Embrace Fire! Muscle & Strength Talks With Fitness Model Bry Jensen
What is your athletic background, and how did you get involved with weight training, and what do you love most and least about it?
As a child, I was very athletic. I grew up in all sorts of sports, from gymnastic, figure skating and dance, to martial arts, where I obtained my black belt. However, I have also always suffered from a lung condition that limits my air capacity, and as I got into high school, I found that sporting teams or instructors were less sympathetic to my condition, which caused me to give up on a lot of things and become more sedentary.
I quickly became the archetype of skinny fat – 96 lbs at 5’2, still a size zero, but not a muscle to be found. And climbing a flight of stairs was a challenge that left me winded! This is when I decided that things needed to change, and started to approach fitness from a lifting perspective.
It worked out wonderfully! In a short time, I put on 10 lbs of muscle, and dropped my body fat by nearly 10%. It was only a few months after that that I was contacted by some local photographers, who really suggested that I should take what I was achieving and put it into photos. Now, here I am!
What do you love most about fitness and training?
My health. Nothing can truly compare to waking up feeling refreshed, when you couldn’t dream of sleeping before. Nothing compares to being able to pick up something heavy rather than ask for help. And when I get to the top of a flight of stairs and don’t feel the slightest bit winded, I feel like I’ve given myself the most precious gift.
What keeps you motivated?
There is nothing that motivates me more than hearing “You are an inspiration to me”. When someone is inspired, or motivated to pursue a healthier, more improved self based on what they have seen of my hard work, I’m touched. There is nothing more valuable to me! Moreover, it fires me up – because I better keep working hard to be worthy of that honor!
What are your future goals, dreams and plans?
First and foremost, I want to start getting published in fitness magazines! (This will be my first, thank you Muscle and Strength!) I want to become a well-known face in the industry, a name that is associated with the fit lifestyle.
I’d love to achieve these both through my own personal style, but also through getting sponsored or partnering with a fitness company I really believe in. Second, I would love to compete in either bikini or fitness, or both successfully, to hone my abilities and make me a well rounded and well experienced fitness personality.
What does your current training and split look like, and what do you like most about it?
I’m heavily focused on weight lifting, so I’m hitting the dumbbells six days a week. I break up my workouts based on a split I adopted while doing the FST-7 program, and have modified for my weaknesses. I train one major muscle group a day along with a complimentary group (I.E.: Chest/Triceps), and I make sure to hit my lagging body parts (Lower body and shoulders) twice every week to ensure maximum benefit.
The thing I like most about lifting heavy, regularly, is that I always feel as if I am achieving something great. I push myself to the limit with nearly every workout, and I see the results when my body starts to change before my very eyes. I wouldn’t feel the same way about a cardio heavy routine.
How often do you perform cardio?
My cardio schedule is heavily dependent on the season. During the summer I maintain a consistent schedule of cardio 4 times a week, for between 30-60 minutes. This allows me to keep to a fairly rigorous cardio routine to stay lean for my shooting.
When the semester begins, my cardio routine comes down to around three times a week for 20-45 minutes. This is because my classes are usually early in the morning, so getting in a full weight routine is difficult. I’d rather get up, do cardio at home on those days and hit the weights later.
Do you supplement your weight training and cardio with any other physical activities?
Oh definitely! I love to get out and try new active things, like taking specialized classes for things like pole dancing or kickboxing or rock climbing, and I LOVE to surf! I’m no good at it, and I only get to do it when I go away to places with warm waters, but I still really enjoy it. It is such a killer workout for the shoulders and core.
How often do you change your training routine, and do you periodize your training?
I try to switch up my routine at least every 4-6 weeks, just to keep my body guessing. The longest I will remain with a single program is 2 months before changing to something different, even if I come back to the original program later on. I do periodize my workouts, and I do so based on season. The fall and winter I lift heavier for less reps, and summer becomes more cardio intensive.
What are your thoughts on fasted cardio?
Sometimes, I just like to roll out of bed and get my cardio on, first thing! This is what really gets me ready for those early morning history classes. Overall though, I think it is more beneficial in terms of results to do cardio after weight lifting, therefore usually after a meal. I usually eat, then do cardio two hours later, so I finish just in time for my next meal.
Which do you prefer, and why…stead state cardio or HIIT?
Definitely HIIT cardio. I have a lung condition that causes me to have a diminished lung capacity, so steady state or endurance cardio can be very painful to perform. I need a chance to recover. That’s why I love the HIIT programs – I can still challenge myself and get an awesome workout, without worrying about passing out from something I can’t control.
What are some of your most and least favorite muscle building workouts approaches, and why?
I’m a big fan of the FST-7 program: I noticed tremendous gains while doing it, and I truly enjoyed my workouts. I left the gym every day knowing that I was going to be sore the next day, and it really helped me break through – no, shatter – some plateaus.
Do you have any gym, muscle building or fitness pet peeves?
