50% off Strength programs

ep 358 nikki naab levy v2

Hypermobility and Strength Training

When you have a history of pain, injury, or hypermobility, it can be scary to introduce strength training into your routine.

But strength training can help you improve your mobility, build strength, and move beyond a past injury.

If you have fears about starting a strength training practice because of pain or hypermobility, this episode is here to tell you that you have nothing to fear.

Click play to listen right on this page, no app needed:

Or, listen on your favorite app: iTunes (Apple Podcasts) | Spotify | Stitcher

Want a free week of strength workouts? Click here to get started!

Key Takeaways

If You Want To Use Strength Training to Improve Your Pain or Hypermobility:

  1. Start changing your mindset to believe your body is capable of doing more than you give it credit for
  2. Find a basic strength training program with low-to-medium reps to feel more in control
  3. Introduce strength training in a way that makes sense for your unique body and needs

The Benefits of Strength Training

Nikki Naab-Levy is a strength and nutrition coach who knows firsthand what it is like to live with chronic pain. Having been involved in multiple arenas in the fitness industry for the past 17 years, Nikki and her clients have used strength training to alleviate their pain and gain confidence, strength, and a sustainable mindset.

How Strength Training Can Help Your Hypermobility

Even if you have a history of pain, injury, or hypermobility, it is completely possible and beneficial to use strength training as a way to create a sense of safety in your body through your nervous system. 

If you think an activity will hurt, the likelihood of it hurting is far more significant; it is just how our brains are wired. But, when you equip yourself with the knowledge that Nikki shares to know how pain works and why it happens, you can design your strength training workouts in a way that benefits your body and mind.

Move Past the Fear Around Strength Training>

There is a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to strength training, especially for women. We are told not to lift anything heavy because we might hurt ourselves and are instead conditioned to believe that workouts ‘made for women’ are the only way to find the results we are looking for.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Strength training, when done properly for your unique body’s needs, can not only help you manage your pain, injury, or hypermobility, but it can lead to a whole new way of understanding just how much your body can really do.

Are you ready to harness the power of strength training so that you can relieve your pain, past injuries, or hypermobility? Share how this episode changes your perspective with me in the comments below.

In This Episode

  • The biggest benefits of strength training if you have a history of pain or injury (10:31)
  • Clues that you are potentially hypermobile and how to gain clarity around your assessment (14:37)
  • How to get started on your unique strength training journey if you have a history of injury (19:55)
  • Dismissing the myths that women should not lift heavy things because they will get hurt (27:20)
  • How to get clear on the goal of your exercise and see the results you want (32:44)


“We tend to have a really narrow view of how to address things. And that narrow view tends to be what keeps us stuck in not feeling or getting better or being able to start or pursue something.” (8:51)

“I think the first thing we need to start to understand and educate ourselves to reduce some of the fear is this understanding that pain is sort of an experience that is created by the nervous system as a way to get us to pay attention to something.” (12:32)

“You do need a certain underlying level of being able to sense and feel your joints and control your ranges of motion or your stability.” (20:35)

“What people need to realize is, it is actually that basic, and whatever weight you start with does not matter. It just needs to be heavy enough that it feels challenging, but not so heavy that you feel out of control with the weight. And typically, as women, we are much more capable and stronger than we realize we are.” (22:34)

“You are not going to get that from starving the shit out of yourself and doing these workouts that make you tired. But they don’t make you stronger, they don’t give you more muscle, and they don’t make you better.” (33:34)

Featured on the Show

Apply for Strength Nutrition Unlocked Program

Nikki Naab-Levy Website

Follow Nikki on Instagram

Support the Podcast

Get 20% off Legion Supplements with code STEPH

Get your first month of Whoop free ($30 off)

Save 10% off GORUCK with code FUELYOURSTRENGTH

Follow Steph on Instagram

Rate and review on Apple Podcasts

Related Episodes

LTYB 351: Strength Training Risk vs Benefit

Hypermobility, Pain and Strength Training w/ Nikki Naab-Levy

Steph Gaudreau

If you’re someone who’s had a history of pain, or injury, or maybe even hypermobility, it can be scary to think about getting in the gym and introducing some strength training into your routine. today’s podcast guest is going to be diving into this topic and more. She is here to help you understand if you have a history of pain, or injury, or even hypermobility, how you can get into the gym and experience the benefits of strength training. The Listen To Your Body podcast is all about helping women who lift weights get stronger, fuel themselves without counting every bite of food, perform better in and out of the gym, and take up space. I’m a strength coach, nutritional therapy practitioner, and certified intuitive eating counselor Steph Gaudreau. This weekly show brings you a discussion about building strength without obsessing about food and exercise, lifting weights, food, psychology, and more. You’ll learn how to eat, train, recover, listen to your body, and step into your strength. Hit subscribe on your favorite podcast app. And let’s dive in.

