All posts by StrengthInProgress

Personal Trainer in Denver. Posts dedicated to the education of all things fitness related. Loves bacon, laughing, and going on adventures.

Home Workouts: What Equipment do I need?

My first in-home gym with kettlebells, a pull up bar with rock rings, and a picture of Marilyn Monroe lifting weights. It was conveniently right off my kitchen so I could workout while waiting for things to cook.

Here’s a started pack and intermediate version of workout equipment you’ll want at home. Pick any items you have, can find, can afford, or would enjoy using. You don’t need the complete list to have, easily, two month of workouts. Click the links to lead you to the cheapest and best options (I receive no $ for my endorsements). Also, I’ll denote weights with options A/B, or lighter/heavier. You don’t need both. Start where you feel comfortable.

Starting Equipment

  • Clear Floor Space
  • Yoga Mat*, towel, or carpet
  • Yoga Block
  • Dowel: wood, PVC pipe cut from Home Depot, a Swiffer or Broom
  • 18′ Foam Roller
  • A steady, elevated surface like the end of a kitchen island or couch to do push ups (DON’T LET IT MOVE)
  • A hard box or step
  • Band (sprint, resistance)*
  • TRX (if you have somewhere to attach)
  • Dumbbell (5lb, 8lb, or 15lb), these are OK to start. You can graduate to tougher handles.
  • Kettlebell (8kgKB/12kgKB), (18lbs/25lbs), the link sends you to my favorite bells…but most are out of stock right now. Fine to use a department store brand, just try to match these in texture. No color ones with painted or “metal” handles
  • Sand Bag (8lb/15lb), or a bag of rice or something in a back pack. Books kind of hurt 🙂 Also, the sandbags don’t come filled.
  • Mini-Band (light/medium)*
  • Ab Wheel
  • Medicine Ball or Slam Ball (10lbs/20lbs)

*Careful if you have latex allergy

Slightly More Advanced Equipment

  • Two Dumbbells (20lbs/35lbs), recommend octagon shape and textured handle
  • Single Kettlebell one size up (16kgKB, 24kgKB), the link sends you to my favorite bells…but most are out of stock right now. Fine to use a department store brand, just try to match these in texture. No color ones with painted or “metal” handles
  • Pull Up Bar (if safe to attach over door or to wall)
  • Jump Rope (regular or speed rope your preference)
  • Battle Ropes, need a lot of space and tolerant downstairs neighbors
  • Body Bar or light bar (5lbs pair of plates, 15lbs of plates each side –so two fives and two 10’s), or a plain barbell

Tip: The heavier the weights, the more likely you’ll want to put something under them to protect your flooring. Child’s puzzle piece flooring is a good/cheap option. A yoga mat or piece of wood also work.

My favorite places to order from are Rogue Fitness and X Training Equipment. If you can support these businesses, I recommend them.

Final thought: You’re thinking, “This is silly, why isn’t a bench on there?” Well, if you can’t stick to the basics at home, regularly, then why buy a bunch of bulky equipment you won’t use? A couple of bands can be tossed in a closet. Also, at this moment, most racks and heavier weights are hard to order. If you really want a barbell set up, you’re probably best off buying a squat rack (with safeties) and removable bench. If you want to Olympic lift, make sure you have the space and proper setup.

As always, if you have questions, please email me at strengthinprogress @ or join below.

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Should You Work Out with a Buddy?

Does one person have more of a drive than the other? Sure, it can be great to have someone who is more dedicated at first, as an accountability buddy. But you want the same level of respect for the work. If you’re both there to have fun and goof around, OK. If one person is really anxious, the other might pick up on that energy.

women comparing yoga mats
Photo by Elly Fairytale on

Fill out this buddy checklist to see if you’re on the same page:

  1. How much of the session is spent chatting/goofing around versus working out?

  2. Will you both be on time and able to commit to a schedule or will you need to frequently adjust last minute?

  3. What happens when someone has to cancel?

    • Here, I like the little-used bet “no show pays…unless they make up the workout on their own.” Careful though, once someone gets in the hole too far it’s just another excuse to give up.

