Recent years have seen a move in fitness and body trends, from skinny being the main goal five to ten years ago to today where more and more women want a fitter and stronger body. You could say that strong is the new skinny.
But what is a strong body?
Strong can be many things
Everybody was not made equal. Different women have different body types. Some have long lean legs, some have shorter legs. Some have wide hips, some have narrow ones. And some have flat stomachs while others have soft round bellies. And that is perfectly fine!
It is the same when it comes to being strong! A strong body for one woman may not be the same as a strong body to another woman. Some women want a ripped body with a six pack and lean muscles, and other women just want to be able to play football with their kids or do the gardening without getting back pain for the next week. But common to all of them is that being strong does not necessarily equate to being skinny. In most cases, being strong actually means weighing more but feeling better, and actively doing something to obtain this goal. Remember: every little bit helps.
Fuel helps you get stronger
Your body is a machine! Or actually a factory with lots of machines… These machines have a purpose, namely to produce energy. Because you need energy in order to move, to grow – well, to live. So it is quite important that your machines work properly and that they produce the amount of energy you need every day. In order for the machines to run they need some fuel. And the best fuel, if you want stronger machines, is complex carbohydrates and lean protein.
The amount of fuel is also very important! Especially if you want to get stronger… Actually if you want to build muscle, you need to take in a bit more fuel (calories) than you consume, because your muscles need the extra energy in order to get bigger and stronger. Whereas if you want to loose weight, you should instead eat a bit less calories than you consume. So it is very difficult to both loose weight AND build muscle at the same time (if not to say almost impossible). You therefore have to choose WHAT is your main goal? And if the main goal is to get stronger and not skinnier, then you should focus on getting enough protein and calories every day.
Work that body…
Ok, so the fuel is important, but that alone won’t make you very strong. You need to work for it! And a combination of cardio and strength training is the best way to go about it…
If you are not used to working out, you should start slowly so you avoid injuries. A good idea could be to join a fitness centre and try some of their classes, or maybe to book a couple of sessions with a personal trainer, just to get you started.
Also keep in mind, that your technique is very important! Make sure you get the exercises right – it is better to do fewer repetitions with a great technique, than to do a lot of repetitions with an awful technique. If an exercise feels strange or it hurts when doing it, stop immediately! All exercises can be adjusted, so they are right for you. And remember: being active and getting stronger is a gift you give to yourself – not a punishment.
Eight tips for a stronger body
1. For maximum recovery, you should eat a 2:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio post-workout within approximately 30 minutes of ending your workout. It could be a banana and a glass of milk. Or maybe a protein smoothie and a piece of fruit. Make sure you don’t eat too much; it is just a matter of getting a little bit of energy to help you feel energised and give your muscles some extra fuel.
2. A combination of cardio and strength training will give you the best results when it comes to a stronger body. The ratio depends on your body type and your goals, but an option could be to go for 15–20 minutes of cardio and 30–40 minutes of strength training two to four times a week.
3. Variation is key! Your body will get ‘lazy’ very quickly, so in order to get the most effective workout and the best results, you should trick your body and do different exercises regularly. For example, if your cardio one week is running, then maybe the next week try the Stairmaster or go for a swim. The rule also applies to strength training: don’t do the same exercises all the time.
4. You need to get out of your comfort zone. Try something new! Your body will love you for it.
5. Don’t be afraid of strength training. A lot of women think it is only for men to lift weights and do push-ups, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Start with some light weights where you can do two to three rounds of 15 repetitions before you get tired. After six to eight weeks, you can go for some heavier weights and three rounds of ten repetitions. And then after eight weeks, maybe go for some even heavier weights. Remember that all women are different, so listen to your body and don’t do anything that feels wrong.
6. If you have not done any strength training before, you should start by using your own body weight and doing exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, squats etc. Step two (maybe after eight weeks) is trying the various machines in the fitness centre. And step three (only when you have good body control and strength) is to try some of the free weights. Never start with free weights as the first thing you do; they demand a very good technique.
7. During the first six to eight weeks of doing strength training, it is actually mostly your body control and co-ordination you train. After that, you will begin to build muscle mass. Later on, your ligaments will also get stronger and your bone density increase, but this takes a lot of time, so make sure you don’t overdo it at the beginning, as this will increase your risk of injury.
8. Focus on your technique! Slow movements help you control your body and breathing when doing strength training.
Did you know
- Getting a six pack is extremely difficult as a woman. The average woman has between 21 and 40% body fat. The healthiest range is between 21 and 30%. But in order to obtain a six pack, you will need a maximum of approximately 15% body fat, which actually means that your body is eating into your essential fat margins – the fat that keeps you alive – which is not really very healthy.
- Muscles are comprised of muscle fibres. Each fibre is thinner than a human hair and can support up to 1,000 times its own weight.
- When you do strength training, you not only strengthen your muscles. You also increase your bone density and strengthen your ligaments. This gives you better stability and helps prevent osteoporosis.
- The human body has more than 650 muscles.