Steph Gaudreau
Hello, and welcome to the podcast. Thanks for being here with me this week. If you’re a returning listener, thank you so much for continuing to tune into the show. And if you’re new here, Hello, and welcome. I am really looking forward to today’s podcast with you. Because in the grand scheme of the breadth of strength training, I haven’t had very many people on the podcast who specialize in what today’s guest is going to be talking about. So I hope that this topic is going to be useful for you as we explore the ideas of pain, injury, and hypermobility as it relates to strength training. And my special guest who’s with me today is Nikki Naab-Levy. Not only is she highly qualified in fitness, and nutrition, but she’s somebody who is personally very well aware of how to build strength, improve mobility, and move beyond injury. If you’re somebody who much like Nikki has experienced chronic injuries or chronic pain, or you yourself suspect that you are hypermobile and you’re afraid of getting into the weight room or you’re afraid of building strength, then this podcast is really for you. She’s breaking it down in such an accessible and nuanced way for you in this podcast today. So hopefully, you’re going to walk away with some tips for how to get started how to move past some of those fears and concerns that can come up. And what a strength training routine if you’re starting out, and these issues describe you might look like. So I know that we’re going to get a ton out of this episode.

Steph Gaudreau
Before we dive in, make sure you get on the waitlist for strength nutrition on locked, it’s going to be back in 2021. And I want to be able to send you information when it’s going to be opening up for enrollment. So to get on that list. This is my group nutrition program, where we dive deeply into the four keys of fueling your strength so that you can build strength, build muscle, have more energy, and perform better in and out of the gym, then go ahead and navigate yourself to StephGaudreau.com/link, alright. Let’s go ahead and dive into this episode with Nikki Naab-Levy. Hey, Nikki, welcome to the podcast.

Nikki Naab-Levy
Thanks for having me excited to do this.

Steph Gaudreau
I am too because we talk a lot, a lot a lot on Instagram, particularly in DMS about so many things, including some of the stuff that we’re going to talk about on today’s podcast. So I’m just really excited that we get to have this chit chat and explore some of the things that you’re an expert in and you know very well from not only your training but from your personal experience. And I think that these topics are really going to resonate with people because I’m trying to kind of go back in my memory bank but I don’t think we’ve ever really had anybody on the show specifically addressing things like hypermobility pain and strength training kind of as a as a combination of of interplaying factors. So I’m excited to dig into this with you.

Nikki Naab-Levy
Yeah, me too. I have to say that it seems like a little bit of a black hole of information. And they whenever you have a black hole of information, you tend to have a wealth of misinformation and that is certainly been what is I’ve encountered both on the personal side of exploring strength training and on the professional side of working with people who want to learn how and have a lot of really reasonable fears and confusion given how much this is not discussed.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Tell us about your sort of your sort of personal experience with this and how that informed or I guess led to you sort of doing this now as as though the work that you’re doing in the world for other people like take us through that story? Absolutely,

Nikki Naab-Levy
I’ll try to give cliff notes because I’ve been teaching some form of exercise fitness movement since I was 19. And I’m 36 now. So that’s a long time. I feel like I’ve had several careers without ever really changing careers. I’m sure you can empathize or sympathize with that. So I started in group fitness. So when I call the Yelly scream a side of fitness right around the time that high impact stuff became really popular and cardio was really popular. So a lot of yelling into a microphone and jumping up and down. And I had a pretty traumatic ankle injury when I was 18 years old, where I landed a standing backflip wrong, got put into a boot, did not know anything about biomechanics did not care about biomechanics, or pain science or any of those things because I was an 1819 year old so I ran around on it develop really, really bad chronic pain as a result also did not know that I was hypermobile. Also did not know that I’ve never been formally diagnosed that I probably have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. And what all of that compounded into was by the time that I was like 2526, I had chronic pain and pretty much every single joint in my body and multiple nerve impingement stopped my legs down my hands, all sorts of things. In that time, I started studying Pilates, I started studying post-rehab work and restorative work and massage and Cymatics. And I did find that some of this nuanced biomechanical stuff in the smaller exercises that are so popular when we start looking at pain management and post-rehab, was helpful for my pain, and my client’s pain to an extent that it had diminishing returns.

Nikki Naab-Levy
So it was like you could build up that certain level of joint stability, or proprioceptive awareness, which is just a fancy word for body awareness. But then when I would go back to try to do anything in the land of fitness, like let’s say, a push up my shoulder, and my neck would still hurt. And I was like, Well, this is irritating. Um, so then I ended up in a very, very expensive Cymatics, and massage training. That was complete BS in 2015. And after sitting in a room for days on end, being told that everything was dangerous, including strength training, I started waking up at 6am in the morning, and doing a strength training program five days a week, almost as a point of defiance against this teacher, which is probably not how most people get started. But it’s how I got started. And what was so surprising was, I wasn’t trying to fix my pain. I was just tired of being weak, frankly, I just had realized how weak I was. And within a few months, pretty much all of my pain went away. And I went, this is really curious, I wonder why this happened. And then I started talking about it. And I started getting a lot of questions. And now here I am. So I’ve spent a lot of time and a lot of the different aspects of the fitness world, the somatic movement, Pilates world, and the massage world and the pain science world. So that kind of all informs my approach is that none of these things are the best or the right way. It’s just that we tend to have a really narrow view of how to address things. And that narrow view tends to be what keeps us stuck in not feeling or getting better or being able to start or pursue something.

Steph Gaudreau
I am very fortunate that you’re talking about these things, because I feel like there are so well first of all on on, from my perspective, right as somebody who’s really kind of playing in the intersection of nutrition and strength training. I mean, not only I’ve experienced pain, right, as somebody who’s participated in sports, or injuries and things like that, but I get so many questions from people who are like, this hurts. What should I do? This is an injury, what should I do? And I’m like, This is not my wheelhouse. Right. And I think that that’s, that’s important to point out in so far as like, for example, what you’re doing is that there you can be out there, for example, on social media, like you’re talking about deadlifting the other day and talk about deadlifting but also talk about it from the perspective of things like joint stability or joint mobility or you know, kind of what’s normal pain and all those things. And that’s one very important point of view. Versus, for example, what I’m doing which is completely different. And so I think for the consumer, it’s important to know that if you are having pain, for example, or your experience Seeing the sort of sub-optimal ranges of motion or whatever it is like, not everybody who’s out there talking about strength training on the internet is going to be maybe the best person to go to for that. So I’m really glad that people like you are out there doing what you’re doing. Because then you become a really, your work becomes an amazing resource that I can say, Hey, go and go and follow Nikki and see what she’s up to. What do you think are some of the biggest benefits of strength training, when you do have a history of pain or injury? And what are some of the ways that you might begin? If you have some some of those barriers, like, I have this, this back thing, and I’m afraid to start lifting weights, because everybody tells me I’m going to wreck my back even further. So if we can dig into those?

Nikki Naab-Levy
Yes, I mean, again, this is where it’s, there’s so much nuance involved. So I’m going to make some blanket statements and just say that these are blanket statements, which means you’re if you’re listening, your individual experience, and what you specifically need will be different than someone else, and probably not exactly what I’m saying right now. I think the first thing that we all need is better education, both as professionals and as consumers on why pain happens and how pain works. It’s really important to know that there’s a large body of research now that keeps saying over and over again, improving that pain does not correlate well with tissue damage. And also, pain does not typically correlate well with position, which means that if you have bad posture, it doesn’t mean necessarily that you’re going to have pain or injury. And if you have good posture, it doesn’t mean that you’re not that you’re necessarily not going to have pain and injury, these things don’t go together very well. And it’s the same thing as if you have pain in a joint, there may or may not be something in that joint happening, like let’s say arthritis, but that are threat. But that correlation.

Nikki Naab-Levy
There’s lots of people who have arthritis, and not everyone who has arthritis, let’s say in your knee joint, or say has a meniscal tear in your knee joint is going to have pain with it. So I think the first thing we need to start to understand and educate ourselves to reduce some of the fear is this understanding that like, pain is sort of an experience that is created by the nervous system, as a way to sort of try to get us to pay attention to something because it senses threat, whether or not there is actually threat or risk of injury there. I think that’s really important to know. And I think the other thing that’s really important to know is that if you expect something to hurt, it is more likely to hurt our brains and our belief systems. And not be I’m not a woo person, but like it’s very powerful. So if someone says deadlifting is going to hurt your back, there’s a good chance that you will then go in try to deadlift and then experience back pain, your odds of experiencing back pain is higher. So then again, it’s really important to sort of look at the literature, which actually says you can strength train with pain, and you won’t usually have an increase of pain, I think that’s really important to know. And then I think also the reason why strength training is a such a powerful is such a powerful piece of sort of managing pain or even reducing pain is that it creates a sense of safety within your body in your nervous system when, when you’re stronger. The sensitive is called sensitization. But the basically your the odds of being sensitive to pain or a feeling actually goes down, which means you’re able to do more things without your joints going. Ouch. That was a very dumb, dumb explanation of it. But that’s kind of why it’s so helpful and so powerful, especially for people who have hypermobility, because we tend to have the hardest time sensing and feeling and having strength around the joints. And so creating a sense of strength around the joints and control around the joints can be really, really powerful in making our subconscious but making our nervous systems feel safe doing things. So that’s why I think that’s why it’s so valuable.

