Guest Post: Heavy Weight Lifting

Hi everyone, I’m back with another feature fitness article. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Erika Worger, owner of Fit4Evr and a good friend of Michelle’s. I have over 10 years of experience in the health and fitness industry, I run indoor/outdoor bootcamps and the Mothers Into Lifetime Fitness program, work with clients on injury rehab and design nutritional programs for my clients.

As a trainer, I’m always asked, “What’s the best exercise out there?” I take that as, “What is going to get me the best results in the least amount of time?” I have never really had an answer. Squats, yes they are great for the lower body and core. Interval training, yes you get strength and cardio gains at the same time. Clean eating, yes diet is more than half the battle. I can think of 1,000 other effective things but nothing really stood out for me until this spring.

Today I want to share the answer with the Toque Girls followers: HEAVY LIFTING!

I have always considered myself to be strong, so I felt like I didn’t wimp out during my workouts. I would always grab the 20′s off the rack and leave the pink weights for “the girls.” But that wasn’t enough. I have always known that in order to build muscle, you need to lift heavy. I have always known that women “won’t bulk up.” But I never truly trained that way until early this year.

I have been powerlifting 1 day a week since mid-February and the change in my strength and my aesthetics is unbelievable. A powerlifting training session consists of 3 major lifts: squats, deadlifts and bench press. I work up to my 1 max rep most weeks and generally never do a set of more than 5. I never break a sweat. It’s just a very different way of working out than the usual circuit training we are all stuck on. When I train now, we push hard and then joke around, tell stories and allow our muscles to fully recover before performing another grueling set of 1. In just 4 months, I am stronger than ever, I have more muscle definition in my 30′s than I did as an athlete in my 20′s and I can run faster and longer on the treadmill. The results are AMAZING!!!! They cross over into every other aspect of my life. And I did NOT bulk up. The test? My skinny jeans still slide on effortlessly. (And do up!)

I have been working with a powerlifting coach, Brian Johnston, at Ki Fitness in Kensington, but heavy training does not have to be to that extreme to reap the benefits. Here are a few pointers and exercises that can be done safely on your own. I picked leg and back exercises because the bigger the muscle group, the more “bang for your buck”.

I filmed some short instructional videos to help you out:

Leg Press
Lat Pulldown
Single-arm row
Assisted Chin Up
Straight-Leg Dumbbell Deadlifts

You can also easily incorporate any of the machines at your gym. Although not the best for stability and core training, machines are a safe way to perform a super heavy set – when you have no spotter — without fear of injury. I want to be EXTREMELY clear here: FORM IS EVERYTHING. Don’t compromise form for extra weight.

Here is my guideline for sets and reps on a heavy day:


Each set should get heavier. The goal is to fatigue with each set. Don’t be shy, GO HEAVY.

So, if someone asks me, “What’s the best exercise out there?” I will confidently say incorporate a “heavy” day!



Guest Post: Post-Natal Fitness

Hello! I am excited to be writing Part 2 of our pre/post natal fitness series. For those of you who missed Part 1, I’m Erika Worger, mom to Mateo (that’s us, above), trainer, athlete and close friend of Michelle’s.

Now, to help you new mommies out with getting back into the swing of things, I want to start out by setting realistic expectations. What you can expect is for it to take one full year for your body to return to pre-pregnancy form, if you WORK HARD! Pre-pregnancy form is not just referring to a number on the scale or a pant size. I am including strength, hormone shifts, breast size, ligament laxity and all the other millions of changes that occurred in your body over the course of your pregnancy.

After my son was born, I was so excited to get back to the gym! I couldn’t wait to see my friends and clients at World Health. So, I totally ignored the six-week rule and headed back to the gym only two weeks after Mateo was born. There I was, two weeks post-delivery, lunging my way through the gym. It felt great. But lesson learned the hard way — six months down the road,I hobbled my way into physio with terrible hip pain. This is one period in your life where listening to your body is not enough — your body needs time to adjust before going back to your old workouts. Here is a breakdown of the safe return to exercise.

24 to 48 hours post-delivery:

  1. Just because your beautiful angel has arrived, don’t stop doing your Kegels!!!!
  2. Along with the all-important Kegel, you can start to work on transverse engagement. This is a fancy way to say, “Suck in your tummy!” Lie on your back, engage your midsection and try holding it while you inhale and exhale. Use your hands to know if you can maintain engagement. Reconnect each time you lose it.
  3. Pelvic Tilts
  4. Stretch out your back and chest. Hours spent cradling your newborn feeding, rocking and admiring takes its toll on your neck, back and shoulders. Here’s how:
  •  Lying on your back, reach to opposite ends of the room.
  • Using a wall, place an outstretched arm at shoulder height, turn your body away to stretch chest muscles.

1 to 4 weeks post-childbirth:

  1. Bridges
  2. Toe Taps
  3. Heel Slides
  4. Walking , walking and more walking. It’s a great way to burn calories and get you and your little one some fresh air and sunshine.

