Nia Shanks’ K.I.S.S. Strength Training | Workouts and Programs

by Marianne  - June 3, 2012


Hi everyone,

Hope you are all having a great weekend!  It’s a quiet one for me, that will be spent working and resting.  I did a killer Complex Workout yesterday that I will post over the next day or two … you will hate me for it!

*Swift change of subject before anyone notices there is another Killer Complex Workout coming soon*

Today, I have a treat for you. Fellow Girls Gone Strong Co-Founder and Beautiful Badass Nia Shanks (aka PBB) has written a fantastic article on Strength Training, with sample workout and programming tips below. She needs no introduction around here, as you’ll see in a minute, Nia loves to make an entrance 😉 I’ll hand over to Nia.

I’m about to rock your world.

Are you ready?

Check this out.


Yep, I just rocked your world. (Marianne loves my moonwalk, whether she admits it or not, so I couldn’t resist including it here). [NOTE FROM Marianne: HELL YEAH, I LOVE IT!]

Okay, all joking aside, let’s get into the meat ‘n taters of this article.

I’m going to share with you some simple strength training workouts you can use to compliment some of Marianne’s metabolic/conditioning routines posted here at Myomytv. However, before we get to the workouts, I’ll break things down so you understand they “why” and “how” behind the workouts.

Focus on Strength
With the following workouts, your sole focus is on getting stronger. The key to getting stronger is training with basic exercises and using heavy weight. And I don’t want you to worry about burning calories or any of that non-sense.

When it comes to the following workouts, you focus on getting stronger, and nothing else. This is the driving force behind my Beautiful Badass programs, and you’ll employ the same method here. Not only is it more enjoyable then focusing on fat loss, but it works, and it works very well.

The easiest way to accomplish the goal of “get stronger” is to increase the weight most workouts or perform more reps with the same weight. For example, if you deadlift 200 pounds for five reps the first week, you have a couple of options when week two rolls around:

1) Increase the weight five pounds (205) and perform five reps
2) Keep the weight the same (200 pounds) and perform six reps

Either way you’re improving your performance, and that’s what matters.

Keep It Simple
I thrive on simplicity when it comes to training and nutrition. Why complicate things when you can get the same, or better, results with a lot less stress?
Let me show you how to apply the K.I.S.S. principle with strength training.

The Tools
You’ll be using some of my favorite training tools – barbells, dumbbells, and your bodyweight.

That’s it. Simple, right?

The Exercises
Big, compound movements are the bread and butter of these workouts. You’ll be squatting, deadlifting, pressing, and rowing.

Gaining strength on these basic exercises will provide the most bang for your training buck.

The Rep Range
If you want to get strong, you have to lift heavy. Keep the weight in the 5-9 rep range.

Oh, and I should mention that the weight you use for the 5-9 rep range should be challenging! For instance, if you’re going to perform sets of five reps, make sure you’re not using a weight that allows you to perform eight or more reps.

You must challenge yourself with an appropriate load.

That means working hard with a heavy weight that would allow you to complete one, or two, more reps but no more. For example, if you’re performing sets of five reps, you should use a weight that allows you to perform six, but absolutely no more, than seven perfect reps.

Demonstration Video
Here is a clip from a workout I did last weekend. This is a sample total body workout that you can complete in about 30 minutes.

If you performed that same strength training workout – trap bar deadlifts, parallel bar dips, and one arm dumbbell rows – you’d work practically every muscle in your body in a very short period of time.

Simple Program Set-up
A simple, bare-bones approach to setting up a total body training day would be to include one of each of the following elements.

1) Lower body lift
2) Upper body push
3) Upper body pull

If you perform three exercises that fit into those categories, you’ll get in a great strength training workout (as shown in the above video).

To ensure your training is balanced, I prefer to break this template down even further.

Sample Training Day #1
1) Lower body lift – hip dominant (example: Romanian deadlifts)
2) Vertical press (example: barbell shoulder press)
3) Vertical pull (neutral grip chin-ups)

Sample Training Day #2
1) Lower body lift – quad dominant (example: front squat)
2) Horizontal press (example: push-ups)
3) Horizontal pull (example: one arm dumbbell row)

This way you train most of the movement planes and hit all muscle groups.

Putting It All Together
Now that you know a simple way to set up your strength training workouts, I’ll give you a sample strength training session using the above information.

Sample Workout
1) Deadlift – 3×5 (3 sets, 5 reps)
2a) Parallel Bar Dips – 3×6-8
2b) One Arm Dumbbell Row – 3×7-9

Note: that does not include warm-ups.

I recommend performing the deadlifts as straights sets. You can, however, superset them with something like single leg calf raises. This is what I do as it allows me to get in some isolation work while I rest.

After you complete all three sets of deadlifts, move on to the superset of dips and rows. Perform one set of dips, then rest as long as needed, and perform a set of rows. Repeat until you complete a total of three sets for each exercise.

Three exercises for a total of nine work sets; that’s all you’ve gotta do. While it make look easy, make sure you push yourself and use a challenging weight for your work sets.

