What a vegan strength-training program looks like


The secret is: it’s what a non-vegan strength-training program looks like. Perhaps this blog post would be more accurately titled “What a derby player’s strength training program looks like” because that ultimately has more impact on my training program than my diet. But that’s cool. I want to rope vegans into this conversation so they know they can and should lift weights.

But first, a confession.

I haven’t changed my program much in … 8 months? That’s way too long, if you believe blogs and articles that warn of muscle adaptation. (Side note: I haven’t found any decent scientific studies that indicate when exactly one should switch up routines, but I can say anecdotally that I have plateaued with regard to the weight I can lift in these particular exercises. In fact I haven’t added weight in a couple of months. Yikes.)

Truthfully, I didn’t want to switch things up too early because this program is what got me through the gym doors 5 days a week every week for 8 months. I had never done that before, so I became superstitious about the workout. Changing it would throw me off; changing it would bring me back to a place of dreading the gym.

It’s not logical. It’s paranoia. So I’m going to change. (I feel like, despite the fact that nobody will read this blog, it’s empowering me to make some decisions about my fitness that I’ve been putting off. Yay!)

I’m going to change this program thoughtfully, using a system I just made up. That system involves:

  1. Articulating intentions.
  2. Setting specific goals and determining a timeframe.
  3. Composing the plan.
  4. Compile reading/watching list for motivation.
  5. Execution.

Step One: Articulating intentions

Intentions are not goals, in that they are not specific or time-bound. They are not something you can check off. They are not quantitative. They are about establishing a mindset and tapping into your emotional well. By writing down my intentions, I’m hoping to remain inspired. It will help me get out of bed and kick my own ass.

These are free-form, like a (oh gosh I hate this phrase) brain-dump. These are in no particular order, and if WordPress had the ability, I would make a word-map diagram like we did when we were in the 3rd grade. But I digress:

  • I want to feel lighter on my feet, so when I’m jamming I am more comfortable running and pivoting on my toestops.
  • I want to be more agile, so I can juke and fake-out blockers when I’m jamming.
  • I want stronger glutes, hamstrings, and quads, so I can get lower while blocking.
  • I want to look leaner, and my muscles to be more defined.
  • I want to work on balance, which I think would help prevent ankle injuries.
  • I want a bigger lower body, and a leaner midsection.
  • I want to feel happy when I see my reflection in the subway doors or the windows of the shops on 34th Street.
  • I want to feel powerful when I go to the gym.
  • I want to sweat.
  • I want to improve mobility.
  • I want to feel sexy.
  • I want to look strong as hell. I want people to know I’m an athlete.

Step Two: Setting Goals

I’m going to limit these to four goals for the next 12 weeks. I’m doing a non-aggressive cut. Why choose a cut? Honestly, I could go either way. I’m 5’7″ and 142 pounds. I’m neither over-fat nor particularly muscular, and have a ways to go in both directions. The choice to shed fat first was sort of arbitrary, and I had been debating the merits of both bulking and cutting for the last 3-4 weeks.

I made the choice to do a chill/relaxed cut because:

  1. It’s July, and the heat and lack of major holidays makes it easier (I hear) to stay on track with eating
  2. If I cut these next 12 weeks,  I can bulk the following 12 weeks, which means I would be bulking on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, and starting a cut or maintenance around January 6.
  3. This admittedly pretty shit website says if you’re a woman with a body fat percentage above 25 percent, you should do a cut (this is dumb bodybuilder logic, so I could have just ignored it, but I’m including it here because it did help me with the coin flip between cut and bulk). And then this rather dubious website calculator says my body fat percentage (based off of my weight and key measurements) is 26 percent. OK, this is arbitrary and silly, but sure. I’ll cut.

OK now according to this calculator, my TDEE (or Total Daily Energy Expenditure) is around 2000 calories a day. My BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate, or the amount of calories I expend by just laying down and breathing) is 1400 calories a day.

If I want to cut about 1 pound a week for a total of 12 pounds lost, I would need to have a daily deficit of 500 calories. If I weren’t to up my cardio at all, that would mean my calorie level would need to average out to about 1500 calories a day. That seems low to me, so it sounds like I’m going to be spending a bit more time at the gym. That’s fine! I like the gym.


