Are you choosing the right exercises for your goals? Check out these strength training exercises and transform your workout for good.
Gone are the days of cardio bunny workouts. We know now that hours and hours of cardio just isn’t the way to get lean, toned and strong.
This is the age of fierce, powerful women – the ones that aren’t afraid to slip on their lifting shoes, chalk up their hands, and get heavy and dirty in the weights room.
With so many different exercises to choose from, it can be difficult to know which work best. But we’ve got you covered. In this article we lift the lid on the absolute optimal strength training exercises to take you from weak to strong in a matter of weeks.
Let’s do this.
Table of Contents
How to build strength
Being strong means different things to different people.
To some it means having the grit, resolve and resilience to lift repeatedly without fatigue. To others it’s about how heavy you can lift.
Strength training is now the most popular way for women to transform the way they look and feel. Gone are the aerobics sessions, so say goodbye to those long Sunday morning runs.
Lifting weights does it all.
But what does strength mean?
Let’s look at a common definition from any athlete textbook:
“Strength is the ability to exert maximal force in a muscle or group of muscles”
Strength is about the way you lift weights. It’s about lifting heavy, powerfully and with great technique. And there are thousands of reasons why you’d want to achieve this.
The benefits of strength training
When it comes to bang for your buck, strength training is the most effective exercise approach out there.
Not only does it improve athletic performance, it also boosts your health.
If you want to add years to your life and life to your years, grab the iron and get liftin’, girl.
Here’s a very quick rundown of just some benefits strength training provides.
- Toned, athletic muscle curves
- Greater strength, faster speed and more powerful movements
- Look good naked – strength training exercises can be powerful fat burners
- Better anaerobic energy production, endurance and stamina
- Stronger bones and connective tissue
- Better metabolic health (and anti-aging too!)
- Helps prevent diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and a range of neurological illnesses
There are different types of ‘strength’
Great athletes not only lift heavy, they lift explosively too.
Strength is a catch all term.
It’s fluid and adaptable.
Yes, it’s about being able to lift weights, but to be truly strong isn’t just about lifting the heaviest weights you can find on the gym floor. Its about expressing how your body deals with weights of all different loads too.
- What if you don’t want to lift 220 lb but need to be strong enough to jump higher than your opponent when rebounding?
- Or be strong enough to accelerate out of the blocks on the track?
- And if you’re an Olympic weightlifter or CrossFit athlete you don’t just need to lift a heavy bar, you have to work at high speed too, don’t you?
What you achieve all comes down to the way you train. And with so many ways to ‘get stronger’, it’s important you understand how to train effectively in the weights room.
There are in fact different types of strength.
The ability to generate high levels of muscle force and lift as heavy as possible. This is often referred to as your rep max or 1RM. Going heavy with the barbells and dumbbells is the most effective way to build maximal strength.
Benefits include higher force-generating capacity, greater muscle and connective tissue resilience and improved sports performance (powerlifting for example).
When you move a bar or weight from a stationary position, you need good starting strength to initiate movement. To improve the way you do this, you need strong connective tissue and to be able to rapidly accelerate muscle contractions. Track starts in athletics and football lineman need great starting strength
Benefits include force production, speed and greater muscle control.
Producing the maximal amount of force in the shortest time possible is known as explosive strength. It’s to do with ballistic movements, speed and power production. Movements such as throws and jumps, as well as snatches and cleans are good examples.
Training for explosive strength helps to improve muscular co-ordination at fast speeds, optimizes power output and even enhances reaction time.
This is the ability to maintain muscle contractions for several reps. High volume bodybuilding, long-distance running and repeated activities such as stair climbing are good examples of this.
Benefits of strength endurance exercises include improved work capacity and greater resistance to fatigue. You can also complete more reps before exhaustion.
Strength training exercises you need to know
In this section we’ve broken down the best strength training exercises.
We’ve used our collective knowledge at SpotMeGirl to pull together the very best information for you to get stronger, faster and more athletic.
To help you choose the right tools for the job we’ve also categorized them based on which type of strength they suit best… and what weight, reps and sets you should use too.
The best exercises to improve maximal strength are the ones that allow you to load up heavy. Your intention here is to drive the bar as powerfully and as fast as possible as it helps you recruit as many muscle fibers as possible.
Maximal strength exercises are always ‘compound’. This means they work multiple muscles.
Best exercises: Deadlift, squat, bench press, bent over row, military press
Intensity: 85-100% of your one rep max.
Recovery interval: 3-5 minutes
If you’re a sprinter, field sport athlete or just want to get stronger from a standing start, this is the method for you. Both compound and isolation exercises work well here.
You can incorporate any lift that forces you to initiate movement from a dead stop at full range of motion. Using pins works really well as you can rest the bar on them and blast through the rep at top speed from there.
Best exercises: Rack deadlift, pin squat, bench press from pins, Pendlay row
Intensity: 50-90% of your one rep max.
Recovery interval: 3 minutes
To be explosive means having the ability to move your body at high speed. If you go too heavy you can’t move the bar fast, so explosive strength is more about high velocity movements with a light bar. It takes practice, control and high levels of body awareness. But master it and you’ll find that your strength levels increase rapidly (yeah girl, that was a pun).
Best exercises: Squat jumps, medicine ball throws, kettlebell swings, clean and jerk, snatch
Intensity: 40-70% of your one rep max.
Recovery interval: 1-2 minutes
This is the age of strong women. The ones that aren’t afraid to go heavy and lift fast to develop toned physiques and bags of confidence.
The best strength training exercises are the ones that factor in your goal. If you want to develop brute force, accelerate at top speed or beat your opponent from the blocks with explosive muscle contractions, weight training is for you.
You just need to know which exercises suit which goal and away you go, girl.