Steph Gaudreau
Hmm. When is somebody is this sort of an aside, but maybe an important question is if somebody suspects Well, what might be some of the clues that you’re potentially hypermobile? Or if you suspect that you’re hypermobile, how might you have that assessed so that you have some clarity, and then can accordingly you know, maybe adjust the training that you’re doing?

Nikki Naab-Levy
I mean, I would say if you’re someone who feel it, if you had the nickname Gumby as a child, like I able to pull your leg over your head, that that might be a that might be a symptom. Um, there’s, I think it’s called the Buyten scale. I’m blanking on it right now. There’s basically a scale or an assessment that you can Google and lookup for hypermobility and certain joints. But honestly, if you just find that you’re really bendy, your elbows can hyperextend or knees can hyperextend, you seem to have way more range of motion than some other people, you can actually like pull your leg over your head, like that kind of stuff, you tend to be attracted to things that are like stretching, because you’re good at it, right? Like, like a yoga or pilates based movement, not that it’s bad, but like you, you’re like, Yeah, I can do really big ranges of motion, that that tends to lend itself towards hypermobility or a signal of hypermobility, right, you just seem to have a lot more range of motion, the average person, but if you want to get assessed for that, honestly, the the easiest way is to like go see a physical therapist, and they can take a look at you. But the thing about hypermobility, that’s like kind of, I don’t know, it’s like kind of aggravating, but also makes me I don’t want to some flip about it is that like, I think sometimes we act like it’s this huge pathology. And it’s kind of like no, you just have, you just have more range of motion than the average person. And that doesn’t mean that you can’t do things like strength train, it just means that you’re going to have to spend more time working on stability or teaching your body how to find and feel where your joints are in place. So like maybe you’re going to have to use a resistance band before a weight because it gives you more feedback. And you have more range of motion, you have to learn how to control and you have to build strength through. So it’s just going to take you longer to build strength, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t challenge yourself, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use appropriately heavy loads, it’s just going to take you longer, because you quite literally have to build strength through a larger range of motion, and it’s harder for you to feel it.

Steph Gaudreau
Hmm. Yeah, that makes a ton of sense. And I really appreciate what you do. You know, just as somebody who’s out there in related fields and stuff, because I think you do a really great job of reminding people that they are capable that they can do these things. Whereas sometimes the messages that people receive, when they have, they’ve had pain for a while, or they find out that they’re or they suspect they’re hypermobile. And so they become fearful of doing these things like strength training, for example, or whatever it happens to be. I really appreciate the nuance that you bring to the conversation and also the reassurance that you have of getting, getting people to the point where or walking with them to the point where they feel like they can do these things and how what was once a very limited way of relating to the world because you are you have had pain or injury or as you say weird body stuff, you then you’re able to sort of expand your your possibilities are able to expand what you can try or you can do and in some cases, it actually helps the situation instead of what everybody fears, which is making it worse, right?

Nikki Naab-Levy
Yeah, absolutely. And thank you. I mean, I, I think that’s just the thing with all of this is that there is no one size fits all box. Like I would love to say, Well, if you have hypermobility, this is the exact protocol you should follow. But you can be really hypermobile and a bunch of joints and really stiff in a few joints. And so it’s like, where you need to pay attention, or what you need to do is going to be different than some other hypermobile person or some other person or the knee, like we all have different degrees of hypermobility. And it’s the same thing with pain and injury, there’s just so much nuance to it. But I think starting from a place or a mindset or a realization of our bodies are really capable and are usually capable of more than we think they are. If we are patient, in how we approach things, the patient is a big piece of this. We can go really really far I think where it goes sideways for people, regardless of if they’re hypermobile or not, is we are very impatient. And this goes back to just this is the intersection of our work is people get frustrated with their bodies, I got it. And then they go to the most extreme diet or exercise plan they can find and then they just crash and burn their system in their psychology quite a bit. I mean, they just crash it, overwhelm it. And then they’re like, well, everything hurts and I feel terrible. And it’s like, yeah, you’re eating 1200 calories a day, and you’re working out seven, seven days a week, as hard as you can. Of course, you don’t feel good. I don’t care if you’re hypermobile, or what condition you have. That’s gonna make anyone feel terrible. Do you know what I mean?

