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Leg Workouts For Women – 20 Killer Leg Workouts

leg workouts for women

Leg Workouts For Women; Will Make You Fitter, Healthier And Stronger

Leg workouts for women embraces the new intelligent research about strength training for women, because it simply works!

I think you'll agree with me, you yearn for killer legs;

I know the feeling.  It's part of the daily struggle!

​But just keep reading, and I'll show you some of the best leg workouts that will, with some consistent effort, build the legs you've been dying for.

Why not for men too?

Well, there’s lots of guys who would get great benefits from these workouts, so don’t be put off because I said, “for women”. We love you to have strong legs too, and in fact some of these workouts are extremely hard for men.

No doubt about it!​

It’s just that I don’t think enough women really focus on doing great leg workouts. We all desire great legs, but go into any gym, and you’ll find guys hitting the heavy weights for their legs, but not so many girls. Perhaps too many think that their legs will “get big”.

Let’s dich that fallacy now. Working your legs hard will produce lean muscle that makes your legs appear toned, helps reduce any cellulite problems, and gives you killer calves for those occasions when you break out the high heals.

Leg workouts are full of blood sweat and tears.

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Hopefully not too much blood, but if you’re deadlifting heavy then shins have been known to bleed. But there’s so many benefits to be gained.

Just a couple of great benefits from leg workouts for women, include;

  • Big compound moves like squats and deadlifts will actually impact your whole body, engaging muscle fibres throughout and giving you maximum gains for your time spent.
  • The largest muscles in your body are in your legs, so they are actually capable of shifting heavier weights. And that means more calories burned if you’re looking to shed some kilos as well.
  • Because you’ve engaged the largest muscles in your body, the calorie burn will continue for longer after you finish training.
  • All explosive movements in sports, require strong legs. And they’ll really help you move through your average day with greater ease as well.
  • And really importantly, a great set of toned legs are going to look great in so many different outfits.

One of the best things that you can do to keep making progress with any physical training, is to add some variety, that way your body doesn’t;

1. Get too used to the same workout, which can then fail to stimulate improvement

2. Break down from over training with the same routine

Brett Contreras;

"If you think lifting weights is dangerous, try being weak.  Being weak is dangerous." 

So, with that in mind, I’ve gone looking for some of the best leg workouts for women to be found online. This collection includes workouts from top trainers who know how to get results. I’ve selected my favourites based on the moves included, and providing plenty of different variety to keep you interested and challenged.

Some of these leg workouts are extremely hard routines to complete, and are only for advanced lifters, but others are ​easier for beginners or intermediate.  Start where you feel comfortable, and try the more advanced routines as you advance.

So, lets get started;

Click the title of each workout, which will open the trainers full post with detailed instructions about the leg workout​.

Leg Workouts For Women

Moves for Lean Sexy Legs

best leg exercises

Women’s health brings us this collection of seven moves, when you’re tired of lunges and squats.

The pistol squat might be a bit challenging for beginners, but persist and you’ll be cranking them out in no time.

The dumbbell split jump, or flying lunges as I like to call them, are one of my favourite exercises. It’s great for building explosive power, speed and athleticism.

A Girls Guide To Glam Hams

leg workouts for women

The team at bodybuilding dot com are really good at showing you how to smash out some great workouts. 

Here they're making some really good points on giving some focus to your hamstrings and glutes to balance the strength with your quads.

It's great to see them expressing the same thoughts about lifting heavy, and the risk of bulky legs. "​your muscles won't change unless they have a reason to."

I'd probably do more reps and less sets in these leg workouts, so you get through the workout in less time.​  And I'm not a big fan of the common 10 rep set.

 Andreia Brazier - Legs and Glutes Workout

As a four time fitness model world champion, Andreia Brazier is really worth listening to. 

She has some really interesting workouts, and mixes up exercises to keep things interesting, which I love.

There's some good exercises in this workout, which you can do with body weight alone as well.  so if you don't have access to a gym or weights, these are some great options.

Beauty And Booty Challenge: Lower Body Strength

Leg Workouts For Women

The Lauren Gleisberg beauty and booty challenge legs and glutes weights workout focuses on engaging the glutes before completing compound movements for maximum booty building effect. 

Depending how much weight you use for the dead lifts and sumo squats, this workout can be really challenging.

Lauren clearly loves fitness, and has some great content on her blog, so it's worth a visit.​

At Home Leg Exercises

leg workouts for women

These exercises from Spotebi are easy to complete at home, so it's a really handy workout if you don't have time to get to the gym or are travelling. 

Just slip into your favourite active wear, and give those legs a workout, wherever you are.

Muscle And Strength, Leg Training For Women

leg workouts for women

This is a great post, which covers some of the reasons that I mentioned above, why women should train legs hard.  

They also talk about progressive overload, which is a really important training principle if you want to make decent gains in strength and conditioning.  I've written more on that topic in this article.

​They've got three workouts, all giving you the chance to smash your leg day out, with some heavy weights.  I'd just increase the reps a lot more than they have, for the leg press.  I really believe in higher reps for leg press.  Try it, and see the results you get.

Gym Leg Workout

leg workouts for women

These leg exercises focus on shapely legs and a perfectly round booty.  Targeting your quads hamstrings and glutes. 

These are all great exercises in Jared's program.  I would just adjust the 10 reps to suite what you are really looking to achieve. Usually I would be doing higher reps than this.

Leg Press Lunacy Workout

leg workouts for women - leg press

Eric Broser has come up with a great workout, on the one machine, which really kills your quads.  

Leg Press.  Eric describes this workout as the "thigh thumper".

You can really shift a lot of weight doing leg press.  Keeping your back flat on the seat, pulling down hard and make sure that you are breathing out hard when pushing, and you'll keep your back secure and really work your quads and glutes.

​8-10 Reps is what is suggested here.  Again, I would go much higher than this, aiming for 30-50 on working sets.  

You might find it hard to walk out of the gym, but if you can get through this workout, with these higher reps, and heavy weight, then you will really feel the gains.

20 - Rep Squats 

leg workouts for women

This is a great post, which really explains squats, and primes you for completing high reps, which I love.  

If you want to get great results from the time you spend in the gym, then you need to be prepared to put yourself through some pain.  This workout will surely do that for you, and get you the results that follow.

David Whitely have done a great job detailing this workout, and even given some tips of what you should be eating if you are doing this type of hard training. I love it. 

And for once, I don't even need to say, that I would add more reps to each set:)​

Smolov Russian Squat Routine

leg workouts for women - back squat

This leg workout focuses entirely on squats for a thirteen week period.  

It's a really challenging program, that should only be attempted by experienced lifters.  So if you've been training for a year or more, and feeling like you've hit a plateau, then this program could be perfect to lift your intensity and achieve those gains you're chasing.

 ​The post has been written targeting guys, so some of the body weights and weights lifted won't be relevant to women.  They do note how to calculate your starting weight for the program though, so you can follow that as a guide, and if you're going to do this program, then you should have the experience to know your strength and lifting capacity. 

If you don't know, or want to re-confirm what your starting weight should be, you can use this handy one rep max calculator.

This is the type of workout which will grow lean muscle whilst also losing body fat, so remember to fuel your body with good nutrition while you're training on this program.

This routine is written up by Mehdi, who has a great web site, if you like lifting heavy, and want increased strength that can be maintained.  I love his site, and find lots of practical advice there, so do yourself a favour and check our Mehdi's story and have a look around his site here.

If you'd like a refresher on squat technique, or even the answer to questions about squats that have been on your mind, and no one has been able to answer, I recommend taking an hour and reading Mehdi's definitive guide to squats.

Russian Squat Routine

leg workouts for women

As leg exercises go, squats are king, and the Russian squat routine is famous for helping increase your strength. 

This is a six week squat program following nine sessions of progressive lifting.

You can use the simple calculator included in the post by Marc, to produce a program to follow.  The just have discipline and don't miss any sessions.​

There are debates about which produces better gains, the Russian squat routine or the Smolov routine.

For me, there is no doubt that the smolov routine is harder, and also produces greater gains in strength.  But you can't do that type of program all the time, and the Russian squat routine will also keep you advancing.

​In fact, if you haven't done this type of program before, I would suggest trying this before the Smolov routine. 

Plyometric Leg Exercises

Plyometric exercises are a great way to build more athletic speed and power.  And we all know that an athletic body looks great too.

You can mix these exercises in with your main leg training routine, to add variety of stimulus and a break from the intensity if you are doing one of the heavy squat programs.

For example, you can train squats early in the week, then with a day in between to recover, do a plyometric leg workout.​

Or simply include some plyometric exercises in a more general whole body routine, like the circuit that I'm doing in the video above.​

​I love doing the box jumps.  It's one of my favourite leg exercises.

Stiff Legged Dead Lift

leg workouts for women

Women's quads are normally stronger and more developed than the hamstring.  So we need to make sure we're putting some focus on developing strong hamstrings as well.

