Sometimes, particularly if motivation is waning a little, I want to prioritise the exercises I enjoy, so I’ll look to tweak whatever the workout plan is for that day to incorporate movements that are fun as well as effective.
And often what I enjoy most are those that make me feel like a badass and are sure to bring on those fist pumping post-workout endorphins. Here are 5 strength training exercises, especially good for women.
Women’s workout routines: 5 strength training exercises for women
Here are the top 5 strength training exercises that will make you feel like a badass too, and they cover all the major muscle groups in the body. Most importantly, they are all easily customisable to suit your level of strength and experience.
1. Push ups
Push ups are a versatile and effective exercise. They work your pectoral muscles (chest), deltoids (shoulders) and triceps (back of the upper arms), and they’re easily adapted to your particular level of strength and fitness.
There are dozens of different ways to vary your push ups to make them more or less challenging. One of my favourite variations is to put my toes up on a step so they’re elevated, and get as low as possible so my nose is almost touching the carpet.
It’s important to keep your abdominal muscles tight so that your back is straight, and doesn’t dip down towards the floor. If you start to get fatigued and are tempted to let your back sag, take a break or put your knees down onto the floor if you were doing push ups on your toes.
Here’s a nice simple push-up demo.
Squats are another multi-purpose body-weight exercise as they work your glutes and quads (butt and thighs) which are two of the biggest muscle groups in the body. You can squat just with your body weight and build up so your backside is as close to the floor (ass to grass) with each squat as possible.
Over time you can vary the challenge by adding weight – dumbbells or kettlebells. Form is important with a squat. Regardless of how wide you choose to place your feet, ensure your knees don’t extend past your feet, and endeavour to keep a 90 degree angle so your knees are parallel with the floor.
When coming out of the squat and back to a standing position, use your glutes by squeezing your butt to propel yourself back upright.
Fitness Blender is a great Youtube channel for home exercise routines, and this 100 squat challenge contains some good variations on squats.
3. Chin ups or Pull ups
Chin ups and pull ups are similar exercises in that they both require you to use your lats (back muscles) and biceps to pull your body weight up and over a bar, however there are some differences in the movement.
Fundamentally, the grip is different. For chin ups you have your hands closer together and palms towards you, wrapped around the back of the bar, whereas for pull ups your arms are wider, with hands on the same side of the bar as your body, and palms facing away.
Chin ups use your biceps more, whereas pull ups will prioritise your lats.
Both exercises however, even when you’re still at the stage of needing assistance (from a buddy to support your feet so they’re carrying some of your weight or from a machine at the gym which does the same thing), are guaranteed to make you feel tough and strong.
I find my core muscles get a good workout from these too as all my muscles have to pull together (pardon the pun) to muster the strength to lift my weight.
Here’s Danielle giving us a demo:
4. Hanging dumbbell clean and jerk
This one is a little hard to explain so this Youtube video gives you a demo.
It’s a compound exercise because it uses multiple muscle groups, beginning with a squat and moving into using your arm, shoulder and back muscles to push the dumbbell over your head.
I do mine a little differently to the man in the video, as the weight I use isn’t quite heavy enough to justify the split stance at the end. Mine are a more fluid movement with no noticeable pause between the dumbbell being lifted up the front of my body and then into the overhead press once it passes my chest.
These are another favourite because basically I think they look cool 🙂 And knowing it’s using the full range of movement makes it feel like bang for your buck.
5. Weight plate crunches
These are similar to normal crunches, with the added addition of a weight plate. Start lying on your back with knees bent in the usual crunch position and holding a weight plate (have it heavy enough to be challenging) against your chest.
As you raise your torso up from the floor, press the weight plate up and away from your chest towards the sky, until both arms are almost straight.
Here’s a demo.
So there you have it – my top 5 strength training exercises that I guarantee WILL make you feel tough and strong and even if you do nothing else that day, you’ll get pretty close to a full body workout just by focusing on these exercises.