Interview with Molly Galbraith

As the RTS site changes and evolves, I’m going to do my best to highlight and feature some great up-and-coming strength coaches I have on my radar.

This first one is near and dear to my heart, as I’ve known and coached Molly for several years now. She’s a coach that truly “gets it,” and I’m happy to have her on the site today!

MR: Molly, thanks a ton for allowing me to interview you today!

Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

MG: Sure! First of all, thank you so much for having me! You are one of the people I admire most in the field of S&C so I am honored to be interviewed by you!

I am 27 years old and I was born and raised in Lexington, Ky. I got my undergraduate degree in Finance and Marketing from the University of Kentucky and I also got my MBA from UK in 2007. I fell in love with strength and conditioning while I was in the middle of getting my undergraduate degree and decided that instead of switching majors, I would just spend all of my spare time studying anything and everything that had to do with training, nutrition, and the human body.

While I was in grad school, my boyfriend and I started an online nutrition and training company, with 3 of our friends/mentors, called Red Point Fitness. It’s a software program that helps you build a customized nutrition and training program for only $17.95/month. During this time I was also training clients (mostly online, some in-person).

Then in 2010 my friend Jim Laird asked me to help him with some Group Personal Training Classes that he was starting. It quickly spiraled into our becoming business partners and in May of 2011, we opened our own private training studio. We now have 140+ clients and in the next month we will be moving in to a 6,500 sq. ft. warehouse about 2 miles from where we are located now. We are super excited and can’t wait to keep growing our business!

MR: Awesome! And along those same lines, tell us a little bit about your strength training journey. It seems like you’ve done a little bit of everything along the way!

Molly's "Before" photo

MG: Yes, I have dabbled in a few different areas! Like I mentioned above, I fell in love with strength training in 2004. You see, I had been an athlete from ages 7-14 (cheerleading and competitive gymnastics) and then I quit doing those things and got extremely lazy! I was able to maintain my weight for a couple of years and then the pounds started packing on.

I was only 19 years old and I felt like crap and hated my body. The worst part was that I thought that I was just “big-boned” and there was nothing I could do about it! I was still a teenager and I had resigned myself to being heavy for the rest of my life. I got super angry with myself and decided to do something about it.

I started working out a bit with a trainer and with some of my friends in February of 2004 and then near the end of 2004 I started dating a trainer at my gym. He introduced me to T-Nation.com, EliteFTS.com, powerlifting and bodybuilding/figure competitions – basically a whole world that I never knew existed, and I was hooked! I did an impromptu push/pull meet in 2005 and my first figure competition in 2006.

The trainer and I broke up in 2006 and I started dating my current boyfriend at that point, who is very knowledgeable about nutrition and training. Over the next several years I did 2 more figure competitions and a full powerlifting meet where I squatted 237, benched 148, and deadlifted 341, all raw. While I am glad I tried figure, I definitely enjoy powerlifting more and I really hope to compete again sometime this year!

MR: In case people are unaware of this, we’ve been working together for quite some time. Could you talk a little bit about why you came to visit us in the first place? And why you’ve stuck around as long as you have?

MG: How could anyone possibly be unaware of that? I wear my, “I love Mike Robertson and Bill Hartman” t-shirt everywhere I go! Ok, ok… for those people living under a rock, I will explain.

After my last powerlifting meet in 2009, I was back in the gym ready to get strong. Unfortunately, my body was not cooperating. My numbers were stalling or even going down, and I was completely unmotivated to lift, period. I had read some of your stuff on T-Nation and Figure Athlete and I thought I was following your methods pretty closely.I had a good coach, I was doing my prehab exercises, I was always focusing on my posterior chain and upper back, etc.

After months of bad workouts, I decided that something must be wrong and that it was time to get back to the basics. I wanted to get assessed by you and Bill to get a true picture of what was going on.

I honestly believed that you would be relatively impressed with my strength levels and my form. Boy, was I in for a surprise!

I almost cried when you told me that I had no glutes, no hamstrings, no anterior core, no low traps, and an anteriorly tilted pelvis. I was also in shock when I got my first program – where were my precious back squats, deadlifts, and barbell bench presses?

To be completely honest, those first few months of doing your program were absolutely brutal. I wasn’t able to lift anything substantial, I was working on ALL of my weak points at once (talk about an ego killer!), and it felt like my workouts took forever. But it was obvious that I desperately needed your programming and I just kept my head down and focused on the light at the end of the tunnel.

