Barbells and Beakers

Latest Posts

What Do You Do? Part 2: Powerlifting

A lot of people hear I’m a powerlifter and think I do what they see on the Olympics. Powerlifting is a competition involving The Big Three – Squat, Bench and Deadlift. Athletes are separated based on weight, age, gender and if they’re using special equipment or not to compete. For the sake of this conversation, I’m only going to talk about “raw” powerlifting. This is what I compete in.

Raw powerlifting involves the use of a weight belt, knee sleeves or knee wraps, and wrist wraps. Some federations have two types of raw powerlifting, which allow or disallow the use of knee wraps. It comes down to the individual lifter as to what equipment they want to use. I compete in knee wraps and with a belt. “Geared” or “equipped” powerlifting involves special suits that help a lifter complete each move.

Before each competition an athlete will weigh in on a scale in front of a judge, where they’ll be sorted into a weight class. This is important for a lot of lifters because the less you weigh, the more impressive your lifts are. This can be a catch-22 because the means through which the person tried to lose the weight can damage their lifting. Some people go weeks without carbohydrates, others don’t drink any water and sit in a sauna for hours – that will hurt their lifts if they don’t rehydrate appropriately.

The Squat

The squat is the first move performed in an event. The lifter has 3 tries to hit the heaviest weight they can do. It’s not simply the act of squatting, there’s more to it. A lifter will take the bar off the rack and step away from the rack. The judge sitting in front of them will tell them to start the lift. The lifter will then lower into a squat – depth depends on the federation. For most federations you just need your femur (thigh bone) to be parallel to the ground. Others require the crease of your hip to be lower than your knee. Make sure you look up your federation to see which is required. The lifter will complete the lift and wait for the judge to tell them to re-rack the weight. If the lifter executed the lift to completeness, a scoreboard to the side will light up with 3 white lights. Each judge has one “vote” – either white (good) or red (bad). They each evaluate different parts of the lift to make sure it was completed appropriately. The lifter will wait their turn for their second and third attempts. A lifter does not attempt all 3 in a row, they are given time to rest.

Bench Press

Bench press is one of the most well known lifts, so I’ll keep this brief. The main differences between the competition lift and the average joe involves the commands. The lifter will unrack the bar from the rack and, depending on the federation, wait for the cue to start. The lifter lowers the bar to their chest (actually touching the chest) and waits for the command to “press.” At this time the lifter will press the bar off their chest. There is no bounce, the bar must be paused on the chest. The judge will then tell them to re-rack. You miss a lift if one arm locks out before the other, or if the bar comes down then back up.


A deadlift is exactly what it sounds like – lifting dead weight from the ground. A lifter will lift the bar off the ground, lock it out, and wait for the command to lower it back to the ground. You cannot just drop the bar on the ground – if you see people let the bar go from the lock out they’re not powerlifting. They’re picking up a heavy weight and then dropping it on the ground. Part of the execution of the lift is keeping your hands on the bar the entire lift. While this lift has less commands, it can be much harder to complete for various reasons. If the bar travels downwards before completion of the lift it’s no good. If the lifter hitches the bar, the lift is no good. If the lifter’s grip slips and the bar comes out of their hand, no lift.

Every athlete gets 3 attempts at each lift. Some federations allow a 4th attempt if it’s for a world or national record. At the end of the meet lifters are awarded based on how much they lifted vs. their body weight. Different federations use different calculators, but The Wilks Score is the most popular one. Some use calculators that take age into consideration as well, since sometimes a 25 year old man and a 15 year old man will be in the same weight class. Awards are also given to best overall lifter, which will compare the 300 pound person to the 140 pound person.

If you’re interested in powerlifting, go to and find a gym or a coach, or even go to a meet!

Technology Update

Hey all!

I get asked from time to time about which apps, fitness products, etc. I’m currently using. I’m not an endorser by any means (you know, those people who show pictures of them with “cleansing” tea like it gave them a six pack) but if I believe in a product I’m going to talk about it. Today I’ll show you “One of Each” – my favorite meal planning app, my favorite headphones and my favorite fitness tracking device.

Fitness Tracker: Polar Loop 2 Activity Tracker, Black

polarloopI’ve had my Polar Loop since about October and I’m pretty content with it. Polar has long been my favorite heart rate monitor, and I’ve used them for a few years now to track the intensity of my workouts. The Loop is a little more integrated – you have a heart rate monitor you wear during exercise to give a more accurate total of calories burned/etc. during your workout vs. your day.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 9.11.55 AMThe Polar Flow diary is pretty sweet too, because you can see how much time you spent in each zone with your workout. Previously my Polar watches only gave little synopses on the watch itself. This is a full program. The battery life is great and charging is easy.

