Powerlifting Form Check with My Coach Dylan Smith

This is my 10th week being a part of the True Fitness & Nutrition family. My strength coach Dylan Smith is a fellow JMU alumni where he graduated with a BS in Kinesiology. Dylan is a well-known strength coach and powerlifting competitor in the Northern Virginia area holding many certifications. Dylan is a USAPL Club Coach and NPTI Certified Trainer in addition to being a former instructor for the National Personal Training Institute (NPTI).

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(Dylan making 600 lbs. look easy)

From my personal experience working with Dylan so far he has superior attention to detail, strong emphasis on achieving optimal form in all lifting movements and is very responsive and attentive to client questions.

I met up with Dylan at his awesome gym, True Fitness & Nutrition in McLean, Virginia, where we went over my fitness goals, nutrition, and proper form for all 3 powerlifting movements: bench, deadlift and squat. He was so helpful and helped me improve all of my lifts significantly with just a single two and a half hour session. Below I will be sharing some of the great advice I have gained about powerlifting technique and form from working with Dylan so far.

General Powerlifting Tips:

  • The lifts to use wrist wraps on are bench, squat and military press. There is no need to use wrist wraps on pull ups, rows or deadlifting.
  • We discussed breathing & bracing and how they are essential when performing basically any exercise. If you combine both every time it will help you maintain proper form and increase your powerlifting total.

Breathing & Bracing are two different things that you must do together:

  • Breath deep into your belly (360 degree expansion and pressurization of your core with air)
  • Brace (360 degree expansion of entire core with muscular contraction)

*A neutral spine allows for optimal function of the diaphragm leading to proper belly breathing

  • It is also important to be consistent on every single rep for every single lift. Habits are hard to break so let’s make sure we are making the correct form choices and forming the right habits.

Squatting:

*Before you lift make sure you are wearing Olympic lifting shoes if you can. (Like these http://www.reebok.com/us/lifter). Unless you are one of the few lifters that feels strongest in flats, Dylan recommends squat shoes for optimal squatting. Wrist wraps are very useful in the squat so make sure to wrap up tightly with wraps completely covering the wrist joint for best support. Additionally, a quality powerlifting belt will improve your ability to squat due to enhanced bracing especially on heavy lifts.

Focus on This when Squatting:

  • Set your grip evenly on the bar outside of shoulder width. Typically, the best grip for an individual is the most narrow grip possible that allows the lifter to retain a depressed and retracted shoulder position along with an extended upper back. Many lifters cannot take a narrow grip due to range of motion issues so use the grip you find allows for the strongest squatting positon.
  • Step under the barbell and “break the bar over your back”, the bar positon should be somewhere close to resting across the rear delts or top of shoulder blades although some lifters will feel stronger with a slightly higher or lower bar position. Again, find what works best for you.
  • Get both feet under the barbell and make sure that you are loaded directly over the middle of your feet with about a hip width stance. Un-rack the bar by locking knees and hips.
  • Use a 3 Step Walkout: One foot straight back approximately one foot-length, second foot step back and out to the side, first foot step to the side. This should allow for a repeatable and consistent walk-out which will set you up for long term squatting success.
  • One you are in a proper squat stance take a deep breath into the belly (maintain a proper brace throughout!)
  • To descend, simultaneously break at the hips and knees and squat until the crease of the hip is directly below the level of the knees.
  • Hit depth and then immediately come back up in a controlled manor while exhaling forcefully into the lockout.
  • Make sure to remain tight the entire lift

Video of Squat Form

Benching:

*Before you lift make sure you are wearing Olympic lifting shoes if you can. (Like these http://www.reebok.com/us/lifter). If desired, wear wrist wraps with them wrapped tightly and completely covering the wrist.

Focus on This when Benching:

  • Keeping shoulder blades pulled down and back together like you’re trying to squeeze a pencil between your shoulder blades.
  • Driving your feet through the floor to anchor your upper traps into the bench and reinforce good upper back position. (retracted and depressed shoulders)
  • Sustain a quality back arch while benching making sure to keep your feel fully on the ground and your shoulder blades down as previously stated.
  • Keep strong wrist (knuckles up).
  • When benching, keep elbows beneath the barbell throughout the movement. This will create a bar path that arcs down and forward onto the body and then up and back as you press.
  • Remember, if you can reset your upper back tightness at the top of the repetition, this means you lost it along the way during the previous rep. Strive to maintain position and tightness for optimal benching.

