Have you ever had a hard time finding your home in the weight room? Joining me on the show this week is Rebel client and former lacrosse athlete, Jennie Bunce. Lacrosse is the sport that stuck for Jennie, and once she graduated college, she felt lost in terms of her fitness and training. She dabbled in powerlifting, marathon running, and CrossFit, but none of them fit the bill. She felt trapped in this never-ending cycle of dissatisfaction. Jennie was in pain; she wasn’t seeing the results she wanted for the amount of work she was putting in, so she knew something needed to change. That’s when she was introduced to Rebel Performance.
Jennie and I talk all things training progressions, high versus low conditioning, exercise selection, fitness obstacles, and training splits. Since joining Rebel a year ago, Jennie has made an insane amount of progress (e.g. adding 20+ pounds to her squat, bench and deadlift every 8 weeks) AND she’s absolutely crushing in her endurance and athleticism (all pain-free). Listen in as Jennie and I unpack the big rocks we implemented in her training and what it actually looks like, so that you can take these tools and utilize them in your own training.
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- [04:25] Intro to Jennie Bunce
- [06:35] Jennie’s struggles and frustration before joining Rebel
- [08:06] Jennie’s progress prior to joining Rebel compared to her progress after being with Rebel for 1 year
- [09:26] Trap bar and front squat progressions for Jennie
- [10:33] Rebel’s training plans versus other training plans
- [11:34] Big rocks that stand out for how Rebel organizes training plans
- [14:30] The training circle of death
- [18:10] Valuable exercises Jennie wouldn’t typically have in her programming
- [21:00] The importance of following your low conditioning and high conditioning days
- [24:05] Jennie’s running pace improvements
- [25:25] The obstacles Jennie faced when we first introduced low conditioning days to her training
- [26:57] Appropriate steps to take to experience results like Jennie
- [31:33] Parting words and advice from Jennie
James Cerbie: Take two with Jennie Bunce because we’ve been having technical issues. Let’s try this again. Jennie, how are you?
Jennie Bunce: Great. James, how are you?
James Cerbie: I’m excellent. This is good. We’ve made it farther than we did last time. This is already a success. Maybe we should just wrap this thing right here. Great. I hope everybody enjoyed these 22 seconds and have a fantastic week. But no things are good. It is January 3. So we are kicking off 2022 here and very excited to have you on the podcast, because when I think back about all the progress I see our clients and athletes make over the course of 2021, you are definitely someone that jumps off the page at me because every time I turn around, we’re seeing these huge PRS massive progress and I love it.
It makes me so excited. And so I want to get you on the podcast today so we can talk about some of the things that we’ve been doing, some of the things that you’ve implemented so that people listening to this can hopefully take a lot of what you’ve learned and how we’ve been working together and use it and implement it in their own training to experience the same type of success that you have. Let’s start here. Let’s have you just quickly introduce yourself so that everybody listening knows who you are.
Intro to Jennie Bunce
Jennie Bunce: Cool. Well, thank you for having me. Thank you for that very nice introduction. You’re a wizard. I owe a lot of it to you, but I’m Jennie Bunce. Obviously I am from Connecticut. I’m a personal trainer here in Connecticut at a pretty commercial gym. And I’ve been training with Rebel since just about a year now. January of 2021 I found Rebel from a friend, and after he suggested it to me after kind of going in circles with my training, I grew up an athlete and that was always a big part of my life.
Lacrosse is the sport that stuck. And I played throughout College, graduated and got really lost in terms of fitness and decided to run a few marathons, decided to pick up CrossFit, decided to try powerlifting and nothing really stuck. So was kind of really just open to anything Covid happened. So that was just a whole another whirlwind of mess for training. And so again, nothing really stuck. And when the friend recommended Rebel, I was like, what do I have to lose? And I can’t imagine this last year without you guys.
I’ve seen so much progress and so much. It’s been really fun along the way, too. That’s me.