Apart from the athletic benefits, having well developed hamstrings will really give you nice athletic looking shapely legs.​ So what's not to like.

These routines from Bodybuilding.com focus on the stiff legged dead life, which is a great exercise to develop the hamstring.

Try any of the suggested routines.  They are all challenging, and therefore worthwhile.​

Ed Coan Dead Lift Routine

leg workouts for women - dead lifts

Dead lifts are an amazingly effective compound exercise, that will engage every muscle fiber in your body. 

They are primarily a  back and legs exercise, and really could not be overlooked in any decent strength training routine focused on legs.

The Ed Coan routine is for intermediate to advanced lifters.

You will be dead lifting once a week, for a duration of ten weeks completing this program. So you will still be able to mix in other training sessions that you would normally complete.

​Dead lifts are really hard work, but every time I complete a training cycle including dead lifts, I can really notice the increase in strength again. 

For a good critique of the Ed Coan routine, this is a really good write up which while focused on power lifting, explains this routine really well, and will give you a better understanding of what this routine is about.  go here to read.​

Dead Lifting For Beginners

While I've just thrown the Ed Coan routine at you, I thought it important here to include something on dead lifting, for less experienced lifters. 

This post from Nerdfitness explains the basics of dead lifting well, and will get you started.

And the following  great video by the Buff Dudes nails it for explaining good technique.

The only tips I would add to that are, that you should wear a weight lifting belt always while deadlifting.  It's not being weak.  It supports your lower back, and gives your abs something to push against, so you can exert more power, and lift heavier. 

While not as critical as a weight belt, I'd also suggest using lifting straps.  They really help you to grip the bar, so that it's not your grip which is the weakest link making you fail on high rep sets or with really heavy weight.  You are focusing on working your major muscles, not building a stronger hand.​

The following video by Darin Starr provides a really good explanation on how to use lifting straps.​

If you are just beginning I would suggest incorporating dead lifts on one day a week, as part of your broader overall program. ​

Start out conservatively, make sure you get the technique correct, before you start pulling too much weight, or progressing to the harder dead lift programs.​

Best Calf Building Workout

leg workouts for women

We all know that great calves look super sexy, but do we even spend much time working on them in the gym?

Probably not.

Well, Bodybuilding.com have done a great job with this post on the best calf building workout.

If you don't want to spend so much time focusing on building great calves, I find that simply doing as many standing calf raises as I can without rest in one set, after my normal leg day workout, will really hit my calves. ​

Front Squat For Impressive Legs

leg workouts for women - front squat

I've already given you some killer workouts doing back squats, but writing about leg workouts wouldn't be complete without including front squats.

Front squats really work your quads, and we all know that having impressive quads will give you a great athletic look.​

​This post from Robertson Training Systems provides a really good explanation of front squatting.  They pretty much address every question that you could think of, so it's a great resource.  Read it twice, before you try front squats.

They provide some examples of simply front squat routines to get started with as well.

You ​can integrate front squats into your overall program.  For example, complete back squats on the first training day, then front squats on the third training day. 

Or, use front squats as a variant, when you've finished a heavy cycle of back squats. ​

​Again, I like to keep reps high, with decent weight, starting with a warm up set at 50% of 1RM, and then ranging between 70% to 90% of my 1 RM for working sets.

Body Weight Exercises For Stronger Legs

leg workouts for women

Calisthenics can be really challenging for the legs, building resilient muscles.  They can also build beautiful athletic legs.

​Think boxers, who do lots of calisthenic exercises like skipping, jumps, sprints and generally as they're moving around in the ring.  They need really resilient strong legs.  If their legs are gone, then it's usually goodnight, lights out. 

Tod Kuslikis of ​Shot of Adrenaline wrote this great post, which explains 55 different body weight exercises for legs. 

It's a great resource if you're interested in building great legs, without weights.  He's included progress charts, workouts, how to train instructions and recovery tips.

So, if you're short on time, or just don't like going to a gym, you'll find plenty of great leg exercises here to develop athletic pins.

I personally like doing pistol squats and Bulgarian spit-squats.

Tod has even written another great post on how to develop muscular legs with body weight training, including an example routine.  You can read it here.

​More Calisthenics For Athletic Legs

leg workouts for women

If you thought that the best leg workouts for women would only include weight room training, then I hope you're happily proven wrong.

Body weight workouts are really convenient, as you can crank them out pretty much anywhere, and just try some of these moves, and if you didn't before, you'll realise how effective they are as well.​

Jeff Cowan of Body Weight Training Arena brings us this post with more calisthenic workouts to make your legs burn.

​There's great explanations of the different leg exercises and example routines that you can follow, or put something together that suites your time and goals.

Pilates Butt And Thigh Workout

If heaving heavy iron or holding pistol squats isn't your thing, then it doesn't mean you can't still work those legs. 

Pilates exercises can be great, even mixed in with a regular strength training program which is more focused on weights.

The following routine from Fitness Blender includes some great moves for the legs and glutes.

Optimize Post Workout Recovery

leg workout recovery

Whichever leg workouts for women you choose to follow, your legs will be sore.  It's important to also spend some time and proper planning on post workout recovery.

Without proper recovery, your body won't be restored enough to achieve maximum effort and results from the following workouts.

It's good practice anyway, but particularly with some of the harder workouts like Smolov or the Russian squat routine, it is a must.  Or you just won't get through the program.

This post from Onnit Acadamy includes 10 great tips for post workout recovery.

The best tip here for me is, sleep!

​Sleep is so important. It's when the body does most of it's recovery, and yet is often overlooked in our busy lives

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Make sure you get a good eight hours sleep, and feel the difference it makes.​

What's the one real secret to getting the best results from these leg workouts for women?

As with all proper training;

 progressive overload will ensure that you achieve meaningful results. ​ You can apply this principle to these workouts, by progressing from easier workouts to the more challenging ones, or working on increasing the intensity of a particular leg workout.

I hope that you enjoy trying some of these workouts, or at least enjoy the results that will come from doing them consistently.

And for some great recipes to fuel your body the right way, try some of these 31 healthy clean eating recipes. 

Let me know in the comments below, about any other good leg workouts that you like?​

Here's to, HAPPY LEG DAY!​

How To Do Push Ups, For Greater Strength

how to do push ups

How to do push ups

How to do push ups sounds like such a simple question, doesn't it?

Have you ever tried to do 100 push ups? Now that's getting a bit harder.

I think push ups competitions are great fun. But even if you don’t find doing lots of push ups fun, if you have some will power and persistence, and keep doing them, you will feel the benefits within a few weeks.

It is pretty easy to improve your strength and fitness with push ups.

Even if you can only do 5 to start with, just add one more every day, and within 20 days you will now be doing 25 in a row. Keep going and eventually you will be able to do 100, and that’s a real feat!

It’s easy to fit doing push ups into even the busiest life. Just do them every night before bed. Burn off those last calories and feel good before you sleep.

It’s better to do them at the end of the day than at the start. Some people like to do push ups as soon as they rise, but this isn’t a great idea. Your body hasn’t had a chance to warm up, and so your joints and spine could be stiff and won’t like the extra load being placed on them before they’ve had a chance to get moving more gently.

I’ve always thought push ups were great!

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When I was a kid I remember the soldiers training near home and how fit they looked. Within their exercise routines were push ups, or “lizards” as part of their routine. I remember how much admiration I had at the time for their bodies. I even tried as a kid to do push ups without success, then later on in my life my husband took me to the gym to start to get fit, and one of the exercises that I kept in mind to do was push ups.

I started to do them on my knees until they became easier, then I start to do some variations and even incorporated elements working different muscles of the body.

During the last year, I do push ups every day, usually choosing four types of them for a month with twenty reps of each type, and trust me they work your core, arms and chest very well.

If you are starting do push ups, just keep doing them until they become a habit as a part of your routine. To be honest you don’t need to go to the gym to train, you can do them anywhere and anytime. The only thing you need is your disciple, and remember consistency and discipline make the difference to achieve whatever you want in life.

So, what will how to do push ups do for your body?

Push ups are not only great to work the upper body; also they are good for abs and stability. They work your chest, arms and core.

To start to make a change in this part of your body, you must incorporate push ups as part of your workout or routine. To do these exercises it’s not necessary to have any equipment, you only need your body weight and add some variations to target different muscles, and you will be able to achieve a great workout.

Push ups are great to work the muscles in your chest, (pectorals) just with your body weight. As well push ups engage the muscles of your arms such as biceps and triceps, so including this exercise in your workouts will tone and strengthen your arms over the time.

Let’s get into the different types of push ups:

Knee push ups​

How to do push ups
Knee push ups

These are the easier starting point for people who are just incorporating this exercise in their routine. Place your knees together kneeling on the floor, as they will take all your weight when you are pushing with your arms and lifting your upper body. When you find this version of push ups easier after you have done them for a while, probably only a couple of weeks for most people, jump to the next level.