*Make sure that when you un-rack the bar that you take bar out of rack by just locking out your elbows

*Keep your shoulders retracted (pulled back together like squeezing a pencil between your shoulder blades) during the entire set, from un-racking to mid benching.

Video of Bench Form

Deadlifting:

*Before you lift make sure you are wearing completely flat shoes such as converse and are wearing a proper powerlifting belt

*A powerlifting belt should made of thick leather and be of one width and thickness all around in either prong or lever design. Good companies to purchase from are Inzer, Best Belts, and SBD which are all high quality as well as IPF Approved. Do yourself (and your spine!) a favor and get a quality lifting belt. The brands listed above will last a lifetime (Inzer “Forever” Belts even come with a lifetime warranty)

Dylan’s Tips on Proper Deadlift Form:

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  • Step to bar with mid-foot beneath barbell
  • Hinge to grab bar with arms locked in straightened position
  • Set back flat as you take the slack out of the bar (pull tightly against the bar by pressing your feet through the floor). *You can drive your hips up and back while doing this
  • Big air into belly after you have taken the slack out of the bar (you can feel and hear the “click” when using metal plates)
  • Pull chest up while keeping shoulder blades above barbell, and allow shins forward into the bar as you wedge into the start position
  • Pull!

*Shoulder blades must be aligned over the bar in order to initiate the lift off the floor. If you rock behind the bar when setting up you will “tip” forward until shoulder blades are above the bar.

Video of Conventional Deadlift Form

Video of Sumo Deadlift Form

Overall make sure to maintain proper form and be consistent on all your lifts. Make you have the proper gear when you’re lifting and that with every lift you are conscious of your body and how it is moving. In order to get the most out of your workouts, record your lifts and review your form with your coach or compare yourself to the videos I provided above.

(Inside True Fitness & Nutrition)

Make sure to check out True Fitness & Nutrition across all social media platforms and to consider any of their amazing certified strength coaches. Follow Dylan on IG @Dylan_C_Smith

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Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Pronuts

Who doesn’t love chocolate dipped strawberries! These donuts bring together the best of both worlds. They are great for on-the-go or you can even make them to impress your friends. Let’s keep it our little secret how healthy they are and easy to make. 😉

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What’s a pronut? Simply a protein packed donut.

Ingredients:
-1/2 Serving almond butter
-2 egg whites
-1 ripened mashed bananas
-1/2 cup oat flour
-2 strawberries
-1 spoonful baking Truvia
-1 tbsp unsweetened almond milk
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-1/2 scoop true nutrition strawberry whey
-1 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp vanilla extract
*Optional: Chocolate Dollop vegan frosting (Discount code Eatingbrofood)

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Directions:
-Mash the banana
-Mix all ingredients but frosting in a bowl.
-Spray donut tin with coconut oil spray
-Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 16 minutes
-Once the donuts are done, melt 1 tbs of frosting and drizzle on a donut if desired

Macros: Fat (g): Carb (g): Protein (g): Calories:
Macros for 1 unfrosted donut 2.4g 10g 6g 84
Macros for 1 donut + 1 T Dollop 8.4g 15g 6g 164

*Makes 6 donuts*

Let’s Talk Gains :Optimum Nutrition Gainer Review

Looking to gain some muscle? Gaining muscle requires you to eat in a surplus. You’ll be eating more food than normal while hopefully still consuming  your calories mindfully. You should be counting your macros to make sure you are eating in the correct surplus range. To read about how to count your macros please click here.

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Sometimes there isn’t enough time in the day to cook and eat all the calories you may need to eat to gain weight. That is where supplements come in. You want to put supplements into your body that you can trust. The Optimum Nutrition gainer has helped me gain muscle weight and increase my strength in the gym. My current goals are to build muscle and increase my strength on the powerlifts: bench, deadlift and squat.

I have been taking half a serving after I work out which is more than enough for me as I am eating in a small surplus of 250 calories above maintenance daily. Half a serving is 385 calories, 4.5g F/ 58g Carb/ 27.5g Protein. I mixed mine in a shaker bottle with unsweetened almond milk which adds a few calories but not many. For those of you looking for more immediate weight gain results I would recommend consuming a full serving of this gainer daily. You can buy the gainer here.