  4. Do you have similar goals?

    • Do you understand the differences between working to increase general fitness?

  5. Do you have the patience to work with other people?

    • If someone is going at a slower pace, are you going to get all huffy? Will you get frustrated if someone is doing a “more cool” move than you?

  6. Are you at similar pain levels?

    • Honestly, it’s almost more fun working with a newbie and someone who is more fit. But if there’s pain involved, that takes a lot of attention at first. The group might want the newbies to have a few private sessions or more of an intro class at first. 

  7. Are you going to be comfortable sweating, struggling, and sometimes failing in a group, as well as succeeding?

If any of these questions made you re-think your buddy system plan, let me make some recommendations:

Get a gym membership and sign up with a buddy. Don’t rely on them to teach you anything to feel comfortable. Pick a place where you think you can use with only mild discomfort. Maybe the staff is nice and shows you things (NOT THE SALES PEOPLE). Maybe it is clean. Whatever gets you in the door without overwhelming anxiety. Lots of places have semi-private or community-owned gyms. Maybe you start with a yoga studio and ask for a recommendation about a weight place later. But start moving comfortably in a space. Yes, even your home. Invite friends to try a workout routine (Zoom anyone?), but don’t be bothered if no one shows up. Same thing with attending a class or trying the free weights. Learn how to do some basics (from a professional or good class atmosphere) and try them on your own. No one is paying attention to you. If it’s weird attention, they can suck it. DO NOT RELY ON OTHER PEOPLE TO TAKE YOUR GOALS AS SERIOUSLY AS YOU.

Progress is progress. Let me know how it’s going!

Hugs and High Fives,



Getting Started Gym Tips

Kim sitting at a desk , smiling and looking mildly professional

Notice my shirt says, “Talk is Cheap.” So let’s get moving with a starter pack of introductory tips:

  1. If you need a fuck ton of motivation just to drag yourself through the door, maybe you aren’t ready to start. Or you need a different game plan.
  2. Always have extra gym clothes/shoes stowed away somewhere. The same goes for hair ties, chapstick, towels, or anything else that would make you turn around and go home without doing anything.
  3. Schedule an extra day/time to workout. If you miss a workout, you’ve still budgeted the time. If you consistently miss and use the “extra” day, cool. It’s become one of your standard days and you need to designate a new back up.
  4. Have makeup or sweat wipes ready. No sense being that stinky if you have to meet people last minute (I also have dry shampoo).
  5. Don’t push your workout until after you meet up with people. You will not come back.
  6. Learn five exercises. Do those five exercises. Hopefully you picks moves you enjoy! Write down how many times and at what weights you can do those exercises. Repeat 3/week for 3 weeks. Report any discomfort. Have someone look at those set/reps/times and advise you. Repeat.
  7. Don’t become overwhelmed by information. Internet groups can be great for support, but everyone’s got opinions. Keep your meaningful circle tight.
  8. Don’t put off asking for help. Using equipment, handling injuries, programming…everyone was a beginner. Most people still are. (tip: In the gym, the people most willing to help for free are also the most knowledgeable…except for the peeps just creepin’).
  10. Just start. Make yourself as prepared and as comfortable as possible — but just start.

If you have any questions about these, please reach out at

Clients Say the Darndest Things, #1, Front Squats

“I get it.  I just….I need to remember to just use my butt more.” ~M.S.

Use my butt more…words to a trainer’s ears.

1.) She can feel a major muscle group involved in the lift doing it’s job.  Always a plus.

2.) Though I don’t personally love cueing clients to “activate” anything, when you realize that putting more oomf  or drive into a body segment provides more force and feels better against the weight, it’s probably best to feed into that feeling.  Either that’s great and should be encouraged, ooooooor we need to adjust the lift, the weight, or the form to make it better suit your body type or athlete level.

3.) She’s starting to describe the lift in her own terms.  Instead of leaning on me to tell her when her reps are “right,” she’s identifying cues that help and transferring them into language she understands. So there’s a good chance when I’m not around she’ll remember them better (very helpful for all the monthly and 1x weekers out there).