Incline push ups​

Incline push ups

This type of push ups is quite easy as well, because you don’t need a lot of strength in your upper body. Also they are perfect to go to the next level of effort. To do this exercise you will place your hands on a bench at the width of your shoulders or wider if you wish, then your feet on the ground and keep your body straight.

Standard push ups

push up

Lie on the floor facing down, open your arms till your arm is bent to 90 deg at the elbow at the level of your chest, and place your feet together while keeping your body straight. These push ups will work most in your chest and arms.

Diamond push ups

diamond push up

Spread your fingers so that your index fingers and thumbs almost touch, creating a diamond shape between your hands; they should be positioned below the centre of your chest. This will be your start position, while staying up on your toes and keeping your body straight. Diamond push ups will work principally your triceps.

Narrow push ups​

How to do push ups
Narrow push ups

The starting point of this exercise is placing your hands close to each other leaving around eight centimeters between each hand, this means they will be under your chest. Place your feet together and keep your body straight. Narrow push ups are great for triceps although they will also work chest, arms and core.

Decline push ups​

decline push ups

Find a bench or surface to place your feet, put your hands on the floor for doing push ups. The fact, that your feet are off the ground make the core unstable, thus we have to work harder to keep the core stable. The major focus of this exercise will be on the pectorals.

Wide push ups

How to do push ups
Wide push ups

Place your hands as wide as you can with your feet on the floor, your elbows are opened outward, resulting in a greater workload for your shoulders and for the muscles of your chest, because your arms as levers are wider creating a greater stretch through the pectoral muscles. This type of flexion is less challenging for some people, than variations with hands together because of the width of your hands.

T push ups

How to do push ups
T push ups

The starting point of these push ups are the same as the standard push ups with a higher degree of difficulty which includes the rotation of the trunk with an arm up at the same time forming a T with your body when you’re rotated side to side. Your core will work more here to keep the stability of your body; also the muscles working here are the pectorals and the arms.

Staggered push ups

How to do push ups
How to do push ups

As the standard push ups is the starting point one arm is close to your body the other hand is place in front of you, these are working mainly the triceps and chest muscles.

Clapping push ups

How to do push ups
Clapping push ups

This push up is known as a plyometric exercise for developing power and strength in your chest. To do it you have to push your body from the ground high enough to clap your hands, before they reach the floor again in the start position.

​Single arm ball push ups

How to do push ups
Single arm ball push ups

Place one hand on a small medicine ball and the other one on the ground. These push ups will force you to keep the stability of the core tight, and the arms while you are working your muscles of the chest, core and arms, creating strength mainly in your chest and core.

Push ups are a great work out for getting nice shape and strength in your arms, chest and core stability. You don’t need any equipment to start with, just the motivation and determination to have a healthy body with a good shape. Don’t wait any longer to get fit, the time is now and your body will be grateful with your efforts in few months’ time.

To be stronger and healthy you don’t have to visit the gym, get up and go running or walking. Complete your cardio with push ups, and you have done a full work out.

Remember to have a healthy diet as well. For some easy recipes check out my recent blog, where you will find 31 clean eating recipes, that are all easy to make and super tasty.

So, once you get really good at how to do push ups, you can contact these people and have them confirm your new world record.​  I'm not quite there yet myself!

If you're not up to a world record yet either, I'm still happy for you to share your success and progress with me in the comments below.​

Lower Ab Workouts For Women

lower ab workouts for women

Lower ab workouts for women, to flatten and tone your belly.

If you are looking for the honest truth about lower ab workouts for women, keep reading.  If you just want a quick and easy fix for a flabby belly, resulting from a soft and undisciplined lifestyle which you are not prepared to change, you'll hate this, so don't bother.

Great! You're still reading.​

Having flat abs has been touted as the universal symbol of health, sex appeal, and fitness. Although many of us dream of having a nice, toned midriff, it may take a bit more effort and sweat than many are prepared to put in, to make it a reality.

The fitness and health industry is booming in this modern age as more people are aware of the importance of a healthy diet and active life. But unfortunately that means there are also lots of people who will try to sell you on the latest gimmick or fad, which is supposed to achieve that ever elusive dream body with minimal effort, and super fast.

The reality is, all this approach will do if you fall for it, is lose you some cash and some wasted time following the latest fad.​

So, I wanted to make sure that from this post, as well as some workout tips, you also gain a better understanding about ab training, and it's role in achieving those flat toned abs we all desire.​

It won't work in isolation!​

​The term 'lower abs' is not very accurate because the muscles underneath the skin on our abdominal section covers the whole area from the upper rib cage up to the pelvis.

​There are 4 main muscles on your abdomen:

Rectus abdominis: this is the layer of muscle known as the 6 pack muscles. These muscles function to support your back while bending or picking things up

External obliques: these are the muscles on the side of your abs that help in rotating and bending sideways

​Serratus anterior: located on the side of the chest, this muscle is important for posture and shoulder health, and is used to thrust the shoulder forward when pushing something.

Transverse abdominis: this is the deepest layer of muscle that acts to stabilize the spine and prevent back pain



From this piece of information, it is clear that you don't actually need to do a separate workout for upper and lower abs, since any exercise you do will effect the whole muscle of the abdomen.

The reason why people are obsessed with lower ab workouts is because fat tends to accumulate at the lower part of the abdomen. Women often have trouble spots like this because naturally the hormone estrogen causes the body to hold on to fat in certain body parts.

Unfortunately, there is honestly no way to spot train abs separately to achieve the dream six pack

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In order to get abs, you need to reduce your overall body fat percentage by training your whole body.

Once you have reduced your body fat enough, any musculature that you have developed, which for women will take some hard work, will become more visible.  ​

This does not mean that you should just skip doing lower ab workouts entirely. Lower ab workouts are great because they will tone your belly and improve your balance. A strong core may lower your risk of suffering a back injury, in general life, or particularly while training with large compound moves like squats and dead lifts. (which are great for stimulating muscle growth and calorie burning)

​There is certainly no need for any fancy workout machines to perform ab exercises. The most important thing you need is the time and persistence to do it. In addition to that, you need to devote a complete focus while doing your workouts to achieve maximum benefit.

​According to studies, there is a connection between your mind and muscle activation especially in resistance training. Instead of mindlessly going through your workout, try to focus more on every muscle movement you're doing, as this will speed up your results for muscle gain.

​It is also beneficial to do exercises in high intensity intervals. This type of training method has been proven to show results in a short amount of time, and can easily be incorporated into lower ab workouts for women.

There are many varieties of lower ab workouts for women out there. With that being said, here are some of my favourite exercises that you can incorporate in a high intensity circuit, and do today to get started on the abs of your dreams:-

Lower ab workouts for women - high intensity circuit;

Complete the following eight exercises in a circuit, then rest for 30 seconds and start again. 

​If you haven't done much ab training before, you could start by doing each exercise for 30 seconds, and complete two circuits.  If you're already pretty fit, or as you progress, try doing four circuits, which will then still only take you 12 minutes, but will give your abs a great workout.

I usually do this type of workout at the end of my weights training, or after I've done a running or bike session, to finish off.​

Heel touches;

Lie down on your back with knees bent and feet on the ground. While exhaling, lift up your trunk, reaching sideways with one of your arms for the parallel heel. Inhale as you return to starting position. In alternate motions, keep touching your hand on your heels. This workout will tone up your external oblique muscles. Take heed to keep your legs in place and your feet firm on the ground.

lower ab workouts - heal touches

Single knee raise crunch;​

Lie down on your back with knees bent and hands placed behind your head. Raise your shoulder off the ground and bend knees to about 90 degrees. Slowly bring your right knee and left elbow together, lightly touching it. This exercise is almost like a bicycle crunch but the difference is that you're not stretching the legs out. This workout activates your rectus abdominis muscles.

lower ab workouts - elbow to knee

Reach through crunch;​

Lie down on your back with knees bent, with legs wide apart. Raise your shoulders blades off the ground with arms straight and parallel to your trunk, try to reach through between the legs. Keep your ab muscles contracted at all times.

lower ab workouts for women - crunches

Wide toe touches;

While lying down on your back, put your legs up straight against your trunk making a 90 degree angle. Spread your arms wide on your side, parallel to your body. While exhaling, slightly raise your shoulder blades from the ground while stretching your left arm to reach the left heel. As you return to your starting position, inhale. Repeat this move with the right side. Do several repetitions alternately. Remember to always keep the abs braced during this move.

lower ab workouts for women - straight leg toe touches

​Starfish crunch;

Lie down flat on your back. With your arms extended above your head and legs spread out, try to form an X on the ground with your body. While exhaling, lift one arm and the opposing leg simultaneously, touching your fingers onto your toe. Inhale and slowly lower back arms and legs to starting position. Repeat on the opposite arm and legs back to starting position. Be careful not swing the arms and legs mindlessly, but to focus on a slow, controlled motion. Be sure to contract abdominal muscles throughout this exercise.

lower ab workouts for women

​Twisting windmills;

This exercise targets your external obliques. With your back on the floor, lie down with arms extended on both sides. Raise your legs up straight against your trunk making a 90 degree angle. In a slow controlled motion, lower your legs to the left side of your body until your legs are close to the floor a few inches from your left hand. Slowly bring back to starting position. Repeat on the other side. Do several repetitions alternately.

twisting windmills

​Planks;

this exercise is a simple but very effective one. Your body stays in one position but this static form of exercise will develop your core strength. It not only trains your abs but also your shoulders, arms, and glute muscles.

