Expert Training Advice: Lisa Reed

The former IFBB fitness pro and trainer to elite athletes wants you to get it right.


M&F: Rumor has it that at 8 years old you won a pull-up contest in your town.

Lisa Reed: Yes—I have a gymnastics background, and in that sport, it’s crucial to be able to lift your own weight. We had a competition at the gym, and I think I got 10 reps. can you give guys any advice on getting more reps on pull-ups? One day of the week, do weighted pull-ups for six to eight reps to build strength. On a different day, use a different grip and go for high reps using a band around your feet to unload some of your body weight. Then do your rows, pull-downs, or other back work, as that will help, too.

You’ve worked with athletes at every level, including tennis legend Monica Seles. How do they deal with performance anxiety or self-doubt?

Athletes can’t go into a contest thinking they’re going to lose. You have to motivate them to be confident. I have them visualize their performance before they even begin: Think it and talk it, and you’ll go out there and act it.

Do you have any favorite affirmations that you have your clients repeat?

Yes: “Strength is a made-up mind.” It’s the mind first that gets you strong.

You’ve had some terrible injuries in your competitive career, including a torn ACL. How can we handle injuries better?

The same way you deal with performance anxiety. You have to be confident that it will get better, and focus on the things you can do rather than the things you can’t. If a basketball player injures his knee, he may not be able to run, but he can still do medicine ball throws and work his upper body.

What modifications would you make for an over-40 trainee?

More unilateral training and more balance training. Your awareness of your body in space gets worse as you age.