Here’s a demo of the whiplash version:

And here’s more what we’re going for:

Watch the full side-by-side comparison here.

You can go through the vast internet hole and find many successful lifters using the thrust of their chest and thoracic extension to explode of out the hole.  However, this is a specific example of one client, not a professional lifter, and the variation of lift I’ve chosen specifically to work for her.  Why?  Many reasons, but mostly we’re working on Ms. Thinky Type A not just using her head to provide the initial spark for movement.  This is the job of thought, breathe, and the main drivers— not just getting stuck at the head and neck.  We’re not going for perfect; we’re just seeing how far we can get.

I mean, which is better for a squat, a strong neck or a strong boooooty?

Hugs & high fives.

NKT Review

Hello Adventurous and Wonderful People!

Thank you so much in helping me prepare and explore the world of NKT, Neurokinetic Therapy.  It’s been a crazy ride so far and I hope you’re as excited as I am to continue.  I figured I’d send this list along as something you can hold onto and refer back to as your come across questions in your own practice.  The protocol is as follows:

  1. Release
  2. Activate
  3. Strengthen

Shorting any of these steps will not likely result in a lock, so here’s a breakdown of each step.

Releasing a Muscle*

We release a muscle because it is inhibiting or taking over the function of another muscle or muscle group.  There are many ways to do this, but I usually demonstrate slight manipulation of “the spot” either with your own fingers or a tool (tennis ball, rumble roller) followed by stretching the line of pull of the muscle we’re releasing. A cheat for this is googling the facilitated muscle listed and to remind yourself if the picture and videos don’t help.  Also, email questions to or through Trainerize with your subsequent program.

  • Continue “stretching” until you feel a change for the better.  No specific numbers here.
  • Make sure you’re on the specific spot.  “Close, but no cigar” won’t work.
*Reactions to Releases
It is not uncommon to have some sort of reaction to releases.  Whether it’s a light headed positive feeling or more unpleasant like nausea or shortness of breathe, make sure to take care of yourself during this “positive change.”  Get water, go for a walk, or take a nap.  Sometimes a hug is appropriate as well, so ask if you need one.  
Keep talking to your care professional about how you are adjusting.  This isn’t a hard science and a LOT of environmental and emotional factors come into play.  If you have the urge to shut down, that’s OK, but try to reach out anyway.  Protection mode is powerful, but not always helpful.


Activating a Muscle

We activate muscles we’ve found are inhibited.  Inhibited muscles are ones that just aren’t doing their jobs properly for some reason.  They are the slackers in class so we want to wake them up, specifically.  Activation drills are like isolation exercises but should not be pushed to any real point of fatigue.  80% effort is enough to cause positive change without overuse.

  • Take your finger or tool off the facilitated spot, or “hot spot” FIRST. Then proceed to your release. You can’t do both at the same time. It’s just not how it works.
  • If you feel a cramp or your initial trigger point (the spot you just released) while Activating, stop.  Release the initial spot again until you feel positive change, and then use less pressure or range of motion on the activation.  Don’t cheat this and push through.  
  • ACTIVATION IS NOT A MAX LIFT.  The point is for that muscle to be reminded of it’s job, not freak out and default back to its original faulty action.  



This is programming.  Subtle variations in your routine can help your tissue work, rather than keep working against it.  A screening process like FMS, SFMA, or Z Health can provide comparable data in your progress over time.


Final Thoughts

Be gentle with yourself.  This is a self-care process of learning and discovery.  You are not broken.  You are figuring out neat things about yourself and how your body works.  It takes time.  As long as the benchmarks you’ve set (breaking through plateaus, movements with less pain, etc) are improving, we’re doing good work.

These protocols are not meant to substitute professional medical opinions. Consult a qualified practitioner before beginning any new treatment plan and make everyone known about all prior medical conditions. Tissue work can help a lot, but it DOES NOT SOLVE EVERYTHING. Being referred out doesn’t mean a failure, it just means there’s someone who can help you faster and is more qualified to do so.

