Jen Widerstrom: From “American Gladiators” to Go-To Trainer (Podcast)

Jen Widerstrom rose to the national spotlight as a star on “American Gladiators,” but after the show was canceled, a career in the fitness industry didn’t happen overnight. We talk with Jen about behind-the-scenes stories from “Gladiators,” finding footing as a coach and trainer, and eventually becoming one of Hollywood’s got-to trainers for TV and shows like “The Biggest Loser.” What’s it like to coach Kevin Hart and Conan O’Brien? Jen gives us the details, along with the incredibly fit celebrities you might not expect. 

In this episode of the BarBend Podcast, David Thomas Tao talks to Jen Widerstrom about:

  • How a casual photo shoot turned into a spot on “American Gladiators” (2:30)
  • The in-person audition process for the show (4:40)
  • Fighting for her ego on live national television (7:30)
  • Spring-boarding from Gladiators to a career in fitness (10:10)
  • Humble beginnings in fitness coaching (12:00)
  • What YouTube did for the fitness community (14:44)
  • Training celebrities (17:55)
  • What virtual coaching can’t replicate; “really being good at 3 feet” (21:00)
  • Viral fame on TikTok and “the butt test” (24:05)
  • The sneaky fit celebrities in Hollywood (29:33)
  • Coaching Kevin Hart and Conan O’Brien (32:40)

Relevant links and further reading:

Transcription

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 

We had a full-fledged psychology testing; 500-question quiz. You have to sit with a psychiatrist, and, by the way, there were gladiators that were picked but did not pass their psych tests and did not get the job. It’s legit. If you don’t pass, you don’t get to play.

David TaoDavid Tao

Welcome to the “BarBend” Podcast, where we talk to the smartest athletes, coaches, and minds from around the world of strength. I’m your host, David Thomas Tao, and this podcast is presented by barbend.com.

 

Today, I’m talking to Jen Widerstrom, a trainer and athlete best known for her work on The Biggest Loser and American Gladiators. We chat about Jen’s unlikely path to a fitness career, from college athlete to bartender, to accidental fitness model.

 

Then, an incredible series of events that rocketed her into the national spotlight on American Gladiators. Jen also gives some really surprising details on what that show was like behind the scenes.

 

We also talk about Jen’s approach to training elite athletes versus celebrity clients, how COVID-19 could forever change personal training, and we also find some surprising common ground as Chicago sports fanatics.

 

Also, I want to take a second to say we’re incredibly thankful that you listen to this podcast. If you haven’t already, be sure to leave a rating and review of the BarBend podcast in your app of choice. Now let’s get to it.

 

Jen, thanks so much for taking the time to join us today. I’m going to fanboy for just a second.

 

The first time I ever came across your name or your face, it wasn’t even your name, was in 2008. I was in college and I was watching American Gladiators. I didn’t give you any heads up that that’s when I was going to start this recording with.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

No.

David TaoDavid Tao

I do apologize but sorry, not sorry. How did that come about? How did you end up on the American Gladiators reboot?

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 Dude, I mean, talk about dream come true. Just like any other kid that was born in the ’80s or ’70s, when I would see Zap on camera or Nitro, forget it, I would go bananas. I dressed up as an American Gladiator for Halloween since I was a kid through I was college and beyond. To say that I was a fan is an understatement.

 

What had happened is I was bartending in Chicago, not using my degree and just drinking a lot. I had a blast, by the way. I did one fitness modeling photo shoot for optimum nutrition. I thought I was a millionaire because they gave me 300 bucks or something for to own all the rights to all the photos.

 

I was like, “These guys are idiots. I’m not even a model. I just made $300 in an hour. This is great.” I was 24 and it turns out they used those photos in “Flex” magazine, “Muscle & Fitness” to push the protein or whatever they were selling.

 

Sure enough, the casting directors for Gladiators saw the photos and said, “Oh, she’d be a good gladiator.”

 

Fast forward, I got an email, which I for sure thought was a total joke and hoax that my friends that were in Chicago because I have really funny friends. They wanted me to come audition. That’s how it started. I remember — dyed my hair pink, gave me a really small outfit, and said, “You’re Phoenix.” I said, “Let’s do this.” [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

 

You said, “Cool. Yes, I am.”

