Muscle & Strength Talks With Health Coach And Fitness Model Sarah Varno

Sarah Varno
Quick Stats
  • Sarah Varno
  • Acton, MA
  • 34
  • 5’6”
  • 15
  • 140 lbs
  • Click Here
A passion for fitness and athletics, Sarah discusses the training, cardio and eating approaches that have allowed her to maintain an amazing physique.

What is your athletic background, and how did you get involved with fitness?

I started playing soccer and basketball at the age of 5. Being athletic was instilled in my blood. People were amazed at how athletic I was! Not to toot my own horn, but I was GOOD! I played everything from pickup games to recreational teams, junior Olympics, and high school sports.  Realizing I needed to stay in shape and wanting to live a healthy lifestyle, I turned to the gym. I loved lifting weights and saw immediate results. Being conditioned at an early age was extremely important.

Sarah VarnoI remember when other gym members would comment on my physique back then when I only weighed 120 lbs. I was super lean. Since then, I have packed on another 20 lbs of solid muscle. Although I have never had the interest of competing, I have always loved the look of females with muscle. This led me to the interest in female fitness modeling.

I started researching photographers and magazines and began shooting with top models around the world! I was thrilled to meet such amazing women who shared the same interests as me. Since 2003 I have appeared in numerous fitness magazines such as Planet Muscle, American Curves, Men’s Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, and Muscle Magazine International. In the last few years I have grown to love the other side of the camera as well and often do my own shots! I feel honored to be a role model for other women who strive, everyday, to look good and feel better about themselves.

What does your current training and split look like, and what do you like most about it?

It took me quite a few years to figure out my body, what it liked and didn’t like. I have always enjoyed lifting heavy weights because I needed to build muscle in certain areas to balance out my body. I try to listen to my body on a daily basis because it’s a great indication to what I will be doing for a workout.

I honestly believe there is no right way or wrong way to train, as long as what you do works for you! I’m a firm believer in supersetting all or most of my sets. I don’t need to work out for hours to see results. My body loves to be pushed hard, and that can be done in as little as 20 minutes sometimes. You’d be surprised but sometimes those are my best workouts! Because I train clients and instruct 3 classes a week I need to balance out my own workouts. I do have my favorite muscle groups though...don’t we all?

  • Monday - Arms. Either morning or afternoon power-walking, 30 minutes. 30 minutes of instructing complete upper body using light weights. I don’t have a chest routine because I get enough of it in class!
  • Tuesday - Legs. Either morning or afternoon power-walking, 30 minutes. 30 minutes of instructing leg class consisting of lunges, squats, plyos.
  • Wednesday - Back and Shoulders. Either morning or afternoon power-walking, 30 minutes. 30 minutes of instructing ab/core class.
  • Thursday - Either morning or afternoon power-walking, 30 minutes.
  • Friday, Saturday and Sunday - OFF

Sarah Varno

My cardio is based on the seasons in New England. I’m not thrilled about indoor cardio so I enjoy power-walking outside as many times as I can in between clients. During the colder weather I usually hit the treadmill for some power-walking. (My body generally responds well to 25-30 minutes per cardio session)

Exercise Sets Reps
Incline Dumbbell Curl 3 5-8
Barbell Curl - 21s style 4 12
Dumbbell Curl 3 8
Cable Curl 3 6-8
Tricep Extension with Rope 3 6-8
Overhead Cable Extensions 3 6-8
Exercise Sets Reps
Leg Extension (3 foot variations - 4 reps per variation) 3 12
Leg Curl 3 6-8
Cable Kickback 3 12-20
Cable Side Leg Lift 3 12
Glute Kick back 3 6-8
Back and Shoulders
Exercise Sets Reps
Lat Pull Down 3 6-8
Seated Cable Row 3 6-8
Dumbbell Row 3 6-8
Dumbbell Overhead Press 3 6-8
Dumbbell Front Raise 3 6-8
Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3 6-8

Sarah VarnoHow often do you change your training routine, and do you periodize your training?

I have always believed in changing up my routines. Even after 15 years of weight training I’m still sore after my workouts. I usually go a few weeks at a time before changing an entire program I have been using, otherwise I might add or take out a certain exercise. Too many people often get comfortable with a routine and then wonder why they’re not seeing results. The key is to listen to your body, and keep it guessing.

