Beauty and the Barbells

I connected with bikini competitor Angela McKie-Burrowes via Facebook. Angela and I go way back from our teen years through a mutual friend. She always enjoyed staying active teaching Belly Dance. A while back, Angela pursued her certification in personal training and began weight training. As she prepares to enter a bikini competition in March, I was thrilled when she made time in her very busy training schedule to answer my questions regarding fitness.

I met Angela at the gym where she endures an intensive routine from her trainer. We were able to chat in a couple of comfy chairs and discuss her program. I asked Angela how she turned her attention from teaching belly dance, to pumping iron. Although she always enjoyed staying active, she was not happy with her physique. A self-proclaimed former “skinny fat”, Angela was always petite at a size zero, but she never felt strong. Always the girl with chicken legs she said, I noticed that Angela now has strong quads, shapely calves, and yes, a solid booty. Not that I touched it, but it looks rock hard. She is now up to a size three. How, you ask? The power of weight training. The power of believing and a lot of hard work. This mom of two proceeds to get a little emotional, as she describes how wonderful it feels to see the transformation of her body.

While seeing her esthetician for an appointment one unassuming afternoon, Angela’s esthetician noticed her evolving form. It just so happened that Angela’s esthetician’s boyfriend was a seasoned bodybuilder and she saw the potential in Angela. Her esthetician informed Angela that her boyfriend could take her to the next level in fitness and suggested she enter a figure competition, as he had trained others to prep for such endeavours. So the seed was planted. Angela contacted this gentlemen and she began to train for the competition.

Next, she took me to one of my favourite places. The weight room floor. From her little bag of tricks, she pulled out a few items. I was intrigued. Two glidders, a skipping rope, slipped on her gloves and adjusted her pony-tail under her baseball hat. She had her game face on. It was time to get to work. After an intense five minutes of intervals on the elliptical machine, Angela says she trains for only about 45 minutes, but it is smart and effective training.

Angela stresses that she does not suggest any form of exercise is wrong and all physical activity is a plus, and she does not advise unless asked for her opinion, however, she is a firm believer in super-sets, drop sets and intense cardio intervals. For example, she did a drop set of bicep curls, had a short rest and started to skip until the next set. Quick, intense bursts of cardio such as skipping, sprinting on a treadmill for 30 seconds to a minute is done while she recovers from her strength set. “I see people on these cardio machines here all the time, going at the same pace and the same time. They won’t change or be challenged because the body is not being pushed. If your goal is muscle mass, endless cardio is not the answer, but you’re doing the opposite of gaining,” she says. Angela loves her glidding plates, and uses them to fit in mountain climbers and dolphin planks.

Angela shares some of her favourite exercises:


Drop set of bicep curls



Feeling the burn with 21’s
Dolphin planks



Cardio burst of jump rope.
Cardio burst of jump rope.


Mountain climbers with gliding plates
Mountain climbers with gliding plates


Wide cable pull for lats

 Lower body. Glutes and legs:


Deep Squats






Angela’s secret to firm glutes? Donkey kicks on the smith machine.
Leg presses








Working the calves from three angles.



My special request. Show me those lats!


IMG_2504This girl who once felt “skinny fat” is proving that weight training does not make a woman bulky or manly, but gives you those beautiful curves. “It’s a whole attitude of positivity,” she beams. “I feel that I am finally pursuing my passion and God is leading me down a new path. Win or lose, this competition has me at a new place in life. Not only physically, but mentally. I want to pass this feeling on to others because it is unbelievable.”

Part two of Beauty and the Barbells. Angela shares her diet and lifestyle adjustment.

13 thoughts on “Beauty and the Barbells

  1. Great story! Weight lifting always makes me feel so strong! I have to keep it in my routine esp with all of the running that I do to avoid injury. Keep up the great work, Angela!!

    1. Thank-you very much. I really like the idea of cross training. Yoga and weight training must keep you in top form for all your marathons.

      I think this is only the beginning for her. She’s such a positive person.

  2. She looks amazing and strong! I with her in that there is not one type of exercise. With cross training, you’re open to a whole range of party tricks (okay tools). It’s how I like to train!

    1. She really does. I incorporated those smith machine donkey kicks in my workout this week and they were tough. I think you can’t go wrong with cross training. You’re covering all areas of fitness.

  3. Wow, Angela is an inspiration! I love all of those moves! The mountain climbers on the plates look awesome and I’ve never heard of dolphin planks before. I want to try those!

    1. She really has inspired me to challenge myself. Those dolphin planks are tough. I did them in HIIT. It is bringing the feet toward the hands from a plank position. Flipper must have a great abs!

    1. I must confess, I was a “I must do twenty solid minutes on the treadmill or step climber” kind of thinker. Usually not pushing myself. With Angela’s approach, I find I am doing a lot more burpees, sprinting and mountain climbers between strength sets and I work much harder with this philosophy.

  4. PS: That last machine (pic) should become your best friend! Great way to increase strength for the eventual set of 10 unassisted pull-ups you’re going to crush soon! 🙂

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