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, 100%. So let’s say somebody’s listening to this, they are identifying with what you’re saying here. And they’re sort of saying, Okay, I’m willing to be patient. I’m willing to try new things. But I don’t really know how to get started. Knowing that there’s no-one master plan that’s going to work for everyone. What do you think are some considerations that that people who identify with this conversation might might need to know if they want to get started or how they might actually begin to, for example, strength training when they have this kind of history?

Nikki Naab-Levy
Absolutely. So the first thing we’re going to make is an assumption right now that this is someone who has probably already spent some time and I don’t mean And I’m mockingly in the land of teeny, tiny, precise biomechanical exercises. So I’m assuming at this point, like you have some level of understanding of like how your ankle joints move how your hip joints move, right, you’ve done all your little core exercises and physical therapy, you’ve done your little thing with the rotator cuff with the yellow band like you’ve done all the things right, and you’re stuck in the revolving door between the timing exercise and then trying something a little bit more vigorous, and our head hurts. Because you do need a certain underlying level of being able to sense and feel your joints and control your ranges of motion or your stability. So you might need more stability in some joints, you might need more mobility and some joints, so you can work on that stuff alongside strength training, just know that that’s a piece of the puzzle. But for most people, particularly with again, hypermobility, it needs to be addressed.

Nikki Naab-Levy
What I noticed with the people I work with is they get stuck there. And then they don’t know how to get into bigger, larger, more loaded or weighted or global exercises. So I think sometimes when people are gonna do strength training, and I’m not knocking CrossFit if it works for you, great. They think CrossFit, pure hypermobile, you probably don’t want to start with the most aggressive form of strength training possible. And I’ve gotten emails that are things like, well, what if I can’t lift a 45 pound bar, that’s fine, you don’t have to start with a 45 pound bar. Basically, you want to find a basic strength training program that is probably in low to medium reps because I at least have found again, with people with hypermobility high rep tends to irritate your joints and feel achy. And it’s harder to feel and control where you are as you get more tired. So you want to look for something that has a pushing exercise, like a push-up, or maybe a chest press or a floor press. If push-ups don’t feel good for you some sort of pulling or rowing exercise, some sort of overhead pressing exercise, like an overhead press, if you have that range of motion could be done with a band or a kettlebell or a dumbbell, those are all considered load or resistance outside of your body that will challenge you some sort of pulling down exercise like a lat pulldown or pull up an assisted pull up to hang a squat, and the deadlift. And I think what people need to realize is, is it’s actually that basic, and whatever weight you start with does not matter. So it just needs to be heavy enough that it feels challenging, but not so heavy that you feel out of control with the weight. And typically, especially women we are much more capable and stronger than we realize we are and I think that what happens is people go great, I’m going to start strength training and they buy a little cute tiny kettlebell that’s like two kilograms that weighs less than a banana. And they’re they’re using it as they do their strength training work. And I’m not mocking this, right. But they go back into doing like kind of this pop fitness where they’re just doing a whole bunch of fast lunges and a whole bunch of fast overhead presses.

Nikki Naab-Levy
And they’re doing everything really quickly and they’re flowing around. And that’s not the type of strength training, that’s really going to help you get results and actually help you feel better and actually help you get stronger. You’re kind of back into like the group fitness land of things, which isn’t bad but doesn’t work really well. If you’re coming out of a chronic pain cycle or you’re hypermobile, you really do have to start with that. Five to 10 reps have something moderate with those basic exercises, nothing fancy, I know it’s boring, and an adequately heavyweight, and then you have to keep doing it over and over until you get stronger and not get distracted by what looks like a fun shiny object that’s like swinging the kettlebell, you can eventually but that’s not where you typically want to start if you actually want to get good at this and feel better.