I also remember you telling me that I hadn’t gotten injured yet, but I probably wasn’t too far away from that happening. That was an eye-opener for me and huge motivation to keep going.

While I have definitely had major ups and downs over the last 2 ½ years, I am now stronger than ever and have recently been hitting new PR’s almost every week!

It’s also obvious how much more stable and balanced my body is. I feel like I have so much control and a much better mind/muscle connection than I did before we worked together. I have also learned a TON from you that I can apply to my own coaching and training.

MR: Speaking of which, I’ve really seen you grow and develop as a coach over the past couple of years. Could you talk about a few of the things you’ve learned and/or started to incorporate more into your training, or that of your clients/athletes?

MG: Oh wow! It’s been a complete overhaul really. To be honest, my training mentor and business partner Jim Laird is an absolutely brilliant trainer who had crazy success with his clients before we ever started incorporating what we learned from you, and now that we have “Mike Robertson-ized” our training methods, the results have been that much better. The biggest thing we both took away from working with you would have to be: understanding how the body is supposed to move.

Before, I would look at a client who might have poor form and I would notice their form but I would basically just tell them to fix it, like “drive your knees out!” or “chest up!”

Now, when I look at a client who might have poor form, I usually have a pretty good idea of WHY their form is suffering (e.g. tight/weak hips, weak glutes, weak anterior core, etc.). I can not only give them a regression of that exercise that will set them up for success, but I also know what other movements they need to be doing to correct the root problem.

We are also much stricter on form nowadays. Before working with you, if form got sloppy it wasn’t a huge deal as long as they weren’t doing anything especially dangerous.

Now, we recognize that when form gets sloppy, especially with sub-maximal weight, something is wrong. They may not be using the correct muscle groups to do the movement, or they might not have the proper mobility or stability to do the movement, etc. And again, we now have proper regressions and progressions that set our clients up for success.

We have also found ways to really give our clients a fantastic workout using relatively dummy-proof exercises. I think most trainers would be shocked at how easily a circuit of glute bridges, wall slides, and walk-outs can kick someone’s butt. So yeah – we have learned a ton from you over the last 2 ½ years and our business is that much better for it! [MR: I’ll send you my address and you can just put the check in the mail! ;-D]

MR: Along with some other kick-ass femmes fatales, you’ve started a group called “Girls Gone Strong.” Could you tell us a little bit about GGS, and what your goal is in starting that group?

MG: Yes sir! I got together with 6 other fabulous women last year for a simple “strength training and bonding” session. We soon discovered that we all had a burning desire to do one thing: inspire women to improve their lives, their health, and their bodies through strength training.

We literally spent less than 48 hours together but by the end of the trip, as cheesy as it sounds, I felt like I had a group of “chosen sisters.” Over the next several months we brainstormed and came up with our name and our purpose: Girls Gone Strong’s main goal is to help women improve their physical strength, mental strength and strength of character through strength training.

We also want to redefine what it means to “Train Like a Girl!” We currently have a Facebook page where we post articles and blogs (our own and others that we like) as well as pictures and videos, both inspirational and informational in nature, and we JUST launched our ridiculously reasonable apparel line last week. (I’m not lying when I say it’s reasonable – we have high-quality hoodies for $28!)

The best part about GGS is that it’s just the beginning! We have a huge vision that includes, but is not limited to: a website, informational products and videos, a weekly newsletter chock-full of information, meet-ups and training sessions with GGS supporters, seminars and conferences, and an expanded apparel line.

I also want to mention that we realize that right now we are appealing to women who are like us. They LOVE to lift heavy things and they love to feel powerful, strong and capable. We are offering them a sense of community and a feeling that they are not alone and their interests do not make them “weird.” We help them realize that there are other women just like them whose hearts beat faster at the thought of a deadlift PR, or who bound out of bed early on a Saturday morning to run hill sprints. We give them a place they can feel comfortable, and find motivation and information.

Now that we have a really solid core group of women who are like us and share our interests, we are starting to attract the women who are intrigued by lifting heavy but are not quite sure where to start. They aren’t really afraid to get bulky and they aren’t afraid to push themselves, they just aren’t super confident that they are using good form, or they don’t know what training program to follow. We are offering them sound training advice and tons of encouragement as they step foot into the weight room and start their journey towards a stronger and more confident self.

Not to name names, but certain celebrity trainers have said that women should never lift weights heavier than 3 lbs. Their clients have gotten osteopenia. This is NOT Girls Gone Strong.

