Interview With the Pull Up Queen Shawna Kaminski
CB: Shawna, thanks for doing this Q&A with us. How did you get started working out?
Shawna: I was always involved in sport as a kid. I swam competitively for 12 years and did every school sport I could on top of that. I skied competitively as well and competed in bodybuilding back in the day. To be honest, sport kept me focused and out of trouble in a turbulent childhood.
CB: You and me both! Tell us more about your bodybuilding days.
Shawna: After I was done swimming and skiing competitively, I was challenged in the weight room. I did sport specific training prior to deciding to try my hand at bodybuilding. I enjoyed the training aspect of bodybuilding. It was a great way to learn about my body, how it reacted to workouts and nutrition etc. But I didn’t agree with the whole sport in general. I hated that my success or failure was based on subjective criteria, even though I was successful in the competitions I entered. (That’s a whole other rant for me…) I learned a ton from that experience that now I can pass on to others when I train them.
CB: How do people in every day life react to your muscles? Do they admire you, tease you, stare at you or compliment you?
Shawna: I’m actually surprised when I see myself in videos, I guess I don’t necessarily look ‘average’. I really don’t notice people reacting to my physique much. If I’m wearing short sleeves, someone may compliment my arms or something, but I just accept the compliment and I don’t make a big deal of it. I don’t feel I’m really freakish at all at about 120lbs. I mean I’ve seen some very muscular women in bodybuilding circles. I think that women admire my physique because I’m not ‘big’ and I carry myself well, good posture goes a long way.
CB: You run a bootcamp too right? That’s so different than bodybuilding style workouts, how did you get interested in that?
Shawna: Bodybuilding isn’t necessarily great ‘functional’ training and isn’t for everyone. In fact, it appeals to very few people. I wanted to reach a lot of people with practical ways to train that’s fun and effective. Boot camp style and body weight training is great for the majority of people.
CB: What’s more important performance or aesthetics?
Shawna: Performance trumps aesthetics hands down. But, if you play your cards right you can have both. How you look is basically all about nutrition. So if you’re training hard, your abs are made in the kitchen. Eat properly and you’ll look lean and athletic as well. It’s not rocket science. Everyone is looking for a magic bullet. They look at me and think I have some special secret. Here’s my secret: train hard consistently and eat nutritionally dense clean food. This isn’t sexy but it’s the magic. If it were easy, everyone would look amazing. It just takes commitment and focus.
CB: You sure can, we call it PowerBuilding. Do people over 40 need to work out differently than people in their 20s and 30s?
Shawna: People in their 40′s need to EAT differently than people in their 20′s and 30′s. There’s less of a margin of error. Where in my 20′s I could follow the 80/20 rule (eating clean 80% of the time), in my 30′s it may have changed to 85/15 and now it’s possibly 90/10. I can’t ‘goof’ off nutritionally as much now as I could have in my 20′s. Mind you, I’ve become such a functional eater, that I don’t crave the things I did in my 20′s either.
As for training, I can train as hard or harder now as I did when I was younger as long as I train ‘smarter’. I have some knee issues that I have to work around, as others will have physical issues in their 40′s. I have to listen to my body more. I probably require a little more in terms of recovery time. Keep in mind that I’ve never taken an extended time off from training. If someone hasn’t done anything since high school, that’s a totally different story.
CB: Speaking of nutrition, what’s the biggest factor leading to fat gain in North America?
Shawna: I hate to say it, but it seems people are afraid of hard work and discipline with training and nutrition. Like I said earlier, if it were easy to look great, everyone would be sporting a rocking body. I like that you can’t ‘buy’ a lean, athletic physique, it has to be earned with effort and sweat. If more people were willing to prioritize this then there would be less fat gain. I don’t want to sound like a super freak either. I have a balanced life of running several businesses and I’m a mother of two. I invest in about 40 minutes of training daily along with proper eating. I don’t spend hours in the kitchen either. It’s all a matter of priorities.
CB: What’s your favorite exercise and why?
Shawna: Dude, how can I answer that? I’m supposed to say pull ups, but I love several exercises. If I had to narrow it down, I’d have to say bench pressing, squatting and burpee pull ups.
To me, these are pretty basic moves that hit my entire body. I usually do a split routine, so I don’t combine the three of these together much.
CB: You like burpees?! I do them, but I don’t like them. What exercise measures relative strength the best in your opinion?
Shawna: Pull ups are a great measure of upper body strength. They also help with the ‘other move’ that everyone thinks is the best measure of upper body strength: the bench press. Pull ups help balance the physique and for women especailly, they really help shape and tone the body. Show me a woman that incorporates pull ups in her routine and I’ll bet she has a nice shape.
CB: Why do you think it’s rare to see people doing pull ups in the gym?
Shawna: Pull ups are tough! You can’t use traditional progressive resistance training techniques when doing the pull up. You can either do one or you can’t. Ego prevents many from even giving it a try, especially in a gym situation. But if people give them a try and used some of the controlled cheating techniques I use, they’d be able to do impressive sets of pull ups.
CB: What are your 3 best tips someone can use right away to get better at pull ups?
Shawna: I’ve got many tips, but I’ll narrow it down to three. Here you go:
1. Pull ups should really be called chest ups. Your goal is to get your chest under the bar. This allows you to utilize the stronger muscles of the back and directly increase scapular strength and stability versus pulling with just the biceps.
2. One of the best ways to improve pull up strength is through eccentric training. You can use a variety of assisted pull ups to get your chest up to the bar, then slowly lower your body from the bar using control. It’s the lowering from the pull up bar that builds strength. Working the negative is key.
3. Controlled cheating is perfectly acceptable when increasing pull up power. Once you’ve maxed out with your own power on the pull up, use things like assisted pull ups, band assisted pull ups, jump pull ups and you can even add a ‘kip’ to your pull up to help increase your strength. Employing controlled pull up techniques is like doing a ‘forced rep’ and ultimately will increase your overall strength and power on the pull up. Of course the controlled ‘cheat’ on the pull up will be followed with working the eccentric contraction.
CB: Here’s a bonus tip. Check out Shawna’s Pull Up Program Here. Shawna, are you dressing up for Halloween?
Shawna: Well, due to Hurricane Sandy, it seems all flights everywhere have been delayed and cancelled. So instead of handing out candy to my neighbors, I’m stranded waiting for a flight home from the east coast that’s been rescheduled for tomorrow. I’m dressed up as a frustrated traveler who’s very thankful for a safe home to be going to.
CB: That sucks but we’re glad you’re okay. What’s new in Shawna’s life? Got any cool projects coming up?
Shawna: I’m excited to be pairing up with Boot Camp Finisher guy Mikey Whitfield and Boot Camp Games dude Brian Kalakay along with my Challenge Workouts: Boot Camp Edition to make The Ultimate Boot Camp System which will launch next week. We really feel like we have the a lot to offer boot camp owners to spice up their camps with tools so clients stay, pay and refer.
As well, I’m looking at the new year to launch a private coaching program with Challenge Workouts. I really love working one on one with people to help them meet their personal fitness goals.
CB: That’s awesome, we’ll be following and cheering for ya. Thanks for the Q&A Shawna!
Shawna: Thanks for the opportunity to share with your audience Mike. I’m looking forward to chatting more with you in the future. Love the ‘Fix My Shoulder Pain‘ program, it certainly helped lots of my clients.
Challenge Workouts! Strong Enough for a Man…..
But Made By a Woman (That Can Probably Kick Your Butt!)