For many reasons, strength training for women should be different than men. I hope you don’t want to look like a strongman. For purposes of this article, train your body to burn fat and shape your curves according to your body type (read my article about body types).
You can be a muscular woman without looking too bulky like a man. In my opinion, some women do get too muscular and bulky-looking. Enough said about that…..on to your training….
It is important for women to do movement (functional) strength training. In other words, train your movements and not just your muscles. You should train for the way you want to live. It is important to shape and tone your butt, hips, thighs and arms. But, it is more important to train in a way that improves your quality of life as you walk, run, jump, squat, twist, etc.
For example, if you are going on a ski trip, you need to tailor your exercise program to get your body ready for that activity. Just walking 30 minutes a day won’t get your body in shape for the snow hills and trails. And, if you want to play rec sports, your training needs to be intense and sport specific.
Here are 3 tips to follow during movement strength training:
1. First, you should strengthen and stabilize your core area. The saying “you are only as strong as your weakest link” is true in the case of the human body. All movement begins with the core so you’d better strengthen it. And, the majority of powerful movements are either initiated with or transfer through the body’s core area. Many injuries can also be linked to a weak core area.
Most core exercises should be performed in a standing position if you participate in sports or races. These exercises will also involve the important hip stabilizer muscles and not just the abdominals. A great full-body core exercise is the medicine ball rotational throw (pictured below).
The core exercises should be multi-dimensional and progressive. Many of your daily movements involve twisting, rotating, turning, squatting, bending over, etc. The exercises should also constantly challenge and improve your endurance and balance.
Note: Strength exercises such as standing shoulder press and squats also heavily work the core area.
2. Train your body in all planes of motion:
You want your body to look good in 3-D space……..here’s a summary of the 3 planes of motion:
a) Frontal Plane – an imaginary bisector that divides the body into equal front and back halves. The motions primarily involve abduction and adduction (side-to-side motions). Abduction takes a limb away from the midline of the body and adduction takes the limb closer to the midline of the body.
Examples include hip abductor and hip adductor exercises. Other frontal plane motions would be side lunges (pictured below), dumbbell lateral shoulder raises and side squats. Quickness and agility movements, like side shuffles, require adequate frontal plane stability, strength, power, flexibility and balance.
b) Sagittal Plane – an imaginary bisector that divides the body into left and right halves. The motions involve forward-backward and up-down movements relative to the body and/or joint. Examples would be walking, running, bicep curls, leg curls and seated back rows.
Traditional training techniques (such as training with machine weights) have focused on the sagittal plane of motion. This is not an effective training technique if the other planes of motion are ignored during training.
c) Transverse Plane – an imaginary bisector that divides the body into top and bottom halves. The motions are primarily rotational. As stated above, you will do many turning, twisting and rotating movements at work or play. You should train your body during exercise to perform these movements with strength and ease.
Your body also needs to be stabilized and strengthened before progressing to high-speed power exercises. If this is not done, you are headed for certain injury when more intense exercises are introduced.
Along the same lines, you should perform an exercise correctly before progressing to power exercises. Full body strength training is a great place to start preparing your body for the challenges ahead. Vary your exercises using barbells, dumbbells, medicine balls, stability balls and resistance band exercises, etc.
3. Make regular use of bodyweight exercises. Simply put, bodyweight strength workouts allow you to use natural body motions. Machines limit your natural range of motion. Try doing a squat on the Smith Machine and see how natural that feels.
Train hard and safe with my free bodyweight workout below.
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Mark Dilworth, BA, PES
Her Fitness Hut