Be the Strongest Women in the Gym... No Weight Training Allowed!

By: Dax Moy

You train regularly, lift weights, row, run, step and swim. In fact you consider yourself to be pretty fit compared to most people and yet, no matter how hard you try, there are some exercises that just never seem to get any easier.

If you're like most women, exercises like chinups, pull-ups, dips, pushups, and lunges probably present the biggest challenges you face during your workout.

For this reason you avoid them like the plague opting instead for their machine-based counterparts like lat pulldowns, chest presses and leg extensions.

After all, you're still hitting the same muscles and you seem to handle a fair amount of resistance so you must be getting stronger right?

Well... yes, but not in the way you think!

You see, when you're on a machine, several factors come together to create the 'illusion' of strength.

Of particular note is the simple fact that you are not required to stabilise the weight in your hand (the machine does this for you) and as such you are able to generate more force.

This is great as long as you're on your machine but try lifting that same heavy load with free weights and you'll find that you won't be able to move it.

This is why so many regular exercisers find that they get stronger in the gym and yet still struggle to carry their shopping home from the supermarket, they're simply not used to stabilising the weight they lift and so they're not trained for unstable lifting.

Though many exercise equipment manufacturers claim to provide the ultimate in resistance machinery with their space-age pulleys, cams and levers, one has to question the benefits of any piece of equipment that may not produce results in the 'real world'.

Many exercisers will find that their strength appears to increase very quickly on the resistance machines but this can cause problems outside of the gym setting when people attempt to lift similar weights and end up injuring themselves.

One possible answer to reducing the strength deficit between machine training and real-life demands is to work on developing your relative strength.

Simply put, this is how strong you are for your bodyweight and it's a great measure of your functional potential.

In most sports for example, it is not your maximal strength that determines how well you perform, rather it is your ability to move your bodyweight faster, higher and longer than your competitors.

Most gyms today spend an hour during an induction teaching people how to push buttons and set up machines and yet pay no attention to developing the fundamentals through bodyweight exercises. This is a real shame as it is often these very movements that the human body is crying out for and responds best to.

Whenever an exercise program includes bodyweight exercises you can always guarantee greater results in strength, muscle tone and fat loss and with far less associated injuries than we often see on machines.

This is not surprising when we consider that when we carry out bodyweight exercises we mobilise some 600 muscles concurrently creating a far greater sharing of load across the joints and increasing the calorific demand of the exercise by a huge amount.

Another benefit of this type of conditioning is that it is very time efficient. A simple circuit of pushups, pull-ups and lunges will quite literally work every muscle in your body and burn more calories than any number of similar exercises performed on a machine. And you don't even have to belong to a gym to perform them!

The downside of this type of training (there's always a downside isn't there?) is that it's hard to train this way, at first anyway.

Many women won't attempt bodyweight training because they get frustrated at not being able to do many pushups or pull-ups. However, with just a little persistence, appreciable increases in strength are possible in relatively short time which can be very satisfying - especially when you're able to do more pushups than the muscle-bound guy's pressing the huge weights.

If you're serious about getting into great shape fast then try the following circuit for a month to develop some real relative strength. You'll be pleasantly surprised at the results!

1. For each of the circuit exercises, perform a one minute test and record the number of repetitions performed for each.

2. Rest as long as you need between each exercise.

3. Now halve the number you achieved in each exercise. This will determine your repetitions (If you got 10 pushups in your test you'll do 5 in your circuit).

4.Perform a circuit of all four exercises without rest and time how long it takes to complete. Record this too.

5.Your goal over the coming weeks is to cut this figure by half. When you can, re-test and repeat.

Circuit exercises: Pushups, pull-ups (under a table if you have no bar), lunges, sit-ups (or other abdominal exercise), squats, dips.

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