As with everything there’s not one sure fire way to train and no magic bullet training programs.
Or are there?
Here are three additions into any woman’s strength training program that will take her lifts to a new level and help her get that ultimate definition and overall muscular control.
Breathing / Bracing Exercises
Many women (along with men) have a hard time breathing correctly when they weight lift. They fall into the standard paradigm now of breathing too much into the chest, rather than lower diaphramic breathing, which causes a whole host of problems, core stabilization and over-activation of the upper shoulder region being the two most common.
This literally should be one of the first things addressed in anyone’s program. One how to properly breath and two how do you brace the core to accept a load. It’s one of those small things that pay huge dividends when your athlete starts lifting increasingly heavier weights.
You simply can’t lift a heavy weight without attaining a proper braced position (ie. Breathing into the belly, tightening the areas around the belly, obliques and lower back around that contained breath, synching in the lats and squeezing the bum). This is the start for every basic lift, from squatting to benching to even pullups. Without a proper braced position you simply can’t lift a heavy load safely. The heavier the load, the more bracing becomes important.
Tempo or Eccentric Training
Many people scoff at tempo training or training with a slower rhythm than simply picking the weight up and putting it down, but this is one of those standard training fixes that can improve overall muscle tone. Toning while often a misguided ter, is an overall acceptable description, as long as one considers its meaning, building the muscle and giving it shape. Not every woman wants to have arms like Dana Lynn Bailey, but adding a bit of muscle mass underneath the skin and making it poke out in the right areas gives us shape.
Adding a slower tempo to lifts like bench press, squats, pushups, lat pull-downs and stiff-legged deadlifts for example, help female lifters develop that ‘feeling’ for working the muscle hard and really feeling the muscles contract.
Feeling the muscles contract strongly helps guide their training towards using certain exercises and builds a stronger mind muscle connection that can help them stimulate more growth stimulus in the right areas.
Not to mention the benefits of increased strength that can be attained from overloading the muscles with a heavy eccentric load (ie. Lowering the weight under control).
Adding accommodating resistance training for women is super useful in order to incorporate a higher threshold of motor unit responsiveness. Women have been shown in studies to have a lower neuromuscular response time, which basically means they have a longer time to reaching max force production when lifting a heavier load.
To combat this we seek to improve their response time by making the loads lighter and moving it faster. Although most women don’t catch on to this stimulus as readily as with bands or chains that automatically engage this effort. You simply either accelerate through the movement or you can’t move the load.
By incorporating accommodating resistance such as bands or chains we can change the effect of the lift by making it heavier at easier points on the lift and help them develop a stronger ability to ‘push through’ a weight faster. This has huge implications on helping the nervous system adapt and prime the neuromuscular system to move heavier and heavier loads faster.
If you’ve tried any of these three techniques please feel free to leave a comment on the section below with your experiences.
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Jesse “Captain Smash” Howland is the owner of SMASH’s Strength Lab, which offers targeted personal training to reach a variety of fitness and physique goals. A natural bodybuilder, competitive powerlifter, certified personal trainer, and nutrition coach, Jesse is often the go-to resource for personal training Ottawa. He studied Exercise Science at Oregon State University and even trained at the world famous Gold’s Gym. He’s a former US Army Captain with the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, a former blog writer at Veterans Fitness Career College, and former Chief Executive Officer at U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM). His workouts and personal training are army-inspired to help reach your weightloss, athletic, or physique goals.