Every woman should strength train.
Young women; women 40 and older; women who just want to look better; women who want to improve their performance in a sport or hobby; busy women; women who want a higher quality of life. Strength training is for every single woman.
Strength training with the goal of getting stronger – with mostly compound exercises that allow for increased loading over time like squats, deadlifts, rows, and presses – is one of the greatest activities women can do for their body, and life.
1. Boost Confidence and “See What You’re Made of”
This is perhaps one of the best benefits to getting stronger, and one you need to experience for yourself.
Most women who’ve never strength trained are unaware of their dormant strength and physical potential just waiting to be unleashed (thanks in part to things like “girl push-ups” and other unnecessary modifications for women). But once they commit to a progressive strength training regimen and work toward deadlifting their bodyweight (and much more), bust out their first unassisted pull-up, and continue adding weight to the barbell, they become gleefully aware of their previous untapped abilities.
“I didn’t know I was that strong – I wonder what else I can do,” is a common, beautiful remark shortly after a woman begins training.
This confidence boost spills into your daily life: getting stronger reveals “what you’re made of” and can help you bravely venture out of your comfort zone and attack new tasks or activities. That activity you’ve always wanted to try, but weren’t confident in your physical ability to attempt, is now doable.
Don’t underestimate the profound effect strength training can have on your entire life.
2. Build the Body You Really Want
Regardless of the terminology used – get toned, lose fat, attain “the athletic look” – the goal is essentially the same: improved body composition. Call it what you want but most women want to feel and look better in their clothes, lose excess fat, and build some curves in the process.
Strength training is the best tool to “sculpt” the body you want.
You lose fat primarily through a caloric deficit, largely in part to how you eat. But building curves and “toning up” is a job accomplished best by strength training. (Yes, strength training helps you lose fat too, but nutrition is an important part of the equation.) A common mistake women make is relying heavily on cardio for transforming their body. Do yourself a favor: if you want to lose fat start strength training today. You can engage in other activities that get your body moving, but commit to getting stronger.
To lose fat or transform your body, devote time to getting stronger, primarily with the large, basic exercises. Each time you repeat a workout, do a little better than last time (e.g., increase the weight, perform more reps with the same weight).
If you’re a beginner and need a great place to start, refer to The Women’s Beginner Strength Training Guide.
Have you been training with squats, deadlifts, presses, and rows and want a new routine? Refer to The Ultimate Lift Like a Girl Workout Template.
3. Empowering Goals
Too many women get sucked into the mindset that burning a ton of calories is all that matters. So they mount a cardio machine and judiciously track the calories burned, as displayed on the machine. Or if they do perform strength training workouts their primary concern is “going hard” and accumulating as much fatigue as possible by performing dozens of exercises and keeping rest to a minimum.
The level of soreness or exhaustion they experience from the workout is what they use to determine whether it was successful. (“Wow, I am so sore today. That workout must’ve been incredible.”)
A proper strength training program doesn’t use exhaustion, soreness, or fatigue to gauge the success of the session. What matters is improving your performance, gradually. Adding more weight to the bar or doing more reps than last time is an empowering goal, unlike working out solely for the number of calories you “torch” during a 30-minute cardio bout or tiresome circuit training.
Forget about going to the gym “for the burn”: set performance-based goals like squatting your bodyweight or deadlifting 1.5 times your bodyweight, then start working toward them. If, for example, you work toward squatting your bodyweight and performing bodyweight chin-ups, your body will undoubtedly look different. And you’ll actually enjoy the process that leads to that outcome.
Enter the gym with the sole purpose of beating your previous workout performance. Last week you may have squatted 95 pounds for five reps. This week squat 95 pounds for six, or add weight and squat 100 pounds for five reps.
Here’s a sample progression for a workout that calls for 4×5-6 (4 sets, 5-6 reps):
- Week 1 – Squat 95x4x5 (95 pounds, 4 sets, 5 reps each set)
- Week 2 – Squat 95x4x6
- Week 3 – Squat 100x4x5
- Week 4 – Squat 100x4x6
The double-progression method was used in this example: use the same weight until you reach the high end of the rep range, and then increase the weight the following workout and return to the low end of the rep range.
Focus on improving your performance – getting stronger – and you’ll build a stronger, leaner, healthier body.
4. Stress Relief
You know those days we all experience, where one thing after another just doesn’t go as we expected. Your alarm didn’t go off, the dog puked on the rug (is that a Lego?), you spilled coffee on your blouse on the way to work, and a coworker called in sick leaving you to pick up the extra workload.
Finally, the day is almost over. Time for some barbell therapy.
Strength training is a great way to alleviate stress – to forget about the things that went wrong earlier into the day. You can pour that energy into training. That’s the beautiful thing about strength training: when you’ve got a heavy barbell on your back, you can’t think about anything other than getting it out of the rack, setting your feet, getting a big breath, holding your back rigid, lowering under control, and then squatting back up once you hit proper depth.
Training is your alone time. What you do for you. For your sanity.
5. Leading by Example
Most information targeted towards women is about losing fat, fixing your flaws, reaching a smaller number on the scale, tricking yourself into eating less, punishing yourself for overindulging, and similar goals.
And it’s a damn shame. (And it’s also bullshit.)
When you decide to train for strength, improving your health, and ultimately becoming the best version of yourself, you’re leading by example and showing young women (and men) that women can choose to focus on things other than a number on the scale. That instead of striving to lose weight and be smaller versions of ourselves that we can, and should, become more. That you can do a workout because it makes you feel great, capable, and empowered.
Health and fitness doesn’t have to be about getting skinny and losing body fat. Let’s show the young women and men in our lives the positive, rewarding journey of strength training.
6. Other Methods for Building a Better Body Have Failed
Many women who try proper, progressive strength training for the first time have already experimented with other activities in hopes of building a better body: running, workouts that are all about burning as many calories as possible, using very light weights and performing high reps with just a few isolation exercises, etc.
And none of those activities produced the results they were promised. They’re frustrated and burned out.
If you aren’t satisfied with the results you’ve achieved with other forms of exercise or you’re trying to determine what you should do as your first choice of activity, commit to strength training.
You’ve tried everything else – now do what works.
7. Prevent Diseases such as Osteopenia and Osteoporosis
Let’s face it: most women work out because they want to look better. However, there are numerous overlooked benefits to strength training that must not be ignored. Strong bones may not be a “sexy” benefit, but it’s incredibly valuable. Women should participate in load-bearing activities to prevent conditions and diseases such as osteopenia; strength training works perfectly.
Strength training has benefits beyond the aesthetic realm. Sure, lifting weights and getting stronger will make you look better naked, but it can also improve your health and quality of life.
8. Bring Out The Best in You
Strength training is a tool that will allow you to highlight your unique strengths.
Every woman’s body is unique – we all have different heights, shapes, and anthropometry, and this is a glaring reason why another woman’s body shouldn’t be your measuring stick for success. My body type (long limbs, short torso) allows me to excel at deadlifting. The opposite body type (short limbs, long torso) usually means that person can excel at squatting and pressing.
Strength training allows you to highlight your strengths so you can bring out the best in you. It’s not about trying to look or perform like someone else – strength training is a journey that lets you take advantage or your innate physical features and abilities, and magnify the hell out of them.
It’s about being the best version of yourself.
There are many additional reasons women should strength train, but those should be enough to convince you get started now, or to continue the journey.
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