The downside? I don’t think the steps counted are accurate. I can work an entire emergency shift on my feet (10-12 hours) and barely clock a few hundred steps. I also dislike the lack of community that I found with my FitBit. It’s also hard to synch with my phone, and the sleep tracker is seriously lacking. Until something better comes along this is my current go-to to make sure I don’t sit around all day on my rest days and I love the interaction with my heart rate device for workouts.

Food Tracker: MyMacros+


I’d heard about this app before but due to my long history (like 3+ years) with MyFitnessPal I was slow to convert. However, I soon found that MyMacros+ had everything I wanted from MFP. With MFP there’s a HUGE focus around calories, and trying to figure out your macros is hard to do. You have to click a few extra buttons rather than have it all there and ready for you. Additionally, unless you download an extension for your browser, macros aren’t the emphasis for MFP. You have to calculate your calories and hope your macros fall into an even percentage distribution that works in increments of 5%. Super annoying.

My Macros allows for customization of you macros with calories as more of a side note. For someone who tracked calories (in an unhealthy way) for so long, it’s great to see them so small and insignificant. You can save meals, add items quickly, etc. The database is seriously lacking (if you type in “Frozen Green Beans” like nothing comes up) and some of it is clunky, but I’m sure with increased usage this will get fixed. Overall, I like it much better than MFP. Also, you can save “meals,” so if you’re like me and eat the same thing every day it’s really, really useful.

Headphones: Powerbeats2 Wireless, Active Collection – Blue

pDSP1-18892058p275wThe Powerbeats2 are pricey ($199) but I got them for my birthday, so there’s that. I’ve long been on the hunt for good wireless headphones that don’t make me look like I have something growing on my head. Wireless has become my friend for a long time, especially because the lack of wires all in my face and down my shirt are priceless for powerlifting. I don’t know how I used wired headphones before.

HOWEVER I hate those ear bud type. I tried quite a few brands (Jaybird, etc.) and they all fell out of my ear. I just wanted something to go around my ear and hold it in place! Why was that so hard to find?! Most of the things I found were like Geordi from Star Trek’s visor. They hurt my ears, they pinched in the wrong places, and I hated them. My Motorolla’s I’d had for years stopped charging, so I was moving on.

Thankfully these babies are about 90% what I need. The battery life is horrible (6 hours) and they can be cumbersome with that hangy-cord crap. I find that making a small loop and putting it over my pony tail keeps it in the right position. Overall, I’m pretty happy with these and glad they’re in my arsenal!

What have you guys been using?

Internalized Misogyny: Stopping Girl on Girl Hate

I think it’s safe to say we all know what sexism is, right? When a woman doesn’t get hired because of her gender, or when a mechanic charges a woman more for his services because she “doesn’t know anything.” Unfortunately, there are more insidious types of sexism, and when they are spouted by women they become what’s called internalized misogyny. Need some examples? Do you have a female friend that thinks she’s cooler/better/smarter/etc. than other women because she doesn’t do “girly” things? Or a female friend that says she’d rather hang out with guys because they’re “less drama”? (Read a history book, bro) What about the woman who scolds other women who are emotional, like it’s a flaw?

Tina Fey had a poignant moment in Mean Girls where she discussed girl-on-girl hate.


These are examples of internalized misogyny. It’s the sexism we hear every day and we start incorporating into our own lives. The idea is to reject the feminine as “bad” and “weak” in an attempt to be the opposite -strong. Like a man.

I know what you’re thinking. “That’s fine and dandy, Courtney, but what does this have to do with fitness?”


I’m going to take a huge, huge problem in this post an examine it through a smaller lens: memes. We can all agree that we’ve seen a meme or two in our life, probably posted one, probably laughed about it. Memes are a cultural phenomenon that speak volumes to the way we think about certain classes in society.

Now, let me take you down the “Wall of Shame” for just a second.

Ah, yes, a very typical meme. You’ve probably heard this before from a friend on Facebook or at the gym. “Who does she think she is – wearing MAKEUP to the gym?! Doing her hair?! Doesn’t she know she’s here to WORK OUT? LIKE ME? I WORK SO HARD.” This is an underlying theme in a lot of these memes – girl on girl crime/hate. The recurrent theme is

  • Girls as competition – if another girl is doing better/more than you/looking better than you/etc. she is competition in a bad way. She should be torn down at all costs. She lifts more than you? Yeah, well she’s ugly. She runs faster than you? Well, good, she has no life, she needs something in her life.

