The Low-Bar Squat…​Are You Doing Them Correctly?

For many years people have been weightlifting to improve strength, build muscle, and perfect their bodies. One of the most common exercises is squats. If you’ve ever worked out with weights, it is highly likely that you’ve performed this exercise. The squat variation chosen depends on the lifter’s goals, but the low-bar squat is one of the oldest variations and most likely the easiest variation if performed correctly.

The low-bar squat is commonly used by powerlifters and bodybuilders because it allows the lifter to “go deeper,” or achieve a greater angle when squatting, lift more weight, have more balance, and it puts less stress on the lower back than the high-bar squat. To perform the low-bar squat correctly and avoid injury, one must make sure they are wearing the proper shoes, position the bar correctly across the back, establish a stable stance, take a good, deep breath and tighten the core, descend to the correct position, and correctly ascend.

Before performing any type of squat, the proper footwear needs to be taken into consideration. The feet are the foundation of every functional movement we perform. They are the platform to our balance, especially when performing exercises like squats, so it is crucial that the proper footwear is being worn. For squats, a shoe with a flatter sole is best, as they provide a level surface for the feet. This will ensure optimal balance.

Once the proper footwear is taken into consideration, it is time to get into the exercise itself. You’ll want to make sure you start out with a lighter weight load and work your way up in weight as your sets progress to avoid injury. Once the weight is loaded onto the barbell, the lifter must correctly position him or herself under the barbell. For a low-bar squat, the optimal placement is on the posterior deltoids. This is in the mid part of the upper back, just below the shoulder muscles. To ensure the bar is in the correct spot and to maintain optimal positioning, pull your shoulder blades together. This will create a “shelf” for the barbell to sit on.

Now that the barbell is positioned correctly across the back, the lifter must un-rack the barbell by getting in a stable stance, taking a deep breath in, tightening the core, and lifting off primarily with the hips. Once the barbell is off the rack, it is crucial that the lifter steps back from the rack. This enables the lifter to go into the squat position without the barbell hitting the rack. After the lifter properly un-racks, a stable stance needs to be reestablished. This is usually about shoulder width apart or slightly wider, with the toes pointed slightly outward, only about 10 to 20 degrees.

When descending into a squat using the low-bar variation, the first step in the process is to again take another deep breath and tighten the core. By doing this, the lifter’s intra-abdominal pressure is increased, and as a result, helps stabilize the lifter’s lower back. This is important for spinal injury prevention. After a deep breath has been taken and the core has been tightened, push the hips back while simultaneously leaning the chest forward and descend into a squat making sure that the barbell is always in line with the middle of the foot. The barbell acts as the lifter’s center of gravity since the lifter’s chest is more forward in a low-bar squat than a high-bar squat, so it is critical that the barbell is in line with the middle of the feet (as if you were looking at the squat from the side) to keep balance.

After the lifter has gotten into the squat, the ascent is just as important as the descent. The lifter should drive the hips straight up while simultaneously driving the chest up, and “explode” out of the squat with power. Doing so will help the lifter keep their balance. Once the lifter is back in the upright position, the process is repeated if the lifter is going to do additional reps, otherwise, the barbell is re-racked and the weight is unloaded.





No-Bake Power Balls Recipe + Health and Nutrition Benefits

Do you ever get a craving for a candy bar or for something sweet but you’re trying so hard to eat healthy and you don’t want to ruin your healthy eating streak? Well, I have some exciting news for you! I have discovered a healthy, power-packed snack full of good nutrients that will satisfy your craving without ruining your diet. I mean come on, look how good they look! IMG_0137 3

These delicious power-balls will leave you satisfied while also providing a good source of nutrition and energy. They are made of rolled oats, honey, flaxseed, peanut or almond butter (whichever you prefer), chocolate chips,  and vanilla.

