My love for strength grew from my longing to be “unassuming”. As a 50kg, 163cm woman I was motivated by the notion of being petite yet unnoticeably powerful. In my quest for strength, I not only wanted to be as strong as possible I wanted to teach other women how to empower themselves through lifting weights and mastering their bodies.
Starting out as a woman in a male dominated industry as a strength coach meant that I needed to have a strong(er) foundation, a broader knowledge and a powerful stance in the gym. This meant fighting for strength, getting knocked down, breaking down weaknesses and building resilience. This process led me to identifying the finer points of the female mechanics through my own trials, failures, successes and personal research, as no book, article or study can teach you quite like experience.
Coaching men and women is like working with two different breeds of animal, both so physiologically different. My advice to those women whom are looking to achieve something real from their training, those ladies who are investing in their physiques, their strength, their health and most importantly their longevity. The difference between good training and great training is the attention to detail, its observing the little things that results in the big things.
We women generally respond better to isolation work, we are more flexible and tend to have a far better range of motion than the average man which means our outcomes are often greater. It’s important that we include a good mix of this type of training along with focusing on those compound lifts, the bench press, squat and deadlift recruits more muscle in a single movement than any other exercise. Focus on getting bang for your buck.
When it comes to squatting and deadlifting opt for a mix of volume and intensity, our bodies thrive on these methods and due to our increased rate of recovery over that of a man we do not suffer with recovery issues and allows us to not be as concerned of burning out our central nervous systems. We generally suffer with far less “delayed onset of muscle soreness – DOMS” than our male counterparts.
As much as we read that women should train like men, when looking into the finer details its imperative that we focus on our unique physical characteristics. The female form was designed to pro-create, and pro-creation means strengths to carry, resilience against stress, and natural endurance. Armed with these physiological advantages it’s important that we follow a training plan that plays to our strengths and strengthens our weaknesses.
Hip and quad strength are some of those things that play right into our hands, we are naturally stronger here so placing a premium on focusing on our posterior chains is advisable. Wider stance squats, and Romanian deadlifts to develop the backs of our legs and backs should be high up on our list to avoid overly targeting muscular development in our quads.
Natural quad strength is not a bad thing but it draws attention to exercises we should focus less on. Unless you are prepping for a show, do less quad focused work and perform exercises that focus more on the glutes, and hamstrings like the Romanian deadlift
variations, hip thrusters and barbell bridges.
In addition to this we tend to have weaker upper bodies and carry the majority of our mass from the waist down. Ever notice how a man with no athletic background and very little training can walk straight into a gym and 9 out of 10 times be able to complete a perfect push up and a full range of motion pull up? Where these exercises are a near impossible challenge on our first day in the gym?
My biggest focus as a woman and as a coach is to encourage my ladies to focus on basic upper body movements that not only improve their relative strength but their overall conditioning and are hands down some of the most simple yet empowering movements. Nothing quite stops people dead in their tracks quite like watching a women perform perfect sets of strict pull ups. No exercise builds a remarkable and aesthetically appealing back quite like the humble pull up. Modest, yet a significantly cheeky and brassy sign of strength.
When you have a solid understanding of your personal abilities, your physical characteristics and attributes, you will then discover a world of possibility. Know your body, lift and perform like a lady and you will learn that you are capable of amazing things.