Steph Gaudreau
Yes, there’s a lot that you said there. And, so I want to echo back some of the important points that I heard, right? So yes, cosign on like building a strong base of strength, and not doing a bajillion D reps. Because we have to find that balance between like load slash resistance, right. And maybe balance isn’t the right word but like that sort of interplay between load and resistance and like sort of rep ranges. And I think what a lot of women specifically have experienced because they tend to potentially frequent again, like nothing wrong with these things, but like a group fitness class, for example. Or they have done, I don’t know, some kind of workout videos, like, I’ll be the first one to say, when I was 20. I would go you know, I wake up at seven in the morning, and I would do Denise Austin workouts in my living room, right. That’s just like the fitness that like I didn’t know, I didn’t know what I was doing. But there was really no weight involved. And like there was a lot of sort of, you know, cardio involved in it too. But there was very it was like a lot of reps of everything that we were doing. So we’ve sometimes had that experience just from what we’ve learned what we’ve been exposed to, sometimes hard to conceive of anything different But I think that is such an important point that you bring up is like, different rep ranges have different goals, you know, different things that we’re sort of working on. Does that mean that when we go from like, six to seven reps all the sudden our body just drastically switches? Of course not right. And but I think that that’s, that’s like some basic education that’s really missing. So I, you know, you know me I’m a huge advocate for like that strength being appropriately loaded because like you said if we’re doing a banana, we’re lifting a banana. But it’s so easy that we’re we can’t, we’re not controlling it. Well, we’re not getting a lot of good feedback. Right, especially if that way is really light. Sometimes we were lacking the actual feedback of like, where’s the joint and it’s just, you know, what you said, there is like, the gold nugget of this conversation, I think for a lot of people. So go back and maybe Rewind a few minutes and listen to what Nikki said again because it’s so so important.

Nikki Naab-Levy
Yeah, and I again, I don’t want to oversimplify it. But like that’s, that’s really the heart of what’s missing for most people I find is they’re either in the land of teeny tiny, unloaded exercises with a really light band, or bodyweight only, which isn’t bad, it’s just not going to give you if we’re looking at the goal is strength, it’s just not going to give you that feedback, it’s just not going to create that sense of safety in the nervous system, it’s a beautiful warm-up, it’s great at the beginning parts of post-rehab, it’s a nice thing to do on an off day or recovery day, it’s just not going to give you the same impact as a strength because that’s not how the human body works. And actual strength training is not the same as I picked up a really cute little kettlebell when I swung it around in high reps. And again, there’s nothing wrong with the cute kettlebell on the high reps. But it’s also not going to do the thing for you, if your goal is actually strengthened, to feel better, and you’re hypermobile, that really high fast velocity stuff is something you might be able to add back in later. But it’s not a great place to start in my experience.

Steph Gaudreau
So that’s a good segue for a topic I want to bring up, which is that we’ve talked about this, and you’ve made videos about this. And it’s probably one of the things that irritate both of us the most is the conversation around, you know, women shouldn’t lift more than five pounds, or instead of doing this resistance, move or workout with a weight. You should solely rely, for example, on your body weight. Or looking at Tracy Anderson, let’s just you know, and similar, right, because she’s sort of like the archetype of this, of this sort of belief system out there in the fitness land right now. So why are those types of workouts or similar, capable of creating, I guess, more pain issues for people than if they had lifted the weights, to begin with?

Nikki Naab-Levy
I think, yeah, I mean, it this is such an interesting thing to think about, because it’s like, it’s such a cultural phenomenon, right is like, the reason why we’re attracted to that type of workout, I think is there’s a couple of reasons. Number one, it feels safe and familiar, right? Like, like, we’re more as women, and this is me, this was me. The group fitness room feels pretty inviting and friendly. And we’re sort of taught that’s the space you’re supposed to be in. And the weight room floor is like loud and fluorescent lights. And there’s always that guy with the pout like he’s just got the gallon of whey like a protein shake that he’s chugging. And he’s like checking his muscles in the mirror, right? That guy is always there. He’s always there at my gym, there’s like, actually five of them, they never leave. They’re there, no matter what time of day you go, right? Like, that’s not like a very inviting environment, I realized that. But also, we’ve been sold this idea for so long that it’s like, well, this will give you the dancer body, this will make you long and lean this whole, this type, this will give you the aesthetic that you want, right? So we’re sold that like, well, you don’t want to get bulky. You don’t want to train like a man, you want to look like this. And also this is safer, you’re not going to hurt yourself, because there are no heavyweights to lift. But I think that this goes back to have lack of understanding about how pain works. And really, pain tends to happen as a result of your nervous system.