​Position your hands straight under your shoulders on the ground as if you're about to do a push-up. Plant your toes on the floor and try to make sure your body is straight and stabilized. Your head should be aligned with your back. Hold the position for 30 seconds. You'll find out that as you gain more strength, you can hold a plank position for a longer period of time.

plank

​The world record for planking is 8 hours and 1 minute. (as I publish this)

To make this exercise harder, you can place a weight plate on your back to add some extra load.

lower ab workouts - plank

​Side plank;

​this exercise is another basic static exercise that helps to build your core strength. Lie on your side and place your forearm on the floor under your shoulder in perpendicular to your body. With your legs straight, your upper leg is placed directly on top of the lower leg.

​Your body is raised from the floor by straightening your waist. Hold the position and repeat on the opposite side. This may be hard for beginners, so if you have trouble doing it, modify this move by angling the body up against a wall.

​Beginners can also do another modified version of it called a bent knee side plank. In this version, the leg that is closest to the floor is bent while planking, making it easier to balance.

To make the exercise harder, try extending your arm, instead of resting on your elbow.  When you are doing the side plank this way, really focus on making sure that your body stays in a straight line from shoulders to feet. If you start sagging at the hips, your abs probably aren't strong enough for this more advanced version yet.​

side plank
side plank extended arm

​While doing all these exercises won't magically get you the perfect six pack abs you want, combined with proper training and diet, to achieve a low body fat %, it will help in sculpting and toning your body for more muscle definition.

Flat abs are the result of a healthy diet and proper training.

If you'd like some ideas for meals to include in a healthy diet, my list of 31 easy clean eating recipes might inspire you.

And for some tips on proper training check out these posts;

​It all boils down to your choices. what are you willing to sacrifice to get the abs of your dreams? Depending where you are currently in your fitness journey, it may be difficult to do a complete 180 degree change, but little steps each day and persistence will take you a long way.
























And, always make sure that you are enjoying your training. Mix it up and have fun, and it will be so much easier for you to stick to a consistent plan over time.

I'm always looking for more ideas about training, so please share any tips that you think might be useful, about lower ab workouts for women, or different ab exercises to include in a training circuit, in the comments below.​



Progressive Overload – Principles Of Strength Training

leg workouts for women

According to Wikipedia, progressive overload is "the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during exercise training. It was developed by Thomas Delorme, M.D. while he rehabilitated soldiers after World War II." Full description here

And, principles of strength training; "involve a manipulation of the number of repetitions (reps), sets, tempo, exercises and force to cause desired changes in strength, endurance or size by overloading of a group of muscles". Full description here 

Progressive Overload - And why should you care about this? 

​Well, if you don't understand how to achieve progressive overload, through applying effective principles of strength training, then you are likely wasting most of the time that you're spending working out.

Your body will not change unless you force it to change.  

it doesn't change voluntarily, just because you wish it to.

Simply put, you need to make your body be able to do something which it before could not do.

​Then, your body will adapt by becoming stronger and building muscle, to cope with the new stresses it believes that you need to cope with in life.  

Reverse this process, by being less active, and your body will believe that it needs less muscle and reduce the amount of muscle you have, making it easier for fat to build up from any excess energy / calories which you consume.

progressive overload fatty

​Lots of people go to the gym five or more times a week, for an hour or more, but over the years their body doesn't really change much at all.  They are simply doing just enough training (application of stress to the body / muscles) to maintain their current physique.

If you are happy to just maintain your current physique, there is no problem with that, assuming you are in reasonable shape, but;

It might give you more free time to spend doing other things, if you understand how ensuring that you are applying progressive overload could achieve this result in fare less time.

two good quality training sessions per week, would normally be more than enough to achieve maintenance, presuming that you also have reasonable eating habits / nutrition planning.

​When you understand, and focus on achieving progressive overload, you can be sure that you are training properly, and can be sure of achieving results.

​If you're not doing that, then it's likely that at best you aren't achieving the results which you could be, and it's highly likely that you're not getting much result at all.

​So, if not doing this, pretty much guarantees you at best poor results, why isn't every one focused on achieving progressive overload with their training?  Well;

  • It involves effort, lots of people don't really like effort, and;
  • Most average trainers don't properly show people how to do this. No, doing three sets of ten reps with a weight that's easy for you to handle isn't proper training.

​One of the biggest problems that you face in achieving progressive overload is, how do you continue to increase the load without hitting plateaus, where you just can't seem to break through and increase your one rep max?

 Even using periodisation programming where you alternate higher reps with higher weights can eventually get difficult to make significant progress with. 

The other problem that particularly new lifters can find, is that it can be overly challenging for them both mentally and physically, to handle heavy loads.  This can also be a problem if you are recovering from an injury.

​So, let's look at different ways that you can achieve progressive overload, in strength training.

Nine ways to achieve progressive overload;​

  • Increase weight;

When you are physically able to increase the weight you can lift for a given number of reps, it's time to go heavier.  Staying with the same weight will simply maintain your current body.

​Depending on which muscle group you are working with the exercise, and how advanced a trainer you are, will determine what a reasonable increase in weight is. 

When you are just starting, it is relatively easy to increase weight, as your body adapts quite quickly, to cope with what is probably not initially a truly heavy weight.  A more advanced lifter will already be handling heavier weights, and so a smaller incremental increase will be possible.​

If you are training legs, with something like squats or leg press, then an increase of 10kg may be easily handled, but clearly your biceps won't handle this.  You need to be practical and consistent.

If you need to work out what kind of weight you should be capable of lifting for a given repetition range, then this handy calculator will help you do this;

  • Increased repetitions;

Increase the number of reps that you do for each set.

This is often used in alternate cycles with the increase in weight noted above, as periodisation.  where you perform higher reps in one training session, followed by higher weight in the next session, and then back to higher reps for the next session, usually on a week to week rotation.

​If you were to simply continually increase the number of reps for each set, you would start to get an out of control rep range.  It's a good place to start for a beginner, followed by an increase in weight, and then alternated.

  • Increase sets;

Increase the number of sets you complete.

If you are already pushing yourself to complete the most number of reps that you can with a given weight, it's not practical to achieve more reps.

Instead, add more sets to your program.  Instead of completing three sets, add another one to two sets.  Even if you can't complete the same number of reps for these sets as you did in the first three, you are moving more load, and so increasing the stress / overload on your muscles.​

  • Increase amount of exercises;

Add extra exercises, for a particular muscle group, into your program. 

You might have pushed yourself to complete the most sets and reps of squats possible in the session.  But you will be able to complete some extra sets of leg curls and leg extensions, to increase the workload, and thus overload on these muscles.

You could find that if you are giving it your all during a squat session, this might work better if you complete the extra sets of leg extensions and curls, before doing the squat sets.  This will obviously make completing your squat sets more challenging, but your quads, glutes and hamstrings ​will be well warmed up.

  • Increase training frequency;

Increase the number of sessions you are training a muscle group for.

We need to remember that we are focusing on overload of muscle groups, not simply increasing the workload that the whole body completes.  Although that would also produce the result of making you fitter, provided you don't over train.

So, if you were training legs, including quads, hamstrings, and glutes twice a week, you could add a third session into your program, including the same exercises.

​Women typically have faster recovery time than men, and so will need less time between working a particular muscle group, to allow it to recover.  Definitely an advantage to being a woman!

If you are going to use this method, you should also focus on recovery for these muscle groups between sessions.  Depending what level of training you've reached, this could include, massage, ice baths, active recovery such as walking, cycling, some running, stretching, foam rolling etc, between your strength sessions to ensure the muscles are ready to handle more stress again.

  • Increased intensity;

Increase the intensity with which you complete your sets.

This could be done by increasing the speed with which you complete each repetition.

If you complete each rep with a faster tempo, working on speed and power, you are exerting more effort.  

If you force yourself to complete each rep at a slower tempo, the time under tension is increased, and greater effort is required to complete the same number of reps for each set.​

  • Decreased rest time;

Try halving the amount of rest time that you have between sets.

Often you will see people around the gym chatting and socializing b​e-tween sets.  They are probably in the "exercising" zone, instead of "training", as there is clearly little or no focus on a set rest time.

