Name: Nia Shanks
Occupation: Personal trainer, health writer, and leader of the "lift like a girl" revolution.
There's no doubt that strength training is an incredibly effective and efficient way to build a sexy, lean, healthy body that looks great in and out of your clothes.
But these great physique-carving perks are only the tip of the strength-training-benefits iceberg. So ladies, listen up. It's time to put down those little dumbbells and put the "strength" back in strength training. It's time to add more weight to the barbell and put some bigger lifts in your regimen. You're about to discover how getting stronger in the weight room can have a huge impact on your mind and body.
Here are four great reasons to make strength gains your primary training focus.
Getting stronger increases your mental power
When my women clients achieve feats of strength they thought were out of reach for them—like performing their first bodyweight chin-up or deadlifting more than their bodyweight—they become noticeably more confident. They begin to carry themselves differently; and things that may have been intimidating before, no longer are. As a result, many women step out of their initial comfort zones, try new things and take more risks in and out of the gym.
This is why strength training is so amazing. Pulling or pushing against the weight of an iron bar not only increases our physical strength, but our mental strength as well. It allows women to shatter self-imposed limitations and discover new capabilities.
And let's be honest: performing a flawless set of push-ups or deadlifting 1.5 times your bodyweight for the first time feels amazing. You can't help but be empowered.
This benefit alone makes lifting heavy things a priceless pursuit.
Getting stronger increases your long-term workout motivation
Strength training is not a quick fix to build a better-looking body for a single swimsuit season. It should be an activity you maintain for the rest of your life. And in my experience, focusing solely on getting stronger and improving one's performance has proven to be a phenomenal way to increase workout motivation for the long-term. Here's why:
First, the goal of getting stronger is incredibly motivating. When your workouts revolve around adding more weight to the bar or performing more reps with a particular weight, you always have a specific goal for the day. Specific goals take out a lot of guesswork and make workouts and fitness programs run a lot more smoothly.
Too many people go to the gym and work out without any defined purpose. Those people are mostly worried about burning as many calories as possible and achieving a high level of fatigue. Achieving fatigue is not a worthwhile goal and makes consistent motivation damn-near impossible.
But when you know that you have to do a little bit better than you did last week, you have an enjoyable, tangible mission—one that you can actually measure and track in your workout log.
Second, when women get stronger and are able to accomplish milestones we don't think are possible, we're left wondering "Wow, what else can I do?" When that happens, the switch has been flipped. Getting bit by the strength-bug means you won't ever have to worry about feeling motivated again. You'll always want to push to see how much better you can be.
This is an incredibly powerful factor because consistently training will lead to those better-body results you're after. Even better, you'll maintain these results long-term because you'll be hooked for life!
Getting stronger means you'll focus on the weight of the bar, not the scale
If your goal is to lose body fat or just look better, you probably rely on the bathroom scale to gauge your success. As a result, you can almost become obsessed with the number glaring back at you.
But something powerful happens when women ditch the scale and instead focus on the weight on the barbell . By striving to get stronger, it's much more likely you'll worry more about how much weight you're pushing, pulling, or squatting than what number you see on your bathroom scale.
For a lot of women, this is a big deal. Your opinion of your body should be based on what it can do and achieve, not on its relationship with gravity. When you measure success by what more you can do instead of how much less you can weigh, you'll be much, much happier.
And here's the truly awesome part: When you focus on getting stronger and constantly perform a little better each time you repeat a workout, you'll still achieve those physique-carving goals; they just become incredible side effects.
Getting stronger instills pride and self love
Nia's Favorite Lifts
Deadlift (conventional, sumo, trap bar)
Squat (back squat, front squat, goblet squat)
Barbell push press
Many women want to look amazing, and there's not a thing wrong with that. But I think it's crucial that we start to love our bodies, not just for how they look, but for what they can do. Strength goals help you to love your body because of its physical abilities. You don't have to wait until you improve your body fat percentage; you can be proud of your body right now, at this very moment.
Learning to love you body for what it can do instead of how it looks is freeing. You're no longer chained to that idea of perfection, and that freedom is an unbelievable feeling.
So ditch the "bikini booty" workouts and unleash your true strength.
Start getting stronger today!
I encourage you to focus solely on getting stronger for the next 6-8 weeks, at least. Make your workouts about doing a little better than you did last week by adding weight to the barbell or grabbing heavier dumbbells.
Here's a sample get-stronger workout program that will bring life to the above benefits!
- Barbell Squat
2 sets of 6 reps, 2 sets of 10 reps
4 sets of 6 reps
- Push Press
4 sets of 6 reps
- Hyperextension(Back Extension)
3 sets of 10-15 reps
4 sets of 5
4 sets of 8 reps
4 sets of 8 reps
2 sets of 8 reps each leg, 2 sets of 10 reps each leg
Rotate these two workouts and perform them three times per week on non-consecutive days. You may also include brisk walks or other fun physical activities on non-lifting days. If you only have time to train twice per week, do so with at least two days of rest between workouts.
The goal for each workout is simple: do a little better than you did last time. You can perform an extra rep per set or slightly increase the weight on each lift. For bodyweight exercises, use a more challenging variation. For example, work up to doing push-ups on your feet instead of your knees.
For each exercise, I suggest using the same weight until you can perform 2-3 more reps than what's listed above. Once you can do that, increase the weight slightly (or choose a more difficult variation) and start back at the provided rep range.
Rinse, repeat, and become a stronger, more awesome version of yourself!