The female body needs iron. No, I'm not talking about the mineral. I'm talking about lifting iron in the gym! The moment I started lifting for my own strength, I found beauty, passion, and confidence. When someone tells me I lift like a girl, I take it as a compliment. If you want to be stronger, fitter, and more confident, then you need iron in your life.
Today's workout is ideal if you work out in a busy gym, where you can't afford to waste much time going from one machine to another. You'll need a barbell, the squat rack, and a pumped-up attitude.
Scout the squat rack and set up camp. Prepare yourself physically and mentally to crush this workout. The workout includes eight exercises to target the whole body, with 3 sets of each exercise and 8-10 reps per set. "I don't have enough time" is not an acceptable excuse in my book. With this full-body routine, you'll be in and out of the gym in no time!
Before I start my workout, I make sure I get a really good stretch, especially for my IT band and hip flexors, since these muscles are heavily involved in the movements.
Warm-Up Stretch Routine
To prepare for this squat-rack session, grab a gym towel or stretch band, if available. This quick routine aims to improve your flexibility and keeps your muscles functioning within a full range of motion.
First, you'll stretch the IT band and glutes. Lie on your back, raise one leg straight into the air, and wrap the band or towel underfoot. This gives you leverage to push your leg against to really pull on those tight muscles. By moving your outstretched leg around and to the side, you will feel a decent stretch on the hamstrings and glutes. To emphasize the IT band more, cross and bend the leg to the opposite side of your body, as if you're trying to place your foot on the floor.
Next, to stretch your hip flexors, lie on your elbows, pull one leg into the body with the knee pointing outward, and keep the other leg completely outstretched. Push your stretched leg back to emphasize that hip flexor. Switch to get the other side.
It's time stretch out your back and upper body. Wrap a towel around a sturdy pole and slowly back up, leaving your arms outstretched and butt back. Keep your back from arching and feel the stretch in your lats and upper back.
Next, stretch your chest. Using a towel or band around a sturdy pole, hold onto the band with one arm and twist your body to one side in a lunge position. Switch to the other arm to even out the arms and pectorals.
As a final stretch before the heavy work begins, I like to place one arm behind my head and stretch out the triceps. Don't forget to hit both arms!
Get in the Rack
Once you're warmed up and ready, it's time to get to work! Again, aim for 3 sets per exercise within the 8-10 rep range for each. Keep rest between 45-90 seconds. The idea is to keep things moving at a pace that's right for your individual fitness level. If you need to take breaks, take them, but keep them short.
Before you load the bar with any weight, set safety pins just below the depth of your squat. This way, if you have to bail, you can safely do so. This setup also allows you to release the weight and tension for one quick second at the bottom, and then explode back up to the starting position. This recruits more muscle fibers in the working muscles.
Take a weight belt or chains and wrap them around yourself securely. This isn't a traditional pull-up: I want you to jump up to position your chin above the bar, and then very slowly and in a controlled manner descend to work on the eccentric (negative) portion of the pull-up. Count 5-8 seconds on the way down. This will help build a strong pull-up and strengthen your lats and accompanying back muscles.
You can choose to do a power clean or a hang clean, the latter of which eliminates the first part of the movement. This is a full-body movement that demands speed and power. It's a highly technical move, so be sure to practice it with lighter weights than usual. The starting position of the power clean is like a deadlift, although you have a slightly wider-than-shoulder-width grip and your knees flared out to the sides.
In one quick movement, drive your heels into the ground, pulling the bar up as you do so, and simultaneously drive your hips forward. You want to generate the majority of force from your hips. Imagine that the bar is traveling straight upward along an imaginary vertical line. Rather than muscling up the bar, the bar should shoot up from the powerful hip drive.
Once the bar reaches chin height, get your body under the bar and "catch it" with your hands by jabbing your elbows forward. As I said, this is a highly technical movement and will require a bit of practice before you get it down.
I recommend going heavy on this one and loading up the weight to blast the shoulders. Again, the push press is almost a full-body movement, recruiting a bit of leg drive to get heavier weights overhead. At the top of the push press, lean your head forward a little bit and flex your triceps to stabilize the weight. Not only is this a great exercise for your shoulders, but it also forces your core to work harder than a seated press.
This modified bench press is also commonly referred to as a floor press. The floor press calls for a lot more upper body recruitment because you can't utilize the heel drive you normally would on a bench press. Drop your elbows to a 90-degree angle before you push the weight back up. Since you'll be on the floor, I highly recommend bumper plates so you can get under the bar; otherwise, set up the safety racks.
Perform this classic triceps blaster with a barbell. Using a close-grip, lower the bar to your head and use your triceps to force the weight back up. Imagine that your whole upper body—except for your forearms—cannot move; this way, you isolate the right muscles in the exercise.
Aside from the funny name, the good morning is a great hamstring exercise. For beginners, the bar weight alone should be enough to light up your posterior chain, which includes everything from your hamstrings to your lower back.
Set up like you would for a squat, but rather than lowering your butt, bend your knees slightly and push your butt straight back while bending at the waist. Squeeze your butt and drive your hips forward to return to the starting position. Don't go too heavy on the weight as you get used to this movement to avoid injuring your lower back.
Last but not least, it's time to hit your core hard. This is a great core and upper-body exercise, and a great finisher to this entire routine! Get on your knees and rest your hands on a loaded barbell. Push your hips forward to roll the barbell out with your arms extended as far as you can. Now it's time to brace your core, keep your spine straight, and roll the barbell back toward you for a count of one. That's one rep.
Rack up Your Results
I'm sure you got a great workout! Your body will hate me, but you'll also learn to love me. Remember that your training will never get easier; you'll just keep getting better.