Some people have a different view on this, believing that you need to take as long as you need to between sets, to recover fully before completing the next set, so that you can complete each set with greatest effort.  There is some merit to this thinking as well, particularly if you are already lifting very heavy weights​, or high reps.  But what every your recovery time, it should be spent breathing well to recover, and focusing mentally on the next set, not idly chatting. 

​Allocate your time in the gym for training, focus on that, to get results, and enjoy socializing after the works been done.

  • Change the exercise;

Change the exercise that you are using to focus on a particular muscle group.

For example if you have been doing body weight squats, you could do jump / plyometric squats instead.

​You could add something like this into your program as well.  Complete body weight or jump squats, or flying lunges between your bar bell squat sets.  Your legs will be dying after this workout, but the gains will be rewarding in time.

  • Shocking principle;

Add any of the following into how you complete your sets.

  • partial reps
  • drop sets
  • cheat reps
  • slow negatives
  • static contractions

Even just adding something like completing a few extra partial reps at the end of each set, is adding additional progressive overload to the muscle.  

​Try adding a different shocking principle technique to the end of every set, and really feel the burn! i.e;

  • Set 1 - 12 reps + 5 partial reps
  • Set 2 - 12 reps + hold for 30 seconds static contraction
  • set 3 - 12 reps + 5 slow negative reps

​With this knowledge, applied with the right amount of effort, you can't help but achieve gainz!

progressive overload - deadlift

​Progressive overload, applied to principles of strength training;

​We need to remember that progressive overload is only one principle of strength training, albeit a foundational one.

​If you were to blindly pursue this principle, without correct application of others, your training will still suffer.  So let's tie a few other strength training principles together.

  • Ground based activities

most sports, and in fact most things we do in life require force applied through your feet to the ground.  To move you in any direction, laterally or vertically standing up or jumping.

The more force you are able to apply through your feet, the better you will be able to perform.​

​so, training with exercises that include these moves, and require you to exert force through your feet is practical and provides bang for your buck, training wise.

​Exercises such as squat, dead lift, cleans, lunges and a range of plyometric moves are great for this.

  • Train with explosive force

​The more explosive force that is involved in a movement, the more motor units within the body, and the muscle fibers which they control and engaged. 

Again, plyometric moves, and major lifts such as the squat, deadlift and cleans will require explosive force to complete properly.  

The more explosive force which you apply to these moves, the heavier the weight you will be able to move​, and therefor better results are achieved during, and after, training. 

Remember that training with weights, is "all about the weight" and usually you should be aiming to train with a heavy load.  So even when applying explosive force, you won't be going too fast, or swinging the weights.  They will be too heavy for that, so if you find yourself doing this, stop and evaluate what you are doing, because it's wrong.

And if you are wondering how your strength compares to other lifters.  Well, I could tell you that we are all unique individuals, and so focus on your own performance, but that's just weak!

And I know that we all love some competition, so I'll share with you this strength level calculator, which I think is great to gauge yourself.​

And just in case you're wondering.  It rates me as advanced, and says that I'm stronger than 92% of women in my age group.  So considering that I'm not a power lifter, I'm pretty happy with that:)

And, if I continue to apply the progressive overload principle in my programs, then one day they might rate me as elite - Can't wait!​

  • Compound lifts, using multiple joints

​There aren't too many things that we do in life, that don't require multiple joint movements.  So training this way as well, is just good sense.  And you'll get better results, so why not do it:)

​These exercises again include squats, deadlifts, lunges, cleans, pull ups and plyometric moves.  All of which engage more total muscle fibers than isolation exercises such as bicep curls, tricep extensions etc.

It should be pretty clear, why the compound moves are foundational in most good training programs.  I just love them!

progressive overload strength training principles
Progressive overload pullups
  • Periodisation in strength training programming

​I touched on this above, when considering how to continually achieve progressive overload. 

There are a couple of important points;

  1. You can't train at 100% maximum effort for 12 months every year, or your body will not have sufficient rest and recovery.  
  2. It is extremely difficult to simply continue to increase the weight you are lifting, each and every training session.  

Therefore, most strength training programs will have an element of periodisation built into them.

​This can be, increasing the reps one week, followed by increasing the weight the next week.   splitting different body parts like upper and lower into different sessions, on season versus off season training for professional athletes, or a combination of these type of things. 

  • Training your different energy systems

​Depending on what sport, or other purpose you are training for, there will be a different focus to achieve the required result.

​The three main energy systems are;

  1. Anaerobic lactic system​ - generates force for medium intervals
  2. Anaerobic alactic system - generates maximum force for a short interval
  3. Aerobic system - moderate force for a long period.  Long distance running and the like

There is an element of progressive overload required to achieve results from most forms of training, but we have been mainly focused on strength training here, which when done properly will train the Anaerobic systems mainly.

​I hope that this will help you to be focused on the right things when you are training.  Most of all, focus on training, not just "working out".  

You need to have goals, measure your current performance, set proper programs to continually improve that performance, and your results will be unstoppable!​

Please feel free to share this with anyone you know who needs some help shifting up from just "working out" to getting real results.  

One Rep Max Calculator

one rep max bench press

One Rep Max Calculator - Measure Your Progress

To prepare accurate strength training programs, you need to measure your current strength. 

Use this simple one rep max calculator to estimate your current strength.

Just do the following; 

  • complete a set to absolute failure, enter the weight lifted and click calculate
  • Find the number of reps you completed in the Reps column
  • The figure in the One-RM column is your estimated one rep max for this exercise
  • The figure in the Percentage column is the % of your one rep max that the weight you used for your set equals.

Push Your Max!

**Before completing any exercise activity, you should check any health concerns with an independent medical expert, and obtain their approval.

ONE-REP MAX (ONE-RM) CALCULATOR
RepsPercentageOne-RM

This is an estimate, as your true one rep max could be slightly higher or lower. (We hope it's higher) 

Just as if you worked your way up to an actual one rep maximum lift, depending on how you're feeling, and performing, on the day, you may be physically capable of achieving a higher weight, with optimal mental and physical performance.  With using this method of completing a set to absolute failure, your calculated results can vary in accuracy depending on how hard you push yourself to achieve actual absolute failure

If you stop your set, just because you started feeling tired, or it was getting a bit hard, you've done 12 reps and you usually only do sets of 10 so you feel that's enough etc, then you have not pushed yourself to achieve an accurate measure of your current strength. 

​Absolute failure means just that. You keep completing reps, until it becomes physically impossible for you to complete another full repetition. 

Using this one rep max calculator is a safer way for many people to arrive at a measure of their current maximum strength, than if they actually attempt a true one rep maximum lift, which obviously places maximum strain on your body to achieve the same result. 

And we want you to always train safe!!!  Don't do any of the following;

Using One Rep Max Strength Test in Effective Strength Programming

Of course you can use this calculator to establish your one rep max for any lifting exercise, but whole body movements such as the following exercises are most useful in designing proper strength training programs, and measuring strength gains. 

Squat;

Dead-lift;

Bench Press;

one rep max calculator bench press

As you progress with your strength training, you should always be aiming for progressive overload, so that your body will continue to adapt to the new conditions it needs to deal with. 

If you're interested in finding out more about effective strength training, you should check out my blog on progressive overload. It's one of the best things you can do to get impressive results.

Your body is an amazing gift, that will adapt and improve, if you continue to challenge it. So always aim for progress over perfection, and your body will reward you.

I hope that you find this calculator a useful tool, that will help you with your training.  Let me know in the comments below, if you're achieving new 1-RM's!

Strength Training Workouts Positive For Women

strength training workouts

When thinking about strength training workouts, the first picture that used to come to mind is a sweaty man working out in a gym. Thank goodness that stereotype has been long since buried for most of us.

Strength training workouts sculpt your perfect body;

The fact is that both men and women can gain positive benefits when engaging in this type of physical exercise.

Research demonstrates that strength training should be included in every workout program, but it is especially important for women who want to stay fit and healthy.

Some misconceptions still exist about how beneficial strength training can be for women, or whether they should be “doing it differently” to men. Just a few years ago, women would never have considered “lifting heavy”, but now it has become extremely popular.

Old beliefs have given way to new ones, as women become more determined to live longer, healthier and more active lives, and sports science catches up to help them train more effectively.

If you do happen to harbour any doubts, the following benefits should convince you to start lifting heavy as part of your routine.

Strength training workouts, heart health benefits

The heart is a muscle too that is sometimes neglected before it is too late.

Strength training workouts help the heart by reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease in women.

Exercise contributes to an overall healthy heart by helping to decrease LDL levels, also known as "bad" cholesterol. HDL cholesterol levels in the blood "good" cholesterol is increased leading to a healthier heart.

High blood pressure may be reduced by following a program of strength training. Just as the heart benefits from strength training, so do the veins and arteries. When the heart walls are thicker, pumping blood becomes a much more efficient process.

