Health Hacks. Episode 1. Powerlifting with Sarah Kate

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All material included in the Health Hacks podcast and found on the Alignment Chiropractic and health Website is intended to be of a general nature only, and is included for the sole purpose of providing general information. Material included in this website does not, and is not intended to constitute advice or any statement on which reliance should be placed. The content is purely a reflexion of the thoughts and experiences of Dr Bryce Fleming (chiropractor) and his guests. Users should seek advice as appropriate from a professionally qualified  on all specific situations and conditions of concern to them. 

Dr Fleming: Hello and welcome! This is Dr. Bryce Fleming, this is the very first insights of health hacks. I have a very special guest for this day, Sarah Kate. She is the director, owner, operator, everything to do with the business progressive power Australia. Hello Sarah!

Sarah: Hi Bryce!

Dr Fleming: So, the reason why I want to interview Sarah today is she is obviously into powerlifting. And I think it’s quite a unique ability specially for a lady to be lifting heavy things. I think it gets a bit of a bad connotation sometimes. Is that fair to say?

Sarah: Yes, certainly.

Dr Fleming: Can do.

Sarah: Often have people coming in and watching me lift this heavy weights going “ Oh My God! What are you doing you’re going to hurt yourself. "  So, absolutely.

Dr Fleming:  Okay Cool. We’ll get into that soon. Before we do. Just tell me a little about you. How did you get into this place and time where you are. What’s your journey?

Sarah:  So, I have been doing some sort of strengthening conditioning for many many years. Some long distance running. Do Latin dancing. I'm a Lesbian Body Tech instructor. I’ve always been part of the fitness industry and one day my coach, sort of just got me to jump upon a platform and we’ve been doing sort of light in the deadlifts and he goes  "I just want to see how much you can lift.” I said “Yeah Okay”.  And we sort of went through numbers and I end up getting a really good deadlift. So, you know 100 kilos. It was so easy. And I just “‘Oh my God! This is so addictive! And sort of from there that's where my love of power lifting grew. Because it took me from a place of being aesthetically doing aesthetically based training to actually doing something that was actually much more fulfilling. Sort of getting in and having these strength goals  which was just so empowering. I just love it now. It's amazing.

Dr Fleming: So when you say empowering, what’s the difference in the way that you feel when you started achieving these PB’S or this milestones or whatever it might be.

Sarah: So, I mean it’s amazing when you achieve these PB’s. But I think the biggest benefit has been that I can eat normal food and not feel guilty for what I’m eating because in the end that’s the fuel that I’m using to fuel my lifts. So, I’ve sort of been able to a readjust how I feel about food, it’s improved my relation with food. It’s improved my relationship with how I look and how I feel. So rather than looking the mirror and going “ Oh my God! I don’t have an 8 pack!” I look in the mirror and I see you know a really strong body, strong shoulders, strong quads and a nice ghetto booty and it’s so empowering. It’s so amazing!

Dr. Fleming: That’s fantastic! Do you think the way that the health in the fitness industry is going especially with so many selfies, with so many self image issues, do you think it will be more empowering for women to have this kind of attitude?

Sarah: Well, I love selfies. I’m a big selfie advocate and the reason why I am is because I think things like selfies demonstrate a love of our body. That we’re willing to show it off. I mean absolutely, if you look at society these days, women especially, men as well. But we’re bombarded with these images in the magazine of  women who wear size 8 and with so heavily air brushed. But they don’t even look realistic anymore and yet we are told that, that is what we should look like but more than that is that we cannot be happy or healthy until we look like that. And that is an absolute reverse of what it should be and what I really believe in, and what I really look to achieve with my clients is that if you are happy and you are healthy then you will look like the absolute best version of yourself. And that should be your standard.

Dr. Fleming:  I think that’s fantastic! I’ve been there, obviously, the health and fitness industry is for long time. You see a lot of garbage out there. Very superficial and there’s a lot of people that are trying to sell you these ideals, products, whatever might be. Pretty much to, just  first it will take your money. But second of all then make you feel bad about the decisions that you make in regards to your health and lifestyle. To me, well, it’s a real tragedy that’s why I enjoy giving someone like yourself because we’re on the same page. So let’s talk a little bit about progressive power.

Sarah: Yup.

Dr Fleming: If I just say want to get stronger, I want to get fit up, I want to be able to feel more empowered, what would I need to do? If come and saw you, what would you do with me?

