pull conventional train your sumo deadlift, your conventional deadlift will go up. I’ve seen it every single time without fail, but people get really like caught up in like, well if I sumo deadlift I will if I conventional deadlift in my training, then my sumo deadlift will suffer like somehow. But if you just like kind of trust it and do it, especially if you’re plateauing if you’re like, I’m just kind of stuck. I’ve been stuck around this number for a long time, whether it’s a more conventional, but you kind of switch styles and do primarily the other style, maybe do some speed work only with your competition stance, I would call it you know, your primary stance where you’re only doing submaximal weight for like speed work just to because that’s kind of where we work on technique is on that speed work.

Laura Phelps
But if you do like a lot of your heavier lifting with the opposite style, I promise you it’ll go up. So sumo deadlift though, especially for conventional pillars that are leery to try sumo even to help build up their conventional sumo deadlift is I mean, it’s working your hips and your hamstrings, so much more than then with a conventional deadlift. So if anything is just helping build your hips and hamstrings to bring your conventional deadlift up, so there’s just so much benefit to it. There’s literally could be no negative repercussion for adding that in and taking out some of your conventional deadlifts help just to help build up your convention and you might find that your sumo ends up surpassing I’ve seen that plenty of times where people, you know, start to work the other style to help just to help build their primary style and end up switching. Because they find that, you know, maybe that there, they didn’t know that they were better leveraged for the other thing or because, you know, maybe they’re doing a lot of posterior chain work in their training, and then find that that really carries over a lot more to their sumo deadlift. But in no way shape or form is sumo deadlift cheating it like, you know it, there’s just no way like, because, you know, most people would then be, you know, doing all the big lists Sumo. And that’s just not the case. There’s so people that are pulling enormous weights conventional.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, absolutely. You know, what are some of the biggest if this is going to maybe be a little bit challenging? So we’re not actually like on video here. But what are some of the biggest, I guess, form issues, or I don’t want to call them mistakes, because I feel like everybody’s kind of learning and finding their way. And their technique can evolve, but like, what are some of the biggest, biggest points of performance with the sumo that you see people kind of not getting.

Laura Phelps
Um, so I think of the sumo deadlift, just like a box squat. So I’m looking at someone’s shin angles, so when you’re down at the start at the pool, if you check, make sure that your shin angle is vertical from the front and from the side, right at the start of the pool. So what I think people do is, you’ll see that their knees are over the bar, which means their butt is too low at the start of the pool, so they’ll get down into this low position which pushes your knees forward over the bar, which is okay for conventional because when you pull conventionally your knees are slightly over the bar, they move away from the bar when a bar comes off the ground. But with sumo like to have like optimal, you know, position and leverage for the sumo deadlift, your shin angle should be vertical, that means that you’re wedging into the bar, well, you’re pulling the bar into your shins, you’re kind of putting that bend in the bar to get the slack out of the bar.

Laura Phelps
And also, like you tried to, like externally rotate and bring your hips as close to the bar as possible, kind of forward without sacrificing that Shin angle, you know, so Shin angle is important. And then also like, which kind of goes hand in hand with like your butt being too low at the start of the lift. If you drop your butt too low, then your hamstrings kind of shut off. So when you’re pulling yourself down, like pulling your hips down and back into position, you should kind of like gauge to feel like when your hamstrings are the most loaded is when you should start the pool. It’s a fluid motion. It’s not like a stop and then pool, you should be pulling your hips down into position. When you feel your hamstrings the most loaded, that’s when the bar should naturally leave the ground. You know, so I think if you feel if your butt is too low, you’ll feel your hamstrings kind of disengaged, I guess I should say. So you’ll feel your hamstrings just kind of lose tension your knees come forward over the bar, you know, so that’s kind of like a good idea as far as like as far as how high your hips should be in the desert because everybody’s different Not, not everybody will, you know, be in a super high hip position and not everybody will be in a low hip position.

Laura Phelps
It’ll depend on how long your arms are, how short your torso is, you know, so I would just say like when you have your hands on the bar and your Opening your hips and pulling your butt down, you should go as soon as you feel your hamstrings the most loaded. And as you’re doing this as you’re pulling your hips down in position, you want to think about squeezing your armpits. So you’re trying to squeeze like an orange in your armpits so that you’re engaging your lats. So I’m trying to pull my triceps into my lats as hard as I can, which will bring the bar close to my shins. You never want to start the sumo deadlift or any deadlifts really, with the bar way out in front of you. Because, you know, that means your lats aren’t engaged, it’s gonna be really, really hard to bring that bar back into you. And it puts a lot of pressure on your low back. So you want to think like Pull those hips down and back, squeeze your armpits, which brings the bar into your shins. And at this point, the bars and then start to leave the ground. It’s all fluid motion, but make sure the bar is pulled into your shins, and then pull straight up again, squeezing that arm that orange into your armpit as hard as you can to keep the bar close to your body, the bar should be super close to your body. And then to like when you think when you pull the bar above your knee.