The American Heart Association says that;

A well-rounded strength-training program provides the following benefits:

  • Increased strength of bones, muscles and connective tissues (tendons and ligaments);
  • Lower risk of injury;
  • Increased muscle mass, which makes it easier for your body to burn calories and thus maintain a healthy weight
  • Better quality of life.

Note that in the following info graphic the AHA are recommending at least two high intensity muscle strengthening sessions per week;

strength training workouts health heart benefits

Strength training workouts, bone density benefits

Older women are especially susceptible to osteoporosis and bone loss. Even younger women are at risk for developing this disease because their bones are naturally lighter than men’s are.

strength training workouts bone health

Aging is a major factor in the decline of bone density and bone loss. Women can improve their chances of avoiding osteoporosis by building and strengthening their bone density through strength training.

Strength training exercises have the additional benefit of helping reduce the risk of falls or other accidents that can lead to fractures. 

Younger women who start training early have a better chance of making their bones stronger in later life.

Strength training workouts, controlling chronic conditions

Doctors recommend the correct type of strength training program to help their patients who suffer from chronic conditions.

They find that it is easier for them to manage this type of condition by adhering to carefully managed strength training workouts.

Several troublesome health conditions such as heart disease, back pain, diabetes, and obesity can be improved through strength training.

Noticeable improvement has been observed in patients suffering from arthritis. Even though some people believe that any exercise program is harmful for joints, the opposite is true.

Health care professionals recommend strength training for their patients with debilitating rheumatoid arthritis.

Even though this training is often prescribed for joint tissue rehabilitation, it is important that if you are suffering from problem joints, you get approval from a physician before beginning a program.

strength training workouts bone fracture

Strength training workouts, managing weight

Weight management can be a concern for women and can easily be addressed in a strength-building regime.

strength training workouts, weight loss

You can see in the above graph, that even only a modest increase in overall strength over a ten month period, resulted in significantly reduced body weight.

Consistent strength training will improve the body's capacity to burn calories, and over time, a more efficient body becomes a fat burning machine

Building muscle mass helps women burn extra calories, even when not actively engaged in a workout. Both strength training and cardio training help in weight reduction. One is not as effective without the other.

Cardio is designed to burn calories thus reducing fat, while strength-training programs concentrate on toning and firming the muscles, while also burning a high amount of calories.

Studies show that the body continues to burn calories at a higher rate for longer, following heavy strength training, than it does following a steady cardio session. Therefore, strength training really does give you more bang for your buck, on the time you’ve got to exercise.

Strenth training workouts, feel stronger and less fatigued

A major benefit associated with strength training for women is how it helps improve stamina required for participating in everyday activities.

strength training workouts, healthy life

The added strength gained from weight training provides more endurance by building strength and increasing energy levels. Feeling strong and healthy physically provides a woman with confidence in going about everyday activities.

Another of the positive effects of strength training is that the physical fatigue enables a women to get a better night's sleep.

So when you're burning loads of calories from your workouts every day, and getting good quality rest at night, it results in that healthy youthful glow that just screams to the world that you are loving life.

You'll be slimmer, but stronger, so every day life will be easier and you'll not only look good, but feel great too.

Strength training workouts, controlling blood glucose levels

Type 2 diabetes is a risk at all stages of life, but is more prevalent as women age. Several studies have been conducted that illustrate that the addition of a strength training program can significantly improve blood glucose levels.

Type 2 Diabetes is caused by increased insulin sensitivity. Even though it can be controlled with medications and a healthy diet, strength training helps prevent it from developing.

A really quick but informative research article that explains this is - 

Strength training increases insulin mediated glucose uptake

Obesity is one of the factors believed to contribute to Type 2 diabetes and the tendency to be overweight is greatly reduced with a strength training program.

The American College of Sports Medicine guidelines recommend that strength training be included as an essential component of a well-balanced physical activity program for those with type 2 diabetes who do not have contraindications to exercise.

strength training workouts, push ups

Strength training workouts, improved overall fitness

A woman's body undergoes several changes with age. The natural loss of the estrogen hormone is responsible for the rapid loss of bone mineral density.

Younger women's bodies still produce this estrogen, which helps the body build new bone tissue. As the body ages and becomes more mature, the body loses its ability to build strong bones. Strength building exercise helps to combat the devastating effects of bone mineral loss.

Better muscle tone and improved strength through resistance training programs help improve balance and prevent the risk of serious injuries due to falls.

Improving your overall fitness, and your body shape through strength training will help you look better and feel great both physically and mentally.

Strength training workouts, improved Libido

Decreased libido can be caused by several factors that are commonly found in many individuals because of stress or just everyday living problems.

One of the positive effects of practicing strength training is increased libido. Men produce about ten times more testosterone than women do, but that doesn't mean that women don't also benefit from increased testosterone levels.

Because stress, boredom, and exhaustion can lead to a low libido, strength training helps reduce these factors, improving libido. 

If you're overweight, you aren't going to feel too great about yourself, and your self esteem suffers.  As your self esteem gets knocked around, reduced libido follows.  Strength training over a consistent period will help you to look great, and that naturally leads to feeling better about yourself, and more attractive.

Strength training workouts, relieves stress and mental fatigue

Strength training helps promote brain growth and reduces anxiety within the brain.

Because anxiety is caused by muscle tension, the physical stress of strength training helps reduce it. During a workout, the neurotransmitters in the brain function at a higher level and promote a more concentrated focus.

strength training workouts, cortisol

Stress causes the body to release cortisol, which can erode neurons and have a negative effect on memory and focus. Strength training decreases the cortisol released during stress, helps calm the nerves, and offers peace of mind.

Any exercise program is beneficial in the battle to combat depression, but strength training is more effective in lessening a sad or depressed feeling over a longer period.

Strength training causes the body to release endorphin's, which are referred to as happy or feel good chemicals.

Strength training workouts, stimulates the brain

The aging process can have a negative effect on the brain and cognitive functioning.

The brain can benefit from strength training at any age.

It works by increasing the flow of blood throughout the brain thus stimulating brain activity.

Because blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain, it runs more smoothly and operates more efficiently.

Strengthening exercises also exercises the brain as well as body muscles. These exercises have the potential to help the brain retain more information and improve memory function.

An interesting scientific study found that even one instance of completing a resistance exercise can improve your memory. 

You see, there's no truth to the old "meat head" stigma attached to strength training.  We're actually all getting smarter by lifting more, science say's so!

Strength training workouts, contribute to a more positive body image

Just feeling healthy and stronger has a positive effect on mental health.

strength training workouts, squat

Feeling confident and happier is an unexpected benefit of a strength training regimen. People who spend time working out exhibit an improved self-image. And it's not just because they're spending more time watching themselves in the gym mirrors either:)

Being able to perform previously impossible tasks such as moving or lifting heavy items is a real ego booster. Feeling fit and being stronger is in itself a mood enhancer for a woman.

The feeling experienced from a strength training workout has been described as a heightening sense of euphoria. This in itself gives women a more positive outlook on life.

A good strength training program challenges women to make a commitment to improve their overall physique, health and well-being. Having and maintaining a positive body image requires dedication, but is well worth it in the end.

Not sure how to start, strength training workouts?

So it's great if you've been reading this to get some affirmation that what you're already doing is really really good for you, kudos to you.  

But if you've always been a bit timid about venturing into the lifting area in the gym, you know, where the big boys hang out, then maybe you're not sure where to start. 

A great place to start is with these five strength training exercises

strength training workouts moves

And for more inspiration and ideas to include in your strength training, we recommend the following;

Strength training for fat loss, by girls gone strong

The ultimate female training guide, by simply shredded.

Still need more inspiration?

Just in case you've still got doubts, and think that strength training isn't for you, I'll share a couple of my favorite trainers, who I find really inspiring, and see if you don't like what strength training has done for them;

andreia brazier

Andreia Brazier, the Brazilian goddess and four times WBFF champion

Yes, I love her because she's Latina and has done so well internationally.

Andreia has become an inspiration for many women, and she shows different sides to being a fitness model, as you will find many images where she's not in contest shape.

She's not scared to show that even top fitness models don't walk around every day looking completely cut.

With a really healthy outlook, Andreia is really a great example of what living clean, and lifting iron can do.

Sophie Guidolin, the Australian fitness model and mother of four.

I met Sophie at an INBA competition here in Brisbane.  She was there with her husband, coaching some of the competitors, and had her kids in tow

You can read Sopie's bio on her site, to here it directly from her, how she was originally not into weight training, but it was only after she tried it, that she started getting really great results.

Sophie is a great example of a woman who copes with all the pressures of being a mum, but still maintains her healthy lifestyle.

Check out her site for some great recipe and training guides.

Sophie Guidolin

For myself personally, I just love running, but the best results that I achieve come from strength training workouts.

