Strategies For Getting Stronger Part 2: Interview With Nia Shanks

Nia Shanks Pistol Squat

Nia Shanks Knows Strength

Yesterday I brought you the first part of my interview with Nia Shanks. If you missed it, check it out here. She dispelled some of the greatest myths when it comes to female training.

Today she is going to further educate us on advance lifting for females and the truth about fat loss. Let’s dive right in!

Interview Part Two

MF- How would you advise a more advanced female lifter if she’s hit a plateau and struggling to bring her performance to the next level?

NS- Well, assuming she is training with the big, basic exercises (squats, deadlifts, step ups, push-ups, inverted rows, chin-ups (using bands for assistance), and overhead presses), then she needs to change the structure of her program. The big downfall with the way most women train is that they perform the same exercises with the same weight for the same number of sets and reps.

Let’s use an example and say our gal has stalled on deadlifts. She can’t get passed pulling 185 pounds for 6 reps.

To get past that sticking point she can do a number of different things:

1)   Use a different deadlift variation (sumo, trap bar, conventional from a deficit)

2)   Change the set/rep scheme. If she performs 3 x 6 (3 sets, 6 reps each), she can flip that and perform 6 x 3 (6 sets, 3 reps each). This will allow her to use a heavier weight and continue to get stronger.

Those are just two ways but both would definitely help her continue to make gains in the weight room.

MF- That’s some amazing insight for breaking plateaus. This will help a ton of lifters. What are some standard exercises that you recommend for women? Do you prefer to train women using full-body workouts, upper/lower splits, or 5 day body part splits? Why do you make this recommendation?

My favorite exercises are:

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Reverse Lunges from a Deficit (or step-ups)
  • Push-ups
  • Inverted Rows
  • Overhead Presses (standing)
  • Chin-ups
  • Parallel Bar Dips
  • Ab Wheel Rollouts

After she perfects those exercises we can add in exercises like the bench press and dumbbell rows, just to name a few.

Those exercises will work every muscle in the body and will help any women to build an incredible physique, as long as she eats smart too, of course.

For the most part I prefer to have women use total body workouts and train 3 days per week on non-consecutive days. This way they work every muscle three times per week.

The reason women should use total body workouts (for the most part) is because they wouldn’t receive enough stimulation from other splits, namely “bodybuilding splits”. And let me just say real quick that bodybuilding splits (working legs, arms, chest, back, and shoulders on separate days) is a complete and total waste of time. Period. And total body workouts burn a lot more calories than bodybuilding splits, which is definitely a good thing for a woman who wants to shed some extra body fat.

Total body workouts are a sure fire way to get the best results in the least amount of time.

However, and I’m sure you knew this was coming, I have some women use upper/lower splits. Some women simply prefer to lift 4 days per week, and in this case the upper/lower split is the best bet. Also as women get stronger, I have seen them stall on total body workouts and so we’ll switch to upper/lower splits to allow them to continue to make progress in the gym.

MF- What is the most important element to a good training program?

NS- That’s something people need to understand – it’s a training program. There is more than one important element. A good program focuses on improving performance, managing fatigue, and includes proper nutrition and recovery methods.

It’s much more than just walking into the gym, lifting some weights, and calling it a day. In order to achieve the best results, all elements must be taken into consideration – this includes the exercises used in the program, exercise technique, conditioning work, nutrition, and recovery.

MF- How does strength training play a key role in fat loss?

NS- I’ll give you the quick answer since we touched on this a little earlier – the main focus in a strength training program should be getting stronger. By getting stronger you will constantly be making progress in the weight room, and that means your body will have to continue to adapt by building some muscle and shedding body fat.

This comparison is used a lot but we’ll use it here anyway – look at the physique of a marathon runner. Sure, they are “skinny” but they are not “toned.” They lack muscle definition and don’t look very impressive. I use the term “skinny-fat” for individuals that are “skinny” but they have a soft appearance, like professional marathon runners.

Now look at the physique of a sprinter – they are very lean and definitely “toned.” Their physique is much more impressive.

The main difference between the two – one has muscle and less body fat (the sprinter), and the other does not.

Strength training is critical (along with nutrition) if you want to shed body fat. Period.

MF- I often stress the importance of strength training for fat loss to my readers. It’s so nice to have you reiterate this fact. And you are living proof of it. What is the largest fat loss myth that women face, and how can they get over it?

NS- Lots and lots of cardio is mandatory for losing body fat.

That is the biggest fat loss myth. When women want to lose body fat they automatically turn to lots and lots of cardio – treadmills, bikes, and definitely elliptical machines.

Sure, cardio burns calories but it should be the 3rd variable in your recipe for success; proper nutrition and strength training are the two components most important for fat loss and overall physique improvement.

I’ve had women compliment me on my stomach and overall physique and they ask how they can get the same results. When I tell them what I do and how they can do it, they still end up spending an hour on the elliptical machine as if I was completely lying. I’ll see these women spend months on end on the cardio machines and they still look exactly the same. I’ll never understand why they would rather spend 60 minutes on a machine instead of 30 minutes in the weight room where they could actually get results.

I challenge any and every woman who spends hours per week on a piece of cardio equipment to get off those machines and walk away. Just stop, cold turkey.

Now get in the weight room 3 times per week and perform total body workouts using the exercises I mentioned previously. Work hard and improve your performance each week.

If you want to kick things up another notch, run hill sprints twice a week and/or go for a brisk 30 minute walk first thing in the morning a few days per week.

Along with that, eat whole, natural, unprocessed foods the majority of the time and you will see some amazing progress when you look in the mirror and put on your clothes. I guarantee it.

MF- It really is that simple. So many women over think training, and they just need to get back to basics. What’s the best advice you can give women looking to get into competitive powerlifting?

NS- My advice is to just do it.

Powerlifting meets are so much fun to compete in. Everyone is very supportive of each other and the environment is amazing. The competitors don’t care if you squat 400 pounds or 45 as long as you are doing your best.

For your first meet don’t stress out about it. Just find a meet, set the date, and go lift. Don’t worry about cutting weight to get into a certain weight class or setting world records. Go there and see how everything is done and get the hang of things, and most importantly, have fun.

Other than that, make sure you follow a sound training program that allows you to get stronger.

Train hard. Eat smart. Get results.

I thank Nia so much for sharing her knowledge and insight with us all. To learn more about Nia Shanks and what she is doing in the fitness industry, check out her website at

Also, as I mentioned in my previous interview, Nia is a published author and has an evolutionary fat loss e-book, Fat Loss Detour, that you can order online and download today.

To check out Fat Loss Detour and here what others are saying about Nia’s program, click here.

(I am an affiliate of Nia’s and I do serve to receive a small compensation for sales… But, I would sell it even if I wasn’t. It’s that good.)


What do you think about Nia’s tips for fat loss? Speak up and share your thoughts!



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