These “better than x” posts are also very common too. The recent popularity of Crossfit has brought a ton of women into the lifting community – which is great! For far too long many of us have been the only girl at a powerlifting meet, or maybe were met with strange looks when we explain that we put hundreds of pounds on our back and squat it. With this came the barrage of “better than x” ideas. Suddenly doing something “masculine” like lifting heavy weights makes them better than you. Again – girl on girl hate. “Haha you dance for an hour? WELL I LIFT WEIGHTS FOR AN HOUR SO I’M BETTER!” This is the equivalent of the girl who says “The Bachelor? Gag. I’d rather watch Sports Center!” There’s nothing wrong with enjoying something “out of the norm” but the minute you put down another woman for her preferences (which are “typical female” preferences) you’re furthering this girl on girl hate.

And men, you’re just as guilty of this! Here are some memes that I’ve seen posted by men AND women alike.

Yes, please never grow up to be a multi-million dollar pop star that enjoys things. Cultural appropriation aside, that’s an entirely different discussion.

Large boobs are not optional. Also insert endless “MY FRIDAY NIGHT AT THE BAR HAHA” and “GOING DOWN LIKE A SQUAT NOT LIKE A SLUT” memes

Do you see a theme here? Most of these are trying to empower a certain type of woman by tearing down another – and usually solely based on looks. Don’t believe me?

You can run a marathon? Who cares you don’t have 10% body fat haha!

I know science is hard, but genetics…I mean really. And photoshop. OH GOD PHOTOSHOP.

Every time you say something about “that girl” who works out and drinks.

Every time you tear down a woman for wearing makeup or doing her hair before the gym.

Every time you put one type of “non-traditional” exercise over another.

YOU are contributing to a world of GIRL ON GIRL hate. These memes often have a deeper, darker motive as well. Sure, on the surface they may seem motivational, but they actually reinforce a gender norm a lot of these women try to steer clear of. Notice how all of these women are skinny, white and conventionally attractive? These women all embody what is conventionally attractive to the modern man (and please, let’s keep the #notallmen to a minimum). A big, firm butt, low body fat, white, etc. These memes reinforce the current beauty standard under the disguise of a new, “healthy” one. Don’t believe me?

Lift hard and heavy! …but only to an extent, that’s gross, right?

Re-affirming conventional beauty standards. If these memes were REALLY about “internal strength” or “Bettering yourself” they’d focus a range of body types and skin colors. They would show the top woman and say, “Suns out guns out!” or “Work hard, play hard!” or whatever other catchy saying currently spewed by fitness people. Instead they work to tear down women who stray from the idea of what’s “accepted.” And don’t be too shocked by the comments on these pictures – women and men alike will tear down the top image. Post a picture of Dana Linn Bailey on Facebook and wait and count how many people (women included) tell you “not to get that big” or read her countless “Ew you’re a man!” comments.

So, basically, when you post these memes you’re 1) reinforcing the beauty norm, 2) tearing down other women (you don’t think that top girl has seen this image before? How do you think she feels?), 3) negating the hard work of the individual…just to name a few.

A lot of girl on girl hate, right?

(And, on a tangent, how many of these memes are thinly veiled thinspo? How many of these reinforce guilt about food and eating disorder ideas – which is a predominantly woman’s issue? Yeah.)

So – what can you do?

  • Build other women up – don’t tear them down. Find your competition and praise her for her strengths. Find a sisterhood in your shared struggle.
  • Call out other women for their internalized misogyny. “I don’t understand why the hair style of the girl on the treadmill has anything to do with your workout?” or “Maybe she likes pink nail polish, why do you care?”
  • Accept that not everyone wants to do Crossfit or lift weights and some women just like to dance with their friends, or cycle, or run. And remember it has NOTHING to do with you.
  • Praise other women. Lift them up. Empower each other in EVERY facet of your life. Other women are NOT your competition and if they’re doing “better” than you it’s not a personal affront to you.
  • Don’t post this garbage.

Team Anti-Squeem – how the newest fitness fad is just dangerous

The squeem is the newest fitness fad that’s been seen on Instagram and other social media sites. A “squeem” is a modern day corset you can wear at the gym (or for 5-6 hours during the day) with the intention of “training your waist” to be smaller.