James Cerbie: I love to hear it. Thank you so much. I’m so appreciative of you and the effort that you have put in because we can help put the plan together and essentially give you the system to funnel that effort through. But at the end of the day, you’re still the one that has to show up and put in that effort and be consistent. So a moment of gratitude and appreciation for you there. But I would love to circle back for a second and maybe unpack this circle training thing that you mentioned because I think it’s something that almost every person we bring on, and I guarantee that people listening to this are going to fall in that same bucket.
Unpack that for me. Kind of. Where were you? What were you struggling with? What was the frustration that then, I guess, made your friend recommend rebel and brought you on board to us because I think that story is going to be very relatable to everybody listening. I was an athlete my whole life, loved the train sports, and what do I do? I’m going to try this. I’m going to try that. I’m going to try this, but none of it feels right. I’m curious to know if you had a similar story journey.
I mean, none of it feels right is a perfect way to describe it. I really enjoyed running. I got a lot of satisfaction out of it, but I felt really weak. I really enjoyed CrossFit and loved the competitive aspect of it, but wasn’t really seeing any of the results that I was looking for because I think athleticism is so much more than just being able to throw a barbell over your head. I think you need to get stronger. And I wasn’t seeing those incremental strength goals getting bigger as I wanted them to and then powerlifting.
Jennie’s Struggles and Frustrations Before Joining Rebel
Jennie Bunce: I have nothing else to do. I have nothing else. I have nothing to lose, but absolutely my body did not like it at all. I was in pain, my running suffered and I just didn’t like it, and it didn’t stick. And so the circular feeling of that constant frustration of like, okay, when am I going to be successful in this? When am I going to reach the goal? And so it was really frustrating. And so I’m just grateful I found grapple.
James Cerbie: Absolutely. So maybe let’s start off with what were your numbers and the goals when you came on board with us last year and let’s unpack where those are now. Just so people can have an idea of the scope of the progress that you’ve made.
Jennie Bunce: Numbers are almost embarrassing compared to what they are now a back squat. I believe I tested it in that first programming cycle. That first twelve week block back in January at 250 for three now at 265 for three, deadlift tested in at 275. And now I’m 325. And bench press was my biggest and most proudest, and a big goal was just to bench press plates for reps and was not doing anywhere near that. I think I was doing maybe my one rep Max was 125. I’m now doing 135 for five, so just big jumps.
James Cerbie: Yeah. And imagine that the squat and the deadlift on a straight bar because you just transitioned back to that. Those will definitely continue to make, I think very big improvements because we just brought those back for you because you had been doing trap bar and front squat. So how did the trap bar and the front squat progress for you before we went back to the standard list? I know we have some more specific goals around those, so very similarly.
Trap Bar and Front Squat Progressions for Jennie
Jennie Bunce: I think I once looked at my progressions and was increasing consistently week over week. Block over block was always putting pounds 10 up on my bench and pounds 20 up on my squat and deadlift regardless of if it was a trap bar up front squat. So those are big numbers to jump for me, something I wasn’t used to. I was used to, like, five pound jumps. So yeah, that’s the progression.
James Cerbie: I think a lot of people listening would totally 100% be on board with continually adding pounds 20 to their squat bench and deadlift every like, I don’t know what probably eight weeks or so.
Jennie Bunce: Yeah.
James Cerbie: Yeah. Not too shabby. And I love the goals for this year, which we’re totally going to smash, by the way. But let’s think about the training that we’ve helped you implement the plan. How has that plan differed from things you’ve tried in the past? And I think what I want to get after here, if we can focus on what are some of the big rocks that stand out to you in terms of adjustments that we made that have allowed you to be so successful.
Rebel’s Training Plans Versus Other Training Plans
Jennie Bunce: So I am on your athletic training track. So lots of jumping, lots of lifting and just general conditioning, which I feel very athletic again. So that feeling was what I was chasing and what I found, and I never thought I could have both kinds of feeling like an athlete while still hitting these giant numbers. So that’s been really great. What was your original question again? I’m sorry.
James Cerbie: No problem. Yeah, I think because you were an athlete in College and then you dabbled in CrossFit and marathon and powerlifting. I was curious when you think about what you’ve been doing with us for the past year, if there are any really big rocks or things that stand out to you with regards to how we’ve organized your training or how it’s been programmed or things that have jumped off the page, you that have contributed to your success that we can potentially talk about here so that people listening can maybe absorb and take that and use it in their own training.