Laura Phelps
As soon as the bars are above your knee, you don’t want to really pull the bar, you’d want to think about pulling the bar up anymore, you’re letting that bar hang above the knee, and then you’re finishing the lift by the kind of pushing your glutes and hips through to the bar, think about wrapping the bar around your head around your wherever the bar is at that point, depending on how long your arms are wrapping around your quads, your you know your size your hips, like you’re trying to wrap the bar around your body, basically. So I think people make that pool like longer than they have to by keeping their shoulders shrugged up, you know, but your arms when you want to keep your shoulders long, keep your arms long, they’re just hooks. And then like I said, just pull the bar above the knee and then focus more than on squeezing your glutes, pushing your hips to the bar, and wrapping the bar around your body. Hmm. I know that’s a lot of like, oh, so I know, there’s so

Steph Gaudreau
Hmm. There’s so many gems in there. And yeah, I would say like the biggest thing I learned from you, although it took me a while to be able to understand how to execute it. Because I feel like Sumo, it’s technical in a different way than conventional. But one of the biggest things I learned from you and I still think about it to this day is pull is like getting my hips forward, getting my hips forward. And when you learn how to conventional sometimes it’s like your butts just kind of hanging out there in the breeze. A lot of people pull sumo like that where it’s like a lot of back and so from you, I really learned like getting those hips to Barrios.

Laura Phelps
Yeah, read your hips and put up your hips as much as possible, like I said, without bringing your knees over the bar. But like you’re trying to, like, get in as tight with the barbell as you can, you know, and just keeping your upper back super tight and making sure that you don’t forget about your legs, because if you lose your lats, then the bar floats away from you. And then it is a pressure on the low back. For sure. Yeah. And then also to make sure your hands are on the barbell directly. Basically in line with your shoulders, you know, sometimes people have their hands way too wide, you know, or way too narrow. And when they’re narrow, then you pull up. I think people think about a sumo deadlift high pole. So they put their hands really close on the smooth, you know, and it’s like, no, maybe they came from CrossFit. And so the only experience they’ve had with sumo deadlift is a sumo deadlift, high pole. So they think hands should be close. But they should just be like, straight down from your shoulders, like, you know, definitely straight down from your shoulders.

Steph Gaudreau
So many great tips in there pulling the slack out of the bar, hiding your armpits squeezing that orange, so many great tips.

Laura Phelps
Squeeze it in and try to break that orange.

Steph Gaudreau
I love it. I love it. And you know, I think you do such a great job at breaking that down. And I could absolutely visualize what you’re talking about.

Laura Phelps
Oh good, thank you, because I love teaching the sumo deadlift, just because I think it’s just such a technical lift. And you know, and I enjoy stuff like that, you know, with powerlifting in general, like I pulled sumo and, you know, the technique was such a big thing for me, like, you know, I was strong, but like, maybe, like I say this a lot. But like, maybe like maybe it wasn’t as like significantly stronger than the person, second place person. But I just was so technical. You know, I focus on form and technique and mastering that. And I think that’s what kind of set me apart. So that’s why I, like focus so much on that with teaching other people like, you know, you know, when you came to the CrossFit powerlifting course, it was two full days of a lot of things, but I’ve kind of I do my own little clinics now where it’s shorter. And I really just focus more on teaching people proper technique.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, of that. And so speaking of that, you know, you mentioned and this is kind of where we’re where we’ll wrap up, I guess, but like earlier, you mentioned how important it is for you to have a community that you lifted, and you had this camaraderie and teamwork with powerlifting that you didn’t have with bodybuilding. And you kind of alluded to this, and I think it’s so important but you know, there’s a lot of people trying to learn lifting online and I know that that is obviously like access is so key. And so that can be really helpful but In terms of in-person stuff, I just don’t know if there’s a huge substitute for that. So talk about, like, your seminars and why you love to get out there in the community so much.

Laura Phelps
I do. I mean, I just have found a passion for passing that, like my own experience and knowledge along to people. And, you know, just putting it in terms that they understand and whatnot. So I just have been kind of traveling around to different gyms that, you know, kind of request for me to come out there to teach. It’s about a five-hour clinic. And we cover a lot about programming in the beginning, like I, you know, definitely, depending on the group and who I’m speaking to, I, you know, answer a lot of questions about how about the conjugate system, and how to put that into place. And then we go into just all hands-on work. So we work on the proper technique of the box squat, because that’s kind of, to me, it’s such an important exercise, but one that people do wrong a lot. And so there’s a lot of benefit from it if you’re doing it correctly, so I hate to see people give up on a box squat and add it into their training only because they’ve just been doing it wrong.