You’ve probably seen flax seed in many healthy recipes, and that’s because flax seed is good for you. It provides a good source of fiber, protein, iron, and Omega 3 oils. However, the only way to get the protein, iron, and Omega 3 oils out of flax seed is to used milled flax seed. When you ingest whole flax seeds, your body cannot digest it as easily, and usually just passes right through your digestive system. Now this does help aid in a regular bowel movement because of the insoluble fibers in the outer shell. Whether you use whole or milled flax seed, you’re getting insoluble fiber either way, but in order to get the soluble fiber along with the protein, iron, and Omega 3 oils, milled flax seed is the way to go.

Peanut butter is a great source of protein. That’s why you’ll see a lot of athletes and people in the fitness crowd eating peanut butter as a snack or adding it to their snacks. Some great snacks to add peanut butter to are apples, rice cakes, celery, etc. I even add a spoonful of peanut butter to my protein shakes sometimes for a little added protein and flavor.

Honey has many health benefits. It is rich in antioxidants, can help lower blood pressure, helps improve cholesterol, is a better alternative to sugar for diabetics, and has been linked to heart health benefits just to name a few.

Oats also have several health and nutritional benefits. They are high in fiber, immune boosting, heart healthy, helps lower cholesterol, and helps with weight loss. Some studies have shown that consuming whole grains, which old-fashioned oats are made from, has been linked to reducing heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer. If oats aren’t already a part of your diet, they are definitely something to consider adding.

Vanilla extract has health benefits too. It is a powerful antioxidant, has antibacterial properties, is anti-inflammatory, and can also help lower cholesterol. Vanilla extract also has mental health benefits as it has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression.

Believe it or not, semi-sweet chocolate, that’s right I said chocolate, has a few health benefits as well. These benefits include antioxidants, heart health, brain health, and can even help reduce inflammation. But remember, moderation is key.

Who knew that something so yummy could be so good for you? I promise after trying these delicious snacks you will be hooked. I make them all the time so I always have a snack ready to go. They’re great for taking them with you to eat after practice, during class, or whenever you get a little sweet tooth. Check out the quick and easy recipe below to make some for yourself!

  • 1 cup dry oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peanut or almond butter (whichever you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla


Add all ingredients in a medium or large bowl

Mix ingredients together

Put it in the refrigerator until cold and then roll into balls


Depending on how large you roll them, you should get about 16-18. Enjoy 🙂

Comment below if you make them and let me know how you liked them!

Can’t Find a Way to Stay Motivated in the Gym? Let Me Help

There are many people out there who find it hard to stay motivated to workout. They come up with excuses like “I don’t have time,” “I’m too tired,” “it’s not my thing,” “I don’t know what to do, I’m not familiar with the fitness world,” “the gym is too intimidating,” blah blah blah. If you’re one of these people, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Sometimes it’s even hard for me, a person who has a strong passion for fitness, to stay motivated. We all have our little hurdles that keep us from continuing to strive towards our goals, but these tips should help you continue to reach for the stars and achieve your fitness goals.

The first thing you have to do is set a goal. What do you want your final outcome to be? What do you want the end result to look like? It may seem ridiculously unreasonable or unobtainable at the moment, but that’s okay. We’ve all heard the saying, “when eating an elephant, take one bite at a time,” right? So just keep that in mind. After you set a goal, you need to find a drive. Ask yourself why – why do you want your end result to look the way you want it to? Are you tired of being out of shape? Do you want to improve yourself and be the best version of you? Do you want to challenge yourself? Do you just want to be healthy? What is the reason behind why you are starting? Keep this reason in the back of your mind throughout your fitness journey and remember it when you get in a rut. Never forget why you started.