Jennie Bunce: Yeah. So I think the way you’ve organized our list in that we’re just lifting pretty heavy three days a week and then two nights recovery days and then just one all out gas pedal conditioning day has been the biggest thing for me because I would always go and push it to a limit where I wasn’t going to see results and I would burn myself out. And so it’s been nice to have those kinds of days that I’m not forced to reset but forced to reset and take it back a notch.
And then that big conditioning day is always really great for me mentally in terms of wanting to push the limits. And it feels like a game day kind of thing. And then those big lift days are where the money is made.
James Cerbie: Yeah. I think that transition just to a better organization of a training week for people makes an enormous difference when we do a better job of managing the overall stress load on the organism and picking our spots and taking this more high low approach as opposed to I think a lot of people take this more just middle of the road approach generally always working hard, but there’s not a real purpose to what’s going on. So they’re generally always working hard, but not really making any progress. And it’s funny how when we can pull them back and say no, we’re going to take really concentrated periods of stress, that’s more or less how the training week is laid out.
Right. You lift on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, which are intended to be very concentrated high doses of stress load and volume on the system. And then we have Tuesday and Thursday, which is going to be those low conditioning days for you, where we’re continuing to build that aerobic foundation, that aerobic engine. But we’re doing it in a way that’s actually allowing you to recover between those high stress load days. And then we have that Saturday, which is where we have a really big high output conditioning, which everybody in Rebel is very familiar with at this point.
If you’ve ever done one of my programs, and that’s where we’re really chasing more of the horsepower factor. Right. And then we get a complete day of rest on Sunday. And I think when people really get into that rhythm, it makes such an enormous difference because it feels like maybe they’re doing less than they normally do. But their rate of progress is I’m not exaggerating it’s like an order of magnitude better than it was previously.
Big Rocks That Stand Out for How Rebel Organizes Training Plans
Jennie Bunce: Just because we’ve reorganized things appropriately and just the consistency factor of being busy and working and having a life being just given that template, really, I think helps skyrocket a lot of my progress as well. I’d mull over these programming idiosyncrasies. I’d get really obsessive and then make no progress and then feel like I need to beat myself up in the gym for seven days a week and then still make no progress.
James Cerbie: So this circle, it is like a little circle of death of where that’s really aptly put, where you kind of start running into a wall a little bit. And I think human nature is, well, I just need to work harder, right? Because that’s really what we’re told our whole lives is if something’s not working for you, then you just need to double down and just work harder and hard work is good to a point, but at a certain point in time, it’s no longer about hard work and effort.
It’s about whether or not that hard work and effort is funneled through the appropriate system because you can work your ass off and make no progress like that happens to hundreds of thousands of people every year, I would imagine. Right. And that’s the worst. Nothing’s worse than working really hard and then not getting anywhere. That’s a pretty terrible feeling. So I think the first big rock here is that we just did a general reorganization of training into this more high, low split with concentrated stress loads, which we’ve talked about on the podcast a lot before.
For people that are newer, you can go back and find, you know, like the weekly Training Split podcast episode. We’ll throw a link to that in the show notes. Also, because we dive into that concept more. But if you think about maybe within actual training days itself, maybe it’s the exercise selection, or maybe it’s how we program your main list to try to turn it into a game for you. Are there any other variables that jumped off from just like in a training day itself that you think have really helped?
Jennie Bunce: So you say game whenever there’s an AMRAP thrown in there, I’m all in. I love it. I think the whole idea of competing with yourself as well. You encourage us to push ourselves week over week at five to pounds 10. Well, I’m going to try and add ten, and I think that’s been a huge factor in how much progress I have made because I was never going to push myself like that and then AMRAP And then I think the warm up and exercise selection has been unreal for just feeling really good while lifting.
So powerlifting gave me that strength. But I felt like trash. I haven’t felt like trash at all. In fact, I felt much, much better than I’ve ever felt. So I think just there’s a lot of single leg movements, a lot of alternating reciprocal actions. And that’s been incredible for me personally and feeling really good and out of the gym.
