Bert’s Lady Friend – Part One

Editor’s Note: In 2012, Justin spent a majority of Mondays discussing female-specific topics. Eventually, he pretty much ran out of material and lately, they’ve trickled down a bit, though I believe they are still very popular. I hope to bring these back with a vengeance. Not only do I really enjoy coaching female Powerlifters (remember this article?), I also love the positive message that we, as a community, try to put out there for our female lifting friends. Readers, especially females, please send me your Monday posts and let’s do this.Today’s article is the first guest post by Bert, who recently coached his lady friend to her first PL meet. This week he discusses some of the experiences and difficulties they went through in her early training, and next week, we’ll get a full recap from her first meet. – Jacob

In October 2012, I met my new girlfriend. Unexpectedly, when she first set foot in my home gym, she immediately fell in love with it: the rings, the weights, the medicine balls, the kettlebells. I introduced her to the squat, press, chinup and deadlift, showed her a few training videos (powerlifting, weightlifting and Crossfit-type conditioning) and she knew what she wanted to do: powerlift.

Bert’s Home Gym

She was built to lift: 5’1″, with thick joints and a broad athletic background that ranged from equestrian vaulting (gymnastics on a horse ) to judo.

However, she had a few challenges:
Lower Back: falling from a horse caused her to crack a few vertebrae and suffer from lower back pain that impeded her from standing for prolonged periods of time or participate in most sports. Her physicians had her doing plenty of balancing, exactly what a girl who is able to stand on one leg on a galloping horse needs to recover (sarcasm). This, of course, did nothing.
Neck: a whiplash that was caused by a car crash, caused her neck pain, even though this crash occured six months earlier.
Digestion: due to eosinophilic gastroenteritis, her private and professional life was disturbed. She often suffered from intestinal attacks that caused heavy sweating, fever and intestinal drama and gassiness. Endoscopy and other allergenic tests revealed no gluten or lactose-intolerance, nor adverse reactions to any other food. She was, however, unable to eat most fruit, meat and vegetables without trouble. Instead she relied on pasta, bread and candy. The saddest part, for me, was that she stated that “she simply didn’t like eating.”
Weight gain: she had gained 10 kilos (22 pounds) from cortisone injections meant to deal with the intestinal inflammation. She stopped the treatment and was able to lose 5 kilos on her own so far, by running. The PCOS possibly also caused her to be slightly insulin-resistant.
Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies: her gut didn’t produce ferritin (a protein that stores iron) and vitamin B12, forcing her to receive it intravenously via monthly visits to the hospital.

Diet Changes
After making sure that she was willing to go all out with this, I modified her diet by having her eat two to three meals a day. Since she didn’t like to eat breakfast, I had her skip it, conforming with the 16/8 intermittent fasting protocol. This reduced the bloating immensely. After some evaluation, it turned out that pasta (her former favourite food), first and foremost, caused the digestive attacks. Secondly, food that contained a high amount of gluten (most breads) and processed food were culprits.

After an adaptive period, she found out that she seldom suffered from the intestinal troubles and was even able to eat meat and fruits again, which she had missed dearly. Her skin also cleared up and some minor joint inflammation she had also disappeared, most likely due to reduced systemic inflammation.

Training Changes
I had her begin a simple routine, alternating A and B workouts three times a week. On the other days she ran with her dogs or went for a long walk. She used linear progression for the first two months with only minor modifications. I had her overhead pressing dumbbells at first, until she was strong enough to use a barbell.

A: Squat, OHP, RDL, Chins
B: Squat, Bench, Hip Thrust, Chins

Other assistance exercises included hyperextensions, (more) hip thrusts, rack pulls, and abdominal exercises.Since she had a very weak posterior chain (yet strong anterior chain), I had her do many lower back, glute and hamstring exercises. Deadlifting was at first impossible, as she was unable to hold the required back position throughout the movement, even with an empty bar. RDLs and Rack Pulls strengthened this back position. After two months she switched from conventional to sumo deadlifts, which suited her back and leverages (short arms and legs) much better.

Powerlifting Meet
After two months, she had made a radical physical transformation: she had lost weight, gained muscle, improved her lifestyle (by not having to go to the restroom so often) and had regained her love for food. In addition, her confidence was soaring.
She now had her mind set on doing a powerlifting meet. Her routine wasn’t a typical powerlifting routine as I felt she still had much room to improve things like overhead strength and other physical qualities that would assist her powerlifts regardless.
She was now doing the following:

Monday: Squat, Bench, Sumo DL, Chins
Wednesday: Squat, OHP, Kettlebell DL, Chins
Friday: Squat, Bench, Rack Pull, Chins

Assistance work remained the same. She did conditioning with sprints or circuits once a week, on Saturdays.

Strength Increases and the Future
After three months of training, she was able to do the following, at a bodyweight of 55kgs (121lbs), with only weightlifting shoes, no belt:
Squat: 67.5 kg (148.5 lbs)
Paused Bench Press: 40 kg (88 lbs)
Sumo Deadlift: 65 kg (143 lbs)

In addition, she can do four strict chinups, after starting out with zero. She’s also able to run faster and longer, while training less. After being told to “live with” her conditions by many a doctor or physician and dietician, she was able to improve her jest for life, her appearance and her confidence. I hope she continues to improve and that others will be able to find inspiration in her journey, and join in.


Tune in next Monday for a recap of her first meet! 

