“Tell me why,” Iron Culture Podcast Ep. 125: Competing (and Winning) in BOTH Powerlifting & Bodybuilding (ft. Katie Ann Rutherford)

Whoop whoop! It’s another Monday, which means another Iron Culture Podcast!

Katie Ann Rutherford is an evidence-based and world-stage winning powerlifter and physique athlete, and this conversation with her covered some really interesting ground, including how to balance between the two sports, how to work with a coach and how to stay healthy as a woman in physique sports. (And you know I was all over it when she went into the need to live in a surplus for a while to gain muscle! It’s like she read my post from yesterday!) But the elements of the conversation that I appreciated and connected with the most was the discussion around finding a healthy balance between physique goals and strength goals.

At about 13 min, Katie Ann says about bodybuilding training, “there’s definitely a tendency to overanalyze everything,” and that switching to a strength focus after spending time in the physique competition world helped her to have a more positive attitude about her body. I’ve heard Eric make comments along those lines before on other podcasts, and I think it makes a lot of sense–those of us drawn towards physique sports are not scared off by the minutia and a certain amount of micromanagement; however, while this can be an important skillset in the sport, I can also see how it can also become problematic, if we aren’t able to keep everything in a healthy perspective. Switching our focus towards strength for a while gives us a new, external measure of progress for a while.

Continuing along the lines of having a healthy relationship with the sport, Katie Ann adds at about twenty-four minutes in that finding a coach that was evidence-based also helped her find a healthier approach. This has been a contention of mine for a long time–the more scientific we are in our attitudes, the healthier we can be in our fitness pursuits. It’s the land of pseudoscience that leads to starving ourselves, overtraining, micronutrient deficiencies, etc. Short term, we can put up with just about anything, but it’s in the long game that we see what really works and what becomes too problematic to keep up with.

And speaking of the long game, I think that’s really the only discomfort I have within this conversation–I can completely see how switching between strength sports and physique sport can support a healthier relationship with the body. However, the training styles are very different, and for some of us, a traditional, strength-based style of training isn’t a good fit. Eric has mentioned many times over the years about having to avoid squatting due to hip challenges. Lots of people find that the big 3 aren’t a good fit for their physiologies. Personally, I find that the rep-ranges of traditional strength-training can aggravate my joints. My elbows and hips are far happier at a handful of sets of 8+ reps than more sets at lower reps. Of course, it doesn’t mean we can’t work around these challenges, but I do think giving someone the advice to focus on strength for a while and to appreciate what your body can do sometimes lacks nuance.(1)

Overall, another great conversation, though! Did you give it a listen? I’d love to hear your thoughts. And yes, we do have a comment policy.

(1) And, it isn’t what they do here, but it is common for folks to say “focus on what your body can do” in a way that can be ableist. When someone has limited physical abilities, focusing on what their body can do isn’t always the most motivating message. There’s a good conversation about this over at the Balance 365 Podcast, episode 172.

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