Here’s how strength training can get you a better bikini body...
More and more women are strength training when they hit the gym, but if you’re still not convinced, then you could be missing out on some serious benefits.
Whether you’re using the TRX, doing a kettlebell class or using a pair of dumbbells in your HIIT circuit – you are strength training! It’s not all about weightlifting belts, clouds of chalk and groaning as loud as you can – though, that’s all welcome, too! It is, however, about using weights that truly challenge you, promoting muscle growth that in turn elevates your fat burn. The result is a leaner you, with a higher metabolic rate throughout the day.
‘It’s estimated that for every half a kilo of lean muscle you gain, your body will burn 35-50 extra calories each day just to maintain it,’ explains John Shepherd, author of new book Strength Training for Women. ‘Regular cardio exercisers may lose weight but end up with a body that lacks tone and holds fat around key “problem” areas, such as the abdomen and hips.’ But those aren’t the only benefits you’ll experience – that’s just the beginning.
‘Resistance training will also boost your hormones,’ explains John. Basically, the more you pick up the weights, the more your levels of growth hormone are elevated. Why is this desirable? Well, along with playing a vital role in shedding fat, growth hormone also helps to slow the effects of ageing, according to John. Who wouldn’t want that? As we age we also experience a higher risk of osteoporosis, and strength training is an effective way of combating this. Not only do weights build muscle but they strengthen your bones, too, which is ideal for overall health as well as preventing injury.
Strength training also challenges your body in all different planes of motion, boosting its ability to master complex moves – especially ones that’ll help you in everyday life. We’re talking lifting, carrying, picking things up – that’s why it’s considered functional fitness.
Don’t know where to start? John’s book is a great place, but if you want a taster, check out this workout he put together. It’s suitable for all levels, targeting the whole body using compound exercises. ‘These moves work numerous joints,’ explains John, ‘making them more functional and calorie-burning.’ Always use weights that prove difficult in the final reps of each set without compromising form – but if you’re new to weights, start out light and focus on building strength and technique. Everyone should add weights each month to encourage progress.
HOW TO DO IT
Always warm up before and cool down after this workout. Do each of the two workouts once a week, leaving at least 48 hours between each.
Workout 1: Metabolic and hormonal booster
Perform 3 x 10 reps of each move. Take enough recovery to allow for each set to be completed optimally.
Workout 2: Pyramid with body shaping fast-twitch fibre emphasis
Perform 8 reps using a light weight, 6 using a medium weight, then 2 x 4 reps using a heavy weight.
Rear foot elevated split squat
Areas trained: glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves
- Holding dumbbells by each side, stand in front of a bench and place the toes of your rear foot on it. Hop your standing leg forward and place your foot flat on the floor. This is your starting position.
- Keeping your trunk upright and looking straight ahead, bend your front leg to lower your body to the ground. Lower until your thigh is approximately parallel to the ground.
- Push back up strongly and repeat. Perform the allotted reps on one side, and then the other to complete a full set.
Seated shoulder press
Areas trained: shoulders, triceps
- Sit on a bench holding dumbbells in front of your shoulders.
- Press the dumbbells up to the ceiling, bringing them close together at the top of the movement.
- Lower under control and repeat.
Single-arm kettlebell swing
Areas trained: quads, hamstrings, glutes, core, back, shoulders
- Take hold of the kettlebell in one hand with your knuckles facing away from you. Stand with your feet just beyond shoulder-width apart. Let the kettlebell hang down at arm-length in front of your body and let it drop down and through your legs.
- Move with the fall of the kettlebell and let your bottom move backwards and torso incline forwards with knees soft. As the momentum of the weight begins to stall and go in the other direction, ‘snap’ your hips to impart more momentum onto the kettlebell to drive it up again.
- Let the weight fall back down and repeat. Perform the allotted reps on both sides to complete a set.
Areas trained: glutes, hips, hamstrings, quads, calves
- Holding the dumbbells with your knuckles facing away from you in front of your hips, stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width and turned out, making sure that your feet and knees are similarly angled.
- Bend your legs to plié and then extend them to stand back up and repeat.
Areas trained: back, shoulders, glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves
- Take hold of a barbell from the floor with your knuckles facing forwards and hands just further than shoulder-width apart. Keep your heels on the floor, arms extended and head up.
- Drive up to lift the bar from the floor, keeping your shoulders over it and your knees bent.
- As the bar approaches hip-level, drive your hips forwards and now pull on the bar with your arms. As you do this, switch your grip from overhand to underhand and ‘catch’ the bar in a racked position on the front of your shoulders.
- Keeping your back flat, control the bar down to the floor, bending your knees and folding forwards, first to your thighs and then to the floor.
Areas trained: glutes, quads, hamstrings, back
- Support a barbell across the fleshy rear part of your shoulders (avoiding contact with your top vertebrae). Pull the bar down onto your shoulders to
- fix it in place. Keep your head up and maintain the natural curve of your spine.
- Bend your knees to lower the weight as far as your flexibility allows. Keep your knees behind your toes as you go.
- Push through your heels to stand up and repeat.
Areas trained: glutes, quads, hamstrings, lower back
- Squat down slightly with your feet under the barbell and take hold of it with both hands.
- Straighten your legs to start to move the bar upwards, keeping your arms long and the bar close to your shins (don’t pull with your arms).
- Extend your hips to stand upright with the bar across the front of your thighs.
- Return to the start and repeat.
Areas trained: upper back, biceps, lower back, glutes, hamstrings
- Keeping a bend in your knees, hinge at your hips so your upper body is almost parallel to the floor, holding a barbell with arms extended towards the floor.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you row the barbell up towards your hips.
- Slowly lower and repeat.