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I often find it hard to hit my carbs in a healthy way. This shake definitely fills that void for me. Rather than reaching for packaged food or sugary carb sources this gainer is filled with a healthy carbohydrate blend that is made up of oat flour, pea starch and potatoes. The mix also includes flax seeds and chia. The gainer its self mixes fairly easily in a blender bottle although I think it would be best with ice and almond milk in a blender. It was very creamy and the vanilla flavor was tasty without tasting artificial.

You can drink this post workout or even have half a serving between meals if you are looking for steady calories throughout the day. Gaining muscle weight can be empowering and awesome. No wonder why #gainingweightiscool is trending. Here is my transformation over the years.

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The far left is me at 115 pounds six years ago, the middle is me at 120 pounds 6 months ago and the right is me in December at 125 pounds.

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My Gym Clothes: Secrets & Steals!

Hey guys! I have been endlessly frustrated paying far too much for cute and high quality workout clothes. I’ve done a lot of research and had some hits and misses from clothing companies. I am going to share with you some of the best deals out there for adorable workout leggings and tops from some of my favorite companies, such as, Athlenix Apparel, DTina’s Boutique, Aerie, T.J. Maxx and Plato’s Closet.

Athlenix Apparel workout leggings are so stylish, good quality and so cheap! Everything on their site has free USA shipping. I wish I had found them sooner. This is by no means a sponsored post. I found these camo leggings and a 15% off code (Faith15) and I had to purchase them. I selected the blue camo leggings in a size medium for $11 (discount applied) and I recently purchased the grey camo leggings and got the same deal! Leggings on their site range from $34- $11 with the discount and free shipping. You’d be silly not to get them.

Shop the look here: https://www.athlenix.com/

DTina’s Boutique has adorable workout clothes. I love them for their scrunch booty leggings and scrunch booty shorts. They are the most affordable “scrunch booty leggings” I have found and are super high quality. I was trying to find something comparable to my Celestial Bodiez leggings and these are it! They come in tons of fun prints like donuts and Mexican skulls but I am a fan of their solid color collection. I am a size small in DTina’s leggings and shorts and own a few pairs in scrunch booty. The leggings and capris are generally $45 for solid colors and the shorts are $30. You can also get them without the scrunch booty, but, I highly suggest getting it for its booty enhancing magical powers. They also have awesome sales all the time so sign up for their mailing list. I got my last leggings 30% off because of a promotion so they were $31.50 which is INSANE for handmade leggings!

Shop the look here: https://www.dtinasboutique.com/

Aerie believe it or not has super cute workout clothes and leggings now. I am a huge fan of their fall inspired workout capris in army green colors as well as deep maroons. My capris I got there are maroon and have lace detailed cut outs on the bottom. I got them for under $18. They have adorable. Spandex shorts for under 12 bucks too!

Shop the look here: https://www.ae.com/web/thp/fitness-apparel.html

 

I love scoring deals on athletic tops at T.J. Maxx on brands like Nike and Under Armor. You can also get great deals at the outlet from those stores. I am a huge fan of Reebok outlet prices and their affordable spandex shorts I now have two pairs of them in super fun colors and prints. They move wonderful, they are super soft and are muffin topless unlike Nike pros. LOL.

Shop the look here: http://tjmaxx.tjx.com/store/index.jsp

 

I get most of my workout tops second hand at Plato’s Closet. I got a ton of cute oversized crop tops there that aren’t traditionally workout clothes but are adorable to complete your modern athletic look.

Shop the look here: http://www.platoscloset.com

What are your favorite brands and places to shop for athletic clothing steals?

Xo, Lauren

Fitness Mistakes You’re Making Right Now

1. Neglecting to train compound movements first thing when you get to the gym:

  • Compound movements are exercises that activate more than one muscle group as opposed to isolation exercises that only work one muscle group.
  • Some examples of compound exercises include squats, bench and deadlift and these should be trained right when you get to the gym as they will require more attention and energy. You do not want to be exhausted from isolation exercises and not be able to perform optimally on your squats or deadlift because you’re too tired.

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2. Upping the weight on any exercise before you have perfect form down:

  • Treat the light weights as heavy and the heavy weights as light.
  • Every lift should look the same no matter what the weight you’re lifting is.
  • Consistency is key when avoiding injury and progressing linearly on your lifts. (This point was brought up by my USAPL coach Dylan Smith)

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3. Not taking enough rest days if any at all:

  • It is so important to have rest days to let your muscles your muscles, bones and nerves rebuild and repair. It allows your body time to rebuild body tissue insuring it grows back even stronger.
  • Resting can prevent injury and over use. That is especially important for me to remember as I get into powerlifting which consist of heavy weight and low repetition compound movement training.

