Women are now chasing strength goals in the gym arguably more than they ever have before. The popularity of strength sports has skyrocketed in recent years and we are embracing the idea of not only achieving goals of being fit, but actually using our bodies to do what we once deemed unthinkable. Maybe you're a beginner, or maybe you're an intermediate or advanced lifter in terms of years in the gym—regardless, there may be movements or exercises you have yet to challenge yourself with or master.
Remember, these are goals, which means they'll take work to reach. Even though some may sound unattainable or even absurd, you might end up surprising yourself if you put in the time to get good at them—and these will only lead to bigger goals!
1. 2-Position Active Hang
On a pull-up bar, jump up and hold yourself in the top position of the pull-up (chin above the bar) for 30 seconds, then lower in a controlled manner. Hang with your arms completely straight for 60 seconds. This is the ideal timeframe, but the best way to start is baby steps, maybe 5 seconds at the top and 15-20 seconds at the bottom.
Each time you practice the active hang, try to add a little more time than you did the last time you performed the exercise. These are an excellent way to train for mastering strict pull-ups if you're not quite there yet!
If you find that your upper-body strength isn't sufficient, check out Meg Squats' Uplifted. This eight-week plan consists of five workouts a week and is designed to build serious strength.
2. Heavy Kettlebell Swings
Often, you'll see people doing kettlebell swings for high reps as part of a metabolic conditioning workout to increase aerobic capacity and muscular endurance. And it's definitely a movement you want to have proper form with before you jump up in weight. But the rapid movement combined with a hip hinge seems to deter people from going heavier, and this is where you could be missing out on some serious strength benefits.
Kettlebell swings incorporate the entire body and have the potential to build powerful glutes and hamstrings—but if you're always doing them with light weight, you're not forcing strength adaptations. If you can pick up the heaviest kettlebell in your gym (yes, the one you're secretly really afraid of) and swing it for 5-10 reps, we'd say you've got some serious posterior chain gains.
If you like training with kettlebells, FYR: Hannah Eden’s 30-Day Fitness Plan incorporates them regularly. This five-week program is great for losing weight and improving full-body conditioning.
3. Hollow Body Hold for 60+ Seconds
A strong and stable core is essential to performing any strength movement properly and safely to reduce risk of injury—plus, who doesn't want a rock-solid midsection? These hollow body holds might appear easy, but don't be shocked if you find your body shaking after only a few moments.
For a hollow body hold, your arms, shoulders, and legs should be raised off the ground and your lower back flat to the floor. Both arms and legs are straight and active. The beginning stage of this movement is to bring your knees toward your chest, and slowly over time extend your legs outward.
A great way to improve your core strength is by following a plan such as Home Body. Clocking in at eight weeks, this plan requires minimal equipment and is perfect for beginners.
4. 10-20 Strict Push-Ups
Push-ups are one of the most basic bodyweight exercises you can do, yet many women find them one of the most difficult. In fact, they loathe doing them. But maybe there just isn't a lot of incentive or understanding as to why they're worth doing—why do a push-up when you can do a chest press machine or flat bench dumbbell presses? But friends, they are so not the same thing. Push-ups require your entire body to engage, especially your core, legs, and upper body.
Once you can finally brag about not having to do them off your knees, which is satisfying in itself, you can progress up to doing 10 or more. Moving your own body weight is an empowering thing.
Having mastered the strict push-up, you'll find using chest machines much easier when you embark on a plan such as Jamie Eason’s LiveFit 12-Week Trainer.
5. Sotts Press
Now, at first glance, you might wonder why this is considered a "strength" goal. However, the mobility and stability required to actually perform this movement will improve as you progress and will also help you develop strength in both overhead positions and bottom position of a squat.
If you're someone interested in CrossFit or weightlifting, this is an exercise that will definitely carry over into the snatch or clean and jerk. And even if you're not, the Sotts press might still be worth your time—improving your mobility and stability for overall health and quality movement is never a bad thing in our book.
6. A Real Clean (and Jerk for Bonus Points)
Maybe you've seen Olympic weightlifters and CrossFit athletes perform cleans and think it'll never be something you can do. It's a highly technical, explosive lift, but that's where the benefits begin.
Many will brush this off as a lift that is useless if you're not an athlete. However, cleans will teach you body awareness, challenge multiple muscle groups, and help you develop speed and power, anaerobic endurance, core strength, and stability.
Plus, it's pretty hard to get bored learning this lift—you'll always have something to work on to challenge your brain and body, whether its technique or strength related. And once you nail it, you'll look pretty badass while you're at it!