Sarah: So, the first thing that happens with my clients come in is we look at the way your body moves. So, I put you through the basic drills. So, I get you to do something like a goblet squat or body weight squat just to see what is your depth squat?  What is happening with your knees? Are they flaring, are they caving in? Where’s your core, where’s your shoulder, that sort of stuff.  And then, so we go through the 3 big lifts which is obviously a dead, deadlift squat, and benchpress. From that point onwards, we will design training programs which are always going to incorporate those 3 lifts. But then we might do accessory work that looks at targeting weaknesses and balances. Obviously, different people have different goals. A guy might come to me and obviously wants to get quite big through the shoulders or through the lats. Where as a female might come to me and say I want to get a booty. Which totally like the thing these days. So, obviously will be designing a program which is going to achieve those goals. So, it’s a real focus on strength and mobility, and on posture, on addressing those weaknesses and balances.

Dr. Fleming: So, do you think it will be able to help people in everyday life? Like, let’s just say I’m a mother of two and I have to pick up my kids, going to get the shopping all that kind of stuff. Does it help with injury prevention?

Sarah: Absolutely 100%. The great thing about power lifting, and I take some power lifting elements into my all of my clients training, is that when you are lifting heavy weights you damn well got to have good technique. And that good technique often comes from having a good posture and having core stability, and core strength in the first place. So, we’ll be doing activities that will improve that posture and improve those different bits and pieces. So that when you’re picking up the groceries, you’re not picking it with a curve lower back. Which can repetitive injuries sort of thing. I mean I have used my power lifting in moving house so many times. It's not funny. So absolutely, obviously you got the effects of doing weights training helps burn density which helps keep away osteoporosis. I also incorporate bits and pieces like some heat training that helps in cardiovascular health. Just being moving and increasing in muscle mass helps in fighting other like obesity, heart problems, diabetes and all those chronic diseases that we see in this day and age. Yeah, 100%.

Dr. Fleming: Yeah, awesome. I know from my obviously my chiropractic experience that a lot of  the time when people come in a crisis situation that they’ve got injury, a back problem or whatever it might be. They'll say all they did was say “picked up a pen” or “tie their shoelace” and they kind of understand why their spines is giving out on them. But the reality is they’ve chosen a last hour which is has deconditioned their body, and their core, and their spine for such a long period of time that was that pain what was that last thing that literally was the straw that broke the camel's back. So, you know, I always referred to people like yourself because I know that maintaining and keeping a healthy structure and core and improving your strength is vital in this modern society that we’re living today.

Sarah: Absolutely. I think the other thing is that with all these movements and training styles that I do, is that we’re not only increasing strength in there in all our different body parts. We’re also increasing stability as well. When we sometimes go to the gym and we go as a brand new newbie out, we’re more drawn to the smooth machine. They lock you into a position and sort of direct which way your body's going to move and work. Which is great if you want to do and isolated muscle groups. The thing that we’re often missing out there is only doing, that is it’s not stabilizing the other bits and pieces which help us moving dynamically. When you’re doing a deadlift or a squat, those are my two favorite movements ever. The thing is not only are you having to use your legs, your glutes, your quads to drive that bar up. You're also have to engage your core. You’re then also having to work the different muscles which help your legs stabilize. The whole body movements and that one makes the movements more challenging which is great.Then you burn more fat. But also that sort of stuff transfers into, when you’re walking, or running, or squatting down to pick something up and moving.

Dr. Fleming: So, there are a lot of people that do other sports and then used powerlifting to help them to improve their sports.

Sarah: Absolutely. Rugby players, there's a lot of different powerlifting bits and pieces to help improve that. Anything where you are moving really quickly but you need to move really powerfully and you need to be able to launch a 100 kilo body fast so, absolutely.

Dr. Fleming: And when you take on a client and you see the progression in that person. How does that make you feel?

Sarah: It’s amazing, because they are achieving things that they never thought that they could achieve. And that is so empowering for them. I have clients whenever we do sort of a testing to see what is their max lift is, they'll jump on to the bar. I have one client who jumped on to the bar, 70 kilos the other day. Maybe 15 weeks ago, she maybe have done a maximum of 40 kilos squat. For her, that was a huge achievement and she couldn’t believe she could do that.

Dr. Fleming:  So, when you see these achievements and when they can see themselves that they are improving, how does that affect the rest of their lives? Are they more confident?

Sarah: 100%. They're significantly more confident. I think something that we’re sometimes we’re using in society is a challenge that we feel like we can overcome. When we find aspects in their lives that we have these challenges and we overcome them we prove on them, that definitely transfers to a confidence to feel like we can take on other things in the world and achieve. Absolutely.

Dr. Fleming: Awesome. If you can break down those three lifts in a bit more detail. The deadlift , the press and the squat. When you think about the deadlift and the squat, what’s the major difference between the two? Because obviously you’re both using the your legs, but what would you say for people out there that are deadlifting and squatting at the moment? Like what’s the one bit of advice that you could give them?