If you’re not going to Release and Activate at least once/day, then don’t start.  Just don’t.  Try another method or make regular appointments with a manual therapist, to do the work for you.  But getting it to stick is YOUR work. Like it or not, your brain decided to take a shortcut somewhere so your brain has to relearn it.  And being bull-headed or stopping as soon as you get relief is not a long-term or healthy solution.  Because, honestly, you could end up half helped and more frustrated than when you started.  That said, if you’re not experiencing relief almost immediately (the same as in-session) then something is wrong.  Reach out and figure out if it’s a replication problem or a shift issue (shift being the problem area actually shifted). Make consistent follow up appointments until you have things figured out.

And please, no max attempts until you feel settled and the original reason for exploration has subsided.  This is just my opinion, but unless it’s absolutely necessary, huge patterning changes should not be in-season or just prior to competitions.  There’s not enough adjustment time.  Again, be gentle with yourself.

Hope this helps!


Your Partner in Progress,

Absence Does Not Make the Heart Grow Fonder

Sometimes taking a break is necessary for mental clarity, healing of the soul, or simply to rest.  But don’t seclude yourself from what continues to move.  If you take or give time from a situation, you will not go back to it the same.   And just like in the gym, the progress you make can’t be held onto without work.  Could you disappear from your partner for “just a couple months” and expect things to be OK when you get back?  Someone would get hurt.  At the very least, you would need to reassess.

My biggest question is, “Why is a break going to help?”  Usually it’s because life builds up like a pressure cooker and the easiest thing to give up is yourself; your happiness, your time, your money.  If no one else is going to do the work, it has to be you, right?  Or your support system.

Wait, whaaat?

Yes, a support system.  We’re pack animals.  Need evidence?  Look at all the systems in place for us NOT to feel alone when we die.  Morbid, but true.  And on this grim topic, if you don’t have enough money or people around you to help in your attempt to get healthy, then what’s going to happen when you’re sick?  Ignoring the little aches and pains or warning signs will make them give way to something worse.  At some point you have to break down and go to a doctor.  But how much time did you waste because you were just putting it off for more important things?  Your decision is to take a break from the most intimate thing you do (taking care of your body) and give it to….what?

Online dating?

Are you going to take a break from showering, too?

That will not help said online dating.

And why is suffering alone (quietly “dieting” or more likely not eating/wearing headphones and beating yourself up on some weird machine that causes you pain two days later) an easier social choice than being part of a healthy community? Labels be dammed, any group of people trying live positively gets credit for trying.  Why?

It’s fashionable to hurt yourself.  It’s normal to quit.

So OK, take your break.   I know, you need time.


But why?

Why Do You Wake?

“Every decision is made from a place of love or fear.” -Unknown

“The brain interprets fear and pain the same way.” – Tim Anderson

Going to work, creating a pattern, avoiding making ripples that could be good or bad…be braver than that.  Try making an actual change.  Own up to the bad choices you’ve made and don’t expect to just be forgiven.  A weekend binge won’t kill ya, but how many weekends has that been your life?  One white lie might go unnoticed, but how often do you have to lie?  Why is that your life?  There is nothing you can’t walk away from as long as you have your health- spiritual and physical-and there is nothing you can’t head toward.

If you choose to walk away, end the subject there.  Fess up to having nothing more to gain from a situation, good or awful, and stop hurting the world because you are stuck.  Change step and make that new direction your cause.  Take one step toward being the person you think you can be or once thought you were.

And be honest.  There is nothing so easily hurtful as deceit.  Be better than that in word and deed, especially to yourself.  Don’t promise yourself that you’ll change unless you will take action.  Stop telling others what you think they want to hear and maybe the habit will carry over to your own mantras.

It is rare to hear an honest voice.  But if you think you catch one on the wind, find it.  Discover what’s there and could inspire you.   Don’t beat yourself up if it’s hot air.  Just change direction.  And find  a new teacher.

In Progress…