Another important thing to remember is to do it for YOU. Don’t do it for the ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend. Don’t do it for “revenge.” Although that can be very motivational, it’s for the wrong reason. I want to see the “revenge body” go away this year. It’s a new year and it’s time to leave pettiness and negative things in the past and move on into a new, happy, positive year – a new, happy, positive life; a new, happy, positive YOU. Because honestly, who has time for the negativity? Don’t do it to be better than others, do it to be better than the person you were yesterday. Sometimes we stray from this, and it’s easy to do. I have a motivational workout picture in my gym with a quote on it that says “I am doing this for me.” I would recommend you to do the same. Put it somewhere where you will see it everyday. It really does help you stay motivated and keeps your mind in the right place.  Keeping a positive mind throughout this journey will be a major factor in helping you stay motivated and help you reach your goal. This should be a fun and rewarding experience, not one that builds from your grudges and negative thoughts. Find inspirational quotes that motivate you, print them out and put them where you will see them. Read them everyday. Read them when you wake up, read them when you take a break from working or studying, read them before your workout and even during your workout if you need some extra motivation.

Sometimes we have hard days and we’re tired and motivational quotes just aren’t enough to get us going that day. A little trick of mine is to put your workout clothes on before you decide if you’re going to go to the gym or not. Just about every time I have done this when I didn’t feel like working out, I ended up going to the gym. Seeing ourselves in our workout clothes helps put our mind in the right place. You have to set your mind to it before you do it. If you don’t believe me, try it. I can almost guarantee it will help.

Once you get yourself to the gym, put on some music that pumps you up and give it your all. Always give 100% to your workouts. Even if your all doesn’t seem like much, just do your absolute best. That’s all anyone can ask of you, and you deserve your best. Remember that it is going to take some time to reach your end result. It all depends on where you’re starting from and how much time and effort you’re putting into achieving your end result. The fitness journey can sometimes be a difficult one and one that is so easy to quit, which is why most people fall off the path. I came across a quote that I really liked and it applies here: “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” You must be patient throughout this process and remember that reaching your goal will come with time. That is, as long as you are patient and put the time into achieving your goal. You may have heard people say “in two weeks you’ll feel it, in four weeks you’ll see it, in eight weeks you’ll hear it.” And this is true, I have experienced this myself, and there’s no better feeling. Push for that eight weeks, and then start counting again until you get to where you want to be.

In order to speed up this process, here’s a little rule of thumb: Never. Miss. A. Workout… Ever. Unless you physically cannot get to the gym because of an injury or illness, you should never miss a workout. Not only will this keep you on track and get you to your goal faster, it will also become motivation. When we workout, our body releases endorphins which are chemicals our body creates that have a morphine-like effect. These chemicals diminish pain in our body while triggering positive feelings. Once you start working out on a regular basis, and your body starts releasing endorphins, you will LOVE working out. You get hooked and you can’t wait to get back in the gym the next day.  Working out really is like a drug, you get addicted and you feel good. Why throw your life away on drugs and medications when you can get the same satisfaction from something that’s actually healthy for you?

Throughout your fitness journey, you will have ups and you will have downs. It can get tough at times. No one ever said it was easy, but it is so worth it. Make a goal, find a drive, remember why you started, stay focused, and be patient. I promise you will love your results if you practice these tips. Celebrate little victories along the way, and use those little victories to continue to push you down the path to achieving your goal. Don’t ever give up. You deserve this.


Why Gluten Free?

You may have heard of this “fad” in which people are eating gluten-free. Although some people may eat gluten free because it’s “trending” right now, there are people who actually have to eat gluten free to remain healthy and happy. These people are people with celiac disease. You may have heard of this condition by its more common name, as a gluten allergy or gluten sensitivity. Many people worldwide live with this condition, including myself, and many people walk around not knowing that they have it.

What is celiac disease, you may ask? The Celiac Disease Foundation, or the CDF, defines celiac disease as “a serious auto-immune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.” Well, what exactly is gluten? If you didn’t already know, gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, barley, malt, and rye. Many people think that gluten is wheat itself, but it’s not, it’s the protein found in it.  When a person with celiac ingests gluten, their body triggers an immune response where the body attacks the small intestine. This causes damage on the villi, which are small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine. The villi contain specialized cells that transport substances into the bloodstream and help the body absorb nutrients. When gluten is ingested, the villi lay flat on the surface of the small intestine which prevents nutrients being able to be absorbed by the body. Thomas DeLaure, a celebrity trainer, in his video “The Reason We Avoid Gluten” says that when nutrients can’t be absorbed, they can’t get into the muscles and nothing is being processed, the body goes into starvation mode because it isn’t getting the nutrients it needs. This leads to malnourishment. When you don’t get enough calories and you’re not absorbing the nutrients your body needs, your cortisol levels rise and your body starts holding onto fat because it thinks it’s starving. If you’re looking to drop a few pounds, you might want to consider eating gluten-free. I know I lost about 10 pounds when I first cut gluten out of my diet.