Random Notes
• I would prefer to include more direct glute and hamstring work, but that is easily accomplished with the workouts Marianne provides in the form of hip thrusts, glute bridges, lunges, etc. As previously stated, the purpose of the sample workouts is to increase your strength on some basic compound exercises.

• Some exercises may not be appropriate for you. For example, if you have poor thoracic mobility or any existing shoulder issues, you may want to eliminate overhead pressing and substitute another horizontal push (push-ups, dumbbell presses, etc).

• “Beach work” – sometimes it’s fun to include some isolation exercises like curls, extensions, and lateral raises. If you like this kinda stuff, then feel free to do it. I like to allow no more than 10 minutes at the end of a strength training session. Take those 10 minutes to perform your “beach work”, but no more.

• Use exercise variations that work for you. For example, if you’re not comfortable squatting or have other issues, use an appropriate substitution like front squats. Don’t force square pegs in round holes.

• Train smart. I encourage you to lift heavy and challenge yourself, but always make sure you use proper form and safety precautions. When benching and squatting, a power rack with safety bars is your best friend.

Have fun Y’all!

~ Nia Shanks


The Original Beautiful Badass

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  1. With havin so much content do you ever run into any problems of
    plagorism or copyright infringement? My website has a
    lot of unique content I’ve either written myself or outsourced but it looks like a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my permission. Do you know any solutions to help prevent content from being stolen? I’d certainly appreciate it.

  2. Thank you so much for this reminder. I tend to think I have to have a whole list of varied moves, and it can get overwhelming. This was just what I needed to start my Monday and a new work out week!

  3. I love the simplicity and flexibility of thinking in those 6 categories of movements. But what about frequency? For instance, with your sample workouts of only 3 movements, unless you work out at least 4 days a week, some movements you’ll only do once in a given week. Is that sufficient to progress?

    I know bodybuilders like to do one-body-part-a-day splits, but their goals aren’t mine (I’m a middle-aged woman: my goals are strength and bone health. Oh, and I too like to throw in extra glute work — I learned some time ago that the way to keep my knees happy is to work my butt, and I’ve learned a lot from your site, Marianne.) Thanks to both of you!

    1. Hey there,

      The other way you can do it is 3 full body workouts per week. So each session you do a variation of a squat, a deadlift or bridge, a pushing exercise (horizontal or vertical), a pulling exercise (horizontal or vertical) and a plank or ab exercise if you like. Work in a lower rep range of about 5 – 7 for 3 sets and each week, simply try to improve your scores by slowly adding more weight. Some weeks, I would suggest deloading a bit , and go for lighter weight and higher reps – with the same movements. And that is a basic full body strength program 🙂

      Hope this makes sense.

    1. Yes, so long as you are still in a slight calorie deficit, and training properly to prevent muscle loss. It’s all about total calories in verse calories out, with a good training program 🙂

  4. Great advice!

    That is pretty much how I workout, but I do it a little different.
    I strength train in the gym 3 times a week and I do two workouts, with sprints, tires,sledgehammers or something like that.

    In the gym I would do something similar to what you recommend:

    1)lower body exercise(quad dominant)
    2)upper body vertical pull
    3) lower body (hip dominant)
    4) upper body vertical press

    Then I would do something like 100 double unders or some swings or burpees. Something that is not longer than 2-4 minutes but really intense.

    AFter that I would switch the upper body with a horizontal plane for my next workout!
    That works the best for me and also for my clients!

    Once again great post!


  5. awesome stuff and amazing video…such inspiration! i am all about keeping it simple and effective. There is no need to spend 2+ hours in the gym…this is insane to me when I hear this! thanks for posting!

  6. Amazing!bad ass godesses. Thanks for the article. I must say working out like you ladies has really helped me with my strength and in turn my performance on the sailboat has improved.
    Thanks for high jacking MYoMy Nia.

    Cheers from NYC

      1. Ha ha!

        I loved invading Marianne’s website! She has some of the most faithful, educated, and fun followers. 🙂

        Now if only I could get her to MY website . . .

  7. Very compact and useful information Nia. I love that you explained the pull, push, press and lift movements. I’ll try the first day sample today at the gym.
    You girls rock!!!

  8. Awesome! I feel like I often get too caught up in creating complex programming, ie (upper body/lower body/push/pull days) with the result of too much isolation. A timely reminder.

    Great info, Thanks!

  9. Hi Marianne and Nia,
    i have a question for both of you, it would be great if you could help me with this.
    I find that my ankle are not really flexible, or rather that I lack ankle mobility. When I do squats with more of a narrow stance, I can’t keep my heels on the ground if I try to go a bit deeper. That’s one of the reasons I can’t do Pistols. I can do them while holding a 5kg dumbbell as a counter balance, but it’s hard to practice them that way. 🙂
    So finally, my question is what can I do to improve my ankle mobility? I guess that it can be done, just not sure what to do..

    Sorry for a bit longer post, and thanks in advance! 🙂

  10. Thanks for allowing me to invade your blog, Marianne!

    You’re my favorite Irish woman. 😉

    I’m happy to answer any questions your faithful followers may have regarding the article and sample training program.

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