Laura Phelps
So we focus a lot on box squatting and deadlift technique, both styles, conventional deadlift, conventional and Sumo, and benchpress technique. And then with whatever time, we typically have left, I will go over some key accessory movements that are, you know, obviously, mostly posterior chain and covering the ones that I think are incredibly beneficial, but are really rare. And ones that people do wrong a lot as well. So, you know, I really am just more about like, making sure that, you know, that the Westside conjugate system gets a fair shake with people and that, you know, they don’t give up on it because of just some mistakes that they make with either programming or with technique. So, a lot of what I talked about in the beginning is like, the seminar is about, mistakes that are made with the conjugate system. And, you know, just making sure that people know that, because usually, most people are like, you know, I didn’t even know that, like, you know, I didn’t realize that I didn’t realize I was basing my percentages on speed work off of things are way too heavy, you know, things like that. So we just kind of cover all of that.

Laura Phelps
So, on my website on QueenBeePower.com, I have a list of, you know, upcoming seminars and links to like, either YouTube page, the Queen Bee Power, or team QBP. A YouTube page with a lot of different accessory videos, because I tried to put out a lot of different kinds of tutorials on those different accessory movements or on like, the main box squatting, things like that. But yeah, on my website, I definitely, over COVID, you know, when in person things stopped happening, I started doing like these online, these Zoom clinics. So I have links to those as well, where I just would do like, I’m just going to do an hour of talking and demonstrating the box squat, or an hour of benchpress or an hour of lower body accessory. So that’s been kind of helpful to, you know, tip for people to be able to, like have that to watch, you know, because it’s like a little mini seminar.

Steph Gaudreau
That’s awesome. Yeah, I was scoping out all your links earlier. And before we recorded and I was like, Z, she’s got these seminars that are recorded. He’s like, yes, watch them because there’s, there’s so much gold in there. And you’re such an amazing coach and teacher, and I can’t think of anyone better to carry on, you know, the legacy of, of really the conjugate system and helping people to learn it and learn it well. And someone who is such an amazing advocate for women and strong women, and it’s just, it’s wonderful. I’m so happy that you’re still doing it. It’s great to see that you’re still getting out there. And you know, I’m going to just put a plug in here and say, if you can get a chance to go learn from Laura, in person, please do it’s fantastic. You’re a wonderful coach!

Laura Phelps
Thank you so much.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, you’re welcome.

Laura Phelps
I really appreciate it.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, absolutely. Like, even if there’s just like this one chance you could go learn from someone in person and most of the time you do your training in your garage or on your own, like, just get out there and go learn in person. I think it’s so incredibly powerful.

Laura Phelps
Yeah, definitely. It makes a huge difference. Like you can watch all the things but to have someone’s eyes on you to see, you know, it just it’s a game changer just to have someone like actually watch what you’re doing and like point out something that you probably wouldn’t be able to point out yourself.

Steph Gaudreau
Absolutely. Absolutely. And so where can we find out more information on all of your stuff, your seminars, your videos like your social media.

Laura Phelps
everything is on QueenBeePower.com. All the links to socials and everything on QueenBeePower.com.

Steph Gaudreau
Awesome. We’ll link that up in the show notes. Laura, you’re a legend. Thank you so much for coming back to the show. I so, so, so appreciate you and everything you’re doing is so important.

Laura Phelps
Thank you so much for having me. Of course.

Steph Gaudreau
That’s a wrap for this episode of the Fuel Your Strength podcast with the incredible legendary Laura Phelps. She is incredible. Go head over to her Instagram, follow her, and get on her series of tutorials about these main lifts. They’re really affordable and she’s breaking it down for you step by step. They are awesome. I went back and got the sumo deadlift class. And even all these years later, I’ve been doing Sumo, I did pick up on a couple of things that were so useful. She’s got all of that on her website. And of course, if you’re in the area, and you can attend one of her seminars, go do it, you will be so glad that you did.

Steph Gaudreau
Of course, you can find the show notes for this episode on StephGaudreau.com, including a full transcript. While you’re there if you’re interested in applying and seeing if you’re qualified and a good fit for the Strength Nutrition Unlocked. This is a high-level program where we’re going to mentor you and guide you through everything you need to know about fueling smarter so that you boost your energy you improve your lifting, you build strength and muscle, then go ahead and check that out at StephGaudreau.com/apply Hit the subscribe button on your podcast app and we will be back next week with another incredible episode. Until then, stay strong.

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Hi, I'm Steph!

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, not less: 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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