James Cerbie: Were you doing a lot of those types of activities exercises beforehand? Just because we have a common theme here, that when we start bringing this back into people’s training, it’s amazing how much better everyone starts to feel and then they can work harder in their main lift. And it’s like, okay, well, now we’re just taking the top off and we’re really making great progress again. And so some examples for people listening. In this realm, we utilize a lot of different lunge and split squat variations. We utilize a lot of unilateral or alternating pressing variations on our more upper pull stuff.
It’s usually going to be unilateral or alternating because we’re really trying to appropriately manage doing things that are going to help us drive hypertrophy in our accessory movements. But also we get nitty gritty on certain parts of the program where we’re really giving you things just for the pure intention of trying to keep you moving well and feeling good. And it’s okay to have those types of exercises blended in. Are there any specific exercises that jump off the page to you or that really come to mind when you’re like, I would have never programmed this for myself, and it was really annoying and terrible and kind of sucked, but it was super beneficial.
Valuable Exercises Jennie Wouldn’t Typically Have in Her Programming
Jennie Bunce: So alternating lat pulldown comes to mind, probably because I did it this morning.
James Cerbie: Yup, that’s fair.
Jennie Bunce: Hated it when I first did it. But I love it. Now, what else is that? Single leg RDLs never would have programmed those for myself. Never did. I avoided them, actually, as well as riverfront, elevated, split, squats and Bulgarians. Never. Ever did you see that in a program that either I wrote for myself or that I was doing? And if it was there, I would skip it. But now I don’t hate them. Still kind of do hate them, but they feel so much better. I have a love-hate relationship with them.
James Cerbie: Now, with that question, it’s funny, because when left on our own, we’re always going to essentially make sure we never do the things that we really need to do. We avoid the things we actually need to work on. We’re always going to drift towards the things that we love doing. And that’s why if you really care about pretty much anything in life, any variable of some kind, you should have a coach. And I’m very passionate about that. I have a coach for my own training. I have a coach for business.
The value and the return on that investment will be just so much greater than you trying to sit there and just Slam your face against a brick wall and do it all yourself. It’s going to take you longer. It’s going to end up costing you more money. Always use the example of would you try to remodel your own kitchen? And if someone listened to this as a general contractor, you obviously are not allowed to answer. We’re thinking about normal people here, and it’s like, no, you would not try to remodel your own kitchen, could you?
Yes. Absolutely. I could watch enough YouTube videos, I could read enough books. I could go study with people that do that. I could probably eventually remodel the whole kitchen myself, but I guarantee it will take me longer and I’ll spend more money in the process. And I think sometimes people are really hesitant to go all in and hand it over to somebody else and be like, hey, just tell me what to do. Give me the directions, right? It’s like I’m on the highway. I’m going 120 miles an hour.
I have no GPS sensor direction. Just be the GPS, and that’s kind of the role I feel like we play.
Jennie Bunce: Oh, yeah, 100% totally firm believers right there with you coaches need coaches, too. I was very hesitant. I was like, I don’t know. Come on. I’m good at this. I know what I’m doing. No, that was not smart of me. I should have done this. I should have hired someone years ago, and I often wonder where I would be now had I done that.
James Cerbie: So let’s transition and talk a little bit more about the conditioning, because I think in this lifting realm, we’ve identified just the general organization and structure of a training week was really big, and then the training day itself, helping that become a game for you to where we’re actually seeing that week to week game. And then we have the Amrap sets, which are going to come up about every four weeks because we always give you a peak week at the end of a micro cycle. So that organization, I think, has been really useful as well.
Let’s talk about the conditioning stuff, though, because you had a background running. You had a background running marathons was the split of here’s low intensity stuff. And then here’s really high intensity stuff. Was that something you’d already essentially been doing, or were you in that? I’m just generally going 80% effort all the time. So I’m never really doing enough to get that much better. But I am doing enough to not recover.