Sarah: What’s one bit of advice in a deadlift? Retract your lats. Obviously in the deadlift you’re lifting the weight off the ground. So, the challenge comes from the initial part of the movement I guess. When you’re doing the squat the challenge comes in when you got to stand back up. So, in a deadlift, the deadlift is one of the best movements you can do because it works everything. It works your upper back, it works your core, it works your lower body. A squat, very very similar works almost everything but not quite as many muscles as the deadlift. So, I think with the squat and actually to be honest with the deadlift, the thing that we are often missing and that I have to pick up on clients the most is engaging our core. So a lot people think about  when engaging their core they think about sucking it in and making it tight. Well actually what you want to do to engage your core in those lifts is you want to push your abs out and so you want to breathe into your diaphragm. Take one breath and push your abs out as hard as you can and hold that breath and that pushing to the entire movement. So, that stands for both deadlift and squat. That’s probably the one that I picked up almost with my clients.

Dr. Fleming: What about with a bench press?

Sarah:  So, again bench press. The key point for every single one of your lift is breathing and core activation. In benchpress, in powerlifting benchpress, we actually have an arch. The way in our technique and that arch comes from full retraction through our lats. So, the biggest idea is that you want to do pull back lock down your lax as hard as you can. And then actually in bench, the next element of that is driving through your heels so that you’re activating your entire posterior chain. That is actually how you can increase your bench. So, I think a lot of people walk in and they don’t know what they’re doing in the gym and they have a flat back and they assume that’s the safest way to do it. When you think about a flat back is that you’re actually isolating a little bit more to your chest and to your shoulders. But when you actually can go back and create that arch and retract down to your lats, you actually use more muscles to drive that bar up.

Dr. Fleming: I must admit when I got to what had a lift and that kind of stuff years and years ago I know, you know it’s ever evolving. The knowledge basically you have but one thing they did tell me was don’t arch your back, don’t arch your back. But coming from someone who understands functional movement probably better nowadays. When I had a detour when I was going to a university. That movement as a whole in a way that your body actually performs, it just makes sense especially with strengthening through the core and the spine. As far as I am concern, you want to be able to lift through almost like a range of motion as well using your body rather than just isolating. That's everyday life I'm guessing.

Sarah: I think, well the thing to think about with powerlifters is that we are trying to lift the biggest weight that we can so that more muscles that we use to push that bar or pull that bar, the stronger we are going to be. Yeah, absolutely.

Dr. Fleming: Do you have many injuries? Do people injure themselves much during training or not?

Sarah: I think any athlete regardless of what you’re doing is susceptible to injury. As a powerlifter, I'm no different. I still have imbalances in the way my body moves. So what it’s about doing is about identifying those imbalances and making sure that I address them. I think with powerlifting, there is a really big emphasis on technique. It's only through really addressing technique that we can keep our body safe. So, I haven’t had very many injuries. I've had one which has re-occurred a couple of times because I didn't address those weaknesses. Now that I've addressed those weaknesses and I've kept on top of them.

Dr. Fleming: Yeah Cool! When you say imbalances, what some of the things that you would do to help you to remove some of these imbalances?

Sarah: So, before, if you can, I'll use myself as an example. My glute medius doesn’t fire as well as it should on my left hand side.

Dr Fleming: Which one is gluteus medius?

Sarah: The muscle on the bump on the side. Rather than your main bum muscle.

Dr. Fleming: Bum Muscle?

Sarah: Yes, it doesn’t fire as well as it should. So, what that means is when I am trying to lift something heavy my glute maximus is doing more of the work weight than it should which puts it on a strain. So to address that, before I do my main lifts, I'll be doing muscle activation. I activate it using thera-bands which is designed to isolate through that glute medius and wake it up and say " We need to do some work now." After my training, I'll do more extensive work on it to fatigue to make sure that it’s stronger the next time.

Dr. Fleming: Do you ever do any structural alignment type of stuff?

Sarah: Yeah, Absolutely! So, again when you’re sort of, when I video most of my lifts I'll make sure that my technique is going well and when I see that something is not working well that's when I go and see someone to get it fixed.

Dr. Fleming: In my experience, anyway I’ve looked after a lot  of crossfitters and lot of athletes, the one thing that I notice is when you’ll see a structural imbalance, it changes the whole mode and pattern of firing of the way that's especially during the heavy lift, the way you can perform and potentially create injuries if it isn’t imbalance. The other thing I find too is that when the structural with the spine is aligned, it just helps the neurology, the power that runs everything in your body to be more succinct. Which can help muscle balance and everything else as well. I think it’s one of those things where with any sport, or with any performance, or whatever, if you can really get your core firing well, your structure sound and your strength up, it’s going to help you. Is that right? No matter it is that you choose to do, those three things are going to be a good thing.