When I say many people are affected by this condition, I mean 1 in 10 people worldwide. That’s 1% of the world population. And according to the CDF, two and a half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications. Some people have symptoms and some don’t. Damage is still caused to the intestine either way. Children are more likely to have digestive symptoms than adults. These digestive symptoms include but aren’t limited to abdominal bloating and pain, chronic diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, and can be accompanied by other symptoms such as weight loss, fatigue, irritability and behavioral issues, dental enamel effects on permanent teeth, delayed growth and puberty, and ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Adults more commonly have symptoms of fatigue, unexplained iron deficiency, bone or joint pain, arthritis, anxiety and or depression, seizures or migraines, peripheral neuropathy which is tingling, numbness or pain in the hands and feet, missed menstrual periods, infertility and miscarriages, dermatitis herpetiformis, or an itchy skin rash. The constant exposure of gluten to a body with celiac can even lead to intestinal cancers.

If you or your child have any of these symptoms, they may be due to celiac. The CDF has a symptom checklist on their website where you can check off your symptoms and answer a few questions and it will tell you if it’s possible that you have celiac disease. If it seems that celiac is the issue, you can either go ahead and convert to a gluten-free diet, or if you want to know for sure, there are two tests that your doctor can run. The doctor can run a blood test, or you can undergo an endoscopic intestinal biopsy where a gastroenterologist takes a piece of the small intestine and analyzes it to see if there is any damage due to celiac. The CDF says that the diagnosis can be confirmed after seeing improvement after switching to a gluten free diet. Unfortunately, these tests require you to eat gluten consistently for a period of time before the test, and they can be costly, and as of right now there are no treatments for this condition. The only way to avoid discomfort and prevent damage is to take gluten completely out of your diet. My mom didn’t want to put me through the pain and discomfort of eating gluten and didn’t want to give me any anxiety about having to get tested, so we just took gluten out of my diet and guess what! No more symptoms, no more pain, no more inflammation. So, if you have these symptoms and want to avoid the pain on your body and your wallet, I suggest trying a gluten free diet and see if your symptoms go away. It’s hard at first but it’s so worth it, trust me.

Removing gluten from your diet means no more bread, pizza, pasta, cookies, cake, etc. right? Wrong! Luckily there are many more options for people eating gluten-free now than ever. Food companies, such as Udi’s and Glutino, have come out with gluten free pizzas, pastas, breads, cookies, brownies, you name it. There are even restaurants that are catering to us gluten free people, that have gluten free menus so there are no guessing games when it comes to ordering your food. Even Domino’s Pizza is getting in on the action! Websites such as,, and, just to name a few, provide a list of restaurants that provide gluten free menus or gluten free options. This makes deciding on where to eat so much easier, as I know from experience that it can be hard sometimes.

No, not all things gluten-free taste just like normal foods, but at least it’s not causing damage to our bodies, right? I’m not saying it will be easy, as a girl who loves bread and has an Italian grandma who makes delicious gluten filled Italian meals, it was hard for me to adjust. But I would rather modify those yummy Italian meals to be gluten free than to go through so much discomfort and cause damage to my body. Gluten free foods have come a long way since they were first developed, and since I found out 8 years ago that I needed to be gluten free. Now, most of the gluten free food tastes so good you can’t even tell that it is gluten free, as it tastes just like the real thing. I hope after hearing me talk about celiac disease today you now know what celiac disease is, how it affects the body, the symptoms and diagnosis of celiac, and how to live a gluten free life on a gluten free diet.