39 thoughts on “Bert’s Lady Friend – Part One

    • I use mostly Optimum Nutrition Whey protein. I really like the Pro Complex because it has about 50g per scoop so I drink a small size of liquid, but it’s more expensive. I use half almond milk and half water. I would recommend this brand, even though it’s cheezy:
      Strawberry and Pina Colada are great with half a banana and fruity enough to say we are drinking a tropical drink. :) I just assume most women suck at drinking protein shakes like me.

    • Aluminae,

      She can tolerate some shakes, however, egg protein troubles her digestion. Milk protein causes no problems, so whey is way (haha!) better. In small amounts it doesn’t cause any disturbances though.

  1. I think every story I read about girls starting powerlifting – they’re all previously athletes of other sports, in their 20s, and suddenly lifting more than me in 3 months what took me over a year to do. Oh yeah and they all magically lose weight and get ripped by eating paleo.

    I’m in my 30s, wasn’t overweight to begin with, never participated in any sports previously, constantly struggle to increase my numbers, and look about the same over a year later. Got any women’s stories like that? :)

  2. Suggestion for future topic: sports nutrition and supplementation for women. Cos most of what I read about is guys trying to get huge. Well, I don’t want to get huge… just ridiculously strong =\

    • I agree. I have a really hard time figuring out calories/macros to get strong but not fat. It’s a hell of a lot easier for a guy to just eat anything and everything and then do a cut to drop some fat after he gets super strong.

      • Experiment a bit. Make sure you have a protein source at every meal and eat 3-4 times a day. Eat rice or pasta and veggies on the side with your protein. If you are getting fluffy, eat less and if you’re not progressing, eat more. IT’s that simple. And please don’t get a victim mentality, that is without a doubt the most harmful thing you can do to yourself and your goals because you justify why you can’t achieve them instead of asking yourself what needs to be done to achieve them.

        • I have about a year of myfitnesspal data. No where near perfect but if I pull it all into excel I can tell you these rough daily averages:
          calories: 2010, protein: 156g, carbs: 118g, fat: 91g.

          I’m 5’7″ and about 150lbs, so I don’t think the calories or protein are off…

          The ONLY thing that seemed to work and ridiculously slowly was leangains -20/+20 recomp, which I stopped in Sept when I got married and went on my honeymoon. Sorta dreading going back to it because rest days when I eat only 1700 cals I stay pretty hungry after dinner, and workout days when I eat 2500 cals, my PWO meal is so big it hurts and then I’m uncomfortably full for the rest of the evening. When I was doing that, I was making good progress on most of my lifts.. and really slowly losing the fat.

          When I decided to try to eat a level amount of cals oct-dec… well I got super fat and my lifts didn’t really increase. I just did a PSMF for 2.5 weeks to drop the 10 lbs of fat I gained.

          • Hey michell, what kind of programming are you running? I train two females and their LP progress did not last very long and a move to weekly programming (TM) allowed them to make slow but steady gains.

  3. Awesome, the Monday female posts are back! I’m looking forward to hearing about her meet & future progress!

    I also have PCOS… it’s awful, and being told to “live with” any condition is devastating. Paleo-type diets & lifting really is the way to go. I’ve seen major changes in my health and am psyched to see your girl’s having luck too! Stay strong guys

  4. Yay for lady posts! Love to hear about a girl coming from less-than-ideal physical background and find success/happiness in weightlifting. Second the comment above about so many of these star athletes (female or otherwise) who come from collegiate sports, etc. Not that their achievements are less stellar, just less relatable; as a female who spent her college years running occasionally, living on frosted flakes and drinking regularly. Lifting and crossfit really has altered my perception of fitness & healthy eating. For this girl I’m sure the biggest change has been inside and thats really where you start to love a sport.

  5. Awesome feedback so far. To reiterate a few things: I’m just the editor today. Though I’ve written about my lady friend in the past, and will again in the future (because she’s awesome, and lifts awesomely, too), this particular article was submitted by Bert, one of our readers, and is about his personal awesome lady friend. Next week’s post will have more pics to satisfy you guys. I don’t want to steal any of his thunder, because it is a great submission.

    I really like the ideas you folks are writing about and will consider them in the future. It’d be even easier (and more relevant) if you gals clicked on that “Submissions” tab up at the top of the page and contributed from your own point of view (which is how I got today’s post). I absolutely want to feature more posts written by our finer population, so send me some good stuff.

    PS: Awesome.

  6. You know the RDL’s and rackpulls is an aweome idea. That for some reason I didnt even think about. My wife has a hard time maintaining full back extension during the deadlift. Also has a tendency to dip her hips down to start the bar insteado f a fixed hip position.

  7. I really enjoyed reading this and found it super informative. My friend’s father has had some similar issues for years, so I’ve shared it with him.

    I never considered keeping track of my hip thrusts as an assistance exercise. I guess I’d better start logging those…

  8. Pingback: A new format « No more fat kitty!

  9. Super excited for Mondays again! I am also looking forward to hearing about her meet!

    I am currently training 4 women with different athletic backgrounds. I hope to gain some good information here as people discuss a variety of topics.

    I do have one female who has what I call a “squiggly hip”. She can’t maintain a solid position in the squat or deadlift, as in her left knee travels inward and she says she feels her hip/glute area just go weak. It doesn’t happen until the weight gets somewhat heavy. I think next time I’ll video it and submit it. I curious as to assistance exercises or alternatives for her.

  10. I seriously tried sitting like the above informative picture and I cramped up. Fuck, I hope she doesn’t sit like that.

    @thunder40 I also see no issue with what she is wearing, I am also very glad her thumbs aren’t the main part of the picture.

  11. Pingback: PR Friday, 7 Feb 2013 | 70's Big

  12. Pingback: PR Friday, 15 Feb 2013 | 70's Big

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.