Training with the goal of improving and maintaining strength has been the cornerstone of my own training for almost three decades. I believe it is what has helped me continue to function in my daily living at a high level, made me able to continue to engage in extreme sports like windsurfing and surfing, and made me eager to take on any new adventure.
But for many, and women especially, strength training is often overlooked, thought to be only for those looking to heave massive amounts of weight and be humongous in size.
Muscle strength, by definition, is the maximal force that a muscle or muscle group can exert during a contraction. There’s what’s called “absolute” strength – how much you can lift at one time — and “relative” strength, the maximum force you can exert in relation to your body weight.
But what if you’re not a power-lifter? Will strength training work for you and your life?
Benefits of Strength Workouts
- Help you with your everyday functioning
- Help with preventing injury 
- Essential to slow muscle loss as we age (something none of us can avoid)
- Increase and maintain bone density
- Help with chronic conditions like arthritis 
- Help to lower body fat 
- Possibly help mental and emotional function
Strength Training Outside the Weight Room
Strength can increase when you do any resistance training, especially in the beginner stages. It’s all about your personal starting point; it’s impossible and unwise to suggest a specific routine here for you to follow since one size does not fit all when it comes to strength training.
What I will suggest is try to think outside the typical set of exercises. By including exercises that use body weight and some unconventional tools, you can keep things interesting and also incorporate muscles that might otherwise not be engaged in a typical gym routine.
10 Sample Exercises
- Handstand push-ups
- Rope climbs
- Flat-Belly Burpees
- Pistol Squat
- Sand Bag Front Squat
- Clean and Press
- Plyo Box Jumps
Use Variety but Prioritize
The exercises and variations are endless. Be aware of your weaknesses and prioritize them accordingly. Work your weakness first when you have the most physical and mental energy. Soon the weaknesses will become your strengths.
Overall, you’re looking to have balanced strength in both your upper and lower body and on both sides. Keep in mind that these types of exercises are intense and require you to eat as healthy as possible for growth, recovery, and healthy immune function.
Track Your Progress
When working on increasing strength, it’s important to log your workouts so they can be tracked. Not only will it be tangible proof of your ongoing success, but it also allows you to adjust and tweak your workouts along the way.
Making notes of day-to-day improvements and observations are important too. For example, noting that carrying in your groceries seems easier or picking up your toddler doesn’t cause you to make funny grunting noises when you lift him to place him in his/her car seat is also notable improvement.
Surprisingly, many injuries happen doing day-to-day activities like bending down to pick up a child or pulling grocery bags out of the trunk of a car. Strength gains don’t always have to be measured by amount of weight. Since ultimately our goal should be to improve our quality of life, it’s important to measure your gains against real life activities.
Strength training gives back something beyond looks. When we feel strong we ooze confidence, which makes us stand tall and able to take on any challenge or face any circumstance with confidence. The stronger you become the more empowered you’ll feel.
What about your workouts? Do you train mainly for looks or strength or both in mind?