The Importance of Following Your Low Conditioning and High Conditioning Days
Jennie Bunce: So it was a really big challenge. At first. I think I’ve gotten a lot better, but I would definitely overdo it on the Tuesday, Thursday kind of recovery days and then definitely not go hard enough or hit my ceiling on those high output conditioning days. Just because marathon running, I think, is so different, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to. It’s just steady state cardio. And what we’re doing here is never going to be the same. It was tough at first, but now it feels so much better.
It’s easy and straightforward. And not only that my running is that much better. I’m much more efficient while I run and I run on those Tuesday Thursday days. I just take it nice and easy and that easy is pretty much the same pace as I was running prior to starting with Rebel. So massive improvement there that easily became faster than what I was doing. So that’s really cool to see and just more efficient, more endurance just feels better running too. So it’s been really good.
James Cerbie: Yeah. I was going to ask if on those low conditioning days, if you’ve noticed that you’ve seen pace improvements within the heart rate range.
Jennie Bunce: That we cap you at huge pace improvements.
James Cerbie: Because you run with a Garmin, don’t you?
Jennie Bunce: I do run with a Garmin. So when I first started with Rebel, I was running like 3 or 4 miles off and just very lost for framework for everybody listening here.
James Cerbie: Just so I give you guys an actual number. We’re talking a heart rate somewhere between probably about 120 to 145 beats per minute is where we force you to stay. We’re definitely under 145 beats per minute just so we can have some context for everybody listening. I guarantee, if we have some meat monkeys listening to this out there and I had you go to try to air, quote, run and see how far you could go in 20 minutes, I’m imagining that you won’t actually be able to run.
You would only be able to speed walk because your heart rate would go up too fast.
Jennie’s Running Pace Improvements
Jennie Bunce: So back in January, if I were to do one of those 20 minutes kind of heart rate, I would hit maybe one 2 miles running at a 1011 minutes mile pace. I’m now doing a consistent nine. That’s a great minute mile pace running two, three, not three, two and a half.
James Cerbie: Two. Yeah, that’s really good. I mean, like to shave a minute off of that pace and to stay within the same intensity range. That’s huge, because we can think of it essentially as this concept of a maximal aerobic heart rate. Like, at what point in time are we getting over what my body can supply from an aerobic standpoint and the fact that we can drop pace there by about a minute and you can hold that for a very long time because we are aerobic. It is awesome. That is so huge.
Jennie Bunce: Yeah, it’s been cool. And it’s kind of the first time I’m thinking about that now. So there’s just another win that I should acknowledge.
James Cerbie: What was the hardest part about? Let’s use that cardiac output day. That is low intensity, steady state, not the tempos. What was the hardest part about that for you when you first got started? Was it more of just an ego oriented thing of not feeling like you’re working hard enough. You’re like, looking at the heart rate and you’re like, oh, my God, I’m not doing anything.
The Obstacles Jennie Faced When We First Introduced Low Conditioning Days to Her Training
Jennie Bunce: So it was an ego thing. And then I think it was just lack of control, just this lack of and mindset, I think, too, just inability to realize what it was doing for me and not, I guess, experiencing what it was doing for me yet. So just wanting to go, like, reach that finish line. And so, yeah, I think in ego, I needed to check my ego at the door and sit down and actually just attempt to do it the way it was supposed to be done.
James Cerbie: Awesome. So I’m trying to think of the next best question I want to ask here. Maybe this will be a little bit more of a summary type question. But if somebody is listening to this here is that, man, you’ve really been getting stronger and you really feel athletic and your conditioning has totally improved, right? It’s kind of funny, because I think if you think back to your three examples previously of powerlifting, marathon running and CrossFit, we essentially manage to pull the best of those three worlds and just combine them into one system for you, which is what we do.
That’s what we love. So it’s perfect. But if somebody wanted to try to do what you’ve done in steps in some fashion outside of obviously, I would love it if people would come work with us at Rebel, and then we just do it for you. And it’s great. But if somebody listens, like, I really want to give it a go on my own. What do you think would be, like, the appropriate steps to follow for them to try to replicate what you’ve been able to make happen.
Jennie Bunce: That’s a hard question. I don’t know. I think because I’ve given up just so much to you and just so much control to you. I don’t know that I really thought about the process as I was doing it.