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4. Not getting enough sleep:

  • Often times if you’re overtraining it can be more difficult to get a good night’s sleep as your body can become on high alert mode.
  • When your body is asleep your muscles go through recovery allowing them to repair and rebuild which is necessary for optimal progress.
  • Your body needs generally 7-9 hours of sleep to be well rested.

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5. Neglecting to stretch:

  • Stretching is often the most neglected practice among fitness enthusiasts. I am often guilty of this. I am now making a point to stretch more often.
  • Stretching lengthens your muscles, allows for more flexibility of movement, prevents injury and is considered an anti-ageing investment.
  • Dynamic stretching should be used before a workout and static stretching after your workouts and on rest days.

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Resources:

Anderson, Sally. “Stretching Is Most Neglected Component of Fitness.” The Seattle Times. The Seattle Times, 08 Jan. 2012. Web. 20 Dec. 2016.

By Diana Rini. “Compound Exercises Bring Compounded Results: Get More In Less Time!” Bodybuilding.com. Bodybuilding.com, 08 Dec. 2014. Web. 20 Dec. 2016.

KARNAZES, DEAN. “Designer.” Fitbit Blog. Fitbit, 26 Feb. 2014. Web. 20 Dec. 2016.

Schletter, Michael. “The Fit Five: Sleep Your Way to More Muscle.” Men’s Fitness. Men’s Fitness, 12 Feb. 2016. Web. 20 Dec. 2016.

JackedPack Subscription Review

I absolutely love JackedPack. They are a goal focused and personalized subscription box for weightlifters. They personalize your samples to you by asking your supplement flavor preferences as well as if your goals are to burn fat or build muscle. They also get your information as far as gender, height, age and weight. They are also very affordable and the longer you get a subscription for the better the deal.

So far I have received two boxes from JackedPack.

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Each of my boxes had 7-8 separate samples in them. Each box had lots of sample variety ranging from protein bars, BCAAS, fat burn pills, whey protein powder, beef protein powder, pre-workouts as well as even an awesome pain relieving patch. The best part is that almost all the samples had two servings inside so the average servings you get per box is around 9-11 servings of supplements.

These boxes would make a great holiday gift in fact JackedPack normal deal is as follows:
-JackedPack is $15 per pack with free shipping.
-If you sign up for six months, every sixth box is free. This works out to $12.50 per pack.
-The best offer is to sign up for a year. Three boxes are free. This works out to $11.25 per pack.

BUT if you get one before December 18th, you will get double samples in your pack as well as a free shaker cup & you can get $25 off a 12-month sign up which comes out to only $9.17 a box! Use the code HOLIDAY if it’s a gift for you or GIFT to give the gift of gains to someone else! Sign up here!

Make sure you are following JackedPack across all social media platforms for giveaways, news and coupons:
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Cranberry Orange Skinny Muffins

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I simply adore these little festive muffins. They taste amazing cut in half and broiled in the toaster oven topped with some honey or spray butter. They make an amazing on the go breakfast or snack. They contain no artificial flavorings or sweeteners or any refined sugars. They are great for low carb, low fat diets and those who are gluten intolerant.

Ingredients:
-2 egg whites
-1 and 1/2 servings True Nutrition vanilla hydrolyzed whey (Discount Code: Eatingbrofood)
-1/2 cup fresh cranberries
-Orange zest
-Juice or half an orange
-1 cup oat flour
-2 overly ripe bananas
-1 tsp. baking powder
-3 spoonfuls baking Truvia
-1 tbsp. coconut oil
-1 tsp. vanilla extract
-1 spoonful low fat Greek plain yogurt

Directions:
-Mash bananas with potato masher or blender or food processor
-Zest orange and add half the juice to a bowl
-Add rest of ingredients to bowl and mix
-Add to sprayed loaf pan or greased 12 cup muffin tin
-Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25-30min

Macros: Fat (g): Carb (g): Protein (g): Calories:
Macros for 1/12 muffins 2g 9g 4.6g 70
Macros whole loaf 24g 111g  56g 844

*Makes 12 Muffins*