I absolutely cannot stand people in the gym who are discourteous, and the most selfish thing I see people do is drop weights. My philosophy is that if you cannot put it down safely, you shouldn’t be using it! It makes me crazy watching people letting dumbbells drop to the ground at the end of their sets – they’re breaking equipment we all share. So yeah, it’s absolutely a pet peeve of mine when people can’t think beyond themselves at the gym.
What are your best tips for getting ripped and shredded abs?
Abs are truly made in the kitchen, to use the old cliché adage. If you want great abs, you can train them to death, but without having your diet on track, they’re never going to come out. So, I recommend making sure the diet is 100% clean with no empty calories like liquids and condiments, ab specific training 2-3 times a week, a moderate amount of cardio, and to hold your abs tight when you work your other muscle groups!
What advanced training techniques work well for you?
I’m a big fan of slow negatives, supersets and giant sets. I feel that these three advanced training exercises create a better burn, ignite the metabolism, and help target a specific muscle group in several different ways, respectively. I often incorporate these three techniques when I feel that one of my body parts is lagging behind in progress, and I always notice a speedy improvement.
What does your post-workout nutrition and supplementation look like?
I honestly keep it pretty simple: when I’m finished working out, I have a protein shake with 50 grams of protein and 5 grams of glutamine. That’s 500 calories as well, so that holds me off until my next meal, which is usually lunch.
How do you prepare meals? Do you cook daily or cook for the week?
I cook for the week, with the exception of my snacks and breakfasts. On Sundays, I’ll grill up a ton of chicken breasts for lunch and dinner, steam a big batch of rice (every 2-3 days, so it doesn’t go bad), ensure there is a container of baby spinach in the fridge along with a gross of eggs, as well as plenty of Greek yogurts. If I can foresee a sweet craving, I’ll also bake up a batch of clean eating cookies, along with a few bowls of protein pudding.
Do you believe recomping is possible (gaining muscle while losing fat), and if so, is it as difficult as most people think it is?
Yes I believe it is possible – you can sculpt lean muscle while burning fat, but it requires great balance, and the diet to be on point. If you want to recomp, then you have to be eating clean 100% of the time, balancing your cardio with lifting, as well as balancing lighter high rep lifting with heavier low rep lifting. It is by no means an easy thing to do, but it certainly can be done.
What are your favorite cheat meals and foods?
Cinnamon buns or anything with brown sugar. I’m also just in love with oatmeal Crisp cereal – the vanilla almond kind.
What are some of your best diet, nutrition and supplementation tips for someone who just wants to look good and ripped, but doesn’t want to compete?
Eat clean. It honestly is the most simple, most straight forward thing you can do for yourself. Avoid anything that is processed, do not consume liquid calories like juices or milk, limit or eliminate your condiments, and opt for your lean proteins and complex carbs. Unless you’re looking to compete, clean eating done right is all you need.
What does your current supplementation plan look like?
For the most part, I like to keep it simple. I stick with a solid protein powder, glutamine for recovery and to inhibit the catabolic burning of muscle, an additional BCAA powder if it is not already in my protein, and a multi-vitamin.
What are some of your favorite supplements and why?
Gaspari Myofusion is my favorite protein powder on the market – for some reason, a lot of proteins upset my stomach, or leave me feeling very nauseated for a long while afterwards. I find Myofusion to have the right texture and taste at the right price point, without leaving me feeling sick.
What are your favorite meals and foods?
Definitely spicy chicken, and brown rice with hot peppers. I LOVE hot food, like you wouldn’t believe! I could eat hot peppers like a child eats candy… and often do!
Which athletes do you admire any why?
Jamie Eason will always be my number one fitness idol: in my opinion she has the perfect body, and such a great, humble attitude about fitness. She has always been incredibly supportive and encouraging, and shares her knowledge freely with the desire to see everyone succeed. I also highly admire Pauline Nordin for her dynamite dedication, Dana Linn Bailey for her approach and No-BS style.
Workout music – Don’t care, or MP3 player?
While I don’t need it, I LOVE to have my iPod with me while I’m working out. My taste in music is a little bit obscure, so what really gets me pumped is not what is going to be playing on the loudspeakers. I just love working out to Epic metal (Rhapsody, Hammerfall, etc) and Jazz Burlesque (Voltaire), the heavy or dance beats keep me moving!
If someone wants to connect with you, where can you be found?
Right now, the best places to contact me are on my Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/Bry.Jensen.Fitness and my personal blog: http://embracefire.net/. I’m currently in the process of working on http://BryJensen.com as well, so that will be the best place to keep in touch very soon!
What attracts you to the natural side of sports and competition?
I believe in results from hard work. I’m so disheartened when I see people who have earned their gains not from sweat, but from steroids or plastic surgery – to me, those aren’t legitimate rewards, or something to admire either. This industry is about disciplining ourselves beyond the average person and reaping the payoff, and I feel that the unnatural individuals in the industry really take away from that positive message.