James Cerbie: That’s totally fine.
Appropriate Steps to Take to Experience Results like Jennie
Jennie Bunce: I really like, okay, once I started seeing those results in January, February, I was like, all right, I’m all in, let’s go and just gave it up, completely gave up complete control. But I would say, I think just following that general model that we’re following. So your bigger lift days, those three days a week and then really trying and taking it back those two days a week and really attempting to just go for a nice casual walk, keep the heart rate low. Like, enjoy your workout, enjoy moving.
Not that I don’t enjoy those heavy lifts, but just easy. And then, yeah, I think that would probably be step one is to just kind of break up your training like that. And then, of course, step two, mastering those big rocks like sleep and nutrition and hydration and all of those fun things that you hear about all the time. I think that’s super important, too. And then step three, higher level performance.
James Cerbie: I don’t know. That is wonderful.
Jennie Bunce: Yes. Progressive overload, because Google it if you don’t know what it is, adding incremental steps each week and pushing yourself, like, actually pushing yourself, not heart rate wise, but weight wise and mentally. And yeah, challenge yourself.
James Cerbie: Yeah. You need to have a game plan. There needs to be a very clearly laid out game plan, and it’s not just winging it week to week. There’s, like, you need to have a very clear purpose in place of what’s taking place on a week by week basis and going into this week. What are the numbers I’m trying to hit? What are the goals? What am I trying to establish? And we always talk about when the program is set up? Well, you’re always just looking back one week because that’s the framework.
And if the program is written, well, then you always have numbers to beat. And that’s what I think we try to create. And so I would recommend anybody listening if you want to try to write your own programming, I don’t recommend it because no one’s good at writing their own programming. If you think you are. I think you’re a liar. Just off mathematical. I know two people in my entire life that have ever done a good job of writing programs for themselves. So maybe you fall in that very small percentage.
I’m guessing you don’t. But I think learning to play that week to week game in the main lift. As an example, when we use that estimated daily Max protocol with you, which I know you’ve run, that protocol works all the time like absolute freaking gangbusters. And it creates that competition with yourself on a week by week basis. And then you get to cap off with AMRAPs. And it’s just this huge psychological win because not only am I lifting more weight week to week, not only am I lifting it’s like your intensity is managing to go up because you’re lifting more total.
The more, like, absolute load on the top end set. And then total volume is also increasing because the drop off sets. And then on that peak week, when we give you an am rap, you get to be like, man, this felt heavy for eight, one or two weeks ago, and I just took it for 15, and you just become this unstoppable ball of momentum, unreal.
Jennie Bunce: It’s unreal. Yeah. One of my favorite moments was like, I think with the trap bar a couple of months ago, it was summer kind of testing because I did the trap bar for a couple of blocks. And so in that second, I guess eight or twelve week blocks. That first twelve week block had tested in, let’s say, 215 or something like that and did it for five or six. And then I can remember in summer doing one of those reps and hitting it for, like, 22 or something wild like that.
It was insane. And I stood up and just was like, what is going on?
James Cerbie: Jennie, thank you so much for coming on today. This has been truly fantastic. If you want to leave the listeners and people at home with any final thoughts.
Jennie’s Parting Words and Advice
Jennie Bunce: What would they get to a point where training you start to surprise yourself or even scare yourself a little because that’s where the fun really, really is. I’m there right now and currently lifting as of today, actually an unprecedented amount of weight. I am now moving more weight for more reps than I ever have. So this is going to be a fun next couple of months. And that’s where I think the fun and enjoyment in training comes from. And that’s where the results come from, too.
James Cerbie: I love it. We’re going to end it on that because I don’t think I can have anything better. Thank you so much again for coming on. Jennie. I just appreciate you so much and the effort and energy that you bring to your own training, but also to the community and the forum and all of our other athletes as well. So thank you so much and everybody is listening. Hope that you guys have a fantastic, beautiful week. I hope you’ve had an amazing start to 2022 and we are now back on track with our normal episodes and we are dumped the flashbacks for a little while, so, yeah, stay tuned. We will talk to you next Monday.
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