Know Your Workout: Training for Strength

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September 3, 2012 by Darlene McC

It’s often assumed in women’s fitness magazines that we all have the same goals: lose weight and do it quickly so you can feel attractive.  Just like we don’t all wear size 8 shoes, we’re not all training to be a size 8 (or size 2) either.  Men’s magazines abound with how to get bigger, women’s with how to get smaller; but what about those who just want to get stronger.   For those of you who are generally happy with your body composition but would like to work toward throwing a car over your head, this is for you.

Wonder Woman Strong

Wonder Woman is no pansy, and neither are you.  I’m not suggesting you go trussing up anyone with your golden lasso, but  think of all you’d be capable of if you were just 10% stronger.  Hefting your groceries & laundry; not asking for help moving furniture; or maybe just trucking up that last flight of stairs.  If you don’t have quality muscle you’re not able to move well.  We think of strength as something athletes need; but every mom knows how important it is to be able to haul your kid around and how many college freshman are a little overwhelmed after that first research trip to the library?  Improved strength can also up your resting calorie burn and help to balance out your overall movement.

We think of strength as bulking someone up; but that’s not really the case, and it all lies in how many reps you are doing and how much weight you’re moving.  10 reps with a short rest period typically causes muscles to bulk up (a common mistake for women trying to slim down is to hit the gym thinking “oh, I’ll just do 10 of these”… then they take a quick break, about 30 seconds, and do 10 more.  That is the exact recipe body builders use.)  BUT, true strength is done with much more weight and shorter reps.  Use the same exercises outlined in the circuit from Know Your Workout: Basic Training For Fat Loss , but with one key difference: chance the reps and rest.

For strength gains you want to do 5 to 8 reps with about 2 minutes between sets.  To give you adequate time to recover, but not have you standing around at the gym, you can do a modified “Super Set”.  As super set is two exercises back to back that you switch between without stopping.  To make sure you get enough rest to recover and repeat do the two exercises, then rest 30 seconds, then repeat.  Check Basic Training For Fat Loss  for how to do the exercises in these super sets:

Super Set 1:
Squat
Offset Pullup (or regular one if you can do 5 to 8)

Super Set 2:
Bridge
Shoulder Press

Super Set 3:
Step Up
Cable Row

Core Set:
Modified Pushup
Plank

So here’s the kicker: every time you lift you need to be lifting heavy enough that you can only do 5 to 8 reps of the exercise you are doing.  If you can do more than 8 you aren’t lifting heavy enough and you wont get as much benefit as you could.  LIFT HEAVIER!! If you’re doing a body weight exercise, such as the bridge, and it’s not hard enough try a one-legged bridge.  If you’re doing step ups and you can do more than 8 pick up a 20lb plate and then try again.  Same goes with squats.

Lift every other day for 2 weeks and then progress your weight (if you max out at 8 reps before then progress sooner).

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One thought on “Know Your Workout: Training for Strength

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