Which do you prefer, and why…steady state cardio or HIIT?

My body doesn’t need a lot of cardio; therefore I can get away with steady state power-walking. Don’t get me wrong, if I’m on the treadmill and a great song comes on I’m all for picking up my pace, however, I honestly enjoy a power-walk than a run.

My clients are a different story. 99% of my clients need to lose weight, which brings me to personalized HIIT programs. They need the individualized cardio programs created for their bodies and medical history. I start with 75% of their heart rate and change their speed and/or incline to 85/90% of their heart rate. After a month I change up their cardio programs again. They get results because my programs work!

What are your favorite 5 muscle building exercises and why?

  • Seated incline curls: I feel I have a lot of control while seated. I can take each arm and make it work to its potential.  t starts me out for a great pump!
  • Leg extensions: Since I do 3 foot variations my quads feel it tons! Especially curling heavy weight, it has made great gains in my definition as well.
  • Dumbbell shoulder press: One of my heavier lifts that I really enjoy! Presses have given me nice thick shoulders, and have developed quite nicely over the years. I really enjoy the movement of overhead presses and look forward to shoulder days!
  • Incline sit-ups holding heavy dumbbell: Using a weight really helps my abs pop out! Incline sit-ups have to be done just right though. The movement is very small and each contraction is very important. This exercise has really helped my core strength and has created my V-shape!
  • Deadlifts: I sort of have a love/hate relationship with these guys, haha. I enjoy the stretch in my hamstrings; however I usually can’t walk normal for 3-4 days! I have to stretch constantly! To be honest, my hamstring area is my trouble zone and therefore makes me motivated to work them all the more!

Sarah Varno

Do you have any gym, muscle building or fitness pet peeves?

YES! My biggest pet peeves are people who have outrageous form while performing exercises! I understand not everybody is knowledgeable, so I try to help those I can. The second is people whose body odor permeates throughout the entire facility: FOLKS, IT’S CALLED SHOWER & DEODORANT! The third is people who don’t put weights and plates away. It’s a common courtesy to re-rack weights!

What advanced training techniques work well for you?

I LOVE supersetting almost everything! I get a great pump, it keeps my heart-rate up and I get my workouts done! I really enjoy tri-setting when I’m in a rush and I need to get a workout in between clients. This really shocks my muscle groups and keeps everything guessing.  Because I do lift heavy, I have no choice but to lift slowly, making sure my safety is in check and so I can actually do sets without a spotter.

Sarah VarnoExample:

  • Biceps: I will superset seated incline curls with standing straight-bar (full range, low half, upper half).
  • Back: I will tri-set lat pull-downs, seated rows and upper cable rows together.

How do you prepare meals? Do you cook daily or cook for the week?

Preparing ahead of time is key! I cook meat about 3 times per week. Usually Sundays is my biggest cooking day and I will make something I can have for a few days. Because I work a split shift, I can come home and cook in the afternoon if needed. I always cook my organic chicken in each pack all at once. Veggies are easy to heat and take no time at all; however I do like to heat them just before I eat them because otherwise they get soggy. My usual meals consist of 4oz chicken with either asparagus or broccoli.

A couple times per week I will have salmon and a salad. My meals are very easy to prepare and having that grab and go method makes my life a lot easier!

What are your thoughts of niche diet approaches like the Paleo Diet, Adkins Diet, Keto Runs, the Warrior Diet, Intermittent Fasting, etc.?

I definitely don’t believe in diets! In fact, if I have a client whose on one I make them get off it so I can teach them about foods, fats, protein and carbs. This is why diets don’t work! They don’t teach the individual about serving sizes and why their eating certain foods.

Diets may work at first because the person is usually eating better than they previously were, however the moment they stop the diet, they have no idea how to manage their foods; what to eat, how much, when to eat etc. It’s all about “healthy eating” folks…it’s not rocket science!

If someone wants to connect with you, where can you be found?

  • Website: my personal training site for local clients, however, I do offer online training as well.
  • Facebook: Facebook fan page for people who want to keep up with my modeling.

Sarah Varno