When I first attempted strength training, I really didn't challenge myself enough.  But lifting weights that you are comfortable with won't get you great results.

I learned that I was capable of lifting heavier weights, and to focus on progressive overload, and then the results started to happen.

I'm not intimidated by strength training at all anymore, I just love it.  

I can't encourage you enough, to focus on strength training workouts as a major part of your fitness program.  It will change your body, and improve your life!

THE 10 COMMANDMENTS

For the body you've always wanted, start here

Ab Workouts For Women Who Deserve Flat Abs

abs training

Do These Ab Workouts For Women Anywhere

Ab workouts for women who deserve flat abs?  Don't we all?

​Well, if you spend most of your free time just lying around, you don't train, and feed yourself junk, then NO, you don't deserve flat abs, and you'll need to be very young, or genetically gifted to have them.

​Those who are prepared to have a little discipline, with their diet and training, and put some work into having them. You deserve flat abs, and it's really quite possible for you to get them, and to maintain them.

A flat and toned stomach radiates health and beauty. Unfortunately, it is one area that many women find difficult to conquer.

While a slender mid-section makes for a slimmer look overall, there are other practical benefits to maintaining a strong core. Importantly it helps to support and protect the lower back and stabilises you throughout most daily activity, including training.

In order to achieve a tight tummy, it is important to understand the basic makeup of the mid-section. The abdominal area is comprised of a group of muscles that work together to provide a strong foundation linking the upper body and the lower body. These muscles can be separated into a few general sections.

There are the obliques, which are a pair of muscles that run down the sides of the stomach area stretching from under the rib cage to the pubic area.

Then there are the muscles that run down the front of the stomach. These are the muscles referred to when talking about a ‘six-pack’ and can be broken down into the upper, middle and lower sections.

To achieve a flat stomach, each of these muscle groups must be challenged, but this doesn’t have to be gruelling or time-consuming. The best part of exercising the abdomen is that there is no equipment required. Done properly and regularly, the following ab workouts for women will tone and strengthen the core.

These are simple exercises that don't require any equipment, and can be done at home, in the gym, or even get outdoors in the park.  I've used a yoga mat in the park, as I really like to get outside in the fresh air to train sometimes.

Elbow to Knee Sit Ups

The elbow to knee sit up is an isolation exercise that targets the obliques. To perform, lie on the floor, bend the left knee so that the foot is flat on the floor and rest the right leg across the left knee. Keeping the shoulder blades on the floor, clasp the hands behind the head. From this position, pull the abdominal muscles in toward the spine, lift the left elbow off the floor and bring it to the right knee. At the top, squeeze the obliques, then keeping the abdominal muscles tight, slowly return to the starting position.

Repeat the movement for the desired repetitions then switch to the other side by crossing the left leg over the bent right knee and bringing the right elbow to the left knee.

For beginners, a set of ten repetitions on each side is an appropriate target. Gradually progress up to 20 reps on each side. Each set should be done two to three times. Movements should be done slowly, holding the proper form. For the more advanced, keep the spine straight upon lowering back down and stop about an inch from the floor. Start the next repetition from this position. In order to avoid injury do not use rocking motions to lift the body up. If it is not possible to bring the elbow completely to the knee at first, bring it only to the point before it becomes difficult to hold the proper position.

Plank

The plank is not only a great exercise for the upper, middle and lower abdominals; it is great for the entire body. Start in a pushup position. Next bend the elbows and lower down shifting weight from the hands to the forearms. Pull the stomach into the spine to keep the body in a straight line. Do not let the hips drop or the rear rise. Hold for one minute. If this is not possible, hold for as long as possible, then take a five second rest and repeat until the time held in the position reaches a minute.

The plank is a strength move; the more it is done, the longer it will be possible to hold the position. Beginners may find it easier to drop the knees to the floor until the muscles have built up enough to hold the plank while resting only on the forearms and toes. Those more toned can make the plank more challenging by extending an arm and the opposite leg in the air. Hold for a set time, and then change sides.

Leg Raises With Hip Thrust

This exercise targets the lower and middle abdominals. Begin by lying on the floor with the hands resting along the sides of the body. Bend the knees and keep the feet raised about two inches off the floor. Slowly bring the knees up toward the chest, contracting the abdominals while raising the pelvis off the floor. Hold for a second, and then lower the pelvis and legs back to the starting position. The movements for this exercise should be done slowly and deliberately. Repeat for two to three sets of 15-30 repetitions resting for 60-90 seconds between sets.

Side-To-Side Heel Touches

The side-to-side heel touch is another exercise to target the obliques. Lie on the floor with knees bent, feet flat and hands placed at the sides. Pull the stomach muscles in toward the spine and raise the upper body about two inches off the floor. Reach the right hand along the side of the body to touch the right heel. Return to the middle then reach the left hand along the side of the body to touch the left heel. Repeat this motion staying focused on using the abdominal muscles to move the body rather than just reaching with the arms.

Beginners should focus more on form than on reps, but a good starting point to aim for is 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps. The more advanced can reach for a goal of 3-5 sets of 20-24 reps.

Side Plank With Raised Arm

Another exercise to work the obliques is the side plank with a raised arm. The easiest way to get into the side plank position is to start in the basic plank position with the body resting on the forearms and toes. From here, shift the weight to one side and turn the so that the front goes from facing the floor to facing the wall. At this point, the supporting arm under the body will also turn so that the fist faces the same wall as the stomach. The supporting shoulder should be stacked in a straight line above the elbow. The bottom of the body is supported on the sides of the feet as the abdominals hold the mid-section in a straight line. Raise the non-supporting hand straight up in the air and be careful not to let the hips sag toward the floor.

Hold the plank as long as possible, working up to a full minute. If this move proves to be too difficult to hold while balancing on the sides of the feet, bend the bottom leg and lower down to support the body on the side of the knee. Be careful to keep the body in a straight line and not use the knee only for support and not to lift.

Elbows To Knees

Also known as the ‘bicycle’ the elbows to knees works both the upper and lower abdominals. Lie on the floor with the hands behind the head supporting the neck. Pull the stomach muscles in toward the spine and lift the knees to a 90-degree angles. Twist bringing one elbow to meet the opposite knee as that knee if pulled further toward the chest. The opposite leg will straighten. From here, twist to the other side pulling the straight leg toward the chest and straightening the already bent leg, essentially making the legs mimic the motion made while riding a bicycle. It is important to keep the breath at a regular pace and to use to hands to support the head, not pull on it. It is not necessary that the elbows actually touch the knees as long as the twisting motion still occurs. Start with 6-10 reps and work up to 20 per set.

Leg Crossovers

Leg crossovers target the lower abdominals. To start, lie on the floor with the head cradled in the hands and legs stretched straight out. Pull the abdominals into the spine and lift the head and legs off the floor so that the stomach area forms a 45-degree angle. From this position, cross the right leg over the left as the left leg moves under the right. Uncross the legs then alternate to the other side. Repeat for 6-10 reps for 2-3 sets working up to 18-20 reps.

Raised Hips Hold

Better known as the ‘bridge’ the raised hips hold is a resistance move that is simple to perform and works the entire abdominal area. Lie on the floor with the knees bent. The feet should be hip-width apart and placed flat against the floor. The arms stay relaxed along the sides of the body. From here, lift the glutes by pushing off the floor with the heels bringing the body into a straight line from the knees to the shoulders. Hold for one to two seconds then slowly lower back down to the floor. Repeat this process, shooting for three sets of 15-20 reps.

While performing this move, be cautious not to push off the floor with the hands. For more of a challenge, raise the hands in the air then come into the raised hip hold position. This forces the body to better utilize the abdominal muscles in a more focused fashion.

During any exercise, especially these ab workouts for women, the most important thing to remember is that if there is pain it is time to stop. While regular abdominal exercise is crucial to have a flat and toned stomach, it is important to note that diet also plays a big part. Even rock hard abs can hide under layers of fat, so removing this fat is necessary to really be able to see the definitions these exercises will give the muscles. Eating a balanced diet of whole foods and healthy fats along with incorporating further strength training, particularly compound moves and select cardio exercises into the overall workout program will help to accomplish the goal of flat, strong and sexy abdominals.

The abs are one of the very few muscles in the body which will benefit from regular daily work, without rest days.  When strength training, most muscles need to be rested to achieve proper recovery, but the abs are used in a lot of the major compound exercises that you would be completing daily even in an upper and lower body split program.  The abs are resilient, recover faster and will cope with constant work.

​To get really strong, flat abs, they'll benefit from regular work, so try to spend some time on these ab workouts for women daily, or at least every second day.  I usually tag them onto the end of whatever daily training session I'm doing, prior to stretching. That way they become part of a progressive cool down.

