Strength training is an important part of improving your overall fitness, and for women, it can mean much more. In addition to numerous health benefits, adding weights to your routine can become a form of personal development that builds strength in all areas of life. The purpose of this campaign is to celebrate strength training and the strength of all women, no matter their size or life circumstance.
There are many reasons why women should regularly hit the weights, and the following exercises capitalize on those benefits. So get the girls together and try these female-friendly moves the next time you head to the gym.
Why? Because women have wider hips than men, most of us have a wider “Q-Angle,” which puts us at increased risk for ACL injuries. Lateral lunges and other lateral movements help strengthen and stabilize the hips, thus decreasing the risk of injury to the knees.
How: Begin with feet in a narrow stance and then step to the right side, keeping the right foot pointing forward and the knee in alignment over the foot. Sink the right hip down and back while keeping the left leg straight. Squeeze through the hips for stability and bring the left leg in and step together.
Options: This move can be done traveling (i.e., moving across the room) or stationary (i.e., staying in the same spot while alternating sides). It can also be loaded with a medicine ball or unloaded with a TRX Suspension Trainer.
KETTLEBELL SINGLE-ARM SQUAT PUSH-PRESS
Why? Having strong shoulders and the strength and power to put a heavy object overhead is no longer just a man’s job. This functional move helps you gain upper-body strength and power so that you don’t have to ask for help.
How: Begin by holding a medium-weight kettlebell in your right hand next to your chest with the palm facing inward. Drop your hips down and back, then drive through your glutes and return to standing while thrusting the kettlebell into the air. Slowly return the kettlebell to your chest and repeat.
Options: This move can also be done with a dumbbell (with a modified starting position). Also, ensure you have proper squat form before adding a load and speed to it.
TRX LOW ROW
Why: Strengthening the muscles of the upper back helps improve posture, which leads to decreased risk of injury, better power transfer, and taller and more confident aesthetics.
How: Fully shorten your TRX Suspension Trainer and stand facing the anchor point. Keeping the body perfectly planked, walk under to an angle that is safe, yet challenging. Begin the row by retracting and depressing your shoulder blades and then follow through by pulling your body to your wrists, with wrists facing inward; don’t lose your plank.
Options: Can also be done under a Smith machine bar at varied heights.
Why: With higher levels of estrogen, women have the benefit of building shape through strength training without the extra bulk. Pull-ups strengthen and tone the back, which leads to a smaller-looking waist.
How: Begin your pull-ups in an assisted pull-up machine. Using an overhand and shoulder-width grip, contract your outer back muscles and lift your chin to your hands. Keep the body straight and tight as you lower down to the starting position with control.
Options: When enough strength has been established, try this movement on a pull-up bar with no assistance, but be careful not to swing or arch.
Why? Women make fantastic athletes and this functional exercise that targets the hip and knee extensors should be included in every athlete’s repertoire.
How: Step forward into your lunge stance, ensuring the front knee tracks just over the middle toes and both knees bend to 90 degrees. Keep the hips tight and shoulders down and back as you step together with the other leg.
Options: Perform standing body-weight lunges or unloaded lunges with a TRX Suspension Trainer.
Why? This version of a plank helps realign and strengthen the spine, especially after giving birth. The instability of the ball leads to a full-body strengthening and stabilization from the shoulders all the way to the ankles.
How: Begin with your forearms on top of a Swiss Ball and knees on the ground. Keep the shoulders, hips and knees in a perfectly straight line and roll the elbows forward on the ball a few inches and return. As you progress, this movement can be done with your knees off of the ground, with your shoulders, hips and heels in alignment.
Option: If your hips are sagging during this movement, move your plank to the ground until you have gained enough strength to advance to an unstable environment.
Why? Punching feels GREAT! And adding resistance helps improve posture, supports the back and helps us rotate safely for sport and life.
How? Hold the TRX Rip Trainer with both hands palm down in zones 1 (the end of the bar) and 4 (three-quarters of the way down the bar). Begin in the end range of motion with the punching arm fully extended and back leg pivoted. Slowly release the punching arm and then simultaneously pivot the back foot and push and pull with the upper body to punch with power!
Options: Before beginning this exercise, master proper punch mechanics off of the Rip Trainer. The grip on the bar can be varied to increase or decrease difficulty.
Why? Let’s face it. You want a better butt. The answer? Squats. And for those of you are quite satisfied with your hind quarters, squats, like lateral lunges, build strength to protect your knees and help you become the best athlete you can be!
How: With your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, lower your hips down and back, keeping the back angle and shin angle parallel. Choose a depth that is safe for your knees and hips, yet still challenging (this will vary from person to person). Engage your glutes and drive up from the floor.
Options: Squats do not need to be loaded immediately. Begin mastering your squat form with just your body weight or even unloading your weight using a TRX Suspension Trainer.
Of course, all movement is important for women and exercises should be regressed or progressed as appropriate for the person. By adding any resistance training to our workout regimen, we will have stronger bones, feel better and move better for longer—leading to a much more fulfilling life. Now go add some estrogen to that weight room!
A big thanks to Power Keg Crossfit for letting us use their facility!