Nikki Naab-Levy
Whether or not there’s actually a threat there. It’s perceiving danger in the future. So it kind of creates signal pain signals. It’s not actually called a pain signal, but it creates a bunch of signals. And that creates for some of us an experience of pain. So we pay attention and I think what people don’t realize is that like Tracy Anderson’s workouts are actually really hard in a really specific way. You’re jumping up and down a bunch which is ballistic. You’re she has this move where you kind of flip between being on your hands and knees and then rotating. So you Flip. So you’re facing more of the ceiling and your butt is on the ground, It’s hard to describe in a podcast, just take my word on it, but it requires rotating back and forth over one arm while rotating back and forth over one arm. Even though there’s no external weight, like a kettlebell, you’re actually rotating all of your body weight over that wrist and hand, however much you weigh, right, and you’re rotating it all the way back, I’m assuming that like that amount of weight, you’re rotating over your hand from your body weight is significantly higher than, say, pressing 15 pounds over your head, which could feel quite challenging. And I think that’s where the misnomer is, is we don’t realize that bodyweight exercise where you’re navigating around, you’re moving really quickly. It’s complex movement patterns. And you haven’t taken the time to build that strength. Because you know, you probably work a desk job, or you have a lot of admin time. So it’s like, yeah, if your workouts are if you spend most of your time sitting at a desk or walking around, and then your workouts involve jumping up and down, which requires a lot of power, so a lot of strength and control in your lower body, and moving back and forth over your hands really quickly. This also happens in vinyasa flow yoga classes, you’re actually putting a lot of load and weight into your joints, and that point makes your nervous system feel threatened and go, Huh, oh, my wrist hurts. And I think that’s what we don’t realize is if we just started with again, that boring overhead, that boring air close overhead press, and that heavy deadlift, we have a lot more control in that situation than we do when we’re quickly moving from one exercise to another. Does that make sense?

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, absolutely. And sort of terror to your point earlier, you know, talking about moving like moving a lot lightweight or moving something that’s not very heavily loaded, right very quickly. And where that overlaps with the hypermobility piece, as well, right, we’re sort of like finding that, that, that range of motion where things are stable, and you’re able to do that, like sort of in a controlled way. That makes a ton of sense. And when you sort of pointed that out, in one of the reels, I think it was that you did about you know why this particular move in and of itself is like, you’re actually putting a lot of weight on that sort of, you know, hand in hand wrist, elbow shoulder complex, right? And how that’s not it’s not quite the same thing that I think people think they’re doing. Like there’s a bit of a disconnect there and, and how that could be potentially making more issues happen.

Nikki Naab-Levy
Yeah, and I think my other question is for people when they pursue these workouts is, what is the goal of the exercise? Why are you doing this because most of the people who are doing this kind of Tracey Anderson Esque workouts, what they’ll usually set, they’re usually women, and they’re going to say, well, I want to be toned? And I think the irony in this is like when you say you want to be toned, what you actually mean, if we were to look at this from a scientific, from, like the science side is you actually want more visible muscle that you can see. And that requires for most people strength training. And, you know, I’m not like some big advocate of weight loss, but it’s going to usually require for a lot of people some sort of body composition, where you have more muscle and a little bit less fat, and that makes your muscles look more toned. But you’re not going to get that from starving the shit out of yourself and doing these workouts that really just mostly, make you tired, but they don’t make you stronger. They don’t give you more muscle and they don’t make you better.

Steph Gaudreau
Mm-hmm. Yeah. Was it you recently that was sort of talking about the sweat factor or you know how drained and exhausted you feel after your workout and how that correlates to our sorry, how that doesn’t correlate necessarily to the actual efficacy of those workouts?

Nikki Naab-Levy
I don’t know if I did it recently. I know I’ve said it before. It’s like the feeling of it. being exhausted and drenched in sweat doesn’t again, much like pain doesn’t correlate with tissue damage, being really tired and sweaty, doesn’t correlate with more muscle or a more effective workout.

Steph Gaudreau
Mm-hmm. Yeah. So if you could sort of taking a step back, I know you said earlier, and I think you’re very good at this, like, you know, I’m gonna make a blanket statement or I’m going to talk about talking generalities. Right. And, and the nuance of your individual experience may be different. But if you are somebody who was coming into this, maybe several years ago, and you were like, Okay, this is something that I want to start including in my week. What would that look like in terms of, you know, where do we find that interplay is lifting every day going to be the best bet like how much lifting would you say somebody who is looking to introduce strength training and who has, for example, pain or hypermobility? Like where would somebody start? Realistically.