First of all, let’s examine how insane that sounds. Wearing a constricting device around your waist for a few hours will not change the genetics or shape of that area in a permanent sense. If anything, the minute the waist cincher is removed your waist will return to its normal size. Since it just provides an insane amount of pressure on the area there is no permanent change happening. It’s like saying wearing skinny jeans all day will shrink your legs – no.

(The only exception to the rule I will admit is Cathie Jung, who has been wearing a corset for 24 hours a day since 1959. In 1959 she had a 26″ waist, now it’s 15″. Plus, she is unable to drive a car or do many every day functions because she can’t move.)

Speaking of skinny jeans – have you ever worn a pair of skinny jeans a size or two too small? You remember how parts of your leg and hips would go numb, how you’d get pain and tingling sensations as the nerves were compressed and the blood flow restricted in those areas? Imagine doing that to your abdomen, where just under the skin and muscle lay important organs. Dr. Orly Avitzur, a neurologist, has written several articles about the dangers of Spanx, Squeems and other restrictive shapewear here.

Ah yes, improves circulation by cutting off circulation! I see.

These restrictive items make you sweat a lot, though. Removing water from any area of your body will help decrease the inches – just look at those scam body wraps that people sell. They don’t lose any -true- weight, it’s just the water leaving the tissues. The moment the area is rehydrated the inches return with the weight.

Additionally, these waist trainers apply pressure along the bottom of your rib cage which may disallow for full expansion of your lungs. When the lung cannot fully expand you run the risk of not fully oxygenating your blood. Additionally, a very severe side effect of a lung not being able to expand is collapse of the lung lobe itself. These are very severe complications that can occur, whether they’re common or not. The best question you should ask yourself is “Why should I wear something that restricts my ability to breathe while I work out?”

Now, I know we’ve all seen those images of women who’ve worn corsets back in the day. It’s important to note that these modern day squeems do not have the metals that those corsets do. Any conclusions we drew from the extreme restriction of those corsets won’t necessarily transfer over to modern day. In my research I found one modern day corset wearer who underwent an MRI to compare her organ location and size to the average person. They found shifting of organs (the liver and spleen shifted upwards, the large intestine shifted downwards) but no significant changes in the anatomy of the organs. They argue that a woman undergoes similar shifts during pregnancy with her organs, so how is it different?

My argument? 9 months of your organs moving slowly is quite different from wearing an artificial device that cinches down on your waist 24/7. Additionally, the slow growth of a fetus allows for organs to adapt to the changes. My question isn’t about how the organs look, but rather how they work. You cannot simply look at an MRI of an organ and determine that it’s working well and fine. Without blood work or biopsy there’s no way to assess if the constant pressure has lead to ischemia, pressure necrosis, re-perfusion injuries when the squeem is taken off, etc.

If you want to lose weight, you need to get into a caloric deficit. If your genetics tells you to hold onto weight in your abdomen, you’ll lose it there last. There’s no good way to “beat” genetics, especially not by wearing restrictive clothing in hopes it forces your body to remodel. It doesn’t work that way.

Want a smaller waist? Take a hint from the bodybuilding pros – create an illusion. Focus on building a larger upper and lower body that accentuate the X shape of your midsection. Dress in clothing that flatters your shape and either hides areas you’re self conscious about or simply draws attention away from it. Try to work WITH your body, not against it, and you won’t have to worry about the long term effects of compressing vitals organs. No Nonsense Scientific Guide to Reach Your Fitness and Weight Loss Goals

Are you sick of buying into diet after diet telling you how to eat? Do you often wonder where people get their crazy diet ideas from? This eBook was designed compiling years of research on diet, fitness, weight loss, exercise, and everything else. It’s an in-depth look at the science behind it all to help YOU make your own decision! This isn’t a diet, this isn’t an exercise plan: these are the tools you need to succeed without buying a ton of crap!

This eBook compiles many of the articles I’ve written over the years in a concise, easy to read format. No more scrolling through endless pages to find what you were looking for. This is step by step, easy math to help you understand weight loss and fitness from a scientific standpoint.

No more buying “plans” and “meals” that are just low calorie shakes

No more paying a stranger online to tell you how to eat

No more 500, 1,000, etc. calorie diets that tell you to train fasted and do cardio hours a day

This is about YOU. It’s about the tools your need to decide what’s best for YOU!

Click here to buy it yourself!