Depending what kind of condition you are starting in, current body fat %, strength levels and diet, will largely dictate what other ​training and diet adjustments you might need to make, as well as following these ab workouts for women, to lose enough body fat for your abs to start showing through.  For most women, once you achieve around 15% body fat, you'll be really starting to see your abs, and have nice toned looking abdominals.

Strength training, focusing on large compound lifts, like these five strength training exercises and following a properly structured diet is a good path to travel if you need to make significant improvements in body composition, to get that ultimate flat abs look.​ 

Most of all, enjoy your training, and celebrate your progress!

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What Every Woman Ought to Know About Circuit Training

Circuit Training

Circuit Training For Maximum Results In Minimum Time;

The truth about typical strength training;

As apposed to circuit training, strength training was all about, ‘Lift as hard as you can, go for 8 – 10 repetitions and then take a break for around 2 minutes.’ Everyone who has been into weight training knows this weight training methodology. The result was that you saw men and women hitting it hard on the weights for a fixed number of repetitions and rested for long periods of time before they can repeat what they just did! Breaking this down in terms of time this is what you get.

Time taken for a single set: 45 seconds

Resting period between each set: 90 seconds

In terms of efficiency, you were working out only 33% of the total time! Very mathematical, isn’t it? Now what happens is that if you’re working out for an hour, you’re actually working out only for about eighteen minutes of the time! For the rest of the time you are resting and replenishing energy or setting up equipment for the next exercise. This method works great for people who are really lifting heavy weights, but from my personal experience as a fitness trainer, and just general observation around different gyms, that is not entirely the case for everyone.

Circuit Training

Plank Position

Look around next time you’re in the gym, and you’ll see this happening everywhere yourself.

Most people are lifting very moderate weights in terms of their true capability, but still they opt for a long period of rest in between sets. What happens is that at the end of 60 minutes or 90 minutes they assume that they have just finished a grueling workout but in reality they worked out only for the 33% of the total time! Seems like a waste of time doesn’t it.

It is for this reason, many people don’t see the desired results and get discouraged over time from their weight training schedule. Another downfall of this method is that it usually involves working only one or two muscle groups each day.

Working out in such a fashion is favorable if you’re really looking to pack on muscle mass. But that isn’t the case for most women who opt for weight or resistance training. Women want a well-sculpted,  and possibly even ripped look, and beyond their body image, they want to achieve more in a limited amount of time.

Would you like to get real results in half the time?

This is where circuit training comes to the rescue. Circuit training (as the name suggests) involves hitting multiple muscle groups, or if you choose to focus more on certain muscle groups, stressing them with a variety of exercises in a single workout session.

The technique is simple; complete one set targeting one muscle group and then move on to the next set without any break. This next set will target another muscle group or target the same muscle’s with a different exercise to give you a really intense workout. Keep moving onto the next muscle group / exercise until you run out of muscle groups!

So, what exactly are the advantages of circuit training? Here are some to begin with:

  •  It is a great calorie burn. You are working out for at least 80 – 90 % of the total workout time.
  • Very good cardiovascular workout. Your heart beat is usually in the red zone.
  • You save time.
  • You get to target more muscles in a single day, giving you free days to try out other modes of training.
  • Circuit training supports a higher hormone release triggering a better fat burn, muscle growth response.

One of the really useful things about circuit training is that you can structure some really effective training using nothing but body weight exercises.  So even if you don’t have access to a gym, there’s no excuse for not including some great circuit training in your fitness regime.

One simple program to improve your physique;

I’ve completed the following circuit workout program as an example of this type of training.  It’s got some great plyometric exercises that give your muscles an explosive workout, and will really get your heart rate up.

There’s a mix of upper and lower body strength required, along with some abs.  If you haven’t done much of this type of training before, then you may find this pretty challenging, and it’ll definitely make your sore the next day! You might want to start by completing thirty seconds of each exercise rather than 1 minute each, and work your way up.

  1. Skipping x 1 minute
  2. Lunges x 1 minute
  3. Ab roller x 1 minute
  4. Frog hops x 1 minute
  5. Box jumps x 1 minute
  6. Plank x 1 minute
  7. Push ups x 1 minute

That’s one circuit done.  Take one minutes rest, and then complete again.  Four rounds of this circuit will take you just thirty-two minutes to complete, including rest between sets, and I guarantee that you’ll have had a great calorie burn and know that you’ve trained.

Give it a try, and see how it compares to what you may have been doing with weights in the gym previously.  I’d love to know how you go, so please let me know in the comments below.

 

Five Strength Training Exercises To Transform Your Body In One Month or Less

Chin Ups

Strength Training Changes Lives

If you want to transform your body fast, you’ll need to put it through some pain and commit to some real effort.  That’s the truth!

You can try plenty of other gimmicks that promise results, usually incorporating some form or other of calorie depletion.  That’s not what I consider becoming healthy, rather it’s just starving yourself, and therefore you won’t be able to maintain it.

Strength training is one of the most effective ways to get your body to change.  It can give you that lean athletic look like no other training can.  And here I’m giving you five of the big compound exercises that you should focus on.

Don’t worry, you won’t get bigger!  That’s a common misconception about strength training for women.  Basically, we’ve got much less testosterone in our bodies then men do, and so it is much harder for a women to gain “mass”.  That’s ok, because it’s not what most of us want in any case.  A women needs to undertake extreme training coupled with special diets for a prolonged period to gain substantial muscle mass, that would make you look “big”.  The muscle that you’ll develop first will give you more definition, and a toned look.

There are still a lot of people who believe that heavy weight training is a man’s domain, and women should only train with light weights.  That’s out dated and just false. I feel much healthier due to the strength training that I do, which includes maximising my strength, and I’m certainly not “big”.

If you’re spending your time strength training with light weights, doing small isolated movements you really won’t see or feel much difference.  I’m not saying don’t do it, but if you want real results in the shortest possible time, then focus on getting better and stronger at the following exercises;

  1. Deadlift:
    Deadlift

    Dead lift

    It is one of my favourite exercises, because it involves different muscles from the upper body and lower body, making it a genuine whole body exercise.  If you’re working hard enough at deadlifts you won’t really need to do anything else for that days workout. The muscles that work in this kind of training are rhomboid, semimembranosus, semitendinosus, biceps femoris, quadratus lumborum, trapezius, levator scapulae, erector spinae and gluteus maximus.  Or simply, deadlift works, back, legs and gluteus, with shoulders and arms also engaged. There are different variations of deadlift such as Conventional, Romanian and Sumo and you can vary your routine between them as you get more experienced.

 

  1. Bench Press:
    Bench Press

    Bench Press

    This exercise is great for upper body as it works chest, shoulders and arms. The different variations of bench press are the conventional, close grip, incline and decline bench press.

 

  1. Squats:
    Squat

    Squat

    When we do squats, it’s another great whole body exercise involving different muscles including the largest muscles in our body like, rectus femoris, gluteus medius, vastus intermedius, gluteus maximus, vastus lateralis and medialis and biceps femoris. In simple words, squatting is beneficial for quadriceps, adductor, hamstrings, calves, gluteus and lower back. You will develop great legs and bum!.

 

 

  1. Pull ups or chin ups:
    Chin Ups

    Chin Ups

    These are great for developing a shapely back, and toned arms as well. It involves muscles like: trapezius, biceps brachii, brachioradialis, teres major, rhomboid, latissimus dorsi and posterior deltoid.  Or simply, back and arms.  If done properly you’ll also feel your abs working.

 

 

 

5. Push ups:

Push Ups

Push Ups

This is an exercises that you can do when you first wake up, to speed up your metabolism and you are getting stronger at the same time. The muscles involved in push ups are triceps brachii, deltoideus, pectoralis minor, coracobrachialis and pectoralis major.  Or in simple words, your chest arms and back.

The variations depend of your strength. If you are just starting out, you can start with your knees on the floor. The conventional is from the feet, incline, decline, close hands or raise one leg and maintain the same activation pattern and movement sequence.

You need to give yourself sufficient time for your body to recover in between training sessions when completing major moves like these, so that your body can recover, so program to do your strength training on alternate days.  If you are training effectively, I.e pushing yourself hard enough, you can simply rest in between training days, or if you are more advanced in fitness, or just want to do more, do cardio workouts on your rest day from strength training.

When you start, test your strength to gauge what the maximum you can lift is, and then set a target for the end of the month.  Eg. If you can do three push ups, target being able to do ten or even fifteen by the end of the month.  That way you will be progressively improving your bodies capacity to perform, which cannot help but change it’s appearance too.

If you work hard at improving your strength in these exercises for a month, you will feel and see the difference in your body.  You’ll be stronger in your every-day life too, with less chance of injuries in whatever sport your participate.

The calorie burn from doing big compound exercises like this is excellent, and continues for longer after you have finished your work out, compared to cardio training.  Once you have developed some extra lean muscle, your metabolism will be naturally higher, helping to burn more stored fat as well.

So, focus on these five exercises, and change your body!