We are super excited to introduce fitness coach and blogger Nia Shanks. Her commitment to inspiring women through her blog, Lift Like a Girl, to utilize fitness to reach their full potential has made her one of the leading fitness bloggers in the country. She's been featured numerous times on Greatist and and we're lucky enough to interview her today and even get a few fitness tutorials from her!

Just to start out would you mind giving us some quick info about your fitness background?

I fell into fitness naturally because my mom was the first female personal trainer in our town. I followed in her footsteps and became a certified personal trainer at 19 and furthered my fitness education by getting my Bachelor's in Exercise Physiology

Your blog Lift Like a Girl is one of the most popular health and fitness blogs out there, how did you come about starting it?

I started my website in 2009 as a way to reach more people than I could at the gym. Then it became a platform for me to say things that I didn't just want to say about fitness but that I felt needed to be said, especially in regards to women.

What was it that you thought really needed to be said?

So much stuff in the health and fitness world encourages women to eat less and to workout to total exhaustion and try to burn as many calories as possible. I take the opposite approach. My message is about empowering women and inspiring them to unleash their awesome and become the strongest version of themselves through fitness.

That's fantastic! I've been going through your website and you've got tons of diet and exercises plans. You've also denounced the "latest and greatest workout or diet." What makes your programs different and better?

It's really about the approach I encourage women to take. I tell women to stop worrying about the scales and chasing an ideal weight and focus instead on increasing things like your body image, self-confidence, and strength. Focus not on eating less but on eating more of the foods that make you feel good. I want health and fitness to be empowering and makes people's lives better in every single way possible. So many resources make fitness seem overly complicated and as a result it causes people a ton of stress and frustration. I firmly believe it's something that should benefit every part of your life.

And what tips do you have for our readers to not get frustrated with working out?

One, keep it simple. Just follow a simple plan that fits into your life. Focus on the big basic exercises and then focus on getting stronger.

Second, it's vitally important to do things that you enjoy. Working out is not always going to be the most exciting, best time of your life. You're not always going to go into a workout thinking "YES this awesome" but for the most part fitness should be something that's enjoyable, something that you look forward to, and most importantly something that makes you feel great. It should not be a chore, something you dread, and absolutely never be a form of punishment. Find a way to make it fun. Maybe get involved in new activities. When my strength training workouts get boring or stale that's when I do more mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking, or kayaking. You can always be physically active in some way and if that way is fun then that's even better.

Speaking of which what does your workout schedule look like?

Lately I've been working out on an every other day basis, mostly doing bodyweight and dumbbell exercises. Right now it feels great and I'm trying to progress to more challenging exercises. I'm also getting ready to do a lot of mountain biking.

Soooo you've tried our product, what did you think of our Rubberbanditz bands?

They're great! I have a home gym in my garage and it gets super hot and humid in the summer. One thing I've noticed about Rubberbanditz bands compared to the other ones I have is that they don’t get tacky or stick together. Their elasticity seems to be better as well.

Awesome! We're glad to hear it! What kinds of exercises do you like to do with them?

I like to use them a lot with clients. One of my main goals I like to have with all my clients is to get them to do bodyweight chin ups because most women think they will never will be able to do one, so I like to prove to them that they can. I always use the bands for assisted pull ups and parallel bar dips.

Another thing I use them for is to help people perform exercises with their own body weight. In my own training too I have used them for added resistance for things like pushups, single leg exercises, and pre ab work.

Nia has been kind enough to loan us some workout tutorials. Look below for her tips on how to get the most out of your Rubberbanditz assisted dips, pull ups, hand stand push ups, and advanced pull ups. Then go to her website for more awesome fitness how to's!

Rubberbanditz Band Assisted Pull Ups

  • Start from the bottom hang position with your foot, or feet, in the band (keep your shoulders down – they should not be touching your ears).
  • Pull yourself up to the bar
  • Repeat for the prescribed number of reps according to your strength training program.

Advanced Rubberbanditz Assisted Pull Ups

  • Start from the bottom hang position with your legs extended
  • Pull up to the bar
  • Bend your knees toward your chest, keeping the band in contact with the bottom of your foot (or feet, if you prefer)
  • Lower under control taking 3-5 seconds
  • Once you're in the bottom position, straighten your legs
  • Pull back up to the top
  • Repeat

Rubberbanditz Assisted Dips

  • Bend your knees toward your chest while keeping your foot (or feet) in contact with the band
  • Lower under control in about 3-5 seconds
  • Once in the bottom position straighten your legs
  • Press back up
  • Repeat

Nia's Pro Tips for Dips and Pull-Ups

  • The biggest mistake I see clients make is not controlling the lowering portion; they just kind of drop down and then use the bounce in the band to just shoot themselves back up. When you're using the bands for assistance don't take advantage of them and make your muscles do the work.
  • From the top of the position make the muscles lower yourself slowly and under control. Take a good two to five seconds to lower yourself that way you're relying on your muscles.
  • Stop for a solid second in the bottom position so you don’t get that bounce from the band.

Assisted Handstand Push Ups

  • After you're comfortably in the top handstand position, lower slowly under control until your head lightly touches the ground, then press back up.

Nia's ProTips for Assisted Handstand Push Ups

  • Keep your body in a straight line - keep your stomach and butt tight the entire time.
  • It's a great idea to use the thickest bands possible when first attempting this exercise. Better to have too much assistance than not enough!
  • When you want to make it harder use a lighter resistance band. Its definitely a way to make this harder, and gradually using less assistance is the ideal way to progress to performing unassisted handstand push-ups.
  • Another option is to increase the range of motion by elevating your hands: put each hand on a weight plate or other sturdy object that will not slide away from you. Start by increasing the range of motion by one inch, then progress from there.
  • Use thinner bands for lower rep sets and thicker bands for more assistance if you want to train in higher rep ranges.