Nikki Naab-Levy
I think you have to look at you have to consider a few things. One of those things is what other activities are doing. So if you’re a runner, I wouldn’t put a bunch of like heavy strength days with a whole bunch of like long, hard run days, right, you’re gonna need to space things out and consider things like recovery. So I’ll just say that for most people, strength training, let’s say all of the major muscle groups two times a week, in a standard 45 minute to an hour-long workout with those basic lifts that I mentioned before, is a really, really good place to start. And then based off of those two times a week you can, I would spread them out, you can see how well you recover. Which is just how do you how does your body feel? Do you still feel rundown, you’re probably not recovering enough to like, go hit it hard. Again, that’s worth considering. So like moderate training two times a week with enough time in between do feel like, I don’t feel like I’ve been, you know, my joints are all filled with cement, or I’ve been hit by a Mack truck that’s not like so I wouldn’t do them back to back and then just see how that goes for those two times a week. And could you fit in a third shore but I’m a big fan of a low bar instead of trying to like go all or nothing. Ease-In the figure, like play around with it and be okay with the fact they’re like, I’m not really sure I know what I’m doing. But this seems okay. That’s a great place to start. And then, you know, hire someone to get some help if you’re really confused.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, absolutely. I love it. I can’t believe this time has flown by so quickly. But here we are. Definitely would love to have you back at some point we can. There’s so much more I want to talk about with you. That we could fill up a whole other episode. So let’s play in on that. But if people are listening, and they’re like, Okay, cool. I want to actually work with you. Because you do have programs you do have coaching, like where can they get ahold of you? Where can they follow along for all of your updates and your very spicy, Instagram reel?

Nikki Naab-Levy
Yeah, I’m known for being mouthy on the internet. I’m that girl. So like most people, I have an email list. So that’s where I send out more longer-form kind of educational content, and sometimes free workouts around kettlebells, Pilates mobility, injury prevention, all that stuff. So all that can you can sign up for my list or find out about my work or work with me over on Naablevy.com, which is my website, you’re welcome to connect with me on Instagram, my handle is at https://www.instagram.com/naablevy/. I believe it’s my last name, which is a nightmare to spell. So just looking in the show notes would be my advice. And then I do have will probably open it back up in the spring, an online live virtual program called kettlebells made simple. And I would say the last time we ran it, we had I would say 85% of our people were people of hypermobility who took the program and felt really successful in it. So it’s basically how to get started with kettlebells and strength training at home. And we teach everything live and give lots of time to answer questions and give feedback. So if you want something that’s a little bit cheaper than a private session, a lot cheaper than private sessions, but has some level of feedback in handholding, in a good way. Right support. I would say check that out. It’s not open right now. But you can always message me if you’re curious about it. So yeah, thanks for having me, though.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, awesome. So we’ll link all that in the show notes. And, you know, again, just want to thank you so much for the work that you do, always bringing a lot of really interesting conversation around strength training and where it overlaps with these other areas of expertise that you have. I think your you know, the work that you do is an incredible resource for people who are learning to sort of dip their toe into the pool of strength training and navigating with things like pain and hypermobility. So if anybody listening, you identified with this show, like, go follow along, go, go take the classes and get involved with the program. It’s all really, really great stuff.

Nikki Naab-Levy
Yes, and thank you for the work that you do. I just think it’s good that we have more of these conversations around the messy nuanced space of there’s some information but it depends and we don’t have all the answers. As opposed to here’s one answer that will fix everyone, which is just not how the human body works, you know?

Steph Gaudreau
Absolutely. Nikki, thank you so much for being on the podcast.

Nikki Naab-Levy
Thanks for having me.

Steph Gaudreau
Yes, I loved finally getting to sit down and talk to Nikki in person about some of these topics that I know my community has been really wanting information and reassurance on. And that’s one of the beauties of this podcast is I’m not an expert in everything. I haven’t personally experienced everything. So I am so grateful to guests like Nikki for coming on the show and sharing their expertise with you so that you can go on and get stronger and do it in a way that really works for you and your unique needs. If you want the show notes for this episode that include all have the details for following Nikki on her website, learning about her classes and programs when they come out. And of course, following her on her Instagram, then go ahead and go to StephGaudreau.com. There, you will find the show notes for this episode, as well as a full transcript. So if a transcript is useful for you, or someone you know, please head over to my website. And there you can find that transcript a couple of other assets. The first is to please hit subscribe on your favorite podcast app. That way, it sends a signal to the app that I like this podcast and people like me might also like it. The second one is to please share this one out on Instagram stories and tag Nikki and me that way you are helping us to spread the word about the podcast, and we would love to hear your thoughts as well on this episode, so if it was useful for you, please head over to Instagram and share it there. Thank you so very much for being here on the podcast today. I really appreciate you. Have a great week. And until we meet next time, stay strong.

Share this post

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.


Purpose built for strength, fitness, and athleticism. This is a templated, app-based 12-month progressive strength program for women over 40.


Strength Nutrition Unlocked

For athletic women 40+ who want to get stronger, build muscle, boost energy, and perform better. Implement evidence-backed strategies to fuel, train, and recover smarter with the support & accountability you need.

free workout program