The Truth About Women's Training, Part 2
One of the things I see in training nowadays is more women getting out there. And by out there I mean outdoors. I think it’s great when women are willing to get dirty while training. Dust, dirt, mud, chalk, sweat, rain, snow…bring it on!
Being adventurous and trying new things is an excellent way for women to branch out, leave the gym environment, and get their hands dirty. To me, it’s cool to see a woman chalking up. It tells me she’s serious about her training. I love the fact that more and more women are using things like sledge hammers and tires, sandbags, bumper plates, and heavier kettlebells.
Today I'd like to discuss some movements that I consider essential for any woman (or man, for that matter) to learn and master.
Whatever it used to mean to train "like a girl" is changing. And that's a good thing. [Photo credit: Rikard Elofsson on Flickr | CC BY 2.0]
The Kettlebell and the Construction Crew
I’ll tell you a story about my wife, Ginger. One of her co-workers had heard about kettlebells and wanted to check them out, so when I went to pick up Ginger one afternoon, I brought a 24kg kettlebell with me to show him. I demonstrated a few snatches, the bent press, and a couple of Jeff Martone’s moves. It just so happened that a construction crew was there expanding part of the building. As I’m showing Ginger’s co-worker the kettlebell, the construction workers walked over and started eyeing me.
When I set the kettlebell down, a few men went to pick it up and set it right back down commenting that it was “heavier than it looks.” Ginger walked over, grabbed the kettlebell, and knocked out ten perfect kettlebell swings. Then she set it down, smiled, and went back to work. I was like, “I’m with her!” and everyone laughed.
It was fun to see a rowdy group of construction workers get “schooled” by my wife, and she clearly enjoyed it, too. So ladies, don’t be afraid to up the ante and work on getting stronger.
Push and Pull for Upper Body Strength
First up is the good old pull up. If you can’t do them, your new goal should be to be able to do three strict pull ups. And no, kipping pull ups do not count. I hate that CrossFit bull crap. Be a woman and do real pull ups. Get strong instead of learning to cheat. And for the record, I don’t know this girl, but these are real pull ups. Once you get good at pull ups, you can explore other fun options like rope climbs.
Next on the list are push ups. Women can do these and do them better than a lot of guys. Don’t imitate the goofball men you see who only go down part way and pop off 20 reps in 3.3 seconds like it’s a race. Work the pushup properly and it will work for you. Remember, your goal is to get strong. Once you get stronger with push ups, you can build up more enduring strength with them and then explore difficult variations of explosive pushups. Here is a primer on some of those variations.
Lunges and Single-Leg Deadlifts for Balance and Power
The tactical lunge, or what some call a reverse lunge, is a great way to build lower-body strength. I like performing all the reps with one leg first before working the second leg. Focus on being smooth, controlling the movement, and building strength through proper technique. Don’t go fast and wobble all over. Reach your leg back smoothly, plant the back foot, dig in with the entire front foot, and power up.
Once you can do 30 reps per leg, elevate your front foot on a 4-6 inch platform and build the reps back up. As you get stronger, the elevation will allow you to be able to drop the back leg deeper into the lunge and work the front leg more. This will work your glutes like nobody’s business.
The important thing to remember is don't try to go too fast and get sloppy. Learn to control the movement and maintain proper alignment of the feet, knees, and legs. If you control the movement and the speed you will get much stronger. Once you can perform these with control and strength, then you can graduate to doing lunges with a kettlebell and alternating legs.
Don’t wear bulky gym shoes. I suggest you do these barefoot or with minimalistic shoes like Five Fingers. As a matter of fact, do all of your leg work barefoot or with minimal shoes. Build proprioception in your feet and you will walk, run and hike with more precision and less chance of twisting an ankle. Don’t cloud the message your feet are sending you with bulky cushioned shoes.
My next suggestion is to learn how to do proper one-leg deadlifts. I know a lot of people swear by the barbell deadlift, but if you do not have access to a barbell, single leg deadlifts work great. I actually prefer them compared to the regular deadlift. Single leg deadlifts teach balance and rooting of the foot, build strong ankles and knees, and can help running mechanics because of their unique strengthening and stability carry-over. For many people, especially those with prior back issues, the single leg variety can work wonders. This video takes you through some great progressions.
Add in some hip thrusts and goblet squats, and you will build a pair of strong, functional, and great-looking legs from the glutes on down. Once you master those, throw in some sled work and hill sprints and there won’t be much you can’t do when it comes to sports.
Explore the World of Athletic Movement
Women's fitness should be about more than aerobics classes and tiny plastic dumbbells. Try some Turkish get ups and windmills with kettlebells to build total-body strength and stability. I would also include things like rope climbs, rope skipping, sledgehammer hits on a tire, kettlebell swings, and hanging leg raises. Focus on getting strong and performing any movement with skill and grace. Walk as much as you can. Hike, run, cycle, canoe and get out there and enjoy the air. There’s enough here to keep you busy for years. If you stick with these things for a solid year or two, you won’t believe how much more capable you will be. And your friends will be amazed.
Strong is a lot more than the new skinny: