Ladies, the time has come to descend from the ivory tower of the women's workout room at your comfortable gym, step up to the platform, and get under a barbell. It's time to put down the chrome dumbbells (I know, I know, they're "helping you tone"), and pick up some actual weight. You'll get better, faster results.
Some women give heavy lifting a bad rap. Let me ease your worried mind: No, it will not make you "bulky." No, it will not make you "look like a dude." And no, it will not suddenly push your testosterone to chest-hair-sprouting levels. Lifting to your limits—safely and with good form—will boost your metabolism, develop and define your muscles, and improve your overall strength.
Even if you're not interested in becoming a bikini pro, powerlifter, or something in between, you should be concerned with the longevity and reliability of your body. That's where these basic compound lifts come into play. They make you stronger and more athletic. They tighten the mind-muscle connection. They breed mental toughness.
No matter your age or fitness level, adding these lifts to your regimen will make you feel great, knowing full well the incredible things your body suddenly can do.
The deadlift may be the single-best movement for increasing your overall strength level. What could be more functional than lifting a heavy weight off the ground?
A sumo deadlift resembles a regular deadlift, except your feet are wide and turned out, and your hands grasp the barbell in a close grip. Sumo deadlifts are great for women because they require more leg strength than back strength. Low hips and wide legs, plus a low center of gravity, make sumo deadlifts an excellent hip, glute, and leg workout.
Added Bonus: No need to wait for hubby to get home to move furniture. Lift heavy household items on your own! Plus, after you've rocked the deadlift, you'll never fear another barbell lift.
Front squats make you a better overall lifter and athlete. Because the weight is held at the front of your body rather than behind your neck, your base, core, and legs all grow accustomed to gettin' low.
Front squats put less pressure on the spine, allowing you to do the movement with your spine in a more natural position. If your back is in poor shape, front squats are better than back squats. Although you won't be able to lift as much weight as you would in a back squat, you'll still get intense training.
Added Bonus: Power comes from your base. Strengthen it, and you'll someday rule the world. Also, getting down in the gym means you can get down on the dance floor.
You want a muscular back that makes your waist look smaller? You want to increase your upper body strength? You want to be able to save yourself if you're dangling off a cliff face? You need pull-ups.
Most women have weaker upper-body strength and carry their weight in their booty and thighs. Our pear-shapes make pull-ups extremely difficult. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to do modified pull-ups that will give you the same benefits until you're strong enough to do them without assistance. Use a weight-assisted machine, a band, kip, or swing. Any of these variations will increase your strength and develop some wicked musculature.
Added Bonus: You'll look totally bad-ass in the gym. How many other women do you see doing pull-ups?
The push press is not only fun, but it will also help develop those much-sought-after sexy shoulders. If you're unfamiliar with the exercise, it might take a few tries to ace the movement. Once you do, you'll never look back.
Push presses are great because you can feel your energy usage: it comes from the floor and goes all the way up to your hands. This movement primarily hits your shoulders, but you'll use your legs, core, and back as well.
Added Bonus: The push press can give your coordination a major boost, and it also transfers well to all types of athletics. Plus, you'll look so awesome doing it that you'll have Dudley Dude-Bro asking for a spot.
We're focusing here on exercises that work multiple muscles at the same time, not machine motions that painstakingly work your body one-single-freaking-muscle at a time. You've got places to be, right? Once you've got the hang of it, the hang snatch is one of the best full-body movements on the planet.
Although it requires a fair amount of coordination and balance, the hang snatch isn't so difficult that you need a Ph.D. in Olympic lifting. You'll push with your legs, pull and push with your upper body, and use your core to maintain balance and control. Throwing weight over your head increases speed, strength, and power.
Working on the hang snatch can help you learn a good full extension, develop a stronger mind-muscle connection, and increase your coordination for other, more difficult movements. Keep working on the hang snatch, and sooner or later you'll be saying, "Power cleans? Clean and jerks? No problem!"
Added Bonus: Get this one down, and you'll feel so strong that "tough," "hardcore," and "warrior princess," will be the necessary descriptors.