Some want to get stronger as a goal in-and-of itself (i.e. to compete in powerlifting).
Some want to get stronger to improve their athletic development.
And others simply want to get stronger as part of a well-balanced training or workout routine.
Regardless of why you want to get stronger, I think there are a handful of universal ideas or principles you should follow to help you get there.
And while this post is geared towards the ladies, I think the principles and tips I outline are universally applicable.
If you want to get stronger and become a better lifter, read on.
#1 – Learn the Big Lifts
When you’re getting started, there’s nothing more important than dialing in your lifting technique.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people scared off from the weight room because they got injured early-on.
Sure, there are times when someone loads the bar up too quickly and gets injured, but I see that far more often in overzealous young men than I do with women.
Instead, when it comes to females I see people with great intentions, but who don’t really know what they’re doing when it comes to technique.
And it’s not necessarily their fault, either.
Too often lifters are forced to learn technique from a popular fitness website or magazine, versus someone who actually coaches people for a living.
While I hate to toot my own horn, I’ve got some amazing, FREE resources to help get you started.
If nothing else read these posts start-to-finish, and I guarantee you’ll be better off with regards to your lifting technique.
#2 – Find a Coach
When I first got into serious training, I read every article I could about lifting technique.
Louie Simmons, Dave Tate, Ed Coan – you name it, and I read it.
But here’s the thing: Reading and learning about technique can only take you so far. At some point, you need to work with a coach.
A coach can take everything you’ve already learned about technique and tweak it, refine it and mold it until you’re really, truly dialed in.
The last two years when I’ve spoken at the Train Like a Girl Event, I’ve had the opportunity to coach serious females on squatting, deadlifting, and other big lifts.
And these women are serious! They’ve often come hundreds or thousands of miles to learn more about training and lifting.
But just because they’ve read and learned a lot, doesn’t mean their technique is where it needs to be yet. They need hands-on, live coaching to take them to the next level.
Hell, I’ve trained for almost two decades now, and I know I still need work and coaching when it comes to my technique, too!
On the other hand, I know a lot of women who are remiss to even get started lifting weights. They have done “cardio” for years, but strength training is foreign to them.
Quite simply they’re afraid to start because they don’t know what to do, or they’re afraid they’ll embarrass themselves.
This is yet another great reason to hire a coach, especially early-on in your training career.
Why waste weeks, months or potential years of quality training avoiding the weight room because you don’t know what to do?
Hiring a coach is one of the best things you can do in virtually any area of your life. If you want to excel at something, seek out someone better than you and have them coach or mentor you.
#3 – Use a Stock Program Early-On…
As you’ll recall from my previous post, some of my female athletes have issues adding weight to the bar.
If it’s left to chance, they’ll just stay at the same weight week after week.
In this case, I love a stock program like Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1. I often use 5-3-1 with my beginning and intermediate powerlifters (male and female alike), because it forces them to start progressively adding weight to the big lifts on a month-to-month basis.
Forget trying to add 50 pounds a month and then burning out or getting injured. I’d much rather have someone consistently add 5-10 pounds each month to their squat and/or deadlift.
If all goes well and you stay healthy, that could easily be 60-120 pounds on EACH LIFT over the course of a year!
Another option could be something like Molly Galbraith’s Modern Woman’s Guide to Strength Training.
It’s a bit more aesthetic focused than 5-3-1, and women who aren’t interested solely in powerlifting will enjoy the added variety with regards to exercise selection.
At the end of the day, once you’ve dialed in technique it’s time to start pushing some weight. Find a program that you enjoy and work to get a little bit stronger each and every month.
#4 – …But Keep it Fresh
While I love the above programs, I also like to tweak them myself to keep them fresh.
Let’s say I have one of my girls following 5-3-1 to prep for a powerlifting meet. Instead of just beating their heads against the walls with squatting, benching and deadlifting, I use those lifts as the foundation for strength development.
After they’ve done their big lift for the day, I write specific assistance exercises to not only fill in the gaps and keep them healthy, but also to keep things fresh.
Simply switching from dumbbell benching to floor pressing, or split-squats to reverse lunges from month-to-month can do wonders for breaking monotony and keeping training fresh and fun.
Another thing that I like to do is train everyone I work with (male, female, boy, girl) like an athlete.
Again we may use the big lifts to help build our strength foundation, but who says we can’t do explosive work like med ball throws or jumps?
Or that we shouldn’t do single-leg or split-stance work to maintain and improve stability?
I’m a firm believer that if you keep training fresh, you’re going to get more out of it. Rotating your training emphasis, and/or your assistance exercises can go a long way to keeping things fun for the long haul.
#5 – Don’t Neglect Recovery
While some would think that training is the hard part, many of the women I’ve worked with need to direct more attention to recovery than anything else.
One of the benefits of using monitor resting heart rate (RHR) and heart rate variability (HRV) with clients is that I get a birds-eye view of how they’re recovering.
When I see a line that’s all over the board, or that varies wildly from session-to-session, I know I’ve got someone that needs some work outside of the gym.
Too often, women who are training hard in the gym aren’t getting the results they want because of factors outside of the gym. Don’t let this be you!
Some of the simplest things you can imagine can make a profound difference on your recovery between training sessions. Here are just a few ideas:
- Foam roll for 5-10 minutes.
- Perform deep breathing for 3-5 minutes.
- Read a relaxing book or magazine.
- Perform low-intensity, continuous exercise for 30-45 minutes.
- Get 7-9 hours of quality sleep.
If you’re going to put in the hard work in the gym, it only makes sense to do the necessary things outside of the gym to reinforce those gains.
Whether you’re a season veteran or someone who is new to the lifting game, don’t make lifting harder than it should be.
Make yourself a student of the game and learn everything possible about technique.
Find a coach, or someone to mentor you.
Use a quality program to get started, and rotate exercises and/or training foci to keep things fresh.
And perhaps most importantly, don’t neglect recovery.
Last but not least, the Modern Woman’s Guide to Strength Training sale is over at midnight tonight.
If you want a great program that will help you develop the body and strength you’ve wanted, definitely check it out.
All the best