4 to 6 weeks post-childbirth:

Along with the core exercises, you can work your extremities with:

  1. Bicep Curls
  2. Tricep Extensions

6 weeks and beyond:

Resume your regular workouts if you have spent time building the base. However, if this is your first day back, start at the beginning. Something to be aware of is that laxity in ligaments and joints lasts five months OR the length of breast feeding, so stay away from weight-bearing, unbalanced exercises like lunges and high impact/plyometric type activities.

Special considerations for those of you who have had a C-section:

The surgery does not cut your ab muscles; they are separated to pull the baby out. You can still start with pelvic floor and transverse engagement at 24 to 48 hours post-delivery. Keep up the Kegels and isometric core exercises. You can safely do the bridges, too. Make sure you move to prevent blood clots, so walking is safe and recommended!

Special considerations for those who’ve experienced Diastasis recti:

Diastasis recti is a midline separation just above the belly button and happens in over 66% of pregnancies. There is no permanent damage and it can be corrected by doing isometric exercises such as toe taps and heel slides. Note that it is important to stay away from curl ups and extensions until the problem is fixed.

Everything about life changes after your baby is born and getting to the gym only gets harder. What really helped me get back into a good routine with my workouts was that I made it my social life somedays and my escape others. Participate in a Mom and Baby class but also take advantage of the childcare in your gym, put your headphones in and lose yourself in a little YOU time.

If you have any questions about prenatal or post-natal fitness or fitness in general, check out my website at or feel free to shoot me an email at Erika.fit4evr@gmail.com.



Guest Post: Prenatal Fitness

Hi Toque Girl followers! My name is Erika Worger and I’ve been friends with Michelle for more than half my life. It is fitting that we met playing sports together, as both Michelle and I have a major passion for health and wellness. She writes about it and I teach it! I’m a personal trainer, nutritionist and mom to a 2 ½-year-old son. I train clients one-on-one and in groups, including a group called Mothers Into Lifetime Fitness. For more information, check out my site. I was so excited when Michelle asked me to write about prenatal and postnatal fitness! (The postnatal post is coming soon.)

If you’re pregnant, here’s a little breakdown on how to focus your workouts over the next 9 months.

I want to start off with the all-important Kegel! I cannot stress the importance of doing these exercises enough. 

Do 15 repetitions at one time, 5 times per day. (For a how-to, check this out.) While you are brushing your teeth, driving to work, on a conference call, sipping lemonade on your deck, reading in bed… there is never a bad time to be doing your Kegels.

Beyond Kegels, there’s an endless number of activities and exercises that you can do.

First Trimester:

The first 3 months of pregnancy are plagued with fatigue and morning sickness, so it is hard to be motivated to get to the gym. Thankfully, exercise will actually diminish both symptoms. This is when you need to just force yourself to get moving. If someone told you that in 40 weeks you were going to compete in an Ironman, would you snuggle up on the couch with a bowl full of ice cream and whine to your partner that you need another back rub?! No way! You would be out there training your butt off! Find a partner, hire a trainer or join a class. (Don’t stop asking for those back rubs, though.)

Soon you will be carrying extra weight out front; think boobs and belly. This will put a strain on your back as the pregnancy progresses. Here are a few exercises to build a good strong base:

1)    Use a rower for cardio intervals

2)    Supermans for lower back and core

3)    Single Arm Bentover Rows finished with an Overhead Shoulder Press for your rhomboids and lower back

Second Trimester:

Now that your energy levels are back to normal, your body is starting to change. It is challenging psychologically to workout but only to get heavier and slower. What a ripoff!  But stay focused, keep the course. You are training for a new goal now! This is also when you need to start changing and modifying your exercises. Stay away from laying flat on your back and stay away from exercises that distribute your weight unevenly on your legs, lunges for example. With the loosening of your ligaments, your hips become very unstable and weight-bearing exercises like lunges can cause damage to the joint, tendons and ligaments. Even though some women can continue to do all the normal high-impact activities as pre pregnancy I found running really uncomfortable after about my 14th week.  Listen to your body!  If something doesn’t feel right or hurts, MODIFY! Here are a few ab exercises that are safe to do throughout your pregnancy. Keep your core strong!

1)    Weighted Side Bends

2)    Wood Chops using a cable machine or bands.  Top to bottom and bottom to top

3)    Planks, Plank Jacks and Planks with Glute raises

Third Trimester:

“Ugh” is the only word that comes to mind when I think about my third trimester. I was HUGE and awkward.  I couldn’t even bend down to tie my shoes. Proof:

Swimming and prenatal yoga are awesome workout choices at this point. It was a nice relief to feel weightless in the pool. In the gym, put the extra weight to work in your favour. Focus on lower-body exercises using your body weight to build strength in your quads and hamstrings. Also, spend some time on upper body strength to get ready to be lugging around a baby carrier and diaper bag. Here are some good exercises to incorporate:

1)    Squats

2)    Stair-climbing

3)    Modified Pushups — Use a bar or block at about waist height

4)    Bicep Curls with Rotation — Once at 90 degrees keep elbows tight to your torso and rotate your hands out to either side

This is just the tip of the iceburg for prenatal fitness. We have come along way in understanding the power of a woman’s body. Pregnancy does not need to slow you down. And the more fit you stay through your pregnancy, the easier it will be to get your pre-pregnancy body back afterwards!