Northern Beaches Mums Group
Northern Beaches Mums Group

How to be a Strong Woman

With Weights

One of my favourite ways to build strength in women is with weights; not necessarily body building or body shaping, though. Regular, run-of-the-mill weights are a sure fire way to build cardio (heart) strength, muscle strength, bone strength, and emotional resilience.

However, not all weights are created equally, and here’s a place to start:

  • Sets of 15-20 reps are endurance/cardio. Start here if you’ve never done weights before, OR the movements you’re choosing are taking weight away from the middle your body. Sets of 15-20 are technically “light” even if they’re hard.
  • Sets of 10 are great for building muscle density and tone – but women will not gain size with this training modality. You will have to do an awful lot of sets of 10 daily, with several sessions a week and a very specific diet, to build muscle size as a woman.
  • Sets of 6 or less are fabulous for hormonal health, bone health, and muscle health; but they are also quite hard mentally for women, and should be approached gradually. It is an intimidating experience using a weight that feels like it’s crushing you, both physically and metaphorically, plus the fear of injury or failure, and our discouragement is absolute. Spend some time, at least 2-6 months, doing sets of 15-20, then around 10, before graduating to sets of 6.
  • Make sure you train your body evenly – one pulling motion (think seated row, lat pull down, deadlifts), one pushing motion (think push ups, shoulder press, sled pushes), one legs (think squats, lunges, and leg press) to begin and then build from there.

With POWER Training

Power training is where you move loads with momentum – often meaning you can lift more than you can in a controlled movement. Women are taught (generally) to be timid, gentle, soft. Power training teaches us to forceful, fierce, and ferocious – in a safe setting.

Power training is explosive or absorptive:

  1. Explosive is where you throw the medicine ball, leap up on to the box, the acceleration phase of a sprint.
  2. Absorptive is where you catch the ball, or absorb the impact on landing, and deceleration of the movement.

Types of power training including boxing, kickboxing, running, jumping, powerlifting, and any movement where you use momentum to move the load (including your body). Power movements are also often accompanied by powerful feelings; like euphoria, pride, and self satisfaction, and it’s for this reason why power training is one of the ways to become a strong woman.

PLUS both the explosive and absorptive phases of power training will increase you bone and muscle density!

Power training is a high(er) risk activity, so if this is your first foray in to it, seek professional advice. If you’ve been training weights or exercising for a long time, try incorporating power training in to your routine. Here are some ideas:

  1. If you’re a runner, incorporate stair, hill, flat line, or downhill sprints in to your routine.
  2. If you’re already lifting weights, go a little heavier and use your body to move the weight (eg. Shoulder press/squat)
  3. If you’ve never tried boxing before, start attending a class or hire a coach.
  4. If you’ve been doing gym classes forever, switch classes to one that has power exercise in it or try crossfit for the first time.

Through BRAIN Training!

Strength is a mental state as much as it’s a physical one. The more resilient you are, the stronger you are. Resilience is a form of emotional strength that allows you to recover quickly from stress or tough events. If you can recover quickly, you’re more able to use your logical parts of your brain; this is a protective factor for mental illnesses such as depression1.

Being resilient doesn’t mean being able to do it all, on your own, with an awesome attitude. Resilient people are actually MORE likely to ask for help, feel their feelings, express their emotions, and rearrange their work or plans to factor the stressful event. The key difference is that they do so feeling optimistic about their ability to work it out, they encourage themselves, and keep on trying.

So Brain Training is really important!

Positive Psychology has 17 excellent brain training tools for resilience which you can read here:

We have picked just 5 to share with you today:

  1. Identify your strengths: what are you good at? What do you like about yourself? Find ways to exploit these strengths daily!
  2. Perform acts of kindness, consider volunteering, or engage in random acts such as buying coffee for the person after you in line.
  3. Practise gratitude & positivity – it’s the practise, not the perfection, that matters to your brain. Use a calendar, diary, or scrap of paper to write down three good things about your day, about the room your in, about your family, what you’re grateful for etc.
  4. Find your flow: what gets you really engaged? For some, it’s meditation, yoga, tai chi. For others its drawing, chess, or origami. The perfect flow exercise for you is a task that requires skill and concentration, is goal oriented, controlled by you, and where you lose track of time.
  5. Mindful breath activity: breath out through your mouth (making a whoosh sound)
    – breath in through your nose for 4
    – hold your breath for 7
    – exhale through your mouth, with whoosh sound for 8
    – repeat 4 times

By Being Uncomfortable

Discomfort is essential for building strength, resilience, and confidence. You’ll hear people in the fitness industry say all the time to “get out of your comfort zone”, because on both a physical and mental level, that place of discomfort is where you grow.

Here’s how it works:

  • You plan something that makes you feel scared, nervous, or uncomfortable.
  • You train for it – mentally or physically. If it’s abseiling you might visualise what it’s like. If it’s a marathon you might start running a bit further.
  • You execute it – and succeed.
  • You feel happiness, a sense of accomplishment, and pride.

It doesn’t have to be extreme – you don’t have to bungee jump, do a silent retreat, or attempt to sleep standing up to be uncomfortable. It just has to be one step further than you are now.

Great ways to start getting uncomfortable include:

  • Sign up for a fun run, obstacle racing event, or walk
  • Commit to mixing up your daily walk: add a hill that intimidates you, try to walk 100m further in the same time, add something tricky like soft sand.
  • Sign up for Adventure Saturdays, personal training, our a gym trip (and we’ll do the thinking for you!)
  • Learn a new language, instrument, or game (like chess, sudoku, or the crossword)

With Mobility

Mobility training will mean you resist your own movement less. To lift that heavy weight, or complete your power training you’ll have to overcome less of your own body’s resistance.

The goal is to have fluid and full range movement, particularly in the:

  • Shoulders
  • Thoracic spine
  • Pelvis
  • Ankles and feet

A good way to start is incorporating 3D movement in to your stretching: forward and back, left and right, and circles. Here is how I would do it with these common stretches:

  • Chest against wall
  • Lats off power plate
  • Hip Flexor
  • Adductors
  • Glutes
  • Toes

You can look up your nearest women’s health physio here:
Find an experienced personal trainer:

Clare Hozack is an ex-athlete and owner and founder of IntoYou. Clare is currently a strength and conditioning coach, using her skills to return women to functionality after having kids, and providing education for personal trainers in how to train women better.