A strong workout for strong women

Susy Natal deadlift

Personal trainer and strength coach Susy Natal demonstrates a strength workout especially for women that will sculpt and tone your body.

For a long time, strength training was considered to be a men-only exercise, while women focused heavily on aerobic training. There is no biological reason why women cannot or should not be strong.

Other than generally being smaller and usually having slightly different proportions, our muscular systems function in the same way as men’s. Strength training does not turn women into huge, muscly monsters, as some ladies might be concerned about.

Strength training makes you strong, not big. It’s very difficult for women to put on any considerable amount of muscle. Women simply don’t have enough testosterone in their bodies for this to happen.

Strength training can incorporate weights, such as squatting with a barbell, or just using your bodyweight, as with push ups and pull ups. There’s also a wide variety of different tools that can be used, such as barbells, machines, kettlebells and dumbbells, so it’s best to try different movements and methods to find what works best for you.

Strength training will make you stronger in your day to day life. It makes everything that you need to do easier and more fun. Strength training and the resulting strong body can bring you freedom through a fit and able body.

Now, for the workout!

1. Overhand bent over rows

Using an overhand grip forces the rhomboids to work harder as the biceps will not assist in the movement in the same way as they do with an underhand grip. Deadlift the bar then drop the hips back to a bent over position with a flat back. From there, pull the bar upward and back a little, as if pulling the elbows towards the hips, until the bar touches the stomach, then return the bar to the start position.

2. Low bar back squats

Set the bar low across the mid traps — this is the ideal position for a squat if you want to maximise the load that you lift. Pull it hard against you with your hands. Walk it out from the rack, find your squat stance and tighten your core. Sit the hips back and pull the knees out hard as you drop to the bottom. Drive your chest up hard, holding knees out and squeezing the glutes to come back up.

3. Barbell hip thrusts with hold

Sit on the ground leaning back against a bench with the bar on your hips and a mat in between to avoid bruising the hips. Place the feet shoulder width apart with the toes pointed forward. Press through the heels into the ground and hold the bar steady, lifting until the hips are at the same height as the chest, allowing the shoulders to drop back so you lean back into the bench. At the top, hold the position for a second and squeeze the glutes hard, before returning to the start position. The pause and squeeze are useful to judge the appropriateness of the weight being used. If you are unable to lock out and hold that top position then you should lower the weight as that top contraction of the muscle is essential for maximum benefit from this exercise.

4. Reverse dumbbell alternating lunges

Stand with feet pointing straight forward with the dumbbells hanging by your sides, and take a long step back while keeping the chest tall. Drop back so that both legs are bent ninety degrees at the bottom of the movement, then press back up off the back leg without tipping forward through the chest, and stand back to the starting position. The front foot should not have moved throughout.

5. Jumping pull ups with four second eccentric

This is an excellent progression towards getting full pull ups, but still has its place in improving your pull ups if you are new to them, as it forces you to control the movement. Stand at a height that allows you to jump while already holding the bar, and jump hard enough so that you reach to where the chin is above the bar. Slowly count to four while controlling yourself back down to the start position. Try to make it as smooth a movement as possible with no change in speed.

6. Standing military press

Un-rack the bar from shoulder height, with the elbows pushed forward underneath the bar. Press straight up, tucking the chin back, so as to not hit your face with the bar, but otherwise remaining as straight as possible. Once locked out at the top, pull the bar with control back to the start position. Avoid arching the back as you get tired.

7. Paused barbell bench press

Tuck the shoulders back into the bench and place feet wide and flat on the ground. Check that the hands are evenly placed apart from the centre of the bar, then un-rack it. Actively pull the bar into the chest and hold there for a one second count, then press hard upwards back to the start position.

8. Deficit barbell deadlifts

Set up a thick plate on the ground to stand on to create the deficit, which helps develop strength at the start of a regular deadlift. Set feet hip width apart with shins up against the bar and push hips back to reach down. Set the hips low, tighten the core then pull the chest up, push the hips forward while pressing the heels into the ground hard to lock out in a standing position. Upon lockout, stay tight and drop the hips back while maintaining the chest high to return the bar to the ground. IMPORTANT NOTE: This is an advanced exercise and should not be attempted by beginners or anybody who does not already have a sound conventional deadlift.