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 How do you think about that? I got anything you want? Yes. [laughs] I was like, “You kidding?”

David TaoDavid Tao

 I have to ask. If you’ve been in the sports performance and training space for a while, as you have, aesthetics and look doesn’t necessarily translate to skill onto athleticism, right?

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

No.

David TaoDavid Tao

In fact, sometimes it’s the opposite. Sometimes it’s like very counter-intuitive. What was your audition like? Because it just purely based on a photo shoot they called you in. What did you have to do?

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

First, I had to do a take. I had to do the questionnaire, show forms of identification because they do a background check, and then I had to show videos of me doing skills. I was repping out pull-ups. By the way, when I say repping out, I’m using quotation fingers.

 

I got four and I started to struggle. Then I cut my take to me running on a track.

 

Then I tried to make myself…It was like the sizzle reel, right? It was enough to at least get me an audition in person.

 

In person was a little bit different. We had a full-fledged psychology testing; 500-question quiz. You have to sit with a psychiatrist, and, by the way, there were gladiators that were picked but did not pass their psych tests and did not get the job. It’s legit. If you don’t pass, you don’t get to play.

 

Then we had like the VO2 max test. They checked your heart. They did EKGs. Skill-wise, they just threw our asses on the implements and said, “Climb that wall.” I was like, “OK.”

 

Then I remember — biggest mistake of my life, also one of the best decisions — Gina Carano, who I had no idea who she was. At that time in 2008, she was the woman. The female leader figure, like mega queen in MMA. She was the first one that was out there, showed a lot of strength and was super hot.

 

I had no idea though. I just knew this girl, Gina, was good and they said, “Hey, why don’t you try wrestling with Gina?” I was like, “Great, let’s do this.” My dad…

David TaoDavid Tao

That sounds terrifying. That sounds absolutely terrifying.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

I had no idea who she was. I was like, “This will be fine. I did college sports. I will be fine.” Bro, I could not turn my head to the left for four weeks. When we wrestled, I don’t know what I was doing. I just was doing what I thought a wrestler look like. I have no idea but I was strong.

 

The producers just saw, “OK, she tries hard. She’s pretty strong. Gina’s not completely tossing her around,” although, Gina flipped me many times. I think they just threw us in some apparatuses.

 

They put me on the joust against Helga, and I didn’t cry and I didn’t fall off. She hit me so many times, I just took it. It’s not like there was this massive skill.

 

I just think I was resilient and capable enough, especially on rings and wall, which are very difficult upper body events for women. I think because I did gymnastics for so long I felt very comfortable, and it just kind of worked out.

 

The other thing, Dave, as this turns into a very long-winded answer, I sucked. They just want to use me. They could give me the job and say, “Yep, you’re not going to film anymore.” There’s no rules in TV, they can literally not use you.

 

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Yeah, and it’s not a competition in that you’re not being tested exactly on your 100-yard dash time and if you have to make it or not. They are making a show, they need to make it entertaining. They need people who can move but who can also be entertaining, who can play to the camera.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 I honestly think, too, I always joke that the reason they picked me was because I was the most beatable. You have professional MMA fighters, guys like Tanoai Reed is The Rock’s stunt double. These people will eat you for breakfast, and it’s like, “Hi, I’m Jenny from Lyle. I bartend.” I wasn’t as big, and I wasn’t as strong, and I wasn’t as fast.

 

When I would compete, sometimes the contestants were bigger than me. I didn’t care about a show, it was my ego. I’m like, “I am not losing this event.” [laughs] It was like a better battle. Otherwise, you put Gina in the room with some random girl from Nebraska, they’re getting their ass kicked. It’s not fun TV.

David TaoDavid Tao

You say you were bartending at the time but you were also clearly still training. You were a college athlete. Fitness was…

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 

Eh, kind of…

David TaoDavid Tao

It was just, “Kind of…” OK.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

I did sports as a kid. We’ve always been a physical labor household. My parents, to this day, they’re in their 70s, they grow their own vegetables. When I was five years old, I’m carrying buckets of water to water the tomatoes and the potatoes. We’ve been a very physical culture in our house.

 

I did gymnastics growing up, and in college I ended up being a nationally competitive hammer thrower. I was very strong and I had a lot of foundation. By the time I got done with college, I was eating and drinking the same, and not really working out very much, and relied on years of muscle to try to keep me in one place.

 

I definitely started to get chubby. [laughs] I had to rein in Chipotle. It was actually the thought of Gladiators happening made me really clean my act up and get my shit together because I was never training.

David TaoDavid Tao

I was looking and researching this. I was looking back at the old American Gladiators footage, watching on YouTube, watching the stills. You definitely don’t look chubby in front of the camera there. It was…

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 

Oh, no. I was not doing the morning cardio but I was doing bodybuilder stuff.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Got you.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 I need to look good. I was winded, I was not in shape. If anybody listening is a thrower, they’re going to know what I mean. We are not cardiovascular beings. From about zero to six to eight seconds, I am really, really powerful and you better watch out. After that, forget it.

 

Three burpees in a row felt like a lifetime to me with that kind of training. I looked like in shape but I was in poor, poor shape.

David TaoDavid Tao

This is the BarBend podcast, so you’ll find a lot of forgiveness for that. We have a lot of people listening who are Crossfitters and they can do stuff across all type of domains. We also have a lot of powerlifters, and weightlifters, and strong men athletes…

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 

Those are my people. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

 

I’ve heard it from so many strong men athletes, they’re like, “You give me eight seconds, I’ll outperform anyone.”

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

Oh yeah, on a global level, I can do this.

David TaoDavid Tao

This is my fault. I was under the interpretation that you were in this fitness career trajectory even before Gladiators.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

No.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

It sounds like Gladiators was the springboard to that part of your career.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 I think it was a springboard to TV. We were filming in LA, then the show gets canceled. I’m like, “Well, now what do I do?” Do I ask for my bartending job back? My degree, I went to University of Kansas, my degree’s in sports administration, do I try to work back with the university? I really didn’t know what I was going to do.

 

My folks were great. They’re like, “Listen, home is always going to be here. Stay in LA, see what you can do. Just give it a shot, whatever that looks like.” I thought I was hot shit, saved some of that Gladiator money, got myself to LA. Within like a month and a half I was like, “Oh, I can’t afford to live here.” [laughs]

 

I had all this money saved and I had not enough. I’m like, “I can’t make it six months.” I’m like, “I can’t make it a half a year.” I was like, “OK, I need to make money and I need to figure out a gym.” I was getting really depressed. I don’t know what to do with myself. I’m like, “I should start working out and I should start making money.”

 

I started my fitness career not until 2009, the year after Gladiators. I tried to be the greeter at a gym. It was called Pulse Fitness Studio. It’s still in Sherman Oaks, California. I just want to swipe people in and say, “Hi,” because then I can get a free membership and then I can make an hourly rate.

 

The owner, Mark Harari, he’s the one that gave me my start in LA. He just said, “I don’t know. You’ve got quite a personality, I think you should coach.” I said, “Oh God, no, never. I’m not coaching. I just want to greet people.” He gave me a free membership and said, “Just start to take my classes, start to learn, just watch.”

 

I eventually had the courage to start teaching group classes. It was like treadmills, and dumbbells, and bands, and stuff, so a little bit of a circuit vibe. I started teaching and I would have two, maybe three, people come to my class. Then, at one point I had six or seven, and I was like, “Oh my God, I’m at 10” and at double digits.

 

Within a year, I was at capacity like, 30-plus people in my class. It started just to pay the rent. I started having fun, and I started to realize that I had this greater purpose in me as a coach. I just love the way…fitness to me was a conduit for such greater things.

 

When people were consistent and feeling good in the gym, they were feeling better about themselves. They would make better eye contact, they would walk a little taller. Maybe, they bought a brighter t-shirt to wear at the class.

 

Those nuances opened up a whole chapter in my life. I was like, “Oh my gosh, there is something else here,” because up to that point I was only training for performance in college, or for looks for Gladiators, and I never knew there was another layer.

