No matter how much research you do, strength training is just one of those things that can get really confusing. As a result, so many women shy away from it. But if there’s one thing all fitness experts agree on, it’s that strength training should be a part of your regular workout routine.
“Not only is it empowering, it improves functional performance, increases lean body mass, and helps you reach your full potential in other types of exercise,” shares Steph Claire Smith and Laura Henshaw, founders of KICgirls.com.
“As a part our Keep it Cleaner fitness program (KIC) we schedule in strength training every week for these reasons. Our goal is to help the young women on our program realise their strength and feel fierce and confident during and after a workout. And while strength training is great for burning calories, it takes the focus away from weight loss and directs it toward something else—getting stronger!”
“Now let’s get one thing straight. Strong doesn’t mean bulky,” they add. “It also doesn’t have to mean getting ripped, bench pressing your own body weight, or pulling off a six pack that looks like the cheese grater in your kitchen draw. It’s being able to use your body to its full potential, preventing injury, getting toned, smashing your fitness goals and giving you the power to live life to the full.”
Here, the girls share six of their favourite exercises to prove that strength training doesn’t have to be so scary:
Taking all the benefits of a normal squat and throwing in some major muscular endurance for your arms, core, and back.
Start by holding your weight in front of you at shoulder level.
Perform a normal squat by pushing your hips backward, keeping your chest up and ensuring your knees don’t extend over you feet when bending down.
Drive up from the squat and press the kettlebells overhead.
Return to a low squat position and repeat.
Not as scary as they sound. You don’t need any equipment for these – just your beautiful muscles! Time to get down to business with your core, arms and shoulders.
Start in a high plank, shoulders over your hands, your core and glutes engaged and your body straight from head to toe (well, ankle).
Gently bend your right arm and lower your forearm to the ground to support your weight. Do the same with your left arm so that you are now in a low plank.
Maintaining correct form, push your body up with your right arm and then your left to finish back in high plank. That’s one!
Repeat without rest between reps and be sure to alternate your starting arm between sets for an even workout.
Okay, not the most fun of all (they burn!), but boy do squat jumps get results. This one will tone and strengthen your calves, glutes, hammies, core, and quads—yep, the whole shebang!
Start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Do a regular squat – chest up, bend from the hips as if sitting, and be careful not to extend your knees over your toes. Hold your arms either gently out in front of your body or beside your body.
Engaging your core, perform an explosive jump. As you jump, swing your arms up to reach above your head.
Land in a controlled manner keeping your body straight until you hit the ground, then bend smoothly through the knees and lower your body back into your squat position in one fluid motion.
This strength exercise will really get your abs (including your obliques!), core and lower back burning.
Start sitting on the floor with your legs slightly bent and your weights at your stomach
Chest up and shoulders back, partially lean back from your hips so that you are on an incline (engage your core!). Your body should create a V shape with your thighs.
Slowly twist the torso to your left while maintaining perfect form and bring the dumbbell beside your left hip. Return to the center and repeat on the right.
Sitting for this one means that your abs are doing all the work – hello core strength, strong shoulders and toned arms!
Sitting on the ground, hold the kettlebell to your chest, bend your knees and lean back slightly from your hips to create a V shape between your torso and your thighs. Remember: Chest up, shoulders back and engage your core!
Raise your feet slightly off the ground. Find your balance and press the weight above your head. Then slowly lower it back to your chest.
Toned legs, yes please! These are gentle on the knees, but killer on your glutes, hammies and quads.
Stand with your torso upright holding two dumbbells in your hands by your sides. This will be your starting position.
Step backward with your right leg around two feet or so from the left foot and lower your upper body down, while keeping the torso upright and maintaining balance. Inhale as you go down. Tip: As in the other exercises, do not allow your knee to go forward beyond your toes as you come down, as this will put undue stress on the knee joint. Make sure that you keep your front shin perpendicular to the ground. Keep the torso upright during the lunge; flexible hip flexors are important. A long lunge emphasizes the Gluteus Maximus; a short lunge emphasizes Quadriceps.
Push up and go back to the starting position as you exhale. Tip: Use the ball of your feet to push in order to accentuate the quadriceps. To focus on the glutes, press with your heels.
Now repeat with the opposite leg.