  • Lose 12 pounds by Monday, October 15, 2018. This will require an average caloric deficit of 500 calories a day.
  • Drink 145 ounces of water a day. I will be peeing all the time, but whatever.
  • Burn 100 extra calories a day doing cardio like spinning, running/jogging, or the stair-climber.
  • Eat approximately 120g protein, 53g fat, 160g carbs. This will be really hard, but that’s my goal.
  • Increase lower body training.
  • Incorporate agility training 1-2x a week.
  • Incorporate mobility work 2-3x a week
  • Incorporate balance work 1-2x a week.

Step Three: Composing the Plan

I’m going to do a bit more research about muscle adaptation. It seems likely I’ll want to swap out the particular exercises every 4-6 weeks. Below is what I consider the first phase.

The weekly plan, in brief:

  • Monday: back/biceps/agility/light glutes
  • Tuesday: full legs/mobility/cardio
  • Wednesday: agility/mobility/cardio
  • Thursday: shoulders/abs/balance/cardio
  • Friday: chest/triceps/mobility/cardio
  • Saturday: roller derby training day (agility/cardio)
  • Sunday: rest/balance/mobility

Let’s break it down by day.


  1. Wide-grip lat pull-down (2×10)
  2. Assisted pull-ups (3×4-10)
  3. Parallel grip pull-down (3×10)
  4. Underhand seated cable row (3×10)
  5. Incline dumbbell hammer curl (3×10)
  6. Zottman curl (3×10)
  7. Concentration curls (2×10 each side)
  8. On ladder: in-in-out-out, with jump and turn (30 seconds x2)
  9. Ball taps (30 seconds x2)
  10. On ladder: lateral in-and-outs (30 seconds x2)
  11. Lateral lunge with bar (just for a bit of glute activation)
  12. 100 cal on cardio machine


  1. Air squats (3×10)
  2. Squats under bar (3×8)
  3. Squat lunges under bar (2×8 each side)
  4. Leg press (3×10)
  5. Hamstring curls (3×10)
  6. Quad extensions (3×10)
  7. Weighted calf raises (3×10)
  8. Weighted glute kickbacks (2×10 each side)
  9. Weighted glute bridges (3×10)
  10. Adductor machines (3×10)
  11. Abductor machines (3×10)
  12. Stretch
  13. 100 cal on cardio machine


  1. Square hops (30 seconds x2)
  2. Ledge toe-taps (30 seconds x2)
  3. Skaters (30 seconds x2; 20 seconds regular, 10 seconds double-time)
  4. Stretch
  5. 100 cal on cardio machine


  1. Standing overhead press (barbell) (3×10)
  2. Standing DB lateral raises (3×10)
  3. Reverse pec deck, using neutral grip, palms in (3×10)
  4. Elbow plank (60 seconds x2)
  5. Half-wipers (30 seconds x2)
  6. Russian twist w/ medicine ball (30 seconds x2)
  7. DB wood chopper (2×12 each side)
  8. Alternating plank row (3×10)
  9. One-legged, hand-to-big-toe extensions (2×10 each side)
  10. Warrior III crunches (2×10)
  11. Half-moon pose (2×10 each side)
  12. 100 cal on cardio machine


  1. Tricep/military pushups (3×10)
  2. Incline bench close-grip press (3×10)
  3. Incline DB bench press (3×10)
  4. Incline DB inward tricep extension (3×10)
  5. Flat bench DB press-to-fly (3×10)
  6. Horizontal cable tricep extensions (2×10 each side)
  7. Assisted Dips (3×10)
  8. Stretch
  9. 100 cal on cardio machine


  1. Basic Training


  1. One-legged, hand-to-big-toe extensions (2×10 each side)
  2. Warrior III crunches (2×10)
  3. Half-moon pose (2×10 each side)
  4. Stretch

Step Four: Compile a Reading List

Books and articles I want to read these next 12 weeks:

Step Five: Execution

Now comes the hard part. Here I go.


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