Though I don’t often link to them here (as the articles are tough to find online), I sometimes end up sourced as a training expert in publications that range from Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness to Shape, Self and Seventeen.
Usually, what ends up in the magazine is just a few pull quotes, and a workout pictorial based on my recommendations. So I realized I might as well also start cataloguing my full responses to magazine requests here.
Find below, at the request of Health magazine, “seven lady-friendly moves for the weight room.” One great way to learn all seven is to join a CrossFit gym. (I can recommend one!) But if you want to work out at home, or in a gym to which you already belong, the below can certainly get you started.
As is pretty much always the case, these lifts for ladies are also great lifts for guys. If you don’t currently use any of them in your workouts, try them out!
Below, find seven lady-friendly moves for the weight room. I tried to focus in on movements that are easy to learn and to perform safely, but that pack a lot of fitness punch.
In my experience, most women don’t want to look like bodybuilders, so a lot of dude lifting classics (cf., the bicep curl) aren’t great choices. Instead, they’d rather look like athletes, so they should probably train like athletes. Hence the seven movements here, which are core choices I’d use in training someone like a triathlete or pro volleyball player.
Unlike the bicep curl, which is an ‘isolation movement’ (it hits just one muscle), all seven of these are ‘compound movements’, which use a bunch of muscle groups at the same time. Those movements are more effective for building strength that transfers out of the gym and into the real world, and they’re more efficient, as you can get a full-body workout with less movements and therefore in less time.
According to the exercise physiology research, if you’re using weights heavy enough to be safe yet challenging for these moves, you could even do just a single set of 8–10 reps of each movement, two to three times a week, and see solid results.
To the movements!
- Goblet Squat. The squat is the king of lifts from an athletic perspective, and there’s no faster way to strengthen and tone your upper legs. Barbell squats (what you normally see in the weight room) are a great movement, but they require real coaching to safely master. The goblet squat is an easy to learn alternative, and can be done with less equipment (either a single dumbbell or a kettlebell), yet still packs a serious punch.Here’s a good article on form.
- KB Deadlift.. If the squat is the king of lifts, the deadlift is the queen – and it’s probably the best booty exercise there is. Like the squat, this also hits your upper leg, and it works the muscles in your back and core. Here, too, the barbell version of the lift is a great choice, if you have some good coaching and instruction. However, a kettlebell, or a dumbbell stood on its end (you can hold onto the top of the weight, rather than the handle ), makes an easy to learn but equally effective movement.Two good videos, here and here.
- DB Press. To rock a tank top, you need to hit your shoulders and arms, which means pressing. Instead of a bench press, I’d recommend an overhead press, as it’s a much more functional, athletic movement – you’ll be set the next time you’re on a flight, and need to put your bag into the overhead bins!Video.
- KB Swing. Kettlebells have become increasingly popular of late, and for good reason: they build explosive athletic power, in a way that transfers to a lot of sports. Done well, a kettlebell swing is about driving with your hips, not about pulling with your arms, so it’s also a great way to work your glutes. And done at higher repetitions, it’s a pretty blazing cardio workout.
Here’s my buddy Tim teaching form.
- Pullup. Women tend to psych themselves out about pull-ups, probably because of terrible memories from high school gym class. But, really, women can do pull-ups. We have literally hundreds who can bang out full sets of them at our gym in NYC, and virtually all of them came in the door unable to do a single one. The best way to get pull-ups is: practice doing pull-ups. To make that possible, all you need is a little assistance. If you loop a stretch band (you’ll see these at most gyms and physical therapists’ offices) over the bar, then put stand on the end of the band, you can use it to help boost you up over the bar. Start with as thick of a band as you need, and over time move towards smaller and smaller bands. Soon enough, you’ll be able to rock them without assistance.A good video (with an awesome Australian accent).
- Wall Ball. The wall-ball is a fun but deceptively tough exercise: take a medicine ball (in CrossFit workouts, experienced women usually use 14 pound balls, with beginners using 6 or 10 pounders), squat down, and then drive up to throw the ball at a 9-foot-tall target on a wall. Catch the ball, and drop down into a squat to repeat. There’s a great CrossFit workout, named “Karen”, based on simply timing how quickly you can finish 150 wall-balls. (The best women in the world can do it in about 5:00 minutes.)Here’s a classic CrossFit demo video.
- Box Jump And, finally, the box jump. This is another great athletic movement that works the muscles of your legs, builds explosive power and provides real cardiovascular challenge when strung together for multiple reps.
Learn the form here.
As above, you can these as the basis of cardio, not just as strength training, by mixing and matching movements, and then trying to move through them quickly.
For example, set a timer for twenty minutes, and see how many rounds you can do of 10 KB Swings and 10 Wall Balls in that time.
Or start a stopwatch, and see how fast you can do a workout like:
50 Goblet Squats
40 KB Deadlifts
30 Box Jumps
20 DB Presses