David TaoDavid Tao

In those early days of training, did you ever get recognized? People would come to your class and they’d be like, “Hey, were you on that show,” or something like that?

 

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 

Oh, I wish they did. I was so fame-hungry.

 I was like, “This is going be awesome. Everyone’s going to recognize me because my hair is pink.” I mean, no, nobody cared. Especially not in LA. Dude, a good sighting is of Eddie Murphy is in your coffee shop. That is something to be excited about, but me, nobody cared.

It was actually really the right thing for me mentally because I needed to start from the ground up and earn it. Being on a show for five minutes certainly should not be rewarded with any sort of fame.

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s something that a lot of people underestimate, especially about the crossover when fitness goes mainstream. Oftentimes that crossover is fleeting.

 

We see it with I guess American gladiators was an earlier version of this. People who have appearances on American Ninja Warrior, awesome show, people made appearances on whatever fitness touches that mainstream. The Titan Games is another example of a show where we saw strength athletes get a taste of the mainstream.

 

Just because you’re on that show, just because you do well on one of those shows, it’s not you’re getting a residual check for a million bucks a month for the rest of your life. That’s just not how it works. That’s not the reality.

 

A lot of people who are in the fitness industry and have a taste of that mainstream stardom or that mainstream exposure, they have to find a different way to lever that after it’s over.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

Good, so well said. I think what changed it off, frankly, was when YouTube exploded, and obviously these continued progressions of Instagram, and now we’ve got TikTok.

 

Look at us. We watch gladiators, we watch Nitro. I was like, “Oh my God, the only man stronger than my father is Nitro and Gemini.” Honestly, I grew up watching Conan the Barbarian. Arnold was always number one for me.

 

That was it. To me, that TV screen, I was watching gods. I was watching superhumans, and it was so…talk about [inaudible 15:23] , their biceps are bigger than my face. Now, you just go to YouTube and guys like that, dime a dozen. They are still gods to me, they’re superhuman. To me, it exploded our world of [inaudible 15:35].

 

There’s a lot of us. It’s brought communities together. I think that’s why CrossFit was such a special little kind of development, because you’re all these like-minded people that say, “Oh, we care about working hard. We care about getting stronger.”

 

I think it showed these people that were non-athletes previously, that they could be athletic. Maybe not competing for the Bears, but they’re athletic and that’s exciting, and when you can be athletic and you can work toward something.

 

My mom is 70, and still CrossFits and feels pride, because she’s like, “Oh my gosh, Jennifer, I did my wall balls, all broken.” Doesn’t matter if she’s using eight-pound ball, doesn’t matter that she’s not squatting ass-to-grass. It matters that she did her reps unbroken, and there’s nothing more powerful than pride.

 

When you look at these facets, you can’t just be in a show now and think it’s going to catapult you because we’ve got larger-than-life people everywhere. I think honestly the only show that’s still doing it is “The Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” because people fall in love with the guys and the girls from their couches. That’s the only exception to that rule. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

 

I just have to say, and we did not talk about this beforehand, you mentioning the Chicago Bears on this podcast was the right move, bear down, I’m a lifelong Bears fan.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 

Hello.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

I just want to say this is going so well. I’m talking to one of my old American Gladiators idols and she mentioned the Chicago Bears, perfect.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 

David, OK, ready? Who would win a game between [inaudible 17:04] and Jesus?

David TaoDavid Tao

 

 [laughs] It’s a trick question.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 

That’s a different one.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Who would win, Jen? Who would win?

 

That’s a different one? Oh!

Who would win, Jen? Who would win?

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

I would have to give that one to [inaudible 17:18] because Jesus is wearing sandals.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

I need to go back and watch some old skits.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 

You got to go back. Nothing’s better. It’s that guy Norm from Cheers, so good.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

I have to say now, these days, I think you’re much better known for your time on “The Biggest Loser,” but it’s not just that. You’re in a lot of different places, like when Conan O’Brien and Kevin Hart are working out.

You’re their trainer. When somebody sent me that video, they’re like, “Check this out.” I was like, “I recognize her,” because we have like friends of friends. I don’t know you super well but I was like, “I recognize her.”