Finally, it’s our goal to attract the women who want to look and feel their best, but they don’t even know they might like lifting weights. We all know these women. They have been misinformed by the mainstream media and brainwashed into thinking that they can’t lift anything over 5 lbs. or they will “bulk up.”

They often slave away on cardio machines or in BodyPump classes for years searching for the body of their dreams, and while they haven’t achieved it, they are afraid to try something different. They just can’t forget the message that has been drilled into them, and that is cardio and light weights = long, lean muscles and heavy weight training = bulky, manly muscles.

And yet, many of these same women can’t help but wonder what it would be like to do a chin-up or to pick up 200 lbs. off the ground. They also can’t help sneaking glances over into the weight room to see what the women in there are doing and hopefully this piques their interest further.

It’s our sincere hope that women like this become curious enough about who we are and what we do, that they will check out our Facebook page and think, “Maybe, just maybe, these women know what they are talking about.” And from there, we can only hope that a lifelong love affair with weight training will begin.

MR: And lately, you’ve started writing quite a bit more and even launched your own website. How is that going for you?

MG: I can’t lie… I am LOVING it! I kind of got my start on forums like Figure Athlete and T-Nation. I was constantly dishing out advice and information based on my personal experience and my experiences with my clients. Then I was constantly giving out advice on Facebook and I started writing for sites like EliteFTS.com.

I knew I wanted to start my own blog, but I hesitated because I felt a little silly having my own website. At times I would wonder, who would read my articles? Why would anyone care what I have to say? Then for 2 years in a row, my articles made ranked in the Top 10 Articles of the Year on EliteFTS.com which is huge because I was totally unknown when I wrote them and EliteFTS publishes hundreds of quality articles each year.

[MR: Here are the two articles Molly is referring to: 13 Tips for Anyone Who Wants to Improve Performance and Look Better Naked Part I – Training and Four Basic Exercises Most People Perform Incorrectly.]

At that point, I realized I had information to share, and people actually wanted to hear it. Plus, I was tired of trying to fit a whole blog post into a Facebook status update. 😉 So I launched my website about 2 months ago and it’s been awesome! I am getting tons of good feedback and quite a bit of traffic for a new blog, so I am thrilled.

And… now that I have an outlet, I can’t stop the ideas from flowing if I tried! I have 20+ topics waiting to be written about once I have the time. Hopefully people will continue to enjoy the content I put out there and continue sharing it with their friends!

MR: Okay, let’s finish with a fun one – give me one of your biggest mistakes as a coach/trainer, and how you’ve learned from that and improved as a result?

MG: Only one? =) Oh geez… it would absolutely have to be starting people at a level that was too advanced for them, and in turn, not always setting them up for success. For example, several years ago I may have started a new client with a barbell box squat, where now my progression looks like this:

Body Weight Box Squat → Goblet Box Squat → Goblet Squat → Offset Goblet Squat → Front Squat → Barbell Back Squat → Specialty Bar Squat (cambered, safety, etc.)

This isn’t always exactly what we use with every client, but it’s pretty close. By starting them off with easier exercises, we can ingrain proper movement patterns so that they can progress to more advanced exercises safely. This improves the client’s confidence in themselves and actually makes them excited to progress!

If you start them off with something too difficult, they may feel embarrassed or like a failure or like they will, “never get that exercise right.” While I have never had a client seriously injured training with me (knock on wood), using the knowledge that I have now, I am not only more confident that that won’t happen, but I am also more confident that I am “bulletproofing” them for their everyday life as well.

MR: Molly, thanks a ton for answering all my questions! Where can my readers find out more about you?

MG: Thank you for having me Mike! Well, if they visit my website they can get all of my information about my businesses in one spot. That address is:

http://mollygalbraith.com/

They can also check me out on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/MollyGalbraith

My Facebook Professional Page (my personal page is maxed out): http://www.facebook.com/mollymgalbraith

My Girls Gone Strong Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/GirlsGoneStrong

MR: Thanks again Molly!

4 Comments

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  1. This is so awesome. Mike, thanks for keeping it real with the ladies too. I’m waiting for my GGS swag in the mail. Quick question for you, since I’m having a dispute with some people about the hip abductor machine. I know folks who lift who still insist on using it. Do you have any research references that show how it risks lower spine injury / instability? Thanks!

    • I’ve not looked for specific research, but I can also say that it’s rare (i.e. NEVER) that you get external stability through your entire spine and pelvis and then move solely at the hips 🙂

      MR

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