Sarah: Absolutely! If your body is moving the way it should be the and all  muscles are firing the way they should be, you’re not just going to improve yourself as an athlete, you can improve yourself in your everyday life.

Dr Fleming: Yeah Cool! So you said before about burning fat and turning up that kind of stuff with powerlifting. Can you explain how that works? The general thinking is that you're going to jump on a treadmill for hours and do a lot of cardio and all that kind of stuff. With obviously powerlifting you don't do a huge amount of cardio yet you still going to have quite a strong, lean physique.

Sarah: Absolutely.

Dr Fleming: So, how was that?

Sarah: So, personally for me I have had significantly better results going to powerlifting rather than doing high intensity cardiovascular workouts. I think partially that’s because of improved  muscle mass. The more muscle mass you have, the more energy your body has to burn on everyday basis just to feed that muscle.  I’m burning more calories throughout day regardless of what I’m doing. Certainly, in my experience as well, I used to do a lot of body attack which is a lesbian group fitness class. I mean it’s a 55 minutes of working and it’s sort of 80 to 90 percent of your cardiovascular. It’s hard work. And what I actually found was that as I do it more and more often and as well as long distance running other things, I was just spiking my adrenals and putting my body under so much pressure. In my experience, your body doesn’t deal with stress from one thing to other any differently. My body felt like it's constantly under stress. Because of that, I was exhausted and I actually ended up maintaining a lot of fat than I would have or than I have now. So, by going and doing something where the workout is hard, absolute one dropping under the bar with 120 kilos in my back, it's hardwork. But that hardwork last for maybe 20 to 30 seconds and I work up a sweat. I get breathless with that or get semi breathless in that period of time and then I rest. That means when I walk away from the workout, I walk away feeling like I've done work. I don't walk away feeling "Oh My God, I feel like I’m going to throw up and I’m exhausted.” There were times after doing really high intensity workouts where I just feel my thyroid in my throat because I just worked my body so hard, and It was under so much pressure for trying to fix everything. So, with powerlifting it sort of as I become happier and as I reduced stress levels not in just  my workout and in my life, my body actually no longer feels like it has to hold on to fat in case I’m going to be chased down by a cougar. You know, in a caveman days sort of thing.

Dr. Fleming: Yeah Absolutely! So, it sounds like as far as someone who never really thought about powerlifting before in my life. Something that you could do that is sustainable, long lasting, you know I could do this for the rest of my life type of activity. It really kind of ticks all the boxes, is that fair to say?

Sarah: Absolutely. Even in, not just in powerlifting, just strength. Strength training. Absolutely.

Dr. Fleming: So, what’s the oldest person you’ve ever seen lift?

Sarah: I see videos on Facebook of people who compete around Australia at the age of 80.

Dr. Fleming: Yeah?

Sarah: Absolutely!

Dr: Fleming: And how do they look compared to a lot of other 80 year old, you just kind of think about?

Sarah:They look like they still look quite a lot of lean muscle mass which is quite impressive at the age of 80. And they look happy and healthy and engaged with what they're doing. Absolutely.

Dr. Fleming: Yeah. I think that’s really cool. So,look if there’s anyone that would love to learn more about powerlifting, love to learn about you and what you do and how you do it. Where can they go?

Sarah: So, I’ve got my Facebook, Business page which is Progressive Power Australia. You'll see a little wonder woman looking icon, that’s me. I also have an Instagram which is progressive.power. I do a lot of training videos and post up progress on that. And you can also contact me on email and those details are available on Facebook and Instagram.

Dr. Fleming: Got a Facebook. Got an Instagram. Do you have a website or anything like that?

Sarah: No, not really. The other thing is at the moment I’m six weeks out for my Powerlifting competition. I’m doing a video blog which is a weekly update somehow that’s progressing. If anyone interested, that’s on youtube and that's again Progressive Power Australia.

Dr. Fleming: Progressive Power Australia, fantastic. Thank you so much for coming in and sharing your wisdom and your journey and your passion for what it is you do. I’m sure later down the stage we’ll get back on we'll have another recap and maybe we can go into it a bit more specific. Maybe even after your powerlifting comp, you can share with us what that was like to go on that competition. Because that would be really cool.

Sarah: That would be great! Thank you for having me.

Dr. Fleming: No worries, until next week. This has been health hacks, Dr Bryce Fleming catch up with you soon.