How did you become this go-to person for the crossover between Hollywood and entertainment, and then it’s like, “OK, we’re actually going to do some real fitness here”?

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

Oh gosh. First of all, thanks for saying that, it’s like acknowledgement. I really think that it’s far less about followers, and who’s the most popular, and what famous people am I friends with.

 

I really think it’s about you’ve got these key moral pillars that I was founded on through my parents. It’s like, “Be a good person, tell the truth, follow through. Always give your best, work hard.”

 

These are the foundations of who I am. You’ll see that consistently year after year, whether I was training with only three people in my class, to The Biggest Loser when I had millions of people every week.

 

The only consistency among all of that was my ability to be consistent in those pillars. I think that’s why, when my name is spoken, it’s spoken with confidence. It’s spoken in a way that people can count on me and it means something.

 

My qualities are highlighted in a positive way because as we expand, we see a lot of people not living with care, with consideration, with honesty, with doing their best, and with the intent to serve.

 

Gunnar Peterson, I talk about this all the time, we love being trainers. We love cleaning up your sweat. We love being in service of what your needs are, whether you’re professional athlete, a mom of three, or whatever, we love this and that’s our role.

 

I think too many trainers have forgotten their place, which is to be in service of others, not to be taking pictures of their back side and posting fake workouts.

 

We’ve gotten away from where we need to be. As leaders, especially now, we just need our coaches back. I think that’s what it is. When I’m given a chance to show who I am, you always get the best and you know you can count on me.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

The big portion of your time these days is still training people.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

Yes.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Whether it’s one-on-one or it’s groups, you’re not one of those people…You have a lot of followers on social media, but you’re certainly not one of those people who’s just strictly monetizing swimsuit photos, right?

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

Yeah.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

You’re working with people each and each and every day. In fact, before we started recording, you were talking about working with a client and that’s where you are right now, in a physical sense.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

I think that’s what’s kept me in reality. As I said earlier, thank God Gladiators got canceled. I needed to be grounded and earn my way not to fame, but as a human. There are lessons that we have to…you earn by hard work, you earn through action, you earn as you learn.

 

A lot of things are given these days. I know that I have been fighting this digital anomaly of coaching. I call it an anomaly because the way I coach is in front of someone.

 

I will tell you, [inaudible 21:16] is the one that brought this to my attention about being good at three feet, right there with someone — present, connected, listening, and understanding.

 

I’m really, really in love with that process, but trying to create that feeling of three feet in a way where I’ve got billions of people on a planet, and I’m having a hard time scaling the feeling I can create as a coach, as I do with my one-on-ones, as I do through this digital process.

 

A big thing I’ve been trying to do the last almost two years now is understanding, “Is it through…?” I’ve tried different app platforms. I’ve tried different streaming platforms, and I’m not getting the connect. I’m missing the best part about this coaching, which is the people part.

 

I always joke the waistline as a side effect of what’s going on for you. If you’re in a good place, you’re going to get skinnier. If you’re in a bad place, you’re probably getting fatter. Forget looks, anybody can make you lose weight, but to sustain it, to earn it, and to own it is a far different set of coaching.

 

I think a lot of times that gets skipped, and I think there’s a lot of considerations that aren’t being made in coaching. For me, I’m utilizing what I do as a one-on-one coach and trying to say, “OK, how can I take this and broaden it and scale it?”

 

For instance, I’m on my social media right now. We’re all quarantined so I bought one of those dang ring lights with the kickstand and all the shit…

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Yeah, the influencer lights, the selfie lights.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

Yes, I bought one. I got a good one though, David. I really went all in here. I’m filming in Boca, Florida, in my little Airbnb. I can do like 50 videos a week. Filming, filming, filming, and then I’m having them edited together so it can just go on my Instagram for free.

 

People need a resource. They need humor, they need energy, they need order, but they need love.

 

I’m really good at those things so that’s what I’m going to try to do. Doesn’t matter if I gain one more follower, I really could give a fuck. I want the people there to know that they’ve got support, and it’s again, our responsibility to do so as wellness leaders.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

I got to ask, how many TikTok dances have you recorded in quarantine?

