Hard Pressed

The Importance of Strength Conditioning

In my classes at Shred415 and in my personal training sessions I consistently encourage women to load up on their weight stacks and lift heavier. When I say encourage I mean I all but beg. Seriously, back away from those 3 pound-ers, ladies. To achieve the bodies that we want – those long, lean and toned muscles – you have to push a bit of iron to get there. You may have read this post, but in case you’re still a skeptic I bring to you the words from one of Chicago’s strength coaches, Dan Geraci.

In June I made the decision that I wanted to get stronger. I could feel myself reaching a bit of a plateau and I wanted to remain injury free during my marathon training. I stumbled across Hard Pressed, met Dan, and since then my training has NOT been the same. My weekly workouts typically look like this:

Shred415: 2-3x per week (yes, I get my butt kicked in class too!)
Cross Training (spinning, NTC, swimming): 1-2x per week
Hard Pressed High Intensity Workouts: 1-2x per week

In such a short time I realized that this was an incredibly effective combination. Shredding fat, building muscle and gaining strength. Not only do I look more defined and my running economy improved, but I noticed that mentally I was a happier and more confident person. It’s true what they say – the mind and the body are very connected.

Dan gives some detail into the concept behind his workouts and the science behind getting stronger in the interview below. Happy reading!

Dan, can you give a quick introduction on who you are and your background?

I’m Dan Geraci, a personal strength coach and CEO of Hard Pressed – Chicago’s premiere strength training studio located in River North.  I hold a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology and was an Assistant Strength Coach at The University of Michigan, working primarily with the football program.

Dan Geraci Hard Pressed

What is the principle behind High Intensity training (HIT)?

The goal with HIT strength training is to optimize efficiency, effectiveness, and safety.  It requires using the best tools, environment, and coach/lifting partner you have access too. The goal with each lift is to work muscles to the point of maximum intensity or muscle failure, meaning you cannot lift or lower weight with control.

The HIT program is built around 6 basic movements which everyone has access to at any gym:

  1. Pulldown
  2. Chest Press
  3. Compound Row
  4. Overhead Press
  5. Leg Press
  6. Leg Curl

NTC peeps, does this sound familiar? It should! These movements are similar to the core movements of NTC – lunge, squat, push, pull, bend and rotate.

By working these 6 functional movements you will strengthen the largest muscles in the body.  You really only need to work the smaller “stabilizer” muscles if your sport, activity, or lifestyle makes it important to do.  For instance, if you are a runner, you might want to add some core and calf work.

Why is weight lifting so important?

Strength training is vital to keeping the body healthy – simple as that. Proper lifting helps you increase balance; endurance; and strength so you can continue to do the types of activities and sport you enjoy in life and stay injury free.

How many times a week should weights be incorporated into a fitness routine?

This really depends on age, gender, activity level, goals, and the quality of the lift.  For the majority of individuals we recommend implementing a total body lifting routine twice per week. You don’t need to spend hours in the gym, days at a time. Focus on effectiveness and efficiency and quality over quantity.

Hard Pressed Chicago

Can you debunk the myth that women will “get big” if they lift weights? 

This is a really common concern that nearly all of our female clients have. Before getting started we explain that most women do not have the hormonal profile where “bulking” is even possible. In order to achieve the look they are looking to stay away from there must be a chemical support, testosterone. Women just don’t have it. Many times people experience what they believe to be “bulk” because they are carrying body fat which lays on the muscle. A balanced program will leave you looking the best your body can – assuming you take care of losing the body fat.

As a follow up, how does lifting aid in fat loss and better appearance then?

When you lift you are essentially telling your body you need this muscle, so it will hold on to it.  Other activities fail to send this signal.  Running at a steady state, or any steady state cardio basically tells your body it needs to get lighter.  Dragging around excess weight is a disadvantage.  This signal does not make the distinction between muscle and fat. A strength program in addition to high intensity cardio and a clean diet results in burning fat, and building muscle.

Also, by strengthening your body you will automatically look tighter, regardless of how much body fat you are carrying.  The denser muscle tissue beneath the fat will provide some pressure giving you visually more appealing arms and legs and reducing the appearance of cellulite.

Dan, I still have some cellulite how much longer do I need to train with you to get rid of it?

{Blank stare}

Just kidding!!

Hard Pressed offers half hour sessions, is that enough time to gain results and see changes in your body?

At Hard Pressed, easily.  Results from lifting come from the hardest part of the hardest set of an exercise.  Getting there in one set saves you a ton of time and produces the same result as multiple sets.

Advice to readers who are intimidated by lifting weights and are unsure where to start?

Master the 6 movements I mentioned above.  Train as hard as you can while keeping good form and keep track of your progress. Don’t give up – it’s supposed to be hard.

Hard Pressed ChicagoNote: My goal is to be able to do TEN chin-ups by the end of the summer.

Thanks so much, Dan!

Chicago – Hard Pressed High Intensity Workouts is currently running a deal on Gilt City. If you’re looking to give them a go you don’t want to miss it! On your first sesh mention The Four Percent for a free tank or t-shirt (up to an $18 value). Swagerrr.

Images via Hard Pressed High Intensity Workouts



  1. Kate convinced me to check out Hard Pressed and I am SO THANKFUL that I did! I am a yoga teacher and never thought I could hack it at a place like this, but I really want to build my strength, so I finally checked it out. Dan and his team make you feel comfortable in the environment while pushing you to your edge. After just three weeks, I already feel stronger and can see a difference in my yoga practice as well. Now if only I could get abs and arms like Kate… Dan, can we keep working on that part please?

  2. Pingback: Total Body Sculpt WOD 2/12

  3. Kate you are my hero! Albeit, completely intimidated at Hard Pressed…I am determined. I have already gone twice (yes, got the Gilt) and I just want to be FIERCE! I hope to do one pull-up by my 46th birthday ;-)…in ten years. Ugh, no, in 4 months…sigh. I am using strength training as a way to hopefully combat those things that happen at my age…pre-menopause. Ugh, TMI. Ugh, I know. Power on and POWER UP! XOXO

  4. Kate-

    I love your blog! Thanks for always posting such great information on health and nutrition. I am SO interested in buying a pack of Hard Pressed sessions, but honestly, I have a gym membership and zero extra time–I’m in grad school! I do NTC workouts all the time at my gym or at home and I do cross train (not enough..need to get off the treadmill more!). Any advice or websites I could go to to give me workouts that Hard Pressed might also be giving? In a perfect world I would drop the extra money, but the time and extra cash just aren’t available right now!

    Thanks for any and all suggestions!


    • Hi Drew! Thanks so much for the note, and thanks for reading The Four Percent! Due to the specific nature of Hard Pressed’s workouts I don’t recommend doing their training on your own, for your own safety. If you have the newest version of the NTC App you can put together your own 4-week plan based on your current fitness level and your goals. The program elevates the level of difficulty automatically, so you’ll feel yourself get stronger, and the workouts become “easier.” I use quotes there because the workouts never actually get easier, you just get better and better! I hope this helps! Feel free to send me an inquiry via the “Contact” tab if you want more or other information. Keep sweating, keep reading!

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