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 

Oh, girl. I don’t do TikTok, come on.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

I’m joking.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

[laughs] I know. Dude, did you see the one, it was funny. Cory Gregory, he did one, it kind of went viral. Cory’s the most shredded dad ever. He’ll do bodybuilding shows, such a hard worker, great, treat guy, and did a TikTok dance. It went viral. His kids were like, “Dad, come on, you’re embarrassing us.”

 

I feel that’s what would happen, I don’t feel like TikTok’s my bag.

David TaoDavid Tao

BarBend is on TikTok, and I don’t really do anything on TikTok, but I was informed by a member of our team recently who handles most of our TikTok posting. The video that has done best on BarBend involves the butt test, where you try and roll a barbell that’s loaded with 45-pound plates over someone’s butt.

 

If it can’t roll over their butt, they pass the butt test, and it’s of my butt.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 

Oh my God, you’re famous.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

 200,000 times on TikTok, someone’s watched a barbell not pass over my ass. This is honestly the best thing I’ve heard during this quarantine.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 

You’re like, “I could go another six months. I am good.” Wait a second, is it the same for girls? Do I get like a…

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Yeah.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 

Of course it’s…OK, I don’t know. This is like a pre-Instagram “viral” challenge that my old weightlifting gym outside of Boston did. Someone told us about it. They’re like, “Do you pass the butt…” I think it was called the man test, but that’s not really fair. They just called the butt test.

 

You have to lie flat on your stomach, and you can’t prop yourself up on anything. You’re flat, your hips are on the ground, your chest is on the ground.

 

You just take a barbell, and you load it with normal diameter plates, and there’s always a little bit of [inaudible 25:23] , with normal diameter plates. You have someone trying to roll it over your butt and if your butt stops it, you’ve passed the test.

That’s not fair.

David TaoDavid Tao

Of course it’s…OK, I don’t know. This is like a pre-Instagram “viral” challenge that my old weightlifting gym outside of Boston did. Someone told us about it. They’re like, “Do you pass the butt…” I think it was called the man test, but that’s not really fair. They just called the butt test.

 

You have to lie flat on your stomach, and you can’t prop yourself up on anything. You’re flat, your hips are on the ground, your chest is on the ground.

 

You just take a barbell, and you load it with normal diameter plates, and there’s always a little bit of [inaudible 25:23] , with normal diameter plates. You have someone trying to roll it over your butt and if your butt stops it, you’ve passed the test.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

Are you allowed to squeeze your butt? Are you tensing?

David TaoDavid Tao

 

I think you can tense. I didn’t have to.

Jen, I didn’t have to. I don’t have to bend the rules for this.

 

I’m just going to be honest with you. You can’t be up your arms. You can’t raise anything. I think you can tense. I don’t think tensing gives you that much more height on your butt.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

I think it would. I think my butt peaks when I tense for sure. Plus, wouldn’t it resist the barbell? I think about pushing a bit, it would be harder to get the barbell over.

 

David TaoDavid Tao

 

I have to say that I’m not sure when the time was when my butt became big enough from…It’s not even from squatting. I think it’s from deadlifts. I’ve always been more of a puller than a squatter.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

Oh, deadlifting, good for you.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

First off, we can talk about this in another episode, but I think for glute training, poles are very underrated. Anyway, you’ll have to try this.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 

I’m worried to fail. I feel like it’s not fair because as a woman, I’m naturally smaller and lower…I’m a size 4’6″. I’m trying to think what my waist is going to be. I think how much thicker your body is. You’re big. Just like your torso. Let’s talk torso. You’re going to be elevated and since you…How tall are you?

David TaoDavid Tao

 

I say I’m six-feet tall. I’m definitely not six-feet tall.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

We’re practically six-feet tall. If you’re deadlifting, if you’re a puller, you’ve got really strong legs, your quads are elevating you. I just feel you’ve got an assist. It’s me laying out an extra rubber mat.

 

David TaoDavid Tao

 

What I will say is try it, and if you don’t like the result, you can just let me know, and be like, “Look, this is what happened,” but I think you might be underselling yourself.

I’ve seen women pass the butt tests with flying…By the way, this went in a much stranger direction than I thought it would go.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

Yeah, here we are. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

 

 I think plenty of women, especially in this industry, can pass with flying colors. There’s a lot to be proud of as far as your ass, if you lift weights. That just goes for everyone, that’s not a you-specific thing. It’s a lot of pride we can all share in.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 

I think I’m going do it, record it, and post it on TikTok, and that will be my only TikTok video ever.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

That will be the only TikTok that you’ve done. You’re done.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

You know what I’m going to do? My only goal is to beat your 200,000 views. I just want to beat you. That’s it.

 

David TaoDavid Tao

 

You can post it on Instagram and beat that, and that platform doesn’t have as much virality. You can’t compare. No one follows me. People follow BarBend but no one cares about David.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 

This would be a great social experiment. Oh my gosh, if I post on Instagram, can I get 200,000 views of a bar trying to get pass my butt? [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

 

I absolutely love this.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 

Yeah.

David TaoDavid Tao

This is great because..

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 

I’m not saying no.

David TaoDavid Tao

 I will say, as someone who does not have a big personal social media following, someone coming to me just out of the blue being like, “Hey, a lot of people are watching this video of your large butt.” I was like, “That’s awesome.” I get why people go the influencer route because I was like, “That feels good. It feels weird.”

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 

Ego’s a slippery slope, man. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

 

I’ve had a taste. Pretty soon, it’s just going to be all, just like me doing hip thrusts and glute bridges, and all this stuff.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 

Oh, yeah bro. You’re five minutes away from that, just hang in there. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

Completely changing the conversation back to something a little bit more appropriate, I did have this on my notes to ask you.

 

Back to the whole point or back to the topic of you working with a lot of very famous people and being a go-to for someone who’s good on camera, who can talk real fitness, and who puts people through real movements.

 

I reference like when you worked with Conan O’Brien and Kevin Hart, you had them doing actual movements. It’s not just them sitting there doing bicep curls with five-pound dumbbells. Who have you worked with who is like sneaky fit, who people might not necessarily expect?

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 

Oh, OK. There’s this guy. He’s a really incredible actor and his name is Matt Lauria, L-A-U-R-I-A. He got on the acting scene, he really made a splash. It was that “Friday Night Lights” show or whatever.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

OK, yeah.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

One of the best shows I’ve ever seen, he was on this show called “Kingdom.” Kingdom is this MMA gym in Venice. You’ve got Jonathan Tucker as one of the MMA guys, Matt Lauria, incredible great cast. One of the Jonas Brothers is in there. It’s basically this underground understanding of guys and may seem trying to make it, what’s training like.

 

Then Matt, who in real life is married, has two daughters, is vegan, lovely person, is playing this guy and his tagline in the show was The Destroyer. He’s an addict and accidentally killed his father because he was enraged and has all these crazy tattoos.

 

One of the best shows I’ve ever seen, and they have four seasons and ended up stopping it. That guy like, “I need to gain muscle. I need to get super lean. By the way, I’m vegan.” I was like, “How much time do we have?”

 

David TaoDavid Tao

 

I wish all the audience could see your face right now when you make that expression. It’s like a pain smile, it’s like, “Oh, OK.”

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

God bless, it’s amazing, and with effort…His wife…I would go to their house and she made…I’m like, “I can be vegan forever if you cook for me.” But there’s a lot of variables when you look at macros, and what was so incredible about his sneaky athleticism is he’s working with real grapplers. He’s working with real Jujitsu guys. He was doing the full training.

 

The stuff he did with me, I was giving him crazy athletic plyometrics, from powerlifting…His ability positionally was just incredible. I think that what was sneaky about him, what I noticed more than any other famous person I work with — his mindset. He was so “go.”

 

I work with professional athletes. Matt, as a guy that lives in LA with his wife and kids and ex was more focused, more dialed, more mind-body connection, than I’ve ever experienced with another human.

 

I was like, “How…? Who…? Where did you come from?” It was really fun because then they would do these matches in the actual show. Obviously, it’s staged fighting but I feel like he’s really a fight…

 

I would call him by his show name sometimes during the workout because I was just like blown away by his athleticism, so definitely Matt Lauria. He was a sneaker.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

I appreciate that. That’s one that I don’t know what I was expecting here. I think a lot of people like Kevin Hart’s very athletic, I know you’ve worked with him. I don’t know how much contents come out on the mainstream fitness publications about like, “Kevin Hart, actually athletic.” It’s like, “Yeah, OK. You can be athletic and be famous.”

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

Kevin was interesting. They’re like, “Hey, Conan O’Brien needs you to coach him for an episode.” I’m obsessed. I watch him all the time. I love him, yes, yes, yes.

 

Then we were on this planning call, and the producer’s like, “OK, Conan in this and then Kevin’s going to come in.” I’m like, “Hey, Kevin, is there a producer? Is there someone I need to meet?” They’re like, “Oh no, Kevin Hart’s going to be in this with him.”

 

I was like, “Oh my God.” Then I just shit in my pants. I’ve got to now coach Conan and Kevin.” Two people that I think are so funny. I was like, “I’m not going to hold it together. I’m not going to make it.” I’m like, “Oh my God, you’re going to look like such an idiot.”

 

I’ve done live television. I have done so many TV shows, I was more nervous about filming these two hours with those men than anything else I’ve ever done. I’m remember I get there and I talk to Kev and I talked to Conan. They were like really kind and like, “Whatever you say, Jen.” The producers are like, “OK, you’re in charge. You got to work them out hard.”

 

I came up with, again, I’m not doing curls, I’m brought in medicine balls. I really want to make it dynamic and fun, and give them chances to play off each other but actually really work them. Of course, the producers go to them and say, “OK, don’t listen to a word Jen says.” [laughs]

 

There’s got to be bloopers, I’m sure if you go on YouTube. The amount of things that were happening. Conan was trying to get me to check his pulse on his femoral artery, and Kevin, like we were all peeing our pants laughing.

 

In the midst at all, anything I told Kevin to do, he picked up so quickly, and he’s actually so in control of his body and aware. He couldn’t do bad on purpose. He was so with it, he could do anything and very strong. Conan, surprisingly, he’s goofing off but he did great.

 

Of course, they’re not going to show them looking really studly, but both those dudes, I was very impressed with.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Jen, I really appreciate the inside scoop on what’s become a very famous video, you and Conan and Kevin. We are coming up on the end of the podcast but…

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 

I’m sorry.

David TaoDavid Tao

It’s all good. I just wanted, because I know you have…We’re going to have to have you on again. I know that you have a lot more going on, and what I want to ask is where can people keep up to date with what you’re doing, basically?

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 

Social media is easy. It’s just my full name Jen, single N, Jen Widerstrom, and I’m sure, Dave will throw that up in the copy somewhere. I do a newsletter every week or two at widerstrong.com. Sign up. I do all kinds of free content, from recipes and workouts to discounts for my CBD company. Just trying to keep you guys informed and supported, and that’s about it.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Wait, Widerstrong is your website?

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 

Yeah, I get it. Sometimes…

David TaoDavid Tao

 

 That’s good, that’s so good. When did you come up with that?

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

I didn’t. It was Mark Bell. Mark Bell, because he’s a wordsmith and just a crazy man who thinks of the coolest shit. #Slingshot, right? I was on my book tour a few years ago, and I went through Sacramento and he hosted me. We did a whole fun day. Took me to dinner with his wife.

 

The best part is that he gave me my own weight belt and T-shirts. The Super Training is ST. He put “Wider ST”, like strong, so it was Mark Bell that came up with Widerstrong back in 2017. I got to credit my man.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

That’s better than anything you could pay a marketing firm for. That’s just…

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

No. I’m like, “I’m going to use this,” he’s like, “Yeah. You should. I can’t.”

 

He’s like, “It’s you’re fucking last name, so go for it.”

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Jen, thanks so much for joining us. We’ll be sure to post all that up in the show note tonight. I really appreciate your time today